Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A penny saved is pretty much just that

I have about 15 things on my mind right now, but I have decided to blog about something most of us can relate to and need to do, saving money. I am going to share a handful of my grocery-related suggestions. I would love to hear what all of you do and how you feel about my ideas. Here goes!

Double coupons 
I shop at Giant Eagle and take advantage of double coupons as much as possible. Thanks to doubled $.50 and $.75 coupons, I have gotten things like toothpaste (Crest or Colgate), toothbrushes, shaving cream, and rice for free. I have paid $.50 for yogurt multi-packs and soup. And I have paid far less for some items than I ever would have had I bought them at the dollar store, a warehouse club, or Aldi's. My strategy is to hold on to the big coupons until the item goes on sale. If it is a product I regularly use and the coupon is about to expire, then I will probably end up using it regardless, because I am still saving money.

I have not had much luck with BOGO coupons. Inevitably, they expire before the product goes on sale, so the savings is not that great. Plus for a lot of products, the free thing is something I would not normally buy (though every once in awhile this has allowed me to try a new product that I ended up liking).

Aldi's
And speaking of Aldi's, if you have one near you, I urge you to check it out. I typically start my shopping there, where I spend far less on produce and meat than I would anywhere else. I also buy snack foods there. Whatever I can't get at Aldi's, I pick up at Giant Eagle or Walmart, because Aldi's does not have everything.

A really good thing about Aldi's is if you are not satisfied with something, they will refund your money and replace the product. Once I bought awful-tasting (like cardboard) flavored pasta, which I returned for a refund. On top of that, because I complained to the manufacturer, that company sent me four replacement boxes of different flavors. I ended up liking most of the other flavors, which I will buy again. Maybe for a future post, I will list the products that I love from Aldi's, and we can compare notes. I'm telling you, most of the Aldi brands are just as good as the expensive ones. (And I buy generic for many purchases nowadays anyway, which is another way to save money)

Keeping track of prices
If I were working full-time, I would not do this because it quite time-consuming, but if you have the time, I recommend it. I have a handful of index cards, organized by food category, that list a product name, size, and what it costs at various places (in my case, Giant Eagle, Aldi, and Walmart, and Target every once in awhile). I do this by going through my grocery receipts and circulars (you can do this in the evening when you are watching mindless TV) and by writing down the info while at the store. If you know what something costs, then you will know whether or not the sale price or the double coupon makes it a good deal. Most yogurt brands, for example, are cheaper at Walmart. But when they go on sale at Giant Eagle and can be used with a coupon, it is better to go with Giant Eagle. Most items at Giant Eagle are more expensive than at Walmart, even when GE has a bogo. Don't be fooled by that; know your prices! Maybe for a future post, I will share some specific prices, to prove my point.

The other thing keeping track of prices made me realize is how much the price of groceries has gone up since I started shopping again two years ago. Back then I could get the big bag of 8 O'Clock coffee for $11 or $12 at Giant Eagle. Now it costs over $17. I drink a lot less coffee now! But seriously, even in the last couple of months, I have had to change the price of some items on my cards several times. Depressing.

Researching prices and taking advantage of matching prices
Walmart will match a competitor's price, but not if that competitor has a special card/program (like GE's advantage card). That rules out probably 95 percent of GE's sale items, but I have saved some money using Target's circular while shopping at Walmart. I think Target also matches prices. Others do as well. Sure, it is a pain to carry around a few circulars, but if you know what you want/need and don't go crazy, then it is not a big deal.

Lists and secondary lists
It is important to have a list; otherwise, you risk buying more than you need (which I do way more than I should). But on the back of my grocery list, I also have a secondary list, which contains products that I will need in a month or so. If an item from that list is on sale and I have a coupon, then I pretty much always buy it, knowing I am saving money in the long run. Also, during the weeks I am going to both GE and Walmart, I write down the circular sale price of items on my list so I can compare prices while at the store. Not all sale prices make it into the circular, which is why I sometimes veer from my list.

That is all I have for now. I am interested in hearing your thoughts. I am always looking for ways to save money.

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