I have to admit: I’m not really a coupon clipper. Oh, I went through it for a season, although I was never an extreme couponer.
It just wasn’t me. I don’t know if it was that I wasn’t organized enough or that I couldn’t find coupons for the products I really wanted or needed–or that I found that, with my personality, I would end up getting a “deal” by using coupons for products that would just sit in my pantry because we really didn’t need whatever it was anyway.
Any spending money–any money–to save money really isn’t savings at all.
But I’ve learned that there are really plenty of ways to save withOUT coupons–especially on real, whole foods!
Here are my top 6 tips for saving money on groceries–without using coupons:
1. Buy on clearance.
When I am shopping for produce, I almost always check out the clearance produce racks first. Most stores do not want bruised or softening produce on their shelves because it looks unattractive–and could eventually attract fruit flies, etc.
However, just because a piece of produce doesn’t look pretty, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still contain nutritional value!
In this post, I wrote about several ways in which to optimize on clearance produce. From smoothies to baby purees to chopping up veggies to add to sauces, there are many, many ways you can make your grocery bucks stretch by shopping items on clearance.
I’ve also occasionally found organic meats, milk, etc. on clearance. Meats and most dairy products usually freeze well.
Now, if you have a coupon, you may be able to make that money stretch even further, but I’ve rarely found coupons for such items as produce and meat.
2. Shop at discount stores, like Aldi or Save-a-Lot.
My love affair with Aldi started when my husband and I were newly married (don’t worry–he loves Aldi, too!). I was having a hard time reining in our grocery budget, and someone tipped me off to the fact that shopping at Aldi had literally cut their grocery bill in half!
I gave it a try and have never gone back to regular grocery shopping again! Now, Aldi does not carry everything–and their natural and organic selection is limited (but growing, as I’ll share in a post later this week!), but my usual routine is to shop Aldi first and use my debit card to get out cash to use on groceries at the other two stores I frequent.
I have recently started buying toilet paper at Aldi (under the brand name Willow Soft). It is not like what you would imagine cheap toilet paper to be at all! If my husband gives his stamp of approval, you know it’s good!
3. Shop for bulk items at club-type stores like BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s.
When my husband and I first married, we purchased almost all of our paper supplies from a local Sam’s. We now live near a BJ’s club store, and we absolutely love it! The prices at our BJ’s are usually much better than at other stores–especially on natural and organic products.
I typically get organic spinach and salad greens, carrots, celery and apples at BJ’s, as well as Kerrygold cheese, almond milk (it’s about the same price as at Aldi), hormone/antibiotic free meats, uncured bacon and hotdogs, organic quinoa, spices, organic sugar, natural peanut butter, organic canned tomatoes and a few other items. I stick to getting my non-organic items at Aldi because the prices there are still better.
The key here is price checking. As Anne Simpson suggests in her book Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, keep a price book. In this book, record the various items you purchase regularly and how much they cost at the stores you frequent. This will help you know which stores to buy each item.
Make a list of what you always get at each particular store–and don’t deviate unless something is on clearance or deeply discounted!
Note: Our BJ’s DOES allow you to use coupons, AND you can stack their coupons with brand coupons, which can result in some major savings if you’re the couponing type! I should also note that my family gets a membership discount since my husband is a teacher. If you or your husband is a teacher or community serviceperson, don’t shy away from asking if any stores offer discount programs!
4. Buy online.
I still feel fairly new about buying groceries online, but I’ve been saving money for a while by purchasing our family’s vitamins and other supplements at Vitacost.com. I will be writing a post that goes into more detail about Vitacost later this week, but for now, suffice it to say that you can get a whopping $10 off your first order (of $30 or more) when you sign up!
I have friends who regularly use and rave about purchasing bulk grocery items on Amazon.com. So far, I have only gotten some gluten-free flours there, but I am hoping to maximize on this a little better this year.
The other big items I typically buy online are coconut oil and palm shortening. I mainly purchase my coconut oil from SoapersChoice.com.
Don’t let the name fool you! Although they do sell oils for soap making, they have plenty of food grade oils as well. I have not found coconut oil any cheaper anywhere! On my last order, I went in with a friend to split the cost of shipping. We melted the coconut oil and divided it into glass jars.
I get my palm shortening from Tropical Traditions (which also sells high-quality coconut oil). I do not use it as much, so I have only had to order it once in the past year. If you sign up for their newsletter, you will get weekly emails about special deals and free shipping!
5. Buy whole foods instead of relying on convenience foods–and cook from scratch.
Simply put, buying real, whole foods (i.e. meats and cheese that aren’t processed, fresh or frozen produce instead of canned or packaged with added flavors and seasonings, whole grains instead of pre-made baked good, etc.) and cooking from scratch WILL save you money.
I’ve been slowly but surely learning how to cook this way for the past 3 years or so. It has not come easy, but I can say that it’s really not as hard as it seems. Sure, I burn things, but more often than not I can take pride in the food I work hard to serve my family.
It doesn’t have to be gourmet. My family eats very basic meals. I typically pan sear or bake meats, use my crock pot, throw together basic soups and make plenty of skillet meals.
And I almost always follow a recipe.
If you learn to cook from scratch, you’ll be doing your family’s health-and budget–a favor.
6. Make a meal plan.
Making a plan of how you will use the food you buy will help you maximize on what you have–instead of feeling scrambled at the last minute and succumbing to running out the door to Chick-Fil-A or ordering a pizza (been there, done that–and I’ll do it again when I don’t plan well!).
And if you don’t have a plan for your food, you may use it up more quickly–which ultimately lends itself to spending more money.
Want even more grocery savings tips?
We had a great conversation going on our Facebook page yesterday–where you gave your best tips! Read it here.
I’m excited about delving into these tips a little deeper this week!
What are your best tips on saving money on groceries without using coupons?
*Disclaimer: This post is not meant to belittle anyone who does successively use coupons. My mother is one of those people! She and my dad are Mr. and Mrs. Frugal, and I credit the way they raised me with helpful me become a lifelong frugalista. However, I’ve learned that couponing is not for everyone–and not everyone can do it well. (Ahem, me.) My family is also limited on our coupon choice because our children have several major food sensitivities. When I do come across a coupon–or, more often, when my mother gifts them to me–I have no qualms in using them. This post is merely to educate others that there are other grocery-savings strategies beyond just using coupons.