A coupon pro reveals the best strategies for stretching your grocery money
If you're redeeming coupons every week, you're already saving. But just because you have a coupon for something doesn't mean you should buy it. Hold on to some coupons until those items go on sale. Combining coupons and sales yields the biggest savings.
Is it wasteful to buy three boxes of cereal when you need only one for a week? No, not if cereal is on sale. Over the long run it makes sense to stockpile enough groceries to last your family 10 to 12 weeks. Stockpiling allows you to take advantage of great sales and buy what you need before you need it, with or without using a coupon. Pay special attention to the expensive items on your list, and grab the opportunity to get them at rock-bottom prices when your store puts them on special. Of course, you should buy milk and fresh produce each week.
"Blinkies" are those little dispensers attached to the shelves, "peelies" are stuck to the product, and "catalinas" are the coupons that come out of the register on the back or end of the receipt when you check out. Collect them just like coupons from circulars, magazines and the Internet.
Sometimes buying in smaller packages can actually save you more. For example, let's say you have a $1.50 coupon for laundry detergent. If you buy the 200-oz. bottle for $7.49, you pay $5.99, or 3 cents per ounce. If you buy the 100-oz. bottle for $3.99, you pay $2.49, or 2.5 cents per ounce. The smaller bottle is a better value. Collect two coupons and buy two small bottles, and you save even more.
If you decide to make lasagna because ground beef is 30 percent off this week, you could end up buying full-price tomato sauce and noodles. Instead, buy the beef and freeze it. Continue to collect ingredients as they go on sale, then pull together meals from your pantry.