The thing that started all of my food budgeting was hearing about couponing. This was just before the whole thing exploded and crazy couponers became regular conversation, news and a series on TLC. I was a pioneer people...ish.
The first thing I did was sign up for our store's customer rewards program (we use Fred Meyer). By having their customer card we get weekly special deals and we get a percent back each quarter that goes towards future purchases. We save about $12-25 on each trip in store deals and we have been getting another $15-20 in quarterly rewards. That comes out to around $300 so far this year! Some people are worried about the stores using these cards for customer profiling, but I honestly don't care. If they want to know that my family likes Tillamook cheese or Kettle Brand chips, then more power to them.
My second step was obtaining a subscription for our local paper. I'm pretty cheap and we really don't read the paper (we're online news people) so I didn't want to make it a big investment. We happened to be at the store on our very first meal plan trip when the local newspaper had a kiosk recruiting subscribers. We ended up getting a year's subscription of Sundays and holidays for $52. That's $1 per week. Not too shabby. I told Collin that we'd see if this investment paid off. It ended up being worth it. The first week we got the paper I cut out $12 in coupons that we used on our next trip. The subscription paid for itself before the end of the first month. After taking out the amount we spent on the subscription, we've probably saved at least another $200 on our newspaper coupons. If you're keeping track, that's $500 in coupon savings so far.
A lot of couponers will cut coupons weekly (or even daily) and gather extras from neighbors. Some are even die hard enough to go dumpster diving for their coupons. I warned you...I am a lazy couponer. I don't do anything that requires too much extra effort. I don't gather up extra coupons and I don't cut my coupons every week. I pull apart the Sunday paper and stack the coupon flyers plus the ad for Fred Meyer on the kitchen counter. I check the weekly coupons for the local store, but then leave the rest for later. I don't deal with them again until I'm getting ready to plan my trip to the store.
I also get extra coupons online. There are multiple sites that host coupons for printing. These rotate on a regular basis (each site has a different rotation pattern, but checking every two weeks will typically catch the majority of coupons offered). I primarily use Coupons.com and Smart Source. These are both free sources. There are other sites out there that offer coupons via mail for a fee as well as services that will create a list of the week's deals and coupon coordinations. I figure I'm trying to save money, not spend more and I really don't want to spend a bunch of extra time dealing with it. I also don't like having to download a bunch of crap onto my computer in order to operate the various websites. These two sites are simple enough for me and still save me a good amount of money. I print multiples of the coupons that I know I will use. The sites will typically let you "start over" and print additional copies 2-5 times depending on the item. These coupons get me another $20 or so in savings each trip. Figuring twice a month this adds up to $360 this year to date. Total couponing savings this year based on these estimates: $860. Wow.
So every other week (more or less) I sit down and clip out the coupons. I typically do this while I'm watching TV - making use of otherwise nonproductive time.
I first sort the coupon flyers. I put the ones I am going to use in one pile and discard the rest in the garbage. That's right. I throw away coupons. No way I'm wasting my time to clip a coupon for some item I know we'll never use...like say dryer sheets. I'm allergic to them. They're useless to our family so spending time cutting those coupons out would just be dumb.
I most often cut the computer printed coupons using my scrapbook paper cutter and the flyer coupons with my scissors. I've also recruited Collin to help me clip in the past. (FYI...I'm still missing the cover to my Tim Holtz scissors if anyone is wondering. I have NO idea what I did with the darned thing. However, I have been able to avoid skewering myself with them again. Small victories.)
After all the coupons are cut I sort them into piles by category. You'll want to create your own categories based on your store's layout, but I will share mine with you when I talk to you more about my coupon binder.
Once they're categorized I then sort my coupons into my coupon binder. I have adhered little poly pockets to each section's page to keep things contained. More on this next time. I'm so excited! Crafting!!!
This amount of time this process takes depends on how long it's been since my last trip. Typically it takes me about twenty minutes to print the coupons, ten to sort the flyers and thirty to cut and sort. That's at least thirty minutes of perfectly good How I Met Your Mother time.
Now you know all you need to know about uber lazy coupon clipping. Yahoo! See...not that daunting right?
Next time we get to my favorite part...the binder! My binder is my pride and joy. It's been through a few revisions, but I think it's a pretty smart arrangement. Maybe you won't be as impressed as I am. I don't care. I'm still giddy. I might go hug it for a while now.