Your Grocery Budget: Coupons
Using coupons can be a very effective way to reduce your grocery spending. "Couponing" does require some organization and preparation, but can be well worth the effort. Here are some tips on where to find coupons and how to best use them.
Where to Get Coupons
The Sunday paper is one the best sources for coupons. If you buy and enjoy the Sunday paper, great! If you don’t, you most likely have friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors that get the paper, so ask them to save the coupon inserts for you. Every time I see my mom she always has a bag ready for me with the latest coupons inside.
Coupons.com is another great source for coupons. The site has new coupons every month or more. Be aware that you can only print 2 coupons from a device and photocopying coupons is a big no-no. Other websites for printable coupons is SmartSource.com, RedPlum.com, MamboSprouts.com (for natural, organic and/or specialty diet products) and CommonKindness.com.
AMS Nutrition Counseling! I am always requesting coupons and samples from food companies. I generally have several different types of coupons available at the office at all times. Some favorites that I’ve had in the past include RXBar, Peanut Butter & Co. and Starkist tuna. Keep an eye out on the AMSNC facebook page, as I occasionally post links to printable coupons there.
There are many other ways to get coupons as well. Magazines, mailers and newsletters often contain coupons. Some food companies also have printable coupons on their website from time to time. You can even find coupons at the grocery store. There may be tear pads of coupons by the products or “peelies” directly on the package. Some stores have catalina machines which print out coupons while you’re checking out.
How to Use Them
Using coupons seems pretty basic, but there are actually some rules you need to know. First, make sure the store you’re going to accepts coupons. For example, Aldi does not accept manufacturer coupons. Then make sure the coupon has not expired, and that you're buying the correct type, quantity and size that the coupon specifies. You may want to get familiar with your store’s coupon policy so you know if they double any coupons and other rules they have. You can generally find a store’s coupon policy on their website. Check out the Food Shopping section of my blog to learn more about savings at your specific store.
Keeping Your Coupons Organized
If you plan on just using a coupon here or there, keeping them in your wallet will probably suffice. If you plan on getting a little extreme with your couponing, you may need a different system. I personally have a coupon organizer that I keep in my purse at all times (it looks similar to this). Some couponers even have big binders to keep everything together. I like to sort my coupons in order of when they expire so it’s easy to toss old ones. Whatever system you decide on, make sure it’s easy to access while shopping.
Make Sure You’re Actually Saving
Coupons are generally for name brand products. Double check that the price after the coupon is less than the other national brands available as well as the store brand. Unless you’re very brand loyal, purchasing store brands can save money with no coupons required.
Stack those Coupons!
Ideally, you want to use coupons for products that are also on sale or clearance. This practice known as “stacking” helps you maximize savings. You may also be able to stack your manufacturer coupons with store coupons, app rebates, mail-in rebates and other promotions. Somewhat recently I bought laundry detergent at BJ's and was able to use a manufactures coupon AND a store coupon on top of the sale price. I’m pretty sure the store lost money on that transaction!
Look to the Professionals
Finding coupons and figuring out how to stack them every week can become a tedious and time-consuming process. Luckily, there are a lot of bloggers that can help. The Krazy Coupon Lady is pretty popular. I really like Deals & To-Dos too because Christina is a local blogger so all the potential deals are relevant to the WNY area. Hip2Save is also quite popular, but most of the deals posted aren’t grocery related. I would highly recommend following these ladies on social media to get the latest deals. With couponing time is of the essence! Coupons expire, sales end, and printable coupons become unavailable. Ideally you will spend a little bit of time each day or at least a few times a week looking at potential deals.