I have a confession to make. I’m not very good at meal planning and maximizing my grocery savings. We’re going to get to work on this together!

One of the basic ideas of frugal grocery shopping is stockpiling. Here is a good stockpiling example using cereal.

Say that you buy one box of cereal every week at the regular or sale price your store has. Grocery sales tend to cycle with a 6 week period, so this means your cereal will be on sale somewhere around once every six weeks. Say that regularly your cereal is $3 per box, and it goes on sale for $2 per box once every six weeks. At shelf price, six weeks worth of cereal for you is $3 x 5 + $2 x 1 = $17.

Now that you know about coupons, let’s say you have access to one $0.50 coupon every week for your same box of cereal. Using one coupon a week, your six weeks worth of cereal would now cost $2.50 x 5 + $1.5 x 1 = $14. Not bad. But we can do even better.

Since we know we’ll eat the cereal, what happens if we go ahead and buy 6 boxes when it's on sale with all six coupons? Then six weeks worth of cereal costs $1.5 x 6 = $9. We’ve almost halved our cost in just cereal alone. Now imagine doing this on multiple items that you buy regularly. That is how stockpiling works.

There are some things that you can’t really stockpile, like fresh produce and most dairy products. However, you can stockpile many nonperishable goods, along with anything that will freeze well. I buy meats when they are cheap and freeze them for later use.

Now we see that a key to grocery shopping is buying items when they are on sale and matching coupons to the sale. Most of us don’t have the time to sit down with the weekly grocery ad and see what items match the coupons that we have. Thankfully there are many bloggers out there that do have the time and share their results with the rest of us. BeCentsAble has a good listing of local bloggers for every state that share their coupon match-ups with their readers. With the coupon match-ups, you can plan your meals and shopping off the best deals and stockpile when able.

There are many good resources for meal planning and cooking on a budget online if you want to read more. I’ve used The Grocery Game in the past and was amazed at the amount of data they have for deciding if a sale is a good deal. (The sale information they had didn’t always match my local sales, but there are plenty of people that don’t have that problem.) I’ve always wanted to try once-a-month cooking (OAM) but haven’t quite gotten around to it. Look around the couponing community and blogs that you’re reading for more information and ideas.

Next up in the series will be my favorite, shopping at CVS. Stay tuned!