Online Grocery Shopping Saves Money

My original plan was to take Emily grocery shopping with me today, but then I thought better of it. Miss Independent doesn’t do well in shopping carts right now — she’d rather run around the store and wreak havoc. Sorry, Charlie — that’s not going to happen.

Instead of doing some night shopping, I decided to do another shop-from-home order. I find it much more relaxing — I can take my time with the sales circular, match up coupons and truly buy what we need. I do it this way maybe once a month. The cost is $10 for them to fulfill your order, but you get every 5th order fee-free, so it averages to $8 for each online order.

Today, they had a special: Spend $150, get $20 off as a coupon. It was only available for the shop-at-home online service. So while it cost me $10 to do the order, I got $20 off — a net savings of $10.

All told, I also wound up saving $35 between sales and other coupons. Definitely better than bringing a fiesty 2-year-old to the grocery store, then spending all of your time trying to keep her in the cart and entertained!


Using Coupons for Grocery Shopping

I used to be a halfway-decent couponer. I dutifully clipped coupons from the Sunday newspaper, weeded out the expired ones from my coupon organizer, and flowed the new ones in. I’d match up the coupons to the weekly grocery store sales, and save about $10-$20 on my order — my local ShopRite doubles manufacturer coupons up to 99 cents, so that’s a big help.

But the past few trips, I haven’t used one coupon. Not a one. Except for a $8 off a total order coupon, which was on the front-page of the grocery store flier a few weeks ago.

I just cleaned out my coupon organizer, and I found coupons going back to late May. I suppose part of the reason is that I’ve been getting a lot of our nonperishable food items from our local Target, which has better prices than the grocery store, where not even a doubled coupon could get me Velveeta Mac & Cheese for $1.50 a box. Or my K-cups, or cereal. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to get fresh meat, dairy or produce at Target — and that’s the time of stuff that doesn’t get the coupon treatment.

So I’m committing myself to couponing for my next big grocery store shopping trip in two weeks or so. We’ll see what happens, because the sales (and the coupons) have been pretty awful lately.

Organizing Coupons: What’s Your System?

Not only do I have a ton of regular grocery coupons, but now I have to add my “baby” coupons to the mix — for diapers, formula, diaper cream, gas drops, infant acetaminophen, baby vitamins and the like. The result? I’m drowning in coupons.

Right now, my only ‘system’ is one I stole from my dad. It involves separating coupons into two piles, food and non-food items, and using a paper clip to secure each stack of money-saving paper. I arrange the coupons by expiration date when I have more than one coupon for a particular product. Then, I put both groups of coupons into a simple white #10 envelope.

Great system, huh?

It works for my father because his grocery shopping lists go something like this: steak, pork chops, canned vegetables and soups, air freshener refills, and butter, butter and more butter. Occasionally, he’ll mix it up with mayonnaise, hot dogs, tuna fish and olives.

Now that I have a ton of Similac checks and coupons (thank you, Similac, for putting coupons in the Sunday newspaper fliers), they get their own I arrange them by expiration date — those closest to expiring stay on top, obviously.

Not only do I clip out coupons for the items we use regularly, I sometimes stock up on coupons for other products that I think might go on sale in the near future, other brands of things we use regularly, or new items. For instance, French’s came out with a new product, Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, which I tried and loved. (I hate mustard, but like this stuff — go figure.) At my local grocery store, it’s $2.19, and there’s always a $.75 coupon to be found in the Sunday paper. My store doubles coupons, so that $2.19 bottle only costs $.69. I now have 3 bottles sitting in our pantry that don’t expire until the end of the year, giving us plenty of time to use them.

So I now have two sets of envelopes for coupons: baby stuff & grocery items. And the ‘might use in the future’ coupons are all mixed together. I like Land O’Lakes butter, but if there’s a sale on Hotel Bar brand and I have a coupon, guess which one I’ll buy? That’s why I like to clip coupons for competing brands — I’ll use just about anything if I can get it for a good price. Except coffee creamer. I cheated on Coffeemate with International Delights once — ick.

I’d like to get the coupons out of the envelopes so I can view and sort them better. I know there are small accordion coupon organizers you can buy, while some people use binders with clear pages so they can see each coupon separately.

I don’t know which system I’m going to choose, but I have to do something. I’m tired of flipping through stacks of coupons every week! I don’t want anything too time-consuming, but I need to change my ways.

Any suggestions?

Similac Formula ($$$), It Is

Our little puddin' face at 6 weeks

I really, really wanted to be able to nurse Baby Frugalista, but a confluence of factors has rendered that nearly impossible.

1. She was premature and underweight, and the hospital/pediatrician told me to wait to breastfeed until we knew she was gaining weight. But I did give her as much measured-out breast milk as I could pump.

2. By the time I got the go-ahead, Baby F was already a month old and had major latching issues and nipple confusion – swinging her head around wildly, not staying put, crying and writhing.

3. I was pumping milk for her the entire time, but without nursing, I was only getting enough for 2-3 feedings a day. Without regular breastfeeding, my supply was dwindling, even though I was pumping every few hours.

4. You name it, I tried it: different latching and hold techniques, expressing some milk first, nipple shields. All to no avail.

In the end, I was completely fried after a few weeks. The cycle went like this: attempt to nurse her for 45 minutes, getting both of us frustrated; bring out the bottled breast milk or formula and feed that for another 45 minutes, then pump for 15-20 minutes. In the beginning, it was practically nonstop with little time in between. Then we’d get to an hour in between. It seemed even crazier than the singular act of trying to nurse a baby that didn’t want it.

I did manage to pump milk until she was nearly 6 weeks old, which is a bit comforting, but I really, really wanted it to work out. Not just for the immunologic reasons, but also for the cost savings. It would have been doubly good!

Moving On

Now, we’re giving our little girl Similac formula 24/7. I’m not thrilled, but it’s the only alternative. Since she was premature, she’s still lagging behind on the infant weight & length curves, and I’m nervous enough about giving her enough nourishment as it is.

This is where coupons and freebies come in. I signed up for the Similac mailing list, which gets me the highly-coveted $5 ‘manufacturer checks’ every once in a while. The company also sent out good-sized freebie samples of the formula we’re using, which saved us a few bucks in the beginning.

Right now, it’s costing $21 weekly for her powdered formula, in the big tub, before coupons. With the $5 Similac manufacturer checks, that gets knocked down to $16, but I don’t have enough checks for every purchase. So my estimate is that it will run $75 a month for formula as long as she continues to take 3-4 ounces per feeding, 8 times a day. Our costs will obviously increase once she ups her intake, then come down a bit again when she starts solid foods in a few months.

But the good news is she’s growing, gaining weight, and thriving, despite her prematurity. The pediatrician thinks she’ll start catching up, growth-wise, in a few months, and that’s all that matters.