Cool Ideas

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half NOW!

by Stephanie Nelson

I have been a Strategic Shopper, paying less with sales and coupons, for over 15 years. My average savings, shown at the bottom of my receipt each week, is 50%. However, with two growing sons my total grocery bill has crept up over the years. Therefore, for the past several weeks I have been performing major surgery on my grocery spending to find every savings opportunity available without compromising the quality of our meals.

It's working-each week I have successfully spent less than my budgeted amount, with the help of the free Best Deals Lists at couponmom.com, of course. However, in addition to taking advantage of stores' best deals each week, I have slashed our grocery bill consistently with these five strategies.

  1. Before planning your shopping list and meals for the week, check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer and come up with menus based on what you have on hand. Be creative!

  2. Check your stores' weekly ads and the lists on couponmom.com and plan the rest of the week's meals around featured sales items. Stock up on rock-bottom deals for future weeks. Maximize your coupon savings by using every available coupon source-the newspaper, printable sites, electronic coupons, mailers, register coupons, Entertainment Book coupons and more.

  3. Compare prices for your common items at a few nearby stores and cherry-pick the deals if necessary. For example, I've been making one shopping trip per week with two stops. First I go to Trader Joe's for apples, bananas, romaine lettuce and oranges because they are less expensive than my grocery store's prices. I go to one major supermarket for the rest of my items after that. You may have a discount store in your area that offers lower prices on some items that is worth an extra stop. Avoid going to the store more than once a week.

  4. Consider "simple substitutions." My theory is that I do not have to get the "best" brand for every item I buy. Even if I could tell the difference between the most expensive name brand and a less expensive option, my standard is "good enough." If the less expensive item is good enough and everyone likes it, I'll save the money on that. For example, my husband's Vermont Maple Syrup at $12 a bottle is 16% of my weekly grocery budget-no thank you! The store brand pancake syrup at $1.99 is good enough. Yes, I can tell a difference and the real stuff is better, but I'd rather spend that money on more items.

  5. The kids are home during the summer, and that can really drive up your grocery costs. Plan on meal and snack options that fit your budget, and then let them know what they are. You don't want to discover that they ate the ingredients for Wednesday's dinner because they didn't realize you had a plan. Examples of inexpensive, healthy snacks include store brand Popsicles (Pop Ice is easy on the budget), popcorn, pretzels, carrot sticks and bananas.

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABCNews.com. You can find more of her savings tips from her website at www.couponmom.com

To save more at the grocery store, be sure to print free coupons from our Printable Grocery Coupons page!

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