If you want to learn how to save money on groceries without couponing, then pull up a chair! I'm NOT a couponer, but I can teach you how to walk out of the store with a heck of a lot more money in your pocket.
It's no secret that I am not a couponer. You could consider me captain of the Anti-Couponing Team. CNBC even interviewed me because they wanted to know WHY I don't coupon (nor recommend couponing) at the grocery store. I realized I hadn't talked about it for a while on here and thought I'd remind you why I DON'T coupon and DON'T think you need to, either!
I respect people who love it and find that it works for them. It's just not for me. I've tried couponing, and I've attended the classes, read the blogs, and shadowed experts. While it may work for some, just as a lifelong crash diet of lettuce and raw flax might work, I prefer a sustainable life of hearty food and juicy steaks (…which we can buy for a reasonable price without having to surf the recycle bin first).
Grocery shopping is one of our biggest expenses each month, aside from our mortgage! So it's important to stick to a reasonable budget, and stretch that budget as far as you can. So if you're sick of clipping coupons and want to learn how to save money on groceries, then keep on reading! This post is for YOU.
7 REASONS WHY I DON'T BELIEVE IN COUPONING
I think there are much easier ways to save money than clipping coupons, so I'll start by sharing the top 7 reasons why I DONT believe in couponing. Next up, I'll share my top 3 tips for saving money…the easy way! Trust me. You want to read until the end! So let's get on with it, shall we?!
REASON #1: TIME = MONEY
Couponing is not for the faint of heart; it takes time, dedication, and pretty much a dictionary of dos and don'ts to get through the grocery aisles unscathed. First, you have to subscribe to the newspapers, clip, sort, and store the coupons, and find the store's deals that week. Then you have to figure out which coupons can work with the sales, go shopping (frequently having to visit multiple stores), and then, additionally, plan out and shop for the things your coupons don't work for (but you still need). By the time all is said and done, you have likely dedicated part-time hours to organize your coupons. And at that point, a part-time job would be more profitable!
Full disclosure, yes, there are easier ways to coupon nowadays. Between apps and digital coupons, the days of physically clipping coupons are surely dwindling…so thank goodness for that!
REASON #2: NAME BRANDS AREN'T ALWAYS BETTER
Coupons are almost always for name-brand items. Many people are under the misconception that name-brand goods are more valuable or of better quality because they are almost always more expensive to begin with. Did you know, store-brand generic counterparts are often made in the same factory as the name-brand guys?? It's true!
For example, those Kirkland batteries from Costco that we love so much? Yep, they are made by Duracell. In most cases, when you buy name-brand items, you’re paying extra for commercials, advertising, and market testing expenses — not product quality. So stick with store-brand items, and you'll save more money in the long run (and you don't need coupons to do it).
REASON #3: WHO WANTS TO LIVE OFF PROCESSED PANTRY STAPLES?
Truth: most coupons are for pantry items. It’s next to…well…NEVER that you’ll find a coupon for fresh produce, dairy, or meat…which is typically the stuff that we go through the fastest…and costs us the most. So, while clipping coupons will save us some dollars, could it be that we are buying more of the things that aren't very good for us, as a result? Though I will say, who doesn’t like a good cheese puff every once in a while?!
REASON #4: COUPON CLIPPING LEADS TO IMPULSE BUYING
The purpose of coupons is to get you to purchase a product that you most likely haven’t tried before. Translation = IMPULSE BUY. If you wouldn’t have put it on your shopping list to begin with, then for Heaven's sake, don’t waste your time clipping a coupon for it! Additionally, just because something is a good deal – whether you use it regularly or not – doesn’t mean you have to buy a three-year supply of it. I believe in stocking up when there is a great deal on something you go through quickly. But 44 boxes of tampons and 28 lemon cake mixes? Good deal or not, I’d bet money you just don’t need it.
REASON #5: CRASH DIETS CRASH FOR A REASON
I like to think of saving money through couponing like losing weight through crash dieting. Sure, it might work. It will PROBABLY work if done right. And heck, it might even work really well! But it's ultimately not realistic, sustainable (or fun!) to keep up long-term. Most people I know who commit themselves to couponing do well for a while, then lose interest or time, fall off the wagon, and resign themselves to a life of paying full price for groceries. It's all about balance.
REASON #6: IT'S A PAIN. FOR EVERYONE.
Who wants to be “that person” at the store?? Since TLC's Extreme Couponing show came out, stores across the nation have tightened up on their coupon policies. It seems you need an encryption decoder or a magic wand to get away unscathed at the register anymore! Save yourself the headache (and blacklist nominations) by leaving your four-inch-thick coupon binder at home. There are ways to get just as many savings without the stress and angst that can come from the checkout counter when couponing. Use my three tips below to save your wallet AND the people behind you in the checkout line!
REASON #7: IT'S LIKE PUTTING A BANDAID ON A BROKEN BONE
Sure, a bandaid might help, but it certainly won't solve the problem. If your family is “in the red” budget-wise each month and going through financial distress, then chances are, no amount of clipped coupons are going to solve all your problems. It's safe to say there is a deeper-rooted issue lurking somewhere.
If you need help deciphering the crack in your budgeting foundation, check out Budget Boot Camp — my budgeting program that walks you through setting budgets, paying off debt, and even finding the perfect grocery budget and methods for YOU. (Use the code FCFBLOG to get an extra 10% off!)
In all seriousness, I applaud anyone who coupons for the sake of their family finances. But you guys, there is an easier way!! Suppose you were to step back and analyze all financial aspects of your life (debt, impulse buys, eating out, conveniences, gifts, how you manage your money…). In that case, you could probably save even more by getting organized and setting reasonable budgets than you ever could by clipping coupons.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES: 3 LOW-EFFORT THINGS YOU CAN DO
How would you like to save up to HALF on your current grocery bill with more balance and less effort? These three tips can help you do it all!
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES BY SHOPPING THE SALES
Each week, stores will put food on sale to get you into their store. Sometimes they are even willing to lose money on those items to get you in the store, which is what's called a “loss-leader.” So look at the front and back pages of your store's weekly ad for the best deals, circle what you need, and plan your meals around those items! The best part? The best deals are usually on produce, dairy, and meat aka the most expensive stuff that we use the most!
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES BY BUYING AND FREEZING
Boy, do I looooooooove my freezers. Like, love love love love love (as you see in most of my food posts). Did you know I LOVE my freezers, you guys?!
The concept is simple…if it's on sale (and you'll actually eat it), buy extra and freeze it! Cheese, veggies, fruit, sour cream, any and all meats, bread…you name it. If you can't use it up before it goes bad, freeze it for another day. Bonus Tip: If it doesn't taste as good once thawed, add it to a dish like soup or casserole, and you'll never know the difference!
Oh, and for goodness sake, please stop wasting your money on frozen food! Take a quick stroll down the frozen food aisle for inspiration. If you can buy it frozen, you can make it yourself and freeze it for a fraction of the cost. Double or triple the recipe to get the most bang for your buck and effort! Having affordable, convenient freezer meals on hand is a game-changer for your budget and productivity.
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES BY SHOPPING ONCE PER WEEK
Only shop one time per week, no matter what. You're probably sick of hearing me say it, but it's true! Every time you step into a store for “one loaf of bread,” you'll come out with $50 in stuff you suddenly need to have. So shop once, no matter what. It forces you to plan ahead, shop with a list, and think through your meals before going. Run out of milk? Borrow from a neighbor, or make toast instead of cereal the next morning. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Pretend you're on a spending freeze and get creative and you'll save so much money by not running to the store every time you need something!
Pro Tip: If you struggle with impulse buys, order your groceries online! In the long run, you can save a ton with grocery delivery or pickup.
Well, there you have it, Freebs. That's why I don't believe in couponing and don't recommend it. There are simpler, more practical ways to save MORE money (and time!) in the long run.
Do you agree? Not agree? What are your thoughts on couponing?? Share your story in the comments below!
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Want to check out a few of my favorite food-related posts?
- These fluffy, delicious apple ring pancakes are SO dang good!
- This 10-minute mini quiche recipe is my party go-to.
- Speaking of parties, learn how to feed a crowd on a budget.
Happy saving 🙂
I have a question and maybe you have covered it on one of your q and As and I missed it. so if so just tell me where to go and that will be that. I am a military wife and we have the convenience of shopping at the Commissary fancy word for grocery store if you don’t know. I have a family of 4 with 1 dog do I have budgeted 100 a month for each family member and 50 a month for the dog (because he is a member but not a full $100 member haha) I know that you say that it is better to shop every week, but I find that for my family it works better if I go once a month to the commissary for the main shopping and then once a week go to someplace like Wal-Mart to get the things we run out of. (mainly because I found my self putting needless stuff in the card every week because I wanted it not needed it). So far I have been able to cut things down and only really spend about $360 of the $450 I have allotted, but I still feel like I could maybe do better. do you think that by changing it up and go every week ( just be more discipline) or am I just crazy and the real fact is that I am doing everything I need to . thank you in advance.
as an added note I do also meal plan but I do that for the month too.
I too am military, and shop the commissary. Where we are located I am limited in grocery stores to the commissary, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Aldi. I too have been working on bringing down our grocery budget, it’s challenging changing the way you do things and cooking differently, while still being healthy to try and bring the budget down.
I read your comment, and instantly thought of one of Jordan’s posts about her price notebook. https://funcheaporfree.com/2012/05/look-inside-my-price-notebook-always/
This is one of the things that I am working to start doing, really watching my prices and figuring out where I should be buying things rather than just assuming I am getting the best deal at the commissary. (As you know, not always the case)
I just heard Wallmart is phasing out their price matching…………….waaaah
I don’t have a neighborhood Walmart (just a superstore) so it’s harder to price match. BUT I have Aldi’s. Their prices are amazing! And they have the essentials I need. I’ve also adopted Jordan’s idea of keeping a PRICE BOOK so I know when to stock up on things. I still coupon but only on things I would find at my pharmacy (shampoo, dish soap, toilet paper, make up). Because there are only a few things I coupon I don’t feel like it’s a time suck. I feel like I’ve found what works for my family for now, but I’m still really curious about Deals to Meal, I might just check it out!
Absolutely agree!! And thanks for the tips!! I have never been able to stand couponing, and thought it was just me!!
I gave up couponing, too! Ain’t nobody got time for that! Occasionally I’ll load a few coupons to my Smiths card but only if the item is already on my list. Something else I like to do are grocery rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51. They usually have rebates for produce, dairy, etc. It only takes like 5 minutes and adds up fairly quickly!
Though I love the tips that are shared I still love couponing. I use most coupons for household cleaners, paper supplies, and personal items. I love buying organic foods. There are more and more coupons that are coming out for fresh produce, meats, dairy, and other organic products. Cutting costs on household items helps make up for the extra I spend to buy organic.
Another way to save is to use walmarts saving catcher on their app ( if you shop at Walmart) it does the price match for you and gives you a Walmart e-card with the money you saved. I have been told it doesn’t catch everything but for someone like me who doesn’t pice match in the first place it’s great!!!
Does deals to meals work well for organic shopping as well? I want to try it, but we almost always use organic produce and meat.
I love this post! I write a finance blog for students and I’ve contemplated telling students that coupons are a complete waste of their time! In college, you have no money, little time and lots of priorities, plus you’re usually just feeding yourself so buying large quantities of hamburger helper is not necessary. I wasted too much time and energy trying to coupon and it didn’t work! Thanks for this post.
Loved this article! Thank you. Does Walmart still price match?
When does this deal with Deals to Meals expire??
Expiration of this deal??
As of August 1st, ALL Walmarts have stopped “Price Matching”.
The sign states “They will be lowering thousands of prices”.
This is in Pennsylvania and I verified through Store Manager.
I have to say, it was a little ironic that on your post about not couponing, an add for coupons.com anchored itself to the bottom of the page. 😉
I went down the coupon road once before, but I ended up hating it for exactly the reasons you listed. I also found myself developing deep animosity towards people who cleared shelves before I got to the store. When you plan a trip, cut coupons, load up a bunch of little kids, only to find the deals gone before you arrive; it makes for a very hard day. And I can’t afford any extra hard days in my little world. We eat much healthier now for even less using many of the tips you listed. Instead of couponing, I spend some of that time in my garden. We are able to eat what we grow and trade the rest with the neighbors for things they grow. It’s a win win!
You nailed it. This is why I can’t coupon! The things we NEED never have coupons. (Except Cheerios. Sometimes those have coupons. ?) The sales are where it’s at. They even beat Costco sometimes. Thank you so much for your real numbers and honesty. It’s so motivating to me. ? –Kate, housemixblog.com
I find that the thing that saves me the most money is price matching. That way I get everybody’s best sales and only have to go to one store. Some stores will even price match on generic store brand items such as butter and eggs. I am interested in Deals to Meals. Do you know of anything like it in Canada?
Random Question, how do you use frozen sour cream? I think I have some in my freezer that is ancient now because I never knew how to use it. Not sure why I froze it if I didn’t have a plan, haha.
Haha good question! you wouldn’t use it plain, like on top of a taco or anything, but it’s great for baking. I have a crockpot chicken that uses sour cream, for example, or even, an enchilada or casserole recipe that uses sour cream. The consistency changes so don’t dollop it on top of anything, just hide it inside, and you’re fine!
I understand your point of view with couponing but I do a combination of couponing and the 3 tips you mentioned for the longest time and it does save me money. For me couponing isn’t bad at all if done the proper way and as long as you don’t buy things you don’t need, it is a good way to save. I am also a military wife and the commissary with coupons they provide was really great for time and money. But I no longer live near there for that reason
I understand your point of view with couponing but I do a combination of couponing and the 3 tips you mentioned for the longest time and it does save me money. For me couponing isn’t bad at all if done the proper way and as long as you don’t buy things you don’t need, it is a good way to save. I am also a military wife and the commissary with coupons they provide was really great for time and money. But I no longer live near there so I rely on coupons, cash back rebates and looking for the best deals on products I need.
I signed up just like you said, but it still says my account is not set up?
Totally agree about grocery store coupons. Nobody needs Captain Crunch cereal in their lives.
And this is my opportunity to slam J.C. Penney’s for THEIR pricing strategy. After almost going out of business with what I thought was a good idea (very few sales and very few coupons, just everyday low prices) they’ve gone to the other extreme. Sorry JCP, marking items up 40% and then inundating us with 20% off offers practically constitutes an insult to our intelligence.
However, Bed, Bath and Beyond — that’s another story entirely. If BB&B doesn’t send me at least one coupon a week, my little feelers get hurt.
It is always so tempting, but I totally understand where you are coming from, and it makes total sense!
What app do people use for a price book?