Strategies for Making Your Dollar Stretch
In an effort to save the most money on my grocery bill, I use a large variety of methods, and combine several frugal concepts. Here they are in no particular order.
Making A Menu. Each week, after the sale ads come out, I sit down and plan the week’s meals based on what’s on sale. I start with the meat, and make meals around that main dish. Then I make the grocery list based on the menu. When you stick to a menu, you will save a large amount of money because you avoid impulse purchases, repeat trips to the grocery store, expensive meals based on convenience, and going out for dinner because of lack of planning ahead. When you make a menu based on sale items, you will be amazed how far your food dollars will stretch. Many websites have printable meal planning charts to be filled in weekly.
Coupons. There are a few rules I follow when shopping. First, the item I want MUST be on sale. Second, I MUST have a coupon for it. In order for you to get the most food for your buck, you must combine sale items with coupons. I rarely buy anything if I do not have both the sale price and the coupon working together. This is how I buy many items for pennies, or perhaps even free.
Step 1- Review the grocery sales ads for the week.
Step 2- Couple the sale items you want with a coupon.(many websites help with coupon organization, and make this step really easy. We’ll talk about this later.)
Step 3- Make your meal menu for the week based on the sale items.
Step 4- Make your grocery list. I make 2-
a. items I need because I am out of them and they aren’t on sale.
b. items that are on sale, and I’m stocking up on.
Step 5- WHEN AN ITEM IS ON SALE, BUY MULTIPLES OF IT. (Which brings me to my next point)
Buying Multiples. Coupons work best when you develop a pantry system. Sales at the grocery store are very cyclical in nature. The same item will go on sale every 6-8 weeks, or seasonally. When an item goes on sale, buy multiples of the item.
Example: Cheerios go on sale for $1.00 per box. I use 4 coupons worth $.30 each, and buy 4 boxes. Safeway doubles my coupons, so I pay $.40/ box, or $1.60 for 4 boxes of cereal.
I will put this cereal in my pantry so that I won’t run out and have to buy any at full price. It must last until the item goes on sale again.
Learn the cycles. Soda, chips, hot dogs, and condiments go on sale before the Super Bowl, Labor Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day. Baking supplies and canned goods go on HUGE sales before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cake and brownie mixes can be bought for under $.25 a piece in September. Stock the pantry with a 6 month supply or more. Cleaning supplies go on sale in January. Etc.
Freezer. Learn to buy certain items in bulk, and freeze them. When hamburger is cheap, I buy 20 # and weigh it into 1# packages, put it into freezer bags, and stock up on it. I buy 20 # pork roasts, cut them into smaller roasts, and freeze. Same with all types of meat. You can even cook it all, and freeze it for a day when you need a quick meal. Having a small kitchen scale will come in handy for weighing meat.When fruit is in season, and at it’s peak of flavor, it will go on sale. I buy flats of strawberries on sale and make jams, sliced strawberries, toppings, etc. and freeze them for desserts, pancakes, and more. I also freeze cheese, vegetables, chocolate chips, nuts, butter and bread.
Utilizing the Pantry System. When buying multiples of sale items, you will quickly build up an impressively stocked pantry for a ridiculously small amount of money. Once your pantry is fully stocked with the items you use on a regular basis, you will begin to shop a little differently. I rotate my food by expiration date, and make a note of when my stock of an item is getting low. Then it goes on my “sale radar” and I watch for the item to go on sale so I can replenish my supply. When you have a large pantry, you will not be as vulnerable to panicking in financial emergencies.
Ex. Last year the transmission unexpectedly went out on our vehicle. We were able to buy a new transmission and live off of our pantry for a month. My family never even noticed. The following month when we were back to normal, I started restocking the pantry as items went on sale.
I also have a cabinet designated as a cleaning supply pantry, and a bath room cabinet for toiletries. When shampoo, soap, or toothpaste goes on sale, I stock up. I haven’t needed to buy toothpaste for over a year.
The stocked pantry is also wonderful for helping friends in need. It’s easy to throw together a small food basket with a few meals in it to bless a family going through a tough time.
Compile a Price List. Make a list of items you buy frequently, and their sale prices. Teach yourself to discern a good sale from a bad one. I have price points I follow. As a rule, I don’t buy cereal if it’s over $.85 a box with the coupon. I never pay more than $1.50 for butter or milk, $1.88 for hamburger, chicken breasts, or pork, and $2.00 for a case of soda. Just because something is on “sale” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best deal.
Getting duplicate coupons. In order to shop using multiple coupons, you must receive multiple sets. Most all coupons come in the Sunday Newspaper. I get two Sunday papers. I also get the coupons from two other people who don’t use them. So I have 4 sets of duplicate coupons each week. Most all websites have a filing system that assigns a letter and numbers to each coupon insert, and then the entire insert is put into a filing box. DON’T CLIP EVERY COUPON. KEEP THEM IN THE INSERT, UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO USE THEM.
Other money saving tips I use:
*Plant a garden
*buying staple items in bulk. Flour, sugar, salt, dried beans, butter, cheese, etc.
* cooking from scratch to avoid pricey convenience foods.
* making my own cleaners
* baking bread from scratch
* Sticking to a budget
Helpful Resources for Making your Dollar Stretch
*Free Menu Planning downloads
Includes: Meal/ Menu Planners, Freezer cooking planners, Price Book forms and so much more!
*Coupon Organizing Websites
These are sites that help you to match coupons with sale ads to make great deals! They are great tools for helping you to make the best purchases at the grocery store.
Some are free, and some have a monthly fee.
http://www.thegrocerygame.com/ The Grocery Game
http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com/ Pinching Your Pennies
http://www.couponmom.com/ Coupon Mom
http://www.couponsense.com/ Coupon Sense
* Internet Coupon Websites
My favorite sites for finding popular internet coupons
http://redplum.com/ Red Plum.com
http://www.cellfire.com/grocery/help.php Cell Fire.com Note: This website loads coupons directly on to your grocery store savings card.
*Sites with Recipes for Homemade Cleaning Products
Try at your own risk! :)
http://www.farmingonfaith.blogspot.com/ Scroll down the left hand side of her blog to the section called Days gone by. Click on “frugal homemade cleaners”. She uses many of them, including recipes for Laundry Detergent, hand soap, shower cleaner, window cleaner and more.
http://naturesgardencandles.com/ Source for finding hundreds of Essential Oils that make cleaning products smell awesome!