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My New Saving Routine

I used to coupon. I mean 5 Sunday papers, huge coupon binder, online trading couponing. I saved a lot of money. Eventually I found two problems with hardcore couponing for me, personally. 1) I would buy products I wouldn't normally feed my family, and 2) coupon clipping and organizing takes a LOT of time. But I still really really like to save money.

When we moved I stopped altogether for a while. When moving cross country it takes a while to get settled, then to become accustomed to the area stores. Now I'm getting back into the swing of things. So, for those of you who would like to save money on groceries without the time commitment of hardcore couponing, here are my recommendations, in order of payoff.

-Shop the circular. I asked for a circular at a local grocery store's customer service desk once and she looked at me like I was crazy. It's the weekly ad that you can find in your mail, in the Sunday (or sometimes Wednesday) paper, and in the store. They are always available in store, so don't buy a paper just to get one. The front page is the most important- make a list of items on the front page that you can center meals around. Also keep an eye out for store coupons (which you can pair with Manufacturer's Coupons if you choose to), produce deals (often on the back page) and other deals for things you normally buy.

-After looking at the circular, make your weekly meal plan using the items featured and items in your stockpile (see below) almost exclusively. Try to stretch pricier meats into two meals- for example, when I make roast I always plan to have BBQ beef sandwiches for dinner the next day.

-Set aside part of your budget each week towards your stockpile. Use that portion to buy a few extra of anything on sale, especially if it's a deep discount. But stay within your budget- you're not trying to build a stockpile overnight. A few extra items each week can really add up. I try to focus my stocking up on more expensive things like coffee, cereal, and peanut butter.

-Evaluate what you eat and buy each week and it's value. Are there luxury or convenience items you buy each week that you could live without? Are there things you're willing to make yourself? Chicken stock, for example, is really easy to make at home and the results are tastier and healthier. Plus, you end up with cooked chicken you can freeze for a future meal. Other examples- make your own breadcrumbs, use regular carrots instead of baby carrots, block cheese instead of shredded... These are the types of things where only you can decide if the convenience is worth the price. Also pay attention, because the price difference is often nominal, and sometimes there is no difference at all.

-Coupon lite. I only get one or two papers a week now and am really selective about what I clip. I make sure it's something I am okay with my kids eating. If there are a few really good coupons that I want for a stockpile item, then I may get mo papers, but that doesn't happen often. And my coupon binder is much smaller:

It's a little binder I vote at target, and the inserts are business card holders that are one of the many inserty things you can buy for it. I also have pocketed dividers.

The smaller binder is easier to manage and I can keep it in my purse all the time, which means I don't forget it at home, and I always have my coupons with me. But you don't have to coupon to save money; in fact, if you don't eat a lot of processed food you may not find it helpful at all.

-Make your list and stick to it! This is so easy, yet so hard. Tips- start your grocery list a few days before you plan to shop, so you have time to remember things you need. Make sure you include lunch and snack items. Don't shop hungry! Shop sans kids, if possible. Not only because kids ask for stuff (I have absolutely no problem saying no, so that's not really an issue for me), but because kids make it hard to focus. I have an easier time shopping efficiently when I can focus.


Mindy said...

You make some great points, but couponing doesn't have to take a ton of time, and there are many more things you can use coupons on besides processed foods! I save 75-80% of my bill on a regular basis, and I feed my family very healthy foods. A big help is to have a good coupon organizer. At you can get a fully assembled binder that comes with 9 and 3 pocket pages and 16 color-coded divider tabs. Personally, I'd be lost without my binder. I like being able to see all my coupons at the flip of a page. :)

Brandislee said...

You're absolutely right, Mindy, and I still do coupon, but I still grapple with whether or not it's worth my time, because not only do we not eat many processed foods, but I also don't buy many mainstream health and beauty items (only toothpaste, really) or cleaning supplies. So I use coupons for toothpaste, batteries, lightbulbs, whole grain pasta, rice, baking supplies, herbs and spices, and produce/dairy (which are few and far between).

Also, I was trying to inspire those who think couponing seems intimidating or who may think they don't have the time to do it to take a baby step towards tackling their grocery budget. Couponing does help save a lot of money, but I honestly think that shopping the circular, buying in bulk, stockpiling, and meal planning are the easiest ways to get started and get results with minimal time invested.

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