The other day I was refered to as a "work from home" mom. The job title made me wonder if many stay-at-home moms are sensitive to people thinking they just sit around all day eating bon bons and watching Days of Our Lives. I really don't care what the general population thinks of moms who stay home to rear their children. I do however care about what God says about it. I often refer to Proverbs 31:10-31 for guidance on the matter. One place I try to glorify God in serving my family is at the grocery store. Proverbs 31:15-16 says [the excellent wife] rises while it is yet night and provides food for her family... she considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. I apply these verses to my life by committing to doing the grocery shopping for my family in a timely manner. I want to provide them with what they need before they have to ask for it. That means keeping an organized house so I know what we have on hand, and being attentive to the needs of my family. Verse 16 talks about the excellent wife considering a field. I think this means she used wisdom in financial transactions. When applying this to grocery shopping I try to find products that will work well for my family for a good price. This either means buying the store brand or using coupons. I have been couponing for a little over a year and am not by any means an extreme couponer, but for any of you out there who would like a few pointers on saving money at the grocery store, here are my top ten:
1. Clip coupons - I get the Sunday paper for coupons and am a member of some coupon websites (cellfire.com, shortcuts.com) where I can load coupons to my shopper's card.
2. Do not be brand specific - don't overlook a coupon for a product just because it is not the brand you have always used. For example, if you have always purchased Pace salsa, don't skip on a Tostitos salsa coupon. Be willing to try a new brand if it means saving a few dollars.
3. Bring a calculator - at many store the item tag will have the price per unit in small print. This price is very helpful in finding good deals. Here is an example: a box of store brand diapers is 14.94 for 78 diapers. Huggies are 18.99 for 81 diapers. Which is the better deal? To find out divide the price by the number of diapers. So the store brand is .19 per diaper and Huggies are .24 per diaper. But say you have a coupon for $3 off Huggies. Now they are .20 per diaper. Still a cent more than the store brand. You might still opt for the Huggies if you think it is a higher quality product, but now at least you are making an informed buying decision. You are considering your field.
4. Make a list (or 2) - Make a master list of everything you need for the week. I like to break mine down into categories like household, personal, produce, canned, frozen and refrigerated, etc. Then I make another list for essential items for my family that we are running low on and that I have a coupon for. If those items happen to be on an unadvertised sale at the store, I will snatch them up too. If they are not on sale I wait until my next trip or until they are on my "needs" list.
5. Plan your meals - ALL of your meals should be planned before you go to the store. One of the biggest wastes of time and money is having to run to the store for one ingredient to complete a meal that you forgot on your big shopping trip. You rarely will end up buying just that one item. I use a meal planning printout from www.organizedhome.com. I laminated it at a friend's house so I don't have to print it every week and use a dry erase marker to fill in breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every day. While meal planning I take a quick turn through my store's weekly sales ad. I try to plan meals based on the meat that is on sale for that week. It is also helpful to plan snacks and desserts this way.
6. Limit yourself to two stores - Don't drive all over town looking for the best deal for just one item. You'll waste your savings in time and gas money. Choose two stores and become familiar with their coupon policies and sale trends and you will save more money in the long run.
7. Don't buy what you won't use - It is so tempting when you start couponing to buy something because it is a rock bottom can't beat it price. But what good does that do you if you will never use the product. One of my friends told me a story of how she got toothpaste for under 10 cents a tube, so she bought 10 of them. Sadly it was toothpaste her family didn't even like so she ended up selling them in a garage sale.
8. Be gracious - Another temptation when couponing is to feel a sense of entitlement. Sometimes stores will refuse your coupon for one reason or another. Is it really worth holding up a line to argue with a cashier over a dollar? Try to keep a "kingdom" perspective when shopping for deals. This is another area in life where it would benefit to remember that the world doesn't revolve around us. The primary goal is not saving money, it is glorifying God in saving money.
9. Organize - I have used a couple of systems for organizing my coupons. I started with a 3-ring binder filled with plain paper and separated into tabbed sections. In each section I would alphabetize and tape the coupons to the paper. This was good for searching through coupons in the store, but it took forever to get organized. Now I use a notecard filing box with tabs for each letter and just file coupons alphabetically by brand. It takes a bit longer to search for a coupon in store, but the prep time has been cut down tremendously. Go ahead and pull the coupons for the things you know you will get and place them in an envelope with your list.
10. Don't go with the kids on the big trips - I know it is hard to find time to go alone, but for me it is completely worth it. I spend quiet a bit more money when the kids are with me and often forget things on my list. You may have to sacrifice sleep by going early in the morning or late at night, or fight crowds by going on a weekend, but you will be serving your family well ( . I'm not saying the kids should never go to the store, it is good place for them to learn and experience life. I just don't take mine on the twice a month big trips.
Well, hopefully some of that information will serve you well as you glorify God in serving your families. Leave me a comment and share some of your thoughts!