When we were first married, we lived in a town with three large grocery stores and two chain drug stores. I had a lot of shopping options, and since none of these stores were more than five minutes or so from my home, it wasn’t too difficult to hit each of them as needed in order to get the best deals of the week.
Then we moved to a small town a couple of years ago. While JR saves a lot of time and money driving back and forth to work, my shopping options are rather limited. With the cost of gas, the time commitment, and the cost involved in driving the twenty miles to the large stores with the best deals is something that I do maybe once per week. I’m not super-thrifty on our food, because we consume mostly fresh/perishable foods, and it’s difficult to stock up on produce.* Most of the time, I don’t have coupons for the foods that we eat, but I do try to buy whatever is on sale for the week in order to eat as thrifty as possible.
Also, I am a member of a food co-op. The co-op orders fresh, organic fruits and vegetables every two weeks, but since it is about fifty miles from home, I only order about once a month, at the same time that the order for another place that the co-op orders from is delivered. That one day a month always turns into at least a six-hour food pick-up/shopping extravaganza – but I get a lot done at pretty much the lowest cost possible.
Most of the store matchups for the following week are up by Saturday or Sunday night, so usually on Saturday or Sunday I will take a look at the weekly ads and store matchups, and figure out which store I want to do my ‘big’ shopping trip at for the week. I like to shop at Meijer, though Kroger is also an option sometimes. If neither of those two stores have great deals, I will choose Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is the closest major chain grocery store to my house, and I like to price match items there from all of the surrounding stores, which saves me time. I also tried out a Sam’s Club trial membership over the summer, I enjoyed the ease of their Click-n-Pull, but I haven’t been regularly near enough to a Sam’s Club lately to make it worthwhile to join again.
My best deals consistently come from drugstores. I am primarily a Rite Aid shopper, mostly since there is one in my home town, which makes it easy to get there every week and roll my store rewards. All of the major drug stores (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens) have their own version of store coupons/rewards that print to be used on your next shopping trip. Now that I have been couponing at ‘my Rite Aid’ regularly for over a year (I couponed a lot when Gabriel was a baby/toddler, but took a break before and after Joshua was born), I am to a point that I spend very little money, and could easily provide a family much larger than ours with all of the personal care items they would require for very little. It takes planning ahead of time, but I usually spend less than a dollar plus tax out-of-pocket, after all store rewards and coupons are applied to my purchase.
As far as menu planning, I mostly stick to stocking up on a lot of staples when they are on sale, and mix it up with special items that we are in the mood for or decide to try out. My method is kind of dull, I know, but it works well for us during this phase of life when I never seem to have much time to devote to the preparation of meals or tending a meal on the stove top, since I seem to spend a lot of time tending to a child’s needs while I am attempting to prepare our meals.
* Fun fact: When I still lived with my parents, I would pick up a case of bananas, which is about forty pounds, when they were on sale for a good price.