Couponing 101

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Since starting my foray into couponing there are a few thing I have learned about the art of saving money and getting more for your money. I thought I might share them here with you. I am by no means an extreme couponer whose walking away with the store paying me to shop but I am able to spend a relatively short amount of time to save a nice chuck of cash off of our weekly grocery bills.

The basic gist:

  • I collect coupons from the weekly circulars left at my door.
  • On Saturday’s I purchase the Jersey Journal Newspaper
  • Or on Sunday’s I purchase the Daily News and Newsday if I am in NY

I am in the “greater New York” area and thanks to a tip from a friend I found out the Jersey Journal puts out their coupons on Saturday and only costs 75 cents. The Daily News and Newsday both also have very respectable coupon bundles if I am in NY or forget what day it is missing the Saturday paper. The Post on the other hand is not worth the price of the paper.

I clip my circular coupons on Monday and search sites like http://www.coupons.com/ and www.shopathome.com for printable coupons. The print at home sites will ask you to install their printing software in order to track and cap the amount of time you can print any one coupon. (Any coupons I have that I know I will not use because they are things we can not use I put aside for friends who may otherwise use them). Another resource is the companies actual web site, Facebook or Twitter page. A lot of companies that do not put manufacturers coupons in the smart source or red plum circulars found in the papers do offer coupons to their customers that “like” them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or sign up on their web sites.

Then the fun begins.

I pull out the circular for my preferred grocery store. You can get these online as well but I like to have the hard copy in my hands that I can write on and it.

I then cross reference my coupons to what is on sale that week. If Fiber One 90 Calorie bars are on sale 2/6 or 2 boxes for 6 dollars and I have two 1 dollar off coupons I then get those bars 2/4. http://www.soap.com/ has those same bars listed as $7.99 for two boxes, on sale from $9.99 list price. So at the very least I have bought mine for 50% off. I generally like to look for a savings of 50% or better.

When you use a coupon on regularly priced items, you find yourself saving 6 dollars here. 7 dollars there. The breakthrough happens when you “match up” your coupons with weekly sales and store coupons. Generally big super markets double coupons up to a dollar and you can combine them with store coupons. You can’t however combine two manufactures coupons on one item.

I do this with roughly 85% of my order. There are a few things we eat on a weekly basis which you generally do not see manufacturers coupons for like the Gardien meat replacement we often use.

The first thing I read when researching how to do this that really struck a cord with me was to throw out the weekly meal planning and to stick to shopping sales to have that “breakthrough.”
In all honesty I love this new way of shopping because it makes meal creating easier. I HATE meal planning. So many times over the years I made an honest effort to save by following a list generated by meal planning and I sucked so badly at it that I would end up at the super market every few days ultimately spending and wasting more in the end.

To go along with our basic proteins I have begun buying frozen vegetables. The ones that are just vegetable and no sauce or other “extras.” Every week one of the different brands is usually on sale. and since they are pre cut and ready to use they not only cut dollars from my grocery bill but time from cooking. Add in our carbohydrate and our nightly dinners are averaging us about 6-7 dollars for a family of four with Charlie eating a different protein than the adults and Van starting solids. Not too shabby.

So what are the things which make couponing easier or are just plain good to know?

  • I like to plan my trip to the store before I enter the store. This way I’m not standing around the store for hours trying to organize my coupons. When I started doing this I was literally the asshole with the circular and a scissor clipping coupons in the aisles.

I make a list of what sale/circular items I am buying complete with sale price. coupon price. price after coupon. and quantity of how many I am buying or how many the sale is for. You will notice that sales and coupons tend to be on multiple items. Which is how you end up stockpiling. For example; the Fiber One bars I mentioned before are buy 2 pay 6 dollars (4 dollars with our hypothetical dollar off coupons).

You will also find coupons that will say buy 2 save 1 dollar for example. So in a situation where Green Giant frozen veggies are on sale at the store for 2/4 and I have a dollar off manufacturers coupon for 3. I buy 6 boxes for 10 dollars. and this is why I think it is important to note the quantity on the list you make so you don’t have to constantly check your coupons while shopping. You just follow your list.

  • Before I go to the store I have my list/circular and the coupons I already know I will be using separated out. I still bring my coupon organizer to the store with me because not everything on sale is listed in the circular. Here is where I spend a little time in the store fishing out extra coupons to use on the things I discover are on sale and are a great price with a coupon. I can also remove a coupon from my “use” pile if the deal isn’t as good as I thought it might be or if I made a mistake.

Here are a few little things to keep in mind to make your couponing a little bit easier.

  • Try to do your shopping in the early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s slow and quiet at the store. Mid morning Saturday sucks for couponing and for all parties involved.
  • When checking out have your coupons ready. Do you best to have followed the directions on them all. If it says you need to buy 2 then buy 2. If it’s on a specific size. buy that size. ect.
  • Look for the young male cashier to check you out. I love you ladies but the female cashiers tend to want to scrutinize every single coupon to every single item which takes forever. The young male cashier will generally want to get you out of there as soon as possible and wont put you to the inquisition for wanting to save a few bucks.
  • The largest size is not necessarily your best deal.
  • The coupon with the highest amount is not always your best deal.

The psychology of shopping changes when your using coupons. When you have coupons which will double up to a dollar then your 75 cent coupon for that item is worth more than your dollar one. If your using coupons the smaller quantity tends to cost less per unit than the bulk option product and brand names as well will be cheaper than generic store brands when using coupons, store specials and incentives like “bucks” or extra cash off your order together.

  • Manufacturers coupons are; the ones you find at your door, in your newspapers, that you peel off products, tear off in the aisles from pads or computerized dispensers, Catalina’s which are distributed by the register and print off of the Internet.
  • Store coupons can come in the stores circular or mailed to your home. Having a store loyalty card is a must!
  • And with new technologies come new opportunities for saving. www.cellfire.com allows you to put coupons onto your store loyalty cards and new scanning systems within the stores themselves have embedded coupons. Something I look forward to doing with my next grocery stock up.

At this point in my couponing career I am a fledgling young newbie looking to save a buck. I’m not at the point where I have 10 jars of anything in my gutted basement and I’m not getting products for free or even better with money back. but I hope in this ever worsening economy to be able to continue advancing my coupon prowess to spend less and get more while staying within the constraints of our dietary restrictions. When Charlie gets upset that a particular shopping trip is taking too long I remind him that every dollar we can save by spending a little extra time means that I can continue to be a stay at home mom and can keep personally raising him and his brother. a privilege that has no price.

About The Author



I am a food allergy mama of 4 boys, a former fashion designer, and a master of the five point palm exploding heart technique, keeping it Fantastico.

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