Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shopping and saving money????

Saving on shopping puts money in the bank!
Most of you know that I LOVE COUPONS!! Using coupons and finding deals, I have a small stockpile of a few items. I have enough laundry soap to last the next year, enough dryer sheet to last the next 6 months, deodorant to last a year, and a few other stockpile items. I don't do the extreme coupon shopping, just collect items that we use when they are at a good price. I don't have enough room to do a huge stockpile and don't like to invest that much time and effort into building it! I just try to get the best deal I can for items we use.

I home school the boys, that means all meals are in the home! Marty does get lunch at work sometimes, but only about 2 times a week. That means I need food for 3 meals a day all 30 days of the month, for a family of 4. Over the years, I have worked out what my personal price point  (PPP) was for most items. Following that PPP and couponing, I can feed the family for around $300 a month. Lots of folks spend that each week. I stock up when the cost is lower than my PPP, and skip buying items when they're over my PPP. Simple, right?? Now that doesn't mean that each month I only spend $300, some months I might spend $400 other months only $100. By stocking up at the lower price, I have food to use up some months and only have to pick up a few perishable like milk or bread.

Here are some other basic rules I follow to keep that cost so low.

I try to keep the cost for every meal under $5.00 for the whole meal, not per family member. That means I have to be careful to buy meats at lower costs.
Buy in larger packages and make more than 1 meal out of it.
I don't meal plan for everyday or even for each week, I buy items that I can make into a meal at anytime. Our daily cravings change so having a variety of foods to choose from keeps everyone happy.
I buy items that I can make quickly or that I can put into the crockpot.
I will buy an item that is not on my list if it's a good deal!
I will shop at different stores to get the best deals. The savings can add up to more than the cost of gas.

So now, here are some of my Personal Price Points.

Meats- in general I try to stay below $3.00 per pound.
   Chicken- bone-in below $1.00 per pound
   Chicken- boneless below $1.70 per pound
   Ground Beef- below $2.70 per pound
   Steaks- below the $3.00 per pound
   Pork- chops and loin  $2.50 per pound
   Ham- bone-in below $1.50 per pound
   Ham- boneless below $2.50 per pound
   Fish- close to $3.00 per pound
   Block or shredded- below $4.00 per pound  (watch the package size and do the math)
   Slices- below $2.50 a pound
Dairy products- Butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese- below $2.00 a pound
Milk- Below $2.60 a gallon
Produce- all below $1.00 per pound or $1.00 per meals worth (That means some things like lettuce might cost $1.50 per pound but I can get at least 2 meals out of it.)
Canned Veggies- below $0.60 can (This is where shopping at the Dollar Tree can help.)
Canned Fruit- below $0.80 a can
Paper towel- below $0.50 per roll
Toilet Tissue- My real target is as close to $0.01 per sq ft. But lately the price is higher at $0.02 per sq ft. (This is easy math, 100 sq ft package= $2.00 or less)
Laundry soap- as close to $0.05 per load (34 load package= $1.70)
Condiments- Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, ect. Below $1.00 per bottle
Dry Pasta- below $1.00 per pound
Mac-n-cheese- $0.35 per box

Frozen items is harder to put a PPP, they vary in meal size and value to your needs. This is where my meal cost price point comes into play more. If I still target under $5.00 for the meal yet am wanting to buy a frozen Lasagna for an easy meal night, I might look at coupons and sales to find one around $7.00 or less for the larger family size. Then I have to look at cutting my meal cost for the rest of that day to make up the difference. Lunch might be cheap sandwiches at a meal cost of only $3.00 to offset the dinners higher cost.

Shopping at different stores, what deals can you really get???

I enjoy shopping and saving money, I get more excited to see a total savings of 50% or more than opening gifts on Christmas morning! When Dollar Tree started taking coupons in the Fall of 2012, I was delighted. I was able to stock up on different products at a huge discount! They carry Hefty brand baggies, there are coupons out for $1.50 when you buy 2, that means paying only $0.50 for 2 boxes at the Dollar Tree.
I shop at the hispanic/ ethnic stores for great deals on meats and produce. They put dry pasta on sale regularly, it's usually a 7oz package size but at a sale price of 3 or 4 for $1.00. That make the price right around $0.60 to $0.75 per pound. I have gotten some great deals on cereal there too.
Drug stores are great for finding deals on paper products and cleaning supplies. I have also gotten awesome deals on frozen pizza and Splenda at these stores. Pay attention to their coupon books, you can "stack" at these stores as well for extra savings!
Big box stores, well I don't do much shopping at Walmart, yes they will price match but the hassle you might go through is now worth it. I can get a better deal elsewhere most of the time. Target is a great place to shop, but you have to know your prices and do your homework before you go. They offer coupons to print from online, and mobile coupons. You can "stack" coupons, use a "Red-card" for extra 5% savings, and bring your own bags for $0.05 off for each bag used. Another way to get extra savings is to fill your prescriptions there and sign up for the RX Rewards. For every 5 prescriptions filled, they mail you a 5% savings card. It is only good for 1 day, but multiple purchases in that day. The "Red-card" is either a credit card (you can apply online) or a debit card. The Debit card is easy to get, take a check into the service counter and ask for a Red-card, they will scan the check and issues you a temporary card, the card will come in the mail. You will use it like a debit card, mine used the same PIN as my bank debit card. I have noticed that it takes a few days for it to show up on my bank website, so be careful not to overdraw your account. The best of all, you can stack all these savings together!
Office supply stores can be good to find paper products and coffee. Sometimes you can get deals on cleaning supplies as well. And of course, paper and ink for printing coupons. I also sign up for the rewards programs and get coupons. I used one to buy a paper cutter to cut coupons.

Now, onto coupons!!!

Coupon policies are different for each store. But there are a few basics to remember, Use a coupon if it is a better deal, and don't buy something just because you have a coupon. Buy the products your family is going to use, exception is when you are buying free or close to free for donating. Check the expiration dates, but also if it is with in a day or so after expiration, ask the store if they will accept it. I have been able to use a few coupons for great deals after expiration by asking first.
Most of the time you will only get "face value" for your coupons, that is a $0.50 off when you buy 2 is worth $0.50. But when your store has a doubling policy, that coupon can be worth $1.00 off 2 items. In my area, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, there are 2 stores with doubling and tripling policies but there is a catch!
Tom Thumb, a Safeway store, will double coupons up to $0.50- i.e. worth $1.00, and will triple $0.39 or less coupons. The catch, only the 1st like coupon with double or triple. So, if you have 2 or more coupons that are exactly alike, only 1 will double. Now you can do separate transactions to make both double, but that doesn't work if the sale is a Buy 1 get 1 50% off! You also have to pay close attention to the numbers in the bar code of the coupon, sometimes the coupon might look different but have the same number, in that case the 2nd will not double.
Albertson's is another store the doubles and triples. They triple only $0.35 or less coupons, and double the rest up to $0.50. While they have a benchmark for triples at only $0.35, they triple like coupons up to 4. And I have never seen a coupon with an odd value of $0.39! Albertson's also give a bag credit of $0.05 per bag used, so bring your bags with you to save more.

Stacking??? What's that?

Some store put out their own coupons, you've seen them in the paper, gotten them in the store and can recognize them because they say "Store Coupon" at the top as opposed to "Manufacture Coupon". Some of those stores allow what's called "stacking". It means that if you have a store coupon for a product and a manufacture coupon for the same product, you can use both on the product. Recently, I had a Target coupon for $3.00 off when you bought 3 Bounce Dryer sheets. I also had a manufactures coupon for $3.00 off when you buy 3 Bounce Dryer sheets. Target had small packages containing 34 sheets, for $1.97 each. By stacking the coupons, I got all 3 packages for free.

Where to get coupons???

There are many sources of coupons, most known way is from the Sunday papers. These days you can also print them from on-line locations and get them from the stores themselves. In the stores you will find them at displays, tear pads and blinking machines, and even "peelies" (on the product where you peel and use at the check out.)
You can also get E-coupons, electronic coupons that are loaded to your store rewards cards. I do some of the e-coupons but am very careful about the coupon values. If I load a $0.75 off coupon to my Tom Thumb card and then find a $0.50 off manufactures coupon, it is a better deal to use the paper coupon since I know it will double. I primarily only load coupons with a value of $1.00 or more to my rewards cards. Even then you have to watch for them to be good off 1 product and not off 2 or more. Example, e-coupon value of $1.00 off when you buy 2 is not as good as 2 paper coupons valued at $0.75 off 1.
E-coupons can be loaded through a stores website and sometimes extras through You pick and choose your coupons and then load them, they usually are available for use within 2 hours.
I have asked folks at church to bring me their unused coupons. I even have 1 person that brings me her grocery ad's because she gets ad's for some stores I don't. I can then price compare and plan a shopping trip to a different part of town if the deals are good. That brings us to the next point!

How to read the ad's and find the deals!!

I sit down with a pad of paper and the sale ad's. As I go through the ad's I write down the store name, and then list items that I think we might need, things that are at my PPP or better, and things that I know we need. As I go through each store ad, I make a new column for each store. If I come across an item at a better price at a different store, I write down the new price under that store's column and then go back to the higher price and draw 1 line through it. Only 1 line! If later in the week when I am out shopping and find most of the items I really needed at other stores but still have 1 item listed at a great price at a store I haven't made it to, I can then make a decision if it is worth my time or gas to travel to that store or pick it up where I am at for a higher price. Example; I put tomatoes down for $0.88 per pound at Sprout's, but I have found everything I need at Albertson's and they have tomatoes for $0.99 per pound. I will probably pay the $0.99 a pound for tomatoes and not drive halfway across town to get only tomatoes at the cheaper rate.
The other thing to keep in mind is prices off multi packs. If you buy soda, you will see prices for 6, 12, 24 or even 30 packs. This is where you have to do the math. Take the price and divide it by the count. You might think your getting a better deal buying the larger count but in reality the better deal might be on the medium count package.

So, I have given you just the basics. If you have questions, PLEASE ask. It might, probably will, spark more helpful information.