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 theGrocery 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?