This past weekend I bought about twice as many groceries as normal … for the same amount as I normally spend. I’ve been using coupons for a long time and I’ve heard a lot of suggestions, most of which are good on their own.. but even better when combined. So I thought I’d compile a bunch of grocery shopping tips for those who need it.

First of all, clip coupons. They are inexpensive for what you can get.

Join the Grocery Game. You get a testing period of 4 weeks for $1. After that, it’s $5 per store list every eight weeks. I have three stores, Albertson’s, Kroger and Tom Thumb. While they have Walmart available, I don’t like the way they do that list since it’s price matching only and not very helpful. It lists stores that are not even in my area for price matching. (And if you sign up, list me using this email as your referrer so I can get some free weeks!)

The Grocery Game gives you a list every week of items that are on sale and what coupons to use that week for maximum savings. It lists more items than in the circulars and has a convenient check list. I select the items I want to buy and have coupons for, then head to Walmart. 😉 Walmart isn’t always the cheapest, especially not mine, since it’s a very special Walmart. 😉 It’s built like a Target. 😀 Thus, it’s pricing is like Target’s. (Also, Target is for some reason not included in the lists yet.)

With my list in hand, it’s easy to go through a store and check the pricing to see who really has the better deal for the place I don’t have the list for. The pricing is 99.9% accurate for the stores with a few items that won’t be in the stores or on sale.

The lists work on a cycle concept. Items go on sale in a rotation. You stock up on what you like. Check the expiration dates. You can often purchase dry goods that will last for one to two years from time of purchase and you’ll likely use them before then. For instance … Rice-a-roni. I thought I was getting a deal at $1.00 a box at Tom Thumb… then found them on sale at another store for .88 😛 I would not have checked the other store, because I’m not fond of Kroger. I’ve also noticed items that I got for .25 cents that are $3 in other stores … like BBQ sauce. It’s not the cheap stuff, but I got it for a quarter. 😀 Sometimes you can get items for FREE.

Be watchful about weird pricing. The general rule is the more/bigger package you buy, the more value you get. It’s not always true. I found 8 slices of Kraft cheese for .99 in Walmart. Next to it was a package of 16 slices … for $2.69. You don’t have to be that good at math to figure out that one. I’ll just buy two packages of 8. If you are bad at math, take a calculator. 😉 It’s good for finding the cost per serving/unit/etc. Some stores LIST the cost per unit on the shelves.

It’s also good to keep in mind processing fees on fresh foods. Hamburgers premade in the deli case for $5 a pound or buy the hamburger for $2-$3 a pound and make them yourself. Whole frozen chickens are typically cheaper than cut up whole chickens or by the pieces. Anytime the food is touched, the price goes up.

Other things to watch for: LOOK up or down. Up and down on the shelves will show you cheaper items than those at eye level. Don’t be afraid of off brands. Buy one can and try it out.

One more important tip: Get a coupon organizer. Get a cheap one first, then move up to Mrs. A’s Grocery Coupon organizer. That’s the one I use. It lays out everything for you to easily see them!

Now, there is one drawback to using coupons. It takes me twice as long to shop to start with. I’m assuming once I’m done with the stockpiling it won’t take so long, but think of it as a barter. Your time is money in your pocket you didn’t have before.

Oh .. and buy some canvas bags! Some stores will give you things, like.. MORE coupons or .05 back per bag you use. The bags pay for themselves and are nicer than plastic bags everywhere.

One more little detail. If a store is out of an item.. ASK for a rain check! Most stores issue them as far as I know and it takes off the pressure to be at the store first thing in the morning.

And one more important thing:  Prepare meals based on what you BUY.  Don’t purchase food based on what meals you want to have.