I hardly need to add to everyone’s complaints about the high cost of groceries. I know I really noticed it when my favorite milk was almost $5 a gallon. I mentioned in passing last week that I’m trying out The Grocery Game, but I thought you might like a fuller review. This was week five for me, and I really hoped it would kick into high gear, but so far, it’s still so-so. The scales tip in its favor for me, but I could easily see where people might be turned off. I know The Coupon Mom does pretty much the same thing for free, but I haven’t had the patience to figure out that site yet. So, here’s a quick rundown of the game, and the pros and cons, in my humble opinion.
The “game” functions like a mini stockbroker for coupons. They only use coupons from your Sunday newspaper circular, which you save and then match in later weeks with weekly store specials to maximize your savings. Like everything, there’s a catch-phrase. Here it’s “stockpiling.” You’re supposed to buy not what you need, but what you can get for rock-bottom prices. Apparently, grocery stores typically run on a twelve-week sale cycle. Certain items always go on sale in groups, and it happens once every twelve weeks or so. This made sense to me because I’ve noticed that some weeks it’s like the Kroger sale gods are smiling down on me and other weeks nothing I buy is on sale. So, you buy your toothpaste, for example, when it’s on sale with a coupon and get it for 25 cents. Then you don’t have to buy it again until the sale cycle rolls around. Some “gamers” with large families actually buy two or more Sunday papers each week to maximize their savings. What you’re paying for ($10 every eight weeks) is access to a list. The list gives you the price, the discount, what circular you should clip the coupon from, and the final price and percent saved. Items can be grouped according to free, stockpiles, and buy only if you need.
What’s Great About the Game
What appealed to me, of course, was the plan. I liked that I could just go file the whole Sunday circular with the date written on top, print out the list, clip a few coupons, and go. I also really liked that I wouldn’t have to think about coupons in the store. Rather than standing in the aisle and hunting for a coupon, I’d already have them assembled and ready for the cashier. Of course, I also got excited by people on the message boards who said they were saving 50% to 60% a week on their groceries. I thought, if they were getting free toothpaste, why shouldn’t I?!
I will admit that the list has made me more aware of the weekly specials, something I used to never pay attention to. I’m one of those eat-as-much-local-as-you-can folks, so I try to buy local meat, try to eat with the seasons, even bake a lot of my own bread, and canned my own jams and tomatoes over the summer. I really thought that our grocery bills would drop over the winter, but they hadn’t. In fact, they’d gone up significantly. Partly because of the higher costs, but also partly because I was charging things so I just threw into my cart what I wanted. So, having the list helps keep me focused on what is a good deal rather than succumbing to all the quirky ingredients for the latest recipe from Gourmet magazine.
I also like the list’s efficiency in theory. I print it out, clip the coupons in the car before I go in, and it really doesn’t take much time. The list is flexible too, so you only have to print out the items you plan to buy. And, bottom line, while I’m not saving tons and tons, I am saving $20 to $30 a week. That’s keeping me on the budget and who knows, I may save more as the weeks go by.
What’s Annoying About the Game
First, I think the quality of the list may vary with whoever is running it for your area. While this whole thing was founded by one dynamo in California, it’s franchised to individuals all over the country. My list maker is surprisingly sloppy. Some weeks, he or she gets brands wrong, but most frustratingly, he or she’ll list coupons that aren’t in the right circular. The other troubling thing is that my Sunday paper doesn’t always have all the circulars that are listed. I’m hoping this quits happening once I subscribe to the paper rather than buying it at the drugstore, but it’s really bothersome to see a great deal and then discover that I don’t have that circular. Most times I’ve used the list, I’ve ended up crossing off half the items I originally printed out because of goofs or missing coupons.
On the whole, I’d say yes, but proceed with caution. The site recommends that you collect about four weeks worth of papers before starting the free trial. I was too impatient, but I really wish that I had. I’m just now getting to the point where I even have most of the circulars listed. The game costs a little over a dollar a week and the paper is $6 a month where I live. I’m enjoying the local Sunday paper anyway, so the game is definitely paying for itself. I guess I’m a little too competitive because I’d really like to see bigger savings. However, $80 to $120 a month is pretty significant, so I guess I’ll keep clipping!