When my kids were younger (and I had less kids) I used to be an avid couponer. Each Sunday I would buy five papers from the Dollar Tree and spend hours clipping. Next I’d match up the current sales with my coupons for double the savings. Often I’d have to hit 3-4 different stores to take advantage of all the deals. Although I occasionally miss the thrill of a 25-cent tube of toothpaste, ultimately I decided that extreme couponing was not for me for the following reasons:
1) It takes too much time. As a working mom the weekends with my family are precious. I would prefer to spend this time on a family-centered activity.
2) Most coupons are for processed foods. My family does consume some processed foods, with breakfast cereal being the worst offender. But generally I try to feed them whole foods.
3) I purchased a lot of unnecessary items just because a deal was too great to pass up. Yep, I just checked my garage. I’m only slightly embarrased to admit that there’s still several containers of shampoo, lotion, and 6 bottles of expired Children’s Advil leftover from my couponing days. These superfluous items ended up costing me money in the long run.
These days we primarily rely on Costco to feed our large family. Once every week or two, I fill up a cart or two with (mostly) healthy foods. Although my couponing days are over, I still look for less time-consuming ways to save money. These are my strategies:
1) Become an executive member. If you shop at Costco as much as I do, an executive membership pays for itself and then some. Every year I receive a check for $250-$350.
2) Shop the sales. Every month certain items go on sale. I tend to gravitate towards these discounts during my shopping excursions. For example, if one type of cereal is on sale, I purchase four boxes. The same principle goes for snack foods or frozen goods. With non-perishables I wait for the sale to stock up. The best part about this approach is that no clipping or planning is needed. On today’s trip these savings added up to nearly 10%.
3) Buying in bulk. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but buying in bulk can add up to substantial savings. Take Dave’s Killer Bread, a staple in our household, into consideration. One loaf runs for at least $5 at the grocery store. At Costco two loaves are $7.59. We go through around five loaves of bread a week. Just by buying bread at Costco we save over $300 annually.
4) Strategic eating. All that money saved by buying in bulk means nothing if the food spoils before it’s eaten. While I don’t have a lot of time for meal planning, I do have a knack for looking in my fridge and figuring out what I can make with the ingredients on hand. When I open the fridge I first identify foods that will be spoiling soonest, then I plan my meal around those foods. Veggies on their way out are often turned into soups or pureed and added to pasta sauce.
5) Less meat less often. We are by no means a vegetarian family, but I do try to utilize meat as a meal ingredient rather than the main attraction. No one in this household bats an eye at a vegetarian meal either. Cutting down on meat not only saves us money; it’s also better for the health of our bodies and our planet. This is a principle outlined by Michael Pollan in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
I hope this post has proven helpful. Have any tips you would like to share? Leave them in the comments!