A couple years ago, I discovered couponing. I became obsessed, went overboard and burnt out quickly. However, I never lost the understanding that with coupons, I could make my dollar stretch much further. Lately, I've jumped back on the couponing bandwagon, but in a much more manageable system.
I've been able to save up to 64% of my total bill with coupons and shopping the sales. Even better, for the first time in years, the end of the month came and I still had a fully stocked fridge and pantry without going over my budget. Here's how I do it.
The very first thing I do is check the sales on Sunday. It's really helpful to have a go-to website to consult when trying to figure out the weekly sales. I personally find Fabulessly Frugal to be one of the best and they're based right here in the Northwest. Right at the very top of the site is a link for "Store Deals" and you can choose which stores you shop at. You'll find the weekly sales plus any matching coupons. If you're in a hurry, you can quickly see which deals are the best because there are stars next to them.
My regular routine is to go to Albertsons, Safeway and Food Pavilion on Monday-Tuesday and then Fred Meyer, Walgreens and Target on Wednesday-Thursday. If I'm not picking up very much, I might do them all in one trip or finish up by Tuesday. That's a really good week for me! Albertsons, Safeway and Food Pavilion sales run from Wed-Tuesday, while most other stores run Sun-Sat. The downside to my system is that occasionally when I get to the store on Monday, the good sales items are out of stock, but I've decided that I'm willing to risk that simply to keep to my schedule. Otherwise I'd have to do my list and organize everything mid-week or twice a week and I simply like it better this way.
Another great thing about Fabulessly Frugal is that you can check the box next to the items you want and it will generate a shopping list for you to print, complete with coupons and prices. I usually do this when I'm being lazy because it does take up unnecessary paper and ink and I usually prefer to simply write it in a notebook, but it does come in handy sometimes.
I print off internet coupons as I'm making my list and I have a little book filled with pocket dividers for my other coupons, so I pull my coupons that I'll need for that week and set them aside. I also purge expired coupons at this time, which I set aside to be mailed to military families overseas. Military bases overseas have a 6-month expired coupon policy, so even though I can't use the coupon anymore, an American family overseas can use it for 6 more months.
Once I have my lists and my coupons are pulled or printed, everything goes in my purse so I'm ready to shop at a moment's notice! The next step is to pick up a Sunday paper and retrieve the coupon insert from it. I then spend about an hour clipping and filing the coupons away.
In total, not including actually shopping time, I spend about 3-4 hours a week preparing for my shopping trip. I consider this time well spent when I get back receipts that say 50% savings on the bottom of them!