Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saving on groceries: coupons

Coupons? Who wants to spend time clipping out little rectangles and organizing them? I don't "want" to, but they are an easy way to save quite a bit on your grocery or HBA (Health/Beauty Aids) bill.

If you're looking for coupon match ups and deals, check out Money Saving Mom, Coupon Pro, or the forums at Hot Coupon World. You may also find some local bloggers/websites who do match ups in your area. Those sites are good because they often list the store locations with the best deals or clearance markdowns.

Target and some grocery stores "stack" coupons. That means you can use one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon on the the same item. Be careful when printing/clipping "store" coupons. Sometimes they are really manufacturer coupons, even though they are in the store ad or printed from the store website. If you do this, be prepared with the store policy. I've had checkers refuse to take multiple coupons or allow me to stack coupons.

I almost always shop with coupons. I usually buy the Sunday paper on Saturday so I can get a sneak peek at the coupons. I got into this habit because one local store used to put 3-day specials in the Sunday paper. They stopped that a few years ago, but I never got out of the habit. I recently got a Groupon deal for a competing newspaper and it was worth it just to get the better coupons. (disclosure: if you sign up for Groupon via the link, I may get a referral bonus)

If you don't want to subscribe to the newspaper (or if coupons aren't available in your Sunday paper), you can buy coupons on ebay, from a coupon clipping service, or see if a friend will pass them on to you. If I'm out for Sunday brunch or passing by an outdoor cafe, I'm not above picking up abandoned coupon flyers or asking people for their coupons. I'm more prone to do this if I know there are awesome coupons that week. You can check out preview sites or forums at You can also print coupons at, redplum, and smart source. (You'll need to download an app to print the coupons; I've never been able to get the smart source printer to work.) You can also load coupons on your cell phone, but since my cell phone is just a phone, I haven't done that.

Sometimes, you get coupons at the register (called Catalinas, after the company that markets them). They are usually for a product you just bought or may be for a competing product. If the Catalina is especially good, I've been know to put my groceries in the car and then turn around and buy that one item on the Catalina. (Catalinas count as manufacturer's coupons.)

I'm not a rabid couponer and (usually) won't drive out of my way for deals. I also don't shop at CVS or Walgreens because I don't want to figure out their coupon deals on top of the shopping I already do. Call me lazy (or practical since I know my limits). You'll need to figure out what works for you. Do you want to clip coupons only for brands you're familiar with (say, Kraft salad dressing)? Or do you want to clip coupons for everything in a category (all salad dressings).

Clipping coupons takes more time than I'd like so I usually try to multitask and clip the coupons when I'm a passenger in the car or while watching TV. Same with the sorting.

I keep my coupons in this box (I purchased it years ago; yes, those are rust stains). If you only clip a few coupons, a recycled envelope works. Or you could buy a coupon organizer (most are too small for me). Some avid couponers organize their coupons in binders, using baseball card holders to store the coupons. I thought about it, but decided it was too much work. You could also keep the flyers intact and just cut out coupons as you need them.

Some things I never buy without coupons (and usually combined with a sale):
canned foods
yogurt (except for Greek yogurt)
feminine products
toilet paper

Keep your coupons near your keys or shopping bags or in your car so that you don't forget to take them to the store. Good luck with your savings!

Saving at the grocery store series (topics subject to change):
My grocery budget
Coupons (this post)
Making a list (coming soon)
Checking it twice (coming soon)
Other ways to save (coming soon)

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