March 12, 2012

How I Save $$ on Groceries (and More)

I have had a few people ask me for all my coupon-ing resources and ways that I save money buying groceries and finding online deals.  After moving out of the city things have changed a lot for me!  So instead of trying to figure out all the ways I USED to save I'm going to tell you what I do now or plan to start doing to save money.  Any of you who live a little farther out from the "big city" will probably really appreciate this info.  Those of you who are just a few blocks away from every store, get their sale papers mailed to you (or get a Sunday paper), sign up for free rewards cards at every place you can and take advantage of all double/triple coupon grocery stores!

I like to have everything in one place - easy to find.  So I created a bookmark folder labeled SAVINGS! I filled it with my favorite stores (links to their weekly ads - easy to find for weekly sales while creating my meal plan), coupon printing links, coupons to print, savings on mobile devices, apps, etc. (mentioned below), meal planning resources, recipes to try and links to my rewards programs (i.e., My Coke Rewards, Huggies, Pampers, Shop at Home, etc.).  Now that it is finished, I can start SAVING (without wasting precious time or going CRAZY)!

I'll list some of my favorite resources for you and then give you a few tips that I have found extremely helpful in helping me save money when grocery/clothing shopping!  And if you'd like to bookmark this page for the resources, I'll add to it as I find more goodies!

I posted a few days ago about Bountiful Baskets - an online/local food co-op.  Check it out and see if there is anything in your area.  I think this is a great way to get a lot of in-season produce (organic is an option as well), for a low cost!  It always feels great to save on produce!
*NEW* Check out these "Clean 15" Fruits and Vegetables that test lowest in nasty chemicals, so if you can't find good organic or local produce (typically less pesticides), choose from these!

Whether on your smartphone or computer take advantage of printable coupons and no-clip coupons that load straight to your rewards card!  Here's my favorites-list:

Computer Savings:

Swagbucks - Earn swagbucks for printing coupons and searching the web!  It's so easy, and I've earned over $80 in Amazon giftcards...for FREE!

Short Cuts - Online coupons that load straight to your grocery store rewards cards (which are free, and you should always sign up for!)

Cell Fire - Another online coupon site that loads coupons straight to your local grocery store rewards cards.

Store Guides by Hip2Save - Check out these great video guides on how to save maximum dollars at many stores.  While you're there (at sign up for her email newsletter where you will automatically be entered in a weekly $50 Amazon gift card drawing (just for signing up) and receive daily emails of all the great deals she posts - I have found AMAZING deals, coupons, and freebies from her site - it is my NUMBER 1 FAVORITE! (Search around, she has some awesome resources there!)

Here is an EXTENSIVE list of printable coupons from company websites (they reload them so sometimes there is nothing offered, check out your favorites) - I find great deals here on grocery and especially baby items!  Sign up for Amazon Mom and get free shipping and up to 30% discounts on baby items (usually the best prices around for diapers and wipes)! Check out their coupons page too.

Free Birthday Goodies (extensive list) - sign up at different restaurants and retailers in your area for FREE birthday treats and coupons!

SmartPhone Savings:

Viggle - This has become my favorite app - check in to shows you normally watch and collect points for GREAT rewards.  After a few nights of checking into shows I've won almost 20,000 points and redeemed a $10 iTunes giftcard for just 14,000pts! - UPDATE: I have now earned enough points to redeem 3 $10 iTunes giftcards, and 1 $15 Chilis gift certificate!  Awesome!

SnapAppy (Old Navy) - I have won $20 worth of free stuff and I've only tried 3 or 4 times!

Check Points - Check-in to different stores as you shop, scan items and score points to earn rewards.

Shopkick - (check-in style app)

Check In to Win - (Walmart/Sams stores)


Whew!  Okay, now that I've loaded you down with some great resources, here is how I work out my grocery list.  I always start with a meal plan.  I'm sure this can be intimidating to some, but I can't go shopping without it now.  I can barely remember the days of our first year of marriage when I would look through the aisles and try and figure out what I needed to "stock my pantry."  I promise if you give it a try you won't want to go back, shopping without a plan and a list is so much harder!

So I look at my calendar (I shop every two weeks), and see what the evenings look like, holidays, date nights, friends over, hubby working late, etc.  I always start with dinner because it is the "most daunting" meal of the day (I can always do cereal for breakfast and PB&J sandwiches for lunch if need be).  I start with the evenings that have plans.  Then that leaves me with usually an average of 4 nights to prepare meals (every month is different, sometimes around the holidays I feel like we have plans every night).  I try and gather yummy sounding and easy to prepare recipes to plug into each night.  Some of them are tried and true family favorites, others are new and experimental.  Or you can sign up for Food on the Table (free using code MARFREE through the end of March 2012) or Use magazines, apps, websites (I love Martha Stewart, Eating Well, and Rachael Ray)...whatever resources you can get your hands on to get some creative meal ideas!

Now that I have my dinners planned for the week (or two, or month, however you do it), I pick out my breakfast, lunches and snacks.  I've only JUST started doing this to help me eat better throughout the first I'd recommend just planning dinners.  Then go through and write down all the ingredients you need for each recipe/meal.  Now you can add the other items you need for the week, and things you might be running low on.  :::TIP::: Keep a notepad on your refrigerator and write things down throughout the day as you think of them or realize you're running low.

Once all of that is finished I sit down with my coupons, clip new ones, toss old ones (or donate to military families), and search/print coupons for items I plan on buying!  Now I sort according to store (group together $.50 or less coupons to take to my 25-minutes-away-"local" Krogers for doubling and tripling their value, store specific coupons such as Target, Walmart, Kroger, Costco etc. get grouped as well).  Then I get my last step which is Sale Papers...

Some of you may want to start by checking out the local sale papers for items that would make cheap dinners. Planning your meals around meat, produce and sides that are on sale is an EXCELLENT way to save money.  Otherwise, just get the heads up on where to buy certain items that are on sale and head out with your reusable grocery bags (which I store near my purse so I can't forget...and I try to keep a few in the trunk as well).

There you have it!  This is all of my accumulated resources for saving money.  I also use Twitter a lot for finding up to the minute deals by following Hip2Save and others that post great deals all of the time.  Follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I share my favorite deals as I find them. And lastly, be sure and check back here on this post for newly updated and added resources! 

P.S. Check out all of these links, I have thrown in as many good resources as I have spent years gathering...a few of them may be hidden amidst the "lists" of links. =)

Please let me know what you think and what you do to save $$ for you and your family!

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