Ten Things I have Learned about Using Coupons to Save Money on Groceries
The grocery money dilemma.
Due to a down job market and price increases in so many areas of life. My household was struggling just to groceries into the home. After paying all of our bills, we would have about $100-$120 a month to feed three people, tend to pets, put fuel in cars and cover any surprise expenses. Obviously, this was not going over very well for us. I would struggle to come up with any grocery money and then leave the store feeling frustrated and defeated. There's not a lot I could get with the $30-$50 I did manage to gather up. With grocery prices on the rise, it was getting worse quite quickly and quite often. Milk, bread, toilet paper, and maybe a few more items would consume that small budget in no time.
I had to find another way to supply us with our grocery needs. I tried turning to local food banks, but found that we had just a few here in my area and only one that I could make it to. Though I appreciated anything we could get, they could only provided enough food for three-five simple meals (and very un-nutritious meals at that) to help cover us each month. This isn’t the norm in every city. I have heard of some very generous food banks in other towns and enough food banks available for some to easily be able to visit a different food bank each week. However, you can only visit food banks with in your own town and my town just didn’t have what we needed to make things any better for us.
Due to my husband’s income, we did not qualified for food stamp assistance and I have had very little luck gaining employment for myself. But his income was consumed by all of our bills, so we pretty much had to figure out how to cover the grocery bills on our own.
The shopping with coupons ray of hope.
About one year earlier, I watched a broadcast bit on the news about extreme shopping with coupons and thought “Wow, maybe that can be just what we need to help us.” Of course, watching a show like that, doesn’t really explain how to use coupons most effectively in order to make it work that well. But, I began my own coupon system in an attempt to save money on groceries for items that we purchase most often, only to find that I was spending a lot of time and gaining very little savings.
I was a bit frustrated and stumped, but I wasn’t ready to let the idea go. If other people were saving money on groceries by shopping with coupons, then obviously I just didn’t have the knowledge I needed to make it work myself… at least not yet! I finally found a book at my local library on using coupons for groceries. It was a book from the 1970’s. Though there were actually many more ranges and benefits to using coupons back then, I still got the basic idea of how to make better use and begin my own coupon system.
Keep in mind that my grocery budget has not increased. However, the amount of food I have been getting from using coupons has. As of now, I’ve been saving money on groceries for three months. With my first shopping trip, I was impressed to save $10 off of my $40 grocery bill. Ten dollars was already enough to get me hooked on shopping with coupons. I haven’t done any extreme shopping yet (meaning gaining a savings of 90% or more off of hundreds of dollars in one huge shopping spree). Maybe I’ll never actually get that far, but because of the little things I have been learning along the way, I do feel my savings continue to increase and I have constantly been saving at least 40% off my total grocery bills. Before using a coupon system, we barely purchased enough food to last us one week. Now, even with the same grocery budget, we have a back stock of food and that is a very comforting feeling. Saving $20-40 off my bill, when my total would have been $60-80 before savings, for me and my family, is very worth it to keep shopping with coupons.
Do you use coupons?
How to use coupons to lower your grocery bills.
Before I started to do this, I knew nothing about a good coupon system for maximum savings. But here I will share the basic steps I use for saving money on groceries.
1. Make good use of store sales.
Some stores still offer store coupons in their sales circular, while others offer the sale price when you utilize their store card. So, the first thing you want to do is buy whatever you need at sale prices and only when they are on sale. Taking advantage of buying strictly sale items will automatically save you about 20% off your grocery bills. Just using this method alone is how I save $10 off of a $40 grocery bill.
In order to benefit from this, you may have to let go of only buying specific brands of items, or stock up on your preferred item when it is on sale in order to make sure that you have enough to last you until the next time it goes on sale. Watching the circulars and learning the cycles of when certain items will go on sale comes with time, but is well worth the attention.
You may also benefit from maximum sales by knowing what stores produce the best prices on certain items. Some super couponers take the time to learn and document how much items cost at each of their local stores.
2. Collect manufactures coupons.
Manufactures coupons can mostly be found in the Sunday paper inserts. Coupons can also be found in some magazines, as well gaining printable grocery coupons that can be obtained online at coupon sites such as www.Coupons.com, Smartsource.com, RedPlum.com, Pillsbury.com, BettyCrocker.com, or by seeking free coupons online at your favorite brand name websites.
If it’s free grocery coupons for organic foods that you’d like to obtain, I have found that MamboSprouts.com carries a good variety of printable grocery coupons. Also OrganicFoodCoupons.com tends to provide helpful links for organic food coupon sites.
In order to stock up well on items using coupons, it’s helpful to gain multiple copies of the coupons so that you can purchase multiples of that product at the discounted price. Printable grocery coupons often allow you to print out at least two copies of each.
3. Start small.
At first collecting coupons can seem a bit overwhelming, that is until you get a coupon system down. The key is to start with whatever you can handle. If you start to get overwhelmed by using coupons, you will most likely give up on the whole idea. Begin where you can and do what you can. This doesn't need to be a competition. The goal is all about saving money on groceries by shopping with coupons and every step to decrease your grocery bills is a good step!
4. Figure out where you can use the most savings.
The first big savings I noticed was in personal hygiene products. These products used to really stress me out to purchase when needed. It was just awful to watch $20 of my $40 grocery money disappear into personal hygiene products. I’ve heard others tell me that household cleaning supplies are their largest expense at the grocery store. So, even if you begin by gathering and using coupons for these types of items, you will see less money go towards these, which will increase the amount of grocery money you will have.
5. Get organized!
None of those coupons will do you any good, if you don’t keep them organized in a way that produces great results for you at the grocery store. When I started using coupons, I started out with a single envelope to hold my coupons. As I was shopping, I would move the ones I’d present at the register to the front portion of the envelope. Soon, I moved up to a 13 section envelope sized accordion file where each of my sections held coupons for specific departments in the store, such as dairy, frozen foods, boxed goods, canned goods, personal hygiene, pet care, etc. But I made sure that I kept the very front section empty for moving the coupons I was actually utilizing during my shopping trip so they would be ready to hand to the cashier when I check out.
Recently, I moved on to a one inch binder method. With the binder method, I obtained those clear pages that are made to hold photos or collector cards to hold my coupons. I still have my pages divided out by departments, but I’m considering organizing them alphabetically by the brand name of the product. Finding what organization method is easiest for you is an important key for shopping with coupons.
6. Match ups!
This is the most exciting part for getting low priced items and the best way for saving money on groceries is to combine sales items or stores coupons with manufactures coupons. For instance, you see in an ad for an item that you would purchase is on sale. Now if you also add a manufactures coupon to the store sale or a store coupon, you end up paying even less for that item. Extreme couponers will gather multiple copies of manufacture coupons in order to purchase multiple numbers of an item at this cheap price. Buying every item on sale or with a store coupon + a manufactures coupon = cheap and sometimes free items. Even more exciting is when you use this method and can make money on an item; this is referred to as an overage, though not all stores will honor an overage.
If your store has any double coupon days or deals make the most of it. Being able to double the value of your manufactures coupons is the ultimately best way to get items for free or near free!
7. Getting help with match ups.
It’s a daunting task for any on using coupons to attempt to gain all the data about what’s on sale at any store and know what manufacture coupons are available to maximize savings. There are really great blogs out there where an extreme couponer does the work for you. They scan the stores ads and find coupon match ups for maximize saving money on groceries.
Because of this, some couponers don’t even bother with immediately clipping the coupons from those Sunday inserts. They simply write the date the insert came out on the top front page and place the inserts in a folder or a bin and save them until they need to use them for a great deal purchase. There are many, many blogs out there who match up store sales with coupons for you. However, not all blogs will list the stores in your area. For me, I found the best blog for my area by doing a search using the name of the store I shop at + deals. For instance “Albertsons deals” or “Walgreens deals,” etc.
But there are other couponers will cut out every coupon from the inserts they get and organize them immediately. This way, as they are going through the store and find an unexpected item on sale or on clearance, they have a better chance of having a coupon on hand to match up for maximize saving money on groceries.
Some couponing blogs also provide information for obtaining free samples of products. By obtaining these free samples, you may also get a coupon for future purchases on that product.
Using coupon match ups
8. Plan your shopping trip.
Again, organization is a huge part of success when shopping with coupons. So, plan your shopping trip before you head to the store. Make a list of the items that you plan to purchase, next to the item write the sale price, and also write if you need a store coupon to get that price and if you also have a manufactures coupon to add to it. Doing this, makes it easier to know when you need to pull a coupon out from your organizer to add to the stack that you will present at check out.
However, if your coupons are organized and easy to find, then as you wander through the store and find a good sale or clearance item, you can easily see if you have a coupon to use for that item.
9. Learn about store policies.
Make sure you understand your stores coupon policy. Every store has different policies, so learn the policies at the store you plan to shop at. Each stores coupon policies can usually be found on their websites.
10. Have fun!
Treat your coupons like grocery money, have fun using coupons and enjoy saving money on groceries! If it’s not fun, then the rewards may not be worth it to you. Be sure that you learn as much as you can about how to use coupons and do whatever makes it the most fun and simple for you.