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Now that season one of Extreme Couponing is over, I thought we would take a week and actually teach you the “real” way to coupon! Most (if not all) of this has been covered over the years on Southern Savers, but it never hurts to have a refresher.
Can you do what you saw on TV?
Yes. But do you really want to? Sadly, watching an episode of Extreme Couponing won’t teach you much on how to save on your entire grocery and household budget. You will be a pro at buying Powerade, Rolaids and floss though! If you’re goal is to go into a store and get $1000 in groceries for $8, that’s pretty much all your gonna be able to get. Your family however is not gonna be happy if this is dinner.
Remember that what you watched were planned and calculated trips where the goal was to spend nothing. In reality we should aim to save 50-70% off ALL of our purchases each month. It is very easy to do, just make sure that you are starting first with a realistic approach.
Check out this recent trip for me. We got a ton of produce, meat and even paper goods. This is an awesome trip! It would never be “TLC worthy” because I spent money, but we got a ton of stuff that we needed and still saved 60% or $93!
How do we get started??
As I talk to groups and just different people around town I keep getting the same few comments. “I see what you save every week but I just can’t figure out how you do it” or “Can you just come shopping with me once?”
Here is my secret: If it is not listed on Southern Savers for that week, I don’t buy it! It’s a pretty simple secret. To be able to shop this way I had to build a stockpile. When something is listed on Southern Savers as a great price I don’t just walk in and buy 1, I go in and buy enough of that item to last me until the next time I am going to find it on sale again. Generally that is about 6-8 weeks. Remember everything listed on Southern Savers is a rock bottom price for that store, so if it’s on the list go ahead and grab it if you need it.
The concept of making a grocery list of things that you are out of, is the way that grocery stores want you to shop. Publix even has nice little shopping list pads they will send home with you. If you are out of an item then you are going to put that item into your cart no matter the price. If I ran out of peanut butter for example, I would go out immediately and buy it no matter the price or else lunch as we know it would stop in our house.
If you are just starting out then continue to make a list of what you need, but along with your list add in the items that are on sale this week. I don’t care if you just bought it at regular retail price last week, odds are you didn’t buy enough for six weeks, buy it now on sale and stock up so that you don’t have to get it again in a couple of weeks. Slowly you will find that your stockpile is growing and your “needed shopping list” is shrinking. It will take the full 6-8 week sale cycle before you will have everything you use on a regular basis stocked but once you reach that point it is a wonderful day. Now you are no longer at the mercy of the regular retail price and you can name your own price for everything you use.
One disclaimer – only stock up on items that you use. Even though I make the lists for you, I only end up grabbing maybe 12-15 different items on a normal trip. If you buy everything just because it is 25¢ you will save nothing in the end. One exception, if the store is going to pay you for an item (overage) then grab it and think of charities that can use it. The local shelters here are in need of everything from coffee to toothbrushes.
A Few Couponing Tips:
Don’t ever skip a week of shopping. I know you don’t really need to ever go shopping now that you are stocked, but if you skip this weeks sales remember that most of these items won’t be back on sale for a while. Do you really have enough to get you through another entire sales cycle?
We do not have any brand loyalties and we also have no random eating quirks so we are open to most everything that comes on sale. I had never purchased Sara Lee sandwich bread before but when they put out a coupon making it FREE, it became our bread of choice that day. Turns out it was some of the best bread we had ever eaten.
If a price is the best you are ever going to see then buy more. If something you regularly use is significantly below it’s regular rock bottom low price then grab more than 6 weeks. Don’t go insane, but getting some extras is going to save you more. An example for us: My husband likes to make one type of cake that calls for sweetened condensed milk. During the holidays I can find it for FREE with coupons so I stock up to last most of the year since it only goes to a crazy price once or twice a year (a years worth is maybe 8-10 cans).
Where to put it all once you get it home:
We thankfully have a decent sized pantry but there are other great places to stick stuff. Put shelves in under stairs or over washers and dryers, get storage bins and put it under your bed. Canned goods and other non perishables will be fine in your garage. Sort out your items and store like items together. We have a personal care stockpile in our bathroom, a cleaning goods stockpile in the laundry area and food in the pantry. I also have a separate freezer in the garage that allows me to get more frozen items. If you only have one freezer/refrigerator though you can still get a lot in there. Freeze things flat (like paper – smash hamburger meat down etc.) get the air out of bags. If you do have a second freezer area remember that the more you put in it (i.e. the more you stockpile) the cheaper it is to run your freezer.
Common Couponing Excuses
“I can’t do this because there is just me, or just two of us”
That’s just what you tell yourself, maybe it makes you happy. I would say you could do this even better than me with just one of you. Where I need to buy 6 boxes of cereal, you might only need 3. I buy 12 lbs of hamburger meat you buy 3 lbs. Your monthly bill could be a fraction of mine and your storage problems non existent.
“The things that I buy don’t come one sale”
Everything in a store comes on sale at some point, even if it is a few pennies off. There are also great coupons out there for a wide range of items. If you are in love with some random item from France, then save on everything else so that you can afford a few splurges. If you truly watch you will see that even Kashi pita bread and probiotic yogurt go on sale. Will you save as much as a family that doesn’t go organic? No, but you will still save.
For more information on getting started check out:
Tomorrow… Gathering and Getting More Coupons.