Buying Groceries on a Budget: Valuable Tips to Prepare for the Shopping Trip

Before heading to the grocery story, make sure you are prepared and have completed the following items to ensure a smooth grocery shopping experience and to make sure you are getting the best deals.

1)  Deal and Coupon Sites
Take a few minutes on a regular basis to skim through the posts of 2-3 couponing and deal sites like Saving Cent by Cent. Throughout the week as you see deals, write them down on your shopping list, and print off the coupons you will need or use. Couponing and deal sites do most of the work for you and keep you informed about great deals and coupons. I suggest signing up to receive their e-mails so you can easily skim through and pick and choose what deals you have the time and energy to do.

For those of you in Utah, I post the best Grocery Deals to Price Match every week. I look at about 10 grocery stores in northern Utah and compile a list of the best deals for that week.

2)  Write Out a Shopping List
It’s important to write out a shopping list and take it with you to the store. You’ll be more productive at the store if your thoughts are organized and written on a grocery list. You will also be less likely to pick up extra items on a whim.

3)  Weekly Sales Fliers
The day before the shopping trip, look at the front and back of the grocery ads that come in the mail, mark the items on sale and the ones you can stack with coupons, and place them on the shopping list. The front page deals are called “loss-leaders,” which means the store actually loses money on the products. The stores are trying to “bait” you into shopping at their store.

Looking at the front and back pages will save you time by not browsing through the entire ad. But don’t always neglect to look through the full flier. Sometimes there are great deals hidden in the middle pages. And remember that just because something is listed in the sales flier doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great deal. Over time, you’ll start learning what the rock-bottom prices are for items you buy and how often they go on sale.

4)  Plan Out Meals
Take 15-20 minutes to plan out your family meals for two weeks and incorporate what’s on sale into the meals. Planning meals will save your sanity and your budget.

If you don’t plan out your family meals, you are more likely to run to the store every few days, if not daily, to pick up items for dinner. The more you enter the store, the more likely you will add extra items to your shopping cart that you don’t need. This not only cuts down on your grocery budget, but you also pay full price for the items rather than picking them up when they are on sale.

Most everyone usually makes the same 7-10 meals once a month for their family. Watch for sales on those items to keep them stocked in the pantry. For example, when tortillas go on sale for $0.79 or less, I’ll buy 10 and freeze most of them. Another example is when I see broccoli on sale for $0.49 lb., I’ll buy a bunch, blanch it, and freeze some. Then I will add chicken broccoli casserole to our meal list.

5)  Check GrocerySmarts.com
Additionally, check GrocerySmarts.com. This is a great site that tells you which products are on sale for the week at almost all of your local grocery stores. It also tells you which coupons to use with sales to get the best deal. This is how I check deals for stores that I don’t receive their weekly ads in the mail. It also allows me to double check stores like Smith’s, Albertsons and Maceys to make sure I didn’t miss any good deals or coupons. If you live in the Utah area, check Rancho Market’s and Sprouts’ weekly ads to pick up or price match produce inexpensively.

6)  Organize Coupons
Once your shopping list is compiled with all of the deals, then pull out the coupons from your coupon binder to match up with the sales. Also check if there are any other coupons you want to be sure to use, such as high-value coupons or coupons for free items.

With the coupons that are about to expire, if it’s for a product that I am low on or really need, and the store brand isn’t cheaper, then I’ll use it. However, don’t use a coupon just because you have it. Remember to ask yourself, “Do I need this item? Will I be able to get it on sale in a month? and Will my family eat it?” Unless you were already planning to purchase the item, using the coupon just because it’s going to expire will not save you money.

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