Of all the bills you pay monthly, food shopping probably ranks right up there at the top. Depending on how big your family is, you could easily wind up spending hundreds of dollars a month each time you shop at the supermarket. That’s why clipping some coupons can help you save big while spending a whole lot less. If you’re new to the couponing game, here’s
how to save on groceries, straight from extreme couponing experts.
Now, you could clip a coupon or two to save some pennies here or there — or you could really go big and try to extreme couponing your family’s weekly grocery bill. Even though it might seem, well, extreme, it can actually save you a lot of money if you know how to do it correctly, advises
Joy Hearn, an extreme couponer in Southern California and founder of the Facebook page Cards and Clips. “Couponing brings an overwhelming sense of gratitude each time,” says Hearn. “Not only are you able to acquire more items for less, but you're able to do this for your family.”
If you’re new to extreme couponing, get ready to grab your scissors and try these tips to make mealtime deliciously affordable.
Make The Time Commitment Alex Liew/E+/Getty Images
Saving money takes time, so you’ll need to set aside a few hours if you’re going to cash in on couponing. “It takes roughly ten hours or more a week to cut coupons and organize them,”
Chrystal Walker, an extreme couponer in Houston, TX tells Romper in an email. “You also have to check for expired coupons as well as match coupons to current and future sales.” That’s why you might see some serious couponers come to stores clutching a binder full of organized coupons.
Understand Your Store’s Sales Cycle
It can be exciting to see a $1 coupon off of an item, but unless you’re combining sales, you might be missing out on an even bigger discount. “One of the reasons most people are unsuccessful with couponing is simply because they don't understand what are called sale cycles,” says Hearn. “Every grocery store has a sale cycle, which is basically a specific time that specific items go on sale.” When the manufacturers of those items create online coupons, you can save more than just the sale price.
There’s a reason why extreme couponers will buy 30 bottles of shampoo at once. They wait for an item to go on sale, and then they crash the check out counter with their coupons. So if it’s possible to wait a little while to stock up on, say, tuna fish, do so, and you’ll see the savings. “For instance, if I were a lover of all things vegan, then I would need to know that between mid March-April, I would need to keep my eyes open for Earth Day sale cycles because that is the best time to find sales and coupons on all things vegan,” explains Hearn. “For Thanksgiving specifically, grocery stores begin their sale cycles beginning late October, for example.”
“Savings are year-round and sales vary, but overall the deals recycle the same as the coupon,” adds Walker. “Couponing doesn't change depending on the time of the year, but it is definitely based on the season such as Christmas, New Year, Easter, etc.”
Before going food shopping, scan your store’s weekly sales ad to see what’s already been marked down, advises Hearn. It might take you a few extra minutes, but you’ll wind up saving even more. Be prepared to clip a coupon from the store’s circular — not all of the items will automatically scan at the sales price. Then, take it a step further and sign up for your store’s loyalty programs to add onto the savings, advises Walker.
Even if the savings are sweet, you shouldn’t blow your hard-earned money on non-essentials. “You should always try to stick to a budget,” says Walker. After all, if you buy up 25 gallons of baby detergent because the sales are insane (but your “baby” is a tween), you might not be making the best use of your couponing — or your money, either.
Search For The Best Deals
Extreme couponing means that you might have to go to several stores in order to snag the best deals, like 99 cent bags of frozen veggies. There are several sites that you can use (like
Coupon.com, thekrazycouponlady.com, and couponmom.com to name a few) that allow you print your own coupons and offer daily deals that will save you big bucks. Says Hearn: “Always look for the best deal and find a coupon to match.” It might take a little extra time, but it can be worth it, especially if you’re feeding a large crowd.
Have Multiple Store Accounts
Extreme couponing sometimes requires you to be a little, well, crafty in your clipping. For example, you can increase your savings if you have more than one account with a store, says Walker. “Having multiple accounts with select stores such as Kroger’s, CVS, or Walgreens can help,” she says. “Their digital coupons are one-time use and may require multiple accounts to do a deal more than once.”
Know The Store’s Coupon Policy Ahead Of Time
There’s nothing like bellying up to the register with a bevy of coupons — only to have your dreams crushed when the store’s manager tells you that you can only use one per sales item. Gah. “You should always verify the store's coupon policy before shopping,” advises Hearn. “That way, you’ll know if there is a limit on the amount of coupons you can use.”
Sure, you might like using one particular type of bar soap, but extreme couponing means sometimes trying something new, especially if there’s an excellent sale and you’ve got coupons that make it virtually free. “It’s good to be open to the idea of different brands,” says Hearn. “So if I'm looking for a deal on an item I wouldn't just walk in the store and get happy over the fact cans of broth are on sale for 2 for $1. After scanning my ads and finding they were on sale 2 for $1 I'd either look online, the newspaper, or through my mailbox for coupons for $0.50 to $1.00 per can. That is the magic of couponing.”
It’s always exciting to see your total amount drop after all the coupons and in-store savings have been tallied. But while some extreme couponers are able to get a shopping cart full of stuff for a few cents, don’t expect such radical results—at least, not in the very beginning. “In the beginning, your savings may be less than 30% (maybe the first 2-3 weeks),” advises Walker. “But as time passes, the savings will increase as you gain knowledge, understand store policies, and learn how to shop based on matching sales to coupons.”
If you’re looking to save on your grocery shopping bill, you might want to try extreme couponing. Yes, it takes some time (and a lot of cutting and organizing of clipped coupons), but knowing how hard you worked to snag those soup greens on sale will only make the meal more meaningful. “When done correctly, extreme couponers often find themselves with extra cash to tuck away for a rainy day, use in case of emergencies, or use to express love and appreciation towards those who matter most in their lives,” says Hearn. “That is something to truly be thankful for.”