So, I figured I'd start by writing about the "basics". At least these are things that I consider to be basics to how I shop and save money on groceries and other stuff. Some of these first few blogs may seem like "duh" to some, but others may be just starting out shopping for a household, or new to trying to save money at all.
Some of what I do may be things that you like and want to try -- or they may not make sense or work for you at all. Take what you want from it and use what works for you.
Shopping the sales - that to me is one of the best ways to consistently save money.
I start the week by buying the Sunday newspaper - two in fact. One is our local paper (which has a lot of sale ads), and the other is the nearest big city paper because those tend to have more and better value coupons than smaller papers.
I go through the ads with a Sharpie and circle what's on sale that we need and/or could use later if it's a good enough sale. Then I go through and write my grocery lists from what I've circled. I then make meals based on what I have in the house that I've already gotten cheap, instead of having to run out to the store and pay full-price for things.
After doing this for a while you learn what's a "rock-bottom" sale, a good sale, and a "gimmick" sale. The rock-bottom sales are the ones that are the very best prices and you want to stock up on those things. The good sales are ones that you should buy if you need it. And the gimmick sales are ones that may look like a deal to grab your attention, but are really not that much cheaper than regular price, so skip those.
I heard once (I don't remember where) that sales rotate based on a 12 week cycle. So for a week or two cereal will be on sale a bunch, then maybe the next week or two there will be some great sales on paper products....... I haven't followed it exactly to see, but it seems to be true from what I've noticed. If I'm running low on something and haven't seen it on sale for a while I wait a bit because it'll be on sale soon.
Now sometimes if one store only has a couple things on sale, and another store has a couple things, you're going to lose your money just in gas driving around town to get the deals. A great way to avoid this is to Price Match.
Many stores will honor competitors prices when it's for the exact same item advertised. To price match you take in the competitors ad and show it to the cashier before they ring it up.
Every store has their own policy about it - for example, Meijer will only price match on non-food items.....Wal-Mart will honor prices on food and non-food items.
There are general rules that usually apply to any store that price matches though:
~ it has to be a specific price...for example:
OK - Cheerios, 14 oz box, $1.77
OK - Cheerios -2/$4
Not OK - Cheerios, 50% off
Not OK - General Mills cereal, buy 1, get 1
Not OK - buy any box of Cheerios, get $2 off Pampers.....
So ask the manager at your stores if they price match and what their limitations are. It can save you tons of time and money!
(I'm definitely going to look into it for Black Friday this year and see if I can make it even a better and easier morning!!)
And in general, there are probably things you've heard that are good to remember, like.....
~remember to shop for produce that's in season to keep the price down on fresh fruits and veggies.
~ make a list and stick to it - it's too easy to just start putting that food in the cart without thinking about whether you really need it or not, which leads to...
~ don't go to the store hungry
~ don't go to the store with kids if possible
~ lots more that I can't think of because I'm so tired. =) There will be more to come. I think I'll talk about coupons next.