15 Tips For Shopping At The Grocery Store!

mindi cherry grocery

We talk about how to shop at the grocery stores all the time.  We talk about how to get the best deals, how to use coupons and so much more.  What we don’t talk about that often is how NOT to make other shoppers want to kill you!

I recently launched to site Etiquette Help (seriously – make sure you read through all the archives and Like Etiquette Help on Facebook), but this is one post that I particularly love.

From my 15 Grocery Store Manners | 15 Tips! post

  1. Slow Down – Breaking the land speed record with a grocery cart is not necessary nor is it acceptable in the grocery store. Slow down and be careful around those blind corners.
  2. 20 Items or Less – Why is it that every time an express lane opens, someone with an entire cart full of items jumps over? Seriously folks, the sign is pretty straight forward.
  3. Have Your Money Ready – Nobody wants to wait while you write out your check or dig for your debit card. Consider those around you and have those things ready when you get up there. You wait in line anyway, so use it to prepare for your turn when you get there.
  4. Let common sense prevail – If you are standing there with an entire cart full of items and the guy behind you has a diet Coke, let him pass. If I need to tell you why, you should never enter a retail establishment again…ever.
  5. When a new line opens, be fair – We all have seen it. Five people are in line and the line next to you that had been closed opens. Then the cart at the back of the line runs over to take the first spot in the new line. Again, did we not cover this in kindergarten? A new line is not an invitation to race those in front of you. Be fair and let the people that have waited the longest get the next register.

See the rest of the tips on Etiquette Help!

How To Save Money On Dairy

dairy-products1

I think most of us are always looking for ways to save on dairy products. We use milk, butter, eggs almost every day, not to mention cheese, yogurt, sour cream and other products. When it comes to how to save money on dairy, you have to get creative since coupons are not always readily available.

How to Save on Dairy

Use Powdered Milk

Using powdered milk for your cooking, smoothies and baking can really trim down your grocery bill! Of course, you should still use fresh milk for drinking and cereal. You should end up seeing a good savings just by implementing this simple tip. Note: powdered milk is also the “magic ingredient” in my homemade hot chocolate mix recipe!)

Check the Date

When buying dairy products always check the date. If the date seems like it quickly approaching check products towards the back. Normally those are going to have a sale by date that is further out. This will prevent you from throwing aways dairy products that have gone bad.

Go to the Source

When buying milk or eggs try going directly to the source. Check with local farmers to see if they have the option of buying milk or eggs directly from them. Not only can this end up being more cost-effective, but you get a fresher product.

Use Your Freezer

If you have room in your freezer you can buy dairy products when they are on sale and freeze them. You will need to let your dairy products thaw out completely in the fridge prior to using them. Another tip is to only freeze shredded cheese. If you find a stock up price on cheese shred it before freezing it. Cheese tends to crumble easy after it has been frozen, shredding it will help you out.

Buy Store Brand

When it comes to dairy products you can easily get away with the store brand! In fact the store brand is often 25 to 30% cheaper than name brand products. You will usually find more in store sales on store brand products.

What are your best tips for saving on dairy products?

Looking for more tips to save money? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

Coupon 101: Top Couponing Mistakes

If you are a newbie to couponing, it is easy to go overboard once the excitement of all that free and nearly-free stuff sets in.

Here are some of the top mistakes many people make (and I made some of them myself!) when they start using coupons:

Sacrificing your family’s health for the sake of the deal: The truth is, sometimes the best deals are for foods that can best be called “junk food”. Your family eating habits should never be compromised just because you can get a good deal. Yes, grapes are more expensive than fruit snacks. That doesn’t mean that you should stop buying grapes and start handing out only fruit snacks all the time. The savings on the fruit snacks is not worth forgoing the benefits of grapes.  Balance is the key!

Building too big of a stockpile: I know people who literally have 50 tubes of toothpaste. Do you know what the problem is? Toothpaste has an expiration date! Unless they are running a small dental office (or are the Duggars), there is no way that they can use that much toothpaste before it expires, especially when they continue to add to the stockpile each week/month. Extreme couponing is just that – extreme and there is no reason to go nuts each week. Certain things can always be found for free or nearly free almost every week, especially if you have a CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens near you.

Buying things that your family normally doesn’t need or like just because it is a “good deal”: If your family doesn’t normally eat/like Hamburger Helper (for example), it doesn’t matter how good of a deal you can get on it. Unless you are planning on donating that Hamburger Helper and/or they are part of a moneymaker Catalina deal, spending even one penny on it is wasting money.

Letting good coupons expire: the two main reasons this happens? Not being organized or waiting too long for a better deal. I am a strong advocate of the coupon binder because it allows you to clearly see the expiration dates of all of your coupons. As for the waiting too long? Sure – it’s great when you can combine, for example, a coupon for a free item with a BOGO sale to get both for free. But you can’t count on that BOGO sale and do you know what they call an expired coupon for a free item? Recycling!

Letting couponing take over your life: As far as I am concerned, there is no amount of savings that is worthy of neglecting your family. As you get better, you get quicker, but in the meantime, don’t try to figure out the deals yourself. That’s where this site comes in. Make sure you keep checking the drug store deals and grocery store deals that I have posted to make sure you haven’t missed anything!

Couponing and saving money should be a way of life…it should not BECOME your life.

What are some mistakes that you have made, or lessons you have learned?

What Is On Sale The Month of July

What Is On Sale in July

July is a hot month in more ways than one. This month is all about enjoying the warm summer weather. Vacations, cookouts, fireworks, and outdoor fun are on the menu. You may not want to spend a lot of time shopping, but the deals you can catch this month make it worth getting out of the bathing suit and into the store!

Here is what is on sale in July:

:: Grocery and Drugstore Deals in July

In- season produce: apricots, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, corn, Crenshaw melons, cucumbers, green beans, figs, nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelons yellow squash, zucchini. Farmer’s markets are overstocked during July and you will find wonderful deals.

July 4th Sales: Charcoal, hot dogs, hamburgers, burger and dog buns, corn on the cob, chips, sodas, patriotic décor, citronella candles, paper plates and red Solo cups as well as anything else that will be used for cookouts, Fourth of July and being outside.

Summer Fun: swim rings and water wings, sunscreen, bug spray, lawn darts, Frisbees, swimming diapers, sun hats.

:: Other July Sales

Mid-Summer: look for low prices as stores try to get rid of summer products before marking them down for clearance after Labor Day. Since July is considered the peak of summer, all kinds of things will be considered seasonal and holiday-related. Take advantage of these great opportunities to shop on seasonal items. Food products, sunglasses, and bathing suits are often on sale during the month of July.

In the Home: kitchen gadgets (ice cream maker, ice pop molds), food storage, and cleaning products. Retailers know that you aren’t spending much time in the house, so they aren’t offering a lot of in the home sales during July. You’ll find the biggest savings on anything related to the holiday and being outside.

Gym Memberships: Since so many folks are out and about during the summer, gym attendance drops. You can get great deals on memberships when gyms are actively recruiting!

Fireworks: If fireworks are legal in your state, you can get great deals for next year during the week after the 4th of July.

Garden Clearance: Springtime is when most people buy seeds to plant in the garden, so you can find great clearance prices on seeds, seed starting kits, and other garden supplies in July.

Camping Equipment: This is the season when vacations and camping are most popular. Retailers know that unless they want to mark down these items for clearance after Labor Day, this is the month to offer good deals and sell as much as possible.

What Is On Sale The Month of June

What Is On Sale The Month of June

June is traditionally the month of weddings, BBQ’s, time on the beach, camping, and other outdoor activities. Make time for Dad this month and look for deals for Father’s Day!

Here is what is on sale the month of June:

:: Grocery & Drugstore Deals in June

In-season produce: blueberries, sweet corn, red peppers, green peppers, bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, grapes, raspberries, cherries, basil, arugula, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pears

Fourth of July Sales and Cookout Sales: hot dogs, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, condiments, plastic utensils, paper plates, paper napkins, fireworks, and sparklers

National Safety Month: locks, smoke detectors, batteries, pepper spray, educational materials, and gunlocks

Father’s Day: watches, men’s jewelry, golfing supplies, magazines, razors, clippers, cologne, shirts, shorts, sandals, and men’s hygiene products

Gardening and Outdoor Fun: jars for canning, lids for canning, canning rings, pressure cookers, grilling supplies, and outdoor toys

:: Other June Sales

Spring clearance: plants, gardening supplies, light jackets, hoodies, rain boot, raincoats

Tools: Father’s Day means that now is the best time to buy tools. From hand tools like hammers and screwdrivers to hand held power tools and larger items, look for great deals. Watch for sales on drills, saws, table saws, sanders, grinders, buffers, work lights, toolboxes and more!

Gym Memberships: Since most people are busy enjoying the outdoor life, gyms are not as busy as they would like to be. As a result, some of them offer deep discounts for the year and may even offer free months or discounted days.

Kitchen Supplies: Dishware in particular is on sale this month. Since June is a busy bridal month, it is also a busy month for bridal gifts. Dishware happens to be one of the most popular gifts for weddings and retailers know it. You can also find great deals on linens, kitchen utensils, kitchen appliances, glasses, canisters, and other kitchen supplies that you might give a bride. Parents are also getting ready to send kids to college, so there is even more reason for sales on kitchen supplies.

What Is On Sale The Month Of May

What's On Sale The Month of May

May is the month of merry-making! Mother’s Day, May Day, and Memorial Day all provide plenty of reasons to celebrate outside. Expect deals on grilling supplies and foods as well as warmer clothing and spring closeouts as summer is just around the corner.

Here is what is on sale in May

:: Grocery & Drugstore Deals in May

In-season produce: artichoke, arugula, Asian vegetables, asparagus, beets, blueberries, Bok Choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cardons, carrots, celeriac, chicory, chives, chicory, collards, cress, cucumbers, endive, Fava beans, Fava greens, fennel, garlic, horseradish, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, nettles, onions, parsnips, purslane, radishes, scallions, shallots, spinach, sprouts, snap peas, and turnips

Father’s Day Sales: steak, cologne, jewelry, watches, shaving supplies, golf deco, golf balls, baseballs, footballs, speakers, DVD’s and CD’s

National Fitness and Sports Month: fitness aids, dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals, athletic clothes, nutrition bars, and socks

Mother’s Day and Memorial Day: Jewelry, flowers, chocolate, perfume, makeup, beauty supplies and craft supplies for Mother’s Day. For Memorial Day look for cookout supplies, grills, grilling utensils, charcoal, grill cleaners, spices, seasonings, condiments, and flags

Gardening: canning jars, canning lids, canning rings, hoes, rakes, shovels, seeds, bulbs, plants, and other gardening supplies

:: Other May Sales

Spring clearance: hoodies, umbrellas, capris, sweaters, and long sleeve shirts

Electronics: If there are any of last year’s models of electronics from the end of the fiscal year in Japan, they will be marked down to their lowest right now. This includes computers, tablets, phones, DVD players, calculators and other electronics.

Office furniture: Now is the time to buy office furniture. In part this is because many parents are getting ready to send their kids back to school and off to college. This is also because new furniture styles are coming out and the retailers are trying to clear the floor to make room for them.

Refrigerators: All appliances will be discounted right now, but prices on refrigerators are especially low. If you have plans to revive your kitchen with some new appliances, now is the time to take action.

Ask Me Your Coupon Questions!

Are you new to using coupons? Have questions about stacking coupons, the Lingo or anything else? If you have a question, chances are that someone else has the same one.

Simply head to my Coupon Questions page, submit your question and it will be answered in a future post on Moms Need To Know!

Looking for more Extreme Couponing tips? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

What Is On Sale In April

What's On Sale The Month of April

April may bring spring showers, but it’s also a month for some great deals. If you are ready to get out of the house and get your spring on, now is the time to do it. Consider some of the great April deals presented below and finalize your shopping list accordingly. Here is what is on sale in April!

:: Drugstore and Grocery Deals in April

Produce that is in season: artichoke, asparagus, beans, beets, berries, broccoli, cabbage, chicory, chives, horseradish, leeks, lettuce, limes, morel mushrooms, oranges, rhubarb, Rocket arugula, shallots, strawberries, sweet onions, watercress

Mother’s Day Sales: Chocolate, jewelry, beauty products, perfumes, essential oils, flowers, plants

Earth Awareness, Autism Awareness, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Green cleaning products, eco-containers, self-defense tools, prophylactics, sensory items

Easter: baskets, Easter baskets (pre-made), eggs, egg dyes, flowers, food coloring, gardening tools, ham, jewelry, makeup, perfumes, seeds, soil

Gardening: seeds, soil, rakes, shovels, gloves, fencing, cages, trowels, outdoor deco, lights

Spring Cleaning: floor polisher, window cleaner, mops, brooms, vacuums, carpet cleaners, cleaning chemicals, dusters, light bulbs, any kind of green cleaner

:: Other April Sales

Extreme Winter Clearance: The winter items that didn’t sell in March may still be hanging around. Looks for incredible deals on all winter items: hats, gloves, coats, scarves, shovels, and snow blowers.

Electronics: Since most electronics come from Japan, and March is the end of their fiscal year, look for some great closeout sales on all electronics. At the same time, keep your eyes open for deals on new items in the way of new electronics for this fiscal year.

Houses: After basically being on hold through the winter, homeowners are eager to sell. Now is a great time to start making offers on houses, especially since property taxes are announced and homeowners are reminded that they are paying taxes on property they no longer want.

Kitchen Accessories: Since people are doing spring cleaning as well as preparing students for graduation, look for sales on items that are used in the kitchen: pots, pans, dishes, utensils, cookware and appliances

Vacation Packages: People tend to stay home and focus on cleaning up from a long winter in April. Vacation packages often go on sale because this is a slow time for them. Consider a cruise or other vacation package during this time.

Used Items: As people do their spring cleaning, they get rid of a lot of things. This means you should be looking for listing on websites, in newspapers, and perhaps even some yard sales.

What is the Difference Between Store and Manufacturer Coupons

questions from readers

Welcome to Readers Want to Know! These are your questions answered from the emails that I receive and responses to surveys that I periodically post. For more answers, make sure you check out my Coupon 101 posts which will also include other “Readers Want To Know” posts!

Still have questions? Use this form to ask them!

The following question comes from Lisa :

What is the difference between manufacturer coupons, store coupons and getting a coupon from the product website? Are they all different and where do you find each??

HI Lisa! I’m glad you asked this because it can be confusing!

As a general rule:

Store coupons

  • Issued by each individual store and typically can only be used at the store. They may be available on the store website, from store mailings, in-store coupon books and even occasionally in the Sunday inserts.
  • Rite Aid offers store coupons through their Video Values program. Walgreens offers coupons through their monthly in-store Instant Value Coupons book. Check your Sunday inserts for Target store coupons!
  • Some stores even offer store coupons through their own smartphone app (such as the Target Cartwheel app)
  • Store coupons can be usually be stacked with manufacturers coupons for even greater savings (although some grocery stores will not allow coupons to be stacked – check with your local store for their policy!)

Manufacturers coupons:

  • These can come from many places: Sunday coupon inserts, printable coupon sites like Coupons.com, Smartsource.com, Redplum.com (all available for printing right here on Moms Need To Know).
  • You can also check the websites and Facebook Fan pages of your favorite brands.
  • Manufacturers coupons can often be found right in the aisles of your grocery stores. Look for coupon tearpads, bottle tags and peel-off coupons in your local store.

I hope this helps you understand the different between store coupons and manufacturers coupons Lisa!

You might want to check out these recently-asked questions:

Have a question about using coupons? Head to my Coupon Questions page to ask them!

Stockpiling is a Waste of Money and a Sign of Greed?

Why Stockpiling is Not a Waste of  Money or Being Greedy

I saw this comment on one of my friends Google+ posts the other day (make sure to add me to your Google circles!):

Stock piling is just a waste of money and a sign of greed. best way to live simply is to buy when needed and not before

I have to say, I can’t disagree with this statement more, but I can see why someone unfamiliar with responsible couponing would think that.  The media is full of “Extreme Couponing” images of people with stockpiles of 500 bottles of laundry detergent, overflowing shelves of toothpaste, etc. But that isn’t really “stockpiling” – that is hoarding!

Saying that stockpiling is just a waste of money is just ridiculous. And saying “best way to live simply is to buy when needed and not before” is simply financially irresponsible!

What is stockpiling?

Stockpiling is stocking up on those items that you will need and use when they are at their lowest possible price. This could be with or without coupons.

Responsible stockpiling is only buying enough of those items to get you through until the next time you will be able to get it at the lowest possible price. Groceries, personal care items and household items typically have “sales cycles” of 6-12 weeks….meaning that they will be at their lowest price every 6-12 weeks. In addition, certain products are cheaper certain months of the year due to national promotions such as “Frozen Food Month”, January sales on diet foods, etc.

For instance, before I started doing the bulk of my shopping at Wegmans (where boneless skinless chicken breasts are ALWAYS $1.99/lb) and Aldi, I would buy up to 20 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts whenever they were on sale at $1.99/lb at my local grocery store. I would bring them home and separate the chicken in to 1 – 1.5 lb portions, place each in a freezer bag and throw them in the freezer. This would give me 12-14 meals where I only paid $1.99/lb for the main protein in our meals.

Let’s say that I agreed with this woman and thought that I should buy what I need when I need it?

That means one week, I spend $1.99/lb for chicken for our meals for the week. For the next 10 weeks, I would be at the mercy of the grocery store prices, paying anywhere from $1.99/lb to $5.79/lb (the “regular price” for chicken breasts at many of the local stores).  I would only be really saving money on meat a few weeks a year.  Shopping that way may keep my freezer less full, but my wallet will certainly be less full as well!

The same goes for cereal, pastas, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  I can “live simply” and only buy what I need when I need it, or I can use coupons at the grocery and drug stores and always keep a 6-week supply of the things that we use and save a ton of money!

The ONLY way that I can see this woman’s point is if I were stockpiling things that my family does NOT want or need…simply because it gives me a thrill to get great deals.  Fortunately, that is not how I shop/stockpile and certainly not what I teach on this site.

So what do you think?  Do you agree that stockpiling is sign of greed or a waste of money?

What is On Sale in March

march-calendar

March Deals

Are you getting ready for spring? As we look forward to warmer days and the flowers starting to peek through in the garden, don’t forget that that there are a ton of great deals to be found in March at the stores!

:: Grocery & Drug Store Deals in March

In-season produce: artichoke, asparagus, avocado, beets, berries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, lime, mushrooms, onions, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries

Easter sales: ham, candy, eggs and egg dyeing kits, Easter decorations, baskets

National Frozen Food Month: frozen meals/entrees, frozen vegetables, ice cream, frozen pasta, desserts, juice concentrate and just about anything in the freezer aisles.

St. Patrick’s Day: corned beef, cabbage

March Madness: chips, dips, soda, snack crackers, frozen appetizers, “take & bake” pizzas and stromboli as well as deals on pizza delivery

Spring Cleaning: window cleaner, furniture polish, toilet, tub & tile cleaner, floor cleaners and deals on carpet cleaning rentals

:: Other March Sales

Winter clearance: snow shovels, winter coats, gloves & hats, winter sporting (skis, sleds, etc)

TV’s & digital cameras: stores are still trying to clear out old models on the heels of the Consumer Electronics show in January. Look for the best deals right before the start of the March Madness basketball tournament. March is one of the slowest months of the year for camera sales, so look for sales trying to inspire you to buy!

Luggage: as it is the time between holiday and summer travel, not many people are thinking about buying luggage…making this a time that we usually see some nice deals. Look for the best deals on patterned and “novelty color” luggage (you won’t find many deals on your basic black or navy luggage)

Spa Treatments: Nearly a thousand spas, yoga studios and fitness centers participate in Wellness Week every March. As a result, these businesses offer a number of half-off deals and $50 specials.

Are Coupons a Discount or a Form of Payment?

cashier

This question tends to cause much confusion, especially among cashiers and newer couponers.  I’ve always made my feelings clear:  as far as the store is concerned, manufacturers coupons should ALWAYS be a form of payment, not a discount.

Right now, you might be thinking:  “How can you say they aren’t a discount?”

The answer is simple:  the store gets reimbursed the full amount of the coupon (as well as a small handling fee).  Handing a cashier a $.50 coupon is no different than handing them 2 quarters.

It gets tricky when you factor in store coupons and special promotions.  Many stores will issue a coupon, for example, giving you $5 off your $30 purchase and then in the fine print have something like “$30 must be spent after all discounts have been applied” (which is actually the wording on most Giant coupons).  Does this mean that the value of your coupons don’t count towards meeting that $50 threshold?

The answer is simple:  it depends.

At Walgreens: their policy is clearly stated on their coupons….the threshold must be met AFTER all coupons have been applied.

At CVS: in the absence of any wording to the contrary, the threshold should be met before any coupons have been applied.

At Rite Aid:  They tried to word their coupons so that you needed to have met the threshold after coupons, but seemed to have quickly changed their minds on that and most coupons no longer carry that wording.

What about your grocery stores?

I can only speak for the stores in the Philadelphia area, but for the most part, the following rules apply:

1.  Threshold must be met before the face value of the coupon is applied.

2.  The “doubled amount” of the coupon generally will reduce the “credit” that you get towards meeting your threshold, as that is considered a store discount.  Let’s look at 2 scenarios:

Scenario A.  you have a $5 off $30 coupon and you have 10 $.75 coupons (and your store participates in “full doubles”).  The store might be justified in requiring you to have $37.50 in product before allowing you to use the $5 off $30 coupon.  The reasoning behind this is that the STORE is giving you an extra $7.50 in discounts for your coupons due to their doubling.  When that additional $7.50 from the doubling is applied, your $30 purchase is actually only a $22.50 one!

Scenario B.  you have $30 in items, 10 $1 coupons and a $5 off $30.  You would only need to purchase the $30 in items (because most stores don’t double $1 coupons, so there are no additional discounts).

You can often avoid any problems with Scenario A simply by handing the store the $5 off $30 coupon first.  However, don’t be upset if a cashier having a bad day tells you that you need to purchase that $37.50 for Scenario A.  You would be justified in arguing with them if you are trying to do Scenario B, but the bottom line is:  the doubled value of a manufacturers coupon is a store discount.  If they want to exclude that value, it’s up to them.

3.  In most cases, the registers at the Philly-area grocery stores aren’t programmed to reject a store coupon due to the value of the doubles given….but some coupon-unfriendly cashiers are.

4.  The Store Manager/Director (not the Asst. Manager, Lead Cashier or Customer Service Rep) is often your best friend when it comes to using manufacturers coupons.  I have had transactions where the Store Manager may not have been able to figure out how to adjust the value of a coupon down on the register, but they sure did understand the philosophy of coupons (that they are considered “cash”).

Is this post meant to be a warning or meant to scare you off stacking store coupons with manufacturers coupons?  Absolutely not.  What is is meant to do is to arm you with the information you need to stack those coupons with as few problems as possible.

Do you still think of coupons as a discount?  Or are you finally willing to look at them the way that I do:  as tiny little Gift Certificates from the manufacturer?