Are Coupons the Only Way to Save on Your Grocery Bill?

Are coupons your best bet for saving money on your food staples? CNN Money featured four tips on how to save money on your grocery bill:

Divide and conquer. For meat and seafood, Costco’s prices are unbeatable — you’ll save about 15% to 30% vs. a grocery store, says Lempert. But Costco doesn’t always have the lowest prices on everything.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, head to a farmers’ market (find one at localharvest.org) at the end of the day, when vendors often discount by up to 50%, says Christine Frietchen, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com.

For nonperishable items, such as cereal and canned goods, go to dollar stores (Dollar General, Dollar Tree) don’t laugh, they have surprisingly good selections. Or go to bargain food outlets, such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot, or Grocery Outlet, where you’ll find a limited selection and have to bag your own purchases but can save 50% to 70% off regular grocery store prices.

Nab coupons effortlessly. When you’re short on time, you may have to make a quick run to a regular grocery. Find one near you with a loyalty card; major chains, like Kroger, ShopRite, and Safeway, will zap digital coupons directly to it.

Get your Groupon. Chain grocery stores are starting to get in on social media. For example, Northeastern chain Big Y partnered with Groupon to offer a shellfish multi-pack of lobster tails, mussels, and clams for $24 — a 40% discount — for 24 hours to loyalty club members.

Visit flash sales. These aren’t just for designer clothes anymore. New websites such as igourmet.com and gilt-taste.com are offering regular short-term sales on high-end food.

Recent Gilttaste daily specials included 20% off a pound of fresh morels and a selection of prosciutto and coppa cured hams for $69.99, down from $90.

The list was well put together, but I’m skeptical about the suggestions that are not about couponing.

(See my eHow Business and Personal Finance article  on couponing)

My wife and I do engage in the divide and conquer strategy. It does work. But only because we can walk to the save-a-lot and farmer’s market. I have to drive by Tops on my way to work. Increasing the stores you drive to requires gasoline and I can see how spending on gas could easily dry up your savings.

Visiting flash sales is a tip for buying luxury items. It’s a good deal to save where ever you can, but I’m more likely to cut prosciutto ham for $70 out of my diet entirely.

There is one strategy I see missing from the list; meal management. This is where you plan out your meals ahead of time, incorporate more cheaper meals and fewer expensive meals. I’ve had success with this, but admit, it’s a tall task if you have difficulty making decisions.

If you asked me, I’d say coupons still reign supreme when it comes to saving on groceries.

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