Spending Less on Food: Food Clubs, Buying Generic and Couponing

For two days I’ve shared how I am slashing my family’s grocery budget to a quarter of what it used to be and how you can accomplish it as well.  You know the importance of using cash and stocking up when you have extra.  You also learned how to create a menu and a grocery list from that menu so you can stick to buying what you really need while allowing little splurges.

It seems everyone is talking about saving money at the grocery store these days.  I watched America’s “Cheapest Family” on Today almost two weeks ago about how to cut your grocery bill in half.  Yesterday, Nate Berkus (Yes, Nate Berkus, the designer!) focused on how to “get ahead of it” by saving at warehouse clubs and the grocery store.  On Nate’s show, Chef Alex Guaranaschelli shared two of the most popular online sources for using coupons, one of which I mention below.  How convenient that these are my topics today!

Shop at a wholesale club. Remember my admonition to make a list and stick to it?  You will need to follow that list carefully if you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership or you may end up leaving with a pool and new tires for your car. 

Michael and I recently decided to get a membership at Costco.  We were allowed to walk through the store and find the items we normally buy and see if it would save us any money.  We took our list and made notes on quantity and price (including price per serving for comparison).  We discovered several items that would save us hundreds of dollars each year.  That made it well worth the $50 membership fee. 

However, purchasing everything in bulk is not a money-saver especially if you use it up in a week or two rather than rationing it out over a month or longer.  It’s too easy to spend your entire budget at a wholesale club without having a plan of attack before walking through their big, metal garage doors.  So, take your list and stick to it.

Buy generic. Most generic foods do not taste any different than their brand name counterparts.  There are a few items I will not purchase generic; one of those is Pop Tarts.  I can eat off-brand Cheerios without much fuss, but I don’t like to if I don’t have to.  But a generic Pop Tart will never touch these lips.  Decide what you will not buy in generic, then clip coupons and wait for that brand name item to go on sale.  For those of you with “brand name snobs” in your house, I challenge you to replace one or two items with the generic and see if they notice.  Canned or frozen veggies and fruit are the easiest to replace with generic.

Use coupons and watch for sales. Most of us know we can find tons of coupons in our weekly Sunday paper.  But did you know you can join free online coupon clubs, like A Full Cup, for tons of tips and swapping of coupons?  According to Chef Alex, as mentioned above, The Grocery Game is another popular site.  I am not too familiar with it, but I have a friend who loves it.  There are also many coupon-savvy bloggers, like Deal Seeking Mom and Hip2Save, who have done the leg work for you. 

You can get your older kids involved with coupon clipping.  Be sure your child is old enough to know not to cut anything but the paper, so you don’t have to make a trip to Great Clips to fix a “new” hairstyle or, worse, the ER.  My daughter loved clipping coupons even if I wasn’t using all of them.  This will save you time on clipping so you can organize them.  I’ll share more in a later post on how to create a handy grocery binder like mine above.   

This is the beginning of many more posts on the subject of spending less, but this should get you going in the right direction.  It has been inspiring to learn realistic and practical ways to reduce my family’s spending on food and get us closer to being debt free.  I hope the same is true for you.

Blessings,

Mel

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