I’ve been shopping at Vons and its sister store Pavilions for many years. I’ve always found shopping there to be convenient and affordable. Yet in my early years of being the family meal-planner, I was far from a smart shopper. I shudder to think of all the dollars that went down the drain during that time. It’s taken me many years to learn how to make the most of my shopping trips. And although I do sometimes clip coupons (and occasionally remember to actually use them!), I’m far from an extreme couponer. I’m just a mom trying to save as much money as I can without planning for days or passing on things my family wants. These are my tips:
- Vons Club and Just For U. The Vons Club card is nothing new and hardly a secret tip. Most grocery stores have rewards cards, and it’s really the only way to get those sale prices. But Vons has started a new program called “just for U” that has made saving money even easier. The weekly mailers are a great way to find out what’s going to be on sale and to get some extra store coupons. But with J4U, all you have to do is register for free on the Vons web site where you can, by clicking around, load store coupons and separate personalized deals onto your account, which is tied into your club card. They even have mobile apps that allow you to do the exact same thing on your phone. You can view, or print out, a list of what deals you have currently loaded onto your account, making shopping a whole lot easier. I can’t count how many times I’ve shoved tiny store coupons in my pocket to use, only to find I’ve lost them by the time I reach the register! On my last visit to Vons, I saved about eight dollars through this program alone.
- Stock up on the sales. I used to go to the store to buy only what I was going to use that week. It was my weekly ritual. But now I try to make better use of the sale prices by stocking up on non-perishable (or freezable) items when they go on sale. When my favorite cereal is $2.50 a box, I buy four of them. When ground turkey is buy-one-get-one-free, I get one for the current week’s tacos and stick one in the freezer. And when peanut butter dips below the three dollar mark, I buy as many as they’ll let me! It definitely saves money in the long run.
- Check the per unit price. I probably went a decade without looking at the cost per unit, which is listed in the lower right hand corner of the store price labels at Vons. But now I pay close attention. It simply tells you an item’s cost per ounce, pound, gallon, square foot, etc. You can compare the per unit prices of different brands and sizes to get the best deal. Sometimes bigger is better, but not always, so glance at those per unit prices before choosing a particular size.
- Don’t be brand loyal. I generally don’t care what brand of food items I buy. From almond milk to kidney beans, I find that it’s best to simply purchase the cheapest brand. The last time I was at Vons, I was about to put a container of national-brand parmesan cheese in my cart. It was on sale for two dollars off the regular price. But then I looked at the store brand sitting next to it-the store brand was still cheaper. If you’re finicky about certain foods, by all means buy what you love. But I find that, in general, a frozen waffle tastes the same no matter what company makes it.
- Check your catalina coupons. What are catalina coupons? They’re the coupons that print out at the register after you’ve paid your bill. They can be coupons for similar items to what you just purchased, or sometimes a dollar amount to use towards a future purchase (usually because you bought a certain number of participating items). But sometimes something awesome and unexpected shows up in my catalina coupons. One week, I got a catalina offering me five dollars off any Starbucks gift card that I purchase. And my favorite catalinas are for deals at Shutterfly, my go-to online photo service. Once I received a coupon for 20 dollars off a purchase at their site, and another time it was for a free photo book. Recently, however, Vons has frequently been giving away coupons for 10 dollars off your next purchase for every transaction over 75 dollars. Those are coupons you don’t want to lose, so keep them in your car so you’re sure to use them on your next shopping trip!
My family of four, with two growing boys, goes through a lot of groceries in a week. Sometimes it seems like we’re spending a small fortune at the store. But by utilizing these simple tips each week, I can feel good knowing that I’m getting the most out of our family’s dollars. Happy shopping!