David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

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Shoppers exit a Publix store in Mount Pleasant. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

For most of the summer, I've been awash in $10-off and $5-off grocery store coupons that keep arriving in the mail from Harris Teeter and Publix.

So far I've received a dozen of them, mostly for $10 off, and I had to devise a strategy for using them all. Most were only valid for one specific week, at one or two particular stores, and all of them required a certain amount of spending on groceries.

As regular readers might guess, if I'm offered a chance to save up to 25 percent on groceries, as long as I meet the conditions — I accept that challenge.

After all, 10 coupons for $10 off saves $100, and two $5-off coupons is another ten bucks. And $110 can buy a lot of groceries.

Harris Teeter coupon pic

A set of grocery store coupons Harris Teeter mailed out. Staff

I don't know how widely distributed these mailed coupons have been, but the same strategies I used apply to the coupons grocery store chains often offer, where they'll give customers $10 off if they spend $50, or $20 off if they spend $100, as in a recent Harris Teeter weekly circular.

Now, if your household is a family, you may already spend $50 or more on groceries every week. In that case you may want to consider dividing your shopping between two stores, to take advantage of different items on sale, or if two different stores offer dollars-off coupons.  

If you're single or in a two-person household, it may take some strategizing to maximize dollar-off deals that require certain levels of spending. Most of the coupons I received in the mail were good for $10 off, and I had to spend at least $40 (at Publix) or $50 (at Harris Teeter) in order to use the coupons. Most recently, I received a pair of $5 off coupons for spending $30 at a specific Publix location.

Here are some tips:

  • If you have to spend $50 to get $10 off, you're really spending $40 and getting the next $10 at no charge.
  • Don't usually spend that much in a week? Think about the recurring nonperishable goods you need — laundry and dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, pet food, heating and air filters, hair care supplies, washer fluid for your car — and stock up, particularly if they are on sale.
  • The closer you come to spending just the minimum required, the greater your savings, in percentage terms. Ten dollars off if you spend $40 is a 25% savings. Ten dollars off if you spend $100 is 10% off.
  • Read the fine print. Usually, the coupons I'm talking about don't count money spent at in-store pharmacies or on alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, stamps and gift cards. Also, the spending threshold is usually calculated after subtracting coupons you may have for specific products.
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Publix coupons

Some of the coupons Publix sent out in the mail. Staff 

If you haven't been getting coupons in the mail, remember that Publix routinely runs a coupon in its circulars — most recently the circular that expired Aug. 27 — allowing customers who spend $50 on groceries to buy a $50 gas station gift card for $40. If you're at Publix, you can also get a $10 gift card for getting a flu shot there.

A few weeks ago Harris Teeter ran a circular coupon offering $20 off a $100 grocery purchase. That's some serious free groceries.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.