My Bain (of existence) is Your GAIN

Last week I wrote about saving money on your taxes.  Which is great and all, but what about something that can help you all year long.  I want to help you with your big expenses.  Something that can help save you money in a major way.

An issue that everyone-princess or not-deals with is grocery shopping. It’s even said that Michelle Obama does her own grocery shopping. Though I don’t think handing a list to a bunch of secret service men is the grocery shopping we’re used to.  Personally I see grocery shopping as the bain of my existence. I hate doing it. With clothes shopping at least you get to enjoy the fruits of your excursion for months if not years to come. Food is a consumable item and you really don’t have anything to show for it once eaten. To spend a lot of money on it just seems wrong.

There are a lot of ways to save your cash from being hijacked at the checkout line. And remember I’m not so impractical as to suggest that the best way to save money is to eat less, some advice is just ludicrous no matter how useful it is.

And of course everyone knows that coupons can help reduce your grocery bill. But I’d like to go beyond that. To reduce the amount of money I spend each week at the supermarket I play the circular game. No, I’m not talking about some type marble game you played as a kid.  I’m talking your weekly grocery ad.

Have you ever felt like the items you buy one week always seem to go on sale the very next week?  Don’t let this happen to you! Most grocery store sales ads go in 6 or 12 week cycles. Learn the grocery cycles and you can stock your pantry at the lower prices.

For example typically if a grocery store puts an item on sale one week it won’t put it on sale again for another 6 or 12 weeks. Items that you only see on sale every once in a great while are probably on a 12 week cycle and items that you see on sale frequently are probably on a 6 week cycle.

It is most important to be vigilant to these store cycles. Do this, and you’ll never be forced to pay retail again! Not to mention that it can save you a lot of extra green at the end of the month.

If you notice an item is on sale that you use with some frequency buy as much as you can use without it going bad.  For example, don’t buy 6 weeks worth of fruit because there is no way you can eat enough apples to save them from going bad before 6 weeks is up.

The best way to win at the circular game is to stockpile the most frequently used items. If you go to the grocery store every few days and only get what you need for the next few meals you are throwing money away, plain and simple. Let’s analyze this type of grocery shopping.

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When you shop every few days you aren’t able to purchase items on sale unless they are on your list of items necessary to make a meal in the next few days. Most people who shop this way are only looking at foods that sound good to them that day. When you stockpile food you’re still able to shop for foods that sound good that day, but now you’re shopping in your cupboard and freezer!

Let me break this whole idea down so you can see the savings. Now typically, in my area, ground beef cost anywhere from $3.99 to $1.99 a pound. And let’s you buy 3 pounds of ground beef a week. If one week you see ground beef on sale at the low end of that range you should stock up, buying 9 pounds of it that week.  That’s an instant $6 savings each week.

Which might not sound like a lot, but imagine doing that with dozens of items.  Things like chicken, cereal, canned goods, and pasta.  And let’s not forget the easiest things to stockpile forever like deodorant, soap, shampoo, and cleaning supplies.  By doing this you’ll quickly start to see your savings pile up in a big way.

There’s no reason to stockpile items that are not on sale! Only buy extra of items if they are on sale. Just keep working this tip each time you go grocery shopping. In the long run you should have well stocked cupboards filled with items always purchased on sale.

If you save on average $40 a week by stockpiling your most frequently used items from the grocery store that equals approximately $173 a month or over $2000 a year! That’s enough to take an extra vacation each year! We’re not talking small change here people.

If you want to watch the circulars to find out which stores have which items on sale that week but don’t want to go to drive to 4 or more grocery stores in your area then visit www.ppgazette.com . The Penny Pincher Gazette allows you to input your zip code and then it pulls up all the items that are on sale.

The Penny Pincher Gazette then takes it a step further organizing the sales into smart categories like soda and chips, baby items, produce, etc. This allows you to focus on only the items you frequently buy. You can click on categories of items you don’t buy so they don’t clog your search efforts.

According to Liz Pullman Weston at MSN money, PPG’s best feature is its rating system. The rating system allows users to highlight the best deals. For example if a sales deal only gets 2 stars it may not be as good as it looks, but if a sales deal gets all 4 stars then the deal is dynamite!

Also most sale cycles are seasonally predictable as well. For example during lent, non-meat items like tuna and soup are frequently on sale. To get the best deals on some items you generally only have one chance a year to get in on the savings as the deals are tied to an upcoming event. For instance diet food items are predictably on sale every January because many people decide this is the time of year they want to lose weight. GroceryCouponGuide.com provides a list of what items are typically on sale each month in this article . Keeping abreast of what type of items will be on sale in the coming months allows you to better plan your savings assault at the grocery store.

Saving money is something everyone needs to do.  Why turn over 20-30% more than you need to. I know sometimes people get embarrassed when trying to save money. No one wants to come off as a cheapskate, that’s embarrassing. But I’d say it’s more embarrassing to be broke at the end of the month.  So it’s your choice.  Keep the money in your pocket or put it in someone else’s.

Below is a list of my Top 10 ways to save money at the grocery store without looking like a tightwad or getting embarrassed.

1.    Never shop in a hurry. Don’t stop by the grocery store on your way home from work. It’s one of the busiest times at a supermarket and you don’t want to rush in. When you rush you could forget necessary items and are more likely to buy the expensive brand rather than scan all the shelves for the cheapest brand of the item you intend to buy.

2.    Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Going shopping while hungry increases the chance that you’ll make impulse buys. When you shop on an empty stomach you end up with a cart full of snickers bars and deep fried items-trust me.

3.    Buy only what you need. If you’re strapped for cash, don’t go after that pack of Starbucks Frappucino or that filet mignon steak. Get just what you need.

4.    Pick what stores to go to. Some stores charge more for the same product. Farmer’s markets often have cheaper produce because the food is local and the middle man has been cut out.

5.    Don’t use a credit card to pay for your groceries. You defeat the purpose when you use a credit card. Pay in cash and count the money you saved versus your budget to realize your gains! Just think if you put that saved cash in your sock drawer every time you’d have a tidy little profit at the end of the month.

6.    Instead of buying fruit and vegetables that are pre-cut for you buy the items and cut them yourself. When you buy a head of lettuce and wash and cut it into bite sized pieces for a salad yourself rather than buying prepared bags of lettuce you can save up to 20% of the price!

7.    Don’t buy the salsa next to the chips! It is typically more expensive than if you were to buy salsa from the condiment aisle.

8.    Don’t buy from the organic isle. Organic items that are stocked next to its non-organic counter-parts are cheaper than if you were to get them from the organic aisle in the store.

9.    Don’t assume items on aisle end caps are special deals. You’ll see this a lot with soda. Don’t assume because like my English teacher taught me when you assume you make an ass(out of)u(and)me.

10.    If a store has a deal 10 for $10 don’t feel like you have to buy all 10 to get the sale price. Unless the deal specifically says you must purchase 10 of the item to get the sale price, 10 for $10 means that you could buy one for $1. Stores run this type of deal to trick shoppers into buying more of an item than they would on average.

If you follow this advice there’s no reason why you can’t save at least $40 a week on your grocery bill. That’s an extra vacation a year!

Remember a little over time adds up to a whole bunch. Spend smart and reap the benefits. Be sure to tune in next week when I go over more savings ideas that you won’t be embarrassed to use.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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