Someone asked me about couponing today. I love that question because while I've certainly not attained the TLC show extreme coupon status I do save us a chunk of money in my coupon ventures when I put the time in. So here's how I do it.
1 - meal plan: I am finding that I'm better able to cook and not want to go out to eat at night if I have a meal plan. I'm personally using the 5 meals in an hour meal plan that I purchased from the blog of the same name. It comes out once a month and has four weeks of meals with shopping lists. The idea is you prep the meals on Sunday and then you just cook on the day you want to eat each meal. I haven't had time to prep the last two weekends (I plan to tomorrow though) but just having the plan there and all of the ingredients in the house has helped. We haven't eaten out for dinner in more than two weeks.
2 - browse the ads: A lot of grocery store ads can be found online a day or two before they actually come out - check hotcouponworld.com and mypricesavings.com to see if they have a forum for YOUR local store. I try to take time on Friday to browse through and jot a list of the sales that jump out at me. I go about finding my coupon match ups early. Also on those two forums other people who shop those stores post the sale and coupon match ups that they find.
3 - get your coupons: This was the initial question today. Where do I get my coupons? I print a lot of them: smartsource.com, coupons.com, swagbucks.com (these coupons earn me 10sb for each one I use!), redplum.com, and a lot of major brands have coupons on their pages - nestle coupons at verybestbaking.com, general mills coupons at bettycrocker.com and pillsbury.com. Also pay attention to your sidebars when you're on the internet, I found a coupon for my preferred brand/kind of cheese slices today because I happened to glance to the left.
I also get coupons from the Sunday inserts. I used to do this by purchasing two copies of the largest Sunday paper our area offered but a few weeks ago they started having issues as in the coupons were no longer making it to the gas stations and stores with the inserts in them. So I turned elsewhere. I've been using thecouponclippers.com to get the coupons I'll use and need. I order my coupons on Sunday asap and they get here towards the end of the week. That way I'm able to use them before the sales end on Saturday. That site has a minimum 3.00 purchase and they tack on a .50 handling fee plus the .44 shipping fee. So I spent 4.04 this past weekend on coupons that in total will save me more than 20.00. Worth it in my book. You can see what coupons are due to come out at various coupon preview sites. I just swag search "coupon preview" to find one of these sites.
4 - plan your list: my list has two parts - one has the stuff we NEED to stick with our meal plan for the week. This includes planning out breakfasts and lunches too. The other is stuff that is on a good sale with matching coupons. I have a list in the back of my head of things I stock up on when they hit a certain price.
This list looks like this:
cheese (we use plenty of cheese it rarely has a chance to go bad)
canned stuff like soups and beans
meat - I try to buy enough that it would last at least a month when meat goes on sale at a good price. If it hits a GREAT price I try to stock up for two or three months. For example chicken breasts hit 1.67lb one week two or three months ago and we'll use up our last bag of it this coming week. That saved me .32/lb over the good sale price which is usually 1.99/lb. I won't buy it if it costs more than that. Sometimes the frozen rolls of ground turkey at our local store will be part of their 10/10 get the 11th item free sale making them .90 a lb if I buy 11. I usually buy at least 11. I've been known to buy 22. hahaha
Things that can be frozen or will last in the cabinets for a longish time are best purchased when you find them at a good sale price with coupons. It is my goal to NEVER have to purchase the things on that list above at regular price.
A few things to keep in mind:
1 - only buy things you will eat. Don't go too overboard. I have limited cabinet space and I know that our preferred brands of things tend to go on sale every few weeks in cycles so I don't need to stock up my spaghetti sauce for a year, it usually goes on sale once a month. I stock for two months though just in case it doesn't go on sale like normal.
2 - once a month or every two months do a meal plan around what you already have in the cabinets and fridge. This will help you use up some of those odds and ends and help you move in new stuff. I personally find that local sales tend to help with this too, there is usually a week every month or so where the sales are lackluster so there isn't as much to stock up on.
3 - brands: we eat specific brands of most things, we didn't used to but a few months back I made a concentrated effort to cut high fructose corn syrup out of our diets as much as possible - it certainly isn't perfect and I'm sure that we still eat things with it in them BUT this is an effort I felt was important for our family. Fortunately I have found that some of our previously favorite brands were HFCS free anyway and often go on great sales and with coupons. We use Hunts ketchup, BullsEye bbq sauce, and I buy Koeplinger's 100% whole wheat bread whenever possible. I've also found that the Aunt Millie's flavored breakfast breads don't have HFCS in them either. All of this to say that while I might sometimes end up paying a little more than I would if I were willing to go with other brands it's a cost I'm willing to pay. That is something that you have to decide for your own family.
I think I covered most of the basics. I hope this post is helpful and PLEASE feel free to ask any questions I might not have answered and I'll do my best to answer them.