Monday, July 25, 2011

My Couponing Secrets....

Maybe you're totally new to using coupons or a seasoned vet with over 20 years experience... here are some tips to help you save at least 50% off of your grocery bill (hopefully more!!). I save at least that much when I pair coupons with the weekly sales of several different stores and here is how I do it!

Step 1 - Collect Coupons! I buy them with my Sunday papers. I buy two "bundles" which is 4 papers from my local Publix. Each "bundle" costs $3.50. A "bundle is two Sunday papers that did not sell on Saturday so when the paper delivery people come on Sunday morning they "bundle" all of the Saturday left-overs. In order to take advantage of lots of sale items you will probably need to collect coupons for 4 to 6 weeks. These bundles sell fast so you better buy them before 10AM.

Other ways to get coupons -
  • Clipping Services - they sell already clipped coupons and mail them to you.
  • Print Coupons from the Internet.
  • Magazines - Lots of women's magazines have coupons in them but All You which is only sold at Walmart is one of the best.
  • Friends and Neighbors - Ask them to save their unused coupons for you. In my neighborhood we get a free circular tossed on our driveway every Thursday that usually has a coupon insert in it and since a few of my neighbors don't coupon they give me theirs.
  • Join or Organize a Coupon Trading Group - Maybe your church or PTA has one. I'm currently working on this for the Kennesaw, Canton, Cumming area... more info will be posted about this soon.
Step 2 - Organization! You need to come up with a way to organize your coupons that works for you. If you can't find them, you can't use them! I use a big zipper binder with plastic pocket dividers and clear baseball card holder inserts. I put them in the following categories - Frozen Food, Cold Stuff (like cheese), Grocery (which is everything else), Baby Stuff, Paper Products, Cleaning Supplies, Laundry, Personal Care (like shampoo and razors), Rx, and Pet Food.

Step 3 - Get On Line! There are lots of couponing websites but this one is the best for lists of sale items already paired with current coupons - It's not the most "user-friendly" because of all the darn ads (just my opinion) so here is where you should click -
  • Create a login and password
  • Click "login" (far right corner, blue square)
  • Enter your login which is your email address and password
  • Click on "Grocery Deals By State" (left side, blue square)
  • Locate the drop down field on the right side of the page. It will say "Click the arrow to find your state and click GO"
  • Choose your state and the store where you plan to shop OR pick one of the national stores listed at the very top of the list.
  • Click GO
  • This will open a list that can be sorted in several different ways - by the manufacturer coupon date, alphabetically by item name, sale price, final price (after coupon amount deducted), or percentage saved. I like to sort by percentage saved so that the best deals are at the top.
  • Click the check box of the items that you want to buy.
  • Click "Display Selected Deals" which will give you your list that will give you your shopping total.
  • Print your list!
After you have printed your list you can match up your coupons. For example, the 7/24 Smart Source coupon insert had a coupon for Speed Stick Deodorant which is on sale at Publix until 7/28. If you bought a paper you may have this coupon so all you need to do is clip it and bring it with you. Keep in mind that coupon inserts vary by city and region. Some regions may have a coupon with a different amount on it or may not have it at all.

Another website I like is called Members can post their deals, trade coupons, and chat about all different kinds of sales. It's also helpful if you are just getting started or need to understand how certain stores operate (like drug stores).

Step 4 - Know Your Coupon Policies - Some stores double, some don't. Some stores will give you an "overage" (when the coupon amount is more than the sale price of the item), some won't. If your coupon is for $.50 off or less it's best to use it at a store that will automatically double its value. My local Publix, Kroger, and Ingles stores will double $.50 cent or less coupons every day. My local Target, Walmart, and drug stores do not.

Step 5 - Go Shopping! It's probably best to stick with one or two stores at first so that you don't burn out. If you're in Georgia I would start with Publix buy-one get-one free items (BOGOs) and Kroger's Mega Sale Events.

Extra Tips -
  • Collect even numbers of coupons for BOGO items (I usually have 4 or 6 of each Sunday insert coupon)
  • Only clip the coupons that you will use and file the rest. This will save you a lot of time! At first I clipped everything but after a while I figured out which coupons I use and the ones that usually get tossed in the recycle bin.
  • Have your coupons ready BEFORE you get in the checkout line. I move all of the coupons that I plan to use to an insert page in the very front of my binder and when I put the items in my cart I put all of those coupons together.
  • If you have any coupons that the clerk will need to write on (BOGO coupons), tell him or her in advance and put all of these items together at the beginning of your order.
  • Stick to your list! You will save more if you avoid impulse buys that you do not have coupons for.
  • DO NOT clear the shelf of a sale item that you have coupons for just because you can. This is considered rude in the couponing world. Be considerate and leave some for the next shopper. I mean really, do you NEED 40 bottles of hand soap???
  • You do not need to build your stock-pile in 30 days. Buy a little at a time and watch it grow!
I'd love to read your comments and will answer any questions so please post them here. Happy Couponing!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Publix Shopping Trip 7.24.11

Everything here cost me $20.17

Best deal of the day - FREE Deodorant! It was BOGO $1.97 for two sticks and I used 4 $.50/1 coupons which made them free plus a couple cents.

Unexpected deal - the baby food here was on the clearance shelf for $.30 each. I paired two $1/4 stage 1 food jars with this clearance deal totaling $.40 for 8 jars of sweet potatoes.

Kinda ticked off about the Smucker's sale... it specifically excluded the grape jam and jelly. I guess Robert is going to have to get used to strawberry jam on his peanut butter!

The Soft Soap was 2/$4 and I used my $.35/1 coupons. The Kroger sale ad showed the smaller Soft Soap as part of their 10 for $10 this week but the coupon said "8 oz. or larger" and the smaller bottle is only 7.5 oz. So I paid $1.30 for each bottle.

Total saved - $52.31.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Publix Shopping Trip 7.2.11

My total was $80 before my coupons... I paid $47.44.

According to my receipt I saved a total of $85.74 with store sales, store coupons, and vendor coupons.
My favorite savings - the Oscar Meyer Cracker Combos. They are on sale for $1 (they are 10 for $10) and I had 14 $1/1 coupons. I bought 10 and left 4 of those coupons on the shelf. Yes, these were totally free. I'd never tried them before and they are pretty good! You get 4 large crackers, flavored cream cheese, sliced deli meat, and a little piece of chocolate.

My other free-bee was the Carefree Panty Liners. Another 10 for $10 deal and I had 4 $.50/1 coupons which Publix doubled. I added them to my stash.

Several things here I bought to try a new recipe that I call Lasagna Muffins - diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Pillsbury Grands biscuits, mozzarella cheese, and the Steam Fresh veggies (50% off right now! Too bad I did not have any coupons to go with the sale...). My neighbor and chiropractor is due any minute now with baby number 4 and these freeze well. Maybe I'll post the recipe next week!

My error - I was not paying attention when the Pillsbury Grands were being scanned and they did not ring up right. They should have been $1 and they rang up $1.55. I'll just bring my receipt back next time I am there for a refund but next time I will be paying better attention.

Cars Birthday Party Center Pieces

These center pieces for my son's 4th birthday party were so easy... and you can jazz them up even more by layering different color paper or whatever!

Since I was spending the bulk of my budget on a Cars bounce house I had very little left over for decorations. Here is how I made 4 center pieces for the kids tables at my son's party.

The first thing you need to do is decide what color you want the puffy paper base to be. I knew that I wanted either red or black. Then I checked out the clearance section of the Oriental
Trading Company website and found some Halloween center pieces with the black puffy paper base for only $2 each. I also found some monkey ones for $1 each but the base was green...

Then I searched Cars pictures online and found each of the mail characters, saved the image on my pc, and added some text using my picture editing software. If you don't have editing software, try copying and pasting the picture you want into Word.

I printed the pictures on matte photo paper, cut them to the size that I wanted, mounted them over the Halloween picture and trimmed off the extra.

If they hadn't gotten trashed I might have saved them for future use but since they were so cheap I did not feel bad tossing them in the recycle bin.