Savings does not happen automatically. First you need a plan.

Gather supplies.  You will need to know what you already have on hand. Take a look in your freezer and pantry and see how many meals or parts of meals you can pull together from what’s there. Grab the grocery store flyers for the week and see what your favorite stores have on sale. Look at all of the flyers. You just may find a new favorite store, temporarily anyway. Note if there are any sales that match up with a coupon you already have, could find online, or could clip out of this Sunday’s paper. Find your scissors and get busy.

Think it through.  Plan menus around the grocery store’s loss leaders. Those are the items in their flyer that are offered at cost or below cost to attract buyers into the store. Also note that sales run in cycles. If you find chicken at a rock bottom price, buy six week’s worth. That’s about the amount of time it will take for it to go on sale again. The object here is to never pay full price for any one item. My grocery cart is never full of a typical week’s worth of groceries. It contains mostly sale items. The items I need are already in the freezer and pantry. I buy necessities only when they are on sale. That way I can use most of my grocery budget for sale items and fresh produce. This will be a work in progress if you haven’t shopped this way before. Each week use a small portion of your grocery budget for stock up and you will get there in no time at all. Print or find the coupon policy for the store you will be visiting. Take it with you.

Write it down.  Plan your menu and write your grocery list. If something is on sale and you have a coupon too, note this on the list. Make up your own shorthand. If I am buying two boxes of the same cereal because it is on sale and I happen to have two coupons I would make two stars beside the cereal. I also note the sale price. Computers make errors because they are programmed by humans. Humans err. It happens. Be prepared to defend yourself.

Shop accordingly.  Stick to the list. Resist those impulse purchases. The only exception being any unadvertised store sales or coupon match-ups for discontinued merchandise you may find. I usually allow a small portion of my budget for these purchases unless money is really tight. Eat before you go to the store. If you have trouble saying no to unathorized purchases, leave your spouse and the kids at home. Of course this only applies if they try to sneak things into the cart as you shop.

Put it into practice.  When you get home make sure you store your groceries properly to cut down on waste. You can read more about avoiding waste here. Look at your menu and get things out to thaw in the frig during the week. You can also take the opportunity to preprep vegetables or parts of meals to make weeknight meals a little quicker and easier on the cook. Put your menu on the frig so you don’t forget. This also makes it more visible for those in the house who would like to lend a hand. They will know what you are having and what needs to be done. Note things teens or spouses might be able to do to help after school or work, like peel potatoes.