- Always start looking the first day that sales ads come out. This gives you time to look for coupons and really compare what is out there.
- Remember to check store-specific apps for extra deals. Target’s Cartwheel and Walmart’s App (with Savings Catcher) are great places to start. I’ll be doing reviews of each of these apps next month along with all of my other favorite apps for saving and making money.
Step 1: Make a List of Stores
If you are just starting out, you might not want to list every single store in your town that sells groceries, but the more stores you list (and are willing to drive around to on shopping day), the more money you can save. When I shop, I always check Shop ‘n Save (local), Schnucks (local), Walmart, Target, Kmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Aldi. I know that sounds like a lot, but I do all of my grocery shopping for the entire month in one day. Is it a marathon of driving and pushing carts around stores? Yes. Does it save me so much money that it is worth it? Absolutely.
Step 2: Find The Ads
You probably receive some paper ads in your mail on a weekly basis, but you might not receive all of the ones you need. You can either go to the individual stores and pick up their ads or save gas money and find them online. There is an app called Favado that many people use to compare advertised prices across multiple stores. I stopped using it because it didn’t include my local stores, but now there is only one that isn’t included so this is a great place to start. They even show you coupons and compare sales at 5 stores at a time.
Step 3: Search the Ads
Make note on your written list OR in an excel document (my preference) of sale prices and special offers at each store. If there is a special offer (such as buy two boxes of cereal, get a free gallon of milk) be sure to write enough detail in your notes that you will know the brands, quantities, and sizes eligible. This is important for when you start searching for coupons to pair with the sales. While you are doing this, be sure to check for store coupons online or in your apps. These store-specific coupons can be stacked with sale prices and manufacturer coupons. Target, CVS, and Walgreens are three stores you really want to check and see if they have store coupons even if they are not mentioned directly in the sales ad.
Step 4: Make Store Lists
Rewrite your master shopping list as individual store lists. Make another list that has all of the items that are not on sale anywhere. While you are at each store, you should check the everyday prices of all of the no-sale items and write them on the list. That way you can figure out who really has the cheapest milk, eggs, butter, and other items that you purchase every month. If you find one of the items at a price that feels cheap to you, purchase it. Just beware that you might find it for even cheaper later. In your first month, when you are uncertain about everyday prices of items, you will either end up overpaying on a few items or having to go back to some stores to save your money. Personally, I am not a fan of wasting $0.50 in gas to save $0.20 on milk, so I just called that a reasonable one-time loss as I did my research.
Step 5: Map out Shopping Day
That list of no-sale items is an important part of making or breaking your grocery budget. I plan my shopping day starting from the store that is usually most expensive to the store that is usually least expensive. That way, if I see an unadvertised sale price at one of the more expensive stores, I can snag the deal comfortably. If I don’t, I know that the last store (usually Aldi) will have my basic supplies at almost guaranteed cheaper prices than anywhere else (unless those items are on sale elsewhere).Planning your stores in order from expensive to cheap will save you most of the heartache that goes along with spending too much.
A Note About Everyday Prices
The first month I started this adventure, I made sure to note the prices of staple items at each store so I could really know where items are the cheapest. Even though Aldi won on almost all items, CVS offers Dean’s milk for almost the same price as Aldi’s off-brand, and a lot of times it is cheaper because of sales, rebates, and coupons. Your individual market will be different, but I am certain there will be some low prices that surprise you.
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