5 Money Saving Myths, Busted!

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After sending my sister a ridiculous number of emails asking how she saves so much money on groceries, she finally agreed to guest post on the topic– probably just to get me out of her hair.  You see, she’s a master at getting healthy food (you won’t see 100 bottles of mustard at her house!) at great prices and I wanted some of that couponing mojo to rub off on me.  I’m so excited she’s sharing her wisdom on the blog today.  After all, it’s Spice Up Your Kitchen week and you can’t have a spicy kitchen without food– so you might as well get is as inexpensively as possible, and perhaps use that extra cash to get something you’ll really love.  🙂

Easy Tips For Saving Big Bucks on Groceries{via freedigitalphotos.net}

I saved $90 at the grocery store last week. I saved money on fresh produce, lean meats, and organic dairy. I paid $100, so it was only a 45% savings off of my grocery bill– but it usually doesn’t get better than that for me at my local grocery store. I am not an extreme couponer, buying things I don’t need or changing my family’s eating values just because some food is free. But I’m also not a casual couponer, who uses a coupon as soon as she gets it. I like to use the term Strategic Shopper; it places me at the happy medium, with great savings and healthy food. The truth is, we eat really well in my family. We also save money really well.

This is not a guest post in the typical sense. I’m not a blogger, just Carrie’s sister.  Please bear with me if I’m not the best blogger you’ve ever read and my pictures aren’t perfect. I just hope I share a little knowledge that will take your grocery budget a long way. At least, longer than it has been stretching lately.

I love to save money. I am always looking for ways to reduce our expenses without sacrificing our lifestyle. Before I started using coupons, I heard several myths about saving money that I soon realized just weren’t true.  Below are the top 5 money-saving myths that are getting in the way of you saving money at the grocery store, and how you can beat them!

Busting Money Saving Myths
Saving money? Let’s do this thang! My shopping strategy keeps things running smoothly.

Myth #1: Buy In Bulk

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I used to go to Target to “stock up.” Now I cringe to think about the prices I paid for household goods that I thought I was getting for a bargain. I would walk out of there with a bill larger than what I now spend in a month, with a third of the stuff. That is not to say that buying in bulk never saves you money, just that you can probably get it for less with a little finesse.

For example, if you peek into my stockpile you will see 9oz bottles of Dawn. Who buys those tiny bottles?! We all know that the unit price on those little teeny bottles is terrible. Right? Wrong. Big, national drugstores regularly sell those bottles for $1 each.  Subtract a coupon you get from the weekly coupon inserts and you can get the bottle for almost free (sometimes, totally free.)  Use that same coupon on a large 24 oz bottle and it goes far less, and it certainly won’t be free.  In the end, the unit price for the small bottle of Dawn is much less than the unit price for the large bottle when you use coupons strategically.

Myth #2: Buy Generic

It is true that the sticker price on a generic item is usually the lowest price available. Generic products, however, rarely issue coupons. Although a bag of store-brand frozen vegetables runs $1 – $1.50, there are a few different brand name vegetables that regularly go on sale for $1 per bag. Those brand names also regularly issue coupons. Lately, I have been getting frozen vegetables for free or $0.50 per bag. Because frozen food doesn’t spoil quickly, I can buy a month’s supply during one sale and not have to ever pay more than $1 because it’s not on sale. Canned tomatoes are another item where this holds true. What to do about more perishable items? That’s why the next myth needs to be debunked.

Myth #3: Shop Less

Many sites suggest not going to the grocery store more than once a week. This isn’t an out-and-out myth, because it is sometimes true. I am a mom, so I am busy. I strive to go only once a week. But there are two scenarios in particular that drive me to the store more than once a week. The first scenario is when a desired, highly perishable item is on sale. For my family, these items are chicken breasts and red peppers. I will buy a package of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week, and stop by the store at the end of the week so we can eat chicken breasts the next week. Because they go on sale every 3 – 4 weeks, we usually only skip 1 or 2 weeks of chicken dinners (and even then, I might thaw some that I packed away).

The second scenario is not exactly going to make me seem sane, so first hear me out. My local store sometimes has gift card promotions, where you get a $10 Catalina when you buy a gift card for $50 or more. A Catalina is a coupon that prints at the register when you buy something that triggers the coupon. You have to use it in a subsequent transaction. My store will only let you do this gift card deal once a day. When those deals happen, you’ll see me go to the store once a day. I typically buy an Amazon gift card or an iTunes card for my niece (never pay full price for an iTunes card — they are always on sale somewhere!). I made $10 every time I went, which isn’t too bad for 15 minutes of my time. After a week, I saved $70 off of my groceries without using a single coupon. That is how you save money on the items that never go on sale, and get gift cards you can use for items you’ll buy elsewhere.

Myth #4: Coupons are only for junk food

This is not one of the grocery “tips” I found online. This is what people say to me, directly or indirectly, when they hear about my money-saving hobby. I tell people that I save a ton of money with coupons and they think of ramen noodles, candy bars, and fake cheese.

This is 2013. You can find a coupon for organic, gluten-free, or lactose-free foods if that’s what you want to eat. My family eats 10% organic, 80% “whole,” and 90% lean foods. We are also 100% against confining ourselves to any single dietary category. Let’s suffice to say that you can save money on just about anything at the grocery store. I use coupons for hormone-free eggs, organic yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and almond milk. If there isn’t a coupon for it, I time my purchases so I only buy them when they’re on sale. Here is a picture of my cart a few weeks ago. I’m not going to pretend to be perfect in our food choices, but I’m still hesitant to share our weekly eats with the internet. I know all you Lemonade readers are kind, so I’m putting it out there for you to see. The point I want to share is that I paid retail for only two items. Can you spot them?

Busting Money Saving Myths

Jelly and broccoli. They weren’t on sale, but my family devours them. Everything else in there was on sale (Chicken breasts BOGO [buy one get one free]), had a coupon (deli meat had a peelie coupon), or both (frozen corn was on sale for $1 and I had a $1 coupon, making it free).

Myth #5: I don’t have time to save money

Heck, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands either. One reason why I put together elaborate shopping lists and pair sales with coupons is because I like the thrill of getting items for a steal. But the truth is, once you get the hang of the sales cycle and your price points, you could probably save 20% off of your monthly grocery budget with about 10 minutes of planning with the store circular and 10 minutes planning your meals for the week based on what’s on sale and what’s in your stockpile. If you take the next step, adding coupons into the mix, the easiest way to get them is to order from a coupon clipping service. It takes me about 20 minutes to order $40 worth of coupons on items I already buy. I pay about $4. Is 20 minutes of your time worth $36?  Mine is!

Now that I’m in the groove, “strategic shopping” probably costs me about 2 hours a week, to put together my grocery list, print and clip and order coupons, and the extra time I spend in the store. With $90 in savings, I’m saving $45 an hour.  But even if you put in 20 minutes and save 20%, that’s a great ‘paycheck’ for you, for a little extra time.

Thanks for letting me bust these ‘money saving myths’, and share simple ways to save you money at the grocery store.  I’d love to share more money saving ideas and my strategic shopping system in future posts, what do you think?

Aren’t those great tips?  And she’s the real deal, too– her family eats healthy food often made from scratch.  Plus, if she can find time to strategically shop than I can too, because she works full-time and has a long commute on top of being a mom to a preschooler.  Do you have questions about saving money at the grocery store, or anywhere else for that matter?  I know ‘Professor Rebecca’ would love to answer your questions!

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  1. We use the Common Kindness, Mambo Sprouts and the Greenbacks Gal to get all of our organic food coupons. I’ve also started a price book per the suggestion of the Grocery Budget Toolbox. They have been great ways to save.

  2. Love this post and my grocery cart looks pretty much like your sisters.
    I’d love to know which websites she goes on to order and print her coupons.

    1. I get my coupons from a lot of sources, which would probably be a whole other post!

      My favorite internet coupons come from coupons.com and stonyfield.com (they reload coupons at the beginning of each month), and I use http://www.thecouponclippers.com to buy in bulk.

      1. I’d love to read this “whole other post”!

        Also maybe more info on how/why to use sites like thecouponclippers.

        Great post! Thanks!

  3. Great post! I too am a big believer in buying the little free dishwashing soap than the big container. Took a while to get the husband on board with us not buying the Costco sized bottle. Plus the big containers take up so much room!

  4. Great tips! I love that you’ve debunked all this (I new a whole lot of these!) Another tip: buy real food. You get better bang, nutrition, and value if you are staying somewhat away from packaged foods!

  5. Great tips for newbies to the “saving” world. 🙂 Also, along the lines of what Gina said — find your local farmer’s market, and show up at the end of the day. You’ll come home with armloads of fresh fruits and veggies for pocket change.

    1. I always wondered if there was a trick to getting farm fresh food for less, this is a GREAT tip! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great tips! I have to admit, I gave up on coupons when I found that I was just buying those items because I had a coupon. Now I just use coupons if they happen to coincide with my list.

  7. These are great tips! I second the myth that people don’t have the time to save…it just takes some practice and getting used to:)

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  9. I’m one of those who is guilty of shunning the smaller sized dish liquids (hanging head in shame), but you make a good point that with the coupon savings they can practically be free. Walgreens almost always has the little bottles of Dawn on sale. Great information – thanks!

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  14. I just spent 2+ hours poring over the coupons on coupons.com and couponclippers.com. Most of the coupons are, in fact, for prepackaged junk food or quick-prepare meals. The few produce, meat, and dairy coupons that were on couponclippers are for more expensive items, only 1 coupon per item (as far as I could see), and did not lower those items to the price of cheaper brands (Egglands Best eggs were not lowered enough, for example). Also, most of the coupons worth getting expire in just 2-4 weeks, so as opposed to your advice, you would have to use them in the next 2-4 weeks instead of saving them for a sale. To combine them with a sale you would have to get very lucky. Is there a method or pattern you have noticed to predict when items will be on sale? I’d hate to spend money on coupons that expire and not use them because I was holding out to see if an item went on sale.

    1. This is a great question, and I agree that many coupons are for highly processed foods that I personally don’t serve my family. One way I look at it is when I do find coupons for more natural/ organic brands, I am saving money while getting a better product (even if the money saved isn’t as much for the more processed version). Using coupons for those types of food allows me to save on higher quality foods. For example, I like Pepperidge Farm bread because the variety we like doesn’t contain ADA (that ‘yoga mat’ chemical in the news). When I get a coupon for $1 off 2, I’ll look in the weekly circulars for a store that has their PF bread on sale and go there to stack my coupon with their sale. One loaf stays out and one goes in the freezer for next week.

      As for sales cycles, YES, usually there is a pattern! Stores differ, but I’ve heard many follow a 6-week cycle. Perhaps spend a few weeks tracking the sales prices of your favorite foods at the grocery stores– see when they go on sale, off sale, and on sale again. I bet it’ll follow a 6-week cycle, and you’ll know better about when to get coupons for that product. Freezers are a great tool, too– when you can stack the coupons with a sale, stock up on items and freeze them!

      It’s a lot of work to get into the nitty gritty. But if you put the legwork in now, you can really save a lot on groceries moving forward.

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