It’s Sunday, so for me that means weekly coupon organizing, grocery shopping and weekly meal planning. I was excited about how much I brought home today at Tops for under my budget, so I decided to write a post about it because this is something that I’m sure many people struggle with.
I’ve been using coupons for more than a year now, but it wasn’t until recently that I started really becoming more serious about it and learned to budget my shopping so couponing actually was worth it. A couple of my friends turned me on to the website I am THAT Lady, a coupon blogger from Syracuse who posts weekly deals and coupon match ups. Ever since, I have been following her blog and have learned to do my own coupon match ups with local stores. Her blog is a great place to start if you are wondering the basics of couponing.
Today I was able to get all this stuff at TOPS for $26 bucks!
(Missing Austin’s whole milk which was in the fridge and cost $3.47)
I’m no extreme couponer, but not too shabby. I was able to get some great deals. The original total was about $50 bucks. I paid $26.
Before you become too coupon happy, here are some guidelines that I generally like to follow:
1. Set a budget. When I first started couponing, I literally wanted to go get everything that was on sale with every single coupon I had at every single store. This resulted in unneeded food and items that I wouldn’t really eat/use otherwise. Just because you have a coupon for it doesn’t meant you HAVE to have it. I set a budget of $200 a month for Austin and I. This includes toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, etc. This doesn’t include when we go out to dinner (which we try to limit, obviously). Before buying something, I really ask myself if I NEED it. If I don’t and it’s not in the budget, I don’t get it.
2. Shop the sales. I literally do not buy an item if it is not on sale or if I don’t have a coupon for it. The ideal situation is that the item is on sale AND I have a coupon for it. This allows you to stock up on things at a very low price. For instance, I didn’t really NEED cans of corn and beans this week, but it was on sale and I had a coupon that allowed me to get it at .25 a can. So I stocked up. This way when I do NEED it, I’m not paying $1-2 a can (gasp). The only reason I would buy something that does not have a coupon or is not on sale is because it is a basic staple we need like milk, bread or meat.
I also got some ground chicken on sale. If you look in the meat dept sometimes they mark down meat that needs to be sold that day. I’ll freeze this asap and use next week. Got two of these. Score!
Sometimes, if you are able to combine a coupon and a sale item AND your local grocery store doubles coupons (TOPS does), you can even get items for FREE! Case in point: free turkey bacon today! It was on sale for 2 for $3 and I had a .75 coupon which doubled.
I love free food.
3. Plan your week. This is the most time consuming part. I spend about an hour every Sunday looking at the ads, planning out meals and cutting and printing coupons. I look forward to it…which is kind of sad lol. I’ve learned to plan my meals around what is on sale/what I already have in the cupboard. For instance, I know that I already have chicken in the freezer, and Ken’s blue cheese dressing and wing sauce was on sale at a local grocery store. I also had a coupon for the dressing. So tomorrow we’re having buffalo chicken wraps. Sometimes it stinks if you like printing up fancy and elaborate dinners with lots of ingredients, but over time I have learned to incorporate my love of cooking and reading food blogs with my love of …um..money?
4. Go to many stores to get the best sales. Be aware that you will probably be going to more than one store if you want the best deals. I usually go to 2-3 different stores including Rite Aid each Sunday. I am THAT Lady has a great blog section for how to shop at each store if you are interested. Some people say it’s worth going to Wal-Mart and just getting the cheap generic stuff without coupons, but I definitely prefer this way of shopping. Even though I go to more than one store, I don’t have to deal with all the hooligans, terrible lines, crappy service, broken carts (can you tell I hate it?) in Wal-Mart and I get name brands for the same price or even cheaper. If I’m desperate and don’t have a lot coupons for the stuff I need or there aren’t good sales, I’ll begrudgingly go to Wal-Mart. I’m lucky in that my town is relatively small and it’s really not a big deal to go to different stores since they are all right near each other.
If you want to get into couponing don’t be scared! It can be very overwhelming, but just remember to stick to a budget, buy things on sale and make sure you plan. Start by using a coupon blog that does match ups and sooner or later you will be able to do your own match ups.
Question: Have you tried couponing? What are your tips and tricks? Or do you think Wal-Mart is the best bet? Comments people!