Intro to Couponing

First things first. If you’ve ever watched extreme couponing, BANISH THOSE IMAGES OUT OF YOUR HEAD. That is seriously not how couponing works. You can save about 60 to 80% on your grocery bill on a good day, and even those are just every so often. But aiming for above 80%? That is just plain unreasonable. Although the coupon binders are a legit, stare inducing part of couponing….

As a couple of you know, I started couponing because Bryan took a 50% cut in pay right after I got pregnant, which made our budget a heck of a lot tighter. I researched couponing and after a few trial and error grocery trips, have gotten pretty decent at stretching our dollars as far as they can go. Now that Bryan has gotten his better paying job back, we’ve been a little more lenient with our money and have been trying to eat healthier, but the coupons are still amazingly handy for nonfood items.

Couponing is really easy once you get the hang of it, but there are tons of methods and levels of couponing. I’m going to start with the simple.

First, you need to order the AZ Republic Wed and Sunday Editions. Seriously.  It’s 12 bucks a month. All you have to do is use 12 coupons a month and it pays for itself. Plus you get all the week’s  grocery ads on Wed. Even if you don’t want to coupon, or aren’t really sure about it, you can use the sales ads to price match at Wal-Mart. Seriously, just do it.

Now, there are two starting points for couponing: either at Wal-Mart or at a grocery store (My personal favorite is Fry’s, but I’ll explain that later). It’s always easier to start at whatever store you would normally shop at, because you already know what the prices of the items generally are, and can recognize a good sale.

Starting at Wal-Mart:

The biggest plus to shopping at Wal-Mart is Ad Match! When you get your Wed paper, highlight or star all the items you would normally buy in every grocery ad (Including Sprouts and Fresh and Easy). Then, on Sunday, cut the coupons for the items you would normally buy. You’re going to want to have something to organize them during your shopping trip. I use an envelope system when I’m only taking a few coupons; one envelope for items I haven’t gotten yet, and another envelope where the coupons go when the corresponding item makes its way into the shopping cart.  Finally, go shopping! (take your two envelopes, your sales ads, and a pen and paper). Compare items you starred in the sales ad with the shelf price at Wal-Mart. Write down on the paper the sales ads prices that are lower at other stores.  For example “Yoplait yogurts 20 for $10 @ Albertsons” (they are usually 57 cents at Walmart). It makes it A LOT easier to check out when you just have to read off the list you wrote to the cashier.  Don’t forget to price match your fruits and veggies!

Few basic coupon and ad match rules at Wal-Mart:

  • BOGO and buy one get two free only apply if the price is listed on the ad. For example, “buy 1 Atheno’s Feta Cheese, get 2 free reg: 4.00” Was in the Albertson’s ad a few weeks ago. The regular price at Wal-Mart is 2.50, but since Albertsons would give you 3 for $4 total, so will Wal-Mart. Sometimes,  Wal-Mart may try to fight you that they don’t do bogo, but if you read the rules on the Wal-Mart website it says they do AS LONG AS THE REGULAR RETAIL PRICE IS STATED IN THE AD. If you choose to fight them on this, I recommend printing the rules directly off of the Wal-Mart website, but that’s just me.
  • You can only use 1 coupon per item. No stacking. If you have 50 cents off of two cans of soup, you can’t use it with another coupon that is 20 cents off of one unless you are buying 3 cans of soup.

Starting at a grocery store:

Fry’s is my favorite grocery store because they have good sales, decent produce, and all coupons are scanned at $1. So I’m going to explain couponing there. If you decide to go somewhere else, make sure to Google their coupon policy! Also, do not use fry’s digital coupons until you’ve mastered coupon clipping. The digital coupons override the physical ones and are often worth less. So just hold off for a while on that can of worms…

***As of Oct 2014, Fry’s no longer doubles coupons, they are only taken at face value. However, Safeway will scan all coupons at a dollar. Check your local stores couponing policy

Fry’s does not list all of their sales in their ads. Most items you just have to cruise the store and see what the prices that week are, and most of the time, it’s worth the effort to shop the whole store. On Sun, clip the coupons for the items you would usually buy. The less picky you are, the more likely you are to get a good deal. So if you use Tresemme shampoo usually, but you clip all the shampoo coupons (Garnier, Tresemme, and Head and Shoulders are the most common coupons) you are more likely to find a good deal on at least one of those. This is where a coupon binder with a couple sheets of baseball card pages comes in handy. I sort mine by Teeth, Hair, Skin and Makeup, Cleaning Products, Paper Products, Cat Food, Sauces and Cans, Dry Food, Breakfast foods, Drinks and Juice, Dairy, Meats, and Frozen. Obviously if you’re starting small you don’t need to be so detailed. I still use an envelope for the coupons once I have put the item in my cart.

The key to couponing at a grocery store is matching coupons on top of sales items. Here are a few of Fry’s most common sales and how to use them:

Buy five, save $5: Buy 5 items off of the sales list, and you save $1 off of each. This is a pretty good deal, especially in the hygiene department. Back to the shampoo coupons! Garnier shampoo is usually around 3.50, and it’s part of the Buy 5, save 5. So now its 2.50.  Plus you have a save 40 cent coupon on 1 garnier product, which will scan at a dollar. So now that shampoo is just $1.50. Pretty simple stuff. BUT! Make sure you are buying at least 5 items off the sales list so you can actually save money.

10 for $10: Despite the name, you don’t actually have to buy 10 items. You can just buy 1. My favorite items on the 10 for 10 is Colgate toothpaste, Angel Soft toilet paper (4pk) and Dial hand soaps. Why? Because there are common coupons that make these items FREE. The Colgate coupons come out about every other month, 50 cents off of one. But, because Fry’s scans it at a dollar, the tooth paste is free! Well technically. Sadly, there is sales tax on free, which is ridiculous, but the 2 cents an item won’t kill ya.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Once you are done shopping, but before you hit the checkout line, count the coupons in your envelope. Then, as the cashier scans the coupons in, count the beeps. This may sound ridiculous, but it sucks when you get home and look at the receipt and realize 4 of your coupons didn’t scan.
  • Go on couponing trips and shopping trips separately. When your pantry is looking empty, go on a couponing trip FIRST. Only get items that are on sale and you have a coupon for. Then, go back later and get the necessities that you are still missing.


Message me or comment if you have questions you want me to answer in the next post. Good luck!


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