Three Shopping Rules to Make Saving on Groceries Simpler
I've had two friends tell me that they want to become frugal at the grocery store by starting with a price notebook. This is a little notebook with a list of specific food items and their fluctuating prices, recorded for the purpose of comparison. True, if the idea is to stock up when items are priced at rock-bottom, you must know the definition of rock-bottom. And if you haven't noticed already, I tend to be a little CDO (it's like OCD but in alphabetical order). So it stands to reason that a price notebook would appeal to me. All of those neat, orderly columns of food items I routinely purchase, with precise prices listed beside them...color coded by department...
Okay, I am back from my daydream now. So let's get real. We only have so much time in a day, forcing us to prioritize. Unfortunately, keeping Audrey from standing on the kitchen table is pretty far ahead of that nifty price notebook. What I need is an easy rule of thumb to keep me on the right path without having to memorize sales prices for the whole store.
Many things that you will purchase will be under two dollars. These items will add up if you put enough of them in your cart, but the expense will be compounded by higher-priced items. For those who want to do the most damage with the least amount of work, I offer you three easy steps.
The Two Buck Rule
Let's make a list of things I try NEVER to pay over two dollars for. All of the following are name-brand items unless noted:
Produce, per pound (including those yummy bagged salads)
Meat, per pound (and we eat very little "cheap" meat like ground beef or chicken legs)
Bread, per loaf
Packages of cookies
Boxes of crackers
Packages of lunch meat
Bags of chips (large)
Frozen vegetables (large)
Ice cream (We DO like Kroger's Private Selection brand!)
Note that most items not on the above list are either inexpensive or rarely go on sale/have coupons (canned items, dried beans and pasta, staples, condiments, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.).
Now, for any items that you regularly purchase for more than two dollars, try to have an idea of what you are willing to pay. Hopefully you will not have too many items on this list! I creatively call this...
The "Over Two Bucks" Rule
Here are examples from the Hinton family:
Canned Coke products (Kevin likes to take one for lunch with his FRUGAL leftovers!): Four 12 packs for $12 or less.
Diapers (of course): $7 or less for a Jumbo pack. In this case, Kroger brand works GREAT for us, but I will occasionally get Pampers or Huggies for $6 with coupons and ecoupons combined with a sale.
Laundry detergent: $6 or less for about 50 loads. We aren't too picky about brands here but we do not use the VERY cheap stuff. I cannot stand nasty-smelling dish cloths!
Milk: You just have to buy it no matter the cost, BUT be sure to check the gallons against the half gallons! Last week the half gallons were $1.50 and the gallons were $3.38. We get Kroger instead of Turner.
Cheese: Again, you just have to buy it. Kroger brand is fine with my family.
Finally, I pay almost nothing - or NOTHING - for many toiletries, cleaners, and miscellaneous household items, simply by combining sales with coupons or taking advantage of Walgreens Easy Saver Rebates, which are now entirely ONLINE! (Just hop online once a month and get every bit of what you payed up front for free items loaded straight onto your Walgreens gift cards. No mailing things in, even.) These items seem to ALWAYS be on sale and ALWAYS have good coupons. They do not go bad and you should stock up when they are on sale. I don't know what to call this rule so let's just say...
The "I Got This Really Cheap or for Free!" Rule
Toothpaste - I have about eight free tubes of various, expensive, name-brand tootpaste in my linen closet.
Deodorant - This is generally purchased for about $.50 or less; again, I have a bunch stored away.
Makeup - I recently acquired two free foundations (L'Oreal and Jane Be Pure) and two CG mascaras originally totaling $14 for $3.84.
Windex, Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Fantastic - All were less than a dollar at Walgreens with a coupon plus rebate.
Trash bags, light bulbs, etc. - The ones I "purchased" most recently were actually free.
I hope this will help and encourage some of you who are intimidated by trying to know a wide range of prices for every item you regularly purchase. Happy shopping!