A small flame

A small flame

shoppin' at the Rachel Store

Yesterday, I wrote about finding a couponing system that I could use without driving myself crazy. One of the considerations I had when I was setting up a system was that it needed to mesh well with the way I already do grocery shopping. For the past 6 years I have done our grocery shopping in one, day-long trip every month. While I may need to run in to the store for more fruit or some lettuce during the month, the majority of what we eat every month gets bought on that one, big shopping day.

I also don't have much, if any, wiggle room in our food budget. We always have enough, but I don't have a lot of extra on any given month. That means that I don't have the money to buy lots of coupon deals or great stock-up sale items that I'm not planning to use that month.

When I was growing up, my Mom very effectively tackled the challenge of feeding a family of 6 in a third-world country where store prices were sky-high by creating her own store of items she had picked up at deep discounts. So a few months ago I had a conversation with her about how her system worked, and it seemed like the answer to my dilemma!

My system functions on 2 accounts or caches of money: (1) the money I have to spend on groceries every month and (2) the money I have to spend on coupon deals & other discounted items that I do not currently need.

Starting the 'deals & discounts' account did require that I set aside some seed money at the first. I set aside $50 of my own money (i.e., not from the food budget), but since then, that account does pretty well at replenishing itself.

Each week I make my grocery list, clip the coupons I need and spend an hour or so shopping. These are primarily things we do NOT currently need, but the sale is on that week so that's the time to buy. I use the money from my second account to purchase these items, and because they are not things we need right now I can be picky about what I buy. I try to focus on the deals that are really good - 3 cent peanut butter, 50 cent boxes of cereal, etc. I bring my purchases home, write the prices on the packaging in permanent marker (I also add in the tax I paid), and put them in my 'store', which for lack of space is a couple of boxes in the back of a cupboard (except for frozen items, of course ;o)

When I make my list for my big, monthly shop, I shop from my 'store' first. This month, I bought a large jar of Smucker's Grape Jelly for 31 cents, a box of pasta for 18 cents, ketchup for 52 cents, canned tomatoes for 50 cents, and 3 gallons of milk for under $3 each. I put these 'bought' items on my shelf, cross them off of my shopping list, and figure out my total bill. I subtract that amount away from my total food budget for that month and put it (in cash) into my special 'Couponing' envelope so I can keep taking advantages of sales. If, at any time during the month, we run out of something from shampoo to peanut butter, I check my store first to see if I already have it. This is really helping me to stretch the money! Last month, we decided to have another family over and I fed the 10 of us all the chicken we cared to eat with a few pieces left over for under $4, thanks to a great re-buy from my own freezer.

I'd love to hear your best tip for pinching your pennies!



Jennie said...

And we enjoyed our dinner with you guys! :)

Rachel said...

us too.... even if we did give Thomas nightmares ;o)