Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nine Ways To Save Money On Groceries Without Using Coupons

I like coupons, but I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never be the home manager who buys $200 worth of groceries for $4.35. I know there are many people out there that can do this, but it is not me. I usually average about $5-$10 in coupons on each weekly shopping trip. Health and Beauty products are another story. I don't buy any of those products with out a coupon, but they are easier to come by. Many of the food products that we eat generally don't offer consistent coupons.

Whether you are a coupon queen, king or clutz, there are many other ways to save money on groceries and coupons are not involved.

1. Menu Plan
I wrote about this process in my Ten Simple Strategies for Easier Meal Planning. Develop your own routine, stick to it and save money.

2. Institute a 'Raid the Fridge' Night
One night a week, raid the fridge to get rid of leftovers. Set the leftovers up buffet style. Everyone's plate might look different, but you'll at least use up the leftovers and reduce the waste.

3. Utilize the Freezer
If you're not going to eat the leftovers before they spoil, then freeze them. With the exception of maybe pasta dishes, a lot of food can be frozen. Cooked chicken and veggies can be frozen and used in soups or casseroles at a later date. Raw vegetables like carrots, peppers, onions and parsley can be shredded or chopped and bagged and stored in the freezer for future dishes. What about the last hot dog or hamburger roll or unused cheese - Freeze it.

4. Don't shun the store brands.
I'll give the store version of a product a try and if I don't like it, I'll go back to the brand name. I buy store brand versions of many things from butter, flour and sugar to pretzels, bread, canned tomatoes and aluminum foil. There are a few instances where I went back to the name brand, like Heinz ketchup and Sargento Shredded Cheese.

On a recent grocery trip, I compared the prices of some store products and the name brand counterparts of some items on my list and found savings of 20% - 40%.

  • Canned, diced tomatoes, 15.5 oz, store brand 59 cents vs. $1.00 for the Hunt's brand.
  • Canned red kidney beans, 15.5 oz, store brand 59 cents vs. 95 cents for Hanover brand.
  • Honey & nut O's cereal, 12.9 oz, store brand $1.99 vs. $2.79 for Cheerios brand.
  • aluminum foil, 75 square foot, store brand $2.69 vs. $3.29 Reynolds brand.

5. Compare price per unit and if the size makes sense go for the best price per unit.
Again, on my recent shopping I compared the price per unit of a couple different products and the sizes. Unless I think the size is too big for us to consume in time, I go for the best price per unit.

  • Heinz ketchup - 32 oz @ $2.29 = $1.15/lb, 64 oz @$3.49 = .87/lb
  • Kosher Dill Spears - 16 oz @ $2.39 = $2.39/pint, 24 oz @ $2.49 = $1.66/pint, 32 oz @$2.69 = $1.35/pint
  • Hummus (I know I can make my own hummus, but I'm proving a point here) - 8 oz @ $2.49, 16 oz @$3.98

6. Have and Know Your Buy price and Stock up.
I don't keep a price book, but there are a few items like diapers, detergent, chicken that I know the best sale price offered. When I see Perdue Oven Roaster Chickens at 79 cents a pound, I stock up my freezer, because that is a price that doesn't happen very often. I just focus on my most expensive pantry/freezer staple items. For the big ticket items on your shopping list, know the best price and stock up when you find it.

7. Buy or grow local produce in season. Freeze for later use.
We live in the northeast and we are heading into asparagus season, when we can find it at $1.49 a pound or even 99 cents a pound. We will be eating a lot of asparagus in the next month or so. After asparagus, comes strawberry season, which after Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. There is nothing better than local, fresh, ripe strawberries picked right off the vine at a U-Pick farm for $1.30 a pound. And then we head in to high summer vegetable season and, well, you get the point by now...

8. Cut out the crap, save some dough.
We rarely buy sodas or other sugary drinks. On occasion we might cave for root beer, but we mostly drink tap water. The same goes for junk food. The bags of Cool Ranch Doritos scream at me in the store, but I really try not cave in. For two reasons: I can't stop at just one and if it doesn't contribute to the nutrition of our family, I try to avoid it. I am not a purist though, I do splurge on occasion, but we try to limit the non-necessities.

9. Have an emergency back-up meal in the freezer or pantry
For those crazy evenings or maybe you forgot to thaw the main course, have a back up meal to avoid take-out. For me it is homemade soups that I keep in the freezer. They are easy to thaw in the microwave and I pair it with some fruit from the fridge and I have averted a potential meal emergency.

What are some non-coupon strategies that you use to save money on groceries? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. thanks for the tips!!
    I also love coupons and don't buy anything without printable grocery coupons. My favorite coupon site here you can get free printable coupons.

  2. Oh what an encouragement this post was!! I have felt many times that I was the only coupon-clipper out there who was only getting $5-10 off per grocery trip instead of getting $500 worth of groceries for $4.74...thank you for making me feel more normal!! :-) I still use coupons when I can, but for the most part I look for the $0.99 manager specials (in produce) and the manager specials (in meat), and go with the store brands. I've found that most of the time the taste is the same (though I do have some items that I stick with brand name - Tobasco and White Lily flour come to mind). Anyway, GREAT post and much needed encouragement to me today! Blessings!

  3. Awesome tips. Ill be checking out the meal planning post soon! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great tips - I love coupons, but sometimes, I'm just too worn out to use them all! :)

    Thanks for linking up to my Thrifty Thursday post, too!

  5. This is a great post! I use coupons as often as I can, and these tips used with coupons can save you even more! There are times I don't use my coupons, or chose to shop at a store one week that won't take the printed coupons, and I have to use other ways to save. I like the back-up meal idea. I am the QUEEN on ordering take-out when things get hectic. I know I need to have one, I've said it over and over, I just need to put the plan into action!

  6. Great post! I love to get a great coupon deal but find that it only happens for me maybe a couple of times a month (usually just once) and not those amazing deals like some get. But your tips are ones I've tried to follow that really help me save. One that I do is I price match at Walmart. I live in a very small town with only 2 grocery stores (one is Walmart, the other Safeway) and if it's a week that I can't drive 30-60 minutes to a different grocery store with a smokin' deal, I take the flyer to Walmart and price match. Works great!

  7. Great post. I live in Canada, where food coupons are hard to come by and doubling and tripling coupons is non existant. I love all your tips.

    Love your blog.

  8. Thanks for all of the kind comments and for Reading FBS!

  9. Couponing doesn't really work for me either. Like Theresa, I'm in Canada, so no doubling or tripling, most stores in my area won't accept printables, and very few are for anything I use. There are very few ways to get coupons without paying more for the source than the value of the one or two fifty cent coupons for higher priced brand name items that may be useful, so I generally don't bother with them.
    Instead, I use generics, bulk purchases, substitutions and making my own/making from scratch. I also grow a garden and render fats for cooking. We spend one third to one half the supposed standard amount for a family of four plus pets and I think we eat pretty well. I have a very basic price book in my purse - just the best unit price, and a calculator. I'm currently tracking advertised specials on all my basics plus the rate at which they are consumed so I will be able to take best advantage of the sale cycles. I view food processing as built in hired help. If I buy it, I am also paying for someone else to do all the washing, and the peeling, and the cutting... And it's at a wage higher than I get paid as a SAHM. Just makes no sense to pay someone else more than you earm.


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