In some form, I have always used coupons or savings certificates or sale/clearance racks. I always found most items over priced and I never needed to have the "hot" item right when it came out.
After Dan was born and we went to a one-income household, I started focusing more on my coupons. Some weeks were better than others with savings and I would go grocery shopping around my paycheck.
Then Dan got sick and we had doctor visits and traveling expenses and medication costs, etc. I searched online for a coupon blog focusing on the big regional grocery store in my area. I found I Am THAT Lady.
She is a few hours away from me, so some of the coupons aren't the same (especially since regional competition can drive sales and coupons), but she provided a starting point for me to make better use of my coupons.
So I would take some time on a Sunday or Monday and go through the coupons that came in the Sunday newspaper. I would clip the ones I would use and toss the others. Over time I realized that saving the ones that I didn't think I would use would come in handy - sometimes a few days later, other times a few weeks later.
I've met Lauren a few times and each time I learn something from her! The first time we met was a few months before Dan died. It was an informal gathering of a few people who follow her on Facebook. I had just started a coupon binder (it was an old photo book) and she provided me with some good advice. The last time we met, a few months after Dan died, she was hosting a "beginner's" coupon seminar. Although she told me the information would be way to basic for me, I went anyway - you never know what you can learn or how you can help others! It was at that seminar that I purchased a new coupon binder that made couponing easier for me.
I also realized that shopping every week (at least for those things that we use that are good deals that week) is probably a good thing. I still haven't ventured far from the grocery store (occasionally I try my hand at a drug store) but I know that if I need to, I will have lots of help to make that leap. And by shopping for the deals that week, I was actually able to save some money.
Along the way, I have realized a few things. With the exception of milk, we didn't have to go grocery shopping for 2-3 months after Dan died. We had stocked up on enough items that we were able to have 2 or 3 meals a day (plus snacks). Ok, so there were times when dinner was a bag of chips, but at least we were eating something right?
We always look on the grocery "clearance" sales. Just because the Ritz crackers are football shaped and it is past football season doesn't mean they are expired (but they are probably 50% off!). The meat with the price reduction tags on it? Sold! It needs to be sold by that day, but not necessarily consumed. So off to the freezer it goes! Store brands may not be cheaper if you combine a sale and a coupon (or two!) Corned beef may not be cheapest in March for St. Patrick's Day. Sales go in cycles. Stock up with enough to get you to the next cycle.
I have since started following another coupon blogger The $aratoga $aver (who is a little closer to home) and joined a Facebook group of local couponers. The people in the group swap (not sell!) coupons and post questions or deals they have seen.
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