Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Groceries Without the Games

What's the Grocery Game

If you've been to a couple of personal finance blogs you've probably heard of "The Grocery Store Game". If not, here's a story on it over at Get Rich Slowly. The idea is that you combine coupons in such a way that you get most of your groceries and toiletries for very little cost.

It's Hard Work

Frankly, it seems like a lot of work. You have to go through all the store fliers each week, find the best coupon deals, find the manufacturer's coupons that match with the fliers coupons, etc. Oh. Then you have to drive to each of the different grocery stores and get all those deals, figure out what meals you can make with whatever products you may have been able to get for cheap.

As noted in the comments of the story over at GRS, most of the goods are actually toiletries or unhealthy foods. For me, I don't think it's worth the work.

Saving 14.5% On Groceries With (almost) No Work

As you'll see below, I save 14.5% on groceries before coupons even enter in to the equation. The process I use depends on the store having the two programs I use in place, so my process may not work for you.

Of course, playing the grocery game depends on you having the right big-chain stores in your area anyways, so I think this is a viable alternative for many people who could play the grocery store game.

Full Sheet : http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pFOJsib3bG6Gbi-GWZVFXRA

Here are the factors that let us save 14.5% whenever we get groceries:

  • Grocery Gift Cards
    • Our grocery store sells gift cards which give you a 10% bonus. Eg. Buy a $300 gift card, get a $330 gift card. We bought $1200 of cards five weeks ago.

  • Buy the Gift Card on your cash-back Credit Card
    • We get 1% on our Credit Card purchases. That's $12 back on our $1200 purchase

  • 5% Student Discount Card
    • The grocery store has a special student affiliate card which gives you 5% off your purchase beyond the normal affiliate card price. My wife is still a student, so I don't think this is dishonest in the least.

Affiliate Card Price Caveat

The grocery store we go to doesn't always have the best overall prices, however when using the affiliate card the prices are competitive with other stores in the area. For this reason, I do not include the "mark down" that the affiliate card gives us. That mark down is only present because they mark the prices up for anyone who doesn't have the card.


1) Be sure that the grocery store you do this at is one that you like, otherwise you get stuck with $1200+ of gift cards locked up in the one store.

2) It's easier to be spendy if you're spending gift-card money than real money.

3) You have to put down a large chunk of money right at the start. If the 10% bonus is going to be an ongoing thing, we will buy the smallest denomination possible, and leave the rest of the money in our ING account to further stretch our grocery money.

Real Life

Between May 9th and June 16th we bought $306.94 worth of groceries for a cost of $265.08. Considering that we had agreed to increase our grocery spending (we did) and decrease our eating out (we did!) we are about where we expected to be for grocery spending for the month.


I have no idea where the extra $41.86 I saved went. Probably into my ING account...

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