Cutting the Grocery Bill by Playing the Grocery Game

When you decide you want to be more frugal, the easiest area of the budget to cut is the grocery bill. It’s one of the biggest household expenses, and also the most flexible household expense. And one of my tricks to cutting the grocery bill is playing the Grocery Game. Yesterday after my grocery shopping trip, I put my savings up on Twitter, and I received a lot of responses asking me how I did it. My answer was the Grocery Game.

What is the Grocery Game?

The Grocery Game is basically a database of store sales combined with coupons. Each week “The List” comes out for Grocery Game members, listing items on sale and the coupons that go with them.

List items are categorized into three colors:

  • Black items mean that it’s not a great deal, and you should only buy the item if you need it.
  • Blue items mean that the item is at it’s rock bottom price, and you should stock up if it’s something you use.
  • Green items are free. You should buy them. And if you don’t use them, and if you don’t use them, consider buying them anyway and donating to someone who can use them.

You need to know your prices, because sometimes rock bottom prices at your list store are still more expensive than buying the item at regular price at a bare bones grocery store like Winco. This is where a pricebook could come in handy. I don’t have one yet, but my goal is to make one this year.

Grocery Game Tells You Exactly Where to Find the Coupons

However, items that are on sale and have a coupon to go with them are generally a really good deal. And the thing I love about the Grocery Game is the list will tell you exactly where to find the coupons. In fact, the Grocery Game list provides all of the following information, neatly arranged on an easy to read list.

  • The item description, including which size you need to buy
  • The original price (useful for looking at shelf tags to find the right item)
  • The sale price, including how many you need to buy to get the best price
  • Manufacturer coupons, including which coupon insert to find them
  • Store coupons, including buy one get one information and any limits on the coupon
  • The final price you’ll pay
  • The percentage you’ll save on that item

How the Grocery Game Works for Me

To show you how the Grocery Game works for me, I’ll give you the rundown of my shopping trip yesterday. I shopped at Albertsons, which is the store in my area with the best coupon policy. They don’t double coupons, but this week they had two coupons in their weekly ad which doubled three coupons up to one dollar each, for a potential savings of $6.

In addition, Albertsons accepts up to 10 competitor coupons, so I also use Fred Meyer coupons and the Safeway coupon doubler, which doubles 4 coupons up to 50 cents each, for a savings of up to $2.00.

So, yesterday I bought:

  • 4 boxes of Total cereal
  • 4 boxes of Golden Grahams cereal
  • Fiber One pancake mix
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 5 cans of black beans
  • 5 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 20 containers of Yoplait Yogurt
  • 6 cans of Progresso soup
  • 4 loaves of whole wheat bread (and not the cheapy stuff)
  • 5 lbs. of potatoes
  • 3 lbs. of grapefruit
  • 5 lbs. of oranges
  • 2 L’oreal mascaras

Total before preferred savings and coupons: $124.45

  • Preferred Savings: $51.23
  • Manufacturer Coupons: $7.80
  • Store Coupons: $24.60
  • Total Savings: $83.63

Total Paid Out of Pocket: $40.82

But wait. There’s more. There was a deal going that if I bought $30 in certain products, I could get $15 in coupons, good on my next shopping trip. So I also have $15 worth of coupons that work like cash. When you take that into consideration, I got $125 worth of groceries for $26. Now that’s a good deal!

After shopping at Albertsons, I headed to Winco, which has the lowest non-sale grocery prices in my area, and I picked up some fruits and veggies, milk, and meat to supplement my Albertsons purchases. Now I’m set for the week and beyond.

The Grocery Game is Not for Everyone

If you eat a completely natural and organic diet, it probably won’t be a good deal for you. I don’t buy tons of sugary snack foods, but I’m not adverse to eating some processed foods either. The items on my grocery list are a good representation of the way my family eats.

I cook a lot from scratch, but I like to have canned soups on hand for quick lunches, when I don’t have homemade in the freezer. And I haven’t kicked the cereal habit yet, either.

If this is similar to the way you eat, you might find the Grocery Game to be beneficial to you. Before you decide, though, you can have a 4 week trial for $1, and that should be enough to help you decide whether it’s for you or not. Before you sign up for the trial, I suggest you collect 4 weeks worth of coupon inserts, or you’ll be disappointed that you don’t have the right coupons for the deals.

After the trial, membership is $10 for 8 weeks, which is completely worth it for me. I save more than that each week, even when the price of the Sunday newspaper is taken into consideration. If you do sign up, feel free to put my email address in the referral box: beingfrugal at gmail dot com. And for full disclosure, I do get 2 months free for every 3 people that subscribe to a full membership (those who don’t cancel after the trial).

But I wouldn’t be writing this article, and I wouldn’t be a member of the Grocery Game, if I didn’t think it helped me save money on the grocery budget.

Do you use coupons? Have you ever used the Grocery Game? What has your experience been?



Author

By , on Jan 13, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{16 Comments}

  1. Wow…great ideas here!

    We couldv’e used something like this when we started our “Dollar-A-Day” Challenge. We’re on Day 17 of eating on just a buck a day.

    The other main challenge for us is that I have a gluten allery so there are many processed and ‘cheap’ things that I cannot have.

    Worth exploring tho….

    We invite everyone to come check out our progress:

    http://1-dollar-a-day.blogspot.com

    Thanks
    Karla

  2. I was about 1 week from signing up for the grocery game in october of 2007, when I stumbled upon a grocery challenge thread on msn.com. I asked the ladies there about it and they said that it was great, if you wanted to pay for something you could quickly do yourself lol. An experienced grocery “hound” took me under her wing and showed me sights like couponmom.com and hotcouponworld.com. They do EXACTLY what the grocery game does(especially coupon mom) but doesn’t charge me any money. I like FREE. It’s a good price lol.

  3. Rsonline:

    Lynnae, as always great post and very informative!

    I have not had a chance to check out the grocery game yet, or to see if it covers my area. The only real grocery store around here is HEB. They also do not double coupons (doesn’t seem like there are many that do any more).

    Thanks for the info!

  4. Marci:

    If I had more than a Freddies and a Safeway in my area I’d probably try it. But as I don’t… well, I’ll just keep gardening. Last night’s dinner (and leftovers and giveaways) was fresh brussel sprouts out of my garden. 4 big servings cost a maximum of 10 cents total. Then clam/potato/onion fritters…10 huge servings of self harvested clams and all home grown potatoes, onions, and herbs… added 2 eggs and dried milk and some flour for a total cost of a maximum of 75 cents. Doesn’t get any fresher than that :) 85 cents total for all that food – and yes that includes the water for the garden and the cost of seed, if applicable.

    I do the local Freddies and Safeway coupons and usually only buy what I have a coupon for, and need. This week that was the canned beans and tomatoes also, bacon for flavoring my soups, beans, and sauteing with, and the TP. That was it. I wish we had more stores here, but that’s all we have :(

  5. I would happily give you a referral if the Grocery Game covered any of the stores in my area. It does sound like a wonderful service and if they are listening, maybe it’s time to expand the stores they cover!!

  6. I’ve been doing Grocery Game for over 3 years and I just love it. The weekly cost is very little compared to what you save. I average 40% savings. The best part is that when you’ve been doing it for a bit, you suddenly realize your grocery list is getting shorter and shorter–because you have built up a good stockpile.
    It’s the basic GG principle: you don’t buy it when you need it (when you’d pay full price whether you want to or not), you buy it when it’s on sale at it’s cheapest and put it in the freezer or pantry. It’s better to reach for a jar of mayo you bought for 1.99 two months ago than to have to spend $4 on one today!

  7. I have thought about this, but I am not very good at grocery shopping. I make a list and plan meals, but inevitably I always buy something that isn’t on the list that I think “Oh yeah, I need that but forgot to add it to the list.” The way I see it, the more different stores I go to, the more potential for little “extras” to end up in my cart. Plus, where we live we have a Woodman’s. The are pretty much only in WI and northern IL, but they have the best prices hands down. Most things, especially non-perishables, are already the best price around. They don’t have a butcher, but we usually go to Sams Club once a month and stock up on meat anyway, just dividing it and freezing it.

  8. I have heard about Teri’s list but I have never tried it. I, too, shop at Winco and do most of my shopping there. They accept manuf. coupons but not internet. Thanks for sharing this great idea!

  9. Shymom:

    Good job!!! No one here doubles coupons (not even Safeway)
    so , I rarely am able to save more than 45% on a full weeks groceries. My all time high was 57% though if I save less than 35% I know I’m not even trying 8-)
    I use couponmom.com instead of the grocery game. That web site has fewer bells and whistles as the grocery game but it is free. (which I always like.)

    After my shopping trip every week, I write on the calendar how much I spent and how much I saved with coupons and the grocery club card. It is fun to keep track and it impresses the husband 8-)

  10. I don’t do the Grocery Game because I can do the same thing myself quickly without paying for it. Plus I frequent hotcouponworld.com and afullcup.com plus lots of great blogs (like yours)!

    I revamped my expenses spreadsheet for the year to account for coupons, ECBs, RRs, and so forth.

  11. Lynnae:

    @Jessica – If I could do the same thing quickly, I wouldn’t pay for it either! Good for you!

    @Shymom – You’re absolutely right that Couponmom is a great option! Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a list for any of the local grocery stores in my area, so it’s not a great option for me. But I frequently use Couponmom to scan for deals at Walgreens and Walmart!

  12. WOW! That is awesome. I tried the Grocery Game but it didn’t work very well for me because we eat a lot of natural and organic foods. That’s awesome how much food you got for so little money!

  13. Seems like the Grocery Game does what I already do … but saves a lot of time! I shop at Shaw’s, which is affiliated with Albertsons, so I recognized some of the deals that got yesterday. My Shaw’s doubles all coupons up to $.99 though, so I’m pretty lucky.

  14. I’m glad the grocery game works for you – it can be a lot of fun to figure out grocery savings, freebies, etc. I used to spend a lot of time on coupons until I decided simple living was also a goal of mine. Now I focus on meals that use cheap ingredients and are easy to prepare and am surprised that my grocery bill hasn’t changed all that much from my couponing days. Of course, it probably helps that we’re not breakfast people!! Most of the great deals always seem to involve cereal – I wonder why?

  15. Lynnae, because of where I live neither the grocery Game or Couponmom work for me. BUT it does save you a lot of time if you don’t mind paying for the service. however, just a little bit of research could lead you maybe to the forum or blog that does coupon matches for free for the stores you shop at.
    I have to say playing the grocery game works for those who stockpile and for those who don’t.
    Great job!

  16. Tiffany:

    I loved the grocery game… that is until I found the free version at couponmom.com. Go to the “deals by state” and you’ll find almost the same thing (just not color-coded). For Arizona, they only have Fry’s deals, but some states they have all sorts of grocery deals. It’s fine for me since Fry’s is the only place that doubles/triples coupons around me.

    The only thing you need to do is sign up with minimal information. Then once you’re all signed up, you get the deals for FREE!

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