How I Coupon

So, I’ve been a couponer for about two-and-a-half years. I haven’t been one of these “extreme couponers” or shelf-clearers though. Sure, I get my deals and I have a nice stockpile, but have been fairly lazy and unorganized about my couponing “method.” That’s been fine though because couponing hasn’t really been common in my small town–until recently!

It’s AWESOME that the word is spreading and more people are getting into saving money. I love sharing a passion with others and it’s fun to pick out my fellow couponing friends with their gigantic binders taking the place of a baby in the front of their cart. But it’s also lit a fire under my bum because now I feel like I have some competition to go get those deals! I used to wait until Friday or Saturday to look through the ad or my favorite coupon blog, gather coupons and then go. But lately if I don’t prepare ahead of time and get to the store Monday morning, the deal is GONE. And there is nothing more disappointing to a couponer than empty shelves.

With this recent change, I’ve been evaluating my couponing method a bit. I’ve also had several friends wanting to know more about exactly how I coupon and how I feed my family of five on $250 a month. So this one is for them. . . .(and anyone else!)

First, I get the Sunday paper.

The best coupons can be found in the Sunday paper and I have four delivered to me every week. For a while (the lazy coupon days) I wasn’t buying any papers. I have a couple of friends that save their inserts for me and I was using printables from the internet. It all seemed to be working fine but getting a hold of those inserts wasn’t very consistent or organized and I was starting to miss a lot of deals so I decided to subscribe when the local newspaper called and offered a good deal. I pay about a dollar a week for each paper. My best advice for getting a good deal on the paper is to call and ask if they are offering any specials.

Next, I clip my coupons. . .

. . .all of them. This is a recent change for me. In the lazy days I left the inserts whole and only cut when I needed a coupon. But now I’m cutting them all and organizing them in a binder. I decided to make this change because there have been way too many times I’ve gone to store with my small stack of planned-to-use coupons only to find manager specials or unadvertised deals that would match up amazingly with coupons–if only I had them with me.  (Tomorrow I’ll give some tips on quick coupon clipping and show you my binder.)

Third, I prepare for the store. . . .

I do this by looking at match-ups on my favorite couponing blogs, making a list, and gathering the necessary coupons.

I only buy with coupons if it’s actually a great deal. This means waiting for the item to be on sale, and then matching it up with a coupon. For example, say Crest toothpaste is normally $2.29 a tube. I can use my $1 off coupon and it will be $1.29, but I’d rather wait until it goes on sale for $1 a tube (and it does), and THEN use my coupon, making the toothpaste free.

And last, I go shopping!

Most weeks I shop at CVS and Kroger. Since I usually have kiddos with me I limit the shopping to one to two trips a week–preferably in the morning while Ryan is at school.

{total for this mini-trip was $4.70 thanks to coupons}

I stockpile when I can.

When canned tomatoes are $0.12 a can after the sale and coupon, I buy 20 cans instead of two. This way I have plenty of “stock” to get me through to the next sale. I don’t go insane on stockpiling 60 bottles of mustard or anything though. Remembering that food items expire and that I want to be a good steward over what we have, I only buy what we’ll be able to use before it expires. If we end up not being able to use it, we donate it. If the weekly budget allows, I typically buy enough to last my family at least 6 months (although my current goal is to work up to a year’s supply).

I plan our meals around the sales, seasonal items, and our stockpile.

Meat and produce take the biggest chunk of our grocery budget so I watch the sales and shop for seasonal produce. When boneless chicken breast is on sale for $1.88/lb but beef is $4.29/lb, we eat chicken that week. When apples are $0.99/lb but grapes are $2.88/lb, apples win. I “stockup” on meat and produce when possible by utilizing the freezer.

Each week I create a meal plan based on what meat and pantry staples we already have or that are on sale that week. We’re not always perfect about sticking to it, but it’s a good guideline, helps keep the grocery budget WAY down, and reins in the temptation to grab a pizza on a busy night.

{Unstuffed Pepper Bake}

We’re able to keep our food/toiletries budget to $60 a week thanks to couponing (and many weeks it’s much less!). I use cash envelopes to help limit my weekly spending. Using the cash envelopes has been a REALLY hard habit for me to get into and I’m not claiming to be great at it. But setting that boundary does help keep me in check and keeps me from overspending. And yes, our family of almost six eats well on $60 a week. I get a lot of gawking looks when I say this, but believe me, because of couponing, it can be done.

So that’s how I do it. It’s simple though I know it can be a bit overwhelming and seem like a lot of work at first. Once you’re hooked to the coupon-high though, if you’re like me, you’ll want to keep scoring deals and saving your money and wonder you’ll why you never shopped like this before.

Back tomorrow to show off my coupon binder. . . . Feel free to ask specific questions in the comments section if I missed something.

27 Comments on How I Coupon

  1. katie
    December 26, 2011 at 11:44 pm (4 years ago)


    I have a question… say if i go to the store and pick up an item for 2.00 and i have a 1.00 off coupon. I buy 30 of those items and use 30 coupons that cuts down my price to 30.00. when i watch the tv shows on TLC they NEVER spend so much…. so my question is how do they spend so little??? Please help i want to save alot of money too.

  2. Amy E
    September 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm (4 years ago)

    I’m curious, do you clip every single coupon in the flyer? If so, why not just clip the coupons with items you use?

  3. Mollie
    September 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank for sharing your great tips. We are going full speed with Dave Ramsey’s debt free plan and I am looking for ways to save on groceries. I would love to get our budget to $250 per month for a family of 5.

    You are a blessing.

    • pameladonnis
      September 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm (4 years ago)

      You can do it!! It took me a few months and some creativity, but we did it!!

  4. Hilarie
    September 7, 2011 at 4:25 am (4 years ago)

    Do you know of a good way to find a local couponing blog? It seems most of the ones i look at live somewhere else and the coupons in the paper are different, so ill spend all this time looking through my ads to not find any of the coupons. Help?

    • pameladonnis
      September 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm (4 years ago)

      Try this:
      I’m not sure how up to date it is, but it might give you a start…

      I had a hard time finding a local coupon blog as well just because my area wasn’t really booming with couponers. Even though it wasn’t exact, I did find a blog that at least covered my store so I could get an idea on what coupons I should be looking for. Hopefully that map covers your area though.

  5. gaby
    September 7, 2011 at 4:03 am (4 years ago)

    Im just starting a Im confused help.I have several Questions on how to use coupons

    • pameladonnis
      September 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm (4 years ago)

      What questions do you have?

  6. marisa
    September 7, 2011 at 3:33 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the post! I have been couponing for awhile but really only buy what we use and maybe 5 items at the most at the time. I live in CA and do not have stores near me that double like all the store on TV do so it’s kinda frustrating seeing people get the items for free that way. But with 7 of us every little bit helps!

  7. Lesley Keith
    September 1, 2011 at 2:07 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for taking the time to share this Pam. I’ll take gawking for 60.00 a week please.

  8. libbywilko
    August 31, 2011 at 10:42 pm (4 years ago)

    Sounds great… we don’t have couponing in Australia so I can just admire from afar… we do have specials each week and if they are something we eat we do stock up on them !

  9. tara
    August 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm (4 years ago)

    i got discouraged when NONE of the stores in my area will double or triple any coupons…after watching the “extreme couponing” and seeing all their deals were done with stores that let them do that.
    so if you can show me how it can be awesome to use just a single coupon and sale prices, i would be ever so happy!! seriously!! because the cost of living here is higher than anywhere else i’ve lived.

  10. Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings
    August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm (4 years ago)

    Those are the same ones I use (well, no krazycoupon lady because her site made me krazy lol. Then I Heart Kroger since I shop at them. (I think we’re couponing twins!)

    • pameladonnis
      August 31, 2011 at 5:29 pm (4 years ago)

      @Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings, I’m with you on the krazy thing…I don’t check it too often. lol

      I’m totally checking out I heart kroger though!! Woohoo. I hadn’t heard of that one!

  11. Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings
    August 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm (4 years ago)

    Hey – you’ve been copying me! LOL I do the same thing, but one step differently. I buy just 2 papers, and if there’s a coupon that I’ll use a lot of..I’ll actually find an alternative source for that particular coupon and get quite a few to use during the week, on an item that we use all the time. Otherwise..our way is pretty much exact!

    Wanna share your favorite blogs/sites that you do price matchups with?

    • pameladonnis
      August 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm (4 years ago)

      @Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings, Lol, that’s awesome. If I want to “stockup” on something amazing I buy multiples from a coupon clipping site too.

      I’m in Kentucky, so the blog I look at the most for local deals is Southern Savers. com.
      Bigger sites that I keep an eye on are Money Saving Mom and The Krazy Coupon Lady. There are a million sites it seems, but to help me not get overwhelmed and obsessed with chasing a deal I usually just stick to those.

      What do you use?

  12. Laura
    August 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Pam, you’re turning my whole way of thinking around and getting me EXCITED to budget and save. I look forward to the pictures of your binder. Thank you for posting this! :-)


8Pingbacks & Trackbacks on How I Coupon

  1. […] been a couple of months since I did any serious couponing as I gave myself permission to take some time off from chasing deals while we adjusted to life […]

  2. […] like to think I’m still a cute, hip(ish?) mom even though I have a brood of babies, make jam, clip coupons, and aspire to make dinner most […]

  3. […] been a “couponer” for about three years, and there is no doubt in my mind that coupons can save  a lot of money. […]

  4. […] that we don’t ask for treats, toys, etc. at the grocery and was pretty focused on my list and the budget and the task so my first thought was to say no and continue down the aisle. But then, because […]

  5. […] you’re new to couponing, don’t get discouraged. I can only keep our total this low because I’ve been doing it […]

  6. […] you’re new to couponing, don’t get discouraged. I can only keep our total this low because I’ve been doing it […]

  7. […] I need to hang on to every bit of sanity I have left. Meal planning helps me stay on budget because I like to plan my meals around store sales and coupons, and when I have a plan we are less likely to grab a pizza or run through the drive-through on a […]

  8. […] I explained my method of couponing and promised to share how I organize my coupons. Until recently I was leaving my coupon inserts […]

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