Cool Ideas

Save Hundreds on Groceries

by Stephanie Nelson

Last week I enjoyed participating in a "shopping challenge" for a television show as a savings expert. The rules were very specific. I had to buy groceries that would feed a family of five for a week while staying within a budget of $100. I could only use coupons from the past two weeks from the newspaper.

In spite of the strict rules, I was able to buy $300 of groceries for $100, which included more than enough food to feed a family a balanced diet for a week. In fact, I was able to stock up for future weeks on many items. You can use the keys to my shopping success to save big too:

Plan your shopping list: I used the lists in the Grocery Deals by State section of couponmom.com to do the work of matching store sale items with coupons available from the newspaper and online sites. In a matter of minutes I was able to figure out which items to buy to get the biggest bang for my buck.

Shop multiple stores: With today's grocery prices, it can be worth going to a couple of stores each week to "cherry-pick" the best deals at each store. I would not have been able to stretch my $100 as far as I did if I had shopped at only one store. I used three store lists from couponmom.com and also searched for newspaper coupons to match other store ads using the site's Grocery Coupon Database. It does not take long to shop when you have a well-organized, short list of items. With this approach, two or three short shopping trips may take the same amount of time that one long trip would, and you would definitely spend less money overall. Save money on gas by stopping at stores when you are already in the area doing other errands.

Print Coupons: The key to saving the most is to find as many coupons as possible for the items you need to buy. Because you can usually combine store coupons with manufacturers' coupons, I was able to combine coupons from the newspaper and printed from the web with store coupons that resulted in getting many items free or for pennies. I also printed coupons for many items from the Grocery Coupon Database at the Coupon Mom website.

Be Flexible: Be willing to use any reputable brand for the items you need. If it's on sale with a coupon, consider trying a new brand. Store brands should be the winning choice if they are less expensive than the coupon deal or if a coupon deal is not available. You will also save more money if you are flexible about your store choices. If you are not able to shop at more than one store per week, then be willing to go to the store that has the lowest prices for the items that you need.

Stephanie Nelson has shared her savings tips on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Good Housekeeping Magazine, ABCNews.com and many local news broadcasts. You can find more of her savings tips on her website at www.couponmom.com. Copyright 2008 Stephanie Nelson.

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