Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to save money without couponing...

Lets face it, all of us do not want to sit down and clip coupons every week. We don't want to deal with the mess or time it takes. I have a few ideas for those of us who just want to go shopping.

1. Menu Plan. Make sure that you know what you are making for the week. This takes about 15 minutes tops. Open your refrigerator/freezer and see what you already have on hand. Make your menu around those things. Then fill in with things you need to get from the store. Plan simple meals using 5 - 6 ingredients. A meat, starch and veggie is all you really need. Or a meat and two veggies if you do not do starches. I have told you before that I simplify my planning by knowing that I have pork on Saturday, Beef on Sunday, Chicken on Monday, Left overs on Tuesday, Italian on Wednesday, and a frozen type dinner on Thursday. Friday's are our eat take out night.

2. If you do not want to cut coupons, there is an electronic alternative. I shop at Kroger for the majority of my grocery needs. They have most of the manufacturer coupons loaded on their site. If you register your Kroger Plus card online, you just select the ones you want to use and it loads onto your card. No cutting coupons and it takes a few minutes of work. I am also able to look at the current sales flyer while loading coupons, so I can get the best bang for my buck.

3. Do not be brand loyal. Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I really prefer. However, if you are trying to save money, you need to get in the mindset that you are feeding your family. Try different things and if you hate them, do not buy them again. But what is the harm in trying something new once.

For instance, this weekend I had Cheez-its (girls snack) and onion soup mix (for meatloaf) on my list. The name brand Cheez-its were 2.99 on sale, and you only got the sales price if you bought five items listed. The store brand (no difference in taste) were 2.19 regular price. Without a coupon it made sense to get the store brand. Now if I had couponed, I might have been able to get the name brand for a dollar a box, but again, this is about not doing traditional couponing.

I also needed onion soup mix for my meatloaf. I normally buy the Lipton brand that costs on average $1.69 a box. This week Kroger had the store brand 10 for $10. You do not have to buy ten to get the discount. So I picked up one box. I have never tried this brand before, so I am going to test it out today and see how it works. If I like it, I might just go back and stock up on it at the sale price.

4. Shop with cash. Go to the grocery store with the amount of money that you can spend. This takes a little bit of planning, but in the end it is well worth it to avoid impulse purchases. When I make my list, I put a dollar amount next to the item. This is the amount that, through an educated guess, I believe the item will cost. I then add up all the items, add tax and I have a good estimate of what I will be spending. If the amount is over what I have budgeted for the week, I review the list and get rid of things that I can do without.

5. Shop at a store that gives a discount on gas. There are several stores throughout the country that now offer a discount on gas depending on how much you spend. Most are $.05 off a gallon of gas with a $50 purchase at the grocery store. Some are $.10 off for $100 spent. This is a great way to bring your gas cost down.

6. Buy meat on sale. You might not need 5 pounds of ground beef, but if it goes on sale for $.99 per lb, I will buy it. I have a vacuum sealer and a digital food scale. When I get home from the store I separate it into 1 pound increments and seal it up. I squish it flat so that it fits really nice in my tiny freezer. I also buy chicken on sale or any other meat item. That way I might be able to buy a month's worth of chicken for $10. That way I don't have to buy meat every week. I only buy it when on sale and I buy a bunch of it. We are in fact saving to buy a freezer so that I can do more of this. One day I hope to be able to buy a half a cow and have meat for the year.

As you see, this isn't about sitting down for an hour every week couponing and price comparing between stores. This is about taking the store you shop at and finding ways to save money at that store. Stick to a list, don't be afraid to use a different brand and shop with cash. You can save money. I usually use these tricks AND coupon, but I can't always do both due to busy schedules or not feeling well. Know that every little bit helps. Despite not using traditional coupons, I was still able to feed a family of four (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) this week for $70. Not a bad deal.