Vintage Ad #743 by jbcurio via Creative Commons

The weekly ritual arrival of the grocery store circulars are one of the few things you can count on, unless you happen to live in a dorm. Although some might find them to be a nuisance, today’s grocery store ad pamphlets should not inspire thoughts of our parents and grandparents clipping coupons to save a few cents on cans of soup. Many stores have acknowledged that keeping up with those flimsy slips of paper are a hassle, with some (such as HEB) going as far as making them freely available in store.

So what is the proper mindset to have when dealing with these bundles of savings? Here is a little advice.

1. Just because it is on sale, it does not mean you need it.

Sometimes there will be an amazing deal on Hass avocados (35 cents a piece!), but that does not mean you need to load down your cart with them if you have no plans to make guacamole.  A good deal only goes as far as the usage you plan to get out of the item.  If a discount makes you want to purchase more of an item in order to stock up, really think about how your future self will feel about cleaning out your fridge in a week or two, still half full of the “good deal.”

2. Look for savings on typically expensive items.

I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who is not a moderate fan of pot roast, but it is pretty universal how much people dislike buying the piece of meat at full price.  Almost every item has the point in the year where it becomes either “in-season” or “out-of-season,” and when it goes out it shows in quality.  But if you are on the ball you can take advantage of these moments to get fabulous deals.  Just be weary of the fish.  Ask your local fish monger when the fish arrives each week, and avoid the day or two before then.  You do not want to be a part of the “purging.”

3. Go into grocery shopping with a battle plan.

If you just go to the grocery store without a list or a guide, you are just asking for trouble in the form of wasted money and unhealthy indulgences.  Take the time to look through the circulars and find what appeals to you the most that week, and build a meal or two around that item.  Saving a few cents or a dollar here every once in a while does not seem like much; but when you are consistently saving those amounts it starts to add up.

Don’t know where to start?  This page on Coupon Sherpa provides links to the top 100 (in their opinion) must-have grocery store circulars.

For those of you in Austin, I suggest you take a look at the following for the best opportunities in town.  And if you have the ability, get your ads via email if at all possible to help cut back on paper waste.

HEB Market
Dollar General
Family Dollar