Grocery Store Coupon Tips For Saving Money (I Saved $53!)

And now for a post about saving money. Because the loot we save on food = more money to spend on paint & projects. I figured since I recently divulged my 2011 goal to figure out coupons and save more money this year, I should share a little coupon-related update for anyone else who’s as desperate to turn paper clippings into dolla dolla bills as I am. So here it is:

I saved $53 at the grocery store!!! Coupons really do work!!!!

Pardon all the shouting. I’m just really excited. I am definitely far from an “expert” on the subject (I just started trying to navigate the crazy coupon world a few weeks back) but here’s what I learned in the simplest of terms. Because I was a coupon dummy. Still kind of am. So I need things to be explained to me slowly. Preferably with lots of pictures and in a soothing and nurturing tone. Yup, I’m high maintenance like that.

Tip Numero Uno: You save the most money when your store (we shop at Kroger) matches coupons (ours does up to 50 cents) and when you can use a manufacturer’s coupon (like the ones you find in the paper or online) combined with store coupons or sales. For example, if Kroger has organic milk marked down by $1 and I have a manufacturers coupon for 50 cents off and Kroger matches that, a gallon of organic milk that’s normally $3 will only be $1 (because I’d score $2.00 off thanks to the store’s $1 off sale and the matched fifty cent coupon).

Not bad right? That stuff really adds up when you’re shopping for a fair amount of things (which has always been the way John & I do it, we usually do one major shopping trip every 2-3 weeks). It keeps us from spending a lot of money on impulse buys (which would occur more frequently and cost us more money if we hit the store more often for smaller trips). But I’m rambling. Back to more of my novice coupon tips.

Tip Numero Dos: If you use coupons for things you don’t eat (or just get stuff because it’s on sale) you’re still losing money, wasting time, and giving up valuable space in your house that could better be used to store other things. So even if that bag of chips is 40 cents, if you don’t normally buy chips but get all crazy at the idea of big savings you’re on a slippery coupon slope. My big rule is that I only clip (or print) coupons for things that our family already eats or would like to try. We prefer organic produce and organic dairy along with basics like pasta, bread, cereal, granola, etc. It’s not always as easy to find coupons for those things, but they do exist! And thanks to Kroger (where we have a Kroger savings card, which also offers occasional discounts on those items when you scan the card at the register) we’ve been able to save a substantial amount of money. Our last trip was our best savings ever (did I mentioned we saved $53?!!!!! oh I did. sorry, I’m just excited).

Along with picking up the Sunday paper for the bevy of coupons hiding inside (along with a Kroger weekly sale flier), here are some of the online stops that I make to find coupons that I can print or even load directly onto my Kroger card (how Minority Report is that?!).

  • This is my favorite coupon site. I click the Kroger tab and the Target tab to see what’s going on (they have other stores in case you’re not a Kroger person)
  • This is where I go within that site to load things onto my Kroger card
  • I also check out this site for printable coupons
  • And this one
  • And this one
  • This site is nice because it has links to a few of my favorites (some of them already listed above) in one spot
  • I also drop by this site just to see what’s going on there
  • And this one
  • And this one
  • And this one

Resist the urge to get overwhelmed though! I probably get 90% of my coupons from the top four bullets above, so there’s no need to go crazy and bookmark a million sites like I did. I just had to experiment with a bunch of them to find my favorites (aka: those top four).

Other than those two tips above, there really isn’t one big trick that helped me save tons of money. I just clipped coupons on and off for two weeks (just for things we actually need/use/eat), wrote our shopping list carefully (being sure to note how many of each item we needed for the maximum savings) and even loaded some coupons onto my Kroger card online before going into the store (thanks to this site). We spent around $160 for 2-3 weeks worth of groceries for John, Clara, and I (we walked out with over nine giant reusable bags full of stuff, and according to the receipt we purchased 77 items). And we saved $53! And that was on things like two four-packs of organic baby yogurt for Clara, two half-gallons of organic milk, organic eggs, organic produce like bananas & avocados & and peppers, and basics like whole wheat bread, wheat pasta, granola bars, cereal (and goodies like dark chocolate and ice cream). It felt so good! Here are a few more specific examples of exactly how our coupons combined with an in-store sale to save us the most money:

  1. We got two YoBaby Organic Yogurt 4-Packs, which were originally selling for $2.69 (which calculates to a total of $5.38). But Kroger had them marked down for 60 cents off each one (bringing each one down to $2.09) and then we had a “buy one 4-pack, get the second one free” coupon from the manufacturer, which made our total for both 4-packs just $2.09 (for a savings of $3.29).
  2. We got an 8 oz bag of Gorton’s grilled shrimp that was originally $5.99. But Kroger was having a special $3 off promotion so it was only $2.99. And we had a manufacturers coupon for $1 off which means that our bag of shrimp cost just $1.99 (for a savings of $4).
  3. We got a box of FiberOne Granola Bars that were originally $2.49. But Kroger had them on sale for $1.50 off (which made the box just 99 cents) and we had loaded a FiberOne e-coupon onto our Kroger card (thanks to this site) for 50 cents off, so we paid just 49 cents for the box of FiberOne granola bars.

Of course these are our best buys that we’re highlighting, so not everything that we purchased was that discounted. Not even close. So don’t get down on yourself if you save 20 cents here and 50 cents there. It all adds up! Just be sure you’re buying things that you actually like and eat, not just things that are on sale.

Oh and a few more couponing 101 tips that I picked up are:

  • Just because something is 10/$10 doesn’t mean you have to buy ten items (it’s usually just labeled that way to get you to buy more).
  • Resist the urge to buy the largest size of things that are on sale- often you save the highest percentage when you use a $1.00 off coupon on the $2.00 cereal box, not the supersized $4 one (this was the hardest principle for me to grasp at first since my instinct was that buying something huge saved me more money). Of course if the larger one is substantially less money per ounce and you have a use for a large amount of something, it could be worth the upgrade- but I was surprised how often I noticed them listed as the same price per ounce.
  • Coupons are allegedly cyclical, meaning that most coupon pros claim that every six weeks the same items go on sale again. This theoretically means that if you have space to stock up on your favorite cereal when it’s on sale, you only have to buy enough to last you six weeks, and then the sale should pop up again (of course this isn’t to suggest that you should have a six week stockpile of every item, but it does reinforce the idea that you never have to buy 100 of something that’s “an amazing deal” because it’ll most likely be a great deal again in a little over a month).

Oh and here’s how I keep things organized. I have a clear plastic sleeve where I toss all of my coupons as I clip them throughout the 2-3 week span between major shopping trips, then before we go to Kroger I take out all the ones I won’t be using so it’s only full of coupons I’ll be “spending” and I slip my detailed shopping list in there with them (that way I know how many of something or what sized box I need to get to use my coupon without thumbing through all of them). When I get to the register I hand over my Kroger card for them to scan (for all uploaded discounts) and then I hand over my paper coupons as well. So far it seems to work.

So that’s my coupon update for ya. Happy snipping to one and all. And all you varsity coupon peeps better share your tips! I know I still have lots to learn!

Psst- All kids toys are not created equal. Check out what Clara got that looks so good we never want to tuck it out of sight (unlike 99% of her other toys).

Comments

  1. says

    I guess I should give in and try coupons….you know, since you gave me all the websites to go to. My problem is that most things we buy are never on sale/have coupons and I refuse to buy something just because I have a coupon!

  2. Krystal says

    My mom is a seasoned couponer (think paying $0.13 for 5 carts of groceries). She has taught me a thing or two about stacking coupons (using manufacturer coupons in conjunction with the store’s deal and store specific coupons). She has a lot of other tips too, but since you only seem to shop at Kroger, I’m not sure how useful they are to you (but other readers might find them helpful).

    1. She buys all her toiletries at Walgreens, only buying items that have catalina deals (you get money back: $2 off next order, $5 off next order, etc) Those catalinas are actually manufacturer coupons, and Jewel Osco recognizes that. It’s like free money for your groceries!
    2. Town and Country grocery stores accept expired coupons
    3. CVS Pharmacy is another great place to buy toiletries because you can get a lot of ExtraCare Dollars back (they’re like catalinas, but store specific). Again, more money to roll over onto your next order.
    4. If you are shopping at stores that have catalinas (CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Marsh, Jewel Osco) break your order down into smaller orders so you can roll over the money you’re getting back.
    5. If you are a college student (or still have your ID), Marsh grocery stores give you 10% off you groceries every Saturday. Also, never fear asking a store if they give student discounts, the worst they can say is no. I recently got 20% a scarf at Ann Taylor because I had my ID on hand and the cashier saw it in my wallet.

    ….there’s a lot more, but here are some that are more decor/DIY centric:

    1. The expiration date on Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons is just a formality. All stores will accept expired coupons (thus, my overly large stack of 20% and $5 off 15 coupons)
    2. Always check if you’re hardware store’s website has coupons, or google it, before you go shopping. We were about to leave to buy new closet doors when we checked the Menards website and discovered a $50 off order over $200. Then we found a 15% coupon for the doors in their weekly flier. Score!
    3. 3 to 4 times a year Menards (and sometimes Home Depot) will put a brown paper in the Sunday paper and you can save 20 to 30% off whatever you can fit in it. Perfect if you’re in need of nails, screws, small tools, etc.

    Hope this helps somebody!

    • Krystal says

      I just remembered a big one. Sunday papers. If you live in a small, rural town like me, you should subscribe to a more big city newspaper because manufacturers put more coupons in the papers that have a wider circulation. My local Post Tribune and Northwest Indiana Times only contains about 1/6 of the coupons that my Chicago Tribune does.

    • Shawn says

      Yeah, I think you and I live in the same area :). I’m in NW Indiana just outside of Chicago. I only have a Town & Country and a Wiseway in my area other than the Walmart. Do you know if T&C doubles coupons? I’d have to go all the way to Chesterton to the Jewel Osco, which isn’t too far, but still.

  3. says

    Love those plastic envelopes! I keep one of them in my purse at all times. I stash any store coupons I might have (Bed, Bath & Beyond, Gap, Gymboree, Crazy 8, etc.) so that I’m not caught sans-discount for any impromptu shopping trip.

  4. AMG says

    I got really excited for the links you have in this post- Unfortunately I live in MI, not quite southern enough for southern savers! :/

    • says

      Hey AMG,
      There’s actually Kroger in MI – I would search around a little (at least there is in southeast MI). Also, Meijer does a lot of couponing with catalinas and manufacturers coupons. I’ve never heard of them doing a match, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. If nothing else, Meijer has crazy weekly specials that cycle through so I would keep an eye on their paper to find out!

      Also – the Entertainment book (which is in 156 markets and almost all states) almost always has grocery coupons every year and online (www.entertainment.com to find a book near you). Plus, you get the coupons to other restaurants and national stuff too – it usually runs $25-40 for the year, but it pays for itself within a matter of 3-4 coupon usages! My family has been buying them for years since I used to do fundraisers with them in school, and they’re the best!

  5. Rachel says

    You may already get to these through one of the sites above, don’t forget to check out the printable Target store coupons on target.com. Those combined with manufacturer coupons, plus the 5 cent reusable bag discount, plus the 5% off with your target card = fabulous deals!

    A couple more tips:
    1. Try to stick to just your usual stores or a few stores per week (or you’ll go crazy!)
    2. Resist the urge to stockpile more that you can eat (though blocks of cheese and even cream cheese will keep for months in the refrigerator and have a handy use by date right on them).
    3. For printables, whenever possible, set your ink to black & white, then grayscale to save on color ink.

    Good luck!

  6. lisa says

    very good with the couponing! i love another site…she gives so much good info about saving money and other deals…
    moneysavingmom.com maybe you’ve heard of it before…

    totally unrelated comment, but have been meaning to ask the 2 of you…any place to clik about when john proposed to you? i see you ahve a wedding tab, but i was just wondering about the proposal…that would be an interesting post on your site…maybe you’ve already made that post before, but can’t find it. thanks for all of the info you give us all the time! have a good day.:)

  7. Steph says

    Great job on the couponing! Do you guys eat vegetarian most days? I can’t seem to leave the grocery for less than 100 bucks because my boyfriend INSISTS we have some type of meat for dinner everyday!

    • says

      We do eat less meat than the average family I’m sure. Usually one or two dinners a week have meat or fish, but the rest are things like pasta dishes, homemade pizza, veggie dumplings, soups, etc. Maybe just start with Meatless Mondays (pasta with sauce and a side salad?) and see if you can stretch it to a few more days with things like homemade pizza and hearty veggie chili?

      xo,
      s

    • Marcy says

      We eat ‘paleo’ which for us means a lot of meat, but we save money by buying pastured animals in bulk. We ‘cow-pool’ with our family so we can buy a whole cow and divide it up, we are saving up for half a pig right now, and one of our favorite farms gives 20% off pastured broilers if we buy 10 at a time. So our chest freezer is our best money saver!
      We also belong to a CSA and have a couple backyard hens, so for most of the year, we don’t have to go to the grocery store except for spices, oils, etc. Like Sherry mentioned, the fewer trips to the grocery store, the more savings on snacks and impulse items.

    • Sarah says

      My husband is the same way but I’ve gotten him to eat one vegetarian meal – beans and rice with avocado and poached eggs. It’s super easy and really filling and tasty, he doesn’t even care that there isn’t any meat. Just douse it in hot sauce and melted cheese and enjoy!

  8. Rosemary says

    Here’s another tip. If you have foods that your family loves and you buy all the time, go check out their website and sign up for their email newsletter. I am always getting coupons emailed to me from Morningstar Farms veggie foods and Freschetta frozen pizza, my hubby’s two favorite things :)

    • Kristen says

      I do this with Kashi and a few other sites and it works out wonderfully! I wait until they mail me a coupon and then wait a little more until it goes on sale at the store and then I stock up!

  9. says

    This is a huge help for me!!! This coupon thing is a constant struggle for me, it gets really frustrating when I get to the store and there are 30 different brands of the same thing and a store brand ends up being cheaper without a coupon than the coupon brand is after the coupon savings. Gahhh, I need all the tips I can get!

  10. says

    That’s awesome! Are you familiar with SouthernSavers.com? It matches your grocery store’s circular each week with manufacturer’s coupons. So it scans all the sites you just mentioned and provides links in one place. It’s pretty convenient.

  11. says

    You’re giving me motivation to get into this coupon thing. I’ve been saying I was going to start for about 6 months now. I have a drawer full of coupons, but I’ve hardly used any of them. I’ve got to get organized and get started! Thanks for sharing those websites!