When I moved into my new house at the end of last year, I was determined to get my budget on POINT. I knew our expenses would be going up quite a bit from when we were renting, so I decided to start trying to see where I could cut some costs. I searched Pinterest, I read tons of blog articles, I made and re-made our monthly budget, essentially driving myself nuts because none of what I was doing really accomplished much. A lot of running around in circles, but not a lot of practical things I could implement in my crazy life.
For example, couponing. I have to give a HUGE amount of credit to the mama’s out there who are able to save so much money cutting out coupons every week and organizing their monthly grocery shopping into what is on sale when and what store has a coupon for what brand of laundry detergent… I just can’t do it. Or, I should say, I had to find the way that was going to work for me. I work 40 + hours a week, I’m a mommy to a 1-year-old, and to be honest… I just hate couponing. I get half way into it and give up because my brain gets distracted and I remember I should be doing something else, or my kid wakes up from his nap, or I’d rather write on my blog, or whatever.
However, I still really like to save money, and there are a few ways that I, the full-time working mama who hates couponing, still manage to save a few bucks.
1. Meal planning
Meal planning, to me, is the number one most important and best way to save money on your groceries. I usually plan for 4 meals for the week; this allows for a night out (which we usually have) or a night we just don’t feel like cooking and end up with leftovers or frozen pizza. It also helps with eating healthier, because if you PLAN healthy meals, you will more likely EAT healthy meals, which is a good thing. I’m obsessed (seriously, obsessed) with Skinnytaste. I have never had a meal of hers that I didn’t LOVE, and her recipes are all super healthy with nutrition information readily available. Also, if you hate meal planning and want your life to be super easy, she makes weekly meal plans that you can print out with grocery lists. Done and done.
Cartwheel WAS my go-to when it comes to saving money on groceries. The biggest caveat with this is that you can only use it at Target, so take that for what it’s worth. When I lived five minutes from Target, it was fantastic. Now it takes 25 minutes to get to Target, so I use it much less frequently. However, using it to plan your grocery list can save you pretty big. For example, I have been using it for a little over a year and have saved $136.29 just from the app. Plus it’s super easy to use; I recommend going through before hand and choosing things you KNOW you want to get just to save you some time at the actual store, but there is also a really neat scanning feature where if you’re not sure if something is on Cartwheel or not you can just scan the bar code from your phone, and it will not only bring you to the coupon, but if it isn’t on sale it will tell you which brand or similar product IS, so you can choose accordingly. Pretty nifty, Target.
Ibotta is great. Seriously great. With this one, instead of getting a coupon you use at the store, you get money back for certain purchases and then you can cash that out once you reach a certain amount. You can choose from getting cash back (which is always cool), or choosing a gift card once you reach about $20-$25. Since I’ve been using the app more frequently I’ve gotten two $20 Amazon.com gift cards. Again with this, the trick is looking ahead and making your list, as well as making note of what particular brand is eligible for the cash back. One of the big pros with Ibotta: you can use it at almost any store, including online places like Groupon, Boxed, Hotels.com, eBay… there are tons to choose from. They also offer “bonuses”; for example right now is their “March Madness” bonus where if you use 15 unique rebates you get an extra $10… and who couldn’t use an extra $10? Plus you can invite friends; when they sign up they start with a $10 bonus plus you get a $5 referral bonus, and your “team” works together to earn more bonuses depending on how many rebates you redeem, which makes it sort of fun as well.
Favado is down a little further on the list because it just takes more time. I always meal plan, I always use Ibotta, and if I am going to Target I will for SURE use Cartwheel. If I am feeling particularly motivated and organized then Favado is the next in line. This is a pretty cool app, nothing super fancy but just tells you what is on sale at what stores, and allows you to compare. It’s also great because you can search for a particular item; for example, I can type in “paper towels”, and it will bring up all the paper towels on sale at different major grocery stores. Then, it will tell you what other discounts you can use to get the best price on that product. IE: Target has a 12 pack of Bounty paper towels on sale for $13.99, but if I buy two of them, print out three coupons (link available to print out the coupons is right there on the screen) and take advantage of Target’s ‘buy two, get a $5 gift card’ promotion, then I will end up paying $10.49 each… which is a great deal. Favado sort of takes the “extra” couponing work out for you; the tough part is that there are TONS of sales and even if you’re just looking at one store it can get a little overwhelming.
This is just a straightforward coupon website. Again, this one is really great if you know what you need a coupon for; you can search for it, and easily make a list to print out. They have an app as well but I usually just use the website so I can’t give a great review of the app. Also they send emails to you… which for me is good because then it reminds me that I should check and see if I can find some more coupons and save a little more.
That’s it for me! Full disclosure, I hardly ever use ALL of these on the same grocery trip. I suppose if I did I would save a lot.. maybe I will try that this week and see how it goes.
What are some of your favorite ways to save money on groceries, or even on other things?