I used to do the whole couponing thing. I definitely wouldn't call what I did Extreme Couponing, but I was pretty into it. I would go out on Sundays and buy X newspapers, and then go through them and cut out any and all coupons that I had any small chance of using. I would spend hours cutting out and organizing the coupons. Then I would scour through weekly grocery store ads and coupon match sites just to find the best deals. That was only the beginning. There was so much planning, organizing, and time involved. And you know what I ended up with? A huge stockpile of items that I didn't need. Not to mention 90% of the items that have coupons are pre-packaged, processed foods that no one really should be eating. Now, two years later, I find myself going through that stockpile and throwing out almost everything. OK, so I did use some of the stuff I bought. But it wasn't nearly worth all of the time and effort I put into it. I am a full time working mom, and frankly, while I do want to save money, I have much better things to do. So, over the past year or so, I have come up with a hassle-free method of saving money while grocery shopping. It takes very little time and planning, and I feel so great after coming home with a trunkful of groceries for around $60 knowing I didn't waste any time. Wanna know how I do it?
I know it's easier said than done, but trust me, setting a budget and sticking to it will save you a LOT of money. I highly recommend using CASH ONLY for groceries. Decide how much you will spend each month, and take the cash out of the bank at the beginning of the month. Put it in an envelope and don't use any more than what is in that envelope. I had been doing this for several months when I realized that I was left with very little money for my last grocery trip of the month. So I started dividing my grocery budget by 4, and making that my weekly grocery budget. That way you can balance out your money for the month much better. You're a lot more likely to be more careful with your money when you know you only have $X to spend on that particular grocery trip.
2.) USE A GROCERY LIST APP
If you have a Smart Phone, get a grocery list app!!!! This is by far the best app I have downloaded since I have had my phone. I use Out of Milk for Android. Not only does it help with organizing your lists, it also allows you to enter the price and quantity of the items you are buying. I always make sure to enter the prices and quantities of everything I buy, that way I know almost exactly what my total will be when I get to the checkout. Otherwise, I could go over my budget, and I would have to choose whether to put some things back and be embarrassed, or just go ahead and buy the extra items just to save face.
3.) SHOP AT A DISCOUNT STORE
This is a big change that has saved us a lot of money. Once we changed grocery stores, we started paying 30-40% less every week. And this is without the use of any coupons. Around here, we have Aldi, which has been a total lifesaver. I really wish I would have started shopping there sooner. When I was younger, someone told me that Aldi was a store that sold the garbage that other grocery stores threw away. I guess I didn't have any reason not to believe it at the time. I found out when I was much older that this is not true at all. Aldi carries mostly their own store brand, and then they have a few items that are overstock from other stores. Their store brand is high quality, and most items taste the same or better than the name brand. (The only thing we didn't really like from Aldi was their cereal, but we don't eat that kind of stuff anymore anyway.) When I first started shopping there, I only went once every couple of months to stock up on non-perishables. But when I realized how much money it was saving us, I started shopping there every week for our full grocery list. Shopping at a store like Aldi does take a very small amount of extra work and planning ahead, but all you have to do is remember three things: (1) Bring a quarter. (2) Bring cash and (3) Bring your own bags. Not hard to do at all! Especially if you are using cash only for groceries anyway. Oh, and you do have to bag your own groceries. But that isn't a big deal to me. They have a counter set up for people to bag groceries, and since you are using your own, durable, reusable grocery bags, you can fit a lot more into each bag. It sure beats tracking down and cutting out coupons every week!
4.) PLAN MEALS
This is probably a given, but there are still a lot of people that don't do it. I use my own weekly menu planner which has helped a lot over the past year. It makes it really easy to see what our meal options are at a glance, and put together our weekly meal plan quickly. Go through each meal/recipe and add the ingredients to your grocery list. Then remember to think about what you will need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and add those items too. At one point, I found that I was forgetting about things like snacks and lunches, and then I had to run out to the grocery store mid-week, causing me to spend extra money. Also think ahead about what you have planned for the week. Do you have to make cookies for a bake sale? A picnic or potluck dinner? Do as much planning ahead as possible. It will make your life easier.
5.) DOUBLE CHECK YOUR LIST
This is another small and simple task that takes very little time, but can save you a lot of money. After you have finished making your list, go through and see what you can delete. There are probably a few things that you notice right off the bat that you don't really need. Then take it a step further. Take your list to your pantry and freezer and check to see if you already have some of the items on hand. I always find at least 2 things I can cross off the list by doing this. This saves at least a few dollars, and maybe more depending on the cost of the items. And by doing it every week, it will save you a few hundred dollars per year.