I’ve gone back and forth with myself on what to post for this portion on purchasing your groceries. With the coupon craze full steam ahead and the availability of information on the web about how to get the best deals at an all-time high, I felt like I wanted to write a disclaimer before I detailed what I do to save money. I came across two things that summed up how I was feeling. First, an article on a website that ,ironically,specializes in couponing, entitled Extreme Couponing 101: Burnout. It had some words of wisdom to offer about obsessing over coupons. Check it out, after you read this, of course
The second was an article in my planner by John Piper which contained this quote ~ “Use means, but don’t trust in means. Trust in God.” I think sometimes we are in danger of thinking it is entirely up to us to provide food and other products for our family and we forget who is ultimately responsible for our provision. Matthew 6 urges us ~
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? …
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So, while I don’t feel like there is anything wrong with using coupons to be good stewards of the money God has given us, I need to remember that they are merely tools. Ultimately it is God who provides all that we need and He does an infinitely better job than I ever could.
Phew! Okay, I feel better. We now return to your regularly scheduled post!
We’ve talked about planning out meals. Now that I have a plan, I have to purchase all of this stuff. And purchase it for as little as possible. I have to be careful about what I spend and make each dollar count to feed a family of eight. I’m sure you do, too, especially with the ever-increasing prices.
I don’t know about you, but I am busy. Too busy, I thought, to cut out coupons. Then we hit an very tight spot a few months ago and I couldn’t justify not using them and doing a better job of shopping deals. I was amazed at what I was able to buy for less. I got so excited about saving big $$ and it became a challenge for me each week. My husband was impressed, too.
Sometimes I feel like one of those coupon ladies that people roll their eyes at in the checkout line, but if they had to buy for my family, they would understand! And I am really a novice compared to some of the coupon queens out there.
Here’s what I have gleaned over the last couple of months and the routine I’ve developed. Again, this is what is working for me now.
After that, I’ve included a few pointers for whatever stage you might find yourself in, as well as links to websites and other coupon tips on my own site.
Bi-Weekly routine ~
Usually I do this on Sunday afternoon/evening while we are chilling. I’ll sit at the table near the living room while hubby watches a game or plays a game with the kids, so I am still somewhat involved :) It looks like a lot, but now that it is a habit, it goes by pretty quickly. So don’t get discouraged! (A.B. – I am talking to you ) The kids can help with this, too, so get them involved.
Make menu (for two weeks) if I haven’t already.
Look over sale ads (I have 3-4 that I always look at, sometimes I will browse others) I know you can just go to websites, but I am very visual, so I like to look at the ads with pics also :) Sometimes I use the websites to catch anything I missed.
Clip coupons from paper, and also those I have received in the mail throughout the week. I’ve heard that some ladies prefer to keep their coupon flyers intact and filed by date so they can reference them according to website. I still like clipping what we are likely to use and either toss the rest or pass them on to someone else.
File coupons. I came across this idea (see pics below) for filing coupons and it was actually the key to making me more consistent. I guess it just made sense to me. I needed more room than the little coupon wallets allowed, plus I found that the wallet categories were too general, making looking for a coupon a pain. It is just a plastic shoebox in which I used short envelopes with the tops cut off. Then I wrote categories on the short end of 3×5 card and stuck them in the envelopes in alphabetical order. You can tailor it to what you buy and after a couple of weeks of using it, I became very quick with filing. I have envelopes up front for different store-specific coupons and for restaurant and entertainment coupons. I keep a pen, scissors and small calculator in it and I fold the sale ads and put them on top for reference. You can find other methods of organizing here.
I may tweak my menu if there are great buys on something. For instance, last week asparagus was on sale, so I added that to a dinner.
I start making my lists. I usually go to two or three stores – Kroger, Publix, and either Walmart or Target. I know ladies who have been getting great deals at some of the drugstores, but I haven’t branched out to those. To make my lists, I use a these great little lists in my planner – there are six per month, so I can use one for each store every two weeks. You don’t have to have those. You can use a pad or just write your list on an envelope, which is what I used to do. I list the sale items first and fill in the rest where I think I get the best price.
Pull out coupons and put them in an envelope along with my list for each store. When I go to the store, all I take with me is my envelope and a pen to mark off or jot down things I might have forgotten. I leave my big box in the car in case I find a great deal in the store. Then I can run out and get the coupons. I know, I know, I should just take it in with me, but I just can’t bring myself to do it :) Plus I usually need all the room I can get in the cart!
When I do the ‘big shop”, I usually try to do it sans kids. It just works better for me. I can concentrate and get done in a fraction of the time. I can also shop for birthdays or holidays at the same time, if I need to and they aren’t exposed to a million germs! They do get to go when we just need a few things or to pick out a gift for a friends birthday. I think it’s important for them to go sometimes and it’s great for behavior training. I often take just one with me for shorter trips. Then I get one-on-one time with them and they get to help do the shopping and pick out flavors and such. They really enjoy this.
I have often looked at shopping as a chore. However, when I think about the alternatives, I am grateful to to be able to walk into the store and choose from thousands of items, put them in my cart, pay for them and drive home. We are blessed to have the conveniences we do. When I plan ahead, I find that I actually don’t mind the shopping. It is a treat for me to get out. Speaking of treats, this is my time to have a little treat like a fountain coke or now that it is getting cooler, a Starbucks hot chocolate
Then I bring the spoils home, my army of ants hauls it all inside, inspecting each bag like customs agents and we put it all away. Things we use immediately go in the pantry and inside fridge and things bought ahead are hidden stored in the back of the pantry, the laundry room shelf and the garage fridge.
Hear me again when I urge you to LIVE IN REALITY when it comes to what you can do. If you are spending hours getting ready each week, it may not be the best use of your time, especially if it robs too much time from your family. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t shop every store and get every bargain. Relax and do what you can. Some weeks I have great success, while others I have to be content to simply buy as much as I can on sale and let the rest slide.
Next week we’ll talk about preparing all that food with some tips that will hopefully save you some time.
If you have a question, do leave a comment, so I can answer it. Please chime in with your own tips. I’d love to hear them and I’m sure others would, too!