I have said it before and I will say it again -- I shop weird.
I only buy produce about once a month, in one trip where rarely any coupons are used. I am trying to incorporate more organics, and so I am taking a trip to a whole foods store today to see what they might have.
I also basically shop once a month for meats. There is a local chain that does 5 packs for $20 -- which can or cannot be a deal, depending on what you get. Included in that deal is a 8 lb. bag of popcorn chicken, so I typically do 5 of those about twice a year, that makes it about .50/lb. I have figured out how to use these in a bunch of different ways, so that we are not tired of them. Instead when we are on the last bag my girls all remind me, so that we will not run out. I find the best deal possible on ground beef, and usually buy marked down packs. If I am lucky enough to hit the mother lode and score several packs, I buy all I can find -- sometimes as low as .79/lb. I buy chicken quarters when I can find them around .50/lb and pick them off . Occasionally if there is a great deal somewhere, we will buy prepackages Salisbury steaks or something similar. I also like to keep frozen pizzas for the nights when we are just too tired to cook. Once in a great while I will find roasts or stew meat on markdown, so into my freezer they go too, for another night. I also tend to look at the rotisserie chicken, because I have found them to be cheaper than fresh chickens if they are really close to their time being up. You just have to watch every possible outlet, and never completely rule out any option.
As for everything else that comes out of our budget -- snacks, canned foods, oh-so-yummy processed foods, milk, cheese, bread, all paper products, health/beauty aids, OTC medicine -- I always say "whatever's free is best for me!" I am not brand loyal at all. I buy whatever is cheapest. You may have to join a coupon site to learn to trade, but there are coupons out there for almost anything you could ever need from the grocery store. There are coupons for free milk when you buy cereal, and you can use coupons to get the cereal to get the free milk. There are coupons out there for free bread when you buy lunch meat. I buy marked down lunch meat with coupons and get the bread for free.
Oddly enough, the bulk of what I buy never even makes it into the house. I did my figures the other night and I have sold WAY more than I have inside my house. To date -- since April -- I have sold over 500 bottles of Dawn dish liquid. Most of them were free to me, and cheaper through me than they were at Walmart. I am the same way with Venus razors, shampoo, and even some food items. I buy them cheap and resell them to help my customers save money, but I make some, too. I always make more in a month than I spend, usually double what I spend, depending on the month.
I do shop weird though. I have bought 20 jars of pasta sauce and limped along with .33 cent regular price pasta until I found it free, then I stocked up to the hilt on it. I have bought 200 cans of veggies in a week, but then I will not have to buy them again for a year (these were exclusively for my own family). I take a nod from stockbrokers -- buy low! I can see a deal and know without even a second thought as to whether or not it really is a good deal. You have to be careful though.
My best friend is just as much of a coupon enthusiast as I am. We shop together, coupon together, and we live very similar lives. However, a few weeks ago she asked me if .99 was a good price for a small jar of brand name jelly. I pointed out to her than you can buy a jar 3X the size at Save-A-Lot for the same price. "DUH" was her response. Sometimes you get that hot little coupon in your hand and you realize that you cannot always get the best deal by using it. An even cheaper option (what I do) is make it yourself. With a .99 can of frozen concentrate, water, sugar and some pectin, you can make about 6 jars for the price of 2 at Save-A-Lot. You just have to be very conscious of every little cent you spend.
Yes, there are times I have bought something special that I could have gotten cheaper another way. I only use kosher salt, not because of my religion, but because I like the tatse 100 times better than the 3/$1 cheap stuff in the round box. I give about $1.50 for it on sale, and it lasts a long time, tastes much better, takes less to flavor foods, so I buy that. I also purchase olive oil, which I almost never find a good deal with coupons. I buy big cans of it, making it a lot cheaper per ounce than the small bottles. Sure, corn oil is much cheaper, but then again the flavor and health values of olive oil is much better than any other oil. I keep a bottle that I get free here or there, but our cholesterol levels thank us greatly.
There is no hard and fast way to shopping how I do. It just takes work. If I took you shopping, you might say that you would never eat so many processed foods. If I get instant potatoes for free, but I have to pay for fresh ones, I will take instant, TYVM.
My only true rule of thumb is that there are things I always get for free before tax: shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toiletpaper, paper towels, kleenex, cosmetics, OTC medicines, cleaning products, laundry soap, snack foods, razors, shaving gel, etc. My list is too long to put into this blog, but I know what is always free, and so I buy up big and stick it in my stockpile.
There is no real way to answer each and every dilemma without some questions, so let's hear them! I will try my hardest to answer each and every question you have, or give advice if you need better insight as to how to save you money like I do. If you need to know something, ask away! I will be glad to help you learn to save!