What is a coupon? A coupon is a certificate or ticket entitling the holder to a specified right, as redemption for cash or gifts, reduced purchase price, etc. Coupons are just like cash. There are three types of coupons: manufacturers coupons, digital coupons and store coupons. Coupons can be found in most major newspapers, grocercy store websites through various coupon websites. Also, they offer grocery list options that allow you to view the current advertisements and choose what you want to buy and then print out your list. Quite a handy option, I think.
Successful coupon shopping begins with clipping the coupons. This can be approached in two ways. 1) Clip only the coupons for items that you already use and the items you are interested in trying; 2) Clip all coupons so you have the options to try new products at a sale price, to buy extra products cheaper for donations to your local food banks. Every little bit helps especially if you use coupons on sales items, sometimes it is free. We must all pitch in and work together to get through this recession!
Organizing your coupons is the most important step! It will take some time, but it is only one time and is well worth it. There are many ways to organize; coupon files, envelopes, etc. I use a two coupon envelopes, one for food and the other is for non-food. Choose which is best for you. Then think about your clipped coupons and categorize them into sections. For example, Produce, Dairy, Meat – Fresh, Meat – Frozen, Baking Items, Condiments, Paper and Plastic (i.e., toilet paper, plastic wrap, trash bags, paper towels, etc.). Some coupon files have these already chosen for you and provide the dividers. I make my own out of recycled manila file folders. I cut rectangles to fit inside the envelope and leave a tab for the category. The final step is to decide the order of the categories. I file mine by the store layout. So if you start shopping in Produce, put it first in your envelope. I like to start shopping with non-perishables, and then get produce, dairy, meat, and finally frozen foods. Too much thought? Not really, you probably already have patterns in how you shop, just organize your coupons to the way you shop.
Next, plan your meals around the grocery store sales. Browse through, choosing the items your family will enjoy eating and check to see if you have a coupon. You can use the ads as your grocery list by circling the items and taking the ad with you to the store. Be sure to write a big “Coupon” by the item so you will be sure to get it out. I use a wooden clothes pin to keep track of my coupons while shopping and clip it right to my shopping cart. This will save you time and keep your coupons together until you are ready to check out. All of this seems to be a lot to keep track of, you say? I agree until I put the calculator to it. Just for fun and giggles…..let us do some math!
Let’s say that you shop twice a month and spend $200 each time, equaling $400. I usually average a 40% grocery saving with coupons and in-store sales, more at times. Using me in the example, $400 x 40% = $160 in savings for paying attention to store pricing, advertisements, in-store ads, and store policies.
Look at your normal weekly routes to and from everywhere. To cut down on time and energy (both gasoline and your energy!), try shopping after work on your way home. Or perhaps, pick a day you want to shop for groceries and plan your route so you can go to the necessary stores in order to be the most efficient.
Put all of your grocery sale items in one part of the basket so that you can be sure they are giving you the sale prices. Pay attention because you can be overcharged and that defeats the purpose! Also, check you grocery store receipt before you leave the store so any mistakes can be corrected without you making an extra trip back to the store.
Some stores will give the item free if you are overcharged so be sure to find out your store’s policies.