Scoring Deals at the Grocery Store

Cooking is quite possibly one of my favorite things to do.  If I could make lobster omelets and guacamole everyday, I would, but unfortunately, sometimes food is big bucks ($$).  As a current intern (intern = work for free), I try and keep our grocery bill as tiny as possible, while still making our meals as yummy as possible.  Unfortunately, I did none of this before I started working for free in January, but since then, I have learned a bunch I thought I’d share, because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to save money!!

Step #1:  I meal plan.  I sort of did this before, but never really stuck to it.  I tried several times to make meal lists every week, but I never stuck to them.  I figured out finally what I was doing wrong.  Basically, I was planning meal for every week (Monday:Lasagna, Tuesday:  Corn Chowder), but then things would come up, and I’d never stick to it.  Since then I have developed a better plan.  I grocery shop usually on Thursday or Fridays, since those are my lighter days.  So before I go, I look at the flyers online to see what’s on-sale.  Then, I plan lightly, so that I have the number of meals I need (I no longer account for the one day I have school late, and just plan for leftovers that day now), but I do not plan for the specific days. Here’s an example:
Those aren’t the specific days we’ll eat something (for instance, we probably won’t eat pasta 2x in a row), but we can pick and choose what we’re in the mood for, and I don’t have to brainstorm what’s in the house.  It works for us!
Step #2:  The grocery stores.  The biggest way I save $$ is by meal planning and not having to stop at the grocery store mid week.  I can’t tell you how many times I used to be in the mood for something on the way home, and then stop and pick up $20 worth of stuff to make salsa and totally ruin my budget.  Now, I’ve gotten used to just using what we have to make dinners.  It really doesn’t make a difference in the long run and is delicious.  I like to do my grocery shopping on Thursdays or Fridays because that’s when my grocery store sales start.  Sometimes, but not often, they will run out of things.  I usually try to go to only 1 store a week, but at times, for a really good deal, I will go to more than one.  
Step #3:  Coupons.  I am seriously amazed and overwhelmed at the amount of coupons and the information available online.  I use smartsource and coupons.com, but don’t go crazy with them.  I probably go on every other week and clip things that I would use.  At first, I only clipped things I was sure I would use, but I have learned now that if I do buy the brand, clip it, because the coupons do run out, and you could miss out on a really good deal.  Here’s an example:
A while ago, I saw a kraft singles coupon online.  I buy whatever brand is on sale for this, but packaged cheese is expensive, and I usually buy whatever is cheapest.  However, since I thought there was a slight chance I might need it in the future, I printed two.  I’m glad I did!  Because this week, as I looked in the shoprite flyer, I saw that this cheese, regularly like $2.99 was on sale for $1.69.   The coupon I had was $0.75 off one package, and since shoprite doubles coupons under $1, it took $1.25 off each, and I got them for $0.45 each!!! Wowzer!!  I get so excited about deals like this.  I probably have to buy one package a month or so for our house, and it doesn’t expire until August, so this will definitely be used up!
Step #4:  Website deals.  Sometimes I feel like this is such a great deal, it is wrong.  Seriously.  I also can’t believe I haven’t been tapping into this resource my whole adult life.  There are some amazingly useful websites there that will tell you:
  • a weekly breakdown of what is on sale at major grocery stores
  • daily and weekly online coupons you can print
  • a weekly breakdown of how to score BIG deals with on sale items, when using internet and mailed coupons
  • free stuff on the internet, as well as samples

I think it really depends on where you live as to the sites that will be most available to you, but here is what is in my google reader:

I have been able to score tons of free stuff with these.  They will tell you for instance, that if you print a $1.50 off coupon for cooking creme, it is on sale at Big Y this week for $1.50.  That means it’s free!!
I hope this information helps somebody.  Let me know what kind of deals you score!!