Monday, October 20, 2014

Meal Planning and Couponing Series: Part 2 (Couponing Basics!)

People seem surprised when I tell them I started couponing. I'm not sure what it is about it that makes it surprising to everyone. Maybe it's the fact that I'm young, don't yet have kids, and lead a very busy lifestyle, so they think it's crazy that I take the time to do it. But then, I share details like I bought 5 packages of cream cheese for $0.00 two weeks ago. Or the fact that I bought 2 packages of Halls Cough Drops and actually earned money ($0.18) back. I'm not crazy about couponing (or an "extreme couponer") by any means. But if I can save 40-50% off my grocery bill each week, I'm all for it. :) Below, I'm sharing the couponing steps I use that ensure I don't take too much time out of my busy life each week but are still effective enough to save us money on our grocery bill! :)

Couponing Steps:

1. Browse digital coupons for store that you are planning on shopping at. After you have loaded all of the coupons to your preferred shopper's card, print out list of coupons that are loaded to card.

I do this once a week because our store changes their coupons or allows you to add previous ones if they're still available after you've already used them once.

2. Cut out all coupons that you think will be useful from Sunday paper. Set aside.

Make sure you only keep ones that you are at least fairly certain you will use. Otherwise, the stack of coupons becomes too big to handle! For instance, I used to keep alllll of the coupons when I definitely did not need Pampers (no kids yet!). It just adds to the hassle!

3. Browse apps such as Checkout 51, Ibotta, and Snap (from Groupon) for possible rebates.

4. Once a month, go to and (under Coupons) and print all coupons that would apply to you.

You can print each computer coupon twice! That is the maximum it will let you, so there is no use going back to print it again (at least on the same computer) until the coupons have regenerated (on the 1st of each month).

5. Make two piles of coupons to use for grocery shopping for meals this week and coupons to use later based on your grocery list. I place the coupons to be used later in an organized basket. For example, mine are divided by categories: food, beauty products, home supplies, restaurants, general and then subdivided by expiration date, so I can pull them out if they will be applicable for later grocery trips.

6. Make a running list* of all items you need and applicable coupons that you have, including the ones from the apps on your phone, computer, Sunday paper, and digital coupons. Note date that is expired and date that you are planning on using it. If you decide not to use it that day, simply erase the day when you get back from the store.

*Add to this list each week.

An example of my written running list before I started doing it on the computer.
Keeping the list on the computer is very helpful because you can just delete them after they are used or when they are expired. Plus, this will tell you which ones are expired, so you can go through and throw those away. I will be providing an Excel Sheet that is the easiest way of keeping track of everything (for me) in Part 4 of the series!

I'm not a huge fan of the binder/baseball card collector method because it takes a lot of time to put each coupon in there (and you have to lug it around), but by keeping the running list, you can see what coupons you have when you are making your shopping list, combine it with the sales, and then pull them out from the basket under the appropriate category.

Try to combine sales with coupons for the best prices! I will show you how I have done this tomorrow! :)

Compare your list of sales and coupons with This is the best website, and it has all the local stores in your area. It lists the sales that week, as well as items that have coupons for them from either online, Sunday papers, or just random coupons that the product's website might be offering.

7. Place all coupons that you will be using for the week in an envelope. I print out a list of all of my coupons (but keep a master copy at home) and circle the ones that are in the envelope and bring that along with me to the store.

You can just bring a written master list, as well, but I find it easier to have it on the computer, and it takes way less time. If I don't buy something I had planned on, I can easily browse through the envelope and take it out and don't have to worry about checking anything off my excel sheet/master list. I also usually go through the envelope quickly while in the checkout line to make sure I have bought everything on my coupon list and take out any coupons that were not used.

8. After shopping, remove coupons from master list that have been used to keep the list current.

It's as easy as that! :) And trust me, while it does take a little bit of time, it can save you sooo much money! I will be showing examples tomorrow!

Now... for some tips to go along with these newly-learned steps...

Couponing Tips:

1. Buy in bulk, but don't go overboard.

This means that buying in bulk is good in some cases because that allows you to be able to get the best price on items. If you run out of an item, obviously you're going to have to settle for what ever price it is at the time. But if a coupon comes around, and there's a sale, you'll be able to get the item for less and have some to last for a while. I usually buy 3-4 of each product when there's a great deal. But remember, you don't want to have to be finding places to put all of your items, so only buy what you have room for and items that you will actually use!

2. Know the store's policy!

Some stores allow double couponing. Others don't. Smith's allows digital coupons, but you can not combine digital with manufacturer coupons. Target allows you to combine a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon. The more you know about the policy, the easier the process will be. Plus, if you know they are not following protocol, you can ask for a manager and point out the flaw.

3. Be kind and courteous to the cashier.

Let's face it: ringing up coupons take a lot of time, especially if there are any issues with any of the coupons (bar code is faded, not ringing up correctly). Being patient and respectful can go a long way.

4. Don't always stick to a certain brand.

Sometimes the off-brand is cheaper (even without coupons). Sometimes the name brand is the cheaper product. You're not going to get the best deal if you are particular to a certain brand name.

5. Shop during non-busy hours.

I know this is hard to predict, but if you can get to the store when there's not a million people running around, that's ideal. The cashier is more likely to take time to make sure you get the bang for your buck and less likely to be cranky doing so.

6. It costs as little as $2 each week to implement these steps, but it could cost even less with a newspaper subscription! Most newspapers allow only Sunday subscriptions for a lower cost, so check it out!

Hope these steps have convinced you that it's so easy, you need to give couponing a try! :)

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Much Love!

Much Love!