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Extreme? No. Couponing? Yes!

For about a month I've been working on returning to my former way of grocery shopping. Since about the time my oldest was born, I started clipping coupons as a rule for shopping. It pained me to ever pay full price for anything I purchased, especially at the grocery store.

Bargain shopping became a way of life. For example, my hubby would ask me what we were having for dinner to which I would respond "whatever was on sale this week!" This rule was particularly important with meats. Once I saw what was on sale in the meats department, I would try to plan the rest of my meal around it. Sure, pork loin might sound good, but if it was full price we'd be eating something else.

Over the last year or so our schedule had changed considerably and forced me into making smaller and less frugal shopping trips. I slipped into the routine of buying whatever sounded good and picking up items on a whim because I wasn't sure when I'd have time to get to the store again (or want to go to the store again!). I could tell that not only was my grocery bill getting larger, but my pantry was looking leaner.

Time was beginning to show that I wasn't being a very good homemaker and so I became determined to return to my former - and better - shopping ways.

No doubt, coupon and bargain shopping takes time. You have to be willing to carve out some time specifically for seeking out sales, clipping coupons, and searching online databases. I'm not about being extreme, but few things are as accessible and simple as couponing when it comes to saving money. Things have changed since I started couponing and I'm sure that things will continue to evolve. Here are some tips, new and old, that have worked for me! If you're in the market for stocking your pantry and saving some money then I think you'll love these tips:

  1. Make a plan. For me, I like to set aside one block of time for clipping coupons and making my shopping list and another block of time for my actual shopping. I've found that Sunday nights work well for sorting ads,clipping coupons, and creating my shopping list. It usually takes me about 90 minutes.  My preference is to shop on Wednesday mornings, but you do have to look closely at Sunday's ads to make sure they are good all week. 
  2. Know where to get your coupons. The Sunday paper has always been my go-to resource. But many online databases now have e-coupons or additional printable coupons. My local grocery store will load the coupons directly to my customer loyalty card. And don't throw away those coupons that print off at the register! Click here to check out Coupon Mom's online coupon section.
  3. Track the best sales with either a free or paid deal-tracking membership. I have used The Grocery Game and The Coupon Mom both with a good degree of success. My biggest complaint with these systems is that they often miss items that I would normally purchase. These deal-trackers match store sales with printed coupons to get you the best price, but keep in mind that these lists do not see your e-coupons or store coupons and they don't know your buying practices. Click here for a free 4-week trial of The Grocery Game!
  4. Make a list of your family's staples. What are the things that your family uses so often that you buy them nearly every week? Clif Kids Z Bars is one for my family. So for example, last week Z Bars were on sale for 50% off at my local store but they weren't on the above-mentioned list. I also happened to have a coupon - this was a great deal that I would have missed if I didn't have a list (and coupon stash) specifically for my family's favorites.
  5. Stay organized. If you're committed to saving money using coupons, the best way to guarantee you'll keep at it is to have a system and stay organized! I've always used a small accordion-style coupon file folder, but binders with clear-plastic pocketed inserts would work great too! Here's a whole list of ideas from Stretching A Buck. You'll be more likely to use your coupons and stick to your plan when you can quickly and easily find what you need and have a rhythm to your routine.
  6. Track your savings! This is the fun part. Many grocery stores will show you right on your receipt the percentage you've saved on your bill. It's pretty easy to save 30-40% on a normal grocery trip if you're shopping sales, but add in coupons and you'll quickly see an increase in your savings! This month, I've averaged 50% off each grocery shopping trip I've made! Not only that, I can see the long-term savings growing as I'm stashing away soaps and lotions that I know I won't have to pay full price for later!
  7. Every bit counts. If you haven't started using re-usable shopping bags now is the time! Many stores still give you $.05 or $.10 per bag and that adds up fast! Just think about it. If you bring your own shopping bags and use 10 of them at just $.05 per bag, that's $.50 - do that every week and you just bought yourself a cup of coffee this month.
 What are your favorite coupon and grocery tips? Do you do anything "extreme?"

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