Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Do Coupons

Do you want to save money on groceries? Really, really save money? Okay. I've got your back.

I can't coupon because I'm vegetarian
I can't coupon because I don't eat processed foods
If you coupon, you'll spend more, buying stuff you won't use

Oh, I'm sure there's more myths. Here's the deal. When I was at the height of my best power couponing, my partner in it was a vegan, the kind of vegan who knew that regular Oreos weren't vegan, but mint Oreos were. And she saved tons of money. Re: processed foods, yep, you can save a lot of money on those, but in my binder right now are coupons for eggs, milk, soy milk, salad, bread, and flour. And cleaning products. And toilet paper. And dog food. And candles.

If you really want to save money by couponing, it's not the same thing as when my Mama would clip a few coupons and stick them in the coupon drawer. Power Couponing. I know there are tons of websites with even more tips, but I'll give you the bare bones.

1) The name of the game is "Combining." You want to combine your coupons with grocery store sales.
2) The middle name of the game is "Stocking Up." You're not shopping for this week, you're shopping for your in-home "store."

What I've done in the past is to use a zippered binder filled with the plastic pages they sell for collecting baseball cards. They're perfect for holding coupons. Divide your binder into sections -- dairy, frozen, baking supplies, cleaning, toiletries -- you get the picture. When you put a coupon in, make sure the expiration date is showing.

I'm trying something a little different right now. I date the coupon flyers and file them according to the name of the flyer company, e.g. "Smart Source," "Red Plum," "P & G."

Reason why I'm trying this way is because of this site:

This website -- free -- is wonderful. If you live in or near a major metro area, you can go to "Grocery Deals" by state every week, and for different grocery stores, she posts the item on sale, and the coupon you can also apply. Here's an example:

11-02 RPNestle Carnation Evaporated Milk 12 oz (qualifies for Mix & Match Offer -- final price assumes the purchase of 10 participating items) -- charity!$1.002$0.50FREE100%

11-02 RP means that there was a coupon for this item in the 11-02 Red Plum circular. The sale price is 1.00 per can. The coupon specifies you purchase 2 cans. The coupon value is .50 a can, but this store doubles up to .50. Additionally, this store is doing a Thanksgiving promotion where you get 5.00 off, for every 10 qualifying items purchased, making the sale price effectively .50 a can.

So ... 2 x .50 = 1.00 - .50 doubled = 2 cans of evaporated milk, free.

I know this sounds complicated. It really isn't. And this website does most of the work for you.

Okay, so there's kind of a starting point. Just google "couponing" and you can find out far, far more. Ask your friends and neighbors who don't coupon for their Sunday circulars.

When I was really disciplined about it, I generally spent $30 or less, per week on groceries, for a family of 5. And donated tons of stuff we don't like -- Hamburger Helper and such -- to the food pantry. Things like pickles, mustard, dry pasta, I NEVER spent money on. Those, you could usually find for free. And along with the savings, my husband loved it because we always had a big stash of deodorant, shaving cream, etc. No last minute runs to the store.

Now, if you only shop at Whole Foods, or just don't have time for this, or think couponing is distasteful, hey, I'm not trying to talk you into it.

But for those who are interested -- give it a try. I've done bare bones, only buying generics, lots of rice and beans shopping, and I've done couponing, which is generally brand-name, lot of variety ... and the couponing was wayyy cheaper.


Kristina said...

I will definitely check out that website! Thank you for the tip.

I try to buy organic for most things. Have you had any luck with that? Meat, eggs, dairy, much organic as I can. I've never found coupons, but is it possible I'm just not looking in the right places? I could seriously use help with cutting my grocery bill - the organic about kills us.

Lizard Eater said...

They're not as common as "regular," but they're getting more so. Where you're definitely seeing them is in organic versions of processed food, e.g. organic Rice Krispies, organic brand name pasta.

Big tip: if there is a product you love, write to the company and ask if they provide coupons. Many will send you something.

The other way to look at it is to use coupons for other items -- school supplies, toiletries, medicines (always coupons for Tylenol, Advil, etc), cleaning products, and use that savings for buying more organic.

Not coupon related ... find out if there's an organic food co-op in your town, if you haven't already. The DRE-BFF runs a satellite of an in-town organic co-op. It's wonderful.

Nancy said...

Color me intrigued...! I'll try it.