Since we made the decision that I would be staying home and we would be an single-income family I have found myself in full penny-pinching mode. I know that there is no way I could “save” enough to compensate for my income, but there are plenty of places we can cut back on our spending and take some of the strain off our bank account. I had the opportunity today to go grocery shopping without the kiddos – probably the last time that will ever happen 😦 – and so I was able to do some research and price comparing to get some good deals.
In the past I have been the person who thinks all the couponers are a little cray-cray and have too much time on their hands. It’s way too hard to do all that clipping and sorting and bouncing from store to store with two kids in tow. While all of those things might still be true, I am now happy to join the chaos if it means saving like I did today! So how did I do it? I downloaded a couple of apps and spent a little time with my computer last night looking up weekly ads, finding coupons, and planning meals for the week. It took about 45 minutes to put it all together, but I think it was worth it!
Step by step:
Step 1: What do I already have? I don’t have some fancy inventory sheet or anything, but I generally have a pretty good idea of what’s in the pantry, freezer, and fridge. I want to get better about using what we already have on hand for a couple of reasons. First, it saves $$$! Also, it will keep it from going bad or getting freezer-burned. My hubby is a hunter so we get a lot of meat that way, but I often find myself avoiding it this time of year because it seems like we’ve been eating the same thing for months now! But instead of letting it go to waste, I’m trying some new recipes to change it up a little and cut costs.
Step 2: Check the weekly sales ads: I live in a pretty small town so the variety of stores is limited. I usually shop at Wal-Mart and Food Lion for groceries and household items because that’s pretty much the only choices I have. There are a couple of other grocery stores in the next town over if I was looking for specialty items, but for most of our needs the local places do just fine. I’ve also heard in the past that Dollar General is the biggest competitor to Wal-Mart because at any given time 70% or more of their prices beat those of the superstore. I haven’t taken advantage of this in the past, though, since I was mostly a single-store convenience shopper. This time though, I looked through their ad and discovered that they have their own app with digital coupons! I found several great deals on non-perishables such as laundry and dish detergent and paper towels, as well as pantry items like cereal bars and toaster pastries. Another store I haven’t been taking advantage of is Hills. If you have one in your area please add it to your shopping routine! They have the BEST meat selection of any grocery store I’ve ever seen, with great prices to boot!
Another amazing way to save some green is with ibotta. It’s an app that gives you cashback on your purchases. You log in, search for your store, click on the things you want to save on, then shop. At Food Lion you just link it to your MVP card and it loads your purchases and savings automatically. For other stores you just scan your receipt and the barcode of the item to verify your purchase. Then you can redeem your cashback as gift cards or to your PayPal or Venmo account. Download the app and use my referral code dhsutma PLEASE!
Step 3: Menu time and grocery list: I have a printable menu planner and shopping list you can download (scroll down for downloads) that I keep handy at this point, usually going back and forth between the two. They’re all pretty simple, but if you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of complicated. My hubby is an avid meat-eater so we generally plan dinners around a meat entree with 2 veggie sides, or some kind of one-pot wonder starring venison or chicken. I start by choosing a protein for each night from what we already have or what is on a really good sale, then add sides or choose a crock pot meal or casserole to make based on veggies and pantry staples on hand or that is on sale. I don’t like to buy anything at full price if I can help it! As I’m adding things to the list, I put the initials of the store the item is on sale and the price (FL-2/$5, or something similar) so I’ll remember and put a little star if I have a coupon or it’s an ibotta item.
You’ll notice in one of the menu planners it allows you to fully plan out breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner while the other has a list of suggestions for day time eating and spaces to plan dinner. I typically only plan dinner and try to keep the most common things my kids and I like for during the day. This part of the list changes with the sales and the season, but I like not having to think too hard about what we’re going to eat all day long. I mean who knows what my two- and four-year-old are even going to like tomorrow, much less what they’ll want to eat by the end of the week?!
Step 4: Go shopping! I load up my shopping bags and little cooler in the trunk and put my list on a clipboard with a pencil. I try to avoid driving in circles as much as possible so I pick the store that has the fewest cold items and then progress through town from there. I make sure to hang on to my receipts in case I need them for ibotta.
And there you have it! My version of couponing – no coupon binder necessary! Today I was able to get dish detergent, laundry detergent, paper towels, snacks, steaks for Father’s day dinner, chicken for 4 meals, loads of veggies, and breakfast/snack foods for the kiddos and stay well within our budget. I would have easily spent $180 to $200 on this load of groceries if I only shopped Wal-Mart, but today I avoided even going to that headache of a store and only spent about $140. Feeding a family of 4 for 10 days on $140 – I’m good with that!
Have any other penny pinching secrets you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below.