Everyone wants to save money on groceries, but if you’ve never couponed seriously before, how do you know where to begin? You might be excited to start saving money but have some questions like:
- Where do I find my coupons?
- How do I organize them?
- How do I get the best bang for my buck?
You could spend hours researching couponing methods – time which could otherwise be spent planning, clipping, organizing, and shopping. So to help you maximize your time, I have created this quick start couponing guide. To get started on your couponing journey right away, just follow these five easy steps. Then give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve taken the first step toward some major savings!
You can read the second part in The Busy Mom’s Coupon Series, No-Clip Coupon Options, here.
1. Plan your meals and snacks using this equation
Item you will use is on sale + you have a coupon = buy
This is such a basic concept, yet it took me years to figure out. When the lightbulb finally came on, it was such a “duh!” moment. It is so simple – if an item your family will use is on sale and you have a coupon, buy it. Freeze it, save it in your pantry, or make it part of your weekly meal plan, because you will probably not find that item at a lower price anytime soon. This is the basic equation that extreme couponers use.
Also, choose produce that is in-season in your area. Not only will it cost less, but it will also taste better. To see what is in season in your state, check out Epicurious’ Peak Season Map.
For even more savings, plan your meals using food that you already have. If you dig deep into the recesses of your freezer and pantry, you are guaranteed to find some combination of protein, carb, and produce. Look up some recipes and…boom…instant meal.
2. Choose one or two couponing blogs to follow
There are almost as many coupon blogs as there are stars in the sky, so naturally, it can be hard to sort through them to find the best ones. I highly recommend Living Rich with Coupons and For the Mommas. They post weekly coupon matchups so you can quickly and easily see what sales can be combined with available coupons for the best possible savings. If a coupon is available online, they will also include a link to it so you don’t have to search for it on your own.
Make sure to follow whatever blog you choose by email or Facebook so you don’t miss any mid-week deals they may find. Most couponing bloggers get a commission for every coupon that is printed from their site or every link they post that results in a sale. For that reason, they find as many advertised and unadvertised deals as possible.
3. Get your coupons from the Sunday paper, online, or from friends
We don’t buy the newspaper because we are blessed with generous family members who share their coupons with us. However, if you do buy the paper, you are likely to make up the cost in couponing savings. You can also search coupon databases on the blogs you follow. Remember, those bloggers get paid when you print a coupon, so they will make it as easy as possible for you to find coupons on their sites. Take advantage of that.
4. Make an easy coupon organization system
I have two simple coupon holders – a mini photo album for store-specific coupons and a three-ring binder for coupons that can be used at any store. I keep them both in a reusable shopping bag with any coupons that I haven’t had time to sort yet. Here is a description of my two binder systems:
Store-specific coupons: All coupons for a specific store or restaurant go in the same pocket. That way, I can easily flip through it to see if I have coupons for a particular store.
General coupon binder: The first thing I do is sort my coupons by category:
- Non-perishable food items
- Cold food items
- Health and beauty
Then, taking one category at a time, I put my coupons in piles by brand. So, for example, all General Mills coupons go in one pile, Kraft coupons in another, etc. You can see in the photo that I use baseball card holders as inserts in the binder. Each brand gets its own pocket. Then when I’m ready to do my coupon matchups, I simply look for the brand I want and see if I have a coupon for the right product.
I got the idea for this system from Living Rich with Coupons. Cindy has some great videos on various coupon organization systems. Also make sure to check out her freebies page. I have gotten quite a few free samples in the mail using her links.
5. Learn your store’s coupon policy
Coupon policies vary by store, so you’ll want to know how your store handles them. Also, print a copy of the store’s policy and keep it with your coupons so you can reference it while you’re there. It can make a big difference in how much you save and how you strategize your shopping trips.