Grocery Gateway: Developing a Strategy & Making a List

 by Elizabeth Scholes

Have things you need to buy?  Check!  Have coupons and a system for organizing them? Check!  Have a list and shopping strategy?  Let’s work on that today!

When making a list, you’ll want your weekly local store ads, a piece of paper (or phone, or computer, if you’re a techie-type person), internet access and your coupons.

First, browse through the ads and jot down anything you need for that week. Also jot down any items you think are a great deal that you might want to stock up on even if you don’t currently need it (ie: canned vegetables for $.39, boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.29/lb).

After you’ve looked at the ads on your own, get on the internet and look up some blogs. There are thousands of bloggers out there who daily and weekly do research and blog about store deals for readers like you and me. They do the majority of the work for you! These posts about store deals are most often called “store matchups”.  Here’s an example of weekly matchups for HyVee from my favorite local blogger, Tracie, at  www.pennypinchinmom.com.

BABY / CHILD
Pampers Diapers select varieties, 48 to 96 ct. – $19.77
Use $2/1 Pampers Box of Diapers or Pants, exp. 11/30/11 (P&G 10/30/11)
Final Price: $17.77

BAKERY / BREADS
Sara Lee 100% Whole Wheat Bread 20 oz. – 2/$4 or $2.00 each
Use $0.55/1 Sara Lee Wheat Bread, exp. 11/30/11 (RP 10/23/11 R)
Final Price: $1.45 each

BAKING / INGREDIENTS
C & H Pure Cane Sugar – $1.88
Use $0.50/1 C&H Granulated Sugar, exp. 12/31/11 (RP 10/16/11 R)
or use $0.75/2 C&H Sugar Product, exp. 12/31/11 (RP 10/16/11 R)
or use $1/2 C&H Sugar Product, exp. 11/25/11 (RP 08/28/11 R)
Final Price: As low as $1.38 each

Nestlé Toll House Morsels select varieties, 10 to 12 oz. – $2.77
Use $0.50/1 Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate Morsels printable
or use $0.50/2 Nestle Toll House Morsels printable
Final Price: As low as $2.27

Betty Crocker Cake or Frosting, select varieties – $1.77
Use $0.75/2 Betty Crocker SuperMoist Cake Mix AND Ready to Spread Frosting, exp. 11/26/11 (GM 10/02/11)
or use $0.50/2 Betty Crocker Cake PLUS Frosting
Final Price: As low as 2/$2.79 or $1.40 each

Pam Cooking Spray select varieties, 5 or 6 oz. – $2.48
Use $0.50/1 Pam Cooking Spray printable
Final Price: $1.98

C&H Brown or Powdered Sugar select varieties, 2 lb. – $1.98
Use $1/2 C&H Sugar Product, exp. 11/25/11 (RP 08/28/11 R)
or use $0.75/2 C&H Sugar Product, exp. 12/31/11 (RP 10/16/11 R)

Notice how she categorized the items? The entire ad will be broken down into categories and matched up with available coupons. The sale price will be listed, as well as the final price using the coupon. The coupons are noted either in (parenthesis) if they were circulated by newspaper inserts or magazines, or by a printable link if they are found online. Remember from last week’s post that coupons are listed by the date they were circulated; therefore the Pampers coupon listed above will be found in the Proctor and Gamble insert that was in the October 30th’ newspaper.

You’ll also notice that for some items there may be several places to find coupons for a single product. This allows you option of either purchasing multiples of the same product if you want to stock up, or choosing whether you want to print a coupon or cut it out. The printable coupons are especially helpful if you’re just starting out and don’t have a back supply of Sunday paper inserts to cut from.

The items that are green are at rock bottom price. Rock bottom price means that this is about the lowest that product will go and it will typically not go that low for 3-6 months again. If you see an item in green, and you regularly use it, this is a great time buy several to build your stockpile. If you have been keeping a price book for items you regularly buy, you will be able to spot a great deal when you see one. Sometimes something in the ad is on sale for a mere $.10 off (not a great deal) and other times the store is actually losing money on the product because it’s such a fantastic deal!

Go through the entire blog post and jot down the items you want to purchase as well as the coupon’s location. I recommend printing any coupons as you are making your list to save time. If you are not accustomed to planning meals off the weekly ads, you might try this. For example, if chicken is on sale, you might incorporate it as the main ingredient in a couple of meals. If apples and sweet potatoes are in season, use those as your go-to produce picks for the week.

Once you have written down all the great deals you want to take part in, go ahead and add to your list those items you have to have regardless of a sale price. For those things, I recommend checking to see if you have a coupon for it by using www.coupontom.com. This website allows you to enter the specific brand name or generic product (ie: yoplait or yogurt) to find any currently circulating coupons.

Once everything is on your list, go ahead and clip the coupons you need now. Put them in some kind of envelope to take with you to the store, and then when you’re in the checkout line, you’ll have all the ones you need right there ready to go.

Right now many of you are probably wondering how many stores you should shop at to get the best deals. It’s up to you really . If you have time to go to 2-3 stores and there are incredible deals at all, go ahead. That just means more savings for you, providing the distance between stores isn’t eating up your gasoline. If you have time only for one store per week, go to the one that has the most deals that week. Or if you have a favorite store that you are loyal to, just make your list based off their ads. The important thing is to start paying attention to the ads (don’t just dump them in the recycling bin when they come in the mail!) and pair up already good deals with coupons to get even greater savings!

This week’s challenge: look at some of the grocery store matchups and familiarize yourself with the format. Try to make your shopping list based off the ads, even if it’s just for a few items to get started. If you don’t get ads delivered to your home via USPS, you can view ads online at the store’s website or swing by any grocery store to get them at the front of the store.

Here are some of my favorite places to look:
Hy-Vee: http://www.pennypinchinmom.com/2011/11/hyvee-weekly-matchups-1191115/
Price Chopper: http://www.pennypinchinmom.com/category/grocery-stores/price-chopper-grocery-stores/
Other stores all over the country (click on the state and then the store you’re looking for): http://www.becentsable.net/store-deals/

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