Save on Groceries with Un-Extreme Couponing

How to save money on groceries without going to extremesLooking to save on groceries in the new year? Grab a newspaper and some scissors and check out this easy way to save using coupons without going to extremes.

For me, the thought of coupons always conjured up images of my grandmother scouring grocery ads looking for deals. She compared prices at different stores and drove around from one to another to save on groceries. Then again, she didn’t have much of a choice in those days. My household consisted of a single mom who also supported her own mother, so money was tight. My grandmother put in the work to help the family.

With that in mind, couponing never held much appeal for me. All that time clipping and comparison shopping felt like way more effort than I wanted to expend. After all, just look at the crazy stories on the TLC show “Extreme Couponing.” Who wants to go through all that just to end up with 27 tubes of toothpaste? Yeah, no thanks.

But then one day, my husband came home with an idea from one of his co-workers. It’s couponing but in a much more laid-back, un-extreme way. I tried it and loved it, and it really did help us save on groceries. And now I’m going to share it with you!

Step 1: Organize for Success

You’ve seen the extreme couponers with their binders brimming with plastic sleeves containing hundreds of coupons. Well, don’t worry because we’re so not doing that.

To organize your future coupon stash, all you need are some manila envelopes (or folders), a sharpie, and a box. Seriously, that’s it. You’ve started the process to save on groceries with coupons, and you haven’t even gotten out the scissors yet. See how easy this is?

Simple ways to organize your coupons
Yep, my coupon filing system is an old Pampers box. And I reuse the envelopes after removing expired inserts from them.

Step 2: Collecting Coupons

We’re going to start with the easiest method of collecting coupons: the Sunday newspaper. Each week, your newspaper helpfully places one or two coupon inserts in with the rest of the paper. After you’ve perused the news, grab those inserts and pull out the box you procured in Step 1. Next, take out a manila envelope, write the date on the outside, and slip your inserts inside. Then just put the whole thing in your box. And voila! Your coupon stash is well and truly begun. And still, there’s been no clipping at all.

Before moving to the next step, let me interject something here. You might want to consider getting two newspapers each week so you have two copies of each insert. More on this in a bit.

Newspaper coupon flyers
Collect coupons from your local newspaper as well as from free shopper publications. And don’t forget printable internet coupons, too!

Step 3: Shop the Sales

Remember how I said my grandmother studied the sale circulars each week to save on groceries? The sales are still important, but I’m not really interested in taking the time to check every single ad. Luckily, a bunch of bloggers take care of that step for me. You can do an internet search for “coupon blogs” or “coupon sites” and find one that appeals to you. My personal favorites are True Money Saver and I Heart Publix. You’ll get lots of tips for saving on groceries on these sites, but what you’re looking for right now is the page with the “Weekly Ad” for your store (Publix in my case). Once you find it, click on the ad for the current week and start scrolling through to see what items are on sale.

Stay with me here, this is where it starts getting really good!

Step 4: Clip Your Coupons and Start Saving on Groceries

Finally, we’re going to do some clipping!

As you scroll through the sale items on the couponing site of your choice, you’ll see that the blogger has helpfully listed coupons available for each one. A-ha! Now we’re getting somewhere! In couponing lingo, they call this “stacking.” Basically, when you find an item on sale and then purchase it using a coupon, you “stack” your savings to save even more.

You can easily build a list from your couponing site by checking the items you want to buy. Then, you can have the site send you an email with your list – including the list of coupons for each item. From there, take your list to your coupon stash box. Check the coupon listings for the insert date, then pull out the manila envelope with the inserts for that date. Flip through the insert to find your coupon, and clip it. Continue for the remainder of your list, and you’re done! You’ve clipped only the coupons you need, instead of spending a bunch of time cutting every single coupon in every single insert. Saving on groceries achievement unlocked!

Racking up the savings on groceries
I saved $40 on this cart full of groceries!

Step 5: Coupons and BOGOs

We Publix shoppers know the beauty of the BOGO or Buy One Get One (Free). Publix releases a new batch of BOGOs each week, and they’re a key part of saving on groceries! For one, you can stock up on the things you use regularly by picking up extras when those items hit the BOGO list. Plus, using coupons with BOGO deals kicks the savings up a notch. To illustrate the point, let’s swing back around to the number of newspapers you should buy. Namely, I suggest at least two copies of the paper so you get two copies of each insert because Publix allows you to use one coupon for each BOGO item, even though one of them is free.

Maximize your savings with BOGOs and coupons
Screenshot from I Heart Publix website.

For example, say I buy two packages of these Green Giant vegetables, which are BOGO for $1.99. If I use one of the $1 off coupons, I only pay 99 cents for both. But look what happens if I have two $1 off coupons:

Green Giant Vegetables, BOGO  $1.99
Coupons – 2 x $1/1 package    -$2.00
= +.01

That’s an overage of one cent, which means I basically got these two items for free! Now, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it does show you that combining BOGOs with coupons results in a little money-saving magic.

Optional: Track Your Saving on Groceries

It’s a little extra effort to track your savings, but it helps to see your hard work pay off. Publix provides a handy summary at the bottom of your receipt that shows you how much you saved on that shopping trip.

Track your savings
The savings add up when you combine BOGOs and coupons!

By recording this info on a spreadsheet, or even just in a note on your iPhone, you can see at a glance exactly how much you’re saving on groceries for the year. And that’s great motivation to keep you going to save even more. So save on, Coupon Queen! You got this!

Kathy’s family moved to Tampa when she was 5, and aside from a few years at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she’s never lived anywhere else. She’s Irish by heritage, Greek by marriage, and mom to one brilliant little boy. She’s an avid sports fan and lived her Disney-geek dream as a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. A former TV producer and PR pro, Kathy now proudly sports the title of stay-at-home mom. Follow her sports-loving, Disneyfied, Tampa-centric antics on Twitter @kathyk671.

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