Friday, July 10, 2009

Coupon Tutor

Due to popular demand and several requests on facebook, I decided to create a post all about how I do my coupon shopping.
First of all, I buy two double bundles of the AJC every week. They sell these at random places and sometimes we have a hard time finding them if we wait too long on Sunday, but anyway, they sell two copies of the AJC bundled together for $2.50. We buy two so that is $5/week on papers.
Each week there are 1-3 coupon inserts. You can look at this blog post I found about how exactly I stack them and photos of the coupon inserts. She does her organizing differently than I do, but you might get an alternative idea you may like better! Here is how I organize my coupons:

It is a three ring binder with dividers and baseball card holder pages. I probably have about $20 total in the binder. BUT, it makes me actually use my coupons and stay on top of it. And with my monthly savings it has ABOVE AND BEYOND been compensated for. I have large dividers and sub-dividers. Yes, the first time I saw a binder like this I was completely amused and thought that the lady was a little over the top. BUT, I have since become that lady because who can argue getting $74 worth of groceries for $23?

I stack all my coupon flyers and cut them all at once the way the lady in that blog post stacks (though she doesn't cut). That way I don't have to cut that many times. Then I sort them and put them in the pockets. One pocket per coupon. Seems a little silly but when you start making your grocery list you will appreciate that you can just flip quickly to find that .75 cents off a box of cereal rather than going through your stack over and over and over to find them all. Same thing if you go in the grocery store to pick up something, you don't have to go through your entire coupon file to see if you have that coupon, you can just quickly flip to that section and see if you have something you can use. This is especially helpful if you don't have hours to spend at the grocery store or if you go with kids in tow!
I keep any coupon that I would use if it was free or almost free. You may think you are especially picky about deodorant or cereal or something like that, but if you could get it for FREE would you TRY it? Or donate it to charity?!
Here is the small coupon holder I take to the grocery store with me. It has fewer dividers. This is where I put the particular coupons I plan to use on this particular trip to the grocery store. This way I am not flipping through my coupon binder in the middle of the grocery store. BUT, I do still bring my binder with me just in case I find something that I didn't find online or just in case cause you never know! The little clear pocket in the front I use to put the coupons in when I actually put them in my cart when I see that I am really going to get them, so when I get to the front of the store I have them all ready and don't have to irritate people behind me in line by flipping and organizing, etc.

HERE is where I get all my info! This is a completely free website You create an account for free then you can login and see the weekly grocery ads and coupon lists.

This is the login page.
After you login there will be a section on the left (those blue bars) that says "Grocery Deals By State." Then you use the scroll down menu to find the Georgia choices: Kroger, Publix, and Winn Dixie. I must admit that Publix is where I get the most dramatic deals. I regularly get things for less than $1/each with their buy one get one free deals combined with coupons. Cereal, nuts, spaghetti sauce, etc. I love Publix and the key is to not buy ANYTHING there except the BOGO deals! ha ha!
After you select a store it will pop out in another window.

At the top right you can see the titles on the columns of the chart. It shows the coupon value (already doubled, so if it says $1 it could be $1 coupon or a .50 coupon that doubled), the number you have to buy, how much it is on sale for already at the grocery store, and the final price you will pay after the coupon. It also shows the % saved on that item from its original price.
I generally go down first and look at the percentages. If it is 50% or more I look to see what item it is and if it is something I would buy and use. Then, I write it down on my list and pull the coupon to put in my little black folder. I usually write down the item, the coupon amount, and how much it is supposed to be. It can happen that the particular store might not have the same deal or something and the info may be wrong, but that rarely happens. That is why I have that little section at the very front too, because sometimes I pull a coupon and end up not using it. Yeah, I have to refile it, but these savings are worth the effort!

Here is an example of something I recently bought. You will see "Newman's Own Salsa, BOGO" listed beside the date of 5-31 RP. That means it was in the Red Plum flyer on May 31st. This info is useful because there has been a rare occasion that I missed getting the paper and I know I probably don't have that coupon. OR this is useful for people who choose to do it the way the other poster I referenced do. They just file their coupons and cut the ones each week they want to take with them.
This is the right side of that item. The salsa had $1.00 coupon (actually it was a .50 doubled), was on sale at the BOGO price of $2 each, and the final price was $1 for a savings of 60%. I had two coupons for it so I bought two of them. This website also lists everything that the store has on sale, even if there are no coupons for it. So, when I am about to go shopping I can look on here also just to see what else I might need that is on sale like fresh meat or produce.

And that is how I do my coupon shopping! I am waiting for boneless skinless chicken to go on sale for $1.99/lb again soon because I have accumulated quite a few $1 off coupons for Tyson fresh chicken. When that happens I will buy as much as I can afford to spend and space to store so that I NEVER have to buy chicken for full price. I am still using chicken I bought last time it was on sale so I am not hurting but I do need to start stocking up.

One little known fact is that you can use TWO coupons for BOGO (Buy one get one free) items. Grocery stores almost always don't actually do it "buy one get one free" but they are individually priced for half price. Use a coupon for BOTH things and get an AWESOME price! Or, if you just have one coupon, just buy one and use your coupon!

I try to buy as many as I have coupons for just so I stock up and don't have to buy full price EVER!

When you first get started you still spend your regular amount or more because you are slowly stocking up and buying the "deals." After a while it gets to where you have enough coupons stockpiled that you MOSTLY buy things that are a great deal and only buy a few necessities each week.

I probably spend about 2-3 hours cutting coupons, pulling them each week, making my list, etc each week.

Last week I spent $102 and saved $189! That included my trips to the drug store to buy makeup and some other things that don't have to be bought often like razors, etc. This week on a regular trip to fill in some basic things and stock back up on produce I spent $103 and saved $50. Regardless of whether I am buying just the deals or stocking back up, I don't usually spend more than $100. MOST weeks we spend about $70. Not bad for a family of four table eaters (no babies) who most of the time eat 3 meals/day at home!
That is a huge improvement from spending about $140/week (more weeks we need "big" things) and running out of groceries about day 6 of the week. We are getting much more than we used to get for our money and I am absolutely not buying things we won't use or eat.

So there you go. That's how I do my coupon shopping. Hope you enjoyed and check out that website!


Karen said...

I have such a brilliant daughter-in-law...and such a smart son for marrying her!

Marcy said...

I am glad that you shared your approach. I may do a blog on my approach and then compare ours to see if I can improve. I am bad about letting coupons expire because sometimes we can go weeks without going to the store for anythind except fresh stuff. You can print two of these $1 off coupons from the site I am about to copy in and apply those to your bundle of papers and get the bundle of 2 papers for about $0.75! What a deal, huh?

Thanks again for sharing!

Andy's Bethy said...

Great write up Carrie. I will have to check out that link from Marcy and see about getting the coupon for the paper itself!

Pollyanna said...

I've totally gotten on the coupon wagon lately too! I was taught like the other gal, but I like your way better. I was so flustered flipping through my coupons the other night because I just knew I had seen XYZ. Anyway, I'm going to have to adopt the baseball card binder method - it will save my sanity!

Alesha said...

Thanks a million!
Exactly what I needed coupons 101