Feeding your family can be expensive. In 2018, the average U.S. household spent $7,923 on food — $4,464 for meals prepared at home and $3,459 on dining out. Luckily, if you want to learn how to coupon to save money, you’ve come to the right place!
Discover how to maximize your grocery discounts and become a savings master today.
1. Learn how to best find coupons
If you want to find the best deals and coupons, you’ll have to look for them. Search in your local newspaper, magazines, and store circulars. You can also download e-coupons and rebates online.
Many grocery stores offer digital coupons on their websites. To get access to the coupons, you might need to make an account online and have a loyalty card with the store. Visit the websites of the stores closest to you or those you shop at most frequently to see if coupons are available online.
2. Understand coupon lingo and store guidelines
Stores often have their own guidelines and policies when it comes to coupons. The policies clearly state what types of coupons they’ll accept and how many coupons you can use in a single transaction. Some stores also limit the number of coupons you can use when buying a single item or will limit the number of coupons you can use in a 24-hour period.
It’s also important to know what makes a coupon valid. If you’re redeeming manufacturer’s coupons, they usually need to include the following or a store can reject them:
- The words “manufacturer’s coupon”
- An expiration date (some stores will take expired coupons, but many won’t)
- A barcode
Most grocery stores reserve the right to refuse coupons that are blurry or illegible. They also usually won’t accept photocopies of coupons or coupons that are torn or otherwise damaged.
3. Organize your coupons
So that you don’t end up with a mixed-up pile of expired coupons, it’s important to create an organization system for them. You can purchase a coupon binder to store your coupons or keep them in a filing box, similar to a box for recipe cards. A binder may be easier to carry with you when you go to the store.
Divide your coupons by type and expiration date. You can create categories such as:
- Snack Foods
- Pet Supplies
- Cleaning Products
- Personal Care Products
Store the coupons in the binder using photo or baseball card sleeves. You can use tab dividers to separate each section. Put the coupons that are going to expire soonest at the front of the binder so that you remember to use them first.
Another option is to create a separate section for coupons that will expire that week and place it at the front of your binder. Go through the binder each week to take out unused, expired coupons and to move soon-to-expire coupons to the front.
4. Know what to clip
Don’t purchase an item you wouldn’t normally use just because it’s a good deal. These shopping habits lead to cupboards full of uneaten items and money down the drain.
When you’re clipping coupons, don’t be afraid to toss the ones you don’t need — or give them to another shopper looking to save. If you know of other people who regularly coupon, you might set up a coupon swap with them. You can give them coupons you have and know you won’t use, and they can give you coupons for items you actually need.
5. Get familiar with your go-to grocery store
Become familiar with the policies, sales, and other procedures at the grocery store you visit most frequently. One way to do that is to create a price book, so that you can combine sales and coupons and get the best price on items you use regularly. Stores usually mark down items cyclically. Knowing when a particular item will be on sale at a store can help you avoid paying too much for it.
Creating a price book lets you keep track of sale and non-sale prices of products you buy often. Whenever you buy something, record the item’s name, amount or size, the price you paid, and the date of purchase. Do this every time you buy the same item, and you’ll start to see the sale pattern.
For example, a jar of spaghetti sauce might be $2.50 when it’s not on sale. The next week, the store might mark it down to $2. The week after, the sauce might be buy one, get one free. Two weeks later, the sauce might be $1 per jar. Finally, the sauce might return to its non-sale price of $2.50.
Using your price book, you can see that the best price of a particular brand of spaghetti is $1 per jar. If you stock up on the sauce during the weeks when it’s on sale for $1 and use a coupon for it, you’ll pay the lowest price.
If you see a good sale, other shoppers will likely pounce on it, too. If you get to the store and see the item out of stock, don’t panic. Instead, ask a clerk if they offer a rain check.
A rain check is a piece of paper that promises you the sale price on a product once it’s back in the store. It might take a couple of days or a week before you can purchase the item, but you can still save money getting it for the best price.
6. Buy in bulk
It can pay off financially to buy the products you use the most in bulk. Typically, bulk buying means a lower unit price, so you end up saving money over the long run. You might have to pay more for the product upfront, but you can reduce the upfront expense by purchasing when items are on sale and combining the sale price with a coupon. Bulk buying on double or triple coupon days helps you save even more.
Before you buy in bulk, make sure you have enough room in your home to store the items. If you purchase a large bottle of shampoo, you might pour some into a smaller container to keep in the shower and store the remaining bottle under the sink or in a bathroom closet. If you purchase dry pantry goods in bulk, you can keep them in jars or plastic containers in a closet or cabinet in the kitchen.
7. Let go of brand loyalty
Store-brand or private-label products are often just as good or better than name-brand products. They are usually a fraction of the cost of name-brand items. Unless an item is on sale or you have a coupon that makes the brand-name version cheaper than the store-brand option, your best bet usually is to purchase the store-brand version.
While you aren’t likely to see manufacturer’s coupons for store-brand products, many supermarkets will mark down their own brand of items from time to time or will offer store coupons for those items. Keep track of sales and coupons with your price book so that you can save the most.
8. Let go of store loyalty
If you usually only go to one grocery store, it’s time to consider shopping around. Different stores have different sale cycles and policies. You might find a better price on an item you buy regularly at a different grocery one week.
To see what’s going on at supermarkets in your area, look for an app that lets you compare item prices and discounts across multiple stores. These apps also let you clip e-coupons and search for rebates.
While you should shop at multiple stores to get the best deal, be conscious of how much you’re driving. If you’re eating up gallons of gas, it could negate any savings you find.
9. Use a cash rewards card
Get the most for your money by combining couponing and sales shopping with using a card that offers cash rewards to earn money while saving. Consider using our Founder’s Card for 2%* or 1.5% cash rewards on every purchase, every time. You can use the cash rewards you get to save on future supermarket purchases.
More Tips for Success
If you’ve ever shopped for groceries while ravenous, you know how easy it is to toss chips, cookies, and other prepared food items in the cart. These impulse buys tack a hefty number onto your final bill.
Instead, be sure to go to the store after you’ve eaten a meal. With a full stomach, you’ll make better purchasing decisions — and save money. Plus, you won’t feel the need to grab unhealthy snacks.
If you go to the store without a plan, you might end up buying items you don’t need or won’t use. Instead, map out your meals for the week, then create a list of the products you need.
Once you’re at the grocery store, stick to your list. It’s also a good idea to shop the store in a particular pattern, only going down the aisles that contain items on your list. If you don’t need any cookies or cereal, for example, there’s no reason to wander down those aisles. Doing so might make you feel tempted to buy things you don’t need.
Before you get to the check-out lane, pause for a minute and review your list to make sure you got everything on it. Limiting the number of times you have to go back to the store for forgotten items will help you reduce the risk of impulse buys.
Pre-made foods — like sandwiches, roasted chickens, pizzas, etc. — may look delicious, but they often have a high price point. You can make the same meals for a fraction of the cost at home if you buy the ingredients instead.
It’s easy to get swept up in the convenience of prepared items. However, when you make a meal from scratch, you’ll taste the difference.
Keep the Savings Going
Saving at the grocery store doesn’t have to be hard. Simply follow the couponing tips above to make the most of your weekly food run.
To learn about more ways to save money, visit our WalletWorks page.
*You can earn 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. You can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases if you maintain a PSECU checking account and qualifying monthly direct deposit(s) of at least $500. See the Visa® Founder’s Card and Visa® Alumni Rewards Card Rewards Program Terms and Conditions for full details.