Sunday, October 17, 2010

Are you a commissary coupon queen?

You know the types, we hear about them online and in magazines.  Women who can bring a $200 shopping cart to it's knees, and walk out of there spending little to nothing.  Oh, how I aspire to be one of these women!

I can't dedicate all of my time to the pursuit of savings.  While I don't have any children, I do have a full-time job, so I haven't taken my coupon clipping to the level of online/printable coupons or textable coupons, although I hear those things are out there.

Are you looking to do the same?  I thought I'd offer some of my tips and hints for maximizing your savings at the commissary.  If you're holding on to some trade secrets, please share!

  • Buy the Sunday paper.  This is a no-brainer.  If you're not already picking up the paper with a Sunday coffee, or getting it at home, consider finding a friend/relative who gets the paper and doesn't coupon clip, and steal theirs.  I've been doing this.  :)
  • Look for coupons in mailbox fliers.  I've primarily seen these for restaurants and fast food joints, but they're worth browsing!
  • Pick up the coupons at the commissary.  Right as you walk through the door of my commissary, you can find piles of coupon inserts, without digging through the paper.  My commi also has a rack that they're on as well.  Buzz through these before you start walking through the store.
  • Look for coupons attached to packages or displays.  The commi is great for posting coupons right in front of that product.  I've also found small coupons attached to those items.
  • Get a coupon organizer!  This is essential, or else you'll have a big, disorganized mess and you won't want to use them.  You can find them at office supply stores.  Label it in a manner that works for you.  My labels are:
    • Cleaning Products
    • Laundry
    • Paper Goods (which I lump toilet paper, facial tissue, paper kitchen products, and all resealable baggies into)
    • Breakfast (all food products that I would associate specifically with this meal)
    • Lunch (all food products that I would associate specifically with this meal)
    • Dinner (all food products that I would associate specifically with this meal)
    • Snacks
    • Cosmetics
    • Personal Care (toiletries and medicine)
    • Household Products (removable hooks, lighters, other miscellaneous items)
    • Baked Goods
    • Store Specific (I'll put restaurant coupons in here, or coupons that can only be used at that store)
    • An empty one for the coupons I'm using on this shopping outing.
  • Leave the coupon organizer in the car.  It just makes sense.  It won't do you any good if you've forgotten it inside the house when you've gone shopping.
  • Clean out expired coupons when you're clipping and organizing your new ones.  I typically do this on Sundays, before I head out to do my grocery shopping.
  • Plan out your grocery list after you've clipped/organized/cleaned out your coupons.  I do this on Sundays.  Scan each section in your organizer for coupons expiring soon and consider buying that item soon.  It's a lot easier to pull out the coupons you want to use prior to juggling the task at the store.  Put these coupons in the "To Use Today" section of your organizer.
  • Don't buy items you don't/won't use, just because you have a coupon.  That's wasteful, even if the item is under a dollar.  If it's not a item you regularly use, pass on the product and don't clip the coupon.
  • Double up your coupons if buying multiple items.  I'm not speaking of the understandable - two of the same coupon if you're buying two of the same item.  I'm talking about using two separate coupons for multiples of the same item.  I've used a "Buy 2 Save $X" coupon and a "Save $X on 1" coupons if I'm buying two items.  I did this with Surf brand laundry detergent last week.  They were having a mini-case lot sale last week.  One box of Surf was $3.00 or so, and if you bought 4, there was a coupon for $4 off.  I had an additional coupon for $1.00 off Surf, which brought my 160 loads of laundry down to $7.
  • Listen to the loudspeaker in the commi.  Today they were running manager's specials and a LOT of them!  If you were buying Tyson chicken breasts, they were giving you a $1.50 off coupon, or $0.50 off thighs.  Then they did a special on Kraft shredded cheese - buy 5 packs and they gave you a coupon that brought them down to $0.35 a piece!  If I didn't have a ton of cheese already, I would've loaded up!  The saleswoman said they did these sorts of specials on those weekends after payday, so it pays to shop during the most dreaded times.
  • Consider your savings with the coupon or buying the generic item.  Sometimes a generic item can be cheaper than the "real thing," even with a coupon.  Have a general understanding of what your family's non-negotiables are - what products do they need/want the name brand - and which items you can opt for the generic.
Those are all of the tips I can think of so far!  I haven't done a full-blown case lot sale yet, but I really haven't been a dedicated commissary shopper until we've come here to Colorado.  Back at Bragg, it was closer to go to Walmart, so I rarely went to the commi.  Now it's close enough that I can go weekly and it's worth the short drive.

How did I fare today?  Glad you asked!  Between my clipped coupons and ones I found while shopping, I saved $11.70 with 16 coupons, for a savings of 10%!  I'm up from last week's savings of $10ish.  To make things even sweeter, I stopped by Walgreen's on the way home, where I picked up a Nivea Men 3-in-1 Shower Gel for FREE, thanks to a 2/$5 special and a $3 off coupon in the paper this morning.  This takes my overall savings of the day to $14.70.  I'm pretty proud of myself, and glad that I can make our grocery dollars stretch during a difficult financial time.

What about you?  What are your favorite tips for saving money at the commissary?  Thanks for sharing! 

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