System can cut your grocery bills in half

JC AMBERLYN/Miner -- By using the grocerysmarts.com website, Daily Miner subscribers can maximize the savings they get from using coupon brochure inserts such as Proctor & Gamble, Redplum and SmartSource, by knowing exactly when certain products will be at their cheapest.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --><br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

JC AMBERLYN/Miner -- By using the grocerysmarts.com website, Daily Miner subscribers can maximize the savings they get from using coupon brochure inserts such as Proctor & Gamble, Redplum and SmartSource, by knowing exactly when certain products will be at their cheapest.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --><br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

KINGMAN - As a stay-at-home mom with four children, Rachel Labrum knows that when she goes to shop for groceries, she's got to make every penny count.

And for the last year and a half, that's exactly what she's done, thanks to a little help from grocerysmarts.com and the coupons featured each weekend in the Kingman Daily Miner.

Shortly after she moved here from Utah with her family, Labrum said a friend introduced her to grocerysmarts.com, an interactive grocery-planning site that enabled her to slash her monthly grocery budget in half.

"Being a stay-at-home mom with a one-person income, I decided to look into it myself, and I've been saving ever since," Labrum said. "My old budget for household items was $150 every two weeks for six people. Now, I spend $150 a month, and I get more stuff with it."

Grocerysmarts.com is a free, Utah-based website that is regularly updated with the weekly sales of most competing local grocery stores, including Safeway, Bashas', CVS, Walgreens and Smith's, among others. The site is currently available in Utah and the Las Vegas market, with Arizona being the site's most recent addition. Grocerysmarts works off each grocery store's 12-week sales cycle, where different products go on sale at different times.

By going to the site and selecting a local grocery store, a user can see every item on sale at any given time, including a star rating that shows where each item is on the 12-week cycle.

Items with four- or five-star ratings represent the best deals - those items that are currently the cheapest they'll be for the next 12 weeks - while items with three stars or less are currently on the downswing of the cycle, or might not reach their best prices for weeks to come.

"The four- and five-star ratings are considered 'stock-up prices,' which are the best prices you're going to see for the next three months," Labrum said. "The real trick to saving loads of money is watching the sales and buying enough to last my family about 12 weeks - and basically, you should never use a coupon unless the item is already on sale."

Grocerysmarts surveys several local coupon brochures and, where applicable, will subtract the savings from the corresponding items to show how much a shopper can actually expect to pay for a sale item by using coupons. The site lists the date and applicable coupon brochure for each coupon, with codes like "SS 8/8" for a coupon in the Aug. 8 edition of the SmartSource coupon guide. The Grocerysmarts site also has several of its own coupons that can be printed off, though those coupons are not the same as the ones that can be found in the newspaper brochures, or through the kdminer.com website, in the case of Red Plum coupons.

"Other newspapers offer SmartSource and the occasional General Mills coupons, whereas the Miner carries SmartSource, Red Plum, General Mills and Proctor & Gamble," Labrum said. "If you want to save, you can go to the website, but if you want to maximize your savings, you need to get the Sunday subscriptions."

To increase her savings, Labrum maintains multiple newspaper subscriptions - one for each member of her family - in order to get multiple copies of each of the four coupon brochures the Daily Miner carries.

"Within a month's time, you should already make back your newspaper subscription costs," she said. "Safeway will take as many coupons as you want, and Bashas' does up to three coupons that they can double in one transaction, and you can do multiple transactions. Because Kingman is such a small area and the stores are so close together, I will hit all of them at once when I shop."

Labrum said subscribers can also opt to donate their unwanted extra weekday copies to the Arizona Newspaper Association's Newspapers In Education program, which provides free copies of the newspaper to local schools for use in the classroom.

Labrum is currently offering free small-group workshops to demonstrate how to use the Grocerysmarts website, as well as how best to save coupons in order to maximize your in-store savings.

Labrum has also been authorized to offer a discounted multiple-subscription rate for the Miner that is only available through her classes. Call (928) 757-7380 or e-mail rachellabrum@gmail.com.