Monday, October 15, 2012
How to Organize Your Grocery Coupons and Save Big
I am always curious to see how others shop for groceries. I pick up tricks and tips from people of all kinds.
I have found the more prepared and organized I am, the more I save. To start, I go through all the grocery advertisements. I circle any items I want to buy that are on sale. I try to make special note of any items that are on sale for which I also have coupons--double savings! I decide which items are worth "stockpiling" based on how well it will store and the price. I usually will not stockpile an item unless it is at least 50% off the regular price.
By stockpiling, you will eventually have a cupboard full of items which you bought all on sale. As you incorporate these items into your menu's, combined with current sale items, you will find your grocery budget shrinking. It took me 3-4 months before I really began to see a large savings. Don't get discouraged! You will probably actually spend a little more in the beginning as you build up your savings inventory.
To begin, you must have a very organized coupon system. I use a plastic shoebox I purchased at Wal-Mart for around $2. I made my own dividers and keep my coupons separated by category (about 20 categories). I choose the shoebox because it was cheap, is big enough to hold a lot of coupons and is easy to flip through as I shop. Plus, it fits in the seat of the cart. I call it my coupon baby.
As I take out a coupon to use, I just throw it under the box but on top of the lid. It makes for easy coupon storage until check-out. I'm sure cashiers hate crumpled, wadded up coupons pulled from someones pocket and dumped in a heap on the conveyor belt.
I see some women at the store who have invested in huge coupon organizers which are really just baseball card holders. They separate out their coupons and put them in the see-through plastic slots. They seem bulky and it appears hard to pull out the coupons. I see others with envelopes or cardboard holders--I call them amateurs. Really it doesn't matter what system you use as long as it works for you. You can't use a coupon if you can't find it and it gets frustrating to dig through hundreds of coupons to find that special one.
Before I go to the grocery store, I check a couple of different websites to see if I have missed any spectacular savings. I usually use moneysavingmom.com, frugalfritzie.com and/or kansascitymamas.com. These websites match up coupons to sales. The work is already done for you. I also often check the store's website to see if I want to load any coupons to the store's loyalty card or if they have unadvertised specials or "deals of the day". Be careful about loading coupons to your store card, they do not double. Paper coupons which double are usually the best savings.
I try to never go to the store without a plan. First, I make my week's menu, trying to incorporate as many sale items as possible. I estimate how much each item on my list will cost. As I go through the store, I write down the actual price of the item. My goal is to never go to the check-out without knowing how much I am spending.
Right before check-out, I add up the items, subtract off my coupons and include the sales tax. If over my budget, I decide what I can live without and put it back. This is called "budgeting" people. I never cease to be amazed at people who spend what they want, then pay what bills they can with what little is left over.
Let's take today's shopping trip as an example. I needed bread, celery and cottage cheese. I also had a few coupons for sale items at Dillon's that I wanted to use. If I have time, I try to pull out the coupons I plan on using before going to the store but I take my whole box because I don't know what other great deals may be available.
I knew Wold Chili was on sale for $1 and after the 40 cent coupon was doubled, I could get the chili for 20 cents a can. I also knew Campbell's Chunky soup was on sale for $1.25. After the $1 off four can coupon, it cost $1 a can. These items generally cost around $2.25 a can. Sometimes when I just don't feel like cooking, I open a can of Campbell's soup and pour it over Rice or Noodles. It's a cheap, easy meal. My husband calls it "ER" soup--because we usually eat it in an emergency.
I also try to always check the clearance rack. Today, there were five Arm & Hammer deodorants marked down to 50 cents each and several packages of tampons for $2. I had a $2 off coupon for the tampons making them free. I spent less than $9 for all of the above items. (I also wanted to mention you can get really great croissants at Dillons for 2 for $1.) I saved 59% off the total bill.
The best part was the coupons which printed at register. A free package of carrots, $5 off future order of $50 or more and $2 off when spending at least in frozen items.
There are always great deals out there. I think the key is just being organized and paying attention.