There are at least as many theories about grocery shopping on a budget as there are grocery stores. Dozens of books line the shelves guaranteeing easy, instant savings of thousands if you only use their proven approach to meal preparation. I am sure much of what they say is true. And I also know that I don't have the time to clip coupons, sort coupons, remember coupons, use coupons, and manage my grocery shopping around specialized coupon days. I have a family to feed.
Then I learned about something remarkable called, loss leaders. These charming little sales are used by grocery stores to lure you into their business in the hopes that you will ultimately spend more money than if you were to never enter their building. Pretty good guess. And for most people it probably does the trick. But, if you are an informed buyer, like I am about to make you, then you can take full advantage of sales where the store actually loses money on the deal, keep the extra cash you are saving, and come away with meal plans to boot! Here's how it works:
The mid-week circulars you get in your mail from local grocery stores have a plethora of "bargains" printed on their pages. However, the front and back pages are loss leaders, sales the store is losing money on. The front page is usually given to meats, the back to fresh veggies and fruits. Rather than premeditating a meal plan for the week, trying to find and fit coupons into that preexisting meal plan, and then shopping to fulfill it you can actually save more time and money beginning with the loss leaders.
Check the 2 or 3 circulars you receive, and note what meat looks the most appealing for the least amount of expense. This isn't always chicken! Beautiful cuts of red meat can be had for pennies if you keep your eyes peeled. Once you have decided on the meat you can breeze through your recipe book for a couple of different meals which include that cut. For instance, pot roast is on sale and you decide to make pot roast by itself one night, shepherd's pie one night, and finally sloppy joes for another meal. Turning to the back page you see what fruits and veggies are on sale. This is great because it often means you are eating what is fresh, in season, and most nutritious. Think outside of corn, potatoes, and carrots. Broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, spinach and others have wonderful tastes, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Fruit is a great desert item, and carries a significantly better nutritional punch than typical ice creams or candies. Cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, melons, plums, oranges, and different kinds of apples can be sliced fresh for an easy tossed fruit salad, baked for a warm surprise, or served on top of cottage cheese.
Regardless of how you chose to utilize the loss leaders, I encourage you to use them. Taking advantage of sales that don't require the coupon overhead is a great way to save money and time!