Click HERE if you missed Part 1 of the series.
As you probably guessed, attempting a monthly budget of $175 takes lots of planning. My monthly grocery trip starts wayyy before I step through the doors of the store. It involves flyers, lists, meal plans and more.
The first thing I do is look through my pantry and freezer and make a list of what I already have and DON'T need to buy. This often includes the staples, like meat, cheese, butter, cereal, and crackers because I stock up on these items when I find a good sale.
Next, I go through all the flyers and write down the REALLY good sales on my grocery list. Now that I've been doing this for a while, I have what I consider really good sales and sales that are just okay. Really good sales are items that I'm going to stock up on no matter what because the price is good (Ex. Crispers for $1 at Walmart, I bought 6 bags. When cheese is under $5 I buy at least 3). Sales that are just "Okay" I keep in the back of my mind to check if I have a coupon, cashback or PC Plus pts to make the deal even better.
Third, I pull up PC Plus in my browser so I can load my offers for the week. If you haven't heard of this, it's a points program available at Loblaws, Superstore, Independent and No Frills. Purchasing certain in-store items gives you points plus you can get extra offers, personalized to your shopping habits, by signing your card up online and loading your offers every week. I have had this for about a year and I have almost 50,000 points which will give me $50 in free groceries when I redeem them.
At the same time, I grab my Ipad, to look through my cachback offers, and pull out my ziplock full of coupons. Although there are a few different cashback apps out there, the ones that I consider best are Checkout51 and Zweet. I have had Checkout51 for less than 6 months and have already earned over $50 back and I have had Zweet for a few weeks and already have $5 in my account. Coupons I get from all over. I mainly print or mail order them from websites like Smartsource, Websaver, P&G Everyday and Save.ca but I also often find them on the coupon board on my way into the store or in the aisles.
Once I have everything pulled up, I check for overlaps. I often find that I have cashback or PCPlus pts (or both) for a sale item. Also, the Checkout51 and Zweet offers will often overlap or I'll have a coupon for something that is also offering Cashback. If I have offers or coupons for an item that I don't often buy or isn't on sale, I will go on Walmart.ca to check the price and see if it's still a good deal. I add all good deals to the grocery list that I have going. I always write the price beside the item and note if it has a coupon, cashback, pts, pricematch etc. That way, when I am at the store, I won't grab the wrong item because I will notice the price difference and I won't forget which coupons I need to use.
Finally, once the deals are written down, I look over what I am buying, and what I already have and figure out a meal plan. Then I add missing items to my grocery list. For example, if ground beef and pasta sauce are on my list of good deals then I will make spaghetti part of my meal plan and add noodles to my grocery list. For extra items like these, I will usually buy the no name brand or whatever is cheapest at the store.
Once I have a general meal plan and a grocery list, complete with prices, it's time to review. I add up the prices and hope that my total is under $175.00. If it isn't, I will go back over the list and see if there's anything that we don't really need for the month and then cross it off. I also check if there's anything missing that I may be running out of. Potatoes and carrots, for example, are something I always keep in the house since they are generally cheap anyways.
It may sound like a ton of work but it isn't as bad as it sounds. It totally pays out in the end. Plus, I love feeling completely organized and prepared when I head to the grocery store.
Stay tuned for Part 3 and find out what I do while at the store to keep my bill under $175.