Today we have a guest poster from DealSpotr.com. I’ve long wanted to do a couponing guest post because it’s the one financial strategy where I have no expertise. But Jason is a pro at it, so I’ve asked him to share some of his couponing magic with my readers.
Top Tips for Couponing at the Grocery Store
A trip to the grocery store can be a stressful experience and cause pain in your wallet, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your budget. With the help of some extreme couponing techniques, you can cut your grocery bill and save your wallet. Use these tips and tricks to maximize your money at the supermarket.
Meal planning is the foundation of all other grocery-saving techniques. Without this important step, all of the other tips won’t be nearly as effective. Simply put, meal planning is organizing your family’s groceries and planning your menu ahead of time.
Because new grocery circulars are typically released on Sundays, we suggest making this a weekend ritual.
The Internet is a treasure trove of meal planning resources and printable documents—the key is to find the system that works best for you and your family. To save the most money through meal planning, you’ll want to plan meals based on what is on sale and what items you have coupons for.
Read the Weekly Circulars
Most people quickly disregard the grocery store ads that are distributed weekly, but taking time to research what is on sale can save you serious cash. Most circulars come with the Sunday newspaper, but stores also post the ads online. Smaller local stores may even distribute the circulars through the postal mail if they don’t have a large online presence.
Each week, sit down with the circulars and highlight the best deals—this will serve as the basis to your weekly meal plan. Extreme couponers frequently visit multiple stores to score the best deals at each place, so don’t worry about highlighting items from different circulars. After you find the best deals at each store, create a list of items and deals arranged by store.
Expertly Clip Manufacturer Coupons
Extreme couponing requires time, and some of the most time-consuming work comes from clipping coupons. There are three main sources for manufacturer coupons, and each one is vitally important in getting your the best savings.
Start with the manufacturer coupon books in the Sunday newspaper. The two large inserts that come nearly every week in almost every paper are Smart Source and Red Plum. Another great source for manufacturer coupons is the Internet; Coupons.com is the leading source for printable coupons, which means you’ll need access to a reliable printer to access the coupons.
Last on the list is the least reliable source for manufacturer coupons—the postal system.
Many coupons come in the mail, but they are often disguised as junk mail. Although the quality and type of mailed coupon changes each week and is based on where you live, a keen eye can grab great savings.
Only Clip Coupons for Things You Need
A common mistake of new couponers is clipping every coupon they come access. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many coupons and want to give up. After all, couponing is supposed to be rewarding, not stressful and burdensome.
The entire process will seem much more manageable if you avoid clipping coupons of things you don’t need and stick to collecting coupons for items that are useful to you.
Organize Your Manufacturer Coupons
Any extreme couponer will tell you the secret to their success is to stay organized with their coupons. You can have all the clipped coupons in the world, but if they aren’t organized and accessible, they won’t save you much money.
We recommend using your meal plan as the foundation for your coupon organization.
File your coupons by category, such as breakfast foods, snacks, frozen food, etc., and then add sub-categories by brand and product type. An organized system makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for as you create a meal plan and shop. Don’t forget to periodically remove expired coupons from your files.
Sign Up For Every Reward Card
Almost every grocery store offers a free rewards program, which can lead to huge savings. Joining the rewards program also gives you access to mobile apps, which can unlock even more savings. Joining all of your local rewards programs and downloading all of the apps is a must for savvy shoppers.
Learn Store Coupon Policies
Without an overarching coupon policy that applies to every store, individual stores and chains are left to create their own coupon policies, which can vary greatly from one another. Being very familiar with the policies at the stores you frequent is incredibly important. Look online to find the store’s policy and to see if they accept overages (cash back for coupons that exceed purchase price), allow stacking (using multiple coupons and discounts on the same product), or price match. You’ll also want to know how strict they are about the coupon policy. Target has one of the most coupon-friendly policies of any store. Check out a comparison of all the coupon policies.
Match Coupons to Circulars
This is where the rubber meets the road and the savings start to roll in:
1. Go back to your list of best deals from the circulars.
2. Look through your files to find coupons that match the best deals.
3. Search through the stores’ mobile apps to look for reward card offers or other sales.
4. Combine sales, coupons, and reward card offers to create a list of the best overall prices.
5. Compare the items with the best overall prices to items you already have in your pantry.
6. Combine the ingredients you already have with the sale items to complete your meal plan.
Transfer Coupons to an In-Store Coupon Organizer
You probably don’t want to lug all of your coupons to the store, so experienced couponers use a smaller accordion file to include just the coupons they plan to use.
Simply move the coupons you plan to use that week to the smaller file and keep them organized in a way that works for your shopping trips—we recommend organizing them by store. With an organized system, you’ll be ready with all of your coupons in the checkout lane.
Make a Detailed Shopping List
With all sorts of coupons and savings offers, it’s important to create a comprehensive list so you don’t miss an item or a coupon. Break down your items by store and create an individual shopping list for each store. Mark any items that require you to use a reward card or app. Next, decide on the most efficient shopping route, grab your list and your coupons, and get ready for a great shopping trip.
Buy in Bulk
When you find an amazing deal, stock up and buy the item in bulk. You’ve done all the work to find the best deals, so you might as well enjoy it now instead of having to purchase it again when the price has gone up. Consider how much storage space you have available, especially in regards to perishable items.
Look for Surprise Deals
Even if you are incredibly prepared and organized, there can occasionally be surprise clearance deals throughout the store. Don’t get too focused on your planned shopping trip that you forget to look for clearance and markdown signs—these could lead to amazing deals.
Photo credit: FreeImages.com/BesseSpin