First of all I think that in saving money I never want to become a bragger. I never want any posts of mine to have the element of being a bragger or being superior in any way. The system that I am working on and tweaking (through a lot of suggestions by others – which I truly appreciate) is just that: my system. It is working for me for now. As time goes on I may change it or decide down the road that perhaps there is a better system for me.
Secondly I am approaching my grocery savings and couponing just as I approached a project when I was working as a legal assistant. I am trying to be organized and have a plan as I approach this task.
Third, since I was in the “business world” for a long time I have been adding elements of looking at my home as a business. Perhaps this sounds a little cold, but for me this means that I have income and expenses; projects; deadlines and so on. Of course, this does not mean that our home is filled with cubicles, printers, copiers and a coffee pot. It is obviously a home filled with love for one another. I have just brought to my home the skills I learned in helping to run a small business. In fact it has helped me make the transition to being home full time a lot easier.
Well, enough said. In thinking about a grocery budget my goal has been to serve healthy meals with ingredients that I purchased at rock bottom prices. Also within that grocery budget I have acknowledged that I will spend more money at certain times of the year when the sales are very big and it necessitates a major stocking up time. That time of year is now for baking supplies.
I live in Iowa. I grew up in Western New York State where my mom still lives. When we go back to visit her we always make a trip to a grocery store. I cannot believe the prices on food in my home town. I am so fortunate to live where food prices are reasonable. As I have stated before I live in a small town (around 10,000 to 11,000) and we have two grocery stores (Fareway and Hy-Vee for those that live here in the Midwest) and a Super Walmart. When Super Walmart came to town a few years ago, Aldi closed its doors. Unlike those individuals that live in a large city I do not have a Costco’s, Sam’s Club, Super Target or Walgreens (for examples) as sources for groceries.
The grocery stores in my town have great sales. I am finding out since I have been more diligent about tracking my spending and about using coupons, how fortunate I am to have such great sources for my groceries. Prior to this path to frugality I would not even make up a list. I would glance over the ads and go to one grocery store and buy a bunch of stuff and come home and hopefully we would have meals for the next week. Now I plan. I enjoy it. It is a little challenge I have for myself each week and it has become a game to me. I buy what is on sale at a rock bottom price; have built up my pantry and my freezer from this stock piling and from this I make up my menus for a week. Also I have been able to give more and more to our local Ecumenical Food Cupboard from sales and couponing.
In keeping track of my coupons I have gone from an envelope system to using a notebook. My 24 year old son used to collect baseball cards and when he got married he didn’t want those cards anymore. I took the cards from the page protectors and have stored the cards in a box. (I know full well that someday he will want his baseball cards.) I now have page protectors that hold 9 coupons per page. I had a notebook here at home that I was able to use so there was no additional expense there. I went to the dollar store and purchased plastic page dividers for the different categories of coupons.
Here is the inside of my coupon notebook with the divider and coupons.
I used this system for the first time last week and I took it with me to two grocery stores and to Walmart. At each store I saw an in store unadvertised sale for an item that I could use and that I had a coupon. Such items are cream soups, cereal, soap, toilet paper and such. We can always use these items. It was so easy for me to flip through the notebook, find the coupon, put the coupon in my blue coupon holder and get on with my shopping.
As to unadvertised sales, this is where a price book or just a good knowledge of prices comes in handy. At one unadvertised sale this week I bought our turkey for only 40 cents a lb. Unfortunately my choices were limited: a 22 lb. turkey, a 20 lb. turkey or a 12 lb. turkey. I went with the 12 lb. turkey. Okay, I could hear my mother saying “I can’t believe you didn’t go for the 22 lb. turkey.” We can only eat so much turkey. Also we are going to be at my in laws for Thanksgiving so the 12 lb. turkey will be roasted a couple of days later for us to use as “turkey leftovers.”
The following are some of the good deals I have encountered recently.
I paid $12.85 for the above items. The cake mixes and frosting tubs were on sale for .78 each and I had an assortment of coupons for them. I normally don't buy these two items but I needed to bake 10 dozen cup cakes for a banquet at school. The relish was .50 with coupons, the cereal was .50 with coupon, and the potato mixes were .78 on sale and I had coupons that brought that down to .38 each. I will donate these. The candles were purchased with coupons and I also had a BOGO. I will use these for some small Christmas presents.
On this day the chocolate chips were on sale for $1.50; the almond bark was $1.49; cheese was on sale for $1.67 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off two; the vegetable steamers were .99 and I had 50 cent off coupons; the Snuggle was $3.49 and I had a $3.00 coupon off; baby spinach was on sale for .99 as it was expiring that day. It was fresh until it was used up 4 days later. The sugar was .99; red peppers were on sale for .99 each. There is more but my total sale was $35.22. I saved $12.30 in coupons.
Here is one more:
Hunt's spaghetti sauce was on sale for .88 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off 3; Deluxe Mac and Cheese was one sale for three for $1.00 - yep - it was a great deal; shredded cheese was .99 for 8 oz bag; Chinet coffee cups were $1.50 and I had a $1.00 off coupon; potato chips were $1.50 each; Chili sauce was on sale for $1.18 and one had a .25 off coupon; Townhouse crackers were on sale for $1.50 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off two; 4 lb. sugar was .99; Nestle chocolate chips were $1.69 and I had a .50 coupon; the Shaving creme was .99; the bacon was $1.38 with in store coupon; the Glade bathroom spray was .30 after coupons; and lastly the deli turkey was on sale for $1.88 a lb. Total amount paid was $34.11. I saved $20.01 with coupons and store discounts.
In tracking my spending, I have created a spreadsheet in excel to track my grocery spending – gross, coupon savings and net spent. I have also created a spreadsheet to track my Christmas gift shopping – gross, coupon savings and net spent. So far this month I have spent $282.43 on food (mostly stockpiled) and I have saved $83.28. I have alloted $400 for this month so that I can stockpile as needed. I think that will be the case as the grocery ads came out yesterday and there are even better deals this week.
From past experience the sales will dry up by the first week in December. I noticed this the past two years and that was when I wasn't tracking my spending.
Well, I cannot announce that I am only spending $50 a week for groceries. I do believe that the extra money spent on stockpiling will come back to me two fold. It is obvious that combining sales with coupons works. I have the confidence that come the first of the year I will be able to keep my grocery bill down for a very long time due to some investment in extra spending this month.