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Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

I was walking through the supermarket the other day and another shopper walked by. She looked in my cart and said, “Wow, somebody sure likes cereal!”

It’s true that I had multiple boxes of cereal in my shopping cart, but this encounter reminded me that not everyone shops the way I do.

When something is on sale at a low price, I stock up – especially when I have coupons to further lower that price. Over the years, I’ve learned to follow stores’ pricing cycles, buying when items are at their lowest prices.

Many grocery stores and drugstores operate on a 12-week pricing cycle. Over the course of about three months’ time, prices will fluctuate both high and low.

The same boxes of cereal that were on sale for $1.49 recently will also see their prices fluctuate up to $2.99 per box when they are at a higher point in the price cycle.

By waiting to purchase my items until the price dips into the range I wish to pay, I am typically able to buy products at half the regular price. In fact, that’s one of the easiest tricks to use in the supermarket for many packaged goods – look at the regular, non-sale shelf price, and aim to pay half or less.

If a carton of orange juice is regularly $3.99, I want to pay $2 or less for it.

Sometimes the item’s sale price dips to the 50 percent off range, and I hit this mark without a coupon.

However, many of my deal-range prices are achieved by combining a coupon with a low sale price.

Once I’ve spotted a great price on something our household consumes regularly, I stock up so that I don’t have to buy that item again until the next time its price takes a significant dip – usually another three months out.

Obviously, this strategy doesn’t work well for fresh produce. However, for packaged goods, foods that can be frozen and household cleaning and personal care products, it’s a fantastic way to shop!

I am still buying the same items our family needs, but I shift my shopping strategies to buy those items at the lowest possible prices.

With this method of shopping, I’m typically not buying what our family needs during the week we actually need it – hence, the other shopper’s comments regarding the larger-than-average quantity of cereal I was buying.

What that shopper doesn’t realize, though, is that I also won’t be buying cereal again for close to three months. That cereal goes in my pantry and we “shop” from the pantry shelves the next time we run out of cereal in the kitchen.

Having additional refrigerator and freezer space is extremely helpful for stocking up on these goods. If you have the space and budget for either of these, you’ll quickly find that both are extremely handy for stocking up on perishable items too.

When I was a child, my mom always had a second refrigerator and a chest freezer in our basement to take advantage of sales on meats, cheese, juices and anything else that could be refrigerated or frozen.

Once I had a family of my own, I got a chest freezer, which continues to be invaluable to this day. It’s currently filled with all kinds of frozen foods that I bought on sale: ground beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and fish fillets.

It’s also got a large supply of frozen vegetables, breakfast meats and some fun treats like ice cream, too.

When we moved to a new home, we kept our old refrigerator and put it in the basement, and like my mom, I now have two refrigerators. The electricity spent to run the extra fridge and freezer is minimal compared to the amount of money we save each year by having additional cold storage for foods and beverages.

Our home meal planning typically revolves around what is in the freezer and not what’s on sale at the store this week, because again, stores’ sales fluctuate weekly, and not every weekly sale is a “good” lowest-priced sale.

Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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