Alternatives To Clipping Coupons
1. Follow your weekly sale ads and decide on prices of meat first.
Usually, meat is your most expensive grocery item. Compare prices of just the meats you buy the most. For example, we buy chicken, pork and fish. I don’t worry with beef, mutton, or turkey because my household eats very little of these items. Besides, we can go to the restaurant when we’re craving these items probably cheaper than me trying to figure out how to cook the perfect filet mignon. And it always tastes better when someone else cooks!
Compare the prices by circling or listing on a separate sheet of paper. Pick the top 3 for your family. Make a rotating meal guide for 15 days (21 days if you cook 7 days a week), and allow 1-2 days to be hearty vegetarian dishes you can find on Pinterest. For example, week 1: Meatless Monday, Tuesday is oven baked chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted zucchini and fresh fruit that was on sale for the week (I pick 3 fruits like a bag of grapes, tangerines and apples), Wed is chicken nuggets with corn and green beans with fresh fruit, Thurs grilled chicken with mixed veggies and fresh fruit. Fri we eat out. This is when we get our cravings for pizza, bbq, steak, etc. Like I said, steak always tastes better at a great steak house.
Check for coupons in your local paper for something like Logan’s Roadhouse or Pizza Hut, etc. to save when eating out (but every once in a while if we are alone and kids are staying with grandparents, we go somewhere nice on a date). Sat. eat leftovers from the week (if there are any) or Chicken soup with carrots and celery and fresh fruit. Sun Slow cooker mac & cheese served with green beans and fresh fruit. Then start your next week. Rotate your schedule each week. You get the idea. This will cut your meat budget by about 25% the first time.
Reader tip: Don’t be afraid to shop discount meats.
First, investigate your stores. Higher end grocers like Kroger, for example, have higher quality of meats that do not expire for 2-4 days from clearance tagging. You can freeze these in portions immediately or cook ahead for your meal planning. Look for BOGO meat sales (yes they happen by the pound and they’re not clearance), and stock up for your cycle. For example, ground chicken at our house is a cheap option to go in many dishes. Instead of grilled chicken, we have chicken burgers on the grill. Oven roasted becomes a casserole in the winter time. When it is on sale for $1.50 per lb to $2 per lb, I buy enough for a week. If it goes cheaper or on clearance, I buy 2 weeks worth, portion it out in the freezer and follow my menu plan. Hot dogs often go $0.50 – $1 per package (even free matching coupons and sales), and often, these are Oscar Meyer so you can control nitrites and sodium for your kids.
2. Next thing is produce.
Shop seasonal first and foremost. Look on Pinterest to see what produce is in season. Get your ads (more than one to compare prices again) and compare produce prices. If you have an Aldi’s, their produce prices are often the cheapest. Button mushrooms are often $0.69 for 8oz, baby carrots sometimes $0.50 per lb.
Meijers runs sales like this from time to time and check Meijer’s clearance section as well. Kroger and Meijers have “hidden in plain sight” produce markdowns. Look for spots on the produce when you find their hidden deals and always smell. Often times, you will find a package with one bruised orange and 8 perfect ones. Take it home, and toss the soft one or make it into fresh juice immediately. Place in the bottom of your fridge for a quick snack.
Spotted bananas make the best desserts and smoothies. Often times, you can reduce your oil in cakes and breads with bananas or remove sugar from smoothies to create tasty, healthy snacks. Kale and greens in general are always cheaper in the fall and make delicious chips.
Spritz sesame oil and a pinch of salt over fresh kale and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees for some crispy, healthy snacks. I like them better than chips myself. Use apps like Saving Star that offers a free rebate on items on Fridays and 20% off the fresh produce of the week on Tuesdays.
Reader tip: Don’t be afraid to rebate.
3. Get your kids involved.
Kids need to know that you’re not a “magic money machine.” Seriously, kids just think money comes from mom and dad and if you don’t teach them, that is the relationship they’ll have with money for the rest of their lives. Don’t worry them with financial burdens, but let them know this is what money you have (pretend it’s $150) and ask them how you should spend it. Ask their favorite foods for menu planning and whether special requests like Trix brand cereal is something you can buy this week. Give them a budget ($5-$10 each or an amount you can work with) and some food options you have researched.
Kids love to shop with you because they feel important and recognized. They feel “grown up.” Say something like, “Let’s look what’s on sale” and make it a math puzzle. “If oranges are $0.77 each this week and we will eat 5, how much money will we need to buy 5 oranges?” My boys love it when we do math with their favorite foods. And when we go to the grocery store, I pretend we are trash collectors/recycling collectors. My sons (5 & 2) grab the items off the shelf (like cereal, produce, baked goods such as baking soda, etc.) and place it in the cart.
4. Use these sites I am going to give you.
These ladies (and their husbands in some cases) live and breathe coupon and internet deals all day and all year. But while you’re not into couponing, these people find deals outside of the traditional couponing realm. Their main goal? Only to save the most money if not get something completely free!
My first pick is to start with www.krazycouponlady.com. Make an account (it’s free and keeps up with some of your items on sale for the week and the best prices & easy to print). She also teaches what to buy in season at the best price.
Some stuff I stock up on like flour, canned pumpkin, canned green beans, peas, corn, carrots around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I stock up on frozen vegetables and fruits in the Summer when they’re at their cheapest. Some stuff like meat, fresh produce, milk, etc. go on sale every 2, 4 & 6 weeks, so I only buy what I need till the next sale cycle.
If you have a smart phone, download these 3 apps: Grocery IQ (your shopping list and matches coupons to your items if there are any), Savings Star (digital coupons and rebates), and Card Star (keep all of your shopping cards in one place so you don’t pack them to Aeropostale, Lowes, CVS or Kroger).
Then visit these sites when you plan to shop at specific stores outside your normal trips: www.allthingstarget.com, www.totallytarget.com, www.cuckooforcoupondeals.com, www.groceryshopforfreeatthemart.com & (my favorite for internet deals) www.groceryshopforfree.com (I use her to buy Christmas presents, birthday party gifts & toys for kids at Christmas). The Krazy Coupon Lady even helps with clothes and other household purchases.
That’s it for this article. Couponing may be fun for some, but there’s definitely other ways to save serious cash other than investing in big bulk stores or splurge spending. These alternatives definitely get the job done and will definitely leave more green in your wallet.