This is Part Two of a three-part series. Earlier this week, I explained how you can save hundreds of dollars a year on groceries by doing a little legwork. Later, I’ll help you with strategies at the store to avoid overspending.

Saving money on groceries takes some thought in the days leading up to your trip to the store, but the amount of time you’ll need to devote is very small. Focus on these three areas:

1. Circular ads and coupon books

For me, it starts on Wednesday when my grocery store’s circular ad arrives in my mailbox. I go through it to see what’s on sale. In particular, I’m looking at discounted meats and seafood, and I’ll do meal-planning for the week based on that.

(I’ll stop here to say that The Millennial Miser lives alone and does not mind eating the same thing four nights in a row. If this sounds bad, you might need to come up with multiple sale-priced meals to make at home each week.)

Along with the circular ad come the brand-name coupon books. Generally, I can find at least one coupon for something that I use. The rest of the book goes in the trash.

2. Clip digital coupons online

Then, I go online to my grocery store’s website and “clip” their digital coupons for products I use, loading them to my shopper’s card automatically. Usually, there’s two or three useful ones, and I’ll also jot them down on a notepad so I remember.

My next step is to look up recipes using the sale-priced meat or seafood. Sometimes it’s a crock pot meal (one of my favorites is slow-roaster carnitas tacos) and sometimes it’s more elaborate (steak with chimichurri sauce and redskin potatoes, mashed potatoes or asparagus).

Often, I’ll make a side dish (caesar salad with homemade dressing and croutons, tomato basil soup, etc.). And I always make dessert (again, this can be as simple as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or as complex as carrot cake with cream cheese frosting).

You didn’t know this was a food blog, did you?

3. Make a list

Finally, I’ll write down all the items I’ll need to buy, making a note of everything I have digital or paper coupons for.

The list serves some big purposes:

  • It prevents me from buying things I don’t need at the store.
  • It saves me from forgetting anything and needing to make return trips.
  • It helps me remember the best sales I want to take advantage of.

All of this preparation during the week doesn’t take more than 30 minutes combined.

Then, it’s off to the store — on Saturdays, the day my store doubles the value of paper coupons!