Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Saving on food shopping (Part 2)

Yesterday, I ventured out to do my grocery shopping.  I went to Wegmans, Tops and Target. I got everything on my list (which can be seen here) except baby spinach and fake beef for stew. I also got a few things that weren’t on my list—a pint of grape tomatoes, 16 oz. of cottage cheese, 2 packages of Boca breakfast links, 4 bags of Temptations cat treats, a pet brush, some black jelly beans and a bag of kettle corn. (I don’t much like regular popcorn, but could eat my weight in kettle corn.) Total spent was just under $63.

Now, on to saving money!

1.  Frequency: You’ll need to decide how often you’re going to shop. Getting your non-perishables once every two weeks or less often and filling in with perishables weekly is going to yield the most savings. But find what works for you.
2.  Buying in bulk: Bulk can mean two things when talking about grocery shopping. It can either mean buying a large amount of something or it can mean buying from the bulk section. Both can be good options.
Buying big: First, since we’re talking about food, this basic rule is particularly apropos—if you don’t use it, it’s not a bargain. So, don’t buy the larger size if you don’t think you’ll use it. Second, don’t assume that the multi-pack is going to get you a lower price per item. It may, but you need to do the math. Third, don’t buy more than you can store.
A similar tip is to stock up on smaller sizes or single items if you get a good price.
Since my focus is on savings tips for those of us who are single, don’t rule out buying in bulk if you live alone. You can always consider splitting the items and cost with a friend to take advantage of the savings.
Buying from the bulk section: Most grocery stores have a bulk section. Also, most health food stores and co-ops also have a bulk section. This is a great place to buy dried fruit and nuts, grains like rice and quinoa, beans, flour, sugar and oatmeal. Abundance co-op also has granola, olive oil, dish soap and peanut butter among other things. They even have tofu! Lori’s Natural Foods also has TVP.
For example, this week, I bought a small amount—just what I needed for my menu plan—of raisins, golden raisins, sliced almonds and cashews from the bulk section. I keep dried cranberries and pecans from the bulk section on hand.
The bulk section is also a great place to get spices. When one of your spice containers is empty, you can refill it for a fraction of what a new one would cost you at the major grocery store chain. Also, if you want to try a recipe using a spice you don’t have on hand, you can buy just the amount you need instead of spending $3 or $4 or more on a spice you may only use once.
3.  Price book: It’s a good idea to make a list of things you regularly buy and what the usual, “shelf” price is at various stores. That way, you’ll know whether something is really a good deal. For example, I needed 3-28 oz cans of tomatoes this week. Normally, the best price is the store brand at Wegmans ($1.19). But this week Hunt’s were on sale at Tops for $1.00.
I doesn’t need to be an actual “book.” It can be whatever works. I use a print out from excel (because then I can save it.) I’m in the process of updating mine, but will be sharing it later on for reference.
4.  Buy the store brand, UNLESS the name brand is a better deal. Or you’ve tried it and you don’t like it.
5. Store loyalty cards: You’re going to get the best price if you sign up and use your store’s loyalty card. In many stores it might earn you points toward free items or discounts.
6.  Shopping multiple stores:  To save the most money on an item, you need to go to the source that has it at the lowest price which, with sales and coupons, could be different from week to week. You also have to consider if it makes sense for you, given the cost of gas and your time.
7.  Coupons: There’s A LOT to talk about here. But let me say that coupons plus store loyalty cards is where you’re going to get the most grocery store savings.
Where to get coupons: There are lots of sources for coupons:
Newspaper: The old standby. Sunday morning coupons.
Mail: Some people get there circulars in the mail.
Magazines: Lots of women’s and homes magazines have grocery coupons. All You in particular has many every month.
Coupon clipping services: There are a number of services from which you can buy whole coupon inserts or multiples of particular coupons. Coupon Clippers and The Coupon Master are just a few.
Ebay: Similar options to coupon clipping services. However, you are paying for the service, time, postage, etc.—but NOT the actual coupons.
Online: Printable coupons from sites like coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com. Target also has printable coupons and offers mobile coupon sign up too. Wegmans has printable coupons available which you can find here. And Printable Coupons and Deals keeps a running list of coupons from all over the web. And Deal Seeking Mom offers a searchabel coupon database.
Manufacturers: Manufacturers often send coupons for new products to folks on their mailing lists. They might also make printable coupons available via their Facebook page. And don’t forget the coupons that might be in the product or packaging. Also, if you like a particular product, send the manufacturer an email or letter letting them know; they’ll often send coupons.
In store: There might be the little “blinkies” near an item. Or the “catalina” machine might spit out a coupon when you’re checking out. Sometimes there are “peelies” or hang-tag coupons directly on a product.
Marketing programs: There are programs like SheSpeaks, VocalPoint and Kraft First Taste which can help you score free item and high-value grocery coupons.
            Know your store’s coupon policy
            Most major grocers will take internet coupons. Some won’t
            Lots of stores now double coupons but the amount may be different. Some will double coupons that are 99 cents or less (so, $1.98 saved). Others may only double coupons up to 49 cents. Some will allow “overage”; others will not and will adjust the price of the item down. (Overage happens when your coupon savings are more than the cost of the item.) Note that even if a coupon says “do not double” if the bar code number on it begins with a 5, it generally will. Some stores will only allow you to use one of a particular coupon. So, if you have two boxes of Cheerios and two of the same $1 off Cheerios coupon, they will only accept one of that coupon. Many stores will not take a printable coupon for a totally free item.
            Some stores, like Target and certain drugstores, will allow you to use a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon on the same item.
            Coupon matching
            This is one of the biggest saving tips. Coupon match-ups are when you use a coupon to get a great deal on an item that’s already on sale. A good example was my Target trip today. I got 2 jars of Bertolli spaghetti sauce, 2 bags of Ghirardelli chocolates, a bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap, a bag of frozen corn and a bag of frozen peas for $5.15. I had a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon for the sauce. The candy was on sale after Valentine’s Day for 75% off, plus I had a coupon. I also had a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for the dish soap. The veggies were full price.
            There are great resources out there—people who create coupon match-up lists of deals at each of the country’s grocery chains. You can Google “coupon matchups” and your store’s name to find blogs who list deals for your store. Here are some I know of:
Coupons For Your Family: Wegmans and Tops
Frugally Blonde: Wegmans
Happy Clippings: Wegmans
Cuckoo for Coupon Deals: Giant Eagle
Totally Target: Target
Money Saving Mom: Tops and Acme
Tricia’s Frugal Finds: Tops

Next up: More tips for saving at the grocery store!!


  1. Tops doesn't take internet coupons for "free". $1.00 off internet couponis fine, BOGO is a no-go.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks!
    My experience is that neither Tops nor Wegmans (at least in the Rochester area) will take a *printable* coupon for a totally free item, but will accept such a coupon if it's from the manufacturer directly. Also, I have not personally have had any problems with either chain taking a printed-at-home buy one get one coupon. So, it may depend on the store.