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December 14, 2009

Grocery Saving Secrets

Buy Low & Never High
If you really want to make money in the stock market, you buy the stock at rock-bottom prices and sell them when the price is back up.

Grocery shopping is a little bit like the stock market. Instead of earning money, you are saving money. You can save the most when you can buy your groceries at rock-bottom prices and stock pile. If you never pay full price for an item, your grocery bill will be significantly decreased. Sounds simple, right? It can be, but if you have never "stockpiled" before, putting the concept into action can take a little work.

Once I really started using coupons, I found that building a stock pile came naturally. When something is on a really good sale or free, can you just buy one? No, you buy a lot and sometimes go over budget, but it was a good deal right? This is one of the tricks of couponing. How do you stockpile on a budget? Where do you store extra food? How do you know if it is a rock bottom price? Here are a few of my thoughts and opinions.

Stockpiling on a Budget: Having a working budget is step one on the road to frugalism. How do you stick with that budget and have enough to buy extras? This can be tricky. The goal is that you will save enough money each month by using coupons and shopping sales that you can use a portion of your budget each month to build up your stockpile. You don't need to get everything at once. When an item that you use often or think you could use often is on sale, buy enough to last you a month or two until there is another sale. The goal is that before you need that item again, there will be another sale to replenish your stock. Take it slow. Buy what you can when it works with your budget. Once you have a good stockpile, your budget will likely decrease.

Where do you store the extra food?
I live in a one bedroom apartment, and we are limited on storage space. Here is a glimpse of our hall closet:

The blue bin is full of Walgreens deals and freebies (toothpaste, shampoo, razors, etc.). The top shelf is packed with crackers, granola bars, and pasta. Get creative with the space you have. We have a bunch of our canned foods stored in the bottom cupboard of our entertainment center!

One key is to do what you can and not stress. Each person has a unique situation. If you can't store everything, just pick a few of the things you use most.

Rock bottom price: How do you know what the rock bottom price is for an item? Good question. Unfortunately there is not a magic excel sheet that tells you. This is something that you have to observe and set your own standard for. Prices vary by region and by store. Here are a few ways to discover those prices.

One of the best ways is through observance. Begin by keeping track of the top 10 items you buy. Keep your receipts for a month or two. What is the cheapest price you have found for those items? At which store can you get it the cheapest? Keeping track will help you learn the pattern of the sales. It will also help you be more aware of how much you are spending per item.
Example: Milk is something that we buy every week. I know that I can get milk for $1.88 a gallon at Albertsons and Broulims as long as I buy the right brand. That has been my low price for milk, until recently. I found a few weeks ago that I can price match the Smith's add at Walmart to get 1%milk for $1.67 a gallon. Now that is my target price.

Another way is to watch couponing blogs. As you follow the blogs, you will get a feel for what other couponers feel is a good deal for an item.

Last but not least- ask! Don't be afraid to ask other deal shoppers what they think about prices. My mother and sisters often get calls from me in the grocery store trying to decide if something is a good deal.

Creating a stockpile instead of the buy-as-you-need approach can save a lot of money. I encourage everyone to try it and see if it works for them. This month Daniel and I have spent less of our budget on groceries and saved more for travel and gifts. Not having to go shopping when times are tight is another great benifit of a stockpile.

Find more tips and ideas about stockpiling in these posts:

Money Saving Mom has a great post about the Buy Ahead Principle.
Saving with Shellie has a post called Stockpiling 101.


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