Today marks the official end to our month-long Couponing Experiment. Over the past four weeks, my husband and I have improved our shopping technique and learned quite a few ways to save money on groceries. This is a great addition to our meal planning, which already saves us over $1000 a month!
This week, we deviated from the original rules of the experiment, and tried a new grocery store which we heard has friendlier coupon policies and better prices in general. Hubby was resistant to the change at first– “their meat selection isn’t as good” — but his argument didn’t hold much water since we usually stick to chicken thighs, pork, and ground beef, so what does it matter if a store has excellent steaks if we’re not buying them? Anyhow, hubby is a good sport and was game for seeing if a switch was worth it.
I’ll let the evidence speak for itself:
Last week was one of our best at the previous store, totaling $171.01 for 54 items. Coupons and store sale savings were right about $11. However, in our first week at the new store, we spent only $144.16 on 70 items, and our coupon/sale savings were almost $19! We bought 16% more and spent $37 less — those are pretty impressive numbers! It does appear that this new store does indeed have better sales (at least for things we purchase) and lower prices all around.
In a full month of keeping track of our spending, we were averaging $190 per week at our original store. At this new location we spent $45 less right off the bat, and I’m sure we could do even better once we get the hang of the sales there. Hubby was impressed and admitted that he wished he had listened to me sooner, so we wouldn’t have wasted money. I think there’s no point in worrying about the past, we should instead focus on how awesome it will be to save an extra $200 every month!
Despite the “end” of our couponing experiment, hubby and I are not going to revert to our old method (what method?) of grocery shopping. Once you see how you can can slash real money off your bill with minimal effort, there’s no way to go back to carefree (correction: careless) spending habits!
- Clip coupons! (Obviously!) Even though most of the coupons (online and print) I found were for processed foods (something we rarely eat), we were still able to save a few dollars every week on toiletries, cleaning products, etc. It only takes a couple minutes, so it’s definitely NOT a waste of time! **Update: After this post was published I heard about the Ibotta app which offers additional rebates (so you can save double on some items!) I LOVE it so far because it applies to things like produce and proteins too!
- Read the store’s weekly ad! Before this month, I had NEVER paid any attention to this newspaper-ish booklet available at the front entrance. What a mistake! The weekly ad will steer you in the direction of discounted meats, produce, and things that you don’t usually find coupons for so you can still save money on them. Sometimes you have to be flexible (chicken thighs vs. chicken breasts), but it’s worth it, as this is where some of the biggest deals can be found.
- Evaluate WHAT you’re buying! Even though processed and packaged (even boxes labeled organic, gluten free, etc. fall in the “packaged” category) often have coupons, it’s because they are so pricey to begin with! You hear often how “expensive it is to eat healthy,” but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fruits, vegetables, and even some proteins are some of the most affordable items in the grocery store, especially if you go for what is marked down in the weekly ad.
- Be open to change! If what you’re doing or where you’re shopping doesn’t seem to be working, make a new plan! By finally switching to a grocery store that welcome coupons and has great sales, we’re setting ourselves up to save major cash. Definitely worth learning our way around a different layout!
And here are some more helpful tips I picked up along the way:
- If you were’t planning to buy it in the first place, it’s still not a good deal! Just because you found a coupon for a free jar of alfredo sauce if you buy a package of spaghetti noodles (a real coupon I’ve seen that doesn’t benefit our family of dairy-free eaters) it doesn’t save you money if these aren’t items you use on a regular basis.
- Check the cost per ounce (or per unit). This can usually be found in the bottom left corner of the price tag on the shelf. This will show you if buying something in a larger or bulk size really is a better deal.
- Get on mailing lists! I know, I know, we all hate “junk” emails. However, sometimes if you contact a company or a brand you really like, they will email you coupons! I emailed a brand of gluten free waffles I love (one of the few packaged items we buy on a regular basis) and they send me coupons for $1 to $1.50 off every other week. That’s half the price of one box– not too shabby!
- Ask around! We don’t subscribe to a newspaper, but we know people who do. The Sunday paper has lots of coupons, and there’s no reason not to inquire if you could look through them rather than let them go to waste.
I’ve really enjoyed learning and perfecting new ways to save money. Who doesn’t like a little extra cash in the bank or to use for FUN stuff?! Hopefully what I’ve shared can be helpful to you, so you don’t have to spend a whole month experimenting and can instead get right to saving!