Grocery Shopping, Hacked
Posted: June 12th 2020
By: Daniela Bucay
Although sometimes we love to skip the grocery store and go to CVS for a good deal, at other times, you simply must go to the grocery store. In this post, we'll break down how to use coupons without going crazy, when to choose a grocery store over a restaurant, and other tips for maximizing your grocery store experience.🥯
For the purposes of this piece, I'm going to write about H-E-B. If you live in Texas, you have probably entered an H-E-B. If you don't live in Texas, I'm sorry. It is the best grocery store in the U.S. and one of my favorite places to go when I visit my parents in Texas. For the record, I am not currently nor have I ever been an H-E-B employee, I just really love it.
Having quarantined for almost 3 months with my parents throughout the pandemic while still working full-time and helping to care for my nephew, I have faced many nights where I simply do not want to cook, but ordering Whataburger no longer does the trick. This is where H-E-B comes in to save the day.
Before I rhapsodize about H-E-B for the next hundred words, a quick note: the advice in this piece applies to many other grocery stores with similar (yet, sadly, inferior) offerings, including Wegman's, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Food Town, and more. You can even use the same strategies at Target! Let's begin.
Get on the App
You already know from our CVS post to get on the email subscriber list for email-exclusive coupons. A lot of grocery stores also have apps that you can use to get their weekly ad (that horrible newspapery thing can finally go extinct) and other coupons. H-E-B's app is especially good because you can sort the coupons by highest value and filter by category, like beauty, dairy, produce, and so on.
I always want to use coupons, but I never remember to bring the ones I clipped from paper mailings to the grocery store. With an app, I don't have to remember! I always have my phone on me, and I can get access to coupons I might have missed there.
Right now, with the coupons I've clipped, I could save about $15 on a $75 grocery haul, or about 20% on my total grocery cost. If that doesn't encourage you to get to digital clipping, maybe watching an episode of Extreme Couponing will do it.
If, for whatever reason, you don't want the H-E-B app brightening up your phone, and you'd rather stick to physical coupons, here's a quick tip: by the bathrooms at most H-E-B locations, they have a wall full of the coupons that appear throughout the store. Make that your first stop, and adjust your grocery list according to the coupons on the wall where possible. You can save a nice chunk this way!
Restaurant at Home
Our friends at the Penny Hoarder put together this list of tips to save money at the grocery store. Those are all great, but sometimes it's ok to buy the "expensive" things at the grocery store when they replace a more expensive way of eating, i.e., restaurants. In that way, you're not saving money at the grocery store, per se, but you're saving money overall by shopping at the grocery store instead of eating out, without having to cook!
H-E-B's Meal Simple line is a revelation. From my friends in upstate New York, I hear that Wegman's has similar offers. For example, the H-E-B Meal Simple Fish with Parmesan Green Beans costs $4. A Big Mac meal costs more and lacks the addictive green beans that are basically fries. Even better, H-E-B usually runs a promotion on their Meal Simple prepared foods. Right now, you could feed a family of 5 with their current coupon for under $25. I mean, that's just crazy, and this is high-quality food!
Also, never underestimate the power of a good rotisserie chicken. H-E-B's are spectacular, and you can eat it over the course of a few days/incorporate it into different preparations, like a chicken sandwich, a chicken salad, chicken fajitas, whatever! The point is, sometimes it's worth it to do the math and compare what even prepared, mid-range restaurant-quality foods will cost at the grocery store instead of at a restaurant. Once you add in coupons, SNAP benefits (if eligible), and creative combinations, you can really save a lot while still eating like a gourmet.
Here's an example of a meal, made possible by Meal Simple, that my family still calls "the best meal of quarantine." For the record, we're 8 people in the household right now, and this fed all of us without exhausting some of the ingredients, like butter.
- Cracked Pepper Caesar Chopped Salad, $3.63 for a pack of 2
- Fiesta Jalapeño Salmon Burgers—$6.18 for a pack of 2, insanely good!
- French Beans, 32 oz bag—$7.19
- Pantry staples, such as spaghetti, butter, onions, garlic, pepper, etc. We'll just estimate that all of this costs about $10.
To feed 8 people, you'd need 4 packs of the burgers, one bag of the green beans (which you just sauté with some oil, garlic, and onions caramelized in butter), a box of spaghetti (max $3), some butter (which I'll assume you have), and maybe 30 minutes. The ingredients come out to $52.17, or $6.52 a person. With the coupons from the app, however, you'd get your 5th pack of salmon burgers free (hi lunch!), which lowers the cost/burger, and you'd take $1.50 off for the two bags of salad, bringing the cost down to $6.33. This meal, which is more food than you'd get in most restaurants, tastes better and costs less, but still gives you most of the ease of going to a restaurant.
We hope that this piece has broken down how you can use the tools available at grocery stores to feed yourself at a good price, without sacrificing quality. Nothing pairs better with parmesan green beans than the high from knowing you got a great deal.
Please do me a solid and share your most thrilling couponing experience! What's the best, least expensive meal you've made? How do you get the most out of the grocery store? We at Fig are all listening (we love to eat and save). Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Go back for more Figs!