Have any of you watched TLC’s “Extreme Couponing?” It’s amazing to me the amount of product these people are getting for just pennies. But it doesn’t have to be that extreme to get a good deal on your groceries and household items with coupons.
You know I’m a bargain shopper. I’ve always been, and I’ve been couponing for quite some time now too. Many people have approached me about tips and techniques for couponing and how I save at the stores, so I figured I’d put together a series of posts to hopefully help you save too. This is part one of what will be a four part series and then I’ll continue to post every so often about great deals. Enjoy, and I encourage you post comments below if you have any questions (or comments!) because chances are someone else has the same thought.
My definition of couponing is saving any significant amount on my transactions without buying unnecessary items, unless I’ll be donating them. The problem that many people run into with couponing is that they end up buying things they don’t need or use simply because they have a coupon. That’s fine, if you’re getting that product for free (or very little) and are going to donate it. But if you just start buying things that you don’t use you’re en route to hoarding and spending more than you would without coupons.
Here’s a look into our shopping preparation:
We typically try to shop only 1-2 times a month. We’ll stop in a few additional times to grab staples (milk, bread) or of course if there’s a great deal on something we use and we have a coupon. People always ask me how we get by with shopping 1-2 times a month. For starters, we save money right off the bat by shopping so little. Fewer impulse buys from just being in the store. We buy fresh produce and eat what has a shorter shelf life first. Carrots, apples and potatoes last longer than say asparagus, berries and broccoli. We freeze a large portion of our meats and we also stock up on frozen veggies and fruits. We plan our meals around the food. Which leads to my next point.
Meal planning: We go to the store with a specific list of items because we plan out our dinners for the month. Breakfast and lunch foods are usually similar each month. It takes me maybe 30 minutes to plan a months worth of dinners. They’re not extravagant meals that I’ve never made before, they’re typical dinners that are easy to make and have the least amount of ingredients…I love cooking, I hate cooking after work.
Brand loyalty: You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you aren’t brand loyal and purchase whatever is on sale and you have a coupon for. For example: yogurt. A brand of yogurt is on sale every week at every store. We could get it for pennies matched up with coupons. But we’re yogurt snobs and only like a few brands so we stock up when it’s on sale and we have coupons. Yogurt, unopened, last a lot longer than you’d think.
The best deal of all is matching an in-store sale, with a coupon at a store that double’s coupons. Many stores double coupons on a certain day of the week, but they’ll usually only double up to $1.00.
Salad dressing is on sale for $2.49.
You have a $1 coupon that the store doubles.
You just got your salad dressing for $0.49.
That’s like stealing. Call your local store to see when they double coupons. You’ll save the most money if you shop on those days.
About 80% of the groceries we buy are organic. It’s much harder to save on organic groceries but it can be done. Though, you most likely won’t be walking out of a store paying 50 cents for $300 worth of organic groceries. Because of this we tend to save the most money on health & beauty and household items. I couldn’t tell you the last time I paid for travel items. You can always get them free. As long as the coupon doesn’t say “excludes trial sizes” then it’s all yours, for nada.
We don’t live off of trial sized items though. There are sales on products every week and there are always coupons for all of them. We buy when they’re on sale and we have a coupon, but we do look high and low for the best deal on each item. For example: I was recently at Target to buy men’s deodorant. I found the one that was the least expensive of those included in the sale and I had a coupon for. I happened to check out the end cap of clearance items and they had the exact brand deodorant but the cap was a different color or something and it was $1.50 less than the one I was about to buy. I maximized my savings just by checking that end cap.
Coupon stacking: Most stores will take a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon per item. This is called coupon stacking. Back to the salad dressing:
It’s on sale for $2.49.
You have a $1.00 manufactures coupon and a $0.50 store coupon.
The store doubles coupons.
$1.00+$1.00+$0.50+$0.50 = $3.00-$2.49 for the salad dressing…
You just profited $0.51 on that purchase which will go towards another item in your transaction. You following?!
Before I shop I always make sure I know the store’s coupon policy so I can maximize my savings and be knowledgeable in case I run into troubles checking out. Checking out with lots of coupons is entirely overwhelming and often times the cashiers aren’t happy to see you. Stay calm, cool, collected and confident, you’ve done your research. And always, always be nice to the cashiers, even if they’re foul to you. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Stay tuned, the next post is about where to find your coupons and how to organize them and it’s much more visually pleasing with links and photos. I promise they’re not all this lengthy and wordy, just this one. I had a lot to say!