December 11, 2018

How to Shop and Save Money at the Grocery Store

Apr 27, 2010

How to shop and save money at the grocery store! Tips for how to read a sales flier, find the best prices, and match up coupons.

This is the first post in my new series entitled “Teach a (Wo)Man How to Fish…..” In case you missed the introduction, this series is based on the Chinese Proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”  So, rather than just finding fish (deals, freebies, coupons, etc.) for you, I’m going to be teaching you HOW to find them yourself!

The first thing I want to teach you is how to find deals at the grocery store.  I post coupon match-ups for a few stores, but I can’t possibly post every single store’s deals and coupon match-ups.  So, I’m going to show you how to match-up the coupons and deals for yourself!

Know Your Store’s Coupon Policy

Before you even start making your list, you need to know your store’s coupon policy.  Call and find out if they double or triple coupons, up to what value do they double/triple (i.e. double coupons up to 50¢), and how many of each coupon will they double (some stores will only double the first 3 of each “like” coupon).  You can also ask if they accept printable coupons, if they accept expired coupons, if they accept competitor coupons, and if will they allow you to use both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on a single item.

Read the Sales Flier

When you get your grocery store sales ad, take a look at the front page.  Most items on the front page are what store’s call “loss leaders”.  Loss leaders are items that are priced so low that the store may actually be losing money on them.  How can they do this?  They count on you buying other items once they’ve lured you into the store with the great deals!  Also, browse through the ad and look for sale items that look to be at great prices, along with any special promotions.  Beware of “false sales” though – just because it’s in the ad doesn’t mean it’s actually on sale!  I’ve seen canned vegetables listed in the ad “on sale” for $1 each – when they are regularly priced 99¢ each!

Pick Out the Good Deals

Now, I know it’s hard to know if it’s a good deal or not, but you have to figure out what YOUR best prices are.  Some people suggest making a price book.  The idea is to keep track of prices for the things you buy regularly so you know what is a good deal.  I personally have never done it because I think it’s too much work. I kind of just keep track in my head, but writing it all down is probably a good idea.  After couponing for a while, you will start to remember that chicken breast regularly goes on sale for $1.99/lb, and $1.49/lb is about as low as it goes in your area.  Therefore, $1.99/lb is your “buy price” (buy it at this price if you need it), and $1.49 is your “stock-up price” (buy several pounds to last  until it goes on sale again).  These prices will fluctuate depending on the economy and the season of the year.

I know that finding the lowest price might be where it gets tricky for some people.  Do you ever wonder ” should I pay 49¢ for oatmeal now (since that is a great price!), or should I hang on to my coupon in case I can get it free in a week or two?”  I actually wonder the same thing myself occasionally {gasp!}.  This is where you begin thinking about the “game”.  The object of the game is to get the lowest price possible.  Only, it is impossible to lose at this game! Yay!  Whether you save 10% or 100%, you are still saving your family money!!  Trust me, it is not the end of the world to buy 10 boxes of oatmeal at 49¢ each, and then see that if you had waited one more week you could have gotten it for free.  Sure, you could have saved an extra $4.90, but what if it hadn’t gone on sale the next week?  And then your coupon expired? And then you ran out of oatmeal and had to pay $4.90 for just 2 boxes?  See what I’m getting at?

Match-Up Your Coupons

After you’ve looked over your ad, you need to see if you can find any coupons to match-up with the sales.  This is where the coupon database comes into play.  Just go to the Coupon Database and type in the name of the product.  If you are looking for Quaker Oatmeal coupons, just type in “quaker” or “quaker oatmeal” or even just “oatmeal” and click on “search”.  This will list all the coupons available right then for Quaker Oatmeal.  You then look for the highest value coupon (check your coupon stash to make sure you have the coupon), calculate how much the product would be after the coupon, and determine if it’s at your “buy” or “stock up” price.

Make Your List

Always, always, always make a list.  This will save you so much money!  Write down (or type in a word doc) the item you’re buying, how many you’re buying, the coupon you’re using, and the final price after coupon.  Then, add in any items you plan on purchasing in addition to the sale items (bread, milk, produce, etc.).  Add up the prices of everything on your list (estimate for those that you don’t know the price) and jot down your estimated total.  I also like to add up the number of coupons I plan on using and adjust the number accordingly as I shop.  That way, after checking out, I can compare the number of coupons on my receipt to the number on my list to make sure they match.  If they don’t, it’s usually pretty easy to determine which coupon was overlooked and get it taken care of at customer service.

There you have it!  It’s pretty simple, isn’t it?  If you can’t find a website to do all the deal-finding and coupon-matching for you, this guide should help you to be able to do it on your own!


  1. Great post – thanks! I love the idea of checking off the number of coupons I use to quickly compare when I check out – sure beats my current shuffle-slowly-towards-car-while-adding technique.

    By the way, I use scrap envelopes – you know, the ones that come with all of those pre-approved credit card offers, magazine renewals, etc. – for making my lists. That way, the coupons for each store go in the envelope. If I’m going to multiple stores? Multiple envelopes!

    The only hard part is taking the time to un-file everything I don’t use afterwards.

    • @Abby, I do the same thing! I forget to re-file too – and then when I need to find a coupon I never remember to look in the store envelopes!

    • @Abby, using the envelopes out of my mail is a GREAT tip!! I pay all my bills online but insist on receiving paper bills…and I have never stuck to couponing because I can never remember where I put my coupons or I drop them while shopping. 😉 THANKS! NOW I’m ready to get started. =D

    • I do the binder to envelope system as well. It’s so easy to just look up the category, grab the coupons out of my binder and throw them in my envelope with my very messy list written on it! I don’t know why..but I’ve been too afraid to bring my whole binder into the store..I’ve already gotten dirty looks from people when I am standing there with my thick envelope of coupons, staring at the shelves, and then staring at my list/coupons. I’m nervous that people will give me even dirtier looks with my binder in tow! Anyone else have this “binder phobia”?? I shouldn’t be afraid…I want to just shout..”I’m saving money here people!!”. AHH!

  2. Great info for all those no fishing deals ladies out there ..I still cant get my wife to write a her list..hopefully after reading this she might start ..thanks
    .-= forumsdeals´s last blog ..Forums Deals =-.

  3. Love this series, Steph. I have that quote in a few posts (and will probably use it a few more times), but never with couponing….Great Title for this series.

  4. Girl, you are just amazing! I love this series.
    .-= [email protected] Loves It!´s last blog ..The Garden Hasn’t Flopped… Yet… =-.

  5. Wow…awesome tips! Thanks so much for all you do, I have learned a lot from you already, and look forward to learning more.

    I’ve come to realize that some people are just naturally more inclined to remember prices of things. Unfortunately for myself, I’m not one of those people. So I started a price book, like you mentioned, to help jog my memory.
    It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but once you’ve got the bulk of it in there it gets a lot easier. And I’m proud to report that this has actually helped me remember some prices! Just a bit of encouragement for those who might feel daunted by the task.

  6. You are sooo kind to help all of us! I love that you have allowed us access to the coupon data base, I have already used it many times. I’m having so much fun saving money, who would have thought?

  7. I love this post!! It is such a help! Thanks for all your hardwork!

  8. As if all the couponing stuff wasn’t enough! =) What a wonderful idea to teach us this important skill. Groceries are usually the next highest expense (next to a mortgage/rent)…learning to budget and plan is key.

    Thank you for your thoughtfulness!

  9. I am new to couponing. I worry that if I save coupons, waiting for a sale, they might expire. Any thoughts on that?

    • @Melissa, It’s okay if coupons expire! Most of the coupons I clip expire before I use them. And that’s okay! They are there “just in case” for the most part. There are some that I always use because I buy those products every week – like International Delight creamer. Other coupons like body wash and shampoo, I don’t buy as often, but I clip them in case they come up free after coupon somewhere.

  10. I read somewhere that troops overseas can use expired coupons (I’m not sure how long-I think it’s up to six months). Maybe a group of coupon-ers can get together and send a bunch of expired coupons.

    • @Debi, Yes, they use coupons that are expired up to 6 months! I have never sent mine, so I don’t know much about it, but I have heard of many people sending theirs.

      • @Stephanie,
        I send my expired coupons overseas, if anyone is interested in mailing me your expired coupons, I will sort them & mail them to the different bases. If interested contact me & I will send my add.

    • what you are looking for is the overseas coupon program

      this site is run by volunteers, essentially they list the sites and keep track of total coupons donated
      you separate the coupons into food and non-food, total the amounts of the coupons for each group, and mail the coupons (ideally no more than 2-3 months expired) to the base you’ve selected to adopt (from the ones taking coupon donations- see their site to know who needs them and where to mail them. the families there can use them up to 6 months expired.
      speaking as prior military, who was stationed overseas, coupons were really helpful to my budget.

  11. Great post: Love your site
    I too have separate envelopes and have forgotten to refile coupons and rain checks augh 🙁 But now I have a zip lock bag that I dump all the unused coupons in to refile. If I don’t get to it right away then I have only one other place to go look for them :-).

  12. Darkese Tieme says:

    @Patty, Patty, if you send me your info I would love to send you my expired Q’s for the troops. I get so sad every time I have to throw them out but haven’t been able to find a recommended site for more info. Sounds like you have the inside scoop. My email is eyesisangel at yahoo

  13. Stephanie,

    I loved your idea of making a list. I do try to make a list but it is usually handwritten and a mess. I am a little OCD about things and would love to have it organized into a WORD or EXEL doc as you suggested. Do you happen to know a good place I could find a saved template with this valuable information on it that I could start with?

    I am really loving your website,

  14. hi,

    I just started reading all the posts about couponing but not sure where to start from. Also, we shop at samsclub in bulk. Can you please let me know if couponing at a retail store is comparatively cheaper than buy buying in bulk at sams or Costco.


  15. I wonder where I can find a comprehensive list of shelf life of all items, frozen, canned, boxed, condiments, etc,

  16. Please add me to your newsletter.. thanks great tips

  17. great tips for couponing……. I use a a-z file

    • @dee, I use a mini a-z file as well for each store. I got them for $1 at target in the $1 section. I have one for walgreens and target. I divide the dividers into food, household items, health and beauty, etc and at the back I put the receipts. For Target I have a spot for their gift cards and Walgreens their RR’s, etc. I find if I get out of hand I have the receipts so I can return stuff! I then have 3 for mfr coupons: Baby (have a baby), food and household. When I want to use the MFR’s at a store I move them to a mfr slot in the Target or Walgreens etc file folder. But, I agree hard to remember to put them back.

  18. I use a mini a-z file as well for each store. I got them for $1 at target in the $1 section. I have one for walgreens and target. I divide the dividers into food, household items, health and beauty, etc and at the back I put the receipts. For Target I have a spot for their gift cards and Walgreens their RR’s, etc. I find if I get out of hand I have the receipts so I can return stuff! I then have 3 for mfr coupons: Baby (have a baby), food and household. When I want to use the MFR’s at a store I move them to a mfr slot in the Target or Walgreens etc file folder. But, I agree hard to remember to put them back.

  19. Hi i need help in knowing what coupons r useless to clip my binder is so full of coupon items that I don’t or not sure if they will ever go free. Do u clip every single coupon or just some,IM sure whoever has been doing this for a while knows what coupons r useless. Help!!!

  20. was told that u could use a coupon that has the saame bar code to buy other itrms with and i’m trying to find out ifthis is true. I would very nuch appreciate it if u took time to answer this question for mr. hank you, Amm Dyess
    P>S> Could u please send the answer to my email address. Yhanks

  21. I am late getting to this party but enjoyed reading your article and all the tips others had to share. I too use the trash envelopes but I go one step further to help speed the shopping process. When I make my list I do it by the way the store is laid out, then I have an envelope for each section. For instance one envelope will be for Health/Beauty/Pet food/cleaning supplies and paper products as all of those items are in a section together. Another envelope is for canned foods/condiment/baking isle, then one each for Dairy, Frozen etc. I think you get the idea.
    When done shopping all my envelopes get tossed back into the designated place I keep my coupons and when I start planning my next shopping trip I pull the Q’s out of the envelopes and file them. My sister tells me I am over organized but it works for me and cuts down the time I am in the store searching for the right coupon. Couponing makes going to the grocery store no longer a dreaded task.

  22. Great tips! Thanks.

  23. Awesome, thanks for sharing your tips

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