This Couponing 36-Year-Old Has A "Meticulous" Method For Grocery Shopping, And It's So Smart

Welcome to Grocery Run, our latest series on how the BuzzFeed community is grocery shopping in 2024! Amid rising prices and personal challenges, groceries have become tricky these days. We hope that by sharing how others cook and shop, we can help readers in similar circumstances. Personally, grocery shopping and mustering the energy to cook has been a struggle for me lately, so we're all in this together.

Grocery basket with assorted food items from Trader Joe's including pretzel bread pudding, Stollen crisps, apricot cherry stilton, and artichoke & jalapeño dip
Claudia Santos

Each of these posts will focus on one reader's "grocery run" and how they're coping with rising costs and any other challenges they're facing — all told from their POV. Here's the nitty-gritty of what our community will be sharing:

Summary of text content: An outlined shopping guide consisting of six sections: Basics, Details, Shopping, Plan, Food, and Challenges.
Claudia Santos / Canva

For our first-ever post: Meet Alison!

Person holding a cup, seated outdoors with a thoughtful expression, in a casual sleeveless top

Note: Some of Alison's responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Alison / Kate Ivy Photography
Illustration of a notepad with "The Basics" written, surrounded by sketches of food items and a coffee cup
"The Details" written on a notebook page with doodles of food items around the border
Claudia Santos

I. Love. To. Cook. My mom taught me how to cook at a young age and was such a star in the kitchen. I grew up pretty poor, and she was so talented at looking at what she had in a pantry and making it work or getting creative with what the food pantry had to offer when we'd "shop" there that week. I feel like that's a way I can connect with her (she passed away when I was 29), and it really makes me happy. I also love meal prepping. I love not having the excuse of, "There's nothing to eat; guess I have to order in!" when I open the fridge. The more I get into making meals I KNOW my wife and I will like, the happier I am.

A handwritten note on lined paper says "Mom, thank you for everything!" surrounded by illustrations of a tomato, mushrooms, basil, garlic, a glass of wine, and red hearts
Claudia Santos / Canva

Home-cooked meals were commonplace but kid-friendly as well. I'm from Wisconsin, so we were a big casserole house (tater tot casserole was my brother's favorite). We did chicken nuggets and fish sticks with sides my mom knew we would eat — things like that. However, my mom also took the time to make homemade bread in a bread machine because she priced out the items, knowing she could stretch it in the long run. I am grateful she taught me things like how to bake and make meals on the fly. I still use so much of that today.

Text: "The Shopping. Average spent: $120-160 a week." Illustrations of various grocery items like beans and snacks are displayed around the text

Staples for us are coffee and creamer, greek yogurt, eggs, beans of all sorts, broccoli, fruit on sale, cheese, and corn tortillas. (The King Soopers app literally tells me my regular purchases. What a dream!).

Handwritten grocery list including items like coffee, Greek yogurt, and eggs, with doodles of a coffee cup and jar
Claudia Santos / Canva
Illustration of a bag with bread, a flower, and a wine bottle. Text above reads, "Alison's 'Treat Yourself' Purchase: Wine!"

Coloradans know that we didn't have anything above 3.2% ABV in grocery until very recently, and I still often choose to support our local liquor store as a small alcohol business owner myself, but my grocery store had a two-for-one deal I couldn't pass up.

Claudia Santos / Canva
Hand-drawn illustration featuring a meal plan with various doodles of food items like carrots and beans, including text "The Plan"
Claudia Santos / Canva

I have a VERY meticulous pattern for grocery shopping. On Sundays, I grab one or two cookbooks to peruse for inspiration and check my favorite food bloggers for posts I've saved (Jenn Eats Good and Sweet Savory and Steph are my current hyper-fixations).

A cookbook titled "The Feel Good Foodie Cookbook" on a table with coupons and a laptop nearby

I have a permanent note in my Notes app that I've used since 2017 for grocery shopping. The top is everyday items that don't fit into recipes (currently, I have vanilla, coffee, creamer, and butter). I'll put in the meal, a link or cookbook page number, and whether WeightWatchers points are associated with it, then list out the ingredients.

I have each day spaced out as such:


B (breakfast)

L (lunch)

D (dinner)

I will start my list by looking at our coupons and seeing what's on sale, then looking for recipes that use those ingredients. I then clip the digital ones to add to my King Soopers account, pull out the paper ones I want to use, and head to the store. The paper ones are mailed monthly and are associated with my regular purchases, so we'll have ones for sparkling water, vitamins, ketchup, etc., that I can often stock up on when the coupon is good. Last month, I had $13 off of a purchase of $130 or more, and I was stoked.

Handwritten grocery list on mobile phone for breakfast sandwiches, dill pickle chicken salad, and turkey meatloaves
Claudia Santos / Canva

This is a shared list with my wife so that if there's anything she wants to add or I need to send her for me, she's got access. When that's the case, I'll usually add the brand name, especially if the brand is associated with a coupon on our digital account. If we have plans to eat out, I'll write that in there as well. We have dinner most Thursdays with friends, and I'll text them on Sunday to confirm. I'll try to get a grocery list of what we'll be making so I can bring that along to cook at their house or make ahead and bring along.

Illustration with "The Food" written centrally, surrounded by various drawn food-related items and designs
Claudia Santos / Canva
a graphic of a sheet of paper with text: Alison's diet: Newly not vegetarian, allergic to raw celery, carrots, and pineapple, wife allergic to all nuts except peanuts, lower-calorie diet
Claudia Santos / Canva

Up until last fall, I had been a vegetarian for 16 years. I recently added some meat back into my diet (I have a chronic illness, and bloating is a longstanding painful issue, which often carbs and raw veggies add to!). My wife is allergic to all nuts except peanuts, and I am allergic to raw celery, raw carrots, and pineapple. We currently eat a lower-calorie diet (I use the WeightWatchers app but do not follow it perfectly or utilize it as a restrictor, more as a guide).

Open refrigerator stocked with various food items including dairy, produce, and condiments
Menu listing breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Breakfast includes Faux McGriddles, breakfast tacos, and baked oatmeal. Lunch is leftovers. Dinner features Greek meatballs and cucumber salad
Claudia Santos / Canva

We usually bounce between the same two breakfast meals: a breakfast sandwich (faux McGriddles) and breakfast tacos (simple slaw on top), which makes it easy, and it's a thing we both know how to make quickly. I'll sometimes splurge and plan ahead to make a baked oatmeal. For lunches, we will often utilize leftovers from the night prior. To not exhaust ourselves, I try to stick to portions of four to six for dinner. Anything beyond that, and we'll get sick of it. So whatever dinner is on Sunday, we'll usually have leftovers of it for Monday lunch, and so on.

I strongly lean into finding meals we like and making them on repeat. We have these Greek meatballs from Sweet Savory and Steph that we love (I sub chicken, but could easily sub in Morningstar or Boca crumbles) that keep really well, so we do that with a fresh cucumber salad once a week/once every other week. We also try to cook meals at home that we otherwise enjoy eating out to see if we can recreate them better! We love Mexican, Chinese, and Indian, so we make a lot of those. Often, it's much cheaper to do at home.

Bowl of cashew chicken with peanuts, cauliflower rice, bell peppers, and green onions. Text above reads: "Cashew Chicken (subbed in peanuts and cauliflower rice)."
Image with the text "The Challenges" overlaid on a background featuring doodles of various food items like pasta, beans, and a box of cereal
Claudia Santos / Canva
Fridge door with papers: one says "Currently Unemployed and Side-Gigging," another "Coupons Coupons Coupons," and a third "Just Started a Small Business!"
Claudia Santos / Canva

I'm currently jobless! Normally, on top of owning the brewery alongside my wife (who brews and runs the day-to-day), I'd work a full-time job in marketing. I have been in the startup world for the past few years and just left my last position pretty exhausted from the burn and churn of the startup and tech scene. I'm actively job searching now and side-gigging under my LLC to make ends meet, but we'll be toning down things like meat and fresh fruit on upcoming grocery trips because of their costs.

A woman wearing sunglasses holds several packs of craft beer cans outdoors, smiling at the camera

I am happily the person who will stand in the aisle and read the price per ounce on everything or triple-check the grocery app to be sure I'm using the right coupon and that it is indeed saving me money. I feel fortunate that we have a home and a garden where we can grow veggies and herbs that we use through the summer and fall — that is definitely a privilege I do not take for granted. We also have some awesome folks at the brewery who bring in their spare produce and leave it for folks to take if they so choose. Our community is so awesome.

A hand holding a long shopping receipt over bags of groceries, including a can, packaged item, and other food products

I just know that I can keep moving forward with couponing, focusing on what's actually saving us money and making nourishing meals and things we enjoy. We are childless by choice, and we really enjoy going out to eat and supporting other local businesses, so keeping a tighter ship on groceries at home helps us budget for those things we like to do.

If you'd like to share your grocery run, fill out this form for a chance to be featured in this series!

Note: We'll only use this initial form to learn a bit about you and your grocery habits. If we're interested in featuring you, we'll reach out for further details.