Thanks to the joys of living in one of the more expensive parts of the country, it feels like I spend a lot of money on groceries every month. I read blog posts about how much people spend to feed a family of four and I think about how there’s no way I could do that here.
Of course, I’m also not an avid couponer. And buying in bulk doesn’t always make sense when you live alone.
So here’s what I’ve found works for me.
When the Washington Post started charging for online subscriptions, I opted to get a weekend paper subscription, since it came with online access and is significantly cheaper. (Yes, that’s right, getting online access AND a paper is significantly cheaper than just online access. I’m guessing it has to do with ad revenue.) That means that I get coupons every weekend.
I would love to be that person who follows all of the couponing rules and files away the entire coupon section of the paper and uses one of those online services to match up the sales with the coupons to get the best deal.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Well, at least I don’t. Nor do I have the patience. So I go through the coupons and clip coupons for things that I regularly use. And only things that I use. Just because a product looks new and cool and I have a good coupon doesn’t mean I need to buy it. But I’m also not brand loyal for a lot of items. Toothpaste has a good coupon? Awesome. There are also frequently coupons for cleaning supplies.
A lot of naysayers will say that most of the food coupons are for junk food. Percentage wise, they’re probably right. I don’t buy very much junk food, so a lot of the coupons do just get tossed into the recycling bin. But there are also a lot of coupons that I do use. It can be hit or miss – one week I will clip a number of coupons and the next week I will only clip two or three.
I live in an area where the local grocery stores have a grocery delivery service. It is amazing. You order your groceries online and then they magically arrive at your house.
No, it’s not a free service. With delivery fees and tip, it costs me about $10.
But I still think it saves me money. (And hassle, but that’s for another post.)
I do grocery delivery about twice a month. I pick a delivery time about a week out and start adding items to my cart. The site I use lets me peruse sale items and even better, lets me peruse items that I have purchased before (according to my rewards card) that are now on sale. I love this feature. Before I even plan my meals for the week, I check out what items are on sale. This isn’t a new concept. Many people do this using the store circular in the newspaper or online. But it’s great to be able to limit the search by the items I have purchased in the past.
For me, the most annoying part of grocery shopping is that I inevitably forget something. Doesn’t matter if I make a list and check off the items. Something always gets missed. And it happens with grocery delivery too, but I have time to go back and edit my cart up until the night before the delivery. Awesome feature.
Plus, the service I use takes coupons and will double all coupons under a dollar. That’s a definite win. And it’s easier to match up coupons to products when I’m shopping on line. In addition, the site gives me the unit price of EVERYTHING.
And grocery delivery helps me avoid those impulse purchases. There aren’t any fancy displays to tempt me. That alone may cover the cost of the delivery and tip.
The question I always get when I mention grocery delivery is how I keep things fresh. I admit, not all of my shopping is online. Since it’s only about every two weeks, I do often make a quick trip to get fresh fruits and veggies and occasionally some dairy products between those orders. Not a big deal, and I’m in and out very quickly.
I do, however, make a point to not let anything go to waste. I try to use up what I have. It’s not unusual to open my fridge and find only condiments because I have a grocery delivery coming. It can be hard to not stock up when something great goes on sale. I just have to make sure that I use what I buy. I hate throwing away food.
So that’s what works for me when it comes to saving money on groceries. The biggest tip I have is do what works for you. Yes, you could save more by going to multiple stores and paying close attention to coupons. But if that’s not feasible with your life, or if it causes you incredible stress, then maybe it’s not worth it. It’s all about figuring out what works the best in your life.
How do you save money on groceries?
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.