Reading through Macleans last week, I was very interested by an article on coupon clipping. In How to get groceries for (almost) free, readers are privy to the spending habits of Kathy Spencer, a stay-at-home mom who describes her economic status as follows:
“We live in a 2,800-sq.-foot colonial-style home on nearly three acres of land. We drive vehicles we paid for in cash. Our oldest is in college, and we have no credit-card debt. My husband works for the city making $45,000 a year. And yet to take a walk through our house, and sit down at our dinner table, you’d never know that, on paper, we’re considered low income. We live a life of abundance because I’ve discovered the secret to shopping for free.”
Spencer’s “free” shopping translates to $20 a month of grocery bills to feed a family of six – simply amazing! The question then becomes, how much time are you willing to spend clipping coupons to save thousands of dollars a year? According to this super-saver mom, several hours a week searching for deals and rebates is worth it.
I tend to agree with Andrew Marvell: “had we but world enough and time.” While I love the idea of saving up to $60,000 a year on food, as Spencer suggests is possible, I cannot (for the moment anyway) see myself sacrificing that much time hunting for coupons, conducting price-comparisons, and driving to several stores to gather all the items. With my two young children in tow, I choose the store that offers the lowest price on the majority of my staple items and go there.
However, there are some of her simpler tips that I already follow (plus some of my own) and would urge you to try if you want to save a few bucks:
- Consult your weekend newspaper for the bundle of glossy inserts (i.e. coupons) for saving opportunities. Do be careful, however, not to buy something simply because it is on sale. Know what you need and try to find a sale to match;
- Check for manufacturers’ coupons at the entrance of your local grocery store before you head in;
- Every day produce and bakery items are marked down 50% for quick sale. Have a look and see if there is anything you could eat. Even if you go a day over the suggested expiry date, it’s usually fine.
I certainly appreciate a deal as much as the next person (ok, probably a bit more than the next person) but I am careful not to compromise health for savings. Stay away from processed foods with nearly no nutritional value. That can of beef ravioli might be well-priced but it isn’t doing much for you. Of course, anything in moderation but avoid making non-nutritional foods the staple of your diet just to save a few dollars.
What are your tricks for saving when grocery shopping? How much time would you be willing to sacrifice to lower your monthly food bill?