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31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Shop at More Than One Store (Part 3)

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

Taking all the information you gathered by scouting out your local stores and making a price book, it’s time to make your game plan for shopping at more than one store. Here’s what I’d suggest:

1) Consider How Much Time You Have to Invest

Time is money. So if it’s scarce for you, don’t expect that you’ll be able to spend six hours grocery shopping each week. That’s just not feasible or realistic.

I’d suggest that you be willing to set aside at least two hours each week if you want to see fairly significant savings. Invest 30 minutes in planning and clipping/organizing coupons and an hour and a half in shopping. In that timeframe, you should be able to plan your shopping trips and shop at one to three stores. It might sound unrealistic right now, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

But I Don’t Have Two Hours to Spend!

Maybe you don’t. But how important is saving money to you? Is it worth giving up time spend watching TV or working on a hobby? Look at your schedule and see if there is something you regularly do each week that you’d be willing give up in order to save money. You might find that clipping coupons and reducing your grocery budget can become a fun hobby in and of itself. And it’s one of the best hobbies ever because it doesn’t cost you money, it saves you money. Plus, it greatly benefits your family!

If you have more than two hours to invest per week, you can tailor your plan accordingly. Perhaps you have time to hit four or five stores, instead of two. Or maybe you have time to research more deals and clip more coupons. Do what works for you. However, don’t overdo!

2) Rotate the Stores You Shop At

When the weekly sales change in your area, sit down and quickly scan the grocery store fliers (most larger chains offer their fliers online), your price book, and your coupons, and decide which stores are running the best sales. Keep in mind what your schedule is for the week and what areas of town you’ll already be in. Based upon which stores have the best deals and what your schedule looks like for the week, plan your shopping trip accordingly.

I rarely shop at more than three stores in a week. A more normal week would include a stop at either Aldi or Dillons (a Kroger affiliate) and a stop at the health food store to look for mark-downs.

However, I rotate the stores very frequently depending upon the sales and what coupons I have. I usually go to a local store once a month when they have their Double Dollar coupon event, and then I go to Target once every 4-6 weeks, Walgreens and Walmart once or twice a quarter, Sam’s Club once or twice a year, and a Bulk Foods Store once every four to six months. On occasion, I’ll also pop into the dollar store.

So in a six month time period, I’ve likely shopped at nine to ten different stores–but I never shop at all of them in the same week, or even in the same month!

That’s the beauty of shopping at more than one store. You don’t have to shop at five stores each week, or even more than one. But you can rotate which stores you shop at every week in order to get the best deals and lowest prices.

3) Don’t Feel Obligated to Hit Every Deal

I think one of the biggest mistakes new couponers make is that they discover this world of paying pennies on the dollar and get so excited about all the money they are saving, that they go a little overboard. Pretty soon, they are completely burnt out and go back to spending large amounts at the grocery store each week.

The better approach is to take it slow. Pick and choose the best deals to do and don’t worry about hitting the others. There will always be another sale on milk and cereal or whatever else it is that seems like such a great deal at the time. Pace yourself and you’ll find that you enjoy it a lot more.

In addition, realize that it’s okay to step back and take a break every now and then. Sometimes, I’ll shelve my coupon box for a week–or even a month!–and just do my shopping at Aldi. Or even skip shopping and eat from the pantry that week. Maybe I didn’t get the rock bottom prices that week or miss out on some stellar deal, but over the course of the year, it’s much more money-saving and sanity-saving to pace myself.

How much time do you spend on bargain-shopping and coupon-clipping each week? Tell us in the comments because I’m very curious to know!

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  • Alyssa says:

    This is good info as I am trying to get better and better with my couponing.

  • Kathy says:

    Crystal, Thanks for sharing this part of couponing and shopping at different stores. My husband and I are trying to get out of debt desperately and are trying to start a savings so I am very motivated to coupon now. It has almost become a hobby itself and I really enjoy it, so does my husband when we get great deals on men’s body wash. Thanks for the window into how you spread out your shopping trips. Of course all our situations are a little different but it is helpful to see how you do this since you have been doing it much longer. I have been learning in the last months that it is okay to miss deals, most of them come around later anyways if you do need them at some point. Great post!

    • Beth says:

      @Kathy, I too think that allowing yourself to miss some great deals is a good point. If I followed up on all of the “great deals” I hear about, I could easily spend much more than our budget allows. I feel like it is a great game of “red light-green light.”

    • Meegan says:

      If you haven’t done so, I would invest in a Financial Peace University class. It’s hard to scramble up the $100 or so dollars to get the tuition for it, but Dave teaches you how to approach getting out of debt and in what order to do things. My husband and I went through it in August of last year and have significantly dropped our debt. Just a thought.

      • Kim says:

        We attended Financial Peace University and our class started a “scholarship fund” for future classes. Hopefully each class will “pay-it-forward”.

      • Kathy says:

        @Meegan, Thanks Meegan for the word on Dave’s class. My husband and I are currently reading Total Money Makeover and are huge Dave fans. I would like to read his Financial Peace Revisited next. Maybe his class too.

  • Shelah says:

    Thanks for setting us straight about “pacing ourselves”. I’m kinda intense and have a hard time letting good deals pass me by. But when I realize that I have 3 months worth of food in my freezer/pantry, maybe I could be a little choosier.

    Plus when I first started with coupons I bought junk food that my family never ate before. I’m done doing that. It’s not a deal if it ruins our health.

  • Marjorie says:

    Yesterday, I spent about an hour researching and coupon clipping. Between the buy-one-get-one free and my coupons, I saved 130.54. I needed 2 shopping carts (which has never happened before). Had I not purchased a rotisserie meal for our family to eat that night ($9.99) and gotten my son some sushi ($10.99 – ouch! didn’t realize it was that much), I would have spent approximately $90 instead of $111. It definitely pays to take time to do a little planning and clipping.

    And I totally agree about taking a break now and then. There have been a few weeks where I missed some sales with coupons because I was tired.

  • Marjorie says:

    p.s. I should mention that I clipped coupons I needed while watching my favorite soap opera! 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    Usually I pick one store per week where they have the absolute best deals and just go with that. This week, for example, it was Kroger. I don’t usually do more than one store per week but over the course of a month, I usually shop at all three major grocery chains in this area as well as CVS. I almost never go to Walgreens or Walmart, and rarely go to Aldi. (We’re pretty well-stocked right now, though).

  • Beth says:

    I generally spend about an hour each week planning the trip, and then another hour shopping. I’m basically a one store (Kroger) kind of person, with a rotation of CVS, and Target/Walmart thrown into the mix when I see some great deals that I don’t want to miss. I also occasionally send my husband to an alternate store (Meijer), if there are a few things that I’d like to get.

    I do find though, that if I spend an hour, rather than just 30 minutes, I can really know exactly what I’m getting, what I will pay, and what coupons I need. This saves me a lot of headache at the store.

    I also find that it helps me TREMENDOUSLY to go early on Saturday morning. My goal is to be out of the store by 9 when all the other shoppers arrive. I get overwhelmed when there are a lot of people there– it’s hard to wrangle a toddler, to do math, and to scan for items! By going at 7:30 or 8:00, I’m able to save more money (and my sanity), rather than just making desparation purchases to get out of the store.

    • @Beth,

      I agree with you on going early in the day. I also like to go in the evening around 8 or 9 when the store is also less crowded. Saves my sanity & I don’t feel like I’m constantly in someones way as I search through my coupon binder.

  • Ann B says:

    I typically spend 30-60 minutes coupon clipping and deal finding each week (usually divided up throughout the week) and 1-2 hours shopping depending on how many stores I go to. I sometimes divide it up and will make a CVS run right before I pick the kids up or with another errand. It usually all depends on how much time I have and if there is anything good in the sale flyers. Somtimes it’s one store, sometimes 3, occassionally (rarely) more.

  • Susan says:

    I find that a routine helps me contain spending better than following all the good deals. It’s easy for me to get excited about good deals and buy things I don’t need. My grocery store does double coupons on Wednesdays, so I plan my list on Tuesday and shop on Wed. any time of day that I can go without the kids. I’ve only been doing this attentively for a couple of months, but sometimes have the pantry stocked well enough that I just buy milk and produce one week. It’s working out well for me.

  • alyssa says:

    Honestly, I have no clue how long I spend planning and shopping! I do it in little bits here and there throughout the week. How does one with babies set aside one certain time to clip and match coupons?! I wish my life were so orderly! Each week is different as to when I’ll have a car, although I seem to be going on Sat. more often lately. But it all works out and I don’t feel like I spend too much time.
    I shop around at lots of stores, but often have a hard time picking which to go to-we have so many! I counted 9 stores I shop at for groceries/household. Obviously, there’s no way to get to them all each week! I just have to be content missing out on plenty of deals to save my time and sanity. There’s more to life than shopping! 🙂

    • Emily says:

      I do the same thing in that I sort of do my planning and clipping in bits throughout the week. If I’m reading blogs while eating my lunch or waiting for an experiment at work and I find a great deal or coupon to print out, I’ll start a list for a particular store (I mainly shop at Kroger and Meijer). Then on Friday nights, I sit down with my lists that I’ve started throughout the week, my sales flyers, my coupons, and my computer to finish my shopping lists and plan my weekly menu (it just works well for me to do these 2 things together since I’ll need to look through my recipes for the upcoming week to see if I need to add anything to my shopping list). I do know that it takes me about an hour at each store to do the actual shopping. I don’t like to feel rushed at the grocery store, so I take my time and look for additional unadvertised deals, and I do the shopping on weekend afternoons while my son naps so I’m not missing out on too much family time. My husband and daugther then get to spend some one on one time together too.

  • Dee Schaub says:

    I go to the gym at 5 am and am out of there by 6 am most weekdays. Walgreens & Albertsons are a block away and Walmart & Lowe’s Grocery ar within 4-5 blocks. NO ONE is at the stores at 6 am! I have the entire store to myself usually and the check out time goes smoothly because the clerk doesn’t seem to feel rushed or pressured by other customers! I can get in and out of within 30 minutes or less usually. AND when I get home my family is still asleep usually so I haven’t sacrificed any time with them. I highly recommend “crack of dawn shopping”!

  • Lara says:

    I find that the planning takes up the most time – if you count the blogs that I read/follow for deals, the coupon clipping (and filing!), and then the reviewing of the actual circulars and list making – it’s a good chunk of time. I’ve never logged it, but I’m guessing it would be anywhere from 2-4 hours/wk.
    I’m lucky to have a lot of stores very close together. I typically shop on Sunday nights for about 2 hours and can hit 3-5 stores and accomplish all my shopping for the week in that time. My husband watches the kids so I can concentrate on my lists/coupons which helps cut down on my “in-store” time.

  • Lydia says:

    I’m a little like Alyssa… I kind of have to do my planning in spurts. But I would guess I spend about an hour planning my trips which usually include Rite Aid, CVS, Giant and occasionally Walmart, Aldi etc.

    I can walk to Rite Aid and Giant so I just include them on my daily walks that my son and I take. I get some exercise and get good deals in the process!

    I totally agree with what you said about leaving some deals go by. If you try to do every single deal you soon wear yourself out and it becomes a chore. It takes wisdom though to find and know the balance!

  • Heather Nothnagel says:

    I shop a lot like Crystal does. It did take me awhile in the beginning to figure it all out and get it all balanced. When I was a beginning couponer I literally spent HOURS figuring out the deals and clipping coupons. Now I only spend about 2 hours per week on everything. I’ve also finally figured out what coupons to clip and what coupons to skip! 😉 I shop in the morning around 8:30-9 a.m. after I take the kids to school. I’ve found that the meat department has marked down their meats around that time and I can score some great deals on meat before the store gets too busy. Today I found a whole cart of Kroger training pants (generic pull-ups) marked down for $2.59 per pkg. I just started potty training my daugher, so I was estatic to find such a great deal. I was back home by 9:15 a.m.
    The thing that has benefited me the most is to cook from scratch. Skip purchasing all the pantry items (even if they’re cheap w/a coupon) and make them homemade. It really doesn’t take that long, saves me tons of money in the long run and is most likely healthier.

  • Kim says:

    I’m like a couple others and do my blog reading, coupon clipping , and looking through flyers when the toddlers are cooperating. Plus I’m new to all of this and still working out the “bugs.” I’m already seeing the need to skip a deal. My problem is that when it seems so good I’m not sure it will happen again. But even if I have to pay full price sometimes, I’m still doing better than I was months ago. Thanks for all help.

  • Ducky says:

    I don’t usually spend more than an hour a week on coupons, and only on the things that are running low. I also only do it for things with heavy discounts against the MSRP (diapers and wipes, for example — 70-80 percent off!) with the ads that were available that week.

  • Monica says:

    I found your website by accident but I am learning a lot. I am brand new to couponing and really I am brand new to having a stirct budget. We are crawling out of debt very slowly. I am trying to take it one step at a time. I have started by searching the circulars. I write down the items that I would want to buy from a store and write down the sale price. Then I will compare the prices when I go to a store. We have managed to save about one hundred a month so far and I know we will save more as I get used to it.

  • Barbara says:

    I get up 1/2 hour early each morning to hit all of my fave blogs and print IP’s. Then go to work……during my lunch hour, I clip my Q’s and file them in my binder. I probably spend 1-2 hours per week clipping, sorting & filing — and planning my shopping trips.

    I am 45, with 2 grown kids, so I have more time these days to do my couponing and planning 😉

    I usually hit Kroger weekly (double Q’s), Food Lion only when they have something spectacular, Target atleast once a week…..CVS / Walgreens / RiteAid 2-3 times a month.

  • rachaelp says:

    For me, I’d say it takes a few hours a week. It takes about 1.5 hours to clip and file the coupons (with little ones ‘helping’). I like to plan out my trip to Dillons and Price Cutter, have all my coupons in a envelope for each store, and list ready so shopping with my 2 1/2 yo. and 10 mo. old goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Ann says:

    I have to totally agree that you have to realize it is ok to miss a deal.

    I love having a good stockpile. It has helped me prepare meals for other families in our church after the arrival of a new baby. It was also great to have it available when I was suffering from morning sickness with my current pregnancy. My husband was able to fix Mac & Cheese, a freezer meal, or cereal for our 2 little ones while I laid down and couldn’t stand the sight of a kitchen. This allowed us to avoid the cost of take-out or delivery like we would have done in my pre-coupon & stockpiling days.

    The one struggle I have is figuring out exactly how much to stockpile. It seems that once I have “enough” of something no one wants to eat it anymore. If it stays in the pantry too long I clear it out and donate it.

  • Ann says:

    I forgot … I spend probably about 2 hours gathering coupons and making my list in addition to menu planning each week. I generally hit 2-3 stores a week. Ukrop’s (a local grocery store), and CVS or Walgreens. I hit Kroger maybe once a month (or more if it is a mega sale).

  • Sonshine says:

    I spend about 1/2 hour coupon clipping and checking sale ads. It helps that I have a couple of children who like to help me cut coupons as well. 🙂

    For the shopping part of things, it varies as to the amount of time I take to shop each week. If I am just hitting 1-3 stores for the deals, then it is no more than 1 hour to get the shopping done alone without hubby & kids in tow. However if I am doing 1-3 stores plus my monthly Sam’s run plus my bi-monthly bread outlet run all in the same week than I am looking at close to 2 1/2 hours to do all the shopping alone without hubby & kids in tow. When I know that I need to do major shopping, I try to split it up between a couple of days so that I am not so tired at the end of the day from doing all that shopping. The other thing that I am finding is that when I do a major shopping trip one week the following couple of weeks are rather easy shopping weeks because I will just go to one store to pick up milk and perishables which takes me under 1/2 hour to do because I have an Aldi and local grocery store as my “corner store”.

  • Andrea says:

    I’m in the “trying to grab the best deal each week” phase and after 3 weeks, it’s really starting to burn me (cuz the stores was out of stock with what I wanted). It’s reassuring to know that this is normal and that no matter what, I’ve already scored as I’m not paying full price for things and will continue to score great deals in the future. Thanks for this article!

    This week, I learnt that I can plan for my shopping trip, compile the transactions I want (esp at Walgreens and their coupon counts) but the items are out of stock and I have to scramble on the spot. Takes up even more time and brain bytes. And then to come back and there are even better deals that ladies have online! In my case, I just go to the stores (Target, Walgreen and the base commisary) for short trips each day and I consider them as mini exercises cuz it’s a lot of walking around.

    • Patti says:

      @Andrea, You can also ask for rainchecks for items if they are gone… I just found out at CVS that you can get the item later for the advertised price AND the ECBs. I didn’t know I would still get the ECBs later. Ask at Walgreens what their policy is.

  • Karen T says:

    I only have one grocery store within a half hour dirve, so Shop Rite it is until the Price Chopper is complete in a few months. But I spend about 3/4 hour couponing and reviewing the circular to make my list, and print out IPs during the week as they come up.
    Most weeks I shop with the little one while the older two are at school to be able to concentrate (about an hour), but when I need to stock up on meat (other than what is on sale that week), I leave the kids home and go about 5 pm. Shop Rite marks down meat everyday about that time, this week I got 10 packages of steaks and pork chops at 50% off! That means my hubby is happy to be getting a better cut of meat from those trips (I refuse to pay more than $2.00 per pound for meat).
    I also need to count in about 1/2 – 3/4 hour when I get home as well. Packaging and freezing meats, cleaning out and sorting the pantry (move the old stuff forward and make sure we use up opened stuff that week kind of stuff).

  • Mary says:

    I started trying to save money by both couponing and visitning multiple stores 2 years ago when I retired. I found that I saved very little. Perhaps it is because both my husband and I are retired and eat and use virtually none of the products that are frequently discounted with coupons and sales. (We pretty much stick to meat, produce, and dairy products for our meals. ) Perhaps it is also because we do not have many national chains in town. But I have found that using one of the 3 HyVee stores in our town and using only the coupons in their weekly ads has provided the best value for us. I like most of their store brands which are almost always significantly cheaper than national brands even if not on sale and go on sale at regular intervals. I hate Aldis and it is in a part of town I rarely visit. We go to Target occasionaly but they rarely beat HyVee prices. In my experience, the more stores someone visits, the more money they spend.

  • Camille says:

    I’d guess about 2 hours – depending on traffic and lines!

    I think the key is to not feel like you HAVE to get every good deal! It’s hard to let them pass by, but once you learn that there is always another deal around the corner, it is very freeing!

  • Kelly says:

    I estimate 4-6 hours a week. I normally spend an hour clipping, sorting, and planning my trips. I usually do this on my lunch hour 1 -2 days a week at work. I then do my Walgreens and CVS run on another lunch hour at work. I then either hit up Giant Eagle, MARC’s or Aldi’s on Saturday or Sunday depending on the best sales and what we need. I also usually do a Target trip every 4-6 weeks for those little things that never really go on sale! You do HAVE THE TIME! I work 40 hours a week, have two boys ages 1 and 4, and a husband that works full-time. I make the time because I LOVE getting a GREAT deal and can’t imagine paying full price, I hooked!

  • anoo says:

    Couponing has become a part of our lives. I got a taste of it in August 2009 just after we got married and it has helped us a lot. I have a mini stockpile of the most essential items for the two of us(DH and me). So, i don’t run around chasing deals too much. I look at the best deals every week and only shop at one(or maybe two, at times) store to replenish my stock and for produce, fruits and dairy. Thats usually Meijer or Kroger. However, i make a weekly visit to CVS(on my way back home) to grab some goodies. Target is once in a blue moon when there is a great gift card deal or some clearance stuff. Our main meals comprise of a lot of lentils, whole grains, beans, etc which I purchase in bulk once in 2-3 months(after watching the sales) from the Indian Store where unfortunately there are NO coupons. In my opinion, couponing has been very beneficial for our family.

    On another note, I have always been attracted to your weblog because of all the money saving practices that you follow and talk about. Its very inspiring! I would have never known about the concept of paying 100% to buy a house if it were not for your blog. All our friends have homes but are stuck with a thirty year loan. One never knows what changes one could experience in these thirty years. We were also thinking of treading on the same path not knowing the big picture. That would have been similar to a White Elephant sitting on our heads. Thanks a ton Crystal, you saved us from that trap and reminded us that the old school ways are always the best! Our parents are very happy about our decision of not going in for a home loan. So now, we can perch on any tree.

    Best wishes from my heart for all that you do Crystal. And yea MSM, Keep on blogging!

  • anoo says:

    i guess that was too long .. 😀 but i had to get it out!

  • Kimberly says:

    I’ve totally done that buy every deal get burned out thing. Totally wrecked the budget too. In fact, because of it I seriously laid off coupononing for about a year. I’m just trying to get back into it and trying to find the balance. It seems that everything is about that balance!

  • Christine says:

    I spend about an hour each week clipping coupons and organizing my shopping list and then, depending on the week, I hit up 1-3 stores. The thing I’m excited about is that they’re starting registration for one of our local CSA’s. The cost is $400 up front for the season, but that buys 20 weeks of produce, 1 large box per week. That’s a pretty good deal. We try to eat mostly fresh fruits and veggies with a little meat and few processed items, so this is a real money saver for us. Plus, I’m slowly learning how to preserve food over the winter and so I think the CSA this summer will pay dividends come fall and winter when I don’t have to buy spaghetti sauce or berries.

    With the CSA also comes our summer produce. I live in the northwest where a lot of things grow locally, but grocery store groceries tend to be on the more expensive side. (No one hear has ever heard of doubling a coupon.) The summer is great because we can go and pick buckets of berries for very little money and apples and pears in the fall for 60c/lb (including asian pears!). I’m going to try to take better advantage of that this year. It’s a fun activity for the kids, it’s outdoors and then you get to have fun cooking. Saving money just doesn’t get any better!

  • The time invested goes down as you get better at it. You start to learn which deals aren’t worth your time (even if they’re free), and which deals are worth multiple trips to the store while the sale is going on. It really helps to find a good blog that shares the store deals in your area, so you don’t really have to do any work other than getting the coupons together. I put the coupons for a certain store/trip in an envelope and then have another empty envelope to transfer them into once I’ve picked up the product. Since there are sometimes one or two deals that I decide not to do once I get there, I don’t get flustered at the checkout line.

  • Rhonda says:

    I spend about 3 hours/week clipping, sorting, list-making, shopping and blog reading (the majority of the 3 hours). I shop for loss leaders/mega sales at Kroger and Meijer and buy my basics at Aldis. I only focus on one drug store (Walgreens) and none of the stores like Target, Walmart, etc. I don’t even read the deals that are at these stores because I KNOW I don’t have time/mental energy to traipse out there. I tried “doing” multiple drugstores and the Target-like stores when I first started couponing and my anxiety levels went through the roof. [part of the problem is that I get sensory overload when there are just tooooo many objects/choices surrounding me…that’s why Aldis is good for my psyche].

  • jan says:

    This is a really good post! I spend about an hour a week on planning my grocery shopping- this includes researching the sales and gathering coupons. I feel this is time very well spent- if it results in saving $30 off my bill I just made $30/hr.
    I also rotate the extra stores I hit- I do my main shopping at Giant Eagle and then I will hit another store or two per week- maybe Marc’s or the health food store or Aldi or Big Lots- it depends.
    I had a lot of trouble with trying to do all the big deals and it got me into trouble! Now I have a specific dollar amount each week and when it’s gone it’s gone!

  • Susie E. says:

    I got into couponing against my will! I was preparing some “hands on” tools to help our church members save up the tutition for the Financial Peace class coming to our church, and our pastor heard about a coupon class that was being offered in our area and asked me to go. I tried my best to get out of it, but I’m so glad I went. I really didn’t like the system taught at the class I went to, but I researched the topic online and found some great websites (like yours) that taught me different ways to fit couponing into MY personality.
    To make a long story short, I normally save at least 50% off my grocery budget, keep my stockpile topped off and spend less time cooking. I spend about 2 hours each week pulling my coupons and planning my attack for best deals going at whichever store has the greatest savings that week. If there is a killer deal on something that I’m getting low on, and I have time, I may stop at 2 stores. I’ve tracked my savings and my “salary of savings” runs between $40 to $60 per hour that I spend matching sales and pulling coupons. Having a detailed list keeps me on budget and works best for me even if I do miss some of the deals.
    My mantra is “live to coupon another day”! I know I miss deals and during my busy seasons (I’m a private tutor, so during finals each semester I hardly have time to get to the grocery store, much less coupon!) we will eat from the pantry and I’ll save less. But I”mhappy with what I accomplish and I love helping other people trying to become debt free make such a huge difference in their budgets!

  • Jennifer H. says:

    Crystal, this is a great series and I appreciate what you are doing!

    My time varies, but I work on coupons and planning while multi-tasking (in the car while my hubby drives, while chatting on the phone, when I find 5 minutes between other obligations, etc).

    I typically spend about an hour in Meijer, where I shop more than anywhere else. My time was rewarded on Monday when I finally discovered where they keep the marked-down dairy items! 🙂 I shop at other stores, too, but pace myself and try not to get crazy about grabbing all the deals or feeling like I’m completely obligated to get to the store. I’m resolving myself to get faster in stores because I dwadle if I’m alone!

  • Lisa says:

    You touched on some important points. I’ve learned to only buy what my family will use within a year or so. (I would make an exception for a deal on toliet paper!) It can be hard to ignore deals especially when they are very cheap or free but it saves a lot of time and energy. I ignore CVS and Walgreens *most* of the year even though the things are very cheap. I’m a single parent and I don’t have a lot of energy or time to make a trip to buy super cheap shampoo when I have 10 bottles in my closet. 🙂 I don’t do any of the candy , cereal with sugar or soda deals. We are a small family (2 of us) and most coupons I order come in packs of 20 so I give half to friends and relatives.

    Great point about not worrying about missing a deal too! This is important time wise but $$ wise too. Don’t spend money you need for something else just because it’s a great deal and you are afraid of missing it. It will be back or another store will offer it!

    Ann, the same thing happens here, every couple months I do some freecycle postings.

    We go to the store around 2-3x per week but that isn’t couponing. I usually go to buy veggies, fruit and meat. We buy a small amount only what we are eating within the next couple of days. Publix will break a pack of meat for us and cut it to our request. One lb is enough for us. I save more by doing that than I did buying in bulk and freezing it because I don’t waste any now. I go to Sam’s Club 2-3x per year to buy trash bags, paper towels, chocolate milk boxes, juice boxes and rice. I alternate the grains I buy in bulk from the health food store. Last summer I bought wheat, in the fall I bought popcorn my next purchase will be split peas. I buy a different pack of bulk grains every 3-4 months.

    For couponing it really varies. In October asnd November I probably did ten trips with coupons and using up rain checks. I added a lot of cleaning supplies, HBA, and cat food that we needed. I’m running low on some things like pourable Lysol and toothpaste, so I just ordered coupons for them. From December until now I didn’t do any coupon deals except for toliet paper that was on sale with a blinkie by it and the Kashi cereal from Vocal Point. 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    I rarely clip coupons! I will pick up blinkies but most coupons I order from a clipping service. I love Vocal Point, I bring those right to Wal-Mart when they come in the mail! 🙂 Publix is the main store I shop at and the deals there are BOGO. I would take me buying 2 papers every week ($3 per week) just to buy one of their BOGO deals. For $10 – $15 at a clipping service every few months I do much better!

  • Coupon Codes says:

    I always shot at two stores by my house. Usually one per week and then switch it up the next week. That way I make sure I get all the good deals!

  • GrowingRaw says:

    We don’t have the coupon thing in Australia, so that saves me lots of time 🙂 I do a bulk shop at Aldi’s once a month and then top up on fruit and bread weekly from local village stores. Since I started reading moneysavingmom I have been checking out the catalogues for other supermarkets, but even their specials prices don’t beat Aldi’s around here. So I spend about 2 hours at Aldi’s once a month (counting travel time) and half an hour each week topping up.

    However, I should factor in that one of our main money-saving strategies is growing our own veggies. It’s Autumn here and during this season we’re self-sufficient vegetable-wise. It’s an enjoyable activity that has many more benefits than simply saving money, but apart from the considerable effort it took us to get set up and hit maintenance mode, my partner and I would spend 4-5 hours a week gardening. (Combined, not each.)

  • Cathy says:

    Do you have any ideas specifically for those of us in areas that don’t have many stores? We literally have no big chains aside from Wal-mart/Sam’s at which to purchase groceries. We have Country Mart, an Oklahoma small chain that rarely has good prices on anything, the military commissary (where we do most of our shopping, at decent prices, but not the really low ones you seem to find), and a Save-a-Lot in a bad part of town. I buy a few items at the health food store simply because of their health value, but it’s quite expensive and not a money saving place.

  • Vicki says:

    I often wondered about going to multiple stores to save on deals with the price of gas. I live in the country where it takes 30 min. to get anywhere. I have four kids taking piano in town, so I have 2hours to do my shopping. (with three little ones in tow) My son drove to piano the other day and had hit the trip meter so he knew how many miles he had driven. When I got back from my shopping he looked at the meter and said “You only went 6 miles?” I had been to my three major stores, but could have gone to 8 total stores within those 6 miles. That made me very excited to think that my time was well spent saving money at multiple stores, saving on gas, and getting my exercise running in and out of them.:)

  • Jenna says:

    I have a question for anyone who can answer it. How can people manage only a couple of store runs a week? My family is always forgetting something, so we make several trips a week!!

    • @Jenna,
      I keep a list of what we’re out of or running low on and hang it on the fridge. I add the items to my shopping list that I take to the store. I’m so forgetful that I’d never leave the store without a list! I also try to use a substitute if I’ve forgotten something. I know I’ll be heading to a store for a sale in a few days, so unless it’s milk, bread or another necessity I wait.

  • ViennaMom says:

    I’m trying to strike a balance between getting the best deals and not overdoing it. I’m a mom working full time, so I can really only do my shopping on the weekends when the stores are crazy. For that reason alone, I generally limit myself to one store/week, although for the last two weeks I’ve hit both Safeway and Giant – I think it’s too much and is burning me out. I do make multiple trips to CVS to take advantage of ECB/coupon deals, but only because I have one right next to my office so it’s a good break during the day. Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to miss deals – I need to get that through my head….

  • Chiara says:

    I try to clip on Sundays, and usually it takes me 20-30 minutes. I do spend more time in the stores though, about 2-3 hours per week, depending on how many stores I visit. I cycle the stores, on Sunday-Tuesday I can visit regular grocery stores but on Friday-Sunday, I visit Asian supermarkets (that’s when the sales are scheduled). Wednesday is when I hit Henry’s, a local indoor farmer’s market 🙂 I don’t always go to all the stores in a week and I rely heavily on the sales flyers; if there’s nothing on there that I need/want, then I don’t go. 🙂 Also, lists help a lot so I don’t forgetting things and don’t need to go to the store multiple times.

  • Beth Morrison says:

    I usually spend about 2 hours a week, clipping and shopping. I, also, only go to maybe 2 stores in one week but follow the ads so I know where to shop that week. I have all our bathroom items stocked away and buy them when I can get for free or almost free. I, also cook my own meals and don’t use many prepared items……that saves a ton of money! There are 4 of us and 2 are teen-age children that eat so much so this is how we do it. I actually keep track of how much I save in coupons each month and calculate for the year…….this year was almost 5000.00 for about 2 hours a week is not too shabby! I also give all the extra buy one get one free specials to my daughter who is at college. This is the easiest way to save money as you can do it whenever it is convenient for you!Thanks so much for this web-site…….it is so helpful.

  • Amy says:

    I had a sanity check this week before this post about my own coupon clipping. It’s good to hear the pro’s have those breaks as well. We never see posts about how much you spent on weeks where you are taking a break but those aren’t nearly as fun to talk about!

    I often shop at 2 or three stores a week (Aldi, Kroger and sometimes a local store). Generally I shop from a menu plan which can be affected by the sales flyers. In our house it keeps us all more sane if the menu is planned for the week ahead of time and not on the day of or at 5pm! I have found it saves us lots of money if I buy everything for a menu instead of just sale items. My goal is to NOT go to the store to pick up just one thing to go with dinner. Most weeks we are pretty successful at that. Right now getting in and out of the car is a little more complicated because I hurt my foot so I will not run into one place for one thing!

    I didn’t shop from a menu plan this last week and it’s been a bit frustrating this week especially since my in-laws are coming tonight and I don’t have dinner planned. I just remembered that I bought a bunch of pasta and sauce on sale this past week – I guess we are having Italian then! I even had picked up some salad that we haven’t eaten yet. I’ll make some bread today and we will be doing great!

  • I pretty much do what Crystal does. I spend probably 45-60 minutes printing and clipping coupons each week, and then 90 minutes shopping (though I figure that even if I weren’t clipping coupons, it would still take an hour, so I really only count that as 30 minutes extra to be saving more money). I do spend some extra time with my blog, though, in order to help streamline things for others.

    So I think telling people 2 hours a week is realistic.

  • Kathy says:

    I spend about an hour a day looking for deals on the internet, reading my “mommy” newsletters and clipping coupons and gettting my shopping list together. I have a 23 month old at home and have been on this schedule of about an hour a day for about a year now. My husband takes her for an hour or I do my “coupon thing” while she is napping. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you have and steal whatever time you can find but I save on average 50% off my grocery bill each week because of my efforts. We used to spend about $120 a week on groceries before I started. My husband looks at his time with his daugher as a gift and enjoys her as he doesn’t see her for long each day. I think you need to work together as a team to save money and to get out of debt. If you aren’t willing to do things outside of your comfort zone then you won’t be successful.

  • The amount of time I spend a week and the number of stores I shop at varies depending the sales. I also spend approx. an hour a week clipping and sorting my coupons. I can’t really count the time I spend getting ready for shopping because I pull out the coupons I plan to use at a store as I’m typing up the matchups.

    I’d guess about 3 hours a week on average. I’ve spent more time this week when you add in the extra Harris Teeter trips for the triple coupon event.

    I also like to utilize my childless times whenever possible. I went shopping at Target on a Friday night after putting the kids to bed. It was a nice change of pace to leisurely walk the aisles and not listen to kids asking “are we done yet?”

  • Becca says:

    I haven’t used coupons in a while (save for a $6 off $30 total purchase at Fresh & Easy) because it seems they are always for the brand name products, but it’s still cheaper to buy the store brand, even after the coupon. I don’t know of any stores that double anymore, besides Ralphs, but that’s only up to $1 (ie $0.55 off doubles to $1 off).

    I regularly shop at Walmart (bread – $2.07 for extra fiber whole grain, & non food items), Smart & Final, and Fresh & Easy. At first i thought Fresh & Easy was going to be pricier like Trader Joe’s, but the prices are low, esp when they have a sale ($1.97/lb chicken breasts, 2/$3 half-gallon orange juice). For many items, they are on par with Smart & Final, but i don’t have to buy in bulk. I love how simple, green, and “local” the store is.

    Also, i rarely buy fresh produce anymore because i always let it go bad. I buy a lot of frozen now: $1/lb and no more finding bags of brown juice in the produce drawers of the fridge. And with just two of us, I have to actively make sure we finish a gallon of milk before it goes bad.

    I’m happy to report that while looking back at a rough draft of a budget from six months ago, that I have brought my grocery spending down from $250/mo to $150/mo. It is still too high for two people, but i’m glad to know i’ve made such progress. It’s encouraging, because i thought i was stagnant and that there was no hope. So i encourage people to keep some sort of record of past spending to compare and track savings. It really helps to keep from stressing, but i feel this is the only category i can control. I’ve virtually eliminated eating out and “fellowship food” (eating at church, after church, etc) has stayed the same.

  • Becca says:

    Oh, and i wanted to ask: you say you only go to Sam’s Club once or twice a year. Do the savings still make the membership fee worth it? I have a few friends who are Costco members, and sometimes there are prices i’m really jealous of, but most of the time i feel i can find a better deal at Smart & Final (no memberships) and save that annual fee and space in my cupboards since S&F “bulk” is small in comparison.

    • Lisa says:

      On my Sam’s renewal they offered me a $10 gift card. You can put a second person on your card, so I split the fee with a relative. (You just tell them their name at customer service or enter it online and they go to Sam’s to pick up their card.) It was $35 – $10 gc = $25 and we split that. They usually have summer only memberships at a discount price too. Maybe you could look into one of those this summer?
      If you go to the site, click on “click and pull” pick the store closest to you, you can look at their prices online. My favorites there are trash bags, bastmati rice, canned fruit, alcohol swabs, frozen fruit for smoothies, cheeze-it snack sized bags, boxed juice, boxed chocolate milk and ham. (I have the meat dept slice the ham.)

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