You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money on groceries. I may not have a storage shed full of enough “free” toothpaste and deodorant to keep us smelling fresh through the apocalypse, but I still save hundreds of dollars a year. If you’re stuck in all-or-nothing land, let me share some tips on how the average family can bring their food expenditure down. This post will be on store-specific things you can do; I’ll post one on general tips a little later.
Since my favorite grocery store left town a few years ago, I do most of my shopping at Target. And it doesn’t even have to be a Super Target; you can get most of your basic items at any store with a grocery section. Here are some ways to save:
- For the love of all that’s southern, sign up for a REDcard if you’re a regular shopper. (And, no, I’m not being compensated by Target or anybody else for saying that.) I used to balk at the thought of putting groceries on a credit card, but they now have one that’s a debit card. It works just like your regular debit card except for the fact that you can only use it at Target. It takes 5% right off the top of all purchases. If you spend even half of what I spend at Target, that’s significant. So far I haven’t been able to come up with a single good reason NOT to do this.
- Save the coupons that print at the register. OK, go ahead and toss the ones you know you’ll never use, but save the rest. They tend to be of higher value than coupons you get from other sources.
- Print coupons from Target’s web site. The neat thing about doing this is that a lot of the coupons you print from their web site will say “store coupon” at the top. That means you can use them at the same time as manufacturer coupons (like the ones in the paper). It’s called stacking, and it’s pretty much the only way you can use more than one coupon for the same product. It’s not unusual to get a product for next to nothing when you stack, especially if you can combine it with a sale price.
- Cartwheel by Target – Target: This is a Target-specific coupon app. You can scroll through the offers and upload the ones that you want. Most of them are for 5% off (so that makes it 10% if you’re using a REDcard), and you just ask the cashier to scan a barcode on your phone. The only bad part is that you have to do it after your purchases have been scanned and totaled, so if you’re like me and scan your card the second the first item is swiped, it’s annoying to have to wait. But it doesn’t really take that much time.
A lot of people think it’s expensive to shop for grocery and personal items at drug stores, but that’s not really true if you know how to work the store. And Walgreens does take a little work, but you can end up getting things really cheap (or even “better than free,” which means they pay you to buy them!). The secret is to pay close attention to their weekly ads. You get the best deals by combining sale items, store coupons from their ad, and manufacturer coupons. I’ve received more than one “nicely played” from a Walgreens cashier.
Another Walgreens secret is their Balance Rewards program. You get points on almost everything you buy (including prescriptions), and their weekly ad features items that earn extra points for that particular week. What’s even better is that they give you points for logging exercise and weigh-ins. You don’t even have to be losing weight; you can earn reward points just by weighing yourself. The minimum to cash out is $5, but it builds up quickly. Right now I have $35 on my card that I need to remember to use next time!
Back when I devised my coupon strategy, I didn’t have a CVS close enough to be practical. Now that I do, I haven’t regrouped yet. Which is pretty silly, because CVS is famous for its loyalty program. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on something I know nothing about, so I’ll just give you the link and say that serious couponers swear by it:
Those are the biggies around here. Please feel free to add something in the comment section about the best way to get grocery deals where you live.
Update: I finally made it to CVS. You can read my comparison of CVS and Target here.