The Basics of Coupon Shopping

In a tough economy, shoppers have become more frugal at the grocery store.  Between the rising cost of food and gas, high unemployment, and the foreclosure crisis, they are seeking more “bang for the buck.”  At the one place they can save, shoppers are clipping more coupons and saving more dollars.

We have all read stories about coupon-savvy shoppers who can feed a family of four on $100 a month.  What is their secret?  They have perfected the art of couponing.  While I cannot promise you will do quite as well, if you follow some of the below tips, you can slash your monthly grocery bill.   

Buy two newspapers.  Although circulation is down dramatically, the Miami Herald has a radio spot to remind people to buy the Sunday newspaper.  It even suggested buying an extra copy so you do not miss any of the coupons.  If bought on Saturday, the Miami Herald is only .50 a copy.  Purchasing the Spanish version of the paper will get you a totally different set of coupons not found in either the Miami Herald or the Sun-Sentinel. 

Know when to use coupons.  Contrary to popular belief, the generic version of a product is more expensive than its counterpart when purchased with a coupon.  You will need to become coupon-savvy in order to recognize when coupons are a good deal and when they are not.   Coupons work best when combined with another deal, are doubled, or utilized with a BOGO offer. 

BOGO’s or Buy One – Get One Free:  Grocery stores offer one free item with the purchase of another at full price.  Considered a “store rebate,” shoppers are welcome to match with a manufacturer’s coupon on each item as the incentives are split between the store and the manufacturer.  Coupling the multiple coupon method with a BOGO offer will drastically reduce the price and may even result in free food.

Combine coupons with in store-sales.  On a recent shopping trip to Publix, I purchased two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios on sale at 2 for $3.  I also used two $1-off manufacturer coupons, saving an additional $2.  My cost per box: only 50 cents.  When coupled with the $1 off “fresh fruit” coupon attached to each box, my total purchase price for the cereal and two small bunches of bananas was less than $1.00.  Without the coupon, each box is about $3.29.

“Double” coupons.  Double coupons are when a grocery store doubles its face value for an even larger savings.  The store gets reimbursed by the manufacturer for the value of the double coupon.  Pay attention to store policies as not all grocers will allow you to redeem coupons for more than face value.  Some stores will only double coupons under $.55, while some only double coupons on certain days of the week.

Competitor coupons: Certain grocery stores, such as Publix, will accept traditional competitor’s coupons, while others, such as Albertsons, Sweetbay, Walmart and Winn-Dixie do not.   Although no longer common and not to be expected, it does not hurt to inquire as to store specific policies while shopping at your favorite grocery store.

Buy the smallest size.  Most shoppers are under the impression that you will save more by buying in bulk.  When using a coupon, this is usually not the case.  What you must consider is the price per ounce.  While the price per ounce of the larger size is more economical without the coupon, the smaller size is the better buy with a coupon.  This is especially true when coupling a BOGO offer with two manufacturer coupons.

Find coupons online.  When you think of coupons, chances are you think of the inserts in your Sunday paper.  In the last few years, online printable coupons have become increasingly popular.  Among the most popular Internet coupon sites are,,, and

Other coupon sources.  Some grocers have coupon racks within their stores.  Look for them near the customer service counter, or in the front of the store.  Coupons are also available in-store right next to the products themselves from machines sponsored by SmartSource. 

Coupon stacking:  Most grocery stores will allow you to ‘stack’ their store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon for additional savings.  These store coupons can arrive by email, snail mail, store ads, flyers or monthly magazines.  In general, these store coupons should be viewed as a “sale price”, with an additional discount for your manufacturer’s coupon.

Store Loyalty Cards:  Some grocery stores offer one-step rebates, where all store and manufacturer coupons and are tracked through a loyalty card with a single check issued back to you as a rebate on a monthly or quarterly basis.  You can apply coupons to items as you purchase them, essentially “stacking” the deals.  The rebate check is wonderful, but only if you have already purchased the item at a lower price.  If it is not at a discount before the rebate and coupon, it might not be a “real deal”.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit


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