How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

Via LearnVest By Alden Wicker ~

We’ve always been intrigued by the idea of couponing.

Extreme Couponers make it look rewarding and fun. We had a mom try it who reported back that it was time-consuming. But we wanted to ask someone who actually knows how to do couponing right.

So we found an expert who spends just a couple hours a week couponing, and saves anywhere from 50 to 70% off her groceries. Oh, and did we mention this expert is only 20 years old?

Brandi LaBarre is a student at University of Maryland, who runs the blog Savvy Student Shopper where she shares her saving insights and coupons with families and other money savers like her. Best of all, she’s not a crazy couponer–just a girl on a tight budget!

According to a nationwide survey by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint®, 41% of women rank groceries among their top three expenditures–only rent and utilities rank higher. That’s why it’s so important to maximize your food dollars, and couponing is a time-honored strategy for doing just that.

The way we coupon, though, has been evolving. So we grilled this young savant on the ins and outs of savings, so we could share her expertise with you:

LV: How long have you been couponing?

Brandi: Since I was a little girl I’ve been cutting coupons and sorting them to help my mother. It wasn’t until three years ago, though, that I started getting really serious about it. Now I’m a better couponer than my mom.

Who are you grocery shopping for?

I shop for two households. I live in an off-campus apartment with three boys, one of them my boyfriend. But the couponing happens when I go home almost every weekend to my parents’ house, which is 45 minutes away from school. I’ll do grocery shopping for my family of four, including me, my parents and my younger sister, plus a dog and two cats! I take my portion back to school with me.

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You do the grocery shopping now, instead of your mom?

We work together. If Safeway has a deal, I’ll email her and I know she’ll be able to get it that week. But she always comes to me, because I know a little more, especially about internet deals. If I can’t make it home that weekend, I’ll send her everything and she can do the shopping.

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So how much do you spend on groceries?

My family of four spends an average of $75 a week on groceries and household products. This number ranges depending on the sales, who does the shopping (me or my mom), how busy we are that week, how many shopping trips we make and upcoming holidays or parties. We have a flexible grocery budget because sales and coupons always determine our shopping list.

How much do you save?

I always strive to save 50% on the grocery budget. Again, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. When buying a lot of meat and produce, our percentage is lower. We usually spend less than $5 a week on household goods and health and beauty products. They are the easiest to save on–I can get them free or very cheap with coupons (CVS is awesome!). When I have a well-rounded shopping trip (meats, produce, health and beauty, cleaning and pet food all included), saving 60% or more is a really good trip.

LearnVest is the leading lifestyle and personal finance website for women.