I know, really a mom of so many on such a tight budget refusing to coupon!?! You may ask why don't I coupon, how in good conscious I can resist the allure of saving 100's of dollars a week at the groceries by NOT couponing...
For starters, I simply do not have that much time in my day, my week or my month. When I watch shows like Extreme Couponing, I am amazed, I am impressed, and I am also a bit jealous, but the reality is that making those deals happen is their full time job. Hours and hours of preparation go into pulling off these giant grocery feats. They coerce others to assist them, spouses, children, friends and neighbors... I think my family would revolt, I don't care how well stocked my pantry would be or the freezers, the amount of time that it would take to coupon like that would make my kids resentful.
Additionally, finding grocery stores where you can actually benefit from the crazy couponing is another problem. There are many stores that no longer offer double coupons, they have done away with coupons that are actually for items that consumers are currently purchasing, but more as a way to try to entice you to purchase items that are new. Many grocery stores across the nation have also lowered prices in their stores by bringing in a "generic" of store brand of their most popular items. Rarely will there be discounts or coupons for store brand items.
I also find the task of cutting, sorting, and then attempting to use coupons stressful. I have tried many means in which to do so, however, what typically happens is that I get to the end of my shopping trip and find that I have items in my cart that I really do not want, and I can no longer can find that wispy slip of paper, or I have not picked up the correct amount of items to make the coupon valid. Sadly the worst is when I hand over my carefully selected coupons, and there are expired ones in the bunch, because when I made my list three days earlier they were good, but since expired.
How then, you ask, does one stay within a budget, shopping for the masses? Creativity is key. We garden, produce and herbs. We tend, we water, we harvest and we eat...well. We buy our meats (beef and pork) from a farmer that raises them for food, place our order for a pig, or a cow, and fill the freezers to overflowing. We barter for fresh eggs. We purchase in bulk (80 dozen ears of corn for $1 a dozen) husk it, blanch it, cut it from the cobs and freeze it. I am realistic about what it costs to feed my super sized family. I plan accordingly.
One of the best programs that I partake in is the Karn's extra rewards program, where with my bonus card, I get points based on the dollars I spend. Each dollar = a point. I then redeem points for gift cards to their store, for more groceries, or gift cards for gift giving throughout the year. Giant Foods has a gas rewards program, where you earn points to receive a percentage off your gas, when purchased at their pumps. Turkey Hill Minute Markets (where we stop often for a drink, loaf of bread, or a gallon of milk) has a program where you can earn points for a percentage off gas, as well as free drinks and food purchases. Sheetz card holders automatically get 5% off gas, and then have the potential using the card to earn free beverages and food, all of which is automatically tracked with your card number.
I shop at a lot of discount locations as well. Aldi Stores and Amelia Grocery Outlets are great for picking up fresh fruit and vegetables on the day of delivery for a fraction of the cost in the major grocery chains. Wal Mart stores, offer deep discount prices on a WIDE variety of items from housewares to groceries, saving time and money by one stop shopping. Where else can you purchase food for a picnic, decorations and table settings, the grill, the patio furniture, pool treatment chemicals, a bathing suit and a cover up in one place? Some times smart shopping is about combining trips to save time, which translates to less stress, and more free time.
I am also a big fan of food auctions. This is a process that you may not be familiar with, but just as all auctions, you go, register and bid of fresh foods, staples, as well as sometimes frozen foods at a fraction of the cost. These trips often yield in a great ability to STOCK up, on the basic paper products, cleaning supplies etc. (see previous blog posts for details of two food auctions that I have attended) http://www.malingle.com/2011/10/food-auction-oh-yea.html , http://www.malingle.com/2011/02/its-all-about-deal.html
Plan your meals in advance. (for anyone that knows me personally, you know this is my passion) If you have a plan for your meals, either a week in advance or a month, you will spend less money, and you will save time in the long run, by taking out the need to daily stop at the store misc items or meal ideas on the way home from work. Make your list. Stick to it. If possible go to the store alone, so there is little ability for others to "toss" impulse buys into the cart.
I spend approx $5 a day per person on food/ household goods (such as paper products and cleaning supplies) This includes three meals a day (breakfast/coffee/cocoa, lunches packed, snacks and main dinners). Planning works. If you can coupon along the way... great for you, you will save more money than I and I admire you greatly. However if you are like me, creativity and planning ahead helps me feed and grow the masses in my house. Four teen boys, two teen girls, one pre-teen, and three adults, plus friends, always have plenty to choose from when meal time and snack time cause their tummy's to rumble.