Question. I read your column every week and I just can't wrap my mind around what you are saying. I cannot envision how you save so much with coupons. Is there some way that would show me, step-by-step?
Answer. I love teaching other people to cut their grocery bills with coupons. Coupon shopping has changed so much since the "old days," when coupon shoppers would cut out every coupon they received in the paper then tote them around and stand in store aisles madly sorting, trying to match coupons to products. With the "clipless" system, we only cut exactly the coupons we need, and we know precisely what we're going to buy before we get near the store.
There are three essential tools any coupon shopper should have in his or her arsenal: an accordion file, a computer and a printer.
• Accordion file: It's essential to keeping your coupons organized. Super couponers keep the entire coupon insert intact each week, storing them in an expandable file. When your coupon inserts arrive in the newspaper, write the date on the front. 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.
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• Computer: To effectively save big on groceries, you need a computer with Internet access. 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 do the hard work of matching coupons to the best sale prices -- an essential step to maximize savings. You can quickly and easily choose the products you want to buy during this week's trip.
Here's an example entry from a popular 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" is an abbreviation that 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 purchase this item, I simply pull that insert from my file, cut that single coupon, then move down the list to the next item. The lists show pre- and post-coupon prices of products, making it easy to spot the best deals.
• Printer: The matchup sites actually create a printer-ready grocery list of the items you choose. And, a printer is essential for printing coupons. Many popular matchup sites link directly to printable coupons for sale items, too. It's a simple matter to print a corresponding coupon and add it to the coupon pile.
I have a list of popular grocery list matchup sites on my website, www.supercouponing.com. Click the "Getting Started" link on the home page to learn more.
Jill Cataldo is a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother. Her website is www.super-couponing.com.