Then, we moved to an area that really doesn't have any couponing-friendly grocery stores. There is a Winn-Dixie fairly close to us, but I've never been able to get into the groove of their sales for some reason. So, I had to re-learn everything I had ever done as far as saving with grocery trips.
I think I'm finally getting the hang of things though! I'll go on and make this disclaimer…grocery shopping this way is not nearly as cost-effective. But, I feel like we've incorporated a lot more fresh food into our trips (which is something I wanted to do, even if we stayed in Tuscaloosa), and the planning for this method is so much easier than the hour or two it took me to plan with the old way. So, if you don't live in a very couponing-friendly area, here are a few tips on how I do it now!
1. eMeals is your friend.
A few weeks ago, I signed up for eMeals…and I seriously could not be more happy with it. Here's how it works: you tell them what grocery store you use, what meal plan you'd like (they have plans for all kinds of diets), and they match your preferences and your grocery store sales to a meal plan they email you each week. When you get the meal plan, they send you a list of recipes and a grocery list, complete with prices and brands you need to buy.
Here's how I use it: when I get my meal plan each week, I favorite the meals I'm interested in making at some point. Then, I figure out what's currently in my pantry and what we might want to eat the next week. I go through my favorite meals to see what matches up to those preferences and add them to my new meal plan. I usually shop for 6-7 meals at a time, which lasts our family about 2 weeks (we eat leftovers a lot). Then, I go through the shopping list and mark off things we already have, add random staples we might need, and include a few foods for breakfast (leftovers are usually for lunch).
This plan incorporates a lot of fresh meats, fruits, and veggies into your diet, but still keeps a budget in mind. Plus, the recipes we've tried so far have been really easy and really good! I'd highly recommend it. (And no, the nice people at eMeals have no idea who I am. That is my referral link above, but they didn't pay me to say this…I just like them so much!)
2. Do a little research before you shop.
This is something that eMeals has really helped me with. When I first started grocery shopping here, I would quickly make a list before I went, with zero research into what was on sale at other stores (for price matching) or what coupons might be available for what I'm buying. It felt so unorganized compared to what I used to do.
I've finally started taking time before I shop to do this though. We're using Walmart here…not a ton of options for using coupons, but it'll do until Publix decides to make its way over to Mississippi. :) If you don't have a grocery store with great sales, Walmart (in this area, at least) is by far the cheapest place to shop. Just to see, I conducted a little experiment last week. I currently have my eMeals set on Publix (so it matches with Publix's sales), but I shopped at Walmart, just to see what the price difference would be. Buying the same items at Walmart that I would have at Publix, the price difference was maybe a dollar or two. I was impressed!
They do price match, so I've started investing a little time into researching other stores' sales before I shop. I also use my eMeals list to see what I'll need vs. what coupons are currently out there. Sometimes I buy the off-brand if there aren't coupons available for that name-brand that eMeals recommends, but a lot of times you'll find great coupons for name brand that makes it cheaper.
It's worth the 30 minutes it might take to research a little…I can usually save $10-20 off my bill doing this!
3. Only buy what you'll use.
One gripe I do have with eMeals…they do too good of a job providing meals. :) The plan provides 7 full meals a week, when I never, ever cook all 7 nights in one week. So, I've found that I have to buy about half of what eMeals recommends for us. If I buy everything, there is no way we'd use it, throwing away a good chunk of food. So it's your job to also sit down and realistically see what you'll cook in a week…and only buy that!
Like I said, this plan isn't nearly as cheap (or nearly as much fun) as my old way of shopping…but it'll do until we get a grocery store that I'm used to. I do miss doing my weekly grocery posts though!
I hope this helps some of you out there that are in the same kind of area as us!