Why and How I use coupons

Posted by  | Tuesday, July 28, 2009  at 9:51 PM  
I remember reading on Christina's blog a long while ago about her "CVSing" and all the great deals she was getting. I thought it seemed like too much work, a hassle, a bunch of stuff I didn't really want, etc. and mostly I just felt too lazy to put the mental effort into figuring it out. But about a year ago I started to get an itch for a little hobby to take on. I was feeling really discouraged about how much I was spending at the grocery store every week and thought maybe I should revisit the whole coupon shopping thing. I collected coupons for about two months without doing anything to them - just saving up so I would be ready. Then in October, I took the plunge. I did two transactions at CVS and two at Walgreens. You can read all about it here. After a couple weeks of shopping at CVS and Walgreens, I figured out how to start using my coupons to shop at my local grocery chains. I discovered a website called Hot Coupon World. It has a discussion forum for each grocery chain where people post the weekly ad with coupon matchups and add ideas for cheap/free items as the week goes on.

I'm really happy to be a coupon clipper/shopper. Here are the biggest benefits:
1. I don't EVER pay for toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair care products, soap, razors.
2. I have drastically cut down our monthly grocery expenses (including toiletries).
3. I have a new hobby.
4. I have a stockpile of goods that help me to meal plan.

Here's the long and short of what couponing looks like in my life:

1. I get the coupon inserts out of my Sunday paper and I get an extra set from my next door neighbor each week. I go through the inserts and clip the coupons I think I will more than likely use at the grocery store (commonly purchased items) and file them in my coupon organizer. (My coupon organizer is a bunch of business sized envelopes in a wicker basket that are labeled cereal, meat, dairy, etc). I then write the date on the top of the insert and file it in a 12x12 scrapbook folder in case I need to go back to get a specific coupon.

2. I read Money Saving Mom and The Thrifty Mama each week to see what the CVS and Walgreens deals are for that week. You can see sample posts here and here.
3. I print out the CVS and Walgreens deals for the week (although I'm currently boycotting Walgreens) and then I go find the corresponding coupons - either already clipped in my organizer, or filed in the scrapbook folder.
4. I shop CVS during the week and I'm sure to get a raincheck if they are out of one of the items - their rainchecks never expire and they can write the coupon code on your raincheck for you to print your coupons at a later date.
5. I look over my grocery store fliers that come in the mail on Wednesday. I also consult the Hot Coupon World forum to see what deals others have posted. I make a list of all the items that are a really good deal for that week - even if I don't need them for that week's menu, I buy them when they are cheap and stockpile them.
6. I consult my menu plan for that week and make a grocery list of the items I need to pick up at the store. Sometimes I know I have a coupon for that item in my coupon organizer. If I'm unsure, I go to Hot Coupon World Coupon Database and search for that item. It gives me a list of all the current coupons that are out there for that item.
7. I go to at least one, if not two grocery stores during the week to shop the deals and buy our needed items.
8. Every now and again, I'll look at Money Saving Mom to see what coupons are yielding free/super cheap items at Target or Walmart and I'll take them with me if I happen to be going there. But we don't have SuperTarget or SuperWalmart here, so I can't always get the great deals she lists.

I have cut our grocery spending from about $480/month to less than $300/month - and that includes all of our toiletries, paper towels, laundry detergent, cleaners, etc. It also includes building up my stockpile from scratch. Here's my current stockpile:

If you want to see some of my grocery deals, click here, here, or here.
Okay, so PLEASE, ask me questions. I'd love to know your thoughts, scepticisms, etc.


noahandlylasmommi said...

Um Wow!! I am super impressed by your stock pile. That is amazing!! I use coupons but dont ever have anything that impressive!

Mallory, Amy & John Mark said...

Leah, why are you boycotting walgreens?

Leah said...

How much time would you say that you spend clipping coupons, checking out HCW, gathering your bargains, etc, each week? How do you balance your new hobby with other hobbies(reading, sewing, blogging)?

Courtney said...

Where do you store your stockpile? I just don't think I have that kind of space, but that is very impressive!

Leah said...

I store most of my food items in our basement, our toiletries in a hall closet, and our stacks of disposable diapers in the boys' closet. I've heard people who are tight on space say that they use underbed boxes to store a lot of food, etc.

I think I spend about 15 minutes clipping and storing away coupons each week. Then I spend an additional 30 minutes reading the blogs, making my lists and gathering the coupons. If I don't feel like deal shopping one week (or if I'm really into another one of my hobbies) I don't sweat it. I don't want to be a slave to it.

I'm boycotting Walgreens just because my local Wags has been giving me a hard time about the coupons I want to use. I am just really annoyed and want to take a break from them so I don't have such a bad attitude about it and take it out on the employees.

Jackie said...

Any pointers for beginning a stockpile? I love the idea and have been trying to cut our food budget, but struggle with balancing between buying what we need and buying for the stockpile.

Christina said...

I struggled with that too when I first started using coupons. It's probably a good idea to keep in mind that you're not going to drastically reduce your grocery bill from one trip to the next. It will slowly creep lower over time as you build the stockpile and have a smaller and smaller "need" list. Does that make sense?

So, the tip would be to take it slow!

Courtney - we do not have a pantry at our house. All of my toiletry extras are stored SUPER TIGHT in the master closet. But I honestly can't store much, so I give away a lot. Our food items that are stockpiled are on extra shelves I added at the TOP of our laundry closet. I have to use a step stool to reach them and I still drop them often. I try to plan ahead for when Jacob's home and ask him to get some things down for me.

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