And what you’ve all been waiting for… Groceries!
Really, is there anything that is more necessary to shop for? Grocery shopping can be a very stressful experience (especially, in my case, with two toddlers in tow). Here is how I do it:
Every Sunday, I get the newspaper, and I clip all the coupons that I will use for things I need. I also clip the coupons that I know (or suspect) that I might get overage on.
Let me take a second to explain coupon overage: Overage is a term used by coupon clippers to mean “you get money back from that purchase”. For example, an item costs $.67, but you have a $1 off coupon, you get $.33 of overage that is applied to your other groceries. Overage is one of my favorite things about shopping at the commissary (a military grocery store on the base). Their policy is that they can’t make a profit off coupons, so they HAVE to give you the overage if the coupon is worth more than the product. Other stores, like Walmart, it depends on the particular store. I highly doubt they would let you walk out with cash back, but I have gotten overage toward the rest of my purchases at Walmart before. Some stores make that $1 coupon worth the value of the item ($.67 in this case) so you still get that item for free. But here’s the kicker: they then turn that coupon in for the full $1! So the store is making money off your coupon! I don’t like it when that happens, because I did the work to find and use the coupon, so I should get the rewards, right? But oh well. Free is free.
Okay, back to my coupon clipping: if I find a particular coupon that has a late expiration date and I think I would use many of that coupon before it expires, I go to eBay and search for it. There are people out there that buy 20 copies of the newspaper, clip and sort the coupons, then sell them in lots. So I find a coupon that I know gives me $1 overage, I buy 20 of them on eBay for $2, and I just made $18 in free groceries.
Get coupons online:
I also get coupons online. Not all grocery store accept printed coupons, but mine does, so I take advantage of that. I use sites such as www.coupons.com, www.smartsource.com, www.redplum.com, www.couponsuzy.com, www.bettycrocker.com. There are so many!
Keep them organized (so you’ll actually use them!)
I keep my coupons in a super organized binder:
I bought plastic sheets intended to hold sports cards, there are 4 pockets per page. Then I labeled each pocket with a product, in the order that I come to that product in my grocery store: produce, vitamins, shampoo, etc. In each pocket, the coupons are in order of expiration date, so I can see right away if I have something about to expire. On the first page of my binder, I have my shopping list just scrap paper that is hole punched. The pockets on the first page are labeled: (top) leave, use (bottom) file, checkout. This is what they mean: leave – coupons that are about to expire but I don’t want to use, I leave them on the shelf for others to use. Use – coupons that I want to use during that day’s shopping trip. File – coupons that I need to put away for future use. Checkout – as I put each item in my cart, I move the coupon from the use pocket to the checkout. Occasionally I will move something from Use back to File if the item I was going to buy has gone up in price or I want to wait for a sale. I also put coupons in my File pocket as I shop that I pick up from the store (those coupons on the sticky pads next to the product, I will grab as many as I know I will use before the expiration date). When I get to the checkout, I just need to grab my whole pile from that pocket and hand it to the cashier.
Be nice to the lady ringing you up
Let me tell you a little something about the cashiers: they don’t like it when you get a good deal. Okay, that’s a generalization that I’m sure isn’t true in every case. But when you have a whole cart full of groceries that you end up getting for $40, I guess they get jealous or think you cheated in some way. In my experience, if you give the cashier a compliment as soon as you walk up to them “oh, I really like your top” or “that’s a pretty necklace”, they feel good about you and don’t overanalyze your coupons or call the manager over every five seconds to ask if you can do that.
Back to the shopping:
Keep a price book, because coupons + sale = big savings
I keep a price book for everything that I buy with regularity. Those little stickers that say “Sale! $2, Regular price $3.50” aren’t always correct. Sometimes the regular price is $2.50. My price book lets me know the regular non-couponed price for everything that I buy. Then, after a while, I get to know the sale cycles (shredded cheese goes on sale every 6 weeks, yogurt every 4). Once you know the sale cycles, you can get an idea of when to be able to stack your coupons with sale prices for extra savings. There is one site that takes a lot of the work out of the price book and coupons: www.hotcouponworld.com. It is a message board, there is a separate forum for each store. There you can find what is on sale and what coupons you can stack with the sales.
You can also stack your coupons with things in the clearance bins. I get overage all the time by using coupons on dented cans and damaged boxes of cereal. The store still gets reimbursed for the face value of the coupon, so it doesn’t matter (or shouldn’t) if that item is full price or not.
Coupon stacking (using more than one coupon for an item)
For the most part, you can only use one coupon per item. (Or, if the coupon says $1 off 2, one coupon for those 2 items.) There are exceptions to this. Buy One Get One Free coupons are not the same as $1 off 2. There is a very important difference: $1 off 2 items is a coupon for those 2 items. Buy One Get One coupons are a coupon for the 2nd FREE item. This means, you can use a coupon that says $.75 off one AND a buy one get one free on a second item, so you can use both coupons for those 2 items. Sorry if this is confusing. (let me know if I need to re-word that better.)
Also, you can stack store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons because they do not come from the same place. Example: You have a manufacturer’s coupon for $.75 off Wheat Thins. You also have a Target coupon for $.75 off Wheat Thins. You can use both of those coupons on the same box of Wheat Thins, and get $1.50 off. This works because that Target store gets reimbursed from two different places: the manufacturer put out the coupon to increase brand loyalty, corporate Target put out their coupon to drive business into that particular store. So you can, in fact use two coupons here. (A note about the commissary for other military shoppers: the coupons that say “military store only” or “military store coupon” are not store coupons when it comes to stacking. Those are coupons that are put out by the manufacturer as a sort of goodwill toward the military kind of thing. So in this case, you can still only use one coupon.)
We do have a Sam’s Club in the town where I live, but I am not a member. I have gone as a guest with friends of mine (price book in hand) and walked out disappointed. I couldn’t find a single item that was cheaper than what I was already paying. So, for me, it wasn’t worth it to buy a membership. I don’t know, prices might be different in other areas, but that was just my experience.
Look outside the store!
Last but not least, the best place for deals on your groceries might not be your grocery store! There are a lot of wholesale dealers online nowadays, and many offer free shipping. Get out your price book (because it has the unit price, and wholesale dealers often sell in different quantities) and check out sites like Amazon Grocery and eBay. Diapers.com has tons of great baby gear and supplies in addition to diapers. Do a little research and I’m sure you can find some great deals.
Again, I welcome your tips and input! Leave a comment!