Anatomy of a Bargain Hunter's Grocery Shopping Cart

I've written several posts now about how I save money on groceries, primarily by using the Coupon Mom method. In this post, I'll take you with me through a typical shopping trip to show how I planned my trip, what I bought, and how many great deals I got.

First, I created an account with Then, I clicked on the link "Grocery Deals by State" and clicked on the name of the store I wanted to visit. Because I had already perused the store's weekly circular, I knew they were having some great sales that I wanted to take advantage of. The Coupon Mom site would allow me to see both the store's advertised and unadvertised sales in an easy-to-read list format and alert me to which items had coupons available. I read these lists and noted all the items I wanted to buy, their prices, and whether they had a corresponding coupon. I try to buy everything when it is both on sale AND I have a coupon for it.

I went to the store with a list of sale items I wanted to buy as well as a list of other things we were out of that I hoped to pick up for a reasonable price. It isn't always possible to buy everything on sale and/or with a coupon, but I try to at least get everything at a fair price (for example, I never pay $4 for a gallon of milk or $7 for a 12-pack of soda--both are terrible deals where I live).

So here's what I bought:

Barilla whole wheat pasta: On sale for $1.50 for 16 ounces. A good price for a pound of pasta is $1. Anything less than that is great, especially for whole wheat pasta, which typically costs $1.29 a pound at best. I had a coupon for 50 cents off. The store doubles coupons, so I got this pound of pasta for 50 cents.

Barilla piccolini pasta: Same thing, except this is a type of miniature pasta instead of whole wheat. I really don't care that much what size my pasta is--I'm just happy to get another pound for 50 cents.

Tyson frozen breaded chicken breasts (4): On sale for $3.59. I have a coupon for $1 off, getting me the 10 ounce box of chicken for $2.59. No, this isn't the best price for chicken, but considering that it's already breaded and already cooked, the time I'll save on dinner one night is worth the extra cost.

Lean Pockets: On sale for $1.99 a box (a box has two lean pockets), but if I buy ten participating Kraft and Nestle items, I get $5.00 back, or an extra 50 cents off each item. I also have two register coupons for Lean Pockets from previous purchases. One is for 75 cents off three and one is for 75 cents off four. Perfect. I'll buy seven boxes. These are store coupons, which are not doubled, but I still get 7 boxes of lean pockets for $9. That's 14 Lean Pockets for $9, or 64 cents for a meal that involves nothing more than 2 minutes in the microwave to prepare.

Jello: I don't normally buy jello, but it's part of the $5 off on 10 items sale and I also have a coupon, and I can get the sugar-free kind so I'll have a healthy way to fulfill a sweet craving. The jello is $1 per box, and my coupon is for $1 off 2 boxes. With the additional 50 cents off each item from the $5 off 10 items sale, I essentially get two boxes of jello for free.

Buitoni fresh grated parmesan: Here's an example of something that isn't a great deal, but it's not a rip off, either. The container is $3.50. It's worth the convenience of getting the week's shopping done at one store to settle for a reasonable price on this item.

Bounty paper towels: On sale for $1, and I have a 25 cent off coupon which doubles to 50 cents. That gets me one roll of quality paper towels for 50 cents. Good deal.

Nestle chocolate chips: This is one item where I will only eat the name brand. I blame my mother for raising me on the back-of-the-bag Toll House recipe. Regular price, $4 a bag. On sale for $2.50, plus part of the $5 off 10 items promotion. I also have a coupon for $1 off a bag. Final price: $1. I know I'll use these come December to make holiday cookies as inexpensive Christmas gifts.

Tic Tac Chill: This is a new "high-end" mint. It's on sale for $1.00, and I have a coupon for 75 cents. The 75 cent coupon "doubles" to $1.00, so I get the Tic Tacs for free.

Deli turkey and ham: While I'm looking for the Foster Farms deli meats, which I have printed coupons for from, I notice some Oscar Meyer lunch meat with "manager's special" stickers on it. Eh, a package for $3.29? That's no deal. But wait! This isn't an ordinary 9 ounce package, which normally sells for $3 on sale. It's a full pound. There's also a package that's marked down to $1.99. Ca-ching! I buy all the remaining manager's special boxes on the shelf. It's probably marked down because it's approaching a sell-by date, but I've yet to see a piece of lunch meat go bad in my fridge.

Foster Farms marinated turkey tenderloins: I've never had these before, but they're also on manager's special. $4 for 24 ounces. Plus, there's a peel-off instant coupon on the package that will give me another $1 off. I peel off the coupon right away and put it with my other coupons so I won't forget to use it at the checkout. $3 for a pound and a half of healthy, name-brand meat that's already marinated? Good deal. Also, I can freeze it until I'm ready to use it.

Challenge spreadable butter: This is a product I actually use. It's on sale for $1.50 for 8 ounces, and I have a coupon from for 75 cents off and another for 55 cents off. Both will double to $1, getting me 8 ounces of butter for 50 cents, times two. Butter normally costs $2.50 a pound on sale, so $1 for a pound is great. Not as good as the free butter I got a few months ago, but still worth picking up.

I bought a few other things that I won't bore you with. It's important to note that I've purchased things I actually want to eat--I didn't just buy Lean Pockets because they were on sale--I actually like them. It's not much fun to get stuff on sale if you're not going to enjoy eating it. My total bill came to $74.11. The food I bought, plus a few things I have at home, will feed two people for at least a week. My total savings, printed at the bottom of the receipt, is $43.71, so overall I got my groceries for 37% off. Some weeks I do even better percentage-wise, but that's usually if I have a shorter list that includes nothing but sale+coupon items. Still, I got some great deals and I'm happy with my purchases and my savings.

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