Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cutting Your Grocery Bill - The Series - Episode 2

Welcome to our second installment in reducing your grocery costs. As before, please add any comments and ideas that you have. This one is about coupons, and I know there are LOTS of shoppers out there with coupon tips and strategies. I'm only going to scratch the surface on this topic, as I know coupons could be a 20-part series in themselves.

Tip #2

Clip coupons - but don't buy something just because you have a coupon! Collect the ones you might use, and then review the sale ads each week and match up your coupons with the sales for the best deals. Combining your coupons with in-store specials can often result in products that cost you little to nothing (or even result in a profit!!).

I have a particular mindset when it comes to coupons. I know people often say things like you should only clip coupons for items you use anyway, but my thought process is.....if this item were free, would I get it? I do actually clip and file coupons, rather than using a whole-insert method because having them filed in my box is the system that works for me. My coupon box is organized by sections of the typical grocery store, so I can pull out one section at a time and see what I have on hand. When deciding which ones to clip, if it's an item that we would use for the right price, I clip it. I'd much rather end up tossing a coupon because the item was never on sale for a good price than wish I had clipped it because I COULD have gotten a deal.

Each week, you probably receive sale ads for your local grocers. Since I've clipped and filed my coupons, I do have some recollection of what I have (though I don't depend entirely on my lousy memory!). As I peruse the ads, I often see items for which I know I have a coupon. Then I go to my organizer, and remove the applicable coupon, and note on my shopping list that I have it. If I'm not sure about an item, I pull that section from my coupon box and see if I have a coupon for a particular item. Once I have pulled all the coupons I know I need, I attach them to my shopping list with a paperclip. If I only find one or two things that aren't great deals or that I don't really want/need, I don't go to that store that week. It might sound a little silly or complicated, but it's an easy system that works for me. I do still carry my entire coupon box into the store with me (after all, better safe than sorry, especially if the store has a Markdowns area), but I like to have handy the ones I know I am going to use.

If you have a store that doubles coupons, you can really get some good deals, but generally only if you're using a coupon on an item that is already on sale. The regular prices at the typical double-coupon store are quite inflated. Still, though, they do likely run great sales and loss leaders, and that's the time to use your coupons and buy as much as you can. If you followed the link above about making a profit, you'll see that I bought several months' worth of pasta on that shopping trip. I didn't NEED that much pasta, but they were literally paying me to take it home with me, so I bought as many as I had coupons. I don't usually have that high of a quantity of a single coupon, but in that case, I had a bunch of the one, so I took full advantage of the deal! Those bargains are so rare that I'm still thrilled about it - and that one wasn't even a double-coupon deal!

I remember a long time ago when I lived in Arkansas....we had a store called Consumers. My friend and I used to get a bunch of ladies together to caravan about an hour away to shop at that store because they occasionally TRIPLED coupons! It was such fun to see those long receipts with the small totals. One of my receipts was about 5 feet long, and my total was about $26. I actually think I STILL have that receipt in my filing cabinet - talk about a coupon high!

At the end of every month, I go through all my coupons and remove the expired ones. I know that these can be sent to the military overseas, but I don't have any information on how to go about doing that. It makes me a little sad to see coupons go to waste, but I would have been happy to have them if the deals had been right. I really do knock a lot off my grocery bill by combining my coupons with sale items - and rebates if I find them. It's a little puzzle that adds up to big savings.

Now how about your tips??? Comment away!!!


Beth said...

You forgot about e-coupons...those save me a bundle and I don't have to remember to take them with me when I go shopping!

Janelle said...

Thanks, Beth! I didn't even think about e-coupons because the stores I use here don't have that option. I know Dillons does, but it's 45 minutes away and I've never made the drive. It's a great tip, though, and hopefully someday I can use them!! :-)