Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let the Couponing Begin

Have you ever known someone who spends hardly any money for groceries yet makes out of the store with more groceries in her cart than you? I hope to be that person in your life.

OK, not really but I do hope to be that person who spends very little on groceries. Right now my husband is job hunting, and once his school starts in the Fall he'll be going to school full time, while working part time. This couponing thing has now become a necessity. But I'm not going to lie . . . it's kind of fun!

About a month ago we drove to Virginia to buy a mini-van from my Aunt and Uncle. I think the real reason we went was that I needed someone to tell me about the addicting game of saving money through coupons. My cousin gave me a basic lesson and directed me to some great websites. I left Virginia with a new mentality of shopping.
Lessons from Virginia: Combine manufacture's coupons with store coupons and then use them to buy things already on sale. Also, CVS Pharmacy can be a gold mine!

Then we ventured west past Knoxvull (that's how they say it . . .) and stopped in good 'ole Nashville to see my husband's Aunt and family. While we were there, his cousin gave me a coupon of lessons too! So between 2 cousins, I came back ready to start saving!
Lessons from Tennessee: Create your menu for the week based on what's on sale. Don't create your menu and then find out what menu items you can get on sale, and what items you have to pay full price for.

Now that we are back to buying all of our own groceries again, I've started clipping coupons and shopping around. I've been to Sams, Hy-Vee, and Aldi (all stores fairly close to our apartment) to compare prices of all the items that I usually have on hand, or use in recipes frequently. I took my iPod touch with me (It's like my 3rd child-I can't leave home without it!) and made a running list of how much things cost at each place. Here is what I discovered:

Sam's-Has the cheapest milk, and the cheapest whole chickens. Occasionally I'll buy ground beef in bulk there but it's not something I use often in recipes so it's not on my list. Overall, I wouldn't say that buying in bulk at Sam's really saves you that much. (See Hy-Vee info to understand why)

Hy-Vee-Their in-store promotions combined with manufacturers coupon and/or store coupons can get you some really cheap stuff. Here were some of my deals last week:
  • I bought 4 boxes of cereal at 2 for 5$, then used a 1$ off coupon for each pair, THEN I got a gallon of FREE milk because Hy-Vee had a special. Four boxes of name brand cereal and a gallon of milk for 6$. Pretty good!
  • I had a manufacturer's coupon for .50 off a box of pasta. Then Hy-Vee had a sale going on that took another .75 off. So I ended up spending .53 for a box of pasta! Since I'd already done comparison shopping, I knew that it was cheaper than I could get at Aldi.
Aldi-I know I know . . . it does kind of feel like you are shopping at a second hand food store, but trust me-the food tastes fine and it's a great steal of a deal. If I know that I can get something cheaper at Aldi, then I DON'T buy it at Hy-Vee, even if it's a great coupon deal on a name brand item. I will say that I'm probably not going to buy my meat or (some) produce there if I can avoid it. The produce is hit and miss. Their grapes we've bought there are the BEST, but some of the stuff . . . well I know why it was so cheap. In general, here are the things I buy at Aldi on a regular basis IF I can't get it cheaper elsewhere using coupons:
  • Eggs (.88/dozen!)
  • Dairy products
  • Cereal
  • Chips/snack food
  • Canned food items
  • Ice cream
  • Deli meat (sometimes)
This is what I've learned so far about couponing. I'm pretty much a rookie. Tomorrow I'll post my menu for the week to show you (and so I can remember!) how I'm planning my week of meals based on the deals this week. I'll be shopping at Hy-Vee and Aldi tomorrow so if you want to follow along with my menus, (and you live near a Hy-Vee and Aldi) find your Sunday paper and clip those coupons, then read tomorrow and I'll give you a week's worth of meals you can buy for cheap!

Coming soon . . .
  • CVS deals. This week I'll attempt to buy a large box of diapers for only $6.99! I'll let you know how it goes!
  • A list of great websites that have helped me understand how to save money using coupons, while not losing the big picture, and not spending all of my time doing it.