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Grocery Shopping: Before and After

How many times have you stood behind someone in line at the grocery store and groaned to yourself as they flipped through their file of coupons? Is it really worth the extra effort to clip some coupons, and wait for the cashier to figure out how to enter them into the cash register, only to save a few cents?! is committed to helping you save money on your everyday expenses so you can pay off your existing debt and avoid adding to it: we decided to share a “Before and After” grocery shopping experience to give you some tips for saving money on your groceries. Is it worth clipping a couple coupons? We'll let you decide:

Grocery Shopping: BEFORE

The first part of this experiment involved hitting the local grocery store and picking up a week's worth of groceries for a family of 3, without using coupons and without spending time checking for sale prices. If something we were buying happened to be on sale – that was a bonus, but we didn't make any effort to find sale prices or choose the lowest priced option.

Before heading out to the store, we figured out what meals we'd eat for the week (to make sure what we bought would be enough to last a full week) and then made a shopping list so we could at least stick to the $100 budget.

If you aren't doing at least this step before grocery shopping, chances are you're spending a LOT more because we all tend to buy more if we aren't buying items from a specific list. If you shop without a list, you'll probably end up having to pick up another few bags of groceries before the week is up because you failed to plan enough meals and snacks to last throughout the week.

Our general “menu” plan for the week included the following meals.

Our shopping list included the following items so we could prepare those meals:
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Syrup
  • Milk
  • Turkey
  • Cheese
  • Boneless chicken
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Ground beef
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Corn
  • Ketchup
  • BBQ sauce
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Potatoes
  • Frozen pizza
  • Canned soup
  • Mayonaisse
  • Gravy
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Cookies
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Grapes
  • Cereal

The total of the shopping trip came to $98.31.

For many families, this is already quite a bit lower than what is spent on a weekly basis at the grocery store. Chances are the step of planning out the meals and shopping only for items you put on the list would save quite a bit of money even without looking for sales or coupons – so if you aren't doing this already, take a few minutes to do this before you go shopping and see for yourself!

Grocery Shopping: AFTER

The next part of the experiment was to see whether things like looking for sale and lower priced versions of our purchases, and using coupons would save enough money to make the extra few minutes this planning requires worth the effort.

In order to buy sale priced items, and items you have coupons for, you will actually be creating most of your “menu” starting with what is on sale the week you're going shopping. So the first think you need to do is get the sale flier for your preferred grocery store, and the Sunday Paper (because it has all of the coupons). When you're browsing online or reading a magazine, keep your eyes peeled for coupons and if you see any you might use, just rip out the page or print it on your printer, but you don't have to put a lot of thought into it.

While looking through the grocery store sales and the coupons from the Sunday paper, this is the menu we came up with.

Our shopping list included the following items so we could prepare those meals:
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • Ground turkey
  • Chuck roast
  • Chicken thighs
  • 4 Cans of Tuna
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • BBQ sauce
  • Spaghetti sauce
    • Bread
    • Chex mix
    • Juice
    • Frozen Pizza
    • Canned Soup
    • Bagged salad
    • Strawberries
    • Oranges
    • Goldfish Crackers
    • Eggs
    • Paper Towels
    • Toilet Paper

    The total of the second shopping trip came to $83.83 before coupons and sales were factored in.

    We used $4.49 worth of coupons, and selected items based on sale prices to increase savings to $26.

    The total of the shopping trip with coupons and sale prices came to just $58.23.

    Between weeks one and two, you can see a savings of $40.08. If you saved $40 a week on groceries for a month, you'd have an extra $160 in your pocket!

    The total time spent looking through the sales,checking for coupons from the Sunday paper and creating a menu for the week was less than 35 minutes from start to finish. If you wanted to spend more time in an effort to save more money, you could also extend your search for coupons to the internet:


    Sarah (Guest) - I pay $0.75 a week for the paper, and use at leas $10 worth of coupons from EVERY weeks paper, so it is worth the cost of the paper. One coupon will pay for the paper.
    coupon myzerr (Guest) - I have found this amazing website named for downloading coupons at home. Recently they have a new free of charge iPhone app as well so that I can download any kinds of coupon anywhere regardless im in the States, or in Australia or in UK. super handy stuffs, highly recommended. :D
    K (Guest) - I'm starting a buying diet so this info helps alot.  I'm going to sit down tonight and plan meals with the kids and hubby.  Thank you so much!
    amanda (Guest) - Creditors are more than willing to settle people's debts, but it takes the right knowledge of how debt negotiation works. There is a wealth of information about the processes of debt negotiation, bankruptcy, fixing your credit, and much more at
    Luvcoopons (Guest) - To be honest, both methods can be combined for even greater savings! Purchase the paper or visit Walmart's website for weekly savings, compare with coupons for the week-create your menu and additional list for necessary household items. Go to walmart, follow the list, use the coupons that you found in the paper...ONLY BUY ITEMS ON SALE FOR THE WEEK THAT YOU HAVE COUPONS FOR!!! On average, I save 70-80% each time I shop. For example, buying $100 (before sales and coupons) worth of groceries/merchandise minus sales, club card, etc helps bring down the amount 30-40% then deduct coupons brings you down and additional 30-40%. Meaning $100 brought you to a $20 total bill! A little time and effort can be worth it!!