If saving money on your grocery bill is high on your priority list, this is the post for you! Rest assured that you do not need to turn into an extreme couponer or hoarder though, you can save money without going nuts using our couponing for beginners tips!
Right after my husband and I got married, we moved to Phoenix for a year and I was lucky enough to work "as needed" at my old job in Florida, flying back every few months for a few weeks at a time. It was an incredible opportunity to take a little time for myself and I savored every moment, but one thing I really wanted to do was to figure out ways for us to save a little money since I wouldn't be bringing in a steady paycheck. Naturally, I turned to couponing since I was the main purchaser in our household. I figured it would be an easy way for me to cut down on our expenses, plus it sounded like a fun little challenge.
I love finding a good deal, and clipping coupons and hunting for sales sounded right up my alley. I quickly learned that there were several excellent resources out there that do most of the work for you! With just a little bit of planning and printing and clipping, I was consistently saving money week after week without putting in that much effort. After a while, I went a tad nuts with the stockpiling, so I had to scale back a bit... but, even though I don't carry my huge coupon binder with me anymore, I've changed the way I shop for grocery and household items and I'll never go back to spending money haphazardly. With these couponing for beginners techniques, you'll save a significant amount of money each month, plus you'll build up a stockpile of items so you'll never have to run out at the last minute and pay full price for household items or toiletries your family needs.
Couponing for beginners
Couponing for Beginners Step 1: Evaluation - where do you shop?
This may seem insignificant, but it's actually the most important part of successful saving. A lot of people think that clipping and printing coupons is the biggest part of this equation, but that's false. Your biggest savings are going to come from store sales... pair those WITH a manufacturer's coupon and you're golden. A store sale, a manufacturer's coupon, AND a competitor's coupon - now you're thinking like an extreme couponer. We'll get to that later, but for now, it's important to evaluate your local grocers and figure out who has the best deals.
In my area (a town in Florida), our main grocers are Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, and Target. Many times I find myself in Walmart saying, "This is SO much cheaper than Publix." While that may be true for a lot of items, it's simply not the case when it comes to Publix's buy-one-get-one (BOGO) free deals. That's why it's important to scope out your local stores and see who has the best store sales on a consistent basis. While you're checking out the stores, also check out their coupon policy. After TLC's "Extreme Couponing" show, a lot of stores revamped their policies, but they should be readily available to you on their websites or at their customer service desk. Also make note of whether the stores have days where they double or triple coupon values. No stores do that in Florida, but I've heard that's common up north and in other parts of the country.
Couponing for Beginners Step 2: Check out the weekly ads and look for coupon match-ups.
Here's the part where I mentioned that there are several excellent resources that do most of the work for you. According to your region/stores, do an internet search for store coupon matchups (for example, perform a Google search for "Kroger coupon matchup"). Scroll through the first several websites and find one that's easy for you to follow. I love the websites I Heart Publix and Southern Savers since they're regional and include the stores that I shop at most, but there are also sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady that cover a wide variety of stores nationwide.
These websites are going to list all of the sales for that week, and let you know whether or not there is a coupon available to go along with that particular deal. Plus, if it's an electronic coupon, they're going to link you to it directly, or if it's a printed coupon from the newspaper or a magazine, they're going to tell you which insert it's in.
Couponing for Beginners Step 3: Now that you've checked out the weekly sale ads - evaluate, what does your family need and use routinely?
Here's where many go wrong with grocery shopping. You make a list of all the things you need for the week and then head to the store. This is the wrong way to shop if saving money is your goal. You're going to need to check the ads, see what's on sale and plan around that, while also planning for the upcoming weeks.
Typically, stores have sale cycles that repeat every 6-8 weeks or so. That means if Eight O'Clock coffee is on sale this week, it won't go on sale again for another 6-8 weeks. Since that's our brand of choice, I buy 8 bags when it's BOGO free at Publix, which is enough to last me until the next sale cycle. Do the math on that: if Eight O'Clock coffee is $6.99/bag at Publix, when it's BOGO I get 8 bags for the price 4 ($27.96). If I pair that BOGO with coupons (typically $1 off per bag), I'm spending $19.96 for EIGHT bags of coffee. Alternatively, if I just picked up a bag each week at $6.99 a pop, I'd spend $55.92 every 8 weeks. I'm saving a minimum of $27.96 just by planning ahead, even without coupons. If you apply that the majority of items your family needs, you can see how you'd really save big.
Maybe you wanted Tacos this week, but ground beef and taco shells aren't on sale. Scratch that from your list and see what you can make with items that are on-sale. If boneless chicken breasts are half price this week, buy several pounds and freeze what you won't immediately use in family friendly portions. Use this same tactic with cereal, bagels, soups, pasta, etc. Buy what you use and what is on sale this week, and buy enough of it to last for 6-8 weeks.
Couponing for Beginners Step 4: Plan your shopping list according to the sales and gather your coupons.
If you can, I'd encourage you to buy ONLY things that are on sale this week, and in the weeks to come. Over time, you'll amass a stockpile of items that your family uses on a routine basis. This can really be difficult at first, so if you need to buy some things that aren't on sale - that's okay - but try to limit those things. Your meals might be a little different for a few weeks, but if you stick with it, you'll see that buying items when they're at their absolute lowest prices is the way to save big time.
Now to the coupons! I realize it's late in the article to finally get to the coupons, but I think you can really see how important the store sales truly are. Coupons in conjunction with a store sale is where you can really add to your savings. If you don't already have a subscription to your newspaper, I'd encourage you look into getting one (or two+ if your grocery store frequently does BOGO sales - I've been known to buy 6-8 papers on Sunday if there are high value coupons). You know the old saying, you have to spend money to make money, and that's true in this case. I spend $13/month on our newspaper subscription (with Wednesday and Sunday delivery only), but save much more each month. Alternatively, if your neighbors or family members subscribe, ask them for their coupons if they don't use them. There's no shame in this game! Do what you need to do to get your hands on those coupons.
Another way to obtain coupons is via online websites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, and SmartSource.com. You should also check out the websites of your favorite brands for special coupons, and consider following them on social media to hear about the latest deals. Many brands will also offer special coupons to their Facebook fans.
If your store accepts competitor coupons, be sure to check those as well. Our grocery stores accept Target coupons and lately they've been having great coupons in their Sunday weekly ads and online in the Target printable coupon section, so it's definitely worth checking them out.
If you don't see a coupon listed for the item you need, you can also search those coupon matchup sites for a coupon database. Again, the Southern Savers coupon database is fantastic. Just search for the item you're looking for and see if there's a coupon available.
Couponing for Beginners Step 5: Get organized.
There are many methods of coupon organization so it's important to figure out which method works for you. I started out using a simple business card holder, but that was too small. Then, I used a large 3-ring binder with my coupons individually organized into clear baseball card sleeves and divided into sections, but that became a bit cumbersome to carry. Now, I use a simpler accordion folder that's divided into sections according to the aisles in my grocery store. Some people like to keep it more basic and just label their inserts with the date and file them away use with future match-ups.
Shop the items on our affiliate Amazon:
It's a good idea to always carry your coupons with you. You never know when you'll run into a clearance sale where items are deeply discounted and you might have a coupon for it.
Couponing for Beginners Step 6: Go shopping!
I've covered the basics here and you're now armed with the information you need to start shopping the sales and using coupons. If you're overwhelmed, don't be - this doesn't have to be an all or nothing type of thing. Start shopping the sales and stocking up on the items your family uses most when they're at their lowest prices and you'll see how easy it is to save money.
What tips do you have for saving money on food and couponing?
Will you be trying any of these couponing for beginners methods?
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links which helps contribute to the cost of running this website.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out other ideas to save money!