By Amy Hannold
Frugal Living Editor
Groceries Shopping For Less 101: Strategy, preparation, organization and networking are the keys to getting the most for your household dollar. For today, we’ll focus on strategy, preparation and organization.
How to Save Money at the Grocery Store:
Use your (organized) Couponing Tools:
Coupon File Systems: Tip: Each week, clip from the coupons inserts coupons for products you use most. File these in your portable coupon file.
Envelopes: An envelope with your menu (and/or grocery list) on one side, coupons inside. Envelopes can be stored inside an index card storage box.
Small Purse-Size File- Organized by store and/or by grocery category. Carry coupons for items you use regularly and the coupons you plan to use.
Recipe Box Size File- Prevents the “I have that coupon at home” obstacle. Organized similarly to purse sized file.
Coupon Binder: 3- Ring binder categorized similar to other filing systems. Affordably constructed and customized. You’ll have space for carrying larger amount of coupons and it’s an easier, turn-page style viewing.
The “Couponizer”: A pre-made very simple, visual way to plan your shopping trip with coupons. Pre-made tools like these can also be customized using mailing labels, over their pre-designed categories, to meet your needs.
Coupon File Categories:
- Dairy Items
- Frozen Foods
- Boxed/Canned Goods
- Paper/Food Storage
Organizing Your “Coupon Shopping” File
Depending upon the size of your coupon file and the amount of coupons you use for each category, you can be more or less specific with your files. After you’ve been couponing for awhile, you’ll learn what works for you!
For your “Shopping Coupon File”, the last two files can be reserved for these:
Coupons Used: Filing these as you shop can help you to be ready to hand your coupons to the cashier, instead of rummaging through all of the coupons you have brought with you.
Coupons Found: A place to store coupons or refunds you have found as you’ve been shopping.
Here are some possible “extra” file categories:
Stores (a file for each store, or a single file divided, depending on space)
Refunds (carrying your refund forms with you to be sure you are buying required items)
Receipts (for deducting from checkbook, keeping for returns or refunds)
Restaurant (coupons for eating out, pizza, etc.)
Gum & Goodies (coupons for grabbing those last items at checkout)
Maybes/Soon to Be Expired (coupons you may or not use if you find the product at the store at a good price)
“RAOCK’s- Random Acts of Coupon Kindnesses”: I no longer use diaper coupons, for example, so I save these in a section ready to give to someone else.
Here’s Where the Best Deals Can Be Found More Quickly!
Collect and Store Your Coupon Inserts: Using the “File Drawer System”:
Tools: Filing Cabinet Drawer (Options: A file box/accordion file)
Directions: Once you’ve clipped from the inserts coupons you’ll use immediately:
1. File the Weekly Inserts, Labeled by Date and “RP”, “SS”, “PG” and “GM” (Red Plum, Smart Source, Proctor & Gamble, General Mills). Example: “5/19 S” would file the May 19th Smart Source Inserts)
2. When you have a list of deals from the money-saving blogs, you can then find the coupons by their filed date, clip them and sort them into your shopping coupon file.-OR- If you’re looking for a coupon for a particular product, refer to Couponmom.com’s Grocery Coupon Database. If there’s a coupon out there for that product, the insert date, coupon savings and expiration date will be listed. For Example, on CouponMom.com’s Grocery Database
To find Kelloggs Cereal, enter “Kelloggs” or “cereal” into the search box.
You Would Then See:
Top of Form
|12-13 RP||01-24||Kelloggs Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, All Bran or Crispix 10 oz or larger||$1.00||2
Bottom of Form
Go to your dated, filed inserts. Find: December 13’s Red Plum insert, clip the Kelloggs coupon. 01-24 is the Expiration date of the coupon. Brand name, Varieties and Size of Package are listed. You’ll save $1 on two Boxes of cereal
Use Online Resources:
Read What Others Are Saving Money on This Week!
Some Favorite National Websites: MoneySavingMom.com, Hip2Save.com, TheKrazyCouponLady.com, SurvivingtheStores.com, AThriftyMom.com
Subscribe (free) or visit their blogs. Each week, they match coupons to sales and list the best deals of the week. Included is where to find the coupons from your coupon insert files (or online coupon links).
Note: Each of the main money-saving blog sites have “tutorials” available to inform you of how to shop particular stores to get the best deal. Follow one or two sites closely to receive the best mix of online freebies, in-store deals and couponing tips. You can connect with them on Twitter and Facebook as well.
In Washington, For Example, One of Our Favorite Websites: http://thecouponproject.com/albertsons
At the Money-Saving Website, Choose the Store You Want to Preview.
They will list the sales, matched with available coupon-either from your inserts, or a direct link to print the suggested coupon. Here are two examples:
Betty Crocker Hamburger, Tuna, or Chicken Helper $1
$0.75/3 coupon from 1/2 General Mills insert
Bottom line: $0.75 each
Tony’s Crispy Crust Pizza $1.25
$1/2 printable coupon
OR $0.50/2 – $1/2 coupon from 2/13 SmartSource
Bottom line: as low as $0.75 each
They also list store-brand items and other opportunities to save, without the use of coupons.
Get Ready to Shop: Prepare a list (and review your menu). If you already have a menu planned for the week, compare it to what you have in your kitchen (this avoids rushed, 4pm trips to the store!). If you do not have a menu planned already, plan your meals around what you have at home. Combine your home inventory with the meats and/or produce on special this week. Shopping lists can be found at websites such as ChartJungle.com
Conclusion: “A Little Time Can Save You Money – and More!)
Coupon use does take some time to become a part of your shopping routine. Be flexible (an important frugal attitude) and look forward to adding up your savings.
Share your skills, and your good ideas with others. If you can get products for free, using your money saving strategies (and you’re not going to use them), consider gifting them to charities. Frugal living is about sharing and caring, enough to find ways to be more efficient with our resources and to pass our enthusiasm for living well onto others.
Get More Grocery Coupons – For Free: Collect coupon inserts from family and friends. Start a coupon trading box at church or daycare. Take a few minutes and write or call your favorite manufacturers (sign up for their email/postal mail newsletters). Print coupons from home – and use the backside of paper you’d otherwise toss. Recruit a friend or two to join you in coupon use, and trade amongst yourselves. Start a coupon group or playdate – the more coupons and coupon inserts you can collect, the fewer papers you have to buy – gaining you more coupons, for less! Making a few new friends or encouraging your friends to save money will inspire you in your own efforts to spend less on groceries.