Smart Shopping with Coupons

Have you seen that TLC show Extreme Couponers? The one where people will dive into dumpsters, spend 60 hours a week clipping and planning 6 hour shopping trips, and sacrifice interior aesthetics in the name of bringing home thousands of dollars worth of products for free or pennies on the dollar? I would watch it on occasion before we cut cable, but a couple weeks ago I discovered it was on Netflix.

Guess what my nap time TV indulgence has become?

Now, I have no intentions of committing that much time, effort and space into my grocery trips. I haven’t even made a solid habit of meal planning for the week. Plus, I hate math, and the lists these men and women go to the store with scare me. But as a result of our complacency, the grocery budget is always the one that gets out of line month to month. We love to travel, and want to go visit my sister in law in San Diego this fall, but the money is never there. If I can shop smarter, and take some tricks from these people, then perhaps that grocery budget can lose some weight and we can siphon it into a more enjoyable and indulgent savings pot.

I’ve been passively couponing for a while. My mom and mother in law both give me their Telegram & Gazette circulars, and they’ve piled up. So this week, while the kiddos snoozed away, I popped on an episode of EC, pulled out a file box and some folders, grabbed the pile, and began getting organized.

After watching several episodes and seeing the systems these people used, I decided the easiest way for me to keep on top of it would be to file the circulars whole, then clip the coupons I need when I plan my trip. See my set up below and add in a computer.

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Big Blue, the file box – Each manila folder holds a month of circulars (Smart Source, Red Plum, or P&G) chronologically with spines up so I can see the printed dates quickly. Circulars are tossed when their coupons expire.

Notebook – Holds my Emily Ley meal planning pages, which have spaces for your meals and a large space for your shopping list. I have to plan for my own family, plus the daycare kiddos.

Circulars – I have 2 grocery stores within 5 minutes of me (I know, spoiled) so I pull their weekly flyers out to check the deals. Some people go all out and shop 8 stores withing a 50 mile radius…I think 2 is good to start with.

Computer (not pictured) – Because I don’t have 60 hours a week to devote to this, I use the resources available. There are several blogs that do the deal matching legwork for you. I simply googled “Price Chopper coupon deals” and “Stop and Shop coupon deals”. They typically match up the sales in the flyer or on the shelves with coupons online (printables) or in recent circulars (referenced by title and date, hence my filing system for quick hunting). Having a printer that works (and hasn’t been blinking it’s LOW INK light at you for a month) will allow you to access even more savings with the online printable coupons.

Husband or Mother-in-Law (not pictured) – Useful for wrangling the wee princess if she’s awake. She thinks it’s fun to steal mommy’s laptop or pen and scribble all over my planning sheet.

This week I happened to get lucky, and achieved my biggest milestone yet – a free item! And what’s better, a free item that I NEEDED. My hubby has 3 staples in his beauty…I mean grooming…routine: Head and Shoulders 2 in 1, Old Spice deodorant and Old Spice body wash. I like to smell him after he showers.

Anyways…

Head and Shoulders is usually $5.79. This week it was marked down to $3.99.

The store had a coupon that I could load onto my membership card worth $2 off of 1. So now it was only $1.99.  Awesome.

But wait, there’s more.

This Sunday’s circular had a $2 off 1 coupon…thereby making my purchase -$0.01.

That’s a negative, folks.

Sadly I only had one of each coupon, otherwise you better believe I would have stocked up.

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I’ll keep you updated with other hot deals I nab and tips on “Smart Shopping” as I’ve deemed my less than extreme version of couponing. I’m still very much learning, but I believe in sharing what you know!

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