Couponing in the Real World: How to Make it Work for You
We all know those extreme couponing shows where women go into a grocery with a giant binder and walk out with three carts of groceries for $8.00. No doubt, they have left many wondering how to begin couponing to save like they do. Who doesn’t want to learn couponing for food to save a little money? Just how realistic are those shows though? Is extreme couponing possible? Can you drastically lower your grocery budget by spending the time to clip coupons or is it all just a giant waste of time?
The good news is that it is totally possible to lower your grocery bill by using a number of different discounts and couponing deals available these days. It takes a little time to get into the swing of it but once you get a good system down you can consistently see lower prices for your weekly meals.
The bad news is that I could give you extreme couponing tips all day. However, while you can save significant money it is highly unlikely that you will walk out with weeks worth of food for a few bucks. In many cases, the stores will work with production companies to allow those on couponing shows to do a one time haul. Some stores have even ended double couponing because of those trying to exploit deals as they do on extreme couponing shows.
A lot of the coupons available are for foods that are highly processed. ( Don’t even get me started on organic or gluten-free couponing) This can lead to problems if you are trying to stick to a healthier diet. You can do well on household products with coupons. Unfortunately, you can only do so much with 90 tubes of toothpaste or 18 bottles of fabric softener.
In some instances going overboard with the couponing can lead to more waste than savings. You end up buying a buttload of something with every intention of using it because it’s on sale for 19 cents with that great coupon. Unfortunately, your family got sick of it a week in and now you’re stuck with 47 bottles of expired barbecue sauce to throw away. If your couponing stockpile is getting out of hand it may be time to rethink your couponing strategy.
It can take some work to come up with a true couponing system that fits your lifestyle. With a little dedication and our quick tips you can quickly begin to start stacking up the savings ( and the barbecue sauce). I’m no couponing expert but I have definitely learned a thing or two after several years of trial and error.
Every family has those items they get every single time they go to the grocery. Maybe you have a Nutella addict in the house. My son would start a revolution if I didn’t have pickles stocked at all times. My point is if you take the time to pay attention you should be able to make a list of the items your family uses on a regular basis. Once you know the items you use more regularly you can focus your couponing shopping list on those items.
Some users on eBay, Instagram, and even Facebook groups sell lots of coupons for a set price. This can be a great way to pick up a good number of coupons on items you KNOW you will be buying. You just need to be careful to not spend too much picking up things that seem like a good deal but you wouldn’t really use as much. This can get costly fast as those coupons sit unused and expire.
A great way to get to know what your family uses regularly is to write down a stock. You can do one of your pantry and one of your fridge to keep the two separate. Naturally, most people will go through cold items faster so you will need to alter that list more frequently. By keeping stock of what you have on hand and how much your family uses regularly you can quickly assess what items need to be added to your grocery list. This can also help you in selecting what coupons to use or look for each week.
A great way to keep a constant tally of what items you have on hand is to use a dry erase marker and a printable list. You can put your list in a frame or just put it in a protective sheet. This way you can add and remove tallies as needed to keep an accurate list with ease.
I have found this list a great tool in helping with meal planning as well. When I know what I have on hand at all times it is easier to plan meals without having surprise trips to the grocery for items I thought I had.
Finding the Right Coupons
Do you ever go to find coupons for your weekly grocery trip and just get completely overwhelmed? There are so many different coupons available out there you can quickly get sidetracked looking up deals. The best way to avoid this is to have a plan of action ready before even looking at coupons.
Even if something seems like a good deal it isn’t on your list and you don’t need to waste your time on it. Now, if you have time later in the week you can always go back and check it out. However, having a list of coupons you need can save you a lot of time and headaches.
Naturally, there will be some exceptions. If you have one brand written down but another is cheaper that week then absolutely make an exception. If you find yourself out of luck for a whole recipe you may want to alter your meal plan for the week. I’ve done that plenty of times!
Having an overall idea of what you need will help you to pinpoint your weekly shopping and give you the extra time needed for any last minute adjustments or additions. It’s a great way to relieve the stress of grocery shopping and couponing. It’s also a great way to keep yourself on track saving money rather than wasting it on things you don’t need in the first place.
Where to Find Coupons
There are various places to find couponsavailable these days. One of the most well-known sources is the Sunday newspaper. However, the internet often provides more targeted resources when it comes to free grocery coupons. There are multiple websites where you can print coupons now. Many brands also offer coupons from time to time if you sign up for their newsletters or Facebook pages. In most instances, they will allow the coupon to be printed twice so be sure to get two copies!
Coupons.com – Printable manufacturers coupons from some of the best-known brands will be found on this site. However, be cautious to read the details on each coupon such as locations where the coupon can be used, the amount you must buy to use it, etc. In some instances, there will be certain circumstances that need to be met to use the coupon.
RedPlum.com – Red Plum is an online version of one of the long-time newspaper inserts. They offer a variety of coupons for the larger brands.
SmartSource.com – SmartSource is another online version of newspaper insert coupons that offers a variety of coupons from larger brands. I have personally found that SmartSource tends to offer more coupons from natural brands.
Some sites have created searchable databases of coupons that take all of the legwork out of finding what you are looking for. There are a few that I prefer and personally use on a regular basis.
CouponMom.com – Coupon Mom has a searchable coupon database and a variety of money saving tips and offers.
AFullCup.com – A Full Cup is my personal favorite printable coupon database. I have found this option the easiest to use and the most complete. They also offer a variety of other money saving tips and offers.
CouponSherpa.com – Coupon Sherpa offers printable coupons and promo codes for saving online.
Buying in Bulk
Do you still find yourself fighting the urge to buy items in bulk when you find a good deal? There are a few great options you could implement when it comes to avoiding waste.
Try to find a local food pantry, women’s shelter, or lunch program that accepts donations. When you are getting items for a discounted price you are able to donate much more than if you were paying full price. Many of these services do have guidelines on what they accept though so be sure to call ahead to find out what will be allowed.
If you find yourself with a lot of coupons on toiletries and non-perishable snacks it may be a good idea to consider setting up a free locker for the homeless in your community. Many cities have groups that work together to keep one running. There are laws and ordinances that differ in every state and community so be sure to find out your area’s laws before deciding anything. However, this can be a great way to help those in your community that have no money for basic needs.
Do you find yourself with coupons that expire before you can use them? Many overseas military bases accept expired coupons for military members and their families to use at the commissary on base. This can be from newspaper inserts or online couponing sites. There are a variety of online programs that can help set you up with a family to send to, or you can contact your local military base to inquire on an overseas location to send your expired coupons to.
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Ghastly (noun): tattooed USAF wife, autism mama, crazy cat lady, lover of baked goods, ghost stalker, Celtic pagan, comic book geek and gamer.
Yankee transplanted in the South.
Sharing our stories on life with an invisible illness, surviving teens, and finding yourself again as a mom.
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