Not Cut Out For Coupons

Other Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store that don’t include Scissors

A long time ago, in my former life with no kids and a dual income (I think I was called a DINK?), I took going to the grocery store for granted. I never thought twice about what I was buying or whether it was on sale or not.

Fast forward a few years, a few kids and a depressed economy later, I am now shopping for six and we are on a single income. My, how things have changed.

And cutting coupons? Forget it. I am not organized enough nor do I have time. I am totally overwhelmed by shows like “Extreme Couponing.” And trying to figure out what to buy based on pieces of paper that may or may not be what I need. Just the thought of couponing gives me a case of the hives.

So what does a disorganized, frazzled, time-strapped mom-of-four-on-a-budget do to save money?

Go Generic

Go generic. Shop at the Dollar Store or other discounted retailers. Price match. Buy in bulk. There are several other options that can save money without breaking out the scissors.

I’ve discovered the beauty of generics. And, thank goodness, “going generic” seems to be the cool thing now. Since I drive all over town, I am not loyal to one particular store, so I’ve had the opportunity to try several store brands.

“Generic brands are ‘first cost’ and offer the same quality without the big brand name,” said Tricia Hoyt, former marketing professional for a major manufacturer. “They are able to offer such a discount because there are no advertising costs.”

The popularity of generics goes up in recessionary times, and over the years the quality of these products has improved greatly. My pantry is a shrine to generic brands.

“My pantry is filled with Great Value (Wal-Mart’s store brand) items – my favorites are their canned vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and peanut butter,” said Rob Brewer, truck driver and father of one. “Their version of Oreos tastes just like the real thing.”

Even generic milk tastes the same as name brand. In talking to a manager at Wal-Mart in Bixby, I found out that their store-brand milk is from Borden. My kids can’t tell the difference. But my pocketbook can.

Almost all retailers offer a store brand. Reasors and Food Pyramid’s store brand is Best Choice. Target’s generic brand is Up and Up. Even health food retailers offer generic brands. Whole Foods 365 brand is another great alternative.

You can also sign up for things like Reasor’s Advantage Program. For every $50 you spend, you get 5 cents off each gallon of gas at your next fill up at Reasor’s gas station. My friend had enough points that she only had to pay $1 a gallon for gas.

Supplies for babies, especially diapers, can be an astronomical expense. I have tried every brand of diapers available and have found that Parents Choice (also a Wal-Mart brand) are the best quality and have the best price. Their diapers are half the cost of name-brand, and I’ve never had a problem with leaking. My second choice for baby diapers and supplies is the Target brand – Up and Up. They are a little more expensive, but just as good in quality.

However, there are some items that are best left to name brand. Generic paper towels and toilet paper do not seem to hold up as well.

“Viva and Charmin are our paper products of choice,” Brewer said. “My wife won’t budge on those, and I have to agree the quality is better than the generic ones. “

However, those name-brand paper products do go on sale.

“Everything goes on sale,” Brewer said.  “I don’t have time for couponing, but I do read the grocery ads and make a ‘stock up’ list for when things are on sale.”

Cook from Scratch

Cooking from scratch can save a lot of money, too.

“Convenience foods like mixes, boxed dinners, refrigerated breads, etc. can really run up your grocery bill,” said Trinette Smith, a retiree and grandmother. “I try to cook enough for more than one meal then freeze the rest.”

However, if cooking from scratch doesn’t fit into your timetable (like mine), you can still do healthy quick meals on a budget.

“I don’t have time to cook, so I often fix appetizer meals,” Hoyt said. “I pull out the Sam’s brand salmon or turkey cubes cut from a block of turkey bought from a deli, generic brand cheese, generic brand whole wheat crackers, grapes and carrot sticks. My kids love it.”

Others save money by making their own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.

“I never can seem to find the coupons that I need, so I started making my own supplies,” said Kristen Ware, owner of KaZoo Marketing. “I found a recipe on Pinterest for making laundry detergent. It took me 10 minutes and it works just as well as the name brand for a whole lot less.”

Match Prices

Although it may take more time, price matching is another option for saving money.

“Walmart matches the price from other stores,” said Kenna Mitchell, a single working mom of one. “If, for example, Reasors has a lower price on eggs, I can show the ad at the Wal-Mart register and they will honor the Reasors price. Not only does it save money, it saves going to multiple stores to get the best deal.”

There are several discount retailers such as Aldi and the Dollar Tree where you can find name brands at half or less of the retail price. However, it’s best to buy things that don’t have an expiration date such as aluminum foil, napkins, and other non-perishable items.

And lastly, buying in bulk can be a money saver if you have the space to store items. I buy paper products, detergent and other items that I use on a daily basis.

However, you need to be smart about buying in bulk.

“You need to know the prices both at places like Sam’s and at the grocery store to know if you are really getting a good deal on that five gallon jar of mayonnaise,” Brewer cautioned.

As for me, just hold the mayo, thank you.

Categories: Financial Health