01 August 2016

Grocery Savings, Part I: Coupons!

On Friday night, I went grocery shopping and I ended July with nearly $1700 in savings at my local grocery store. That averages to just under $250 per month saved thus far this year for a family of five.

I have two secrets: coupons and mPerks.

Read Part II about mPerks here!
Read Part III about extra tips here!

1. Coupons

The goal with coupons is to save them up until the product goes on sale. Sale + Coupon = Match Up.

Each Sunday I buy two Detroit Free Press newspapers, clip the coupons, and organize them in a binder with baseball card holders.

Since I have two of each flyer, I tear the pages out so they are single sheets, then I match up the sheets and cut out two coupons at one time. If you have appropriately aged kids, you could recruit them to help you cut and sort coupons. I know a woman who paid her kid cents per coupon for her help.

As I clip, I separate them into two piles: food and non food. Once everything is clipped, I sort the food pile by category: meats, dairy, cereal, boxed and canned items, etc. As I go through each section putting coupons away, I also check for expired coupons. I repeat with non food.

Next I scour the weekly ad and pull out the necessary coupons. With each passing week, you'll get better and better at knowing the sales rotations of stores and which sales are worth springing for.

Via match ups, I don't pay more than $1.25 for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair styling products, toothpaste, or my deodorant. On that above receipt, I got eight bottles of hair stuff for $.90 each. My best steal yet were two econo-sized Tresemmes for free. I can regularly get Aussie, Herbal Essences, and Suave's larger and premium brands at these prices. I can occasionally get Tresemme, Pantene, and Garnier Fructis at those prices. The more costly brands (John Frieda, Mitchum) also issue coupons, but their match ups are more expensive. (Obviously, since they start with a higher price tag.)

I have something like 16 pairs of shampoo and conditioner, half a dozen giant body washes, and two solid rows of hair product.
I always get frozen veggies, make up, hair dye, sunscreen, and bug spray at least 50% off. I usually pay $1-2 per jug of laundry detergent. About once every six to eight weeks, Arm & Hammer will be BOGO free and I'll have two coupons, so I'll buy two at $2.99 per jug, use my two coupons for $1 off each jug, plus get two free. $2.99/jug x 2 jugs - $2 in coupons = $3.98 for four jugs. That's $.99 per jug for all varieties, including fragrance and dye free.

There are lots of items I don't save 50% on, I just save something and something is better than nothing.

For example, Matt and I switched to Schick razors because that brand always had the best match ups. They will often go on sale for 15% off. I currently have a coupon for $3 off Schick razors or refills. So if my refills are normally $15, they'll be on sale for $2.25 off and I'll get an additional $3 off, so I'll pay $9.75 for $15 razor blades refills. It's a little over 33% off, but that's $5 more dollars in my pocket.

Another great example is pet supplies. A $13 bag of Purina cat food will often be on sale for $2 off. I currently have a coupon for $1.50 off. That's $3.50 off cat food. My cat liter is $12 and will often go on sale for $10. I usually have a $2 off coupon, saving me $4. If both the food and the liter are on sale on the same week, I will save $5 on the food and $4 on the liter, a total of $9.

If I'm looking to shrink my budget, I can pocket the $9 savings. If I'm growing my family but don't want to grow my budget, I could get another $10 cat liter, but only pay $1 more than I usually do.

Then there's the seasonal and specialty items!

Every summer, salad dressings and bbq sauce go on sale and issue tons of coupons. So far this year, I've built up a stash of 9 bottles of Sweet Baby Ray's and 6 bottles of dressing (various brands) for $.30-$.50 per bottle. I buy just a few bottles per week because I don't want to contribute to the negative image that couponers have. We've already used a couple bottles so far having summer bbqs.

Coupons also let me get super special treats that I would never normally buy. Like these premixed drinks that I absolutely love, usually I get them for $1.50-$2 each.

Or these no artificial ingredients juices I just got for $1 each.

Pro Tips!

-Not all coupons are created equal. The more major the paper, the better the coupons in my area. The Freep and Ann Arbor News have better coupons than the LSJ, Cit Pat, or Press & Argus.

-Not all match ups are created equal. Nature Valley granola bars usually go on sale for 2/$5. Sometimes they are $2/6 or $2/4. The goal - obviously - is to wait until the sale is $2/4, then spring in with my $.75 off two coupon and get those bad boys for $1.62 per box. Sometimes I'll get them on the 2/$5 sale if we're desperate. The longer you coupon, the better you'll get at knowing the best sales and how often they're offered.

-Sometimes store brand items are cheaper than the best match up. I find that to be the case with trash bags and sandwich bags. On one hand, it does mean that if you really want the name brand (I do with trash bags), you can save a few bucks on them. When I first started, I clipped every single coupon. After a few months, I started to figure out which brands are never worth it and I stopped clipping those coupons.

-Sometimes what you want will never go on match up. For me, that's peanut butter. Jif Natural's usual sale is $.30 off a jar and I almost never see Jif coupons.

-I find that health and beauty is "the tough section" of the store because I can't fully prepare for it. For example: the flyer might say that L'oreal lotion is on sale. The fine print simply states the certain types and sizes are sale. Will it be the original formula? Only the deep conditioning sensitive skin one? Are the scented ones included? My coupon might state that it only applies to the small size bottles of all types excluding original formula. I don't always know if the health and beauty sale + coupon combo will work until I get there, so it takes me a bit longer in this section.


Jennifer Truman said...

Interesting read. I like to save a buck but I feel couponing is extremely frustrating for me. I would like to get better at it.
Also, the "no coupon is created equal" blew my mind. Seems unfair!

Jennifer Truman said...

Interesting read. I like to save a buck but I feel couponing is extremely frustrating for me. I would like to get better at it.
Also, the "no coupon is created equal" blew my mind. Seems unfair!