Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Save Money On Groceries Without Using Coupons | Kitchen Economics Link Up

I am not an extreme couponer. I'm not even an avid couponer. I like coupons, but I am not the home manager who buys $200 worth of groceries for $4.35. I am always fascinated by those stories of people who are able to accomplish such a task, but it is not me. I usually average about $5 in coupons on each weekly shopping trip.

Health and Beauty products are another story. I don't buy any of those products without a coupon, but they are easier to come by. And stores like CVS and Rite Aid make it very easy for all types of shoppers to buy these products for pennies or FREE. Paper products, such as toilet paper and diapers are easy for me to use coupons too.

But I find food products to be a different story. Boxed, processed food coupons are very easy to find, but I try to limit those foods in our diet, so I really have a hard time finding coupons for food that we do eat. But that doesn't mean I don't save a lot of money at the grocery store.

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

As I have written before, groceries are the one category that I feel like I have the most control over when it comes to spending. When I plan a menu, my spending is generally under control. When I don't plan, I am sure to blow the budget. The difference between the two can be $100-$150. That is a lot of money, so I plan a menu. Develop your own routine and read my post, Eleven Tips for Easier Menu Planning for more ideas.

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
Freeze those leftovers. If you're not going to eat the left food before it spoil, then freeze it. 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.

Stockpile in the freezer. At Christmas time I bought 5 lb sacks of flour for .99 cents. I stocked up and put them in the freezer for storage and to prevent bugs. When chicken roasters are on sale at .79/lb, I buy at least 3 of them and store in the freezer. When organic bread is on sale, I stock up and store in the freezer.

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.

I compared the prices of some store products and the name brand counterparts of some items on my shopping 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.
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 for the big ticket items on my shopping list, like diapers, detergent, and chicken, I know the best price and stock up when you find it. 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 knowing a buy price.

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 the price comes down to $1.49 a pound or even 99 cents a pound, we will be eating a lot of asparagus. During the winter it is usually $2.99/lb and I don't buy it. Next 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 vs. $3.99/lb whitish strawberries in the winter. After that, 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 crave 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 serve it with a some fruit from the fridge and I have averted a potential meal emergency.

Are you an extreme couponer or just an occasional couponer? What are some other ways, besides coupons, that you save at the grocery store? Let us know in the comments.

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This post in linked to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.


  1. Good morning. I agree that with eating more naturally (and we do the bulk of our shopping at the farmers market) you are not able to use coupons as much. We never used boxed, convenience foods much, but even with toiletries, as we go towards more natural products, I'm not able to save their either (except on disposable razors, floss, and toothbrushes). But all good ideas.

    I used to be one of those people. I'd get 20 tubes of toothpaste for tax only (they even owed me $ a few times) or 40 bottles of body wash for less than $5. Not any more.

  2. The one thing that has really helped me is cutting the crap. It has also helped the kids to eat better at meal time.

  3. i heart this post! i feed my family of 6 cheaper than most. i am the same as you...i use coupons (especially cvs:) BUUT I only use a few a week. I too have found I enjoy just cooking from scratch more than's healthier and in my opinion saves time! Great blog by the way!

  4. Great post with great ideas. I am kind of middle of the road with coupons I guess. Because we don't eat much processed/boxed food I don't use a lot of the coupons. Except for breakfast cereal which I don't buy without a coupon (if I don't have one I stick to the store brand or wait until I have one - we always have oatmeal on hand for breakfasts).

    I have had good luck with store brands all but one time - it was store brand pretzels and they were really bad - I called the corporate office and let them know and they sent be about $3 in coupons to use on any of their private label products - not just pretzels (thankfully). So if you buy a store brand and don't like it let the corp office know - it might pay off!

  5. Great ideas! I really like your Raid the Kitchen night to use up the leftovers.

    We recently switched our diet to eating more organic and whole foods and have found that it IS harder to find coupons on these foods, but I started looking for blogs that cover organic deals and I'm finally starting to see some real savings with their deal match-ups. :0) I love that we are finally not just eating healthy, but eating healthy for less.

  6. Regarding store brands (as with comparing any two brands), keep in mind that the price is influenced by the ingredients. Often the cheaper brand uses more sugar/corn syrup and salt (sometimes it's the other way around). For some products (i.e. butter and cookies) I prefer paying more if the product is healthier (less sugar, fat or salt per 100g).

  7. @Monique - I haven't gone as natural with our toiletries as I should. I used to be more of a stockpiler in this area too, but I don't have the time or room any more to chase deals, so I just buy as I need and use a sale and coupon.

    @Michele - Cutting the crap out has helped our kids too with their diets. I am amazed that we can walk through the grocery store and my kids don't really nag when we walk through the cereal or junk food aisles, because they don't even know what those things are.

    @Flamingo - I think cooking from scratch saves money and time too. Thanks for the kind words.

    @Debra - great tip about calling the corporate office when store brands don't live up to expectations. Thanks.

    @Sandra - I want to start to write more about saving on organics here in the future.

    @Anon - Good point. The ingredients should be my priority over saving a few pennies.

    Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting.

  8. Lisa Under the RedwoodsMarch 12, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    I will often eat leftovers for breakfast. The less food I waste the lower my grocery budget.


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