Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coupon Clarity: Not Enough Time To Be An Extreme Couponer?

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Well that's ok!  In real life, most of us don't have the time or energy it takes to be the kind of couponer that has come to be synonymous with "Extreme Couponing".    But, there are several simple things you can do that will save you time and money!  Here is an article we originally posted on The Coupon Posse last year.  It was sent to us by a reader who figured out some simple ways to to save money and still have time for the other important things in her life!  This is her story...

I was a pretty serious couponer for maybe a year - I totally understand how it works, the lingo, etc. I've had some awesome scores and used to have a very organized coupon folder. Lately, my life has become so crazy now that I can't devote the time to couponing that I used to, but it just kills me to pay regular price for stuff on occasion.

I know you make time for what is important, but right now, that is my family and school - couponing has to be a side-event in my life. I maybe have 10 minutes a day for research - and can probably shop once a week. My food bill is still way lower than it ever used to be before I learned to use coupons.

So, what is a good plan for those of us that don't have the time?

Meal planning! I prefer to do it two weeks at a time. I look at the current ads to see what fresh stuff is on sale and incorporate that into first week's meals. Stick to in-season fruits and veggies for your second week's meal plan. It's the stuff that is on sale everywhere. Chances are, there will still be a
decent price somewhere in week two. Make a shopping list from your meal plan (I will substitute recipe ingredients for a less expensive option also).

Know your food stockpile items and prices and pay good attention to sale ads for those things! Your food stockpile items need to be the more expensive stuff you use all the time. For my family, it's lunch meat and cheese. They can be really expensive if I run out and have to pay full price. I don't get as excited about most other stuff because I can either make it from scratch if I have to, or it goes on sale so often (like cereal). I just monitor our inventory and shop the next sale when we get low. Most people will have meat on this list. We happen to have homegrown Beef and Pork in our freezer, so I only monitor Chicken prices.

Know your personal stockpile items and prices! The expensive stuff that your family regularly uses. Good sales on those items draw me out of coupon hiding. Free toothpaste doesn't get me to the store anymore. Really cheap Charmin toilet paper will. Our personal stockpile items are toilet paper, paper towels, razors, certain hair products, etc.

Spend your catalinas before you leave the store! When you don't get out to coupon very often, it is easy to let the rewards expire on accident. Make it a rule to spend it before you drive away unless you are 150% sure you will be back before the reward expires.

When you do see a sale that will draw you out of coupon hiding, check a web site (like Simplistic Savings) to see what other deals are going on and see if there is anything worth adding to your list. If there is another store across the street from the one you are going to, check the deals at that store. But, don't spend a ton of time planning or you may never actually get to the store! Time is scarce! If I can't easily get the coupon from my stash or online, I either don't get the item or decide to buy it at the price w/o the coupon.

And, I mentioned my coupon stash. I just pile inserts with the date on them. I don't buy the paper anymore, but I get the Red Plum and P&G inserts from the Pinch for free. I do check an online coupon database for any expensive items on my grocery list from meal planning.

I do my main grocery shopping at Winco unless there is an awesome store sale somewhere else. I've thought about using WalMart more with their price matching, but their inconsistent produce quality keeps me loyal to Winco. I don't normally shop more than one store for my "grocery list" from meal planning. I do my second week produce shopping wherever there are the best ad prices - and I may check for other store deals on items I like to stockpile too.

Our friends over at Saving and More shared an excellent must read article:  Extreme Couponing for Real People!  Make sure to check it out!

Tell us your tips or tricks for managing your grocery budget without being an Extreme Couponer!

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