Do you want to know How To Save Like a Couponer Without Clipping a Single Coupon? We talk a lot about saving money. But one category that resonates with everyone is in the area of groceries.
Everyone wants the latest and greatest tips to saving money on groceries, thus we talk about it a lot!
There is good reason for grocery savings to be one of the hottest savings topics because:
- Everyone has to buy groceries.
- It is one of the largest monthly household expenses
- There is a lot of wiggle room or room to cut in the grocery category.
With that, we want to talk about it again today! But the angle we want to take on this article is how to save without coupons. Why?
- People want the savings tricks without the effort and time – many spend as much as a part time job clipping and using coupons strategically.
- Couponing is a gamble because of the stores’ policies, coupon policies, on-hand stock and other variables that greatly affect the results all across the nation. Trust us! We’ve had our fair share of spending a vast amount of time to plan the perfect shopping trip, only to get to the store and the items be gone, the store changing their policy or other “red tape.”
- Because couponing has a stigma. Let’s face it, many people do not like the stigma attached with couponing, but they envy the savings.
Since the way to save on groceries can’t happen from not eating, it’s a necessary topic to discuss and certainly necessary to discuss the way to save without couponing.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum from the extreme couponer to the I don’t want to see another grocery coupon in my life. It just happens. Sometimes I am excited and eager to use my colorful, picture money, but other times I just want to go grocery shopping and forget the hassle.
Over the years and my attempt to find my monthly 2% cuts (until reaching the rock bottom budget) I have found dozens of savings hacks for both types of shoppers. This article is going to share some of those for the non-couponer and save all those hours those couponers take to get ready for their shopping trips.
Here’s the 6 Steps on How To Save Like a Couponer Without Clipping a Single Coupon
1. Stay Out Of The Aisles
Down right impossible, right?!? Well, I am here to tell you that it is not. It may be difficult, especially at first but let me explain! There’s always a thing here or there that I need down the aisle, but it is really the habit of not relying on the foods down the aisles for the majority of your shopping. If you can learn to shop the perimeter of the store, you will buy fresh, wholesome foods and avoid the high mark-up on the processed and packaged foods.
Just spend an extra hour at home per week preparing these at-home versions of the packaged and processed foods, even ahead of time in the form of things like bulk mixes. You will save mega money and considering that the majority of coupons are for the name-brand convenience and packaged foods, you will be saving money and health!
2. Learn to spend more time in the kitchen
This one goes right along with point #1 – if you spend just a few more minutes in the kitchen each day, or about an hour a week you can save money by preparing many foods yourself. The more time you spend prepping and making from scratch, the more money you save.
If I have so many hours in a week to devote to grocery shopping and cooking, I have found that my time has been better spent spending a few more minutes in the kitchen than to clip and try to get a coupon deal.
If you can cut up your own veggies, create your own salad from the heads, bread your own chicken, make your own seasoning blends, create your own dressings and sauces and more (all of which takes just a few extra minutes of your time in the kitchen) you really can rack up a huge savings.
We’ve even shared a number of recipes on our site for a frugal replacement to store-bought products HERE.
3. Shop the markdowns
Want to know a big grocery savings secret? Shop the markdowns at your local grocery store.
It does not mean that you are buying second rate food or bad food. Just the opposite. We generally can eat higher quality foods for the same or less cost as the low quality everyday affordable foods.
In fact, we find many high quality and high priced foods on markdown from anything to a nearing expiration date, damaged packaging, brands changing their packaging, overstock, you name it! And this is a gold mine for bargain shoppers.
Markdowns can generally be found in all departments including fresh, packaged and frozen items. My favorites are the markdown in produce, bakery and dairy sections.
For example, in the bakery section, we can often find high quality, organic, sprouted and otherwise “expensive” breads on markdown. We buy them for the price of a lower quality bread and just freeze them until we are ready to consume.
Another example is in the dairy department. Our local grocery store (Kroger affiliate) is required to markdown dairy 10 days before expiration. That is a HUGE margin, especially when you consider little facts like yogurt actually being fine to consume within seven days after the sell-by-date – resulting in a really good window for your family to consume those products. These dairy markdowns have also resulted in some great freezer benefits like homemade butter and breakfast breads!
We did want to note that Walmart is one store that does not offer markdowns in the fresh departments (at least at the time of the writing of this article). I have asked about it numerous times and they insist that they have to throw it out as instructed by corporate. They will mark down some meat and bakery items occasionally and you can find the markdown processed and boxed foods in specially marked areas in the aisles. Even then, the markdowns are not really marked down so we really don’t get any great markdowns at Walmart. But if you have other grocery stores in your area, there’s a good chance they have great markdowns. Ask an associate at each of the store’s departments when they mark certain items for markdown (which will give you a hint on the best times to shop). Plus if you find something that is nearing an expiration/sell by date, it never hurts to ask if they can mark it down.
The trick then becomes learning how to include the markdowns into your menu and oftentimes including them that week if they are nearing expiration. As this is one of our biggest secrets to saving big you need to keep reading as we’ll be sharing that trick below in step #6.
4. Shop the front of the store circular/ad
When you get those lovely store ads, only some items in the ad are a real deal. You can use shopping lists that breakdown the ad for you so that you know exactly how good of a deal it is, like this weekly sales shopping list HERE.
For us, we personally shop the front circular. Why? Because this is where you are automatically going to get a great deal. The items on the front page are generally what’s known as the “loss leaders.” It means that they mark these sale prices so low that they are actually often losing money on those products – all in an attempt to lure customers into the store in hopes that they buy other items. Obviously this form of marketing works because it has been done for decades.
But if you can be a smart shopper and stick to the loss leaders and the real ad deals, combined with the other steps, then you can cut your grocery budget quite dramatically. Don’t worry – we will show you how to bring this hodge podge of steps into one harmonious menu at the end.
5. Buy the staples in bulk
When we talk about buying in bulk, we don’t mean to buy packaged and processed foods at big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, although buying your name brand pre-packed foods at those big box stores will save you about 15% over grocery store prices. What we are talking about is different when it comes to bulk shopping.
We are talking about buying your staples in bulk – you know those items like rice, oats, butter, coconut oil, beans, wheat, etc.
We have found that bulk buying online, in local bulk food stores and even at places like CostCo and Sam’s Club for the bulk staples in the big bags, you can save a really good amount! You can see some examples that we have shared from bulk food buying.
But much of this same shopping can be done in the big box stores. For example, if you can buy a 25 lb. bag of long grain white rice for $8.34 vs. $5.44 for 72 oz (a.k.a. 4.5 lbs.) – both in bulk at Sam’s Club, you can clearly see that the non-name brand, pre-packed option is going to save you tons!
Just check out the regular sized Minute Rice at Walmart – less than 1lb. at 14 oz. for $1.98.
- 25 lb. = $0.02 per oz.
- 4.5 lb = $0.08 per oz.
- 14 oz. grocery store size = $0.14 per oz.
You would need to get the grocery store version for $0.20 per box to equal the same price. But the long grain is still better quality. 😉
We even stock-up on produce staples like potatoes, carrots and squash when they are on sale as they last for weeks! We also stock up on fruits and other veggies when they are cheap and buy bulk amounts and then preserve them by freezing for use when they are not so cheap.
We even buy our meat in bulk to get better options for less and only have to buy a couple of times per year. When we switched to bulk meat buying, we literally saved 30% off our grocery bill overnight. The better news was not only did this switch save us tons of money, but it’s fresh from the farm meats through this meat co-op, buying in bulk. This is an easy step anyone can adopt today.
When you buy these staple items, you can then turn around and make yummy, home-cooked meals for much less than from out of a box!
6. Bring it all together
Now we are the point where you may be wondering how to tie the above steps together for one harmonious meal.
Since this is the primary way I shop for my family, I had created a menu that I have used in my home for years called the “No Food Waste Menu Planner.” Because this had been so successful for us for years, we had a graphic artist create a print-friendly version of this menu planner so that we could share it with you.
The best part is that this menu planner has saved hundreds of dollars over the years for so many people because it allows you to create delicious meals using all of the foods you have on hand.
So grab your copy of the No-Food Waste Menu planner HERE so that you can create a menu based off of the foods you have on hand now.
That’s not all though. Because we still haven’t answered the question on how to tie all of these foods together. As you are laying out your meal plan with the menu, you will be finding new recipes using your foods.
You can pretty much find a recipe for nearly every combination of foods with the age of the internet. You may be wondering how you could “possibly create a meal or menu based on the loss leaders, the bulk staples, the markdowns and only shopping the perimeter of the store???” It seems like it would create for a messy menu situation. But there is a super easy trick found on allrecipes.com.
It works like this: search for recipes based on ingredients that you DO have on hand and exclude ingredients that you DO NOT want to use or have. You can simplify this even more by searching for cooking times, type of food, allergens, etc.
We have actually shared the step-by-step process to fill out your No Food Waste Menu Planner, including how to use the recipe search on AllRecipes to make a complete and full menu, while using your “hodge podge” of foods!
In the end, you have this beautiful menu, healthy fresh foods you bought for less, a variety of meals and saved a ton of money and time in the process.
Isn’t this what you were hoping for when you began this article? You wanted to discover how to save like a couponer without clipping a single coupon and in the process, you didn’t even have to clip a single coupon.