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October 11, 2011


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I have been relying on rewards and coupons to save on my grocery. I admit they are a big help on my budget.

I've started to see more and more stores in my area develop a strict, written coupon policy. I can see they are getting tired of the extreme couponing craze. And I can't really blame them.

With 3 teens, I am at the grocery store quite often. Therefore, I have a good idea of when things go on sale. So, I stock up on items when they are on a great sale and usually have multiple coupons for those items. (I usually buy a couple Sunday papers, and my mom and neighbor give me their coupons.) My goal is to buy enough to hold me over until the next sale basically. So, I try to never pay full price for anything that usually does go on sale.

We usually make our grocery list from a mix of necessities (milk, eggs, bread, etc) and what's on sale. If we have a coupon, it's a bonus.

We don't usually rely on coupons too much to make the list because they are either too small of savings or they are for highly processed garbage we won't usually buy.

First stop: Aldi, if you have them in your area. You will save 40% on the high-turn staple items and they are good quality. Then you can fill in at any other store. The savings have been so good for us that we do not clip coupons any more.

batch processing. one trip = multiple stops on the way = get it all done while saving time and money

1) We use COSTCO for bulk items and visit it once/month when we gas up.

2) We use the newspaper inserts for our three local supermarkets and take advantage of the best buys each week. Two of the markets have wonderful Forestville wines from Napa & Sonoma at $1.98/bottle if you buy a case.

3) We use a local vegetable market frequented by new immigrants. They seem to gravitate towards markets that have the best fresh produce at unbeatable prices.

4) I have my own vegetable garden consisting of nine 4' x 8' raised beds where I grow lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and various types of squash.

5) I have fruit trees, apple, orange, tangerine, plum, and pineapple guava.

I also use Costco for many bulk shelf items.

Also some grocery stores that cater to the international or immigrant community in my area (Northern Virginia) have much cheaper produce or herbs. Food Star, Grand Mart, Best Foods.

Magruder's grocery store (a family owned business) is another store in my area that carries cheaper produce.

Store brands. Compare to more expensive brands and you will see very little difference for a sometimes large difference in price (even with coupons and store discounts). As an added bonus, you don't have to worry about timing your purchase or coupons expiring. Store brands are cheaper every day.

We go to Costco for paper products, meats, dairy products and the occasional other item, such as spices or beans. We use a local produce market and farm for our fruits and veggies - the prices are WAY lower than the grocery store and the produce is much much better, plus we like supporting local businesses. (They are opening up a shop for local meat and dairy products soon and we can't wait!) After those basics are covered, we'll shop sales at the grocery store for anything else we need, though we don't purchase many processed or packaged foods. Sure, it takes more time than just going to one store, but not really that much longer, and we get much better value and quality for our money.

Planning ahead is a great way to save money as well. We have a rotation of 15-20 dishes that are healthy and easy to prepare. Knowing what we plan to eat (or make and freeze) makes it easy to take advantage when we see great prices on things we know we will use in the future. For example, we bought beans, ground turkey and cheese on sale at Costco this weekend - probably $15. Stopped at the produce market for tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic - $7. Went home and made enough turkey chili and stuffed bell peppers to feed the two of us for at least 4 meals (probably 5) - at roughly $2.75 per meal for something healthy and delicious!

I follow the pantry principle. I buy food at rock bottom prices, stocking up when there is a great sale. Our meals are determined based on what we have and what needs to be used, as well as other factors. The Tightwad Gazette has a great write up on this.

We used to shop for most everything at Aldi and found the prices were pretty unbeatable for the staple items we bought.

However, we started eating more organic and whole foods a few years ago and now buy a majority of our food from Costco.

We have also started buying bulk grains cooperatively with some friends, and we've started to buy honey and meat in bulk directly from farmers.

We're a family of 7, so buying in bulk works great for us.

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