Monday, June 21, 2010

Let the Couponing Begin

Have you ever known someone who spends hardly any money for groceries yet makes out of the store with more groceries in her cart than you? I hope to be that person in your life.

OK, not really but I do hope to be that person who spends very little on groceries. Right now Jesse is job hunting, and once his school starts in the Fall he'll be going to school full time, while working part time. This couponing thing has now become a necessity. But I'm not going to lie . . . it's kind of fun!

About a month ago we drove to Virginia to buy a mini-van from my Aunt and Uncle. I think the real reason we went was that I needed someone to tell me about the addicting game of saving money through coupons. My cousin Emily gave me a basic lesson and directed me to some great websites. I left Virginia with a new mentality of shopping.
Lessons from Emily: Combine manufacture's coupons with store coupons and then use them to buy things already on sale. Also, CVS Pharmacy can be a gold mine!

Then we ventured west past Knoxvull (that's how they say it . . .) and stopped in good 'ole Nashville to see Jesse's Aunt and family. While we were there, Jesse's cousin gave me a coupon lesson too! So between 2 cousins, I came back to Iowa ready to start saving!
Lessons from Keely: Create your menu for the week based on what's on sale. Don't create your menu and then find out what menu items you can get on sale, and what items you have to pay full price for.

Now that we are on our own and buying all of our own groceries, I've started clipping coupons and shopping around. I've been to Sams, Hy-Vee, and Aldi (all stores fairly close to our apartment) to compare prices of all the items that I usually have on hand, or use in recipes frequently. I took my iPod touch with me (It's like my 3rd child-I can't leave home without it!) and made a running list of how much things cost at each place. Here is what I discovered:

Sam's-Has the cheapest milk, and the cheapest frozen chicken breasts. Occasionally I'll buy ground beef in bulk there but it's not something I use often in recipes so it's not on my list. Overall, I wouldn't say that buying in bulk at Sam's really saves you that much. (See Hy-Vee info to understand why)

Hy-Vee-Their in-store promotions combined with manufacturers coupon and/or store coupons can get you some really cheap stuff. Here were some of my deals last week:
  • I bought 4 boxes of cereal at 2 for 5$, then used a 1$ off coupon for each pair, THEN I got a gallon of FREE milk because Hy-Vee had a special. Four boxes of name brand cereal and a gallon of milk for 6$. Pretty good!
  • I had a manufacturer's coupon for .50 off a box of pasta. Then Hy-Vee had a sale going on that took another .75 off. So I ended up spending .53 for a box of pasta! Since I'd already done comparison shopping, I knew that it was cheaper than I could get at Aldi.
Aldi-I know I know . . . it does kind of feel like you are shopping at a second hand food store, but trust me-the food tastes fine and it's a great steal of a deal. If I know that I can get something cheaper at Aldi, then I DON'T buy it at Hy-Vee, even if it's a great coupon deal on a name brand item. I will say that I'm probably not going to buy my meat or (some) produce there if I can avoid it. The produce is hit and miss. Their grapes we've bought there are the BEST, but some of the stuff . . . well I know why it was so cheap. In general, here are the things I buy at Aldi on a regular basis IF I can't get it cheaper elsewhere using coupons:
  • Eggs (.88/dozen!)
  • Dairy products
  • Cereal
  • Chips/snack food
  • Canned food items
  • Ice cream
  • Deli meat (sometimes)
This is what I've learned so far about couponing. I'm pretty much a rookie. Tomorrow I'll post my menu for the week to show you (and so I can remember!) how I'm planning my week of meals based on the deals this week. I'll be shopping at Hy-Vee and Aldi tomorrow so if you want to follow along with my menus, (and you live near a Hy-Vee and Aldi) find your Sunday paper and clip those coupons, then read tomorrow and I'll give you a week's worth of meals you can buy for cheap!

Coming soon . . .
  • CVS deals. This week I'll attempt to buy a large box of diapers for only $6.99! I'll let you know how it goes!
  • A list of great websites that have helped me understand how to save money using coupons, while not losing the big picture, and not spending all of my time doing it.


Jenny said...

More power to you Julie! I'm a coupon mom drop out. I look for coupons, but I don't obsess over them. I went through a phase where I was trying to be the mom I saw on Oprah that got 100 dollars of groceries for like 15 dollars. I couldn't do it. Our stores don't double and I couldn't justify the gas and time driving from store, to store, to store. And, my pet peeve became that nothing I wanted had a coupon to go with it! or I really hate it when you have to buy 3 of one item to use a coupon when I only wanted 1. I think a key to couponing might be stocking up when you have coupons.

I'm excited to learn from you. Maybe I'll be hard core couponing once again.

Dee said...

Hope you're using, Julie. They list the week's sales by ST/Store so you can see the pricing in other stores without having to go to each one first. Since Kroger & Publix,Walmart and Aldi are all close together it's not an extra cost for us to go to each of them if the coupons dictate the need. We're fortunate in that Kroger & Publix double coupons of 50 cents & less. I'm not as disciplined as Keely but I just got home from Kroger and saved 35% on my bill. The "$15 for $100 worth of groceries" can happen AFTER you've been couponing long enough to have stockpiled most items because then you're just buying the excellent deals. Keep at it, girl, like Keely says, if you do it right it's like having a part-time job.

The Grout Family said...

way to go julie! i've been off and on the coupon train! i now am trying to get back on! i felt so proud of myself when i combined merchant coupons w/what was already on sale on Fareway of things I actually needed! i'm going to find inspiration from what you are doing! hope that's okay! :o)

Ray said...

Next time you're passing through Knoxvull (yes, that's how we say it), slow down and wave -- we're about 3 minutes from the shopping/eating complex on I40 that's 15 miles west of downtown. If you've got 30 extra minutes, we'll buy you a snack. If you've got more time than that, we'll buy you a meal and practice our Spanglish.