4 Easy ways to save on groceries
Combine a little planning with some flexibility and new technology, and you could save hundreds on your monthly food bill -- without compromising quality. Here are some simple ways to get started:
Plan weekly menus
Plan at least four to five dinners for the week, based on what's on sale in your store circular (most are available online). If possible, double those recipes and freeze the second meal.
Be brand flexible
Use your favorite grocery store's loyalty card religiously, and be willing to buy different brands. "Brand flexibility has the most to do with saving money -- even more than using coupons," says Stephanie Nelson, founder of the website The Coupon Mom, who feeds her family of four on $100 a week.
While your store circular obviously tells you what's on sale, it doesn't reveal whether the price is a true bargain. That's where price-tracking websites fill the void. The two largest are thecouponmom.com, which is free but requires registration, and thegrocerygame.com, which charges a fee of $10 every eight weeks for a list of deals from one store ($5 for each additional store).
The sites track thousands of items for months at a time, and publish weekly lists by state and store showing the best deals. They also reveal whether a coupon is available for that item by listing the circular name -- such as "Smart Source" -- and its date.
Coupons: Clip Smart
To maximize your discount, subscribe to the local Sunday paper, pull out the coupon circulars each week, write the date on them and save them in a drawer. When you're ready to shop, go to the grocery website, click next to the items you want, print the list, grab your dated circular from the drawer, clip the relevant coupon and go.
"The only time you have to cut out a coupon is when you actually save a bunch of money with it," says Nelson. "That takes the manual labor out of using coupons for even the most coupon-resistant shopper."
Meanwhile, if you're a coupon queen, check out coupon sites such as coolsavings.com and myclipper.com. You can also order extras of a coupon for a small "handling fee" from a site such as thecouponclippers.com.