Last January I started my journey of trying to save money on groceries and household items. I began by clipping coupons (I did this for a few years when we were first married, but just fell out of the habit), studying the Kroger sales ad, and trying to do the Walgreens/CVS thing. I stuck with Walgreens and CVS for about 2 months. Then I continued with Walgreens only (the store is closer to me) for another few months, and then I abandoned the drug store/register rewards cycle altogether.
I saved a lot of money last year on our groceries. I learned many things about coupons, the cycles of on-sale items at Kroger, and some fairly easy ways to cut back my grocery bill. This year I hope to save even more.
Here are my lessons learned and goals for 2011.
- Walgreens/CVS is just too much trouble and not enough savings for me. Since I don't live in town, it is not convenient for me to just "run in" either of those stores to shop. Especially CVS. It is nowhere near any other place that I frequent. I have found that by watching the sales and using coupons, I can save even more money on household and personal care items at Kroger than I can at the drugstores. I now pay $1 or less for toothbrushes, toothpaste, and sometimes even shampoo (sometimes shampoo is $1.50) at Kroger. Frequently I even get those items for free! I also have found that I can get super deals (read, cheap!) on razors, deodorant, soap, and shaving creme at Kroger.
- Loading digital coupons onto my Kroger card is so worth it! In fact, the iPhone now has a Kroger digital coupon free app. I can load those coupons onto my card while I am in the store if I forget to do them at home! I also use Cellfire.com and Shortcuts.com to load digital coupons onto my Kroger card.
- Kroger allows you to stack coupons. This just means that for one particular item, you can use a manufacturer's coupon (like you cut out of the Sunday paper), a Kroger issued coupon (they send you these in the mail) and a digital coupon, for the same item. That is how I get items for free!
- I have a goal of staying out of Walmart this year! For years I have done monthly shopping at Walmart. I have a list of all kinds of household (cleaners, paper products, etc) and personal care (shampoo, soap, bandaids, etc.) items that I buy every single month. I know just how much of each item to last us one month. But, I have found that by buying these same items at Kroger (on sale, with a coupon), I can actually spend less on these things at Kroger. I would have never believed this until I tried it!
- I renewed my Sam's Club membership. I have been twice this year, and I am taking notes of products that I am interested in buying there (the prices) and I am trying to figure out which store has items that I regularly buy at the best price. I am pretty sure that combining a monthly Sam's trip with my weekly Kroger trips will completely eliminate the need for me to visit Walmart!
- There are no coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables! You really have to watch yourself if you clip coupons. Many, many coupons are for processed foods. I try to buy and prepare healthy foods, and there are just not that many coupons available for the bulk of my grocery shopping. Kroger does sometimes send me a coupon for $5 off $20 worth of produce, but that is not that often. Most of the coupons I use are for cleaners, paper products, personal items and cereal. We eat a lot of cereal, and now I refuse to pay more than $1.50 a box for cereal, most weeks I can get our Cheerios for $1! The older girls and I eat Fiber One Cereal, and it is more expensive. The best I can usually do on it is $2.50 a box. Still, a good deal.
- I buy as many items as I have coupons for when they are on sale. This means that one week I may buy 6 boxes of Cheerios, and then not buy cereal again for 3 weeks. I do the same for frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes.
- I buy larger portions (on sale) of ground beef or turkey, brown it all and divide it into 1 pound portions and freeze them.
- You have to shop with a calculator. Sometimes the store brand of an item is cheaper than name brand with a coupon, but sometimes the name brand is actually cheaper. You have to do the math!
I have found that by doing all of the above, I have trimmed my grocery/household spending, but I am also buying healthy food--which actually costs more--for my family. I still haven't bought a cart full of groceries for $7, like all of those coupon queens that you read about, but I have consistently shaved $50-$100 off our our total monthly spending in these areas, and I hope to save even more this year.
What about you? Do you have any money saving ideas to share?