9 Non-extreme Grocery Coupon Tips

by Joe Plemon on May 4, 2011

Coupons = Free Money!

I am sure you have read about extreme couponers: people who after scanning, scrutinizing, analyzing and clipping, can buy a car load of groceries for pennies.  I salute these dedicated savers, but if you are not that person, don’t ignore coupons altogether. We are talking free money here, so give these simple, non-extreme tips a try:

1. Clip the coupons.

Where do you find coupons?  Here are five sources:

  • Sunday newspaper.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor for coupons from their newspaper.
  • Check the entryway of stores where you shop.
  • Perform an online search for printable coupons.
  • Peruse the weekly supermarket flyer you get in the mail.

2. Plan a weekly menu based the store’s featured sale items.

If chicken is on sale, plan to eat several chicken related meals. If you see a special on ground beef, plan some ground beef meals. Make sure you add store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons for extra savings.

3. Be flexible.

You can’t always be brand loyal – be open to trying new products.

4. Choose your shopping venue and days.

Does your grocery store offer double or triple values on coupons? Do they honor all coupons? Do they do so only on special days? Plan your shopping to take advantage of the best offers.

5. Don’t forget non-grocery items.

Even if you are not low on paper towels, soap or razors, take advantage of those coupons. My niece recently used some $1 off coupons on some $0.99 bottles of dish-washing detergent — effectively getting paid a penny for each purchase.

6. Don’t buy items just because you have a coupon.

Your goal is to save on items you need, not buy stuff you don’t need just because you can get a discount. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it.

7. Be savvy.

After we recently used a store coupon to get two 48 ounce containers of Breyer’s ice cream for the price of one ($6.50), we  discovered the very same ice cream on sale at a different store for $2.50 each. Lesson: a coupon isn’t a magic panacea.

8. Organize your coupons.

You don’t have to be over the top here, but a little organization can go a long way. My wife draws a circled “C” on her shopping list to indicate items she has coupons for. She then organizes the actual coupons by department in the store (produce, frozen foods, etc) and, as she places the coupon item in her grocery cart, she also places the coupon for that item in a folder to give to the cashier.

9. Storage.

If you have extra coupons for non-perishable items that you know you will eventually use, buy all you can afford and store them. Of course you will need to designate a place in your home for storage, but doing so will allow you to never, ever pay full price for many items. If you can’t resist a great deal and don’t have the storage, give those items to your local mission or food pantry.

Bonus tip

As you master grocery couponing, you will develop the mindset of always using coupons for anything and everything you might purchase. Your computer, of course, is your friend, so take a moment to check the merchant’s web site before purchasing. Sites like Cabelas Coupon, Macy’s and Walgreen are constantly updating their coupon offers, so don’t leave home without doing your homework.

Following these tips will take about an hour each week and will save you $25 to $50 each week. Is your time worth $25 or more an hour? If you answered “yes”, start clipping those coupons today.

Readers: Do you clip coupons?  If not, why not?  If so, what additional coupon tips do you use?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim @ Faith and Finance May 4, 2011 at 8:30 am

Yes, we just started using coupons with a little more focus and have saved close to 60% on our trips lately. I’m going to put together a post about it, but one thing that we do is pick up 4 papers for a buck at Walgreens and pair up the store coupons with the manufacturer’s coupon and knock the price down to half or more…sometimes way more.

We spent the same on personal care items this month, but stocked up for three months…I’m definitely a believer in using coupons!

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joeplemon May 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

@Tim,
60% savings is amazing! We are just now getting the hang of stacking coupons … good stuff.

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JO May 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Thank you Joe for the these tips. It makes one think. Especially the tip that did not buy just because you have a coupon. It’s so true, and marketing networks know it very well. That’s why they spend all the time even coupons. In short, it’s smart to be smart:)

jo -
ledgrow

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jan May 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I am motivated to learn more about getting the most from coupons. With a little extra effort, I saved over $200 this week at Walgreens and Kroger by combining store coupons, manufacturer coupons, BOGO and Mega Sale deals! Every item purchased is something we use regularly. I think it can be addictive and will help us stay on the same grocery budget we have stuck to for the last several years. That’s very rewarding!

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Alice May 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I like to use coupons a lot, but don’t always shop at stores with name brands. I shop at Aldi’s quite a bit and their prices are usually so good that I don’t need coupons.

I do have a Kroger card, though and like a lot of specialty things that I can find there. I get their weekly ads emailed to me so that I can check to see if there is anything that would be beneficial for me to purchase. This week I noticed that for transferring a prescription, they are giving a $25 gift card. (They may always do this, not sure) I just had surgery last week and while I was at the hospital, their pharmacy filled some prescriptions from my doctor. Two of them had refills so I ‘transferred’ them to Krogers. They gave me a gift card for each one! $50 credit on my Kroger card PLUS some awesome sales this week gave me an awesome savings. I checked online for any digital coupons they were offering and loaded them onto my Kroger card. I also perused the Sunday paper and found a couple of coupons for things I use anyway. Those things plus a couple of sales they had going on equaled a savings of $79.94 on todays trip. I spent $49.34 in cash for almost $130.00 worth of items. Not too bad. Plus, that also qualified me for saving $0.10 per gallon of gas on my next fill up.

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Kenneth @insurancecoverage.me May 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Manufacturers coupons are good if one is loyal to certain products. Number 6 on your list is my favorite, even with coupons other on sale items are often still better values.

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Steve Zussino - Canadian Coupons May 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

Couponing does take time and effort – agreed. But I think it is well worth the effort. I actually enjoy this activity but their is an opportunity cost involved.

We have saved over $1900 using coupons since June 2010.

Great tips for non-couponers.

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Doable Finance May 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I don’t use coupons. I shop for groceries in the local supermarket and prices for the store products are way below the brand name with coupons.

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joeplemon May 11, 2011 at 2:59 pm

@jan,
Way to go!
By the way, to my readers, Jan is my wife. It seems I underestimated our savings!

@Alice,
$50 for about $130 worth of items. Are you becoming an extreme couponer?

@Jenna,
Buying something you don’t need just because you have the coupon is never a good idea, but I think the savings would be worth your time if you gave coupons a try for items you would buy anyway.

@Steve,
$1900 in less than a year is awesome. Could even pay for a modest vacation!

@Doable,
My wife checks couponed prices at Wal Mart and Kroger with regular prices at the discount grocery stores. You are partially right…sometimes one is better shopping at Aldi’s without the coupon. But many times the couponed items are a savings over Aldi’s. The key is to check to make sure the coupon is really saving you money. Good point.

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Monroe on a Budget May 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I recently timed the various steps in my couponing efforts. I told my readers that I thought I spent more time writing about couponing that week than actually doing it!

But the coupon clipping / sorting work for a family of four, on the system I use and teach, can be done in an hour and 15 minutes a week; then add another 10 minutes to scan the grocery fliers.

I can’t give a comparison on shopping with coupons vs. not because I’ve always shopped with a coupon box … but I can get in and out of Kroger in 30 minutes.

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Jack May 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Great tips. I will have to start using your wife’s tip of using a circled C around the items I have a coupon for. It will really help out when I am at the store. We don’t have a lot of storage space but it is helpful to have at least one backup item in the closet in addition to what is being used. It gives us a little bit of leeway to wait for the sales.

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joeplemon May 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

@Monroe,
Thanks for tracking your couponing time. Did you also document how much money you saved by using approximately 1 1/2 hours on your coupons? Just wondering if you have a value per hour figure.

@Jack,
My wife is pretty clever, huh? She comes up with many of those ideas on her own. About storage space…we have a big house, but we have had to carve out storage space (by getting more organized and getting rid of too much stuff). We love our new storage space, but we have a ways to go still. I think it is good that you are able to utilize the little space you have. Every bit helps!

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Kelly @ Coupon Kung Fu June 17, 2011 at 9:15 am

The real key to couponing is to buy what you need when you don’t need it.

I know that sounds strange, but that’s really what stockpiling is all about. You but things you normally need when you can find them at a great price – and you buy extra. Then, when you NEED the item, you grab it from your stockpile instead of paying full retail.

The EC show has the stockpiling blown WAY out of proportion. You have to have balance… as in all things.

Thanks for the great post!

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Tracy Bua Smith January 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Hi Joe! I found your article here from a Google search on Coupon tips as I am always trying to learn more and more about coupons and share tips with others in my coupon workshops that I teach!

Great stuff here that I tell the people that attend my “Smith’s Savings” coupon workshops! I’ve been couponing since this past spring, save 50% or more at the register at grocery stores and now I’m teaching others to save their money too! I work with Delly at Delly’s Deals as a Delly’s Deals Independent Coupon Consultant. Delly has a blog at http://dellysdeals.blogspot.com/ where she posts deals and is on a local radio station sharing savings tips with others! She also has designed and sells coupon binders to maximize savings. I love my Delly’s Deals binder and as a Coupon Consultant I have sold many binders and all my customers love them! I have a Smith’s Savings-Delly’s Deal’s Consultant page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Smiths-Savings-Dellys-Deals-Consultant/284700591576683?ref=tn_tnmn where I post deals, savings and tips to help others save money! Love shopping with coupons especially since our Harris Teeters and Lowes Foods double coupons everyday!

Happy Shopping and Saving!
Tracy Bua Smith :)

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Cindy April 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm

That is a great list and one I have been using for a long time!
2 things to add:

Some stores (Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens) off coupons at the register to use on your next purchase–they are like a rebate, but you don’t have to fill out forms or wait for months. These are awesome because if an item is $10, and I have a $4 coupon, then the register gives me a $10 cash coupon to use on a future purchase, I just made over $3 (I had to pay the tax on the $10)
Every week each of those 3 stores is pretty consistent with having at least one free item, sometimes a whole page!!!

The BIG tip! Be aware of where you are and how much gas was to get there!
If you are making a trip to one store for one item be sure that your savings isn’t eaten up with extra gas!!!
My 13YO likes to chase ad prices and I make him pay $5 for gas for the gallon it takes (he ha learned to try to tag along on my larger trips so he doesn’t have to pay it!!!)
My 10 YO found a tablet that he wanted. We could have had it shipped to us for free in about a week, 2 days was close to $20. It was at a store about an hour away, he wanted it NOW! He paid the $20 for gas.

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Joe Plemon April 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

A great and oft overlooked tip: factor in the cost of gasoline needed to travel for a “bargain”. I love how you are teaching your kiddos by making them pay that difference. Great parenting!

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