We’ve all seen headlines, television shows, and read blog posts about people getting their groceries for free with coupons or having a stockpile. I’ve done it myself in the past when life wasn’t as busy. You may also be in the season of life that sitting down and clipping coupons seems impossible. If that is the case, it may seem hopeless that you, too, can save money at the stores. Well, guess what? You still can!
Here are some tips to help you save without using coupons:
Each week, the stores come out with their new ads. Usually on the front and back cover are what are known as “loss leaders.” Loss leaders are items that the store is selling below their cost in order to lure you into shopping at their store. By purchasing the loss leaders you will be saving money! (The trick is not to pick up all of your other items on your list at the same time which are higher than you would pay at other stores).
Another saving trick is when you are buying loss leaders stock up for at least 6-8 weeks. That is the typical store advertising cycle. If you know you will be making spaghetti once a week and you use one, 16 ounce package each week, you should buy at least 6 packages. However, if it is an item like mustard and you go through one bottle a year, buying 6 would be silly and most likely some would go to waste.
When you go to the store, by shopping the outside aisles or perimeter of the store, you will also be saving money. By avoiding convenience food you will be saving a lot of money as those types of food are marked up.
Make your meals and snacks from scratch.
When you are buying items at the store look up and down. The highest priced items are normally at eye level. This is because that is what you will typically grab. By glancing at the different sizes and items above and below those items, you will probably save money.
Find out what day your store marks down meat, dairy items, etc. Most of the time it is marked down because the “use by” date is coming up. You can either cook those foods right away or freeze them for later use.
Shop in bulk when it is cheaper to do so. Buying in bulk can save you money. However, there are times when it doesn’t. If you will not use the entire product and throw half of it away, it most likely will not be saving you money. Also, not every bulk item you find in Sam’s or Costco is cheaper than what you can buy at the grocery store. This is especially true if you shop loss leaders!
Look at items such as cheese or fresh veggies. Can you save money by doing the work yourself? I always thought that by shredding my own cheese I would be saving money. Lately, I have found some really good deals on shredded cheese that were far cheaper than buying it and shredding it myself.
Keep a price book. I recently wrote a post about how to make one here. I highly recommend doing this because it has saved me a lot of money!
Watch for buy one get one half off sales. This can reduce what you would normally be paying by 50%. However, sometimes the stores mark up the items when they do these sales so you really aren’t saving anything. Once again, this is when the price book comes in handy!
If you can, shop alone. This is a rule that I would love to do, but honestly does not work in my season of life very well. I have found that when I shop with the younger kids, I do tend to spend more money than when I’m alone. I am more efficient and can concentrate more clearly when I’m alone (plus no one is sneaking items into the cart when I’m not looking!) However, now that the older ones are maturing, I feel it’s important to teach them these tricks as well so when they are out of the house, they aren’t wasting their own hard-earned money!
Pay attention when you are checking out. Watch the prices as the cashier scans the product! I have found many times that the price was wrong and by correcting it, I saved money.
Use shopping apps, rewards cards and store coupons to help save money. I will be going into more details on these as the series continues but I have already posted about the free apps, Ibotta Checkout 51, and Shopkick.
Shop all of your local stores to get the best prices. This can be hard but I have found a little way to help with this. I make my list from each store. We do a lot of running around for ballet and other activities. If I know I have 25 minutes, I will look at my list for the store with the best sales and take advantage of that 25 minutes. Then during the next activity when I’m waiting and have another 20 minutes, I go back to the list and find the second best store. Those little blocks of time add up and I’m happy to utilize my time.
For those of you who can’t do that, or don’t want to spend the time making various stops, Wal-Mart ad matches. Go through the competitors ads and then go to Wal-Mart to get their sales in one stop shopping. You don’t need to even bring the ads with you, although I have heard that certain stores can be difficult to work with (or certain cashiers) without the ad. I brought the ads with me the first few times and no longer do so. I have found the key to ad matching is just to be organized. I have found the disadvantage of doing this is you can’t take advantage of reward programs such as Walgreen’s point program or many of the deals I have found at Target by using Cartwheel, their store coupons, mobile coupons and regular coupons (more on saving at Target soon).
What are your favorite ways to save money without using coupons?