1. Coupons: I don’t bother with them. For people who are interested in spending vast amounts of time organizing and finding coupon items, here are some rules of thumb.
a. Clip coupons only for items you already use/need.
b. Save the coupon until the item goes on sale. The marketing strategy is to send out a coupon and then after the customer has had a chance to try the item, to put it on sale.
c. Highlight expiration date and coupon limits.
Pay attention to sale cycles. Companies don’t create more advertising than they need to. For food items, they will probably be on sale at about the same time each year. For the foods you use, pay attention to the lowest price you pay and when you pay it and then stock up for a year’s worth when it’s at the lowest price.
2. Harvest cycles will hint when canned fruits and vegetables will be on sale. You’ll always get low prices on things like tomato products and green beans mid summer because the new crop is coming in and last years cans need to be sold to make room for the new supply. The same is true of apples and pumpkin in the fall.
3. BUT. . .you can usually get pumpkin on clearance in January, as well as chocolate chips, Baking supplies, nuts, fun seasonal items. Most are non-perishable and will happily wait till the next cold season when you’re in the mood again.
4. You can buy food that is cheap, easy and nutritious, but almost never more than two of those qualities at a time. . . The less processed your food is, generally, the more nutritious it is, but the more trouble it takes to prepare. So the least expensive way to eat is also the most nutritious but takes more work because you’re preparing things from scratch. Use dry beans instead of canned, hot cereals like oatmeal instead of ready to eat cold cereals. (Skip the packets and add your own brown sugar.) Homemade cookies are superior in taste and are much less expensive.
5. Shop less often. Use a list. In order to do this, keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and keep a box of powdered milk in the pantry so you don’t have emergency store runs. If you haven’t tried powdered milk lately, it’s come a long way.
6. Learn store habits for sales. Crest foods often has sales on hamburger meat and frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts first thing on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings. (They grind up the steaks and roasts they haven’t sold over the weekend.) I get there around 7:30 and often get good quality meat for VERY LOW prices. (Less than a buck and a half) I stock up and others do to, so it’s gone if you go later in the day.
7. Shop at Aldi. You have to put a quarter in the cart to free it from the others (you get your quarter back when you return the cart) and you have to bring your own bags (or laundry baskets in my case). Pay in cash or with a debit card only. But everything I have bought there is the highest quality and lately, compared to other stores I think I save at least 30% and much more than that on produce. Milk is currently at about 2.79 a gallon. (The nearest one is across from Sams Club)
8. Use a pressure cooker instead of buying convenience food. The quality is better and it’s far less expensive.