Cool Ideas

Save Money on Groceries with Strategic Shopping

by Stephanie Nelson

I like saving money on my groceries, but not at the expense of having to feed my family foods I don't like or foods that are unhealthy just because they are inexpensive. I believe that saving money on groceries is not about changing the way you eat, it is about changing the way you buy the foods that you like. It is possible, you just have to be smart and know how to buy what you like at their lowest prices so you stay within a spending plan, every single week.

It's about knowing how to be a Strategic Shopper. Strategic Shoppers know how to use simple principles that work in any city, at any store. You can use my free website,, to make it easy to save money on your favorite groceries, because it does all the work of researching grocery deals and coupons for you. You'll save money on foods you like and you'll save time.

Strategic Shoppers know prices and they know how to find special promotions. They always buy their grocery items at their lowest sale price, and if they have a coupon they use it to knock the price down even further. They shop at the stores with the best coupon policy, such as a double coupon store, to save even more with coupons. It is not unusual for Strategic Shoppers to save 50% on their grocery bill every week by using this strategy. They may not get all of their items at 50% off, but they'll save 70-80% on several of their items and that allows them to spend more on favorite items that do not have coupons available. By using Strategic Shopping strategies, they are able to save dramatically without depriving themselves of their favorite foods.

Know prices:

In order to get a handle on your grocery spending, you need to know what the high and low prices are of your favorite items. By tracking their price trends, you'll learn what their lowest price points are. When they hit that point, you'll know that's the time to buy.

Start a simple price book (like a spiral notebook) to compare prices of your most common items at one or two stores for a few weeks. You can start with as few as your 10-20 most common items. Note prices during your regular shopping trips or you check the store flyers in your newspaper. Be sure to calculate the unit prices (per ounce or per pound) to compare actual costs if package sizes vary. After comparing prices for a few weeks, you will most likely see a wide fluctuation in the sale and regular prices of your common items and that will reveal-you guessed it-their lowest price.

When you are able to recognize when your items have hit their lowest prices, you would be wise to buy 3-6 weeks worth of them so you never have to pay full price. When you run out of an item, you simply "shop" from your own low-cost inventory. By the time you are running low on a favorite item, it will most likely be at its lowest price again so you can stock up again.

Know promotional programs:

Do a little research at your stores to find out if they have special promotions to combine with low prices. Find out if your store doubles or triples coupons, and up to what limit. You may learn that one store has a much more generous coupon policy than another, which may influence where you choose to shop with your coupons.

Check your store's weekly ad to learn about special promotions each week. Stores with discount cards frequently have special rebates and promotions tied to using the store discount card and buying multiple quantities of an item. I call these "automatic rebate programs" because all you need to do is purchase the items and use your discount card to get money taken off your bill immediately. An example of a promotion I used last week was "buy four Kelloggs or Keebler items and receive $6 off your bill". By combining the items' sale prices and coupons with this rebate, I saved nearly 75% on four items I needed. If I hadn't checked the store's weekly ad to learn about this promotion, I would have wasted $6.

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' Good Morning America. You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at ( Copyright 2006© Stephanie Nelson.