Couponing has been very extreme in recent years. People spend countless hours searching, printing, collecting, and matching sales to get their payouts next to nothing. It is becoming harder to coupon nowadays due to the television series “Extreme Couponing”. Remember that show! Those people pretty much won the lottery with their grocery hauls, but are they realistic? Not really unless you have 50+ hours to devote to the craft and eat mainly processed food. Rules are more restrictive and companies are making sure coupons are being used correctly, so be sure to read coupon policies before shopping. They are public information located on their website. If it is not available, the customer service desk would have information on what is accepted and any limitations they set. It is so difficult not to feel discouraged or feel like you’re not saving enough especially with such a limited budget and little humans to feed. Dumpster diving for coupons, buying ten papers per week, etc. is fine if you have the time to dedicate to it like a full time job. A single mama……not so much! I’m not an avid couponer, but I do watch for steals on items we eat and fit our food preferences/allergies. For me, time is of the essence and very scarce. Here are a few tricks for couponing without major time consumption.
Southern Savers is a website that collects information from various grocery stores and puts them in one place. This site we use weekly for an hour or two while preparing our grocery budget. I make a list of items we need, then try and only match those items with sales. The site then shows you the current weeks sales/deals for the store you shop at. With each deal or sale they offer they give what coupons match those sales. There are two major coupon companies that provide inserts in the weekend papers, Red Plum (RP) and Proctor & Gamble (PG).
For example: Kroger Prego Pasta Sauce $1 off two jars (.50 PG 3/27) * not an actual deal
Which means Kroger has a sale on Prego pasta sauce buy two jars and get a $1 off. PG has a .50 coupon that was published in the paper dated 3/27. If you got that paper and saved the coupons, it tells you what week it came out and matches it to a sale, so you know when to use it. Kroger doubles coupons ;). One coupon per item, doubled, gives you two jars with $3 off. See how this works?
They also have a page dedicated to online coupons which are very easy to print. You have a two print limit on online coupons from one device. Use many different types of electronics such as a tablet, desktop, or laptop giving you two coupons per device for one item. The site is user friendly and very easy to navigate. What makes this site amazing, is it will give you valuable information eliminating tedious leg work. They also offer couponing video tutorials for beginners.
Grocery Store Emails are a great way to be in the know of sales. Stores can also announce sales by email and often they are 72hr sales. Recently I was able to get 14 organic pineapples for $1 each from an email notice. Some stores will even give a coupon by email that you won’t find anywhere else.
Watch for steals! They call this method “stacking” meaning using many different types of coupons to maximum savings. It is easier than it sounds and after awhile your eyes will be fine tuned to scope out deals without much effort. The manufacturer puts coupon machines in the aisles that you can pull. They are random and not always available, but if seen grab a couple. Using good practice is best meaning don’t take them all. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a person empty the entire machine leaving none for anyone else.
Combine those coupons with an actual coupon from either offline or from an insert. Now you’ve got the sale + manufacturer coupon + store coupon or rewards. In some cases, you can get items for free and you’re only responsible for the tax. Use this method with reward cards, Extra Care Bucks if shopping at CVS, and do the math. Sometimes you will find that what is on sale is a bigger item by weight. If you do the math of how much it would cost per ounce vs buying a smaller item not on sale…you may find it is cheaper and not a good deal. This is a sale you’d pass on and just buy the smaller item. If you don’t need the coupons, simply put the coupons next to the items on the shelf for someone else to use.
Sunday Coupon Preview is a website that will tell you the Wednesday before what coupons will be available in the coupon inserts that will come out in the weekend paper. This is a great website giving you a heads up of what to expect. It is a good way to decide if you really need to buy the weekend paper. There is nothing more disappointing than spending money on numerous papers only to find that there are no coupons you would use.
TIP: Pay attention to sale cycles. Most are six or eight weeks depending on the store and region. Every six to eight weeks, that same item will go on sale again. So stock up for that time frame. It makes it much easier to budget! Sales also occur during seasons or major holidays. Ketchup and mustard would be on sale late May for the summer BBQ season while cranberry sauce and stuffing would be on sale prior to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Here is a fantastic blog post from Family Friendly Frugality of what food goes on sale each month and when.