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Guest Post: Three Rules to Remember When Grocery Shopping

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photo by appaloosa

Guest Post by Sharon from the Good, True, and Beautiful blog

I’ll admit, I’m no math whiz. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to take the SAT exam and I can’t remember much of my high school algebra and geometry (how do you calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle? I have no idea).

Most of the time this isn’t a big problem for me, but lately I’ll find myself standing in the middle of the grocery store trying to figure out the best deal, after coupons, with doubled coupons, by the ounce, pound or liter and my poor mind just goes blank.

Without a doubt, the $1.00 I used to buy my pocket calculator has returned its investment many times over. I have it attached to my price book and it gets a good workout on most grocery trips. Juggling coupons, shopping lists, fliers, and a toddler keep my brain busy enough; I’ll let my calculator tell me the price per ounce on Parmesan cheese!

So, having acknowledged my lack of mathematical prowess, I am glad to share with you my “Three Rules to Remember” when it comes to maximizing the value of coupons and grocery store promotions.  I hope they help you as much as they help me:

1) For marked down meats, buy the smallest package with the biggest discount. One of my favorite ways to save money is to be on the lookout for “late date” items in the butcher section. I can get great deals on chicken, fish, or meat that’s perfectly fine, as long as I put it in the freezer that night. My store will discount the item on the sell-buy date, and I will often see stickers for $1 off, $2 off, even $4 off items!

So how can you make the most of these deals? You need to make sure that the $ off coupon represents the greatest percentage possible. A $2 off coupon will be a greater discount on a $4.00 package than it would be on a $4.50 package. So, go for the smaller package and maximize the savings.

2) When there is a Buy One, Get One Free sale, purchase items which are close in price. My local grocery will often have Buy One, Get One promotions on meat and poultry and, like most stores, they charge for the more expensive item and then you get a like item for free.

These deals can be thought of as a 50% discount, but only if you keep the price of the two items as close as possible. If you spend $10 on one item and get a $6 item for free, you are getting $16 worth of meat for $10.00 (a savings of 40%). But if you buy two items that are both $8.00 you’ll have the same $16 worth of meat for only $8.00 (a 50% savings)!

3) If you have a "$ off when you buy $$" coupon, stay close to the "when you buy" number! This is a strategy that is particularly useful at drugstores, which will regularly offer some version of the “$ off when you buy $$” promotions (CVS just emailed me a “$5 off when you buy $20” as I write this!). 

In order to leverage the full value of these discounts–and minimize your out of pocket costs–stay as close to the “when you buy number” as possible. It all comes back to the percentages. You want to make sure that the discount represents the greatest percentage of your purchase possible.

It’s also important to remember that the store is using that coupon to make you think that you’re getting a good deal and then tempt you to spend more than you planned. But if you keep your focus on hitting the "when you buy" number, you can win at this game!

Armed with these three simple rules, I’m confident I’ll make my dollar stretch as far as possible. And if I'm not sure what the best deal is, I'm glad I can always whip out my handy-dandy calculator!

Sharon is the woman behind the Good, True, and Beautiful blog and is learning how to live abundantly on a budget! After 15 years of a successful corporate life, she is now applying her business skills to the best job of all–mom. She lives on a small farm in Upstate NY with her husband and infant son.

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