Friday, September 25, 2009

A Semi-Review

A while back I asked about The Grocery Game and TennZen told me she didn't think it was worth it. Well, they have a free trial and I thought it might let me know about un-advertised sales, so I signed up for the trial. BIG. FAT. DISAPPOINTMENT. I signed up for the Kroger and HEB lists because those are the stores I go to. I have several complaints. The first is that the lists are means only buy if you need it, blue means stock up because it's a great price and green means it's free. This is a great idea in theory except that some of the blue items on the list were NOT stock up prices. They would seem like great deals to someone who was just starting out couponing, but in reality, you could get a better deal (and THAT'S when you should stock up). The other problem with the color coding is that there is zero cross referencing on the list, so things would be marked in blue at Kroger, but actually be cheaper at HEB. I suppose this is meant to entice you to buy more than one list, and then you have to take the time to go through and find the actual best price (isn't that why I signed up for the service though? To save time??). And my biggest complaint I could see right off the bat. The top of the HEB list said HEB sales are standardized throughout the state, but check with your local store to be sure of the sales. Well that's just a big fat piece of bologna! We have three HEB stores in our town and they ALL run different circulars every week. I'm not talking about one item different, an entirely different set of sales. So if it's that different in one town, I highly doubt there's enough consensus across the state to make one list reasonable for everyone. My suspicion was confirmed when I did head to the store to check out a few good deals that weren't advertised---yeah, not on sale. Finally, the big deal here is matching coupons to sales, right? So on one of my lists it let me know bacon was on sale and it was color coded black. They didn't list that a coupon for the same bacon came out just last week that definitely made this an item that should have been in the blue category. Come on! That's the whole point of having the list, not having to keep track of that myself!!!

In can coupon for the same amount of time and save more money if you just do it on your own. A very quick run down of coupon "rules". Cut out every coupon you might feasibly use--not just the items you commonly buy, anything your family WOULD eat if it was really cheap (because you can get quite a few things free or for less than 50 cents). When the sales papers come, look for the good deals and match up your coupons. Remember to factor in doubling and tripling of coupons if that is done at your store. If you aren't yet aware of typical pricing on items you buy, keep a price book for a few weeks that lists the item, size, and UNIT PRICE until you get a handle of what a really good deal is. When I first started I made one trip to Kroger, HEB and Sam's Club to do this (yes, it took time---it was a one time thing, after a few weeks with the price book, I gained a good handle on pricing and now I don't need it). Each week I make a list of what I would buy on sale, how much it would cost and what my total bill would be. Then I look at my grocery budget for the month. I might "bust the budget" to stock up on something we really need---pasta, butter, cheese, canned veggies---but if I'm not in a good position budget-wise, the ice cream is getting taken off the list even if it is $1.50 for a half gallon of name-brand (as much as that pains me, and yes that happened just this week!!!). Don't bother with the grocery game.

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