Saturday, September 17, 2011

How I save more than I spend at the grocery store

I'm a couponer.

Not one of those freaky ones with 200 boxes of cat litter and no cat, but I am a clipper, and a pretty shameless one at that.

Back in the lucrative teaching job days (Ha! That's a funny), I would coupon for the fun of it -- giggling all the way through the checkout line.

Nowadays, I coupon out of necessity -- I have a $300/month "food and entertainment" budget. For some reason, hubby thinks diapers and formula are entertaining, because those get lumped into the budget, too.

Lots of people ask me how I provide for my family on such a small budget, so I figured I'd explain it here so I can say, "Oh, I wrote about it on the blog, " instead of explaining multiple times. So here goes.

Step 1: Do your research. If you want to save money, don't go into a store empty-handed and without knowing what's on sale! I use I Heart Publix and I Heart Kroger to find the sales. I also use Southern Savers -- not so much for the info, but that website allows me to print off a pretty little shopping list for each store, and I like pretty.

I buy 2 newspapers a week and store the coupon inserts by date. I also print off coupons from the internet. Here's what my coupons and lists look like before I go shopping:

Yes, I use pink paper for my couponing. It doesn't help me save any money, but it does make me feel sassy. It's the little things, really.

Step 2: Go to the store. It helps to take someone along with you to keep you accountable and make you feel quilty when you try to buy something full-price. My partner in crime is Cohen. He's already mastered the "Is that on sale? I didn't think so!" look.

I know what you're thinking right now: "OMG, she's got one of those invisible babies!" Although an invisible baby sounds fun (if not way more trouble than I need), I do not have one. My partner in crime stayed home with daddy today. I was lonely.

Step 3: Only buy what's on sale, and buy enough to get you through about 6 weeks. See that pretty sticker? That's what you're looking for. Remember, I like pretty.

(Sidenote: When I first started couponing, I could not just buy what was on sale because I needed stuff to actually make meals, not 5 bottles of ketchup. But once I started stocking up on items when they were their cheapest, I began to create a stockpile at home that I "shop" from. The goal of my grocery trips now is to keep my stockpile full.) Click here to learn more about couponing basics.

Sometimes I'll want to buy something, and when I get to the store, the shelf will be empty. Insteading of cursing the name of couponers who stocked up before me, I just get a rain check for the item. Customer Service gives them out.

Here's what I take with me to shop. I have sections for Kroger, Publix, CVS, and Walgreens coupons for the week. I also have a section where I put coupons that I find while shopping (called "blinkies"), a section for a pen and a calculator, and a section for the money.

Yes, I am one of those people who whips out the calculator to determine which is the better deal: the 2 liter bottle of soda for .66 or the 12 pack of soda for $2.25.

You're curious now, aren't you? The 12 pack is the better deal. By far.

Step 4: Take your loot home and impress your husband at all the great stuff you got for so little money. He'll want to marry you all over again.

Step 5: Pat yourself on the back for how much money you saved. You may never make it on Extreme Couponing, but you did save a ton of money!

(I also shopped at Kroger today. All in all, I spent $67 and saved $80 today).

Step 6: Put your goodies away. Here's what my stockpile looks like:

Food (this is after I stock my pantry and fridge/freezer in the house): 

Cleaning products:

And health and beauty supplies:

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