I grew up in a household that normalized semi-extreme coupon clipping. The level of bargain hunting that I was taught was not extreme enough to deserve a TLC special, but sustainable enough to form life-long habits.
Over the years, my mom has expertly honed her ritual of scanning the inserts in the Sunday paper and gingerly snipping (only relevant!) coupons for any upcoming grocery hauls. To this day, my mother does not leave the house without her handy accordion binder organized by category for quick reference and retrieval. If she accidentally forgets it, she will turn the car around. (I truly believe that she has a sixth sense that can tell when her minivan is five pounds lighter.)
If you need something — Clorox Wipes, Neutrogena makeup remover, Oreos, Dove Clinical Strength Deodorant, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, E.L. Fudge Cookies, ANYTHING — chances are, my mom has probably already clipped and filed away a coupon for it. That said, if you buy a thing without using the corresponding coupon for no reason other than laziness, you will feel immense, self-imposed guilt and shame. This was how I was raised and honestly I'm the richer for it (pun intended).
Here is definitive proof that my mother's method works. The other day, she proudly texted a photo of a recent grocery receipt with the caption, "See the banner savings on my ShopRite order."
Somehow, my mother purchased 64 items for $100 while saving a whopping $94 dollars. BUT HOW?
Because I am not acquainted with a single person more grocery- or bargain-savvy than my mom, I asked her for her five best money-saving grocery shopping tips to share with all of you. She gave me 10. This is why she is a national treasure.
1. Read the weekly flyer.
Use your local grocery store flyer or website to identify weekly sales and then make your list centered around the best deals. As evidenced above, my mother saved $44, just by shopping for sale items.
2. Or check for digital coupons.
Don't want to sit with the weekly paper or carry around an accordion binder filled with clippings? No problem. Many stores offer digital deals on items you probably have on your list.
3. Sign up for the loyalty card.
Make sure you maximize store savings by signing up for the loyalty card if your local store has the option. At some stores, you can only take advantage of certain deals if you are a cardholding member.
4. Keep a list of things you are running low on.
There are certain non-negotiable items that every home cook needs to have on hand. Keep a running list of general staples, and check off what you're running low on so you know when to add it to your list.
5. Don't use a coupon just for the sake of using it.
The trick to coupon clipping is to only use coupons for products you'd typically shop for. Do not impulse buy with coupons — saving $2 doesn't help if you were not going to buy this thing in the first place.
6. Go to a store you are familiar with.
Follow this rule and follow it well! If you frequent the same store, you will know where everything is and won't wander the aisles, tempted to buy extras. For my mother, her store is ShopRite. For me, that store is the Union Square Trader Joe's in New York City (aka the 10th circle of hell).
7. Buy only what you need.
Don't fall for three-for-$10 deals if you really just need one. Often times X for X deals are tricks to get you to spend more.
8. Never buy snacks that aren't on sale.
Growing up, our household was not always stocked with Oreos — because they were not always on sale. But when they WERE, my mom was all over it. My mom says that snacks are almost always on sale, and you should never pay full price them. If what you want isn't on sale, get something else that is and check again next time. Believe me when I say that Oreos taste better when they are buy-one-get-one free.
9. Stock up on non-perishables when they are on sale.
Keep that pantry stocked! If your store is having a major sale on canned goods or boxed pasta, don't miss out.
10. Plan out your weekly menu so you don't have to make multiple trips to the store.
Limiting the number of times you shop per week will also limit the number of dollars you spend — and that's a fact! We've got you covered in the meal-planning department.
More Grocery Shopping Tips
What are some of the best budget grocery shopping tips your mom has shared with you?