As a busy mom running a household that includes six children, managing the shopping for groceries and clothing is really more of a chore than a pleasure. I just want to find the fastest and easiest way to get the things that I need for my family at a decent price without spending a ridiculous amount of effort. (Clearly you won't find me featured on Extreme Couponing any time soon!) So, here are my tips on managing the chore of shopping:
When It's Time for Grocery Shopping: Plan the Trip
1. Make a Detailed List of What You Need
I spend an hour each Sunday night making my grocery list. First, using my menu planning board, I plan what to make each night for dinner, then check through the fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what items I need to add onto my grocery list in order to prepare those meals. I keep a running grocery list on a clipboard in my kitchen that is organized by aisle in my local grocery store. This makes it easy to add items to the list and easy to find them once I am in the store.
2. Study the Store Circular to Plan Your Visit
Next, I grab the grocery store circular from my Sunday newspaper. I note what is on sale, pull out my coupons to see which ones I can match up with a sale price, then make notes on my grocery list of what product size is on sale, the price I should find it at, and the quantity I wish to purchase. For example, last week, I wrote down: Honey Nuts (cheerios), 12.25 oz. $2.49, 4.
3. Use a Coupon-Matching Deal Site to Make Sure You Aren't Missing Any Deals
Next I check my favorite deal-matching website Living Rich with Coupons to see where Cindy matched up the sale prices with printed or online coupons just to make sure that I didn't miss out any deals that I might want to take advantage of.
4. While at the Store, Buy Only What Is on Your List!
On Monday morning, I put the kids on the bus and head right to my local Shop Rite. I only buy the items on my list in the sizes and quantities that I outlined (unless I happen upon an unadvertised special in the store that I can also pair up with a coupon to score a good deal!). Since I am working off of an organized and detailed list, I can be in and out of the store in about an hour. Not bad for buying a week's worth of groceries for a family of eight!
For Clothes and Shoe Shopping: Do It All Online!
I buy pretty much 99% of my kids' clothes (and mine too) online instead of heading out to the mall. It saves me a ton of time to take care of it from the comfort of my own home, and since I shop strategically, it also allows me to save a ton of money! I even purchase all of our shoes online with the help of an at-home shoe sizer from One Step Ahead to help me to measure my kids' feet accurately. Here are a few tips to smart online shopping:
1. Sign Up for Email Notifications of Sales
Sign up for sale emails from these sites you know so you get a heads-up when items your family needs are at a great price. For example, I prefer to buy my boys' jeans at the GAP. The styling is nice, they offer a pull-tab adjustable waistband to adjust the fit, and they hold up really well. But I don't want to shell out $25-$30 for a pair of jeans, so I wait for the store to have a sale and then stock up on the next sizes that I will need for each of the boys.
2. Take Advantage of Daily Deal Sites
Don't forget about using deal sites to gain access to some terrific limited-time offers at rock bottom prices. One such site is totsy.com. Recently featured on Lifetime Television's The Balancing Act, totsy is a great place to find fantastic deals of cute kids clothing and accessories (and maybe one or two things for you!)
3. Make Sure You Look for Free Shipping
Most retailers offers some sort of a customer rewards program that often includes free shipping if you just sign up. In some cases, their program may require you to use their credit card, which is fine as long as you pay off the bill each month!
4. Always Look for Online Coupons Before Completing the Transaction
My favorite site for this is RetailMeNot. Never, never, never complete a purchase in your online shipping cart without first checking to see if there are any online promo code available. You might be surprised how much money you can save taking a few minutes to check for codes before clicking the "buy" button.
5. Don't Forget About Cash-Back Sites
A favorite cash back referral site is Ebates. Even if you have already started shopping at a retailer, you can simply open another window on your computer, log into Ebates to check and see if that retailer is offering any cash back. And if so, use Ebates to launch a new window to that retailer, which will already contain everything that was in your cart. Complete your transaction through that new window, and poof ! You have earned a few dollars back. Easy-peasy.