Saving at the Grocery Store (Part 1)

I’ve been asked to share some of my tips on saving money at the store. I know there’s a million articles that will tell you that you can save a LOT of money if you follow their tips.  Some will even tell you that you can spend nothing at the store.  You may have even watched Extreme Couponing and thought, how can I do that.. Honestly, almost no one can. Even if you could, do you need 100 bottles of mustard. Food banks probably don’t even want the tons of mustard that people are donating because they earned .01 back on each bottle. So, here’s the first in a series of tips for shopping for a real family and saving money.

We’ve lucky here because we have a selection of at least 3 large chain grocery stores, another half dozen family owned local stores, and several discount grocers (both chain and local). My first tip is to try out a couple of stores and get to know them.  You may be able to check them out through their websites and looking at their sales flyers to see if they have good prices and good selections of things you buy.

Gas Savings

Do your local stores offer gas savings?  Not all store promotions are the created the same.

Examples:

  1. The store I used to shop at offered a straight 1pt to $1 earnings. At 100 points you saved $.10 off a gallon of gas (with limits of 20 gallons).. So, I earned $.20 to $.40 off each gallon of gas each a month.
  2. Another store I shopped at offered $.10 off per gallon when you spend $50.  The problem is, if you spent $95, you still only earned that $.10. It did not roll over that partial total to your next trip.
  3. The store I currently shop at gives me 1pt for each $1 I spend, it goes into a rolling total so if I spent $95, I earn 95 points, when I spent $5 more, I earn $.10 off. They also offer bonus buys that range from earning 5x the points for specific items, to buy 5 or more items to earn 300 or more points.

So, if your local stores offer gas savings, check them out and see which work best with your style of shopping.  Watch for specials. I’m one of those people who will talk to other shoppers and tell them what deals they’re missing. I’ve been in the soup aisle when they have a deal to buy 6 cans and get 300 gas points.. Someone grabs 4 cans.. I will show them the sign on the shelf and suggest if they’re buying soup anyway, get 2 more cans and save on gas. Most people thank me, a couple people laugh.

Always go with a plan.

Most of my friends run to the store when they have nothing left in the house and the kids are whining.. “MOOOOM, there’s nothing to eat”. They run to the store, throw stuff in the cart and have shock at the checkout.
Don’t binge shop.

I subscribe to a Sunday paper, both for the coupons and the flyers. The store I shop at changed their sale cycle from Friday morning to Thursday night. They mail out flyers on Wednesday. These “special” flyers often have an extra coupon for gas points. A lot of my shopping revolves around gas point specials.

So, when I get my flyer, I immediately flip to the special gas points section to see what items I use. I make sure the prices are also reasonable (I’m not saving money if the prices aren’t good)

Example: This week Pantene shampoo and conditioner where on the list of buy 5 items and earn 500 gas points. They were $3.99 each. I had $9 in coupons ($5 off 3 and $4 off 2).  That made all 5 a total of $10.95. Our store has a limit of 25 gallons of gas per gas point redemption. My husbands truck has a 30 gallon tank, but we’ve also taken gas cans with us to get the full 25 gallons (lawn mower gas or to use in another vehicle).  That’s a savings of $12.50.  So, I got 2 bottles of shampoo, 3 bottles of conditioner (we always go through conditioner faster) and after gas savings I actually earned $1.55.

Another deal this week included Pop Tarts (12 ct box) and batteries (Energizer Max). We always need Pop Tarts and I just happened to need AAA Batteries this week.  Buying 6 items earned another 400 gas points.  I’m a member of the Kellogg’s Rewards program. They send me coupons all the time, and I earn points for every purchase. When I don’t get coupons I can use in my email, I use my points to print coupons, so I used 2 buy 2 get $1 off coupons.  These were items I was going to buy anyway and got a bonus $10 in gas savings. Plus I earned points for my purchases for the week.  My trip gas savings were 997 points. 3 more points and I have $1 off a gallon of gas. I spent $105.91 including tax (milk is not eligible for points because it is a regulated product).  My total purchase “before savings” which is the full price item was $177.72. I had 21.05 in coupons and a couple that  doubled adding another 1.50 to my savings.  I’m happy any time my savings are more than 33%. I consider this a realistic savings goal.  This week my savings were 41%.

So, get your flyers (either in the mail, in the newspaper, or online) and find the deals that work for you, then find coupons to increase your savings.

Some coupon sources include manufacturer websites, Sunday paper inserts, Coupons.com, SmartSource, and RedPlum. I also love the Passion For Savings website to help me find coupons for things on my list. They include newspaper coupons and printable coupons.

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