Monday, November 1, 2010

Food & Grocery: Coupon Strategy

Since becoming a stay at home dad I have become more active in meal prep and grocery shopping. I have started to enjoy cooking, and trying to save as much as possible at the grocery store appeals to my competitive side. For these reasons, and because the grocery store is a lot less busy mid morning on a week day grocery shopping has landed on my to do list. Over time I have developed a system for making a shopping list, clipping coupons, and working my way through the store.

In many ways grocery shopping is like parenting. Millions of people do it, each in their own unique way. In parenting and grocery shopping everyone has their struggles (we seem to frequently blow the beer budget!?!?!) and strategies. As a parent and shopper I consider myself a work in progress and gain comfort knowing countless others are going through the same things are we are.

I want to lay out my current grocery shopping strategy, explain areas where I want to do more, and discuss some weaknesses of our current system. I turn to you blog community to help fine tune the strategy. I would love to hear your system, you strengths, weaknesses, etc. (As a guy who in a previous life went to Cub Foods coupon-less, I am now clearly over the top with my grocery issues!?!?!? My apologizes!)

Current Strategy: Lib prefers Target, I like Cub Foods, and in a pinch we use CobornsDelivers. Coborns seems to be a bit more expensive, but sometimes the convenience of having groceries at your door is priceless.

I try to do a weekly grocery shop. The girls are usually pretty good about shopping. Lucy rides in the cart, Paige goes in the front pack, and all the old women at the store smile and stare at our set up. Beautiful system!

In preparation we go through the kitchen, fridge, and freezer to see what we need. I go over the weekly Cub ad as well as the bi-monthly Cub flyer and the manufacturer coupons. There is nothing like double couponing an item (Cub ad and manufacturer’s ad)!

I love watching the total cost of groceries go down after everything has been rung up and the check out person starts scanning the coupons. I also love that on the Cub receipt they print % saved. My goal is always 20%, I get super pumped if it gets toward 25%, and with a few system improvements I think I can consistently be pushing 30%.

System improvements needed: I currently have two main areas of focus for improving the grocery system. I am hopeful after this post you will help me out with others.

First, I need to tap into the wide variety of on-line coupons that exist. I recently signed up for and . I have yet to print and use any of these coupons, but I think these additional coupons could increase the savings. Do you have any web coupons that you have had a lot of success with?

Secondly, I want to streamline the shopping list. Many people lay out the weekly meal schedule and then only buy the ingredients they need for those meals. I am not there yet, but knowing we have a plan for the buy one get one free cantaloupe instead of just racing to fit it into every meal before it expires would be helpful. A detailed list of needs would also help me with one of my weaknesses…chasing the deals.

Weaknesses: I haven’t gone to the extreme of buying Kibbles ‘N Bits because it is such good deal even though we don’t have a dog, but I have come close. In my attempt to generate as high of a percentage saved on my receipt as possible, I have definitely bought items off the grocery list. Although I know this is playing right into the grocery store’s hands, it hasn’t been completely a bad thing. The buy one get one free ham steaks that I had no idea what we were going to do with went in the freezer and eventually turned into two good meals. (Lib and Lucy may argue that the word good could be left out of the last sentence, but they can’t argue with the fact they turned into two meals.)

My plan for a solution is to make the shopping list (hopefully more detailed in the future) and then use the coupons that apply to what we need. Coupons that can be used in future weeks can be cut, saved, and then used when those items are needed. Not sure how this plan will affect my goal of getting to 30% savings, but the real goal is saving dollars. If the percentage is lower that isn’t a problem as long as the overall spend is lower.

My second weakness, which will probably be an ongoing battle, is finding the time to execute the plan. Collecting coupons from multiple locations, laying out a week of meals, etc. can be very time consuming. The reward of dollars saved is good, but there is no denying that life is busy. I will keep you posted on attempts do make the system time efficient.

Your suggestions and recommendations on any or all of this would be greatly appreciated.

Happy start to National Blog Month!


  1. Try There are 3 sites there for printable coupons. You can even sign up for them to email you when there are new coupons.
    Also, is good too. Happy shopping!

  2. ooohhh. good post paul! i too love to see the % saved at the bottom of the cub reciept. I'm a sunday paper coupon clipper as well as visits to i'm excited to learn about a few other websites that your readers will share.

  3. Point 1) 5:00am is to early for blogging
    Point 2) What do you mean Beer Budget? I don't think that phrase is in the English Language
    Point 3) Scout likes Purina Adult flavor next time its on sale.
    Point 4) I love Ham Steak!!!
    Point 5) Why do I have to enter my URL to comment on your blog, what if I don't want you to have my URL. Seems a little nosey there Paul

  4. i like this site:

    it tells you exactly what you can get at the stores by combining coupons. sweet!