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Couponing in Real Life – This Week’s Grocery Haul

You can really go all-out with couponing. If you want free groceries, you can probably buy alllll the newspapers and spend 27 hours couponing and get free groceries. But in reality, ain’t nobody got time for that. I woke up the other day and decided to go grocery shopping, and then spent an hour or two of the morning getting my coupons together and I wound up saving about 33%, according to my Kroger receipt. And that’s before any rebates through Ibotta. I also feel like I was able to buy better quality stuff than what I normally buy (more name brands, etc.), for less money. So that’s an additional value that’s not reflected in the actual dollar amount that I saved.

I bought enough food for about a week. Since we usually end up doing something else for dinner at least once a week (we get invited somewhere, or we decide to eat out, etc.), and since I’m usually able to scrounge up an extra meal or two out of what we have in the pantry, this will probably last us about a week and a half. I also stocked up on some household items that were on sale, so I spent more than I normally would on an average shopping trip. I shoot to spend under $400 a month on food, so if I did this every week I would definitely be over budget. But I feel like I got a good amount of stuff for what I paid, so I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out.

I typically wait to go grocery shopping until it’s an emergency. As in, there’s absolutely nothing left in the house that I could possibly cook for dinner. As in, we are on the verge of starvation. The pressure has to be on. I like to think stretching the time between shopping trips as far as possible helps me to save money. The less often I go to the store, the less I will spend and the less food I will waste. I haven’t done any statistical analysis on it, but I think it helps. IMHO.

Usually, I make up a quick meal plan the night before from my handy-dandy list of all the meals I have on rotation.

It is well-loved, as you can see. I try to choose a mix of 1) really quick options, 2) crockpot dinners, and 3) a recipe or two that require a bit more time and effort, in case I’m feeling energized and totally in the mood to spend a lot of time cooking some evening (e.g. wishful thinking).

Then I go through my cookbook and make a list of all ingredients I need and I organize it into four sections: produce, pantry, refrigerated, and frozen. This helps me check off sections of the store at a time, so when I leave that aisle or section I can make sure I have everything from that area and move on, hopefully avoiding me realizing at the end of the trip that I forgot something at the opposite end of the store. ‘Cause it ain’t no short stroll from the cash registers back to get cottage cheese.

As far as coupons, all I had done in advance of shopping day was saving the Sunday paper inserts. The only reason I have these is because they get delivered to my house for free every week with the local paper. I don’t otherwise make enough use of them to justify paying $3 for a big newspaper. If it didn’t just magically show up on my doorstep every Saturday, I wouldn’t fool with it.

I checked some of the couponing websites to see if they had any fantastic ideas for stacking sales and coupons and I found a couple great deals. A jar of Nutella for $0.29. Free toothpaste. Things like that. I clipped 7 or 8 coupons from the newspaper, but I don’t think I even wound up using all of them.

Then I logged into the Kroger website to check out their sales and digital coupons. It turns out that this week they were having their Buy 4, Save $4 sale, which I am a big fan of. I wouldn’t normally be able to save the amount that I did without this sale, so keep that in mind in your own couponing endeavors.

I find that the digital coupons are a huge time saver. A lot of times they have duplicates of the manufacturer’s coupons in the newspaper, plus a lot of store coupons, so you don’t need to do any actual clipping if you don’t want to. You just click ‘Load to Card’ and it links it to your Kroger card at checkout. So easy.

I also scrolled through the Ibotta offers to see what they had. If you don’t know what Ibotta is, it’s a mobile app for grocery rebates. (Sign up here.) I hold onto my receipt, and then when I get home I scan the items that I bought that match a rebate, take a picture of my receipt, then send all the info in through the app. It sounds complicated, but they make it pretty easy. The money usually shows up in my account within five minutes or so, although they say to allow 24 hours. It’s also worth checking out the Bonuses section, to see if you can earn anything extra for redeeming multiple offers within a brand. I think I scored two: Sunsweet and Hellman’s, which gave me an extra $1.50! Every little bit counts.

 

Buy 4 Save $4 booklet

I couldn’t find a good source that listed all of the items included in the Buy 4, Save $4 sale, so I decided to wing it once I got to the store. EDIT: I now know that they often have a little booklet of all of the items included in the sale. Check near the store entrance, where they keep the weekly ad.

Finally I was ready to go, soI loaded the babies up in the car and headed out. It was raining, so that sucked, but we carried on. We started in the produce section, because that’s where they want you to start. Something about seeing all the beautiful, colorful produce makes you want to spend more, they say. Everything about the grocery store is designed to you spend, so keep that in mind as well. Perhaps consider online grocery shopping if you tend to impulse buy a lot. But I digress.

Not really any deals to be found in the produce aisle. What you see is pretty much what you get, apart from these Mother-Of-All-Cucumber cucumbers that I found. I tried to put some apples next to them for size reference, but you still can’t really appreciate from the photo just how big they were. Truly massive.

The largest cucumbers I have ever seen

(Side note: Did you know they have free fruit for kids in the produce section? Grab a banana or an orange for your kiddo to stuff their face with so you can shop in peace for a minute. Totally makes shopping with kids a little more bearable.)

I decided to search for coupons and rebates on my phones as I chose my items, and it turns out I missed a lot of good coupons on my first look through. Ibotta and the Kroger app each have a useful search function. So, for example, when I got to the cereal aisle, I typed ‘cereal’

into the Kroger app and it showed me all the cereal coupons. I got an extra $2.00 off 4 boxes this way, and since the boxes I bought were part of the B4S4, this wound up being a pretty good savings. I also found Pantene shampoo and conditioner on sale in addition to the B4S4, plus I found an extra $6 off in Pantene coupons on the Kroger app. Pantene is usually around $4 or more per bottle; I figure I got them for about $1.25 each. What a deal!

Free fruit for kids!

All the extra searching for coupons and rebates in-store made shopping take a lot longer, and I kept having to readjust the number of things I was purchasing in order to maintain multiples of four to make sure I took full advantage of the sale. But I had the time that day, and my kids were cooperating so I felt it wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. I definitely don’t always have the time or energy to do this.

At checkout, my total was $247.66 before I scanned my paper coupons and used my Kroger card. After all coupons and discounts, my total went down to $165.91! When I got home I was able to get another $6.25 back in rebates for a total savings of $88.00! I also got a coupon on my receipt for $7.00 off my next order. It just keeps getting better and better!

Now, no couponing trip is complete without a few bummer mistakes. I did accidentally grab two items of something I had a coupon for, so I wound up paying full price for something I didn’t need. My daughter was also sitting on a can of crescent rolls in the cart during check out that nobody noticed, so now I have to take that back and pay for it later. Ugh.

And of course, I was so focused on my shopping that I forgot to take my newly potty-trained two year old to the bathroom. So when we got to the car, she finally said “I need to go potty!” and then promptly peed all over the van.

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