I thought I'd give you an outline of what I do every week before I head out to the grocery store—and I promise you, it's not as intimidating as you may think. All in all, I'd say I spend no more than an hour, one day a week.
See? Totally manageable. Although this post may be a wee bit long-winded and a little intense, rest assured when you get started yourself, you'll find your own routine and before long you'll be Instagramming weekly photos of your grocery receipts like yours truly. (Don't judge.)
Okay, so, here's a breakdown of what I do every week! For me, as of now, shopping day is always Wednesday (the first day of the new sale prices each week at Vons):
These are the first things I do when I sit down to organize my shopping list each week:
- Grab my printable shopping list, which I fill in as I go. I recommend doing a quick search for something you can customize for your own needs. Here is a great list that has a bunch of options! I used the first one from that post, and changed up a few of the categories to be more relevant to me. (And switched up the fonts, because that's totally important.)
- Open up the Vons just for U page on my computer. (This is where I'm able to see personalized deals that are offered based on my shopping habits, add digital coupons to my club card, and see what items I've shopped for in the past are currently on sale.)
- Open up the new weekly Vons post on Krazy Coupon Lady. (This blog is magic. You can choose whichever store you shop at, and they do all the hard work for you. They match up weekly sales with current coupons—both printable and from the newspaper circulars. You want to look for any items with the little yellow graphic next to the final price: That means it's a fantastic buy!)
Here are the things I am sure to do as I'm making my shopping list:
- I first add any special offers on the Personalized Deals section of the Vons website. These are things that aren't offered to every customer, so this is the only place I will find them! I find great deals on things I buy on a regular basis, and they also have a few recommendations of things I may also be interested in buying. I love this section, because I can get things like fruit and veggies for ridiculously cheap. They also include special discounts here (like $3 off $10 produce purchase). I'm sure to match up any other deals with any coupons I know are tucked into my coupon folder!
- Next, I go back to the Krazy Coupon Lady website to see the best discounts from that week. I print out any coupons they link to that I don't already have from the paper, and add them to my coupon stack for my shopping trip. Many of the coupons can actually be added to my card from the Coupon Center section of the Vons website, which is easy peasy!
- I am sure to check for any freebies that Vons may be offering and will add them to my card (they seem to do this 1-2 times a month, and I've gotten everything from free simmer sauce to free salsa!).
- The last thing I do is check the Your Club Specials section of the Vons website. This will tell me which items I've purchased in the past are currently at a discounted price. This is where I find a lot of my best savings! If I don't have a paper coupon to match with these discounted prices, I usually do a google search for a current printable coupon. A lot of times you will end up finding out-dated couponing blog posts and other annoying things, but sometimes you hit the jackpot! A lot of name brand companies offer coupons on their websites/social media outlets (I've had good luck with Birdseye and Morningstar).
- Oh! I'm also sure to look for sale prices and/or coupons for any go-to items that are almost always on my list and may not pop up anywhere else (eggs, bread, deliciously flavored coffee creamer, etc.).
When I'm actually in the store, toddler in tow, here are the things I'm sure to remember:
- I always bring my coupon folder (with all my coupons), even when I already have the ones I plan to use set aside with my shopping list. There are often deeply discounted items throughout the store that I'm able to get for crazy-low prices, but since they aren't posted anywhere else, I wouldn't have known to bring a coupon I may have! I typically take a quick look in the clearance sections (I've found Eisley's favorite Annie's fruit snacks for 50% off!) and the beauty/lady product aisles each week for any un-advertised deals.
- Stick to the list, mmmkay? That is, unless you find something for a price you can't beat. I've found that list-making, meal planning (more on that another time), and couponing has reigned in many impulse buys that used to add a lot to my weekly bill.
- Check your receipt after you shop. Always. I was recently over-charged for a few things, and had to go in to get some money back. It feels like a drag, but after putting in a lot of effort to maximize my savings, I'm not about to pay $7 for five apples. I mean, really.
A Few Final Notes
Here are some things I feel the need to add:
- You don't need to start getting the Sunday paper if you're just starting out couponing. I've been amazed at how many printable coupons are the exact same as those I find in the paper! For me, personally, I'd say each week about 25% of my coupons used are paper coupons—the rest are added to my club card or are found online and then printed.
- Rarely is there something on my receipt that isn't on sale. And if it isn't on sale, I've used a coupon. (The goal is to combine sale prices WITH coupons, but that isn't always possible.) Once you start couponing, you'll learn how much money products are actually worth (for instance, I will never pay more than $1.50 for any type of breakfast cereal) and how often your favorite/most used items are available at those prices. You'll learn when to stock up, and when to wait for a better price!
- I'll write about this more later, but the whole point of couponing isn't to get a closet-full of mustard, paper towels and granola bars. It allows you put your hard-earned money into the things you want to spend more on, but may seem out of your budget (organic milk, produce or meat), and is also a great lesson in organized and intentional shopping. That's important for everyone, I think.
So, are you overwhelmed yet? Right. I thought so. I tend to be a bit wordy when I'm attempting to be thorough. My recommendation is to start slow, become familiar with your favorite grocery store (their policies, club card options, and their weekly specials), be sure to check online for printable coupons and extra-low prices each week, and start list-making!
I'll be doing more posts like this in the future, to hopefully break it down a bit. But for now, I wanted to at least share my weekly process—and encourage anyone who thinks couponing isn't for them that it totally is. You can do as little or as much as you want. But I figure if you even save $10 a week, that adds up to more than $500 a year. BOOM.
Do you have any questions? Share them in the comments and I'll be sure to respond! I'm a little over-eager when it comes to getting other people to hop on the couponing bandwagon. I'm this close to buying each of you a couponing folder. Watch out.
— Further reading: How I Earn Money with Ibotta
— Further reading: How I Earn Money with Ibotta