Couponing in the Real World: How to Make it Work for You
We’ve all seen those extreme couponing shows where women cart a ridiculous amount of groceries out of stores for a mere $10.00. Who wouldn’t want to be able to manage that kind of budgeting?
There are a few problems with going “extreme” with savings and wanting to become an extreme couponing queen, though.
- Many coupons available are for unhealthy food items such as candies, cookies, and other items that are ultimately bad for you in bulk.
- Coupons can be for items that you wouldn’t otherwise buy, making you spend more money than you would in the first place.
- Buying in bulk can lead to waste when you buy more than you need and items go bad before you can use them.
- The level of dedication needed for “extreme couponing” can be “extremely” time-consuming.
Grocery shopping on a budget can be done, though. All it takes is a little planning and organization! This quick little couponing 101 discussion will show you how to organize what you already have, plan your grocery shopping, and maximize your savings in no time!
Knowing Where to Start
Take the time to really think about what items your family uses on a regular basis when coming up with a grocery shopping plan. Are there items that you use frequently enough to buy in bulk to help with grocery shopping on a budget? Good examples of these could be lunch box snacks, juice boxes, meats, or even bath products such as soap or toilet paper. These items are a good place to start when you first start couponing for beginners or trying to live a more frugal lifestyle by better planning your grocery shopping trips.
One way to know exactly what items your family uses frequently, and to consequently know what you need to buy at the grocery is to keep a constant stock of what you have. It can be a daunting task to catalog everything the first time, but once you have a running list it becomes easy to keep track of everything. When you use something from your pantry or fridge you simply mark it off your list. It can be a great way to save at the grocery with coupons because you won’t find yourself accidentally buying something you already have a shelf full of just because you can get an “ok” deal on it.
This is also helpful for meal planning on a budget! When you know what items you have on hand you can go to the grocery to buy the items you will need for your meals without buying anything extra. You can also use it as a fun way to get creative and make meals from items you have on hand rather than buying more groceries. There are lots of great sites like Supercook that will help you create recipes based on what you have available, or just combine things on your own for your own unique blends.
Finding the Right Coupons
Sometimes the number of coupons to use at the grocery that are available can be overwhelming for someone who is just looking for the basics of couponing, or couponing 101. However, there are a lot of them that can just be avoided. Always search for coupons with a plan of action.
Have a list of exactly what you are looking for and search for coupons on those items rather than browsing. Often, when passively browsing we can fall victim to “ooh that’s a good deal” syndrome and end up grabbing something we didn’t really need. (No, no matter how cheap you are nobody will ever use that much barbeque sauce so just don’t do it!)
Where to Find Coupons
There are various places to find coupons available 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.
- P&G EveryDay.com – These are printable coupons for Proctor and Gamble brands.
There are other sites that offer coupons. However, I have found them to be less secure and spammy. Therefore, I personally do not recommend them.
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. 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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