How to Use Coupons and Weekly Ads to Save Money on Groceries
Groceries are one of the biggest expenses a family has, next to rent or a mortgage payment. A family of 4 spends over $700 a month on groceries! That's astronomical to me! Even though we do it as a family of 4, it still blows me away! It's no wonder families in America live paycheck to paycheck, IF they can even make it to the next paycheck!
As the household finance manager (fancy title, eh?) it is my job to make sure the bills get paid, that we have enough money left over to buy groceries, put gas in our vehicles and for other incidentals that happen between paychecks. It is also my job to try to have enough left over to put in our savings account. Let me tell you, it's hard to spread the money out! But one of the easiest places we can save money is on the grocery bill! How is that you may be asking? I will show you.
Clipping coupons (and/or printing them online) is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. However, clipping coupons can be time consuming, takes some organizational skills and needs to be done on a regular basis to get the most for your money.
How to get started using coupons:
You can go right now to coupons.com and print off coupons. They post new coupons every month and you can usually print off 2 or more.
When choosing coupons to print, be sure to choose items that you already use, or that you are sure to start using. Say you usually buy a certain brand of cereal but you have a $1.00 off coupon for a different brand, you will most likely use the other brand.
The smartest way to use coupons are to purchase the smallest container allowable with the coupon. If you have a coupon for $1.00 off a box of rice, check the coupon to see if there are any size requirements. If there are, get the smallest size allowable at the lowest price. Then when you have 2 identical coupons for the same item, you can purchase 2 of the smallest size containers and get the biggest savings.
Also check your grocery stores weekly sales ads. You can double your savings by using coupons on sales items. This is where some planning and organizing comes in.
Once you get going with using coupons, the next thing to do is start stocking up on dry goods, can goods, frozen goods and paper goods. The idea is to get enough groceries built up so that you only have to buy perishables on your trips to the grocery store. Obviously your grocery stock will deplete as you use items, so you will need to continue printing and clipping coupons to replenish your non-perishables as they come on sale.
How to organize your coupons:
You will want to get some sort of coupon organizer that's easy to tote and easy to use. You will want it to have dividers so that you can organize your coupons by expiration date and product. One item you probably already have on hand that works great as a coupon organizer is e a recipe box. You can use index cards for dividers or probably buy inexpensive small dividers with blank tabs. Another thing you might have lying around the house is a pencil pocket or other zippered pocket. This will work for to get you started (its what I used) but once you start stock-piling the coupons you will need something bigger.
When you first start couponing, most of your coupons will probably be used so they will go in the front of your organizer along with your list of items that are on sale (see How to Save Money Using your Grocer's Weekly Sales Ad below). Any coupons you are saving for later, file appropriately according to expiration date and/or product.
You can organize your coupons whatever way works best for you. Here are some suggestions I've used that work pretty well:
* Organize by expiration date: Label your tabs by months of the year and file all your coupons accordingly. If you have a coupon that isn't going to expire until the next year, put it in the back.
* Organize by product: Label your tabs by different departments in the store: Bread, meat, canned goods, baking products, paper products, pet supplies, health and beauty aids, frozen and dairy products. You can be as detailed as you'd like or that you have tabs for. (i.e. side dishes, entrees, soup, sugar, etc.)
The idea is to get a system down that works for you, so its okay to change it up until you find what's easiest, least time consuming and efficient for you.
How to save money using your grocer's weekly sales ad:
My local grocer has their weekly ad online and has an easy to use printable list. You go through the ad online and when you see the products you use, check the box next to it. The items checked will be in a nice little list you can print off and take to the store with you. Match any items you can with coupons you have. This will help double or triple your savings!
If your grocer doesn't have their weekly ad online, stop using them. Just Kidding! When you get the paper, pull out the weekly ad, go through it, circling the items you want to purchase. Match up as many as possible sales items with coupons you have on hand.
Saving money on groceries can be fun especially when you start seeing the savings! Using the two systems above combined, I save over $100 each trip to the grocery store and I am just getting started!