Friday, December 2, 2011

{Money Smarts} Anatomy of a (Mostly) Money-Saving Grocery Trip

I'm not a hardcore "couponer." I mean, I use coupons, but I don't devote a good portion of my day to searching, clipping, organizing, and driving to several stores with kids in tow. I use them, but there are actually a lot more ways to save on your grocery bill. Most of them are pretty easy, so I thought I'd share, using today's real world, average day shopping trip example:

Total Spent: $31.65
Total Saved: $29.88


The Receipt

This is the receipt from an everyday grocery trip. You'll notice that I paid a reasonable amount ($31.65), not $1.75 for everything. But you'll also notice that I saved almost as much as I spent ($29.88! Are you wondering where that number came from since it isn't on the receipt? I'll tell you later.). And most of it was pretty easy. Read on and I'll break it down for you.

Buy On Sale.

We've talked about this before. Store sales go in 6-week cycles, so the best way to buy is to grab what you need at the lowest price point. Glancing at my receipt I found only 3 things I bought that were not on sale--sour cream, salt, and our favorite salad dressing--added up to about $5.

I could have saved that $5, but these I felt were worth spending the few extra cents on because we had things at home waiting for them (like, for the dressing, 6 heads of lettuce from Costco that would spoil) and we are picky about our brands of a couple things. Also, my dressing stockpile had run out.

Use a Store Rewards Card.

The store I shop at--Harris Teeter, we'll call it HT--has a rewards card AND a bonus online program called e-VIC. If you sign up for their card and bring it in, you get discounts. If you sign up for their online program, you get unadvertised discounts! They have great deals on the weekends that they email to you, and I was able to score a freebie today because I had some coupons & my e-VIC card. Oooh!

So sign up for it.

Oh! And it also helps with those coupons that get printed out for you at the end with your receipt--they track what you buy so they can print relevant coupons.

Store Card Coupons.

Guess what? Some stores allow you to load online-coupons right onto your store card (no printing!). Those will work in conjunction with paper coupons, so you can get a deeper discount! Woo!

Paper Coupons.

Don't be afraid! They help. More discussion of non-scary-coupon-tactics coming up.

Find Out About Additional Discounts.

My brilliant friend Nicole recently wrote an AWESOME post about dozens of ways to save money (on all kinds of things). You should read it; it will blow your mind. One thing she mentioned was that she got stores to let her use her husband's student discount even when he wasn't there.

HT offers a 5% discount to students, but I'd always missed out on it because the hubs is usually at school when I shop. Today I tried Nicole's suggestion and just told them (honestly! Don't lie guys--keep your karma clean) that my husband was a med student and asked if I could have the discount. They gave it to me no problem, even without his ID.

Soooooo check if your grocery store has discounts that apply to you! Military, Hospital/Government/Teacher, age relevant (HT also has an Over 55 discount on Tuesdays), etc. Just ask at customer service if they do discounts.

Paying with a Rewards Card.

I mentioned before that the hubs and I use mostly credit cards (which we pay off in full at every statement, so we carry no balance and pay no interest charges) because they offer rewards per dollar like miles or cash. So every time I pay a bill or buy groceries, I'm getting a little of it back.

Did I mention Online eCoupons?

Okay so the bottom of my receipt says $27.88 in savings, but I wrote that my end number was $2 more. That is because I used an eCoupon from SavingStar. (FYI--Upromise has a similar program.) You sign up with them, register your store card, and then choose the coupons you want online. They get notified after you buy the items in question, and add the coupon amount to your account.

You get a payout of a giftcard to somewhere (Target, Amazon, you choose) at $5. So today I used two of those, 1 for cereal and 1 for crackers, and saved that additional $2. :)

One More Thing... Split Big Deals!

My friend Melissa tipped me off to a great sale on buy-three-get-one-free oranges at Whole Foods--20lbs for $15! I never pay less than $0.99/lb, so 75 cents was too sweet a deal--but there is no way we can go through that many oranges before they spoil.

So I called my neighbor and asked if she wanted in--we split it and each got 10lbs for $7.50.

The hubs will be a happy man when he sees these babies waiting for him in the kitchen. ;)

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