Its Wednesday and all the grocery stores in my area start their weekly sales on Wednesday. Recently I hadn't been doing much with my coupons because I had so much stocked up in my pantry that I kind of let it go for a short time. Well... gosh stuff gets used up eventually and this week I found my supplies of shampoo, razors and toothpaste dwindling and I'm nearly out of hairspray. (eek--when you only get haircuts for special occasions-well, hair spray is your buddy~wink!)
I stopped casually in the store one day to just pick up some of those items without being prepared, saw the prices, and left empty handed in shock. I decided that this is no time to go shopping unarmed. I'm back in the coupon saddle again.
Mojo is looking at my big uglee purple milk crate, he's worried we won't be in the garden this morning, and he may miss his usual cultivating followed by being chased.
The duct taped old purple crate holds my collection of very old recycled hanging file folders filled with coupon inserts from Sunday Papers. There's about 2 years of coupons in that thing.It is the best coupon sorting/filing method I've ever come up with, and I've tried it all I think.. except maybe that crazy contraption my Uncle Wayne (I guess that would be 'ex-uncle' since she eventually thought better of the deal) used to strap to his grocery cart back in Stoughton, I think it was his goal to always get his groceries free, he had all the couponing/refunding bells and whistles in his system. Me, I'm too lazy for that, besides the thing looked like a cardboard piano/airplane or something. (huh?) I like to run into the store with nothing but my list and a fist full of coupons, or my easy to carry couponizer. The file box stays home under my desk.
The way I store coupons is very easy--I don't cut a coupon unless I'm planning to use it that day. I just take the entire insert from the Sunday paper, write in big bold print what date it is--with a sharpie, then file it in my crate. I have 3 sections for coupons in my crate and each section contains 12 monthly hanging files. I used to just use plain file folders but soon found out that hanging files are better as they prevent 'coupon insert slump' which is a very aggravating situation when you are in a hurry.
My sections are: Smart Source, Red Plum and "Other". Smart Source and Red Plum almost always have inserts in the Sunday papers except a few weeks during the year when there are no coupons due to holidays usually. "Other" is for those occasional inserts like Proctor and Gamble or General Mills, I just stick those together.
Storing the coupons is easy. Keeping them updated is simple as well. Since there are seldom coupons that are good for more than a few months, and even more seldom any good for over a year, I just go through the current month folders in all 3 sections once a month and get rid of expired coupons from the oldest inserts. If I'm not 100% on top of this--its OK-- nobody is grading me on it. I just need to sometimes do a little catch up de-junking so things don't get too crowded.
Generally I toss any inserts that are completely 'dead' sometimes I will find just one or two coupons that are still good in last year's inserts, so I may stick them in my Couponizer and toss out the rest of the insert. Some folks send expired coupons to military bases I've heard they can use expired coupons on bases for maybe a few months longer--I don't know the details but if anyone military reads this--let me know--and I'd be happy to send them to you if I have some. ( unless I find out there's like a hundred military folks reading this.)
So, the big question then is--if you can't SEE your coupons in there, how do you know where to find one when you need it?
Well-- that's really not hard either and I rely on other people's hard work helping me out. For a long time I've used Grocery Game--which I am finally going to let go this month. I like it fine, it was great for my 'training wheels' and no service is more thorough or perfected, nor can I get all the great deals on my own that I got with GG, but-- it is geared toward shopping only on certain days and at certain stores and those days and stores don't always fit my needs, besides you do have to pay for it--although--if you are new to coupons it is well worth paying for. Its not that much $ at all for what you save. I won't go into detail on GG, you can read about it on other posts if you like or at their website. What I use most now is Coupon Mom and sometimes Sunday Coupon Preview
Coupon Mom has some great things on her site, what I use mainly is her coupon database. I haven't normally used her printable coupons because I used to use Vista on my laptop and it was so easy to gum the dang thing up that I had to avoid cool things like that. However, now that I have Linux*(just found out--can't use Linux w/ coupon moms printable coupons) I may give it a try and see if it works out for me. (if you need a PC--do NOT buy one with Vista on it!!!) Anyhow I go to the coupon database in her sidebar and I click on it, then click on North Carolina Although I live in SC, the database for NC works best for me because I get most of my coupons from the Charlotte paper, as big cities just have more coupons.
Anyhow--I click on NC and then I can type in any product name and the database will come up with any coupons that are currently in circulation that will work with that product. It will also tell me the source of the coupon and the expiration date. All I need to do then is check my file crate for that date and insert and pull out the insert and see if I have the coupon or if I used it already. Very rarely it can happen that the coupon wasn't in the insert to begin with--nothing is perfect. (BTW- it really does pay to buy 2 or 3 papers for coupons, especially if you have a big family and especially on weeks when there are more coupons in the paper than usual or when there is a P&G insert)
I prepare for grocery shopping using the tabs on my laptop's browser to go back and forth between my favorite store's websites and Coupon Mom's database. I usually create my shopping list right online and then just print it out. Many of the stores now have great tools for creating a list. I can usually even add my coupons to the shopping list by cutting and pasting the info from the coupon database.
After I've made a list and noted where to look for coupons using the weekly sales, I go to my crate and pull the coupons I need and cut them. Then I stick them in my Couponizer.
When I shop, I don't bring a purse, just my couponizer, my calculator and my wallet. I use a men's wallet to carry my debit card/cash and ID and store cards. That way I can put it in my jean pocket and spend my time looking at product labels and comparing prices, not worrying about my purse falling off my shoulder or sitting in my cart. The couponizer sits open in the kiddy carrier of my shopping cart and is not at all i n the way or 'weird looking' (sorry Uncle Wayne.)
Shopping for me is part of my JOB, its serious stuff. It is at the grocery store that most of us part with the biggest chunk of our income, we should give that chore our undivided attention, right? I figure that especially in this economy, and now with just one regular income, I need to be a real work at home woman, and make my time profitable to our bottom line here.
Of course no shopper is perfect and sometimes you just need to go out mid-week between big shops. If I need to send a kid out sometime (hopefully he was going that way anyhow) for something that I need last minute I can still log on to Coupon Mom and check for a coupon, then just give the kid the coupon along with some cash to go get it.
If I see an item on sale but there is no current coupon, and I think I may be out and about near a store after the weekend, I will sometimes go to the Sunday Coupon Preview site and find out if a coupon will be in the next newspaper. Kind of cool to 'know' the future.
Because my diet is significantly different than it used to be, I have to eat more fresh foods and more scratch foods, but there are also some prepared foods I still buy, also there are some things Hubby will not give up that get with coupons. (Hubby's sodium laden Zatarain's for instance) I enjoy Smart Balance products and Mrs. Dash and some low sodium and low fat foods that make my life easier in the kitchen. Like most Americans, I also buy lots of non-foods, like razors, shaving cream, soap, shampoo, dish and laundry and cleaning supplies, paper goods... Using coupons saves very significantly on those things--especially when also combined with sales. Even if you cook entirely from scratch you can save enough with coupons to make it worth doing. Nowadays, you can also often get coupons for organic and green products--even vegetarian stuff. Last summer I even bought canning lids and jars with coupons! I think that was just the most fun ever for me, I mean-- a coupon for canning lids? And I found them on sale too! ~grin~
Not all sales are good sales--some are a bit dubious. This is where it pays to keep track of prices a bit. Grocery Game is expert at this but I have a not too hard, imperfect but useful method. I use my Aldi and Sam's club Bare Bones Price List for that. (the most recent one is usually in my sidebar links) I don't always have to use it--because I have quite a few of the numbers in my head now, but I still update it now and then just to check. I figure if a sale price is lower than the every day price at Aldi or Sams--its a good time to buy some extra for the pantry. Otherwise, I just get what I need now, or skip it and wait for a better sale.
My Pokeberry Coupon Method is from a long time of trial and error. I use both modern technology and common sense, recycled and re-purposed containers and the whiz bang in the right combination that works for me. I've got links to favorite resources or posts I've written on the sidebar for anyone who is interested.
my last tips on this-- The most pricey fancy grocery store may be the best one for coupon shopping- I like Harris Teeter for it because they will double and sometimes triple coupon values. Also--check for things at drug stores. All the major drugstores have deals that combine well with coupons, some will let you use a combo of store rebate, store coupon and manufacturer coupons and you may get some things free or even be paid to take them. Always get those store cards. I know--Big Brother knows more about me that he should.. but at least I get deals on my groceries. **almost forgot-- check any store you are in. Many take coupons--such as Dollar General, Walmart and Target.. etc.
Enough about the coupons--Now --back to my garden and birds....
I'm a bit puzzled over what may be a weed or may be a perennial coming up in one of the beds, question is--do I pull it now or wait until its showing its face better? If I wait--I may be weeding when its 95 degrees and humid.. .such a dilemna. It pays to mark everything you plant! I guess this is especially true for us gramma types cuz we notoriously forget what we did last year, and we HATE hot and humid.
Last night I removed a sweet little mossy nest from my shed. :( I had to. I'm glad it didn't have any eggs yet. I noticed a lovely Eastern Phoebe was peeking in there. When I was repainting the shed door after we just bought our place, I took the screen off the door, and well, in the middle of painting--we had company at the time, and it began to rain an insane amount suddenly and I never got back around to putting the screen back on. Its the small back section of the shed, nothing much in there right now but my collection of nursery pots and some pvc pipe. However--we do plan to make it part of the 'guest cottage' for my Mom in Law soon so I can't be letting even pretty Phoebes put their eggs in there. I brought the pretty little nest in the house and put it in a pot with my baby bay tree. I then set a little stone bird on it. Mojo walked by the pot last night and gave it a very good smelling, he never misses a thing does he? #3 Son went out last night and stapled screen over the door so this will not happen again. My apologies to the Phoebes, hopefully they will notice we still have a couple of openings in our actual real bird houses on the hill.
The blue birds I believe are nesting now. There was some excitement in their box yesterday, I'm pretty sure Mrs. B is setting on some eggs.
Last night, and again early this morning, just before the big moon disappeared and the sun began to come up there was a great deal of racket in the big field behind our woods. I believe it is a pack of coyotes. They sound like they have lots of young ones. A very nasty screamy, howly,yippy noise. I really think, this may surprise folks who think I'm a great nature lover--I am--but I'm not fond of these guys. I'd rather be waken by the neighbor's donkey looking for love than by these critters.
Well the peace of Pokeberry is uninterrupted at the moment, its another beautiful but chilly Carolina Morning. The feeder is full of little flutters, Moj is patiently (for him) sleeping at my feet and the Pokeberry Life is good. I've got a huge list of projects to get busy on, but first time to make out my grocery list, and pull those coupons too. Have a Pokeberry Day!