Call them penny-pinchers if you'd like, but they think of themselves as thrifty, resourceful, smart and clever. Some might even say brilliant for the way these frugalistas can get a $4 box of cereal for mere pennies.
They may be stingy when it comes to their wallets, but they certainly aren't when it comes to grocery shopping strategies. Several dozen St. Petersburg Times readers answered last month's call to share their money-saving shopping tips. They should band together and start teaching classes.
Once thing is for sure, they love their coupons. And most are planners and listmakers. To save money, they say, you've got to put in a little time. Eventually, it'll all pay off. Here are the best of their suggestions.
Janet K. Keeler, Times lifestyles editor
• Use newspaper or Internet ads for menu planning. If pork chops are on sale, plan pork chops with Spanish rice, for example. The same goes for fresh vegetables in season, such as apples, strawberries, etc. — Pat Hall, Tampa
The master plan:
1. Know your seasonal produce.
2. As you use items, have a specific notepad to add the things you run low on or are out of. Use this daily. Make sure the whole family is taught to use it.
3. Make a complete master grocery list, divided into sections such as "Dairy," "Meat," "Fish," "Household," etc. List only those products that you actually use. The master list should be done once and added to as needed.
4. Plan menus. (I plan mine 30 days ahead.)
5. Read grocery fliers and be flexible to change menus depending on sales.
6. Collect coupons of items you use.
7. Make your grocery list.
8. Check your master grocery list and add any items to your current list before you shop.
9. Do a quick, accurate household inventory and add any items you need to your current grocery list.
10. Eat your breakfast, lunch, or dinner first — THEN shop.
11. Do not vary from your list unless a useful item or two are on sale.
— Lisa Bazzanella Smith, St. Petersburg
• I stock up on coupons for items that I frequently purchase. This works out really well with the Publix buy-one-get-one-free deals because you can even use a coupon on the free one! For instance, last week I got four $2.69 Wishbone salad dressings for 75 cents each! — Sherry Downing, New Port Richey
• It can't be said enough that coupons are free money. The small amount of time it takes on a Sunday afternoon to clip coupons from the newspaper can save you hundreds of dollars every month. Get together with friends and trade coupons. If you don't have a baby, you don't need diaper coupons but your friend does and you can snag the coupons she's not going to use. — Jacqueline Hinton, Valrico
• Organize your coupons so that they are easy to find and use. You can use store and manufacturer's coupons on the same product. — Beverly Gurney, St. Petersburg
• Contacting a manufacturer directly through e-mail or a toll-free phone number can result in free products or coupons. I do this sometimes to tell them I like one of their products, then they send me free stuff. — Marjorie Dahl, St. Petersburg
• If you clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper, you'll more than cover your annual subscription. I clip only what I usually buy and come out about $200 ahead each year. — Jerry Buginsky, Palm Harbor
• I use various coupon Internet sites (thegrocerygame.com, couponmom.com and afullcup.com) and boards and lists on Facebook. These groups inform me when I can get items for free by combining coupons with sales and price comparisons. — Michelle Moody, St. Petersburg
• I don't jump from store to store unless there are several items that are just too good to pass up. Driving 10 miles to save a buck is not what I consider saving. — Judy Batson, Tampa
• Here are two words to help consumers save money when grocery shopping: SHOP ALDI'S. More words now: It is true the store may not carry every single item on your shopping list, but it does carry 70 or 80 percent of what most people buy on a weekly basis. The Aldi private label products are just as good, if not better, than the national brands. — Lisa DiCarluccio, Clearwater
• Don't be picky. If you are really brand loyal, it will be harder to save a lot of money at the store. I have a few brands that I always buy, but I will clip coupons for all laundry detergents and buy whichever one is on sale. — Jacqueline Hinton, Valrico
• When an item that I use regularly goes on a very good sale, I stockpile up to a year's worth so I don't have to buy it later at full price. For example, the fabric softener that I use is normally $3.99 a bottle but a recent coupon combined with a buy-one-get-one-free sale dropped the per bottle price to $1 each, or 75 percent off. So, I bought a dozen bottles and won't need to buy more for nearly a year. Often, I'm able to get such a good deal on things that I'm able to donate items to the senior citizens ministry at my church and to a friend who sends them to an orphanage in Honduras. — Sherrie Williams, Largo
• Be sure to check if buying a larger size is a better buy. They aren't always. I've noticed that a 12-ounce can of tuna costs more than two 6-ounce cans. — Marjorie Dahl, St. Petersburg
• Make your shopping list in the order of the store's layout and write down the price of each item, then check your receipt! If the store makes a mistake, they will often give you the item for free. — Nancy Eggert, Dunedin
• Soups . . . I make lots of soups. Sometimes I don't have enough of anything to make a pot of soup so I just freeze what I do have until I build up enough goodies. (Don't combine new foods in the same package as foods that are already frozen. Create a new package for each group of leftovers for your soups.) — Judy Batson, Tampa
• Never say no to free citrus from neighbors or co-workers. Freeze peeled lemon, lime or orange rinds to add flavor to other dishes. Juice citrus and freeze juice in ice cube trays, then store in plastics bags. Two cubes of frozen juice equals 1/4 cup. — Beverly Schaut, Lutz, and Kathy Hocker, Spring Hill
• Buy a vacuum sealer system such as FoodSaver. We use it to freeze cheese, chicken and steak that we buy in bulk at Sam's Club. Also, DO spend money on spices, salt and pepper. Seasoning your cooking and making sure to taste it as you cook will make a world of difference. — Jennifer Moore, St. Petersburg
• Go out for lunch instead of dinner. You pay less and get a more reasonably sized meal. It's still usually more than you should eat so you can take home a portion for another meal. — Dorothy C. Darling, Tampa
• Most restaurants have a number to call on the receipt to do a survey and in return they give you a free appetizer or a discount on your next trip. Make the call. — Jacqueline Hinton, Valrico
• Use half of the soap you have been using in your dishwasher. Too much etches your glasses. (And you won't have to buy it as often.) — Dorothy C. Darling, Tampa
• Ask for discounts on dented cans or boxes. Ask for a deep discount if you see anything going out of date or already out of date. If something is on sale at a very low price but you have to buy a huge amount and you don't need it or don't have the storage space, offer to divide it with family and friends. — Marjorie Dahl, St. Petersburg
• Use tea bags more than once. — Nancy Eggert, Dunedin