But about six weeks ago, I started investigating this whole world of couponing. I've discovered some great websites to assist me and teach me, which I will share with you in a bit.
I've come up with a bit of a system for my grocery shopping, menu planning, and couponing. It does take some time, but I'm noticing that it takes me less time every week. I'm going to share this system with you. For many of you, you'll read this and think, "DUH! Girl where have YOU been? I've been doin' this for years!" But maybe one or two of you will read it and find it helpful?
So here we go...
SATURDAY: Coupon Preview
Every Saturday I preview the coupon inserts. (Did you know you can preview the coupon inserts? I didn't know that until about six weeks ago.) I do this at CouponMom (you need to open a free account...you'll be glad you did!). You simply log in and go to your state's Coupon Database, which sorts all the coupons according to the date released (printable coupons are listed at the top).
I look over the list, checking each coupon that I would use. Then I view all the coupons I've selected (there's a button at the waaay bottom of the page that allows you to "Display Selected Coupons") and decide if it might be worth it to buy extra copies of the Sunday paper.
This takes me about 5 to 10 minutes.
SUNDAY: Obtain Coupon Inserts
On Sunday I get the newspaper that contains the inserts. My local Kum & Go gives you a free paper if you get $15 or more in fuel, so I always fuel up on Sundays.
Confession: I've even been known to purchase $15 worth of fuel, get a paper, then repeat so I can get an extra paper/inserts for free. Yes, that makes me sound super cheap but why pay $1.50 for an extra paper if I can get it for free? Ya know?
I also paid for an extra paper once (and I'm sure I'll do so again) because I knew there were some high-dollar coupons in there.
(Before you walk away with your paper, make sure the inserts are in there. One time I got all the way home only to realize that all the inserts (and ads as well) were missing. Both Chris and I were totally bummed because we both love looking through the ads.)
I do NOT clip any coupons yet! I write the date on the front of the insert and file the whole insert in an expandable file.
TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY: Coupon Match-Up, Menu Plan, Grocery List, & CLIP!
On Tuesdays we receive a free local paper in the mail that contains the sale ad for both of my local grocery stores: Fareway & Hy-Vee. Either on Tuesday or Wednesday, I plop my rear down in front of the computer as I go through the Fareway ad. I go through, circling items on sale that I'm interested in. I also search two online coupon databases (CouponMom & Hip2Save) as I go through the ad. The coupon databases contain all the coupons that can be found in the coupon inserts from weeks and months past. The databases also tell you WHICH insert you can find certain coupons in. (This is why I keep my whole insert...no need to go through and clip coupons that I may or may not need. I clip ONLY the ones I know I'll use RIGHT NOW.) And finally, the coupon databases include other sources for coupons (online printable, brand websites, magazines, etc.)
When a coupon matches up with a good sale, I do a happy dance (internally), and then I circle the item and write a big Q next to it. If multiple coupons are available for the item I write 2Q or 4Q or however many I might have. I also write "wyb2" or "wyb4" (wyb=when you buy). The coupon databases include coupon limitations and exclusions, which is really helpful. I keep a running list of the coupons so I can just use that list to know which coupons I need to clip from the inserts.
As for the Hy-Vee insert, I don't need to go through that one, as CouponMom does the coupon match-ups for Hy-Vee. (YAY!) I simply go through the list (to get to the list, click on Grocery Deals by State and select your store), check the items I'm interested in, display the selected items, and print. Easy peasy!
Once I'm aware of the best deals, I plan the next week's (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner) menu based on those deals in addition to what I have on hand. I make out my grocery list (which gets shorter every week that I do this, imagine that!) and use my list to search the coupon databases for any additional coupons I could use. Then I print or clip the coupons.
This part takes an hour or more, depending on how quiet my house is (I work more slowly when the kids are awake and noisy). :)
I usually grocery shop on Thursday or Friday, sometimes on Saturday. Hy-Vee usually has 1-day, 2-day, or 3-day sales on those days so I can snag some really great (sometimes FREE!) items.
I always hit Wal-Mart & Fareway, and sometimes Hy-Vee. All three of these stores are within a mile of each other in my small town, so it's worth the little extra time it takes. Some weeks I don't need to go to Hy-Vee because Fareway matches many of Hy-Vee's prices, but there are times when Hy-Vee has great sales on items that aren't sold at Fareway.
That's pretty much all there is to it! It does take awhile, but for me, it's so worth it. My husband totally agrees after I told him that I've saved over $100 in the last 4 weeks in coupons alone. This doesn't include SALE price! I've gotten many items for free, which feels oh-so-good, and I would estimate that I've actually saved over $200 in the last month. Whoa! Totally worth it. It's turned into a fun game for me, actually!
A few more things
For brands that I love, I go to the brand website and sign up to receive their newsletter (I created a special email account for things such as this so my regular email accounts aren't flooded with this stuff). Sometimes their newsletters will contain coupons,which is nice.
In case you're thinking what I used to think - "This only works for people who buy processed, preservative-packed food" - I can tell you after only six weeks of doing this that you can save a LOT of money on all-natural, preservative-free food! Plus household products and such? Lots of savings available there too!
Don't forget that you can combine STORE COUPONS with MANUFACTURER COUPONS. This translates to MAJOR SAVINGS.
I have used this coupon clipping website to buy multiple copies of certain coupons for things that I buy a lot of (cheese, peanut butter, etc). You can pick and choose any coupons you want. The price is very minimal (around 10% of the coupon value) but shipping costs around a dollar, so I only use this option when there are a LOOOOT of clipped coupons I'm interested in. But it's an excellent option for high-value coupons on brands that you use a lot. (For example, I bought five of the $3 off Gain Fabric Softener coupons, plus about a dozen more coupons that saved me $1 each or more. The total came to around $5 for the whole order. I used the five Gain coupons on five boxes of fabric softener sheets that were priced at $2.96 each at Wal-Mart, which means that I got all that fabric softener for FREE. So basically, I paid about $5 for over $30 worth of coupons that were used on sale items. Happy Dance!) This option is much cheaper than buying a bunch of extra Sunday papers because you're only paying for coupons you know you'll use. Plus, they're already clipped. Bonus!
I've discovered that the key to saving MAJOR dollars on groceries is to stock up on regularly used items when there are really good sales that can be combined with coupons. As I get further into this couponing habit, the savings are adding up more each week. At first, I had to set aside a small amount of money for "stock-up" items (like extra tomato paste, meat that's on sale, etc), so it didn't feel like I was saving much money overall because my grocery bill was still the same. BUT, as I've seen my staples supply increase, without going a penny over my budget, I realize just how much money I'm saving! Of course, this won't make much sense if you're stocking up on perishables that don't get used, or even items you've never tried and end up hating.
I subscribe to daily emails from two websites: Hip2Save and MoneySavingMom I highly recommend both of these as they post multiple times daily, sharing HOT deals (both online and offline).
Also, CouponMom has a wonderful tutorial that I highly recommend if you're like me and somewhat new this whole couponing thang. Here's the link to the tutorial (you'll probably have to login or create a free account before you can view the tutorial).
And finally, if you decide to print some of the coupons from Coupons.com, print them through your (free) account at InboxDollars because you'll earn 10 cents for every coupon you redeem. It's basically FREE MONEY since you're already planning to print and use the coupons. I figure it pays for the cost of the ink and paper to print the coupon. :)
Oh and one last thing (I promise, this is it!), I'm planning to start doing the Fareway coupon match-ups. Since Fareway's store sales vary by region, these match-ups will be most relevant to those of you who are local (Pella, Oskaloosa, Knoxville). Hopefully this will be a helpful timesaver to some of you who are local. :) I'm hoping to get the coupon matchups done tonight before going to bed.
And that's it! (Finally.)
This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.