Q: I read your column and I cannot envision how you save so much with coupons. Would you show me, step-by-step?
A: I love teaching other people to cut their grocery bills.
Coupon shopping has changed much since the "old days," when shoppers would cut out every coupon they saw in the paper, then tote them in binders, boxes and plastic bags and stand in store aisles madly sorting, trying to match coupons to products. With the "clipless" system I teach, we cut only the coupons we need, and we know precisely what we're going to buy before we get to the store.
There are three essential tools any coupon shopper should have: an accordion file, a computer and a printer.
An accordion file. Super-couponers keep the entire coupon insert intact each week, storing them in an expandable file. When coupon inserts arrive in the newspaper, write the date on the front. (They are dated in tiny print along the spine.) Then, put the inserts in one pocket of the accordion file, with the most recent month in the front pocket, the previous month's behind it, and so on.
A computer. There are many web tools for coupon shoppers that make it a snap to match insert coupons to local supermarket sales. Grocery list "matchup" sites will give you a list of everything on sale at your store of choice, matched to the coupons you need to take those products home at the prices shown. These sites match coupons to the best sale prices, an essential step to maximize savings. You can quickly choose what to buy during this week's trip.
An example entry from a grocery list matchup site:
On sale for $1 a can.
Use the 75-cent coupon from 2/3 SS
Pay 25 cents = 75 percent off.
The "2/3 SS" indicates the date the coupon insert appeared in the newspaper (Feb. 3) and the name of the insert it appeared in (SmartSource.)
If I want to buy this item, I simply pull that insert from my file, cut that single coupon, then move down the list.
A printer. Matchup sites create a printer-ready grocery list of the items you choose. And a printer can print coupons! Many popular matchup sites link to printable coupons for sale items, too. It's simple to print a coupon and add it to the coupon pile. Print the neat list, grab your small pile of coupons and you're ready to go. I have a list of popular matchup sites at supercouponing.com. Click the "Getting Started" link on the home page to learn more.