***Warning: this is a lengthy, wordy post. But it’s good info…I swear.***
Last week I promised (in this post about saving money at Target) to tell you more about saving money on your weekly grocery bill. Back in February, my mom and I went to a free couponing class at the Sacramento Bee headquarters. It was awesome. I learned so much! I have spent the last month and a half putting the info I learned into practice. So far I’m saving about 20% on my weekly grocery bill on brands I buy at stores I already go to.
First things first, you need to start getting the coupons. You want the manufacturers coupons because those are able to be used just about everywhere (except Costco). How do you get them? By subscribing to your closest major paper. For local peeps, that the Sacramento Bee. It’s not very expensive ($19 for 6 months) and you only receive the Sunday paper at your door, but you do get access to the daily paper electronically. There are three coupon inserts that you want – Red Plum (RP), Smart Source (SS), and P&G Brand Saver (PG). Once you start receiving the Bee (or whatever paper you live by) you are set to go! You could buy your paper at a stand every Sunday, but that’s where a lot of people poach for additional coupons, so I can’t guarantee you’ll get the inserts you are after. Plus it’s more expensive and less convenient to go this route. Also, the woman who taught the class suggests you get a subscription for every person living in your house (even babies) so that you can get more than one coupon. I don’t do this. I’m just not ready for that kind of a commitment. Plus, I already get the Folsom Telegraph at my home and they have the same inserts. So, technically, I get double the coupons.
Once you are set up to start receiving coupons, you need to know that the savings aren’t instantaneous. Apparently, it takes three months to really start reaping the rewards. However, I am only a month and a half in and I’m already seeing some great savings. I like to call the beginning phase the “stock up” phase. No, I’m not hoarding toothpaste or toilet paper…I’m collecting my coupons and learning the sale cycle at the stores I like to shop at.
When you get your paper(s) you DO NOT immediately start to cut coupons. Instead you use sticky note and a pen and write the date you received them and then file them away. Yep, that’s it. I mean you can look through them if you like, maybe clip that awesome Subway offer, but that’s it. These coupons expire after 3 months. Expect for the P&G Brand Saver, that one only comes monthly and expires after only one month.
I shop on Mondays, so on Sundays I prep for my shopping trip. I make a list and check the magic site that tells me what’s on sale and where. I really only shop at two stores: Bel Air and Target. (And occasionally Costco) What can I say…I’m store loyal. I like those places and I feel like their quality is great and their prices are very comparable. Plus, I get cash back quarterly and fifty cents off per gallon at the pump. Also, through Raley’s Something Extra program I get a ton of coupons and deals loaded onto my account based on things I actually buy without cutting any coupons.
Back to the magic site…Here is where you put your coupons you’ve been filing away to good use. You can scroll through and see what’s on special and at what store. And find what coupon to use to maximize your savings for things that are on your list. For example, in the “Coupon Index” column you may see something like “SS 3/23”. This means you can find this coupon in your Smart Source that you received on 3/23. That’s why we label them with the date. That, and so you know when to toss them out. Occasionally they also show you where you can print an online coupon. When you visit the magic site you can see that there is a rating system in the far left column. I scan through looking for red stars or the green extreme rating. If it’s something I buy I try to stock up. Clip the coupons you need and put them into a little baggie (NOT A BINDER) and put them in your purse.
But you’re not done yet. This is a matching game. The trick is to find more sales or specials or savings on the things you are already using coupons for. In other words…don’t buy anything unless it’s on special and you have a coupon. I mean, if you’re out of milk and it’s full price, buy the milk. But things that last on the shelf for a while or paper goods, stock up on those things if you can. You should try to buy a three month supply of things like this. Why? Because everything in any grocery store goes on sale once throughout a three month cycle.
Back to the matching game…on Sunday I noticed I was getting low on paper towels so I added this to my grocery list. I looked on the magic site and saw that Target (one of my stores) was having a sale on Bounty (my specific brand) and I had a coupon and they were doing a promo – they give you a gift card if you buy 2 or more 8 packs. That is a 3 match (sale, coupon, money back). Then I checked my cartwheel app – 10% off. 4 match. Then I used my red card 5% off – 5 match. That was a huge savings on a brand I buy on something I use at a store I’m always going to. That’s exactly what couponing is about to me: saving money on brands I buy at stores I go to.
You know, I had my reservations about this…I didn’t want to be that woman. You know the one. The one that holds up the line while flipping through her binder of coupons trying to find the right one. Yeah, that’s embarrassing. However, I do want to save money like her! Who doesn’t? So, once you’ve brought your baggie to the store with all your coupons in it and you’ve done all your shopping. Pull your cart over and double check your situation before you get in line. Make sure the coupons are a match to the products in your cart. Sometimes they have real specific requirements, make sure you have a qualifying purchase. Then pull out the coupons from your baggie for this store. Now you’re ready for the check out. (Remember Target has a specific order for their discounts.) While the checker is scanning your items, put in your loyalty number and fan your coupons out on the counter so that all their bar codes are showing. This way the checker can scan them all very quickly.
OK, that’s what I’ve got for you. What do you think? Do you have any tips? Are you already doing this? If not, will you try?