Well, I live in a border town, and so... we shop in the states! But this presents a bit of a challenge, because suddenly, the prices I have to check double. Now I have to check Canada and the States prices and make two separate lists. This is time consuming, but I've got it down to only about an hour of work every two weeks to make my menu, plan my lists and price match, saving me about $100 every pay cheque.
I'm going tell you how I personally do it with two small children who always need my attention.
First off, two websites.
Bookmark them. You will use them every week.
Smart canucks has a data base of every flyer, every coupon, every deal you can find in Canada. All for free. It's updated in a timely manner every week, and it's a great resource. The only problem is all stores in Canada require you to have the actual flyer in your hand. So while this is a good resource for when you are planning, you do have to get flyers to actually price match. If you consistently find you aren't getting your flyers in time... ask around at your church or other social events. Guaranteed someone's kid delivers flyers who always has extras and is willing to let you take a set.
Deals to Meals in a States resource, yes, it costs $5 a month. You'll make that up in savings in one shopping trip, I promise you. You pick your state, and her and her team price match for you. Considering that as far as I was able to find, the States doesn't have a resource like smartcanucks... believe me, you want this. It will save you a TON of time. The pro of this is Walmart in the States does NOT require flyers to price match. You just bring your list and they will price match. If they give you a fight about it, stick to your guns, their official policy, found here, says that they don't require an ad. Most cashiers won't fight you on it. If you really want to hedge your bets, find the youngest cashier there. Most times they won't care enough to fight you more than asking for the ad.
Ok, now down to planning! First off, get a notebook, or a spread sheet. I personally find it easier to not have to be moving my screen around and use a notebook.
Here's how I work it. I wait until my kids are the happiest, and then I start on my menu. For me, that means in the morning, bright and early. Miah is still sleeping and Elsie is a happy baby who keeps herself amused in the mornings. I make a full two weeks, plus two extra days. This means that sometimes I have some flexibility about what I'm going to make, it also means that I typically have some extra groceries in my house from last pay cheque.
I know many of you are sitting there, "Shouldn't you check ads first, then make your list around the ads?" Sure, and sometimes I end up changing my menu based on a really good deal. But my husband is a creature of habit, and between my children and him.. I find it's easier to just make food I know everyone will eat and try to buy the ingredients for the food we love as intelligently as possible.
I make a grocery list based only on the food we need to get through that menu. If my menu calls for 4 lbs ground beef and I have four in my house, then it doesn't get on my list.
Once I've made my menu and 'needed grocery' list, I go to SmartCanucks. I open up every flyer for every store even close to me. Make sure you open the ad for your neck of the woods. I once opened at Atlantic Sobeys ad by accident, when I live in Ontario, and almost had a caniption when I saw that their turkeys were $.69/lbs. I ran out to get the flyer from my mail box when they got here, only to realize I was looking at the wrong flyer.
Go through each flyer thoroughly, even if normally you wouldn't(Sometimes stores have great deals you normally wouldn't expect from that store), and consider kicking your brand loyalty if things are an honestly better deal. Remember to keep in mind sizes. $2.99 for a block of cheese might seem like a great deal until you realize it's only 250g and you can get the 500g one for $4.
How I find it works the best is I write the name of the store, and then underneath that, I write every deal for food my family will eat from that store. If I know it's a particularly good deal, say $.79 for Catelli Pasta sauce, I star it. I then move on to the next store. If I find two stores have the same item on, I cross out the one that is more expensive. By the time I'm done, I have a pretty good little list.
I then reference this list against my grocery list. I put the price matched price and where it's matched from in brackets beside each item I'm price matching, and I add to the bottom of my list anything that I'm 'stocking up' on. Take for example, my list a couple months ago. My list called for no chicken, as I already had all I needed in the house, but chicken went on sale in the states for $1.99/lbs. So chicken was my stock up item that month. Every two weeks my husband gives me X amount of dollars to spend. I get as close as possible to that number without going over. Everything I don't use on the 'needed' list, I use for stock up foods. This means when I have a lower number one week, I usually have food in the house anyways.
I then go on dealstomeals and I make and print off my grocery list there using her method. I cross match it with my full grocery list, and then I start to highlight. Anything that I can buy in the states cheaper, I highlight with a blue marker. Things like snacks, meat, and milk are always on my states list. In Detroit, I can buy a gallon of milk for $2.50 as opposed to $5 in Windsor. Just two gallons of milk and I've paid for my dealstomeals subscription. Remember the exchange rate, if an item is only a couple cents different in the States, buy it in Canada. With our current exchange at 14 cents to the dollar, you actually end up losing money if you buy in the States.
Once I'm done that, I head out shopping. In Canada, I like to shop at Superstore. They have a great price match policy, and if you decide to coupon, they have a good set of in store coupons. They also have the PCplus points card, which lets you load deals and collect points. 1000 points = a dollar to take off your grocery budget. It adds up quickly. In the States we shop at Walmart because of their price match policy. I can usually get all my shopping done in one evening. There is only three exceptions to this rule. I buy diapers and formula at CostCo in Canada. It is so much cheaper than anywhere else. On top of this, most of my produce I buy at a local farmers market, or our local Josephs food market. Look in your area for a small mom and pop farm vegetable market. You will typically find their vegetables more fresh, cheaper, and much more tasty.
My method might not work for everyone, and to a certain point it's a little bit more lengthy than it needs to be, BUT I have never missed a deal I wanted, and I am always within my budget, assuming I don't take Josh along and he ruins it. :P
All in all, find what works for you. But shopping in the States saves me at least $80 a month. That's including toll booth fees and everything else.
Within the next week, I'll write a post about my price book and what I typically pay for my groceries.