Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 411 for 444

Today I broke one of my personal rules. It just worked out that way and I had to do it. My youngest daughter and son are coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. I usually work and don't bother to cook. I've worked most of the time leading up to now and I simply had to venture out for groceries. After all, I had to get that turkey today and my husband needed the car for work tonight.

Usually I avoid shopping during busy times. I do not shop during Thanksgiving week and I avoid large department stores completely November through January. There are people that come out for holiday shopping that you just don't see at other times of the year. Some are quite scary. I hate the crowds and the attitudes, so I simply stock up on anything I may need and avoid shopping altogether.

A few weeks ago a reader asked me about coupons in their comment. The details of my shopping trip are for you 444express. I hope this helps you with your decision. I clip coupons that I may use if the price is right and save the coupons in envelopes until I need them. People use many different systems but this is what works for me. I never buy a product I will not use, even if it ends up being free. If an item will keep and I can use them before they expire I buy several.

A note about coupons, it's true most of them are for processed foods. I don't bother to clip the ones for frozen pizzas, or canned soups for instance, because I make my own. I do clip the ones for crackers, cereal, sugar, tuna, shampoo, toothbrushes, butter, coffee, spices, etc. When I need to go shopping I read the sales fliers from my local grocery stores. I know what the prices usually are and I look for the lowest price when I start to run out of something.

Today's shopping trip would have cost me $139.65 if I bought everything when it wasn't on sale. The sale prices saved me $51.79, and my coupons saved me an additional $13.10. I bought everything for $74.76, a big shopping trip for me. Part of my spending was $37.48 for everything I would need for Thursdays meal and the other $37.28 was just random pantry items that were on sale plus I had matching coupons.

I need lots of butter for my upcoming baking extravaganza. This year I am planning a baking day with my brother so we can whip up several batches of a wide assortment of cookies. I can't wait, I love baking. Anyway, store brand butter was $3.39 and Land of Lakes butter was on sale two for five or $2.50 each. I had coupons for $1.00 off of two so that made the big brand $2.00 each. I bought four of those for the massive baking day.

The last time I shopped there was a sale on tuna. The five ounce pouches normally $1.49 each were BOGO (buy one get one free) but the shelf was empty. I had 5 coupons for 55 cents off so I asked for a raincheck for six pouches. I picked those up today and the raincheck with my coupons made them 29 cents each. They keep and they'll come in real handy for a last minute lunch when I'm out of time and on the run.

Just because you have a coupon doesn't always mean it will be a good deal. I had a coupon for $4.00 off a butterball turkey. The store brand was cheaper but I thought the coupon would even them out or make the bigger brand a better deal. I picked two turkeys of the same size and compared them. The Butterball was $15.00 and the store brand was $6.00. I picked out a store brand and gave my coupon to the customer beside me who was choosing a Butterball.

I work in retail so it's pretty easy for me to remember what the usual price is for an item. Some people prefer to carry a price book to help them keep track of the prices. It seems like too much work for me and I'm not that organized. Find a system that works for you but doesn't stress you out. Some people are just driven crazy by coupons, so if they don't work for you don't stress over it.

Luckily for me the grocery stores in my area do not double the regular price of an item the week it goes on sale for BOGO. I can't say the same for the drug stores here. I ran into the store late one night for a gallon of milk and noticed a display of Russell Stover chocolates for $4.59. The next day the new sale started and I saw the same item on sale BOGO and the regular price was listed as $8.99. I found another store that did the same dirty trick. They had make-up on sale BOGO. The night before the sale they removed all the regular price labels from the shelf so they could double the price. I didn't fall for it, shame on you dirty companies.

Grocery and household shopping is an easy part of your budget to trim. Coupons help but there are other hints to consider. The first step is to be aware of the regular price and always try to find the lowest price. I don't drive around all day bargain hunting, and I don't stockpile freebies in my garage. I buy what I need and will use at the best price I can find. I shop the sales and make a list. I read the paper and after it's in the recycle bin I clip coupons throughout the week while I watch TV. Don't make it a dreaded chore, or it won't help at all.


  1. Thanks for the lowdown! I haven't looked at coupons in so long that I was not aware coupons for staples like butter could even be found.

    I do 90% of my food shopping at Sam's Club. A typical purchase of butter there is four 1-lb. bricks of either salted or unsalted butter individually wrapped in paper/foil and then shrink-wrapped together and the regular price is $10.92, which comes out to $2.73 for each pound block. This is why I try to shop there rather than at the supermarkets. You got a great deal with the sale price combined with a coupon, though.

    For everyday shopping, although I can't beat Sam's Club's prices, I have to hit the grocery stores for the items Sams does not stock (or in the rare case that a large quantity is really not economical because I won't use it soon enough.) Milk is well under $3 at Sam's and also at Walmart but it's nearly $4 at the supermarket! And I always buy 2 gallons at a time so today I put off a milk purchase till I can get to Sam's tonight. I verified the supermarket price just today because I had to visit the supermarket for a few items. And this is a store I consider "no frills" and economically priced as the local stores go; I have not noticed major differences between them with the exception of Walmart; their selection is more like a supermarket (it is a supercenter) with prices resembling Sam's.) I was also shocked at the price of bread at the supermarket since I have been spoiled by getting two bags at a time from Sam's for a lower price. The drawback is that the selection is very limited at Sam's.

    Before I ramble about vanilla and pop tarts, you might want to just read the post here: http://444express.blogspot.com/2010/10/spending-update-again-and-again-and.html (copy and paste, I don't think I can use html in a comment.)

    Thanks for going over your coupon and sale experience. I always suspect that the BOGO deals are subject to a least some degree of markup - and from your story, it sounds like sometimes it's worse than others, like doubling the price ahead of time. Sheesh - that IS a dirty trick!

  2. Looks like the butter prices are or were higher in October where I live (referring to my post that the above URL points to.) I just grabbed the price from Sam's website today but I guess local prices vary, or maybe from week to week they change. Anyway... The best way to save money is to not eat so much of it, right? LOL Happy cookie-baking (I just cranked out a batch of chocolate chip, but then, I do that every week or so... I believe it's cheaper than cookies bought at the store but I haven't calculated or anything; the kids like them so that's a good enough reason.)

  3. Sorry for being off the subject but, I was reading through your archives. I came across your story about Thelma and Louise! LMAO!!!!
    I am in Wisconsin. It is so true about the cheese shops. We love our cheese here! And Thelma and Louise is one of my very favorite movies. Sounds like you had a really wonderful time!! Carol (the one with the diabetic dog)

  4. I am so impressed with people who can do coupons. I am so messy and disorganized, so I have to forgo the biggest batgains.

  5. 444, you're welcome. :) I used to shop at Sam's Club when I had three kids at home and worked full-time. I never seemed to have the time or organization to make coupons work at that time. I can do it now but I have a mostly empty nest and work part time. Sounds like you are very busy so they may not work for you.

    I have done very well on a few shopping trips but I am not one of the coupon queens you hear about on the early morning news shows who get three cartloads of groceries for 59 cents. My usual weekly savings with coupons and sales and occasionally rebates is about 50 to 60% off the regular price.

  6. Anonymous (Carol) any subject is welcome. I did have a great time on that trip, and I love cheese too. Matter of fact, I haven't been able to find string cheese as good as the long roll of string cheese I found in one of those little shops. Once I go on a trip I never want to go home. I think I should look for a job that involves travel because I am perfectly happy to be on the road and live out of a suitcase.

  7. Frugal scholar, sometimes the biggest bargain is in avoiding extra shopping in the first place.