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Monday, November 1, 2010

Forming the Battleplan

People complain that they don't have time to coupon or they don't understand the process, that it's too hard or too confusing to learn. So I decided to write down the steps I take as I take them. It's by no means perfect and I'm not saying it's the fastest or best way to do it but it works for me and I thought I'd share.

First the time it takes. I take about an hour each Sunday afternoon to go through he Sunday paper and cut out the coupons I want (and those I want to trade), sort them, slip them into the coupon binder and remove the expired ones.

I also send a few minutes throughout the week here and there finding and printing online printables, cutting coupons off food boxes or from things I get in the mail. I usually don't cut the printables out as I print them. I slip them into a pocket in my binder and cut when I'm making my list for the week.

I spend about an hour, maybe a little more making my shopping list. The more coupons you have and the more stores you're looking to shop the more time it will take. I'm going to focus on the grocery stores for this post to simplify things.

To begin I gather everything I'll need. I like the computer a lot but for lists I like to use real paper and a pen. So I gather paper, pen, calculator, the sales fliers of the stores I may visit and the binder.

The first thing I do is go through the store's sales fliers and write down what I feel are the best sales for me. I divide this list by store and leave room to the side of each item. When writing the sales I make sure to note the brand, the size and quantity, the variety included in the sale and the price after the sale is applied. If there is a BOGO sale I'll write the before and after price.

Post kid's cereal 10-14 oz 2/$4 = $2.00 each
Haas Avocados - 2/$3 = $1.50 each
3lb bag Green Giant rose potatoes - $1.98 each

I do this for each store.

I keep in mind the coupons I know I have and if I see one of those things on sale I definitely write that one down. If two stores have the same item on sale I choose whichever is the best deal. This could be the closet store or the one that doubles coupons.

With this list and the coupons I know I have in mind. I check the pantry and the fridge to see what i have in stock and what I might need more of and plan a menu. After I've decide which meals to make for the week I write any extra ingredients at the bottom of my grocery sales list so I'll remember to look for coupons for them too.

Now is the time to go through the coupons and find those that match the sales. This is where I'm really glad I switched to the binder method. It's so much easier for me to see what I have and go through it.

The first page in my binder is 'Soup'. I have a coupon for 50 cents off 2 Campbell's Select Harvest soups. Ingles has them on sale for $1.22 each and they'll double that coupon so it will be $1.00 off 2. I write this beside the item on my grocery sales list.

Campbell's Select Harvest Soup - BOGO - $1.22 each - 50/2 coupon (doubled) = $1.44 for 2 X3
I have three of these coupons so the X3 at the end of the line reminds me to take advantage of this deal 3 times.

Now I circle this deal on my grocery sales list so I'll know I've already checked it. I slide those 3 coupons into the 'This Trip" sheet protector. If I don't find a coupon to go with the sale or the deal isn't good enough and I want to save the coupon for another time I mark through that item on the grocery sales list. I also mark through if another store has a better deal. Now I just repeat that until I've gone through the list and stack of coupons. Keeping the grocery fliers close in case I need to check the details of a certain sale item.

When my grocery deals list and my coupons are all matched up I write out a grocery list (wow I do make lots of lists) I divide it by store as well and try to write it in order by the store's layout, produce, deli, bakery, etc. Once that's done I can head to the store!