Monday, November 5, 2012

How I coupon

Let's talk couponing.

Why coupon? Because you can save money! I know a lot of people have the argument that you don't really save that much or that their family doesn't eat the things that typically have coupons available. That's fine. If you are brand loyal there are still ways for you to get coupons and save on your grocery bill.

Let's do a basic run down of how to coupon any store. I'll explain more in detail as I coupon each week or if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me. For now, this is just a basic guide.

First step: Get coupons!

Coupons can be found so many places. Magazines, newspaper inserts and online are some of the most popular. If you are very brand loyal or have food allergies you can always try emailing companies and asking for coupons or watching their particular website or facebook page to score coupons. For me newspaper inserts and online coupons are the easiest.

For newspaper inserts you have a few options. You can ask family and friends to share their inserts from the Sunday papers or buy your own. You can also order just inserts online! I just tried this and it worked out wonderfully.

So the company I chose was Sunday Coupon Inserts and even though my coupons came from Florida all the way to northern Wisconsin they got here pretty quickly! We use a post office box so I'm not sure when they arrived but after ordering on Sunday they either arrived Wednesday or Thursday. Totally acceptable turn around.

For printable coupons there are a few things to know. First off you're going to have to install software on your machine for these to even print. I know may people are worried about downloading programs from the internet but this is the only way to get these coupons. The software is free. Why do you have to have it? Because the companies are doing all they can to cut down on coupon fraud. Coupon fraud is a BIG DEAL so please please don't use a coupon that has been photocopied or make photocopies of your coupons. And try to only frequent known sites for printable coupons. is one of those well known sites. However, do make sure that after you print your coupon you hit the back button on your browser to print a 2nd one! That is not illegal and is built into most electronic coupons so that if one prints all garbled or the printer paper jams you can still try for another coupon.

Where else can you find coupons? In magazines. The best one for coupons is called All You and while it totes itself as a magazine for women it's really a magazine for coupon clippers. If you watch some of your favorite deal sites eventually there will be a discount offered for a years subscription. Tends to be worth it. In the past I've just picked these up at Walmart. The website also has coupons and if you have a tablet your subscription includes a free digital copy for your Kindle/Ipad/device of choice. Of course the digital version doesn't include clip-able coupons.

So you've got your coupons... what next?

Time to find out what is on sale in your favorite store!

Most stores have a website listing what the deals are for the week. If not a website there are those annoying flyers in your Sunday (or sometimes where I live Wednesday) papers. You've tossed them for years. Time to use them!

I use an online system for my local grocery store and it even saves up store coupons for me and prints them below my grocery list.

Go through the flyer and look for deals. Some coupon clippers even create spread sheets and track the price of specific items over time so that they know when a real deal is happening. I don't do that because I just don't have that much time and we eat so much. I'm only feeding 4 people but my twelve year old eats like a lumber jack.  A hungry lumber jack. My eight year old is not far behind. So it's basically like feeding four men. Each week I flip through and see what items are on sale. You can even take the flyers for your favorite store and compare the sales. Something to remember though: in the southern U.S. the sales are on a six week rotation. Cereal is on sale this week? Pretty good chance it will be again in six weeks. In the northern U.S. it seems like the sales are running a little slower, more like 8 weeks. This is a YMMV (Your Milage May Vary) situation. Either way when you see something your family will use you only need to buy what your family will use in 6 - 8 weeks. This is called stocking up and it is to keep you from buying the same items week after week during price fluctuations. Only buy low!

So after you've found your deals and figured out how much of each your family will need until the next sales cycle it's time to match up what you need with coupons.

Sometimes you'll luck out and someone else will be doing this for you. I've used Southern Savers and Hip 2 Save for years. Shopping a national chain like Walmart or CVS? Check these website. They'll have the best sales paired up with coupons and tell you where to find those coupons! It makes couponing so easy!

Don't see your local grocery chain? It's ok. You can still do this. But you'll have to do the legwork. Check out a coupon database like Hot Coupon World where you can search for the items at your store and find coupons! It's really fantastic. I even use it when we need an item and it's not a sales week. For instance if a child had a mild fever and you are all out of Children's Tylenol. Hop on the website, look up Tylenol and see if you can find any coupons. Sometimes you'll get lucky! The coupons reported are from everywhere (even magazines and those blinkies in stores attached to shelves!) so there's a pretty good chance you can find one.

Now all that's left is finding the coupons you found listed for your store, clipping and going to the store. But how much can you save? Quite a bit actually. Now don't expect to go out like the ladies on Extreme Couponing. This style of couponing where you stock up for a few weeks based on current sales use to be called Extreme Couponing (vs normal couponing where you take coupons to the store to use store sale or no) but then most people stopped using the title after that silly show came out.

In Tennessee I shopped at Publix and by combining manufactures coupons (ones with bar codes) with store coupons (ones issued by the store that just have a number the cashier types into their register), B1G1 sales and coupon doubling I regularly saved 50% or more on our grocery bill.

Now we live in WI I shop at a local store that doesn't double, has very few store coupons and all are for brands that don't issues their own manufactures coupons. It is more complicated and my savings aren't as great. Here's how I've done the last few trips:



Gas discount earned at Trigs:

The craziest thing is how many stores will give you coupons after using coupons! Some of these are for items that you'd never ever use. Some of them though are worth a lot. The last coupon in this stack is for $10 off a $35 order!

So there you have it. The basics of couponing with a few other details thrown in the mix.

Wonder what exactly it is I'm saving money on? I can give you this hint. I can't eat gluten. My son can't have dairy (hence the name of the blog). My husband is pre-diabetic and can't have most white starchy stuff. So we eat a semi paleo diet. I say semi because I still buy breakfast cereal (only if I can get it for $1.50/box or less and only if it's not crazy loaded with sugar) and my kids loves pasta, bagels and frozen pizzas. So I pick up a few of those from time to time but we mostly hit the fruit/salad section and the meat sections the hardest.

I'm also not a couponer that will only allow her family to eat sale items. We round it out. Not shown on my grocery list were things like cow milk, soy milk, eggs and other things we needed but tend to need weekly. It also doesn't reflect that while we bought a lot of pork products this week we bought a lot of chicken last week.

As with most things be flexible! So you get to the store and your coupons make tuna 89c a can but the store brand is 59c a can that week and it was unadvertised. GET THE STORE BRAND! And remember if you're doing this with children around they can pick up on your stress. When you're ready include them. Clipping coupons is great scissors practice for little people and believe me when I say as long as most of the UPC is still on the coupon it'll scan.

Happy couponing! And again if you have any questions feel free to ask me. In another week or so I'll cover how to organize coupons and a few other details.

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