Deal Shopping During Busy Times (or Whatever Happened to the Grocery Geek?)

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Some of you mentioned in my recent survey that you miss my shopping and deals posts. You’re not alone. I miss them, too. In fact, I simply miss the deal shopping.

But, my schedule has gotten packed really tight this last month preparing for the end of the school year, the birthday season at our house, writing a cookbook, and keeping content going both here and Good Cheap Eats.

As a result, one thing that has fallen by the wayside has been regular deal shopping when it comes to groceries. I have a huge stack of coupons waiting to be clipped. Huge! I’m hoping to tackle it this weekend.

But, I’m still a grocery geek.

Though behind in my coupons and not actively scouring the deals, I’m still doing what I can to keep our grocery bill as low as I can. Here are some of the strategies I’m using.

1. Stick to a few stores that offer great deals.

I’ve narrowed it down to Costco and Walmart to get me by. While neither carries everything I need or want at the prices I want to pay, both do a fairly good job of staying on the low end of things. So, if I can’t keep up with all the sales and coupons, these are a great fall-back for me.

2. Send your little brother to go shopping.

Yes, really. One night he came to take one of the boys someplace and I sent them with a stack of coupons and a list. They were already going out and letting them do the shopping for me saved me a good hour to 90 minutes that I could spend some other way. The above picture features about $10 worth of groceries.

3. Cruise the clearance when you can.

In addition to Costco and Walmart, I have also made a weekly stop into Ralphs. They offer great markdowns in all departments and so I cruise those pockets of the store when I can. But, I try not to sweat it. You can only do so much.

4. Live without it.

Have I caught glimpses of good sales or heard whispers of great coupon deals? Yes, I have, but I’ve turned a blind eye to them. I just don’t have the time to do everything, so I’m letting that slide for now.

Our grocery bill is not going sky high, we are just getting by with less “extra” — and that’s okay. But, I am looking forward to summer vacation and turning in my manuscript. My freezer is so full already, I think we could eat all summer long anyway!

What do YOU do?

How do you manage a busy schedule and deal shopping?


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  1. Right now we’re at a place in our life when I just don’t have the time for major couponing or running from store to store to find deals and our grocery bill shows it. I cringe every time the total comes up but sometimes we just have to do what we can to get by. Here is what I do to try and keep the grocery bill as low as I can.

    -Make sure my grocery budget is appropriate to prevent any surprises.
    -Make a shopping list and try to stick to it. This is a little difficult if my husband comes with (which he likes to) since he tends to throw more unplanned items into the cart than I do. I let this go because we’ve had conversations about how I make him feel when I nag him about it. As long as we aren’t going over our budgeted amount I don’t complain.
    -Check a few online sites after I make my shopping list to see if there are coupons for what I need.
    -Shop at the overall lowest store. Many years ago when I really wanted to save money I found a chain in our area that was significantly cheaper than other stores. I pretty much do all my shopping at that store realizing they may be more expensive on some items but overall it’s the lowest prices. To validate this I’ll periodically take my receipt with me when I have to run in to other stores for spot items.
    -Check the shelves for coupons. The store I shop at is pretty low tech. They don’t accept credit cards, they don’t have frequent shopper cards and they don’t have a website. However, they do tape quite a few coupons onto the shelves for the shoppers.
    -Check the reduced meat & dairy bins for reduced product.
    -Stock up when I see sales and try to do periodic freezer cook days.

    That’s what is working right now for my family.

  2. Great post.
    I too love to am a grocery geek but there are absolutely times in our life when it falls by the wayside because I’m too busy – I used to feel guilty about it and pressured but I’ve realized the foolishness of that.

    I’ve actually been going through such a spell myself this month and shocked myself at being UNDER budget for groceries this month. I think the lesson for ME is that I tend to overbuy when I’m deal shopping [the food bank loves me at church LOL] and also, though it seems anathema to me, running out of stuff is not a bad thing. Not when there is so much of a surplus of OTHER stuff in the house.

    My methods are similar to yours – I tend to do more shopping at costco, look through my freezers more, and visit the smaller stores rather than the grocery stores – so I’ll get overpriced milk at the drive through, but not get the other few things I might pick up unnecessarily at the store. I buy more than what’s the ‘best price’ at the fruit store – they do have groceries too, just not at the nice prices of their produce – however if i need it I get it – same for the deli.
    And sometimes I even order dinner LOL – i stretch our ‘other’ budget for my sanity and it all comes out alright
    And eventually, I get back to the pile of coupons and circulars LOL

  3. Great post. I, too, have learned to let the “great deals” pass me by.

    Sanity is sometimes more precious than money. =)

  4. We can’t do it all can we?

    I usually stick with a small pantry store in the near little town where things are cheaper because of the lower income there. It’s amazing how the same chain of stores adjust their prices to the area! I use the available coupons in the store, buy one thing get another free deal. Walmart always works too, no muss no fuss.

    My dd21 is a grocery geek and as a stay at home daughter, that is one thing she does to help our family out a bit with the savings for our family. She has her shoebox file of coupons and calculator and she can do some serious shopping and saving, but this season she has been busy and that’s okay, plus throw in the fact we just moved. She’ll get back to it when she is able I’m sure. If you have youth or children who love making deals happen, let them! : ) Of course, three of my four daughters are adults and drive themselves so that is easy for me.

    As for me I try to stick with basics and off brands. Economy bags of frozen veggies are great, things like that…

    I agree, if things stress at the time, let it go. Time is our currency and our family would rather see a smiling face. : )

  5. Sometimes, the deals just pass us by and it’s OK. I’ve gotten past the point of having to get the great deals – another one will come my way when I have the time.
    Knowing that the end of May through to July was going to be BUSY, I stocked up on snacks and lunch items when they were a pretty good deal, and probably not the best deal, but you do what you can. And honestly, I can’t fit another thing in the freezer, so it’s time to eat, eat, eat from it.
    Because we are pretty good in most areas, I’m not freaking out that we ran out of tissues and I have no coupons for them. So I have to pay $1 a box, oh well. Something we need and when I have time and the planets align, I’ll stock up again. It is what it is…

  6. I only get into coupons a couple times a year. I can’t stick with it, I get bored with it, I hate the time it takes. I usually stick with the least expensive stores, and try to remember what the better prices are. I get the majority of my groceries from Aldi and fill in the gaps with Walmart. I go to County Market (Cubs) when they send out their booklet of coupons. County Market will be my today shopping trip, right after going to the credit union. 🙂

  7. I too am in a busy season of life. I’ve found the biggest savings in markdown meats and produce. I try to go early enough before its all gone. But I’ve cut out the snacky, junk food and have focused on only real food. This is an inconvience because I don’t always want to cook, but I know that the convenience food would get eat before I could use it for a meal. I typically freeze a good amount, but just haven’t found the time or motivation recently. Hopefully I can start that again soon.

  8. By shopping the Perimeter you can keep your budget low and if you purchase the above items (You do need to pick up TP) you will have almost everything you need for a week. Especially when you combine it with whatever you get given during the week (as I said many of them are students and if they go home to Mom and Dad’s on the weekend , Mom loads them up with a bag of freebies) (many belong to church groups and after meetings they go home with the extras) Plus whatever you have left over in your pantry at home should get you through another busy week. Aldi is my second advice if you have one close to where you live.

  9. When I teach my classes, I emphasize three things: 1) SUBSCRIBE to your favorite blogs so all you have to do is check your email once a day to keep up with the deals instead of browsing several different sites looking for what you need; 2) Sit down ONCE each week to match your coupons to your shopping list for all the stores you plan to visit even if you plan to shop on different days; and 3) Only shop two stores.

    By subscribing, their research is done in ten minutes a day, their shopping list takes 30 minutes a week and shopping two stores takes about 1.5 hours. Total time spent is about 3 hours a week. If they save $200, they paid themselves $16.67 per hour!

  10. You sound just like me right now.A person can only do so much.Thanks for all you do.

  11. We are in the same boat. We have been so busy with end of the year activities that bargain shopping has taken a back seat. We still try to be reasonable and buy cheaper groceries. Luckily I have a good stockpile so when we are busy I can just go to the pantry or the freezer and it is not too bad. We will get back in the swing of things this summer hopefully. I enjoy your site! Keep it up!