By Elizabeth Scholes
We’ve talked about a lot of different ways to save money on groceries and household items. But just in case you’re not clear on everything, here are a few “frequently asked questions” that might help.
Is any day better than another day for shopping? I’ve noticed most of the really great sales are on Friday and Saturday. Should I be shopping those days or can I shop anytime I want?
Unless there are special sale days (ie: two day sale on Thursday and Friday), there really isn’t a better time to shop than another. If you want to purchase the sale items on those special days, then, of course, do your entire trip then. Just like with all planning, make sure the items you want to get from a special sale are worth the trouble of rearranging your shopping schedule.
Do you ever take advantage of “price matching” like Wal-mart has – where you take ads from other places and they match the prices? Is that a good thing to do?
I do not price match much but it certainly is a great way to reduce the number of trips you take to complete your shopping list if there are several good deals at different stores. The things to remember with price matching are to always know the store policy on price matching, take the ads with you, and be polite to the cashier who is going to the trouble of changing the prices for you. Also know that stores will only price match on sales that have dollar amounts listed. No B1G1 or percentage off sales.
How much time do you spend preparing to shop?
After the sale ads are published, I sit down and review the ads and compile my list based on the things we need and the coupon match-ups for the week. I collect all my coupons and put them with my list in my purse. All of this takes me an average of 20-30 minutes per week. If you’re new at it, give yourself a little more time but it will get quicker the more you do it.
How long does it usually take you at the checkout – the coupon processing part, I mean? I was in line behind a person yesterday who had a bunch of coupons and it slowed things down for the rest of us.
Checkouts don’t take too much more time than usual. If you have a lot of coupons, you might mention that too the cashier when you start checking out. Have your coupons ready to go before you hit the checkout so you aren’t holding up for unnecessary reasons. Also make sure you’ve read the coupon correctly so you’ve gotten the appropriate items. Remember to be patient with the cashier as he/she scans coupons. And don’t be afraid to look at the computer screen as the cashier is ringing up items and scanning coupons. I’ve had several instances lately when the computer didn’t ring the item in correctly and it was solved quickly when I was kind and patient.
When you’re using multiple coupons, does the checker ever have a problem understanding what you’re doing? Do they all know how to process the more complicated transactions or do you sometimes have to explain?
I have never had a cashier question multiple coupons. Do be sure you know the store policy regarding item limitations. Unless someone is very new at the job, they should know how to handle coupons correctly. Couponing is so common now that most know what to expect.
What if they’re out of the product that’s on sale?
Ask for a rain check! Unless the ad states ‘limited quantities’ you can ask for a rain check on any item that isn’t on the shelf the day you go, even if they expect a shipment in before the sale ends. Some stores require you to use the rain check within a certain time frame. Other stores don’t have a expiration on them. I’ve had to use a lot of rain checks, especially on items heavily reduced. Just make sure you use the rain check before a coordinating coupon expires!
How many stores do you go to?
When I first started doing this and was heavy into creating my stockpile, I went to two grocery stores a week and maybe one drugstore. Now that we have a consistent stockpile, I can be more flexible and pass up deals in an effort to condense my trips. So usually I go to one grocery store and one drugstore per week. Every other week or so I also make a trip to Costco to get milk and other basics we buy there.
How many times a week do you shop?
Once, unless something special comes up that I was not able to plan for.
Do they ever refuse to accept a coupon(s)?
If you are careful to get the right item as listed on the coupon, and use the coupon within expiration, you should not have rejected coupons. Some stores aren’t taking Internet coupons anymore because fraud is so prevalent, but typically if they are coming from a reputable site (ie: smartsource.com), even that isn’t a problem.
How do you keep your stockpile inventory updated? Seems like you’d have to be pretty diligent at keeping that up and it could get messed up pretty fast. Same with freezer inventory. I’ve tried doing that and before I know it the list is completely out of date so I just throw it away. I quit doing an inventory because I got tired of doing it over all the time.
I always have a running list of what complete meals I can make out of my inventory. I cross out and add new as we go on a dry erase board in the kitchen. I also recently discovered a great way to keep the inventory neat and up to date. Frame an inventory template you create based on what you keep on hand (you can download a sample below to get you started) in a regular picture frame with glass. Use a dry erase marker to keep track of how much you have on hand. Erase/update quantities as they as used and purchased!
Do you have to have a huge pantry or extra freezer to stockpile?
No. With careful planning, creativity and organization, you can learn to fit a lot in a little space. Look for unused space in your home. Spare closets, bins under a bed, or shelves in a basement or garage are perfect for non-perishable foods. Good containers that stack well can save a lot of room in the freezer. It also helps to freeze things flat in ziploc bags so you can either stack them or set up like books on a bookshelf.
You mentioned that the sales follow a cycle. How often do different foods go on sale? like cheese, chicken, ground beef, etc.
Most sale cycles are anywhere from 3-6 months. When beginning the coupon process, it’s a good practice to note the dates of rock bottom prices on things so you know how often the cycle is. Of course, it’s different for different items. Sales on meat or cereal come around more often whereas things that are more seasonal, like lunchbox items, may come only 2-3 times a year. You can always count on holidays to bring about great sales (ie: barbeques, baking, game day foods, etc).
So there you have it. Hopefully this article has answered any questions you may have had. But if you do have more questions, please share them in the comments section below and I will be happy to respond.