Now glory be to God!
By his mighty power at work within us,
he is able to accomplish infinitely more
than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

Ephesians 3:20

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The Practical Saver (saving money on groceries).

In the world of frugal living, being a good steward, and trying to make ends meet, there are all sorts of options out there.  It can be overwhelming.  What follows is my opinion on three different ways to save money on groceries.  Take it for what you paid for it, as I said, it is my opinion.  

In the past, I've not been a big fan of coupon clipping.  It seems that there are many things that we don't eat/use in the coupons.  We do try to follow a somewhat healthy diet-fruits, vegetables, lean meats, limited processed/convenience foods.  However, we are not fanatical about it.  Sometimes, it's convenience food or nothing.  And the men in my life won't settle for nothing...some days are just like that, so I like to have some convenience foods on hand because I believe that is a better choice than our fast food options when I'm feeling tired, frazzled and hungry.  

Recently it seems, we've just been going to Walmart, because, if Walmart carries it, it's the lowest price around, right?  However, I have noticed that the Walmart Neighborhood Market has higher prices than the Super Walmart.  Interesting.  They aren't that far apart, but the smaller store is less crowded and more convenient.  There is also a difference in tax rates, as the stores are located in different cities.  We also have been doing a fair amount of shopping at Sam's Club, recently.  I like it, but I also get tired of it.  Buying in bulk does have its disadvantages. 

In the past, I have played the Grocery Game.  You can try it free for four weeks, and then $10 every 8 weeks for the first  list, and $5 for each additional list.  You can also earn free weeks for referring your friends.  It looks like the website has grown and been revised since I was a member, awhile back.   I did save a lot of money using this system.  However, because I am a recovering pack rat, this became problematic for me.  I was buying stuff that I didn't need (and probably never would) just because it was on sale.  It was okay at first, for stocking up.  But since I can be have a history of being obsessive, it became not okay.  So I gave it up.  You can enter your zip code and choose the stores/lists that you want to subscribe too.  I also wasn't a fan of paying for each store list.  Where we live, the competition for my grocery dollar is fierce, and the different stores are all nearby.  Sometimes it pays to go to more than one store based strictly on the sales.

I have friends who rave about CouponSense  but for me it was so overwhelming just to look at and try to figure out that I couldn't even try it.  My friend had this massive box of coupons, and it was just too much for me.  That's not to say it's not a good program, but for me, it was over the top. It costs $10 a month (first month is $4) and there is a way to get referral bonuses/free months as well.   The website says that they update information every day, which only adds to my feelings of being overwhelmed.  My only opinion is that I did not take the time to try it and to learn the system because it just felt like "too much".  I do not have direct experience with this one. 

My current experience is with the  Practical Saver.   I met Kara at a state wide homeschool convention.  She handed me (along with hundreds of other people) a free sample of home made laundry detergent that works out to cost about a penny a load.  The recipe to make the soap is on her website.  Practical Saver offers a 2 week free trial, which I just completed.  My free trial will actually encompass three weeks of shopping lists (her list comes out on Wednesday).  Practical Saver is an Arizona based list that comes out once a week. There are 3 different subscription plans to choose from-3 months for $10; 6 months for $16; and 12 months for $25.  Regardless of which plan you choose, you get the same lists which currently includes five major grocery stores and two drug stores.  The last week of my free trial also included some deals from Target.  (In The Grocery Game, you choose the stores you wish to subscribe to and the more stores=more cost for the subscription, a significant drawback of The Grocery Game in my opinion).

My results during my Practical Saver free trial:

First week:  I spent $36.13, getting a total of 43 items (3 bags) for .84 an item.  This was a savings of nearly $61 about 63%. 

Second week:  I spent $29.91, getting a total of 61 items (6 bags) for .49 an item.  This was a savings of $96.60, about 72 %.  

Third week:  I spent $87.49, getting a total of 28 items (including a turkey and half a ham) for 1.27 and item.  This was a savings of $169.69, about 67%.  (I forgot to keep track of the bag count this week, I think it was about a dozen bags total.)  Also, this week, we had a birthday in the family, so I bought some things that were not on the list.  They were on sale, but not at the very best prices.

Total value of groceries:  $480.44
Grand total spent:  $153.53
Grand total saved:  $326.91
Total spent on the list:  $0.00

This is huge, because it's not unusual for us to spend $150 (or more) in one trip to the grocery store, for one week.  This is over three weeks and my family (of 4) will eat well for  a month or longer based on what we currently have on hand.

Interestingly enough, I don't get the newspaper, so these great savings were based on a combination of sales, coupons that you can load on to your frequent shopper card (see Cellfire) and internet/printable coupons.  There were other things I would have gotten for free or next to free if I had the coupons from the newspaper.  Kara makes it uber-easy to find the internet coupons that are for the current weeks sales.  (what could be easier than a link that says "print here for coupon" ?  Now some of them didn't work (time expired or limits reached etc) but even still, I had experienced great savings.  WITHOUT THE COUPONS FROM THE PAPER!!!

I like how this list is organized.  She marks things that are free or nearly free, and at a price worth looking at.  She also marks things that are included in a healthy diet (see GoFitLife).  The list also includes money saving tips on other things like utilities.  The website offers news/alerts to updates throughout the week and a recipe database as well as meal plans based on sale items.  Recently, Practical Saver featured a preview of the Black Friday ads. 

The grocery list includes some organic options/prices as well as produce and meat sale prices.  This allows me to figure out what we need/will use and to go to the store where those items are on sale at the best prices.  In the first 2 weeks above, I did go to two separate grocery stores each week.  However, because the ones I went to are close to home, it was not a big inconvenience, and the prices were worth it.  I don't know if I would do that every week.  On the third week, I actually went to four grocery stores.  The sales/prices were that good.  The sales run long this week, due to the holiday, so next week may be light on the sales. 

The Practical Saver list also provides details about promotions like double / triple / quadruple coupons or all coupons worth at least $1 etc.  Currently in our area, many stores are quadrupling coupons or making all coupons worth at least $1.00.  One store is accepting competitor coupons.  Some stores are price matching  turkeys.  These tips help to stretch the savings!

Another option I have thought of but not yet done, is to take her nicely organized list to Walmart where they do price matching.  The problem with this is that Walmart often doesn't sell the same products and/or they won't honor the coupons or some other technical detail. This would be good for produce and maybe meat, I think.

I have also learned of Savings Angel but do not have any experience with it.  It costs $19.95 per month, with a free month and a guarantee.  Any one have any experience with this one?  It seems expensive to me. 

Bottom line, Practical Saver is worth the cost.  It's nicely organized and easy to use.  I saved more than enough for the annual subscription ($25) on my first trip to the grocery store.  The yearly subscription works out to .48 each week for the list.  A price well worth it, in my opinion.   After your free trial, if you decide to subscribe, use this promo code, GoSuzie80, and save 10%  (I will earn a little $ for referring you too.)  This promo code is good for any subscription and items in the Practical Saver store. 

How do you save money on groceries?


Beth Murray said...

Most of the resources are for Arizona or the States so not so helpful to me, but I do look through the weekly flyers and go to 1 or more grocery stores depending on what is on sale/where.

Lena Just Lena said...

True, since you don't live in this country, but I bet you can find resources in your area. Also, it's another reason for you to move here, isn't it, Beth? ;-)

Christen said...

I have been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to save money on groceries. I may try out Practical Saver next month. Thanks for sharing!!

Lena Just Lena said...

Christen, you are welcome. I was keeping track for my own info to help me decide about paying for the subscription or not...and I decided to share the info. Every place we can save some $$ helps. Let me know how your experience goes if you do decide to try it out.

blessedfamily said...

Thanks!! I'm going to try this out.

Lena Just Lena said...

Awesome, Blessed Family...Let us know how it goes.