I was asked recently how I manage my coupons so that I don’t end up at the store with coupons I don’t use or without any coupons at all. And here I thought I was the only person that needed to learn how to use coupons! Here’s my strategy. It may not be the best one, or the most efficient, but it works for me and my rather large family so I’m keeping it.
My strategy starts with my coupon organization. Every Sunday I clip coupons and immediately put them on my RTM list. I make sure I note what the value is and the due date. Then I put the coupons in my coupon holder. I bought my holder at KMart for about $2.50 and it’s invaluable.
When I’m ready to start my shopping list I start with my menu plan. I started with a 2 week plan, but quickly realized that 2 weeks doesn’t quite work with Steve’s twice a month pay period. So, now I plan for 15 days (or a month if I’m feeling especially motivated, but I only shop for 15 days). Then I print that calendar out, so that I can see at a glance what I need. That way I don’t buy 2 lbs of burger when I really need 5. This calendar also gets posted to the refrigerator so the kids and Steve can see what’s for dinner and I don’t get asked 5 times in a day! (It doesn’t stop the “but I want McDonald’s” whining, though).
I put the necessary dinner ingredients on my RTM grocery list. This list is already started with the pantry items that need to be restocked. That way I don’t have to leave my desk to see what we need. Then I pull up the circular for my grocery store. I check for really great deals for things I use regularly or a sale on something that I have a coupon for and add it to my list. Extras like these only go on the list if it’s a truly great sale.
Next, I compare my grocery list to my coupon list and pull out any coupons that I can use. These coupons are removed from the coupon list. Coupons and store deals are noted on the list along with the store name. That way, if I’m at Walmart and there is a good deal at Weis I can see it immediately. I can also see that I have a coupon for the item so I don’t have to go searching through the pile.
Finally, All the coupons are clipped together by department and placed in an envelope with the printed grocery list. Any other time I would simply use my Blackberry, but for the twice monthly trips I need the printed list. This week’s list is 3 printed pages long! I clip a second, empty envelope to the whole thing for the “used” coupons. When I put an item in the cart, I place the coupon for it in the empty envelope. I do this because I shop at more than one store so I don’t necessarily use all of my coupons at one time.
Like I said, there are probably more efficient ways of doing this, and most people probably don’t have as much “prep” time. I use the extra prep time so when I go to the store I can get in and out as quickly as possible.