I get asked all the time how I do it: how I save so much on groceries, how I only shop each store only once a month, how I manage my fridge and pantry, how we have the money to host and feed people all the time, how I make it all happen for cheap.
Well, I’m going to tell you how I do it. Then, I am going to let you try out my method for yourself. That’s right, honey: FREE PRINTABLES! Everyone loves ‘em, lots of people use ‘em. I made a pretty one just for you.
My Method, with You in Mind
First, write out your NEED list.
Example: I NEED paper towels soon, so even without a coupon or a sale price, I will have to buy a package. I NEED fresh produce so I’ll look at what’s in season and on sale at each store.
Next, write out your WANT list.
I WANT my husband’s favorite chips, breakfast sausages for the Angel, and yogurt to make frozen treats in this crazy heat.
Third, if you coupon, coupon now. If you don’t coupon, start.
Since I am a member of Inbox Dollars , I like to go to their site and access Coupons.com through it. All the same coupons PLUS the bonus of ten cents added to my ID account for each redeemed coupon. It’s great.
Once I have all my coupons selected and printed, I sort them with the coupons I may have received with a receipt or in the mail. I have an accordion folder that’s about 4″ tall where I have the coupons sorted by store, and I put them in by date. I also have a slot for “manufacture food” and “manufacture dry goods” for the coupons that don’t have to be used at a specific store. (The other slots in my accordion doohickey that I bought years ago in Target’s Dollar Spot hold rewards cards, receipts, and post-its and a pen if I forget my list at home and need to make another before entering a store.)
Then, check the advertisements for the stores you go to most frequently.
I have an app on my Android phone called Flipp that shows me most of my local sales ads. I have marked which ones are my “favorites.”
Not all of the stores I like to go to have their ads available through Flipp. Maybe you get a weekly newspaper, maybe you use a different app, or maybe you turn to Google each week to find what you’re looking for.
Personally, I use Flipp for Kroger, Aldi’s, WalMart, Target, and Fresh Thyme. There’s a local meat market that I have pinned their website to a folder on my phone dedicated to saving money.
Finally, as I go through each ad, I write down what is on sale that I am interested in. I mark down next to the items on my NEED, WANT, and COUPON lists which store has the best price.
I also write down things of interest that are on sale but that I don’t necessarily NEED but could possibly WANT in the future. Or maybe I don’t NEED it now but will someday NEED it. For instance, I buy cat litter when it is on sale and I buy as much as I can at the time. Yes, I’ve marched through Target with almost 100 pounds of Tidy Cats in my cart. It doesn’t go bad, every last grain will be used, and I NEED it so will buy it in bulk to save myself an emergency full-price purchase.
That is how I shop each store once a month; that is how I save money and have extra food and supplies for hosting and donations. THAT is how you can simplify your shopping and boost your savvy ways.
Typically, I hand-write everything, but since my penmanship is quite sloppy these days, I typed it up just for you. Yes, you, dear reader. Check out this handy-dandy PDF for an example of how I do it:
Notes on My Method
To really save with this method, make this into something you do only once or twice a month. I mean, keep your eye on the weekly ads, but also build up your pantry and freezer so you won’t have to go shopping each week. You’ll save even more!
Always consider what works best for you, too. If you have only one item on your list for a certain store, it is not worth the time used and money saved to go to that store.
For instance, we buy our cheese at Walmart. They carry two pound blocks of Cabot for an unbelievably low price. It is always on our Walmart list, yet rarely is there anything else we buy there. When we go to Walmart, we buy as many of those two pound blocks as we can. No joke. I’ll spend more than $30 on cheese. That is so I don’t have to return to Walmart for another month. In that month, there may be things added to the Walmart list, like Aveeno body lotion (not needed to be purchased too regularly but still best price around for something used almost daily around our house).
Sometimes, Fresh Thyme has a great deal on certain organic produce items that I would really like. However, if I can get the majority of the produce we regularly eat at Kroger for a better price, I’m not going to a different part of town just to get those pears or whatever. I’d rather (a) go without or (b) buy the darn things for an extra 19 cents per pound.
REMEMBER: The money saved and the time spent sometimes isn’t worth the extra trip. Don’t drag yourself all over town to save 19 cents per pound.
Especially when we’re talking about loading two kids into car seats and dragging them through stores and making them spend at least an hour and a half in the car since we live in the middle of nowhere.
NEVER FORGET YOUR LIST! You may forget to put things on your list. You may not buy everything you did put on your list. But you will stick to your needs (both at the grocery and in life in general) if you have a list to keep you on track and saving time and money.
Don’t we all want to save time and money?
Now, I have included a lovely little spreadsheet to illustrate what I’m talking about above as an example. I don’t always have the luxury of sitting down at my computer to type up a clean-looking list like this. So I print out a bunch of blank pages to scribble on when I have five minutes here, five minutes there to check my pantry, look at my ads, think about our needs and what we have coming up, and calculate if my coupons are worth the 40 cents I’ll save.
For you, you wonderful Thoughtfully Sought path walker, I am including a pretty PDF for you (Yes, YOU!) to print and use at your leisure.