Coupon Tips and Tricks That Can Cut Your Grocery Bill By 80%

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2008-04-2255

Saving money on your groceries…is a sport.

Can you really cut your grocery bill in half? Actually, yes. In fact, you can cut it by way more than that if you really wanted to.

How would you like paying only $18 for $103 worth of groceries? Or picking up $148.77 worth of groceries for $35.65? Sounds great? Well you may be curious to know that many people are already able to pull this sort of thing, though unfortunately, I am not yet one of those skilled enough to work this out just yet.

I’ve mentioned before that people I know typically run up a grocery bill of around $150 per head per month. And this is even when they visit discounted areas like Chinatown and Costco. Now imagine being able to trim that all the way down to $50 a month per person! For a family of four, that could potentially be a savings of up to $5,000 a year (but more realistically, $2,000 a year), maybe just enough to open or contribute to an IRA account ;) .

So how can you put that extra few thousand back in your pocket? Well, you can use coupons. In a big way.

I’m not a regular coupon user, so this information piqued my interest:

Interesting Coupon Clipping Facts

  • It takes people 20 minutes to an hour organizing their coupons for a shopping trip.
  • Less people are inclined to use coupons these days compared to a few years ago, with less than 2% of coupons converted into money. But that can change with the whiff of a recession in our midst.
  • With the right strategies, you can end up shave off 75% to 80% of your grocery bill. That translates to several hundred dollars a month of savings. On average, regular coupon users save 12% off their shopping bills.
  • The higher your income, the more likely it is that you’ll use online coupons.
  • At least 80% of people use coupons, but most don’t have a real system for using them.
  • 47% of coupons issued are for nonfood items, with the most common coupons issued for household cleaning products.
  • Successful coupon clippers are persistent, organized, systematic and very resourceful.
  • The biggest complaint people have about coupons? The obvious beef about it being time-consuming to deal with.

I was enamored enough with the idea of cutting grocery bills dramatically this way that I went ahead and assembled a lot of the information I found into one giant, convenient list.

Some of the pointers below will seem simple, while others appear more hardcore, although I would consider them all to be fairly practical.

Giant List of 25 Coupon Tips To Lower Your Grocery Bill

#1 Review your spending habits. Track your spending for several months and note what you buy on a regular basis. Doing so will help you work on and even improve your shopping strategies. You can jot down the highest and lowest prices of products you buy on a weekly basis so you can check trends and know the best time to buy them. Use a notebook to jot down price trends of products you buy. Here’s an example of the kind of log you can set up — it’s especially helpful if you comparison shop.

#2 Think of coupons as cash, and you may be more motivated to use them. It can be work to clip and organize coupons, but if you think of them as “found or free money”, you may have a different attitude towards investing 30 minutes per weekly grocery trip on collecting them.

#3 Get a coupon organizer. Some people use envelopes, folders with labels and so forth. Here’s what TipNut says:

You can create your own coupon organizer or storage unit using the following materials:

(1) envelopes
(2) an accordion file or wallet
(3) an index file box: make it out of a cardboard shoe box, a plastic tub (with lid), a recipe box, or get a ready-made index box.
(4) a binder where you can include the following tools:

  • Small pair of scissors for coupon clipping
  • Calculator
  • Pad of paper (for grocery list making)
  • A Price Book
  • Coupon sorting mat (you can make your own)
  • Pens or pencils

Or you can get a fancier custom one for $7.

Then learn to use the CouponMom.com online database and Virtual Coupon Organizer. This site has conveniently organized non-expired coupons from the Sunday paper. The coupons here are organized by locale.

#4 Develop a couponing system.
Create your shopping list, then search for coupons online or in your Sunday paper for those that match what you have in your list.

File and store them in your coupon organizer by any of the following methods:

  • by expiration date
  • by products
  • by alphabetical order

Here’s more on the subject of online coupons.

#5 Find stores with the best and most generous coupon policies. I found that different stores can have different policies — some may take in coupons as is — at face value, while other places may offer bonus savings by doubling or tripling a coupon’s face value. Discounts like these are often advertised by the store, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for these events.

#6 Or stick to a couple of stores, but know their coupon policies and sales schedule well. This ABC News article discusses how you can save money with coupons even by just focusing on a preferred store or two (for the convenience), if you are able to do the following:

Find out the

(1) price ranges for a store’s own specific grocery items,
(2) how the store’s savings programs work,
(3) how to combine store discounts with coupons to save even more money.

The idea is to know how regular sales and discounts cycle through your store, so you can take advantage of them.

#7 Look for high-value coupons, and do your shopping at double coupon stores. A store may begin promotion of a newly marketed brand or product by offering higher value coupons for it. It’s something to watch out for.

#8 Combine sales and “loss leaders” with coupons. Track the prices of “loss leaders”, which are those items in a store that are advertised at rock-bottom prices. Do it to get stuff for ridiculously low discounts or for free! Try to apply as many coupons as you can on the same products; you can even make money on a product if you can somehow get it for free using coupons, then sending in a rebate for it! This may not be completely effortless if you’re new to this sort of thing, but with time, practice, experience and a well-oiled system, it can come across as second nature.

The key, they say, is matching coupons to good sales at your local store. The idea is to use your coupons when an item is on sale and stock your cupboard when something hits a rock-bottom price.

If you’re still wary about how much time and work couponing takes, fear not. Here’s a little tip from The Simple Dollar (via Lifehacker) that assures us it’s worth trying:

Simply take the coupon section out of a Sunday newspaper and stash it away for four weeks. Then at that point, take the wad of coupons to the store and just look at the shelves. Magically, most of those coupons you have will sync up very well with stuff that’s already on sale on the shelves.

#9 Ask the store questions on their coupon and sales policies. Especially if you are serious about saving money. CouponMom offers fantastic questions you can ask store employees to help you get the best deals with coupons:

  • Do you offer your own store coupons? If so, where can I find them?
  • Can I combine your store coupon with a manufacturers’ coupon for the same item?
  • Do you accept competitors’ store coupons?
  • Do you accept coupons printed from a home computer?
  • Do you accept expired grocery coupons?
  • Do you double multiple coupons for like items?

#10 Use price tracking web sites. This involves monitoring the prices of products you do buy. Check out PriceBooking.com and TheGroceryGame.com for more information.

#11 Read coupons carefully. There may be several ways to “skin the cat” so to speak — many ways to use a coupon. See if you can make use of a coupon in the best way possible, so read the descriptions or fine print carefully.

#12 Check out online coupons and booklets. If cutting, clipping, organizing and scanning through coupons manually are a headache, then why not try searching for them through online sites that offer coupons? Coupon search engines can help you get what you need more efficiently. Try any of these sites for this purpose:

  • Entertainment.com
  • RefundCents.com
  • CouponMom.com
  • Valpak.com
  • CoolSavings.com
  • MyCoupons.com
  • SmartSource.com
  • Boodle.com

Find other lists of coupon and rebate sites here!

#13 Buy in bulk for those items that are heavily discounted. But at the same time, don’t go overboard with buying stuff you won’t need. Just because something’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it (e.g. bags and bags of halloween candy?). You’ll need to gauge what it is that makes sense for you to buy in larger quantities.

#14 Buy enough to last you till the next sale. This is a corollary to the previous tip about buying in bulk. Since sales can be several months apart, why not stockpile products on sale that will last you those months till the next sale?

#15 Buy a freezer. If you’re going to go for bulk discounts, then your perishables will need to be stored somewhere. It may be a good idea to invest in a freezer, the cost of which you’ll easily offset in a month or two, given your savings strategies.

#16 Donate extras to charity. An unfortunate side effect of loading up on “cheaper goods” is that you may end up with more stuff than you need. But I’ve read that a lot of folks who employ both offline and online couponing along with various other frugal shopping approaches, are also quite adept at how they handle the “extra goods” that they end up acquiring during their shopping quests. They usually share a lot of the extras with friends, family and their community and donate the things they can’t use to charity.

#17 Be flexible about your purchases. You may find that what you’re buying may not necessarily readily match the coupons that are available. Will you be open to changing your shopping habits a little to take advantage of the savings? How about shifting to products that have corresponding coupons or perhaps try using generic alternatives as they are typically cheaper than their branded counterparts. One money-saving strategy is to buy store brands with a store discount card, but some experiments have shown that using coupons with name brand items can actually be cheaper!

#18 Pick up the best (and all) coupons from your Sunday paper. Despite online coupons that are available at various money-saving web sites, the best coupons are still those offered in newspaper supplements. 82% of all coupons are found in your Sunday supplements, which can carry several hundred coupons per edition.

Collect ALL available coupons and don’t just pick out the coupons you think you’ll need because:
(1) You’ll never know when a coupon can be applied to a future deal, when an item goes on sale at a later date.
(2) You may actually get an item for free with a coupon even if it isn’t on your shopping list, which you can find a use for or donate to charity.

#19 Buy several copies of your Sunday paper, for the coupons! You can more than make up for the cost of the paper by collecting and using all the coupons they provide for items you frequently use.

#20 Size matters. Figure out your best savings based on price per unit or size of the item you are interested in buying. You may think that buying larger sizes of the same product will be the better deal, but that is not always the case so you’ll need to determine unit price and make comparisons across alternative products. Not only that — some coupons only apply to those items available in smaller sizes, so you’ll need to calculate your true savings with the coupon thrown in. This example from MommySavers.com brings this point home:

Without Coupon:
Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 Cost per unit: $0.25
Diapers 56 count package: Price: $13.00 Cost per unit: $0.23

With Coupon:
Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 – $1.50 coupon = $5.50 Cost per unit: $0.20
Diapers 56 count package: Price: $13.00 – $1.50 coupon = $11.50 Cost per unit: $0.21

In this example, the smaller package is cheaper when a coupon is used for it.

So how about matching high value coupons with the smaller-sized or least expensive items? You may end up getting the item for free this way!

#21 Make use of available rebate checks and booklets. If grocery items have accompanying rebate offers, snag those checks and get some money back.

#22 Use online discount codes. If you shop online, then the electronic version of coupon clipping would be to go surfing for online coupon or discount codes. The only issue I have with trying this out is that online sites may potentially invite spam and open the door to junk mail/messages when you provide them your personal or contact information. So be aware of this and check each site’s privacy policy.

#23 Check the product’s packaging and shelf location for coupons or offers. If you’re a careful and perceptive shopper, your eagle eyes should easily spot deals that may be advertised on product shelves and packaging. Many times though, people don’t even notice the 2 for 1 deals or coupons that accompany something they’re about to buy.

#24 Keep coupons with you. Whether it’s in your purse, bag or car, why not store them somewhere you can use on the fly or as needed? You never know when the need will arise!

#25 Trade your extra coupons. Don’t know what to do with your extra coupons? Do coupon swaps! Trade them using this site: ThriftyFun! Or start a coupon exchange club.

~ooOoo~

I am not the most talented shopper out there. I am usually one of those consumers who cave in to impatience and convenience. I hate shopping and don’t enjoy trips to stores one bit. But amazingly, just writing this post gave me a whole new appreciation for thrifty shopping. This research taught me a lot — that you can never be too frugal, especially when it comes to your grocery shopping. I learned quite a bit just by collecting these tips; enough to intrigue me into wanting to try this out. We’ll see how it goes.

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorian Wales April 23, 2008 at 4:12 am

Great post. It seems people are reluctant to save when it comes to food. This is not intuitive as in developed countries we usually buy at least 50% more than what we actually need to sustain ourselves (at a high standard of living).

Regrads,
Dorian

Mydailydollars April 23, 2008 at 5:53 am

Great post! I’m impressed with all the ideas you came up with. I recently started clipping and had my best week this week — $42.12 in savings.

Just to let you know, I’ve tagged you for a meme in my post “It’s Only Money.” :)

CollegeSavings.About.com - Ken Clark, CFP April 23, 2008 at 7:41 am

Check out TheGroceryGame.com

My wife saves 40-50% on her groceries every month… They charge a couple of bucks every week, but we save thousands (we really do!) every year.

-Ken

Meg from FruWiki and All About Appearances April 23, 2008 at 8:12 am

I tried using a coupon organizer and all I can say was that I’m glad I didn’t pay a lot for it. I spent a lot of time organizing coupons that I rarely used. Now I just keep an plain ol’ envelope for grocery coupons and a pocket in a binder for other coupons. I don’t need them better organized because I don’t keep many.

Before I think about them as “free money”, I think of them as the company trying to get me to spend more of my money trying their products. So, I carefully consider whether I should buy something before I keep the coupon. It saves me a lot of time and money.

Since I tend to focus on buying generics and fresh food instead of processed stuff and junk food, many coupons just don’t help me. I don’t even need coupons for most toiletries because I keep an eye out for legitimate free samples. As a result, a typical weekly grocery bill for me has still gone from $150 to less than $50 unless my husband and I are really splurging.

Money Tips April 23, 2008 at 9:12 am

What a list! Does anyone thing think the savings are worth the effort? Often I think coupouns are a good idea but other times its a matter of finding a few cheap places to get your basics taken care of.

andy April 23, 2008 at 10:11 am

Great and very comprehensive list. I just did a related post on how you can save instantly with online coupon codes. I’ll provide a link back to this article.

The Sunday paper option is one my wife would love to do, but honestly the time to cut and manage the clutter of coupons can negate the savings. Also normally, most places only allow one coupon per person per day.

andy April 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

Great post. I did a similar one on using coupons to save money when shopping online. Will link back to this post.

Emily @ Taking Charge April 23, 2008 at 11:24 am

When I lived at home, I’d always cut coupons and give them to my mom (as a kid, that was so much fun!). But I live in apartments on my own in a different city and don’t get the paper, so I don’t have access to paper coupons anymore. I wasn’t sure where to get them online, and wasn’t sure how to go about doing it that way, so I appreciate these tips.

Mr Credit Card April 24, 2008 at 9:13 pm

The only thing I would caution about excessive coupon usage is that companies are smart in terms of giving out coupons on products they want to move.

We’ve always used coupons exclusively but soon became more selective because we felt that we should be choosing what we tend to buy rather than let coupons dictate what you purchase.

irina patterson April 27, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I am a coupon addict. I am able to save as much as 50%-70% at any time I go to a store. I buy coupons in bulk (20-50) on eBay for items that we do purchase all the time. I combine coupons with sales. I have been buying for years at no cost or a few pennies per item such items as breakfast cereal, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, soap, bread, many other food items.. etc, etc…

But I often question my coupon efforts. Yes, it does take time and energy to monitor coupons, clip them and match them with sales.

In my case it might take me a 30 min of *coupon activities* to produce a $100 in savings and I am a pro.

But I know for sure that if I use that 30 min for relationship development instead, the return will be thousands of dollars and maybe hundred of thousands of dollars.

For example, I am an event entertainer. If I spend 30 min to send 10 e-mails to my past clients, I am sure I will get a least one booking as a result. It means at least $400-600 in my pocket which I didn’t have before. Plus, each new booking leads to others that I wouldn’t have before. It’s like a planting a money tree.

As with coupons, once you cash them, you are done and you need to look for a new opportunity.

I am trying to convince myself that I need to gradually drop the coupon game..but as with any addition it is hard….. LOL

Jen April 28, 2008 at 7:14 pm

“while other places may offer bonus savings by doubling or tripling a coupon’s face value.”

I have never ever seen a grcoery store do this. Where are the people who get this deal?

Kaye April 29, 2008 at 10:17 am

Hi. Just wanted to add a site to your suggestion on #22. Retail Me Not is an awesome coupon code site and there is no registration required. I use it with EVERY online shopping trip!

Thanks for the tips! Great post!

FIRE Finance April 29, 2008 at 10:23 am

Awesome post! Its such a huge repertoire of useful goodies for groceries. Thanks a zillion.
Cheers,
FIRE Finance

Owlhaven April 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Good points. The one store in our that did double coupons quit recently. Disappointing.

Mary, mom to 10

Aryn April 29, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Love the tips, except that r, #8 may not be true in all places. I tried it at my SoCal Ralph’s and some of the coupons NEVER went on sale during the coupon period. Others didn’t go on sale until 6-8 weeks later, and some went on sale that same week.

Monroe on a Budget April 29, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Don’t get too frustrated if you are just starting out with couponing. There are good weeks and bad weeks for shopping deals.
After you watch the sales fliers carefully for a few weeks, you will learn when to stock up, and when to get only the necessities.
For example, this week is a really good week in my area (Southeast Michigan) for stocking up on first aid supplies – with multiple promotions to pick from.
And last week I was finding good prices on cake mix.

Austin Chu June 17, 2008 at 11:59 am

Wow, these are the best tips ever! I just started getting into the coupon world, thanks for the tips. It’s printing as we speak.

Staciahl June 25, 2008 at 4:18 pm

If you are in a market that has them, check out EZ-PIC.com is a paperless coupon advertised on retail store shelves and redeemed electronically at check-out—eliminating the hassle of paper coupons. EZ-PIC is redeemed instantly every time shoppers purchase featured products during the one-month promotional period.

They are currently in BI-LO, Big Y, Bruno’s, Coborn’s, Kings, Meijer, Reisbeck’s, Stater Bros., U-krop and United stores across the country.

Chris July 5, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for the post. There are a lot of really useful sites listed there. I’ve been using online coupons for a while now but just started clipping coupons for use at the grocery store.

You may want to check out a few out there.

Joe December 1, 2008 at 7:39 am

Hi, great post and being the owner of supercoolcoupons.com, i can vouch for you that with coupon codes, you can indeed saves loads of money which is a must in these tough times.

But the way, we are mainly focused on UK based coupons, do you have any suggestions for US based sites ?

Mavix December 6, 2008 at 4:46 am

Thanks for the great Coupons tips! I am really impressed.

alin January 12, 2009 at 8:24 am

Here is another great website for deals:
CouponWorx.

barry January 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm

There are a lot sites that can help when it comes to saving money at the supermarket. I tend to look for easy ways to find the coupons I need, one of my favorites is this.

Organizing coupons is also a great way to cut your bill. I personally think finding the cheapest supermarkets is the best way! Happy Hunting.

alin January 21, 2009 at 10:47 am

Great savings and deals at couponworx.com with coupons and discount codes for many stores.

pypmember January 25, 2009 at 8:13 am

Here’s another great website for grocery and online deals (and it’s free!) They let you know what’s on sale at which store and tell you what coupons to use.
http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com.

Tim January 28, 2009 at 7:53 am

Nice, coupons and discount codes at couponworx.com as well.

Joe March 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Fascinating information. There are also more tips in this coupon article. I personally get my coupons online, it is much more convenient.

Eric April 19, 2009 at 5:56 am

Get to know your newspaper delivery person and ask him/her to save you the coupon inserts that are left over each week.

Janey @ Use Supermarket Coupons May 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

Fantastic resource page! Kudos to you for such and easy to follow guide. I regularly save 80% or more when I shop and I have to agree that organization is the key to savings. Most people get frustrated and stop too soon before they ever really get a coupon management system down and realize huge savings.

I also love electronic grocery coupons for their ease of use and efficiency. You never have to fumble with them in the store, and you can use your phone number if you forget your card to get your savings. Try them out, they are really easy and the savings are tops.

Janey

KeepCash June 22, 2009 at 7:36 am

Another coupon site worth mentioning is KeepCash. I think they are the ones that run the official Black Friday.org website too.

Victoria August 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

Great Post! The information was awesome. This is an excellent resource page for beginner couponers! Kudos to you.

Chaz Greene September 22, 2009 at 10:22 am

Wow! Coupon codes can really help you save a lot of money. 80% is a lot, and I think with more discounts and promo deals, you can save the most money possible. You can find thousands of coupons at Couponsaver.org if you also want to save more on grocery.

empire technology October 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

Cool post. Couponworx.com is a great site for discount codes and coupon.

Nickie November 21, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I have been using coupons for years now. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. But once you get the hang of it, its very fun and rewarding. If you look hard enough you can find coupons on everything you use. On line but check to make sure your stores except printed coupons, the Sunday paper, e-mail your favorite manufacture, look on boxes and bags of stuff you already buy, have friends and family save coupons for you, Doctors offices have them on the check out counter, blinkies in the store (coupon dispensers), the registers at the stores print out some very good ones. I see alot of $4 or $5 off next shopping order, other coupon clippers will leave some on products they don’t need at the store. I know a few people who deliver the sunday paper and save me extra coupon books . Always get rain checks on stuff you need then wait till its on sale to buy it. Check the clearance section out. If the coupon doesn’t have a size limit, use them on sample size products some stores will allow this. The stores in my home town that double or sometimes triple coupons are: Meijers, Marsh, Krogers and Dillmans.

Just a few of my great buys this week.

International delight, on sale for $1.64 with coupon i got it for .64cents
nestle cookies, $1.50 after coupon .50 cents
angel soft bath tissue, $1.09 after coupon .09 cents
glade candle, $3.65 after coupon .15 cents.
chef micheals bag of dog food, $4. after coupon $1
dawn dish liquid , $1.15 after coupon .55 cents
secret deoderent, $1.70 after coupon .70 cents
glade air freshner , .75 cents after $1 off two coupon .50 cents for two.

So you see it is worth it to use coupons.

Allie November 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

The last 2 trips to the grocery store have gone a little something like this:

Spent $8 Saved $193
Spent $33 Saved $260

Some items included were; Arm & Hammer detergent, Welch’s grape juice, Campbells chunky soups, Campbells cream of mushroom and chicken, Stove Top stuffing and SO much more.

My number one tip sounds like a pain in the butt, but it really does cut the time down:

Tip #1. Create an Excel spreadsheet (a very simple one), include the expiration date, brand, brief description and any stipulating details (must buy 2, certain size, etc.). Once a week flip thru the grocery adds and compare to your spreadsheet. Use the “find” feature with Excel to type in a specific word to find a corresponding coupon like “Charmin” or “toiletpaper”, or “Campbells”, you will need to know how to utilize this feature as your coupon collection grows.

Good luck!

May F. February 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

This is a great article. I too have been using grocery coupons to save when grocery shopping. Last week my grocery bill said I saved 37%!

Jan – Safeway is one store that does offer doubling and tripping of the coupons face value, although I don’t see it offered very frequently.

Kaleb June 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

A couple of months ago, I signed up for the Sunday paper because some high school kids were trying to raise money. The “donation” only cost me $20 and I would get the paper for 6 months. When I looked at all the coupons for stuff that I buy all the time (like cat food, cheese, milk, etc..), I kicked myself for not having a subscription before. Every week, I save anywhere from $8-$15 and that is exciting enough for me,… up until now. With that new show from TLC (Extreme Couponing) and this post that I found practically by accident, I’m actually excited for my next grocery trip. For this week’s trip I have already accumulated over $20 in coupons!!!!!! And, I hope it will be more once I check out that coupon-mom site.

Rick August 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Great Article, Thanks for the tip on saving. I shop mostly at Food Max and Costco. I know it is tough for me nowadays with the economy like this. I do not think is going to improve any time soon, So our best bet is save, save, save. I have two little ones of my own and I save tons of money on huggies coupons for diapers.

Anne September 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the tips. With the economy being bad these days, coupon clipping seems to be one of the better strategies to try out! Hope we all recover soon!

couponing websites October 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

In today’s economy, coupons have become good as gold. I bet in 2008 a lot of us still didn’t quite get it, but now I think we can all agree that saving money is a thing of the future and clipping coupons is a great way to do it.

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