Trim Your Grocery Bill – Maximize your Coupon Savings

How to Trim your Grocery Bill

Today I’ll be wrapping up the Trim your Grocery Bill series (sorry it disappeared for a while!) by giving you some secrets to getting the most bang for your coupon buck!

There really is a technique to using coupons if you want to get the items you need, for free or really cheap.  It takes a bit of practice, but I’m sure you’ll have fun trying!  Saving money is fun!

Let’s get going on the secrets that will make you a savvy coupon user, shall we?

Start Slow - You’re most likely itching to start using coupons right now on as many items as you possibly can to see how much you can save .  If you start this way, you’re going to overwhelm yourself and quite possibly, not see any significant savings on your grocery bill!  Not to mention, you’ll most likely purchase items you never intended on buying in the first place only because you had coupons to use.  This is not savvy couponing because you’re most likely spending more money on items you’ll never use since you’re just so excited to use those coupons.  :)

Start out by gathering only a couple of newspaper inserts (SmartSource and Redplum)or ordering the coupons that interest you from Save.ca, Websaver.ca and Brandsaver.ca.  Organize them into a small coupon organizer, so you can easily find the coupons you need, when you need them.

Using Coupons takes Planning - Are you ready for my number one secret to maximizing your coupon savings?  Use your coupons when an item hits a rock bottom sale price.  You want to be looking for items that are a good price before coupons even come into play and, of course, items that are also liked by you and your family. 

How do you find the sales?  Check out your weekly store flyers that come in your local newspaper or find the store flyers online.  Start making a shopping list with the deals you can use your coupons on.

Every Saturday, I highlight the best coupon deals in the Sales + Coupon deals for Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, Zellers and Real Canadian Superstore (West).  I try to make it as easy as possible for you to save your money and use your coupons!  For those of you reading the Simply Frugal updates by email, you won’t receive the coupon matchups until Sunday.  But know that you can check for the matchups directly on the website on Saturdays. 

Once you’ve become more comfortable with matching your coupons with deals, start collecting more coupons from some of the coupon websites I’ve outlined in this post.

Remember There Will Always be Another Sale - Stores run sales in a cyclical manner.  The cycles last anywhere from 6 – 12 weeks.  Sometime during the sale cycle, any particular item will be at its highest price and at its lowest price.  You’ll want to use your coupons when an item is priced at its lowest. 

I would recommend you start a price book to track your store cycles.  Use a small notebook to record the prices of things you buy most often each week for 6 – 12 weeks.  You’ll start to see when you should stock up on the items you need.

It’s Okay to Not Hit Every Deal - Couponing takes a lot of time if you’re going to hit up every possible deal you can muster.  Time is money.  Instead, I recommend that you focus on the best deals that week for the items you need.  For example, if you already have 10 sticks of deodorant but are nearly out of laundry detergent, prioritize the laundry deals over the deodorant deals.

How Much You Spend Matters More than How Much you Save - I’ve said this many times, but what you spend is definitely way more important than how much you save.  A 55% savings might be impressive, but the 45% you actually spent is what matters the most, since what you spend comes out of your pocket!

If you’re consistently going over your grocery budget every week, by trying to save money on items you may not necessarily need, you’re pushing yourself farther away from any financial goals you have set for yourself.  Stick to your grocery budget, even when that means passing up good deals, and you’ll see your bank account grow and your debt get smaller!

Have you had any great coupon shopping trips?  Do you have any question about couponing?  Is there anything in the Trim your Grocery Bill series that I never touched on that you would like to see in a later post? 

Trim your Grocery Bill – How to Organize your Coupons

How to Trim your Grocery Bill

Now that you know where to get Canadian coupons, you’re going to have to figure out some sort of organizing system so they don’t end up expiring before you use them.  There are many different ways to organize coupons, but you may have to try out a couple of systems before you find one that works for you.

In this post, I’ll be listing a bunch of ways you can organize coupons to help you narrow down what may work for you!

Coupon Organizing Method #1 – The Wallet Size Expanding Folder

Organizing Coupons

This is my current method of coupon organization.  I picked up a wallet sized coupon folder from a local dollar store and one from Michaels found in the dollar bins.  The folder from the dollar store already included pre-categorized sections like, baking goods, beverages, cleaning products and condiments.  The folder from Michaels was left blank so you could easily customize it to suit your needs.  Or I was thinking this folder would be good to label with store names so you could place all the coupons you intend on using at a particular store in the appropriate section!

Coupon Organizing Method #2 – Use Envelopes

Organize all your coupons using envelopes.  Make an envelope for each category. (such as Meat, Dairy Products, Cleaning Products, Paper Products, etc.) Cut all the coupons you plan on using and store them in the corresponding envelopes so they can be easily found.  You may want to keep all your envelopes in a plastic tub, photobox or something similar.

Coupon Organizing Method #3 – The Coupon Box

Photo from MoneySavingMom.com

Use index cards to create all the categories you’ll need.  With this method, your coupons will be really easy to find, but you may find it a bit bulky if you want to bring it into the stores you shop at.  Here’s an example from Homespun Heart using a cute recipe box, including the categories she uses.

Coupon Organization Method #4 – The Coupon Binder

The coupon binder is a hugely popular coupon organization method.  It’s fairly simple to create your own using a three-ring binder, page dividers, baseball card holders, and perhaps a zippered pocket to hold scissors, random coupons, or a calculator.  I’ve also heard of people using photo albums instead of a binder!  Here are a couple of tutorials to help you get idea on how to create a coupon binder system that may work for you:

How to Sort & Organize your Coupons:

Now that you have some ideas on what to put your coupons in, you may want some ideas on how to sort your coupons.

  • Organize by product:  Rather than create categories, you could group all your similar product coupons together.  For example, all shampoo coupons together and all makeup coupons together.
  • Organize by expiry month:  Create a section for each month of the year and place the coupons according to the month they expire.
  • Organize alphabetically:  Put your Irish Spring coupons in the “I” section and your Crest coupons in the “C” section.
  • Organize by category:  Probably the most popular way of sorting coupons.  Place all coupons  in broad categories such as Meat, Paper products, and Snacks.

I hope this post gave you some ideas on help you find a coupon organization system that will work for you!

If you’re a coupon user with a system already in place, what do you do to organize your coupons?

Trim your Grocery Bill – Where to Find Canadian Coupons

How to Trim your Grocery Bill
Now, this post is most likely old news for a lot of you, but I know there are also a lot of people who feel lost on where to find coupons when they decide they would like to start couponing!

So, here goes, the ultimate “Where to Find Canadian Coupons” list:

  • At the grocery store and department stores – You will find pads of coupons near a promoted product. For example, I find a lot of these “tearpad” coupon in my local Zellers, Save-On Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart.  Also look throughout the stores to find product displays with calendars and booklets that also contain coupons.  Here’s a post I did on all the coupons I found on a “coupon hunting” trip I did!
  • In newspapers – There are two nationally distributed coupon flyers – Redplum and Smart Source. They’re distributed about once a month. Expect to find coupons for national brands like Tide, Pampers, Arm & Hammer, etc.   Here is a post I did on the 2011 coupon insert schedule and a post I did on which newspapers you can find the coupon inserts in.
  • In Magazines – look for Canadian coupons in the Clip n’ Save booklet with your Canadian magazines such as Canadian Living or Homemakers.  Or simply just on a page with an advertisement!
  • Online printable – Many companies offer coupons that you can immediately print right from your own printer, cut it out and take to your local stores.  Check out the giant list of printable coupons I have available on Simply Frugal!
  • Online ordered – some companies run promotions where they mail coupons (for free product, or money off) to you via Canada Post.  As these coupon become available, I post about them here on simply Frugal so you don’t miss out. There are also companies like Save.ca, Brandsaver.ca, Websaver.ca and GoCoupons.ca that mail out coupons that you order from their sites. (Again you’ll find brands such as Pampers, Sunlight, Betty Crocker, Cover Girl, etc) These services are completely free!
  • On or In product packaging – You can find coupons on specially marked boxes or packages that may be used for future purchases.  Currently there is a Kellogg’s Wake up to Free Breakfast promotion found on select Kellogg’s products and coupons for free ice cream found on select General Mills products!
  • Mailing lists – join Mailing lists of the companies that you often buy from, if they have one. When you sign up online, make sure to check the box that asks if you would like to have special coupons and offers sent to you, but only if it is a company you would like coupons from!  I also recommend having a separate email address for signing up for things like this, you wouldn’t want to clutter up your personal email!
  • Email your favourite companies - If you have a favourite product, there absolutely no harm in emailing or calling that particular company asking if they have any coupons available to mail to you!  Many companies are very willing to send coupons your way if you only ask!

Trim Your Grocery Bill: Use Those Coupons

Trim your grocery bill

I’m a firm believer that coupons can save you quite a bit of money on your grocery bill each week. I know many of you already use coupons so you know the benefits. But perhaps others of you aren’t sure how to use coupons effectively, don’t see the benefit in using them or don’t know where to find them.

Over the next couple of posts in this series, I hope to dispel any of your hesitations when it comes to coupon use.

Let’s get started with the excuses. I’ve heard many excuses in the time I’ve started using coupons from people explaining why they should be exempt from this money saving tactic.

Excuse #1: A $0.50 coupon is hardly worth it

This may be true, but say you have 10 coupons with you, you’ve just saved yourself $5.00 on your grocery bill! Better yet, there are many coupons out there that are worth more than $0.50.

But the real secret to saving with coupons? Combine a coupon with a fantastic sale price. I have a basket full of Venus and Fusion razors that I snagged for about $1 each thanks to a great sale price and $5 off coupons that I had! (those coupons are no longer available :( ) Not to mention the $14 air fresheners I got for work that cost me a grand total of $0.97 each after combining a $7 off coupon and a sale price! Maybe you can now see why coupons are so popular right now? :)

Many companies are really stepping up to the coupon plate by offering coupons for a completely free product. Take for example, the Kellogg’s Wake Up to Free Breakfast promotion I posted about.

My goal is to only use coupons with great sale prices, but I occasionally use a coupon on a regular priced item if I absolutely need that item right away.

Excuse #2: I don’t eat processed food

In case you didn’t realize, not all coupons are for processed food. You’ll find a ton of coupons for toothpaste, toilet paper, baking ingredients, soap, pain killers, milk, pet food, makeup, household cleaners and more on Simply Frugal!

Unless you’re a family who is entirely self-sufficient by growing your own food, making all your personal care and household items, I think everyone can benefit from the coupons available in Canada.

I bet there are at least 10 items on your grocery list that you could get for much less if you used coupons!

Also remember that there are many food banks that would gladly accept the food items that you were able to get really cheap if your family doesn’t eat a particular product!

Excuse #3: It takes too much time

The thought of adding something new to your never ending to-do list can be a bit daunting. But trust me, coupons don’t have to take a lot of time!

I personally only spend at the most a 1/2 hour each week gathering the coupons I’m going to use for my shopping trip.

Each time a new coupon insert comes in my local newspaper, I only cut out the coupons I know I’ll use, which is usually not that many. Since we don’t have pets, there’s no point in me cutting those ones out! Every time sites like Save.ca, Websaver.ca and Brandsaver.ca update their coupons, again, I only order the ones I’ll use. I organize them all into a coupon holder I picked up at the dollar store, which then goes into my purse. This way, I always have my coupons along in case I come across an unadvertised sale.

Here at Simply Frugal, I try to make it easy for you to find all the current Canadian coupons. Once a week, on Saturday’s, I compile posts matching up coupons to sale prices I find in the major Canadian store flyers, which should also help out a ton!

Over the next couple of posts, I’ll be telling you where to find Canadian coupons, tips on organizing them and how to maximize their benefits!

Missed the last posts in the series? Here they are:

Trim your Grocry Bill: Buy in Season

Trim your grocery bill

Buying fruits and vegetables in season, or when they’re at their prime and grown closer to home, can cut a big chunk off your grocery bill each week. When you buy fruits and vegetables in season, you tend to get the best taste too!

Eating seasonally is such a simple thing to do. If you had cauliflower on your list but notice it’s priced at over $3.00, skip it, or buy broccoli instead. Same goes for fruit. Strawberries looking less than desirable and overpriced? Buy bananas.

A great way to take advantage of in season produce is to buy as much as your budget will allow. Eat some, then freeze the rest! Every year when our peaches are in season at our local orchards, I buy pounds and pounds of them to freeze for smoothies. Don’t worry, we also eat our fair share of fresh peaches! By freezing (or canning) fruit and vegetables while they’re at their prime, ensures you get to enjoy them at their finest throughout the “slow months”.

I’ve created a chart showing which seasons you’ll find better priced and better quality fruits and vegetables:

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
AsparagusApplesApplesPotatoes
Beets (late Spring)BeansBeans (early Fall)Squash
Broccoli (late Spring)BeetsBeetsCabbage
Cabbage (late Sprint)BlueberriesBroccoli (early Fall)Carrots
Cauliflower (late Spring)BroccoliCabbageBrussel Sprouts
Cherries (late Spring)CabbageCarrots
Lettuce (late Spring)CarrotsCauliflower
Peas (late Spring)CauliflowerCelery (early Fall)
Radishes (late Spring)CeleryCorn (early Fall)
Raspberries (late Spring)Cherries (early Summer)Cucumber (early Fall)
StrawberriesCornEggplant (early Fall)
MushroomsCucumberGrapes (early Fall)
RhubarbEggplant (late Summer)Lettuce (early Fall)
SpinachGrapes (late Summer)Onions (early Fall)
CarrotsLettucePears (early Fall)
NectarinesPeppers (early Fall)
OnionsPlums (early Fall)
PeachesPotatoes
Pears (late Summer)Radishes (early Fall)
PeasSquash
PeppersTomatoes (early Fall)
PlumsMushrooms
PotaotesPumpkins
RadishesSweet Potatoes
RaspberriesTurnips
SquashCranberries
Strawberries (early Summer)
Tomatoes

Now, if you must have a certain fruit or vegetable when it’s not in season, buy the frozen variety. Companies, like Green Giant, freeze their produce to sell in stores when they’re at their peak, so you won’t be missing out on any nutrients or quality. (Although, I do generally prefer fresh!)

Have you been buying fruits and vegetables in season?  By the way, I have a post on How to Freeze Peaches if you’re interested!

Missed the last posts in the series?  Here they are:

Trim Your Grocery Bill: Look for Markdowns

Trim your grocery bill

Another way to save money at the grocery store is to stop by the markdown racks each time you shop for groceries.

Grocery stores mark down items they want to sell quickly. Sometimes the food is about to hit its expiration date. Other times they are discontinuing a particular product and just want to move them to make room on the shelves for something else.

Here are some of my tips for finding and making markdowns work for you:

Talk to a manager

Either a dairy, meat or produce manager. Or the managers in the sections of the store you’re interested in getting markdowns from. They’ll let you know what their policy is on markdowns and when they tend to mark items down.  Keep in mind though that some stores do not do markdowns as a part of their store policy.

Plan your trips around the new markdowns

If you just discovered, by asking, that your store tends to mark things down daily between 1-3pm, shop during that time to snag the best deals.

Find the markdowns in your store

I usually shop at the Superstore on a weekly basis and they’re great for item markdowns. Especially in the produce and bakery sections of the store. In my local Superstore I generally find big markdown racks in the produce, bakery, pharmacy, household and in the entrance of the store. I also find a few markdowns with orange tags in the organic/gluten free aisles. Each store is different though, so scope out the stores you shop at!

Rework your grocery list

If you were planning on buying some green peppers for your meals during the week at full price, stop at the markdown rack to see if there are any vegetables that you could use in place of the peppers. Perhaps a bag of baby carrots is on the rack along with some cauliflower? Use those instead to save a large chunk on your grocery bill. Or maybe you were planning on making some apple muffins, but notice that there are some drastically reduced brown bananas that would work great in some banana bread! Use some creativity to see the possibilities of markdowns.

Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap

If you know that no one in your family likes papaya, you’re not saving yourself any money if it’s only going to go bad at home! Maybe you found some white bread marked down, but you’re trying to go the whole grain route for the health benefits; stick to your family’s principles. Before purchasing something that’s marked down, try to have a plan for how you’re going to use the item.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a markdown

Just because an item isn’t marked down, doesn’t mean it can’t be reduced. Perhaps you noticed a jug of milk that is only days away from expiring or some apples that are a bit past their prime which are still at full price. If you simply ask a manager if the item could be discounted, I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige. I learned this lesson last summer while I was away at the Savvy Blogging Summit. Once we were back in Canada, Stephanie and I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up some milk for her family. She spotted some organic milk that was about to expire the next day so she asked if she could receive a discount. She ended up getting 2 bottles for $0.25 each!! If I didn’t have such a long drive home, I would have snapped some up as well! Obviously the lesson here is to never hesitate to ask for a discount.

Do you shop your store’s markdowns? If so, which stores do you typically see the best deals? Have you got any tips to share with others?

Trim your Grocery Bill: Shop at More Than One Store

Trim your grocery bill

Did you know you can save quite a bit of money by shopping at more than one store? You may be thinking I’m suggesting you drive around to every store in your city, asking you to increase your gas bill to save on your grocery bill, or even suggesting that your time is not precious. In fact, that is not the message I want to get across at all!

By shopping at a couple of different stores, you have the potential to drastically reduce your grocery bill each week. If you’re shopping at only one store you’re most likely paying full price for many items that could very well be on sale at the store just down the road. Say for example you need some cheddar cheese. If you bought it from the one grocery store that you always shop at, you’re paying $7.99. But if you drove 2 minutes to Shoppers Drug Mart (I get my cheese from them!) they have it on sale for $2.99. You just saved yourself $5.00 for two minutes of your time. If you were smart though, you’d stock up on cheese at that price, saving yourself much more! :) (I realize this may not be an option for all of you if you live in rural areas.)

I hope the following points will help you understand why shopping at more than one store could be beneficial.

Shop at only 2 – 3 different stores every week

Not ten so you save a whopping $3! That’s a waste of precious time and effort and produces very little savings, in my opinion. Instead, take some time to look at all your local grocery store flyers and pick a few stores that have the best deals for the things you need. Then plan your trip around those stores. Or even shop at one store one day and shop at another the next day.

Shop at nearby stores

I think this one is pretty self explanatory. The closer you stay to your home, the less you’ll be spending on gas and the less time you’ll be using to get there making your grocery bill savings more substantial.

Spend some time getting to know what the best deals for your area are

In order to figure this out, you’re going to have to record the prices of things you routinely buy from several stores. Find an old notebook to record prices, brands, sizes, stores and the date on which you “investigated”. At the end of the week, you should see which stores has the best price for particular items. If you do this for several weeks, you’ll start to notice how often stores run a rock bottom sale for a particular item. For example, I know that I can get the best price on Chicken breasts about every three months from the grocery store across the road from me. I stock up with enough to last us until the next sale.

Think outside the box

Typical grocery stores aren’t the only places where you can get good deals. Scope out your local ethnic stores, farmer’s markets, big box stores (Target, Walmart etc), dollar stores, scratch and dent stores, warehouse stores (Costco), drug stores, bulk foods stores, Health food stores and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture).

Consider the amount of time you have

Once you discover which stores in your area have the best deals for the things you need, consider how much time you have to devote to shopping. Two hours a week is a good amount of time in my opinion. This will allow you time to plan (scour the flyers and gather coupons) and to do the actual shopping.

Rotate the stores you shop at

Using your price notebook, coupons and store flyers, determine which stores have the best deals for you on any given week. In a typical week, I usually only shop at two different stores, The Real Canadian Superstore and another grocery store. Depending on what sales are running each week and which coupons I have, this could vary greatly for me. Some week’s I’ll stop in at Shoppers Drug Mart and Safeway. During the summer months, I’ll hit up the Farmer’s market (or my Mom’s garden!).

That’s the beauty of shopping at more than one store. You don’t have to shop at ten stores each week, you can rotate the stores you shop at each week in order to get the best deals and lowest prices.

Do you shop at more than one store?  Which ones do you regularly shop at and find the best deals?  Have you discovered any little-known places for scoring great deals?

Trim Your Grocery Bill: Don’t be Brand Dependent

Trim your grocery bill

Another way to save money on your grocery bill is to use a variety of different brands.  When I need a certain product (tomato sauce for example) I always look at all the brands available and choose the one with the best value by taking into account the price and size.  Here are a few things to keep in mind about brands:

Brand does matter…sometimes

Before all you brand dependent folks start to shake you fists at me, I agree, brand does matter…sometimes!

I must admit there are a few items that I always by name brand.  Heinz ketchup for example.  Any other ketchup brand will not fly in our house!  I’m also quite smitten with Tostitos Multigrain tortilla chips.  Other brands don’t make my taste buds quite as happy. :)

Maybe you find that Tide is the only laundry detergent that works perfectly for you.  Or, a natural laundry detergent is the only one that doesn’t result in a rash.  In that case, it’s probably worth it to spend a bit more on something that works for you and keeps your family healthy.

Be Daring, try a new brand

Try the store brand!  They don’t look nearly as appealing as their brand name counterparts thanks to some low budget packaging, but they’re most likely pretty tasty!  Take tomato sauce again, it’s hard to go wrong when the ingredient list on both brands is tomatoes, salt and spices.

Did you know that some store brand products are even made in the same factory as the name brand?

Buy items because of price, not brand

Let’s say you need to stock up on toothpaste. Until now, you’ve been only buying Crest.  You may be able to buy it for $1.00 by combining a sale with a coupon. If, however, you look for the lowest price on any brand of toothpaste, it’s very possible to get some toothpaste for free or even $0.50 after combining the sale with a coupon!  Even without a coupon, Crest could still be the more pricier option.

While the savings of $1.00) on the toothpaste might seem insignificant, think about how the savings could add up if you saved $1.00 on 12 different products each week at the grocery store. You’ll see a savings of $48 a month, or$576 a year!

If you’re not a coupon user, brand names are generally more expensive unless they’re on sale, try out the generic brands and you may not even taste the difference while saving some money.

Don’t go crazy stockpiling cheap brands if you’ve never tried them before

Like I said on Wednesday in the Start Building a Stockpile post, stockpiling items that no one in your household likes is a big waste of money.  In that case, you’ve just spent more trying to save more because the item will most likely sit on your shelves for years without being used.

So, if you’re buying a new brand due to a good price, I’d recommend only buying a couple to test whether or not you like the brand.  If the brand passes the test, you’ll know it’s safe to stock up!

Are you brand dependent on certain items?  When stocking up on new-to-you brand, have you ever made a poor purchase decision?

Missed the last posts in the series?  Here they are:

Trim Your Grocery Bill: Start Building a Stockpile

Trim your grocery bill

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not having a new Trim Your Grocery Bill post up last Friday!  Last week threw a couple of unexpected speed bumps my way and I was unable to find time to devote to writing the article!  So far this week is going well, so you get a new post! :)

Today I’d like to share a bit on Stockpiling, or the Buying Ahead Principle.  Or another way of terming it, “Buy lots when it’s on sale, so you never pay full price for the things you need”.   This is my favourite way to save grocery money in the long run!

Chicken breasts were on sale at one of our local grocery stores a few weeks ago for $3.99 a pound.  I bought 6 packages (about 6 breasts in each) knowing that would be enough to last us until the next good sale.  Because there’s no way I’m paying almost $7 a pound if I don’t have to!  Once I get home with the chicken, I separate the chicken into freezer bags, two in each bag.  Perfect for meals for the two of us.

Chicken isn’t the only thing I stock up on if it’s on sale.  If an item I regularly use is listed at a rock-bottom price, I will purchase as many items as I can afford, (within my grocery budget) to tide me over until the next sale.  I think the only things I buy on a weekly basis at full price are fresh fruits & vegetables and dairy products.

Let’s look at an example of how much paying retail vs. buying ahead will cost you over the year:

Say your family uses 10 sticks of deodorant a year and the regular retail price is $3.50 each.  You’ll be paying $35.00 a year for deodorant.

But, say, you practiced the Buy Ahead Principle, and you saved all your $2 off deodorant coupons and waited until it went on sale for $1.99.  You could then buy all 10 sticks of deodorant for free!  Saving yourself $35 for the year!  Even if you don’t use coupons you’re still saving $15.10 a year on deodorant alone.

Here are some of my tips to help you build a stockpile:

Start slow – Please don’t go out today and spend $300 to build your stock pile if you’re new to the concept of buying ahead.  Building takes time.  Instead, devote a small portion of your weekly grocery budget to stockpiling.  If you happen upon a week with poor stockpiling sales?  Save your stockpile money for the next week.

Know your family’s needs and preferences –  My husband is a cereal addict.  He can hardly go a day without at least one bowl of the stuff.  (thankfully he likes the “healthy” kinds!)  When I see cereal he likes on sale, I buy quite a few boxes, knowing that he’ll eat them up in no time.  It makes sense for me to build a large stockpile of cereal because I would hate to pay full price for something that costs a lot even when it’s on sale!  Your  household may have other needs and preferences, so you would stockpile different groceries.

Of course, keep in mind to only stockpile items proven to be useful and liked by your family.  Stockpiling an item without having tried it first, could end up being a big waste of money if no one likes the item!

Set aside an area(s) in your home to store your stockpile – We live in a condo.  Space can be limited, so I have a couple of areas in my home for stockpiling.  Our utility closet holds my stockpiled food items and a shelf in our bathroom holds my toiletries.  We even have a big freezer, which helps hold all the chicken I like to buy. :)

In most homes, there are plenty of nooks and crannies that could be used to store a stockpile.  Under a bed, a shelf in a hall closet, maybe a TV stand?  Or perhaps you need to clear out some items you no longer need to make room.  Be creative, you’ll find space somewhere!

Know when enough is enough- It can be extremely cost effective to use the Buy Ahead Principle but, it’s important to know when enough is enough.  If you have purchased enough deodorant to last you two years, you probably don’t have to go out and buy another year’s worth just because it’s on sale.  For one thing deodorant, and many other items, have an expiry date.  My recommendation is to buy only what you need until the next sale comes along, or what you can use in the time before it expires.

Another thing I’d like to touch on is courtesy.  Just because you have enough coupons or money in your “stockpile budget” to clear the shelves, don’t do it.  Leave some items on the shelf for others to purchase or ask a manager if there’s more in the back so others aren’t disappointed when they can’t get a deal due to supply.

If you decide to start stockpiling by using the Buy Ahead Principle I can guarantee you will see huge savings in your grocery bill!  Do you stockpile?  I’d love your comments!

Missed the last posts in the series?  Here they are:

Trim Your Grocery Bill: Tips for Successful Menu Planning, Part 2

Trim your grocery bill

Now that you know there is no right or wrong way to plan a menu, I’ll continue on today with some more tips that will really cut your grocery bill down!

Shop your pantry

By pantry I mean your cupboards, freezer, fridge and anywhere else you may have some food hidden.  I’m pretty sure this is how I personally save the most money each week at the grocery store.  By looking in my cupboards, I can see how many ingredients I have on hand already that could create a meal.  For example, today I found that I have some chicken, some cream cheese, a can of chicken soup and some spices to create a ranch flavour which I though I could turn into Cream Cheese chicken.  I don’t have to buy anything additional to create that meal since I also have rice and a few veggies on hand.

There are a few great websites out there that will come up with some recipes for the ingredients you already have on hand.  All Recipes is one of them.  Simply input the ingredients you have and the ingredients you don’t have and it will pull up a list of recipes you could make!  Recipe Matcher and Food.com (find the recipe sifter in the top right hand corner, orange button) are also good resources!

Now that you’ve shopped your pantry, and know how many meals you can create with what you have on hand, it’s time to fill in the spaces by consulting the store flyers.

Browse the store flyers

Take a look at your store flyers to see if there are any fantastic deals on items you need or could use over the next couple of months.  Ground beef may be on sale so you could stock up for the next month or so and incorporate an meal for your menu using some of that ground beef.  Most of the the best deals can be found on the front page of the flyer.  With this technique, the stores are trying to lure you into shopping at that store.  There are good deals on the inside pages as well, so don’t forget to check that out too.  Also, remember that just because something in listed in the flyer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal.  Over time, you’ll start to learn what’s truly a good deal.

If you don’t receive your store flyers in your mail or newspapers, most of them are available online.

Have theme nights

Maybe this should have been with last week’s tips on menu planning, but it’s here now!   Theme Nights are another great way to plan a menu.  Sunday’s could be soup nights, Tuesday’s could be Mexican and Friday’s could be Italian!  Or the way I like to do it is plan to have a couple of chicken nights, a beef night, a pasta night and a vegetarian night.  Adds a bit of variety so were not always eating our favourite…chicken. :)

Stay tuned for the next post in this series on Friday!

Have you got any menu planning tips that will help others?  If you’re not a menu planner, are you willing to give it a try?