5 Easy Steps to Budget Your Grocery Bill without Extreme Couponing

 This is a guest post.  Caitlin Clarke began working as a freelance writer shortly before graduating from college in 2010. She currently works for people all over the world, and she writes on hundreds of different topics. Her favorite blogging topics include personal finance, freelancing, and travel. visit her here.
 

 

 

As a self-employed newlywed, I like to think that I have got grocery shopping down to a science. Also, I love really bad reality TV shows, much to my husband’s dismay, and Extreme Couponing is one of the more fascinating. Without getting into my thoughts on those women and their habits,

 

I’d like to make it clear that I do not have the time or the space to cut hundreds of coupons and stockpile hundreds of jugs of dish detergent. That said, I do follow a couple of easy steps when I go grocery shopping that has let me reduce our grocery bill by about $100 to $200 a month. Currently, my husband and I spend about $200 to $250 a month on groceries, which I consider to be an acceptable amount.

 

Step 1 – Do NOT Go Grocery Shopping When You Are Hungry

 

This might sound like one of the most obvious tips ever, but I’m surprised at the number of times that people ignore this rule. Life is busy, and you go shopping when you have the time. Sometimes this means that you have to go shopping before a meal. However, if you do go grocery shopping when you are hungry, you will find that is harder to pay attention to what you need and it is much easier to make impulse purchases.

More than once, I’ve gotten home from grocery shopping and realized that while I got those break and bake cookies that I so desperately needed, I forgot to pick up eggs… My suggestion is to make time after meals or in the middle of the day. For example, my husband and I often try to go shopping on the weekends or during his lunch break.

 

This way we go shopping after a late weekend breakfast or we pick up something for lunch before going to the grocery store. If you do find yourself arriving hungry at the store, take a minute to grab something to eat before you start shopping. The grocery store’s deli is a great place for a snack. This might make your trip last a little longer, but you will save money.

 

Step 2 – Use Your Grocery Store’s Rewards Card or Credit Card

 

  If your grocery store has a rewards card or a saver card like Sam’s Club and Kroger do, you should use them. I use my Kroger card every time I shop, which helps me to save money, and I get a discount on gasoline too, so it’s a win-win situation.

 

You can also consider making your groceries a monthly bill with a grocery store credit card. These cards often give you even higher grocery discounts. If you only use it for grocery related purchases, you will simply have a grocery bill each month like you have a utility bill.

 

Step 3 – Shop Around

 


  This does not mean shop around by going to different stores. What it means is that you should start looking at the different brands that your grocery store offers. Personally, I recommend shopping at one or two grocery stores. Prices across the board do not vary that much, and you will save time and gas by making the majority of your purchases at one store.

 


You probably know that the products that are placed at eye level are often the most expensive. So, spend some time looking at what is on the bottom shelf. These products are usually the store brand products, and they are often just as good as the more expensive name brands, especially when you are buying staples like pasta or rice. Also, instead of buying the same brand that you always buy, you should try looking for the brand that is on sale.

 

For example, my husband and I rarely by the same brand of sliced bread from week to week. This is because our Kroger runs different sales on different brands.

 

Step 4 – Use Coupons the Easy Way

 

  Instead of spending hours cutting coupons, you should spend a few minutes gathering relevant coupons. Many stores give out coupons when you make your purchases and some stores have coupon stations located throughout the store.

 

Take a few minutes each week to glance at the circulars and see if there are any coupons that you think you could use. Also, you should consider joining a coupon site (I use couponsuzy.com) and printing out the coupons that you want to use. Buy a small accordion file and keep your coupons in there. Review them before each grocery trip and take the ones that you need. You should be sure to look at the expiration dates so that they do not expire before you use them. I “stockpile” in a very small way.

 

For example, I have a coupon that gives me a $1 off a good brand of toilet paper, but it expires before I plan to go shopping again. So, I will go ahead and buy toilet paper even if I do not need it in order to save the dollar. It’s not like it’s going to go bad or anything. By using coupons, I generally save anywhere from a $1 to $10 a trip. There’s nothing extreme about this, but I believe that every little bit counts.

 

Step 5 – Shop Local

 

  This is the exception to the rule about confining your purchases to one store. If you have a local farmers market in your area, you should use them for your produce. In many cases, they will be much less expensive than your local grocery store.

 

However, many of these markets are seasonal or are only open a few days a week. However, they are often worth the extra effort because of the savings involved. For example, my local farmers market sells peppers for about half what the grocery store does, and it has more variety.

 

If you want to go extreme couponing, I think you should go for it. However, if you are like me, looking for an easy way to budgetyour groceries, you should follow these simple steps.

 

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Comments

  1. Shopping around when it comes to trying different stores just takes too much time. However, I like your idea of shopping around within a store for different brands. I did not know about looking down on the shelves for possible cheaper products.

    I also like your first point about not shopping when you are hungry.

    • Yeah, I learned about not shopping while hungry as a student. I'd come back to the dorms with more food than I could easily store. I can't even remember who told me about cheaper brands being on the lower shelves, but it's true of nearly every grocery store. I like getting the giant bags of egg noodles for $2 or so.

  2. Great ideas! A few other things I do is – I plan my meals each week before going to the store. This helps cut down on buying a bunch of random things that don't really constitute a "meal" – which I was notorious for!

    Another thing I do is check the grocery store ads each week and the store that has the most things on sale that I need is the one I visit.

    The last tip I have is instead of buying premade convenience foods, I buy staples like dried beans, rice, flour etc. I can make so many things much cheaper by adding my own spices etc.

    • Looks like I'm not the only person who cook for the week. It makes life so much easier! Hmm.. good idea on not buying premade foods. I tend to buy the steam veggies/rice that is on sale. Are you against using those?

    • We definitely stick to the staples as well. I have to say, we're not very good about planning out the week, though it is a great idea. Sometimes we get distracted by the fancy cheese aisle…

    • I'm with you on meal planning! It is the single thing that saves me the most at the supermarket. Having a plan means I'm not buying on impulse, and that I don't have to go to the store mid-week for something forgotten, ending up with another cart full!

  3. It's 1 dollar a meal per person. If you don't mind shameless links:
    http://www.smartfamilyfinance.com/category/frugal

    Otherwise, feel free to delete. It's actually not that crazy to do. $1 times 3 people and 3 meals a day is about $270/month for a food budget. However, breaking meals down by cost/serving helps you to plan and spread out meals better.

    • I don't mind the link at all! I eat quite simple and for nutritional value and I thought my meals were the cheapest. I eat for about 3 dollars a day. Your food does look tastier! Heck, I would love to feature you as a guest poster talking about frugal dishes.

  4. My family breaks down the cost of a meal to cost/serving. That way we aren't eating expensive dishes every day. Our goal is to eat at $1/meal or less.

    • Is that 1 dollar a meal per person or 1 dollar a meal for the family? In either case I would be interested in knowing what you eat. 1 dollar a meal is pretty darn good!

  5. These tips were good ones. A lot of them I already know of or used to implement.We are a household of 4 and I think we spend about $200 or less a month on groceries. Its not that we are doing anything special, though. My husband and I just lucked up and live near a military base where we can buy groceries for less. I know how expensive things are out in town and the only place that we will buy from when the base grocery store is closed is Wal-Mart. They are still a little higher, but only by pennies, other stores anywhere form 2-3 dollars an item.

    Before I had military benefits, I would scan the weekly circular and decide what I needed and shopped this way. It made the bills less, because I was only buying sale items for pleasure and necessities.

    • $200 a month for a family of four? That's pretty awesome. My husband and I live in a small college town, and while it is much cheaper than larger cities, it is more expensive than the surrounding area because of the school.

    • Please email me your monthly meals.. 200 for 4 people is amazing! wow

  6. Great post. I'd be a bit cautious with Step 4. If you aren't doing any couponing at all, then jumping both feet in might be a bit much. However, there is a lot of money that can be saved if you go all the way. Thanks!

    • Adam, I'm with you. Personally, I can't stand to clip coupons. Are there any other steps or tricks you might follow to save money?

    • At my grocery store, they print out coupons when I am checking out. So, all I have to do is grab them. I don't propose spending more than a few minutes a week looking for coupons, and I think the coupon sites are useful because you can search for specific items and stores. It's pretty easy to scan them quickly. I usually don't cut many coupons. It would drive me crazy after too long :)

  7. Great tips! Another one of my favorite tips is to shop on the outside track of the grocery store and not down the center aisles where the junk food and expensive foods are. On the outside, you can get the staples like milk, eggs, bread, veggies, fruits, etc.

  8. some very useful tips here, I'm a newlywed myself and living with my wife so I'll keep these in mind :D

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  1. [...] Your Finances Simplified: 5 Easy Steps to Budget Your Grocery Bill without Extreme Couponing [...]

  2. fwisp.com says:

    5 Easy Steps to Budget Your Grocery Bill | Your Finances Simplified…

    This might sound like one of the most obvious tips ever, but I’m surprised at the number of times that people ignore this rule. Life is busy, and you go shopping when you have the time….

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