Jun 28, 2010

Grocery Shopping (Janssen)

About a year ago, I wrote about grocery shopping on my personal blog and a bunch of people commented saying things like, "Um, you guys must not eat anything." I don't really know what to say to that - I feel like we eat a pretty normal amount. We have a full dinner nearly every night, we have people over for dinner, and we pack a lunch every day. I cook a lot. We eat primarily healthy food.

All of which is to say, you may read this post and think, "You only buy two items a week. No wonder your budget is low." And if you think that, I simply don't have an explanation.

Anyway . . . .

When I go grocery shopping, I make a list that looks like this (it's the same one my mom has done my whole life):

I star things I have coupons for and write the brand after it if it matters and if I'm going to two grocery stores, I write down what store I'll be buying things at. Very high-tech.

And then I just do not buy things that are not on my list. Period.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to get to know your store (or stores). Ask friends or neighbors about any money savings tips they know - two of my favorite money-saving tips came from people I know.

One of my friends mentioned that if you used the self-scanner (a little hand held scanner that you can use to ring up your groceries as you go (I love this thing because I know my exact total before I even get to the checkout lane)), you got extra discounts that showed up only on the scanner (I also found out later that they are tailored to the things you buy, so I often am able to use those discounts).

My co-worker also told me about the reduced produce shelf and where to find it in the grocery store. I owe my $1.29 and delicious pineapple this past week to her. Not to mention all the times I've bought other ludicrously inexpensive produce from this cart. I do many of my side dishes this way - I just anticipate buying at least one or two items that I'll use from there.

Melanie asked about using coupons and how she's found them fairly unhelpful so far. Personally, I do not use a lot of coupons. I don't take the newspaper, but I  religiously check coupons.com and am able to make that work pretty well. I scan through it every few days and see if there is anything I'm interested in. The main ones I use are for meat (chicken sausage, pepperoni, etc), cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cold cereal, chocolate chips, diapers, and sugar.

Once I found out that my store doubles any coupon under a dollar automatically, I had a better feel for how coupons could save me some substantial money. I also watch for sales to correspond with my coupons. If cereal goes on sale and I have coupons for it, I'm suddenly paying less than half than I'd pay for a smaller box of the generic brand. That's hard to beat.

Here's a picture of my receipt from this past week - the only thing that's not listed on here that I bought in this is the gallon of milk I bought at BJ's (the east coast equivalent of Cosco) and the additional boxes of cereal I bought a few days later:


I got a discount on my chicken and cream cheese (thanks to the scanner), I had a dollar off coupon for being willing to do a blind taste test of fudgesicles (would YOU have said no?), my reusable bag coupons, a diaper coupon, coupons that doubled for chex mix (a little gift for Bart) and my four boxes of cereal and $1 coupons for both of my yogurt packs.

This was, of course, a particularly good week for me - I'm not usually saving more than 50% on my groceries. But this week chicken was on sale for $1.79 a pound (Sherry informs me that is not a sale, but, let me tell you, in Massachusetts, that is a freaking STEAL. I have never once seen it go that low in the year we've lived here), plus my scanner gave me an extra 10% off. Cereal was also on sale for $1.50 a box and with the coupons I'd printed off a few weeks earlier and was just holding on to, I got those boxes of cereal for 40 cents each.

This coming week, I know that the yogurt I like most is going on sale and so I'll buy more than I usually do (and I've been hoarding coupons for this product for several weeks anyway). When one of my stores sent out $1 doubler coupons a few weeks ago, I bought four boxes of it (each of which have 4 yogurt cups).

At the end of the day, my main strategy is to just not buy things I don't need and to take advantage of sales, coupons, and discounts whenever I can.

Other grocery shopping secrets?

16 comments:

Carly said...

That's funny that I use practically the same grocery menu categories... and I got mine from my mom and going shopping with her all my life. Hooray for good moms :).

So where do you get the scanner? I've tried taking calculators with me, which doesn't work so well when I'm by myself... let alone with a one year old. The scanner would be awesome. I've never seen or heard of a store letting you do that. At the customer service desk?

Um, and I do think you eat minimally (but I don't hold it against you).

Linda said...

Pinchyourpennies.com is great if you live in an area (like Phoenix or Utah) that has lots of people participating. I get all sorts of free and super cheap stuff with the coupons it matches with sales. It also uses a star system to rate how good of a deal you're getting which helps me know if I really should stock up or not.

Chelsea said...

I've found in 3 years of couponing that I'm FINALLY willing to throw away coupons that expire before I use them. What I mean is, I used to just use my expiring coupons at the store, even if I didn't need the item and it wasn't on sale. End result? I would buy a bunch of stuff I didn't care so much about and it wasn't a really great deal, even with double coupons.

Now I'm not afraid to throw them away (the store does not honor them past the expiration date) and just look for another one the next week in the newspaper to combine with a good sale.

Stacy said...

I am in awe of your ability to get things for cheap...

You inspire me to maybe put a little more time into coupon finding....

I'm also curious about this whole scanner deal. Details!

Stephanie said...

Love these tips! I have no idea about the scanner either--this makes me really want to try coupons.com also

Sherry said...

I love participating in the Utah food co-op. Great prices on great quality food, and it allows me to participate in something that is good for the community.

Jennifer Lee said...

I can't tell you how happy it made me to see lucky charms lucky charms lucky charms lucky charms on that list. I don't know if it is a pregnant thing for you, too, but when I'm pregnant I can go through a huge box each week. Easy. However, I have never been able to purchase them for $.40. Lucky YOU.

Katie said...

Wow! Amazing. And please do share the secret of the scanner. I want to use one too!! Where do you get it?

AND

which grocery store(s) will I need to shop at for the best deals in Austin?

Ashley and Danny G said...

Here's my problem with coupons - we don't eat alot of the food that is discounted. We don't do processed foods, milk and dairy is a rarity and we've cut back on meat as well (everything but fish). So produce, pasta and organic foods are where are money goes. I will look into a discounted produce cart - any other tips on where to get discounts? As always -you ladies are great!!

preethi said...

Ditto Ashley. We do lots milk, but it is worth it to us to spend a little extra on good cheese and Greek yogurt from Trader Joe's as opposed to using coupons for the Safeway shredded stuff. We also don't buy meat, and are trying to move away from as much cold cereal.

That said, the reduced produce section is AWESOME. Another thing I've found to be really fantastic in the produce department is to find some sort of international food store. The farmers' markets in our area are all ridiculously expensive (hello, $4 apple, I'm sure you are delicious, but I am simply not willing to pay that much for you)(also, I miss Philadelphia's 2 amazing markets less than a mile from our place), and the produce at the normal grocery stores is also expensive/mealy. So we buy all our produce from these international food stores (Grand Mart and Bestway are the ones in our area). Their produce is exponentially fresher and cheaper, and it's entertaining to attempt to communicate with the cashier in Spanish.

Gina said...

I have been really couponing for over a year. We usually save about 60-75% at the grocery stores. I find that we can eat much better now. I shop for sales on the chicken and turkey that we eat. (We rarely eat red meat.) We only eat whole wheat pasta and brown rice, but I have found great sales paired with great coupons to get both very cheap. (I don't mind keeping an extra shelf for things that we use often, so I always will purchase whole wheat pasta when I can get it for under 50 cents a box.) We raise our own tomatoes so we can have pasta for almost no money!) You can find deals and coupons for healthier stuff, you just have to not stop looking because you don't think you can.

amber waves of grain said...

I like the scanner idea-- I've never seen it in stores around us.

Typically I stock the pantry any time I find a particularly good deal (i.e. 10 boxes of pasta for 39c ea), and then I can keep my regular grocery costs down because I can often wait to buy stuff til it goes on sale again. I do most of my shopping at Aldi which has big savings in comparison with regular grocery store prices.

Thanks for sharing your tips!

Sarah said...

Scanner? I want one.

Coupons.com is especially good for lactose intolerant people like myself. A lot of times they have coupons for lactaid products or coconut products.

Sarah said...

One more, I just remembered, Jansen once you have a toddler or two, that you have to take with you, I leave the bakery for the middle or last visit, then ask for a sample cookie for my kids if they were good. It makes shopping with kids so much smoother!

Tamsen said...

There's a store in Weymouth that regularly sells chicken breast for .69-.79 cents a pound it's just not split, skinned or deboned. Definitely worth the work for that price. Pretty amazing receipt though Janssen.

megan said...

I was going to ask you since your post on your own blog...where did you get that nifty list of what you need in your pantry, and also your shopping list divided into sections?