Shopportunist: Basics of trimming food bill with coupons

Shopportunist: Basics of trimming food bill with coupons

I fumbled my way through the grocery store the other day, clumsily flipping through a piddly stack of hand-torn coupons that met the ground more than once. I felt frustrated and the irritation was obvious every time I swept up the felled scraps from the floor.

I was a complete coupon novice, or at least looked like one. No way did I function like someone who spent years lauding the value of shearing one’s way to savings.

I never considered myself an extreme couponer, but I was more than a casual clipper. Admittedly, I haven’t couponed much in the last year, maybe more. I can’t say why, for sure. We moved, which kept me busy, and the pandemic stifled any desire to shop (or shower), let alone clip, organize and utilize coupons.

The landscape has shifted over the years, too. When I first started, double and triple coupon promotions were popular and several stores accepted clippings from competitors. Over the years, incentives have dwindled as stores sought to keep more money in the coffers and digitize loyalty programs.

I thought I’d give it another go last week since there was a solid batch of coupons available to use. Fledgling aside, I felt a small sense of vindication when the cashier declared that I had “saved a whole lot.” The $15 I kept in my bank account inspired me to give couponing another go.

Still, it’s time to brush up on the basics. If you too want to shear your way to greater economic contentment with coupons, it won’t take much, just a pair of scissors, mediocre math skills, a few spare minutes, printer ink and a newspaper (wink, wink).

It can be overwhelming at first so the next few columns will be a sort of crash course in couponing. For now, if you’re a newbie — or simply need a refresher — here are some tips to help get you started:

Amass a stash: Of coupons, that is. January is a great time to start. Manufacturers are releasing lots of new coupons, now that the holiday shopping season is over and many Americans have vowed to save more and spend less. Grab a Sunday paper (or two or three, if you know there are valuable coupons inside) and head online to print Internet coupons (up to two per computer is allowed). Some of the best web sources:, and You can also find coupons directly on manufacturer’s websites and Facebook pages, like Kellogg’s, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker and others.

Know your store: Pore over your favorite stores’ coupon policies. Do they accept competitors’ coupons? Do they offer store coupons you can pair with manufacturers’ coupons for extra savings? Do they double coupons? Also, sign up for store loyalty cards and create an online account. Price Chopper, Hannaford and ShopRite offer e-coupons you can load directly onto that card.

Organize: It’s important to devise a system to keep your coupons organized and accessible. I never went so far as to bring a binder along, but I did use accordion-style file folders because they are small enough to fit in my handbag.

Match and stack: You can only use one manufacturer’s coupon per item. But, cunning coupon users are sure to “match” — marry a coupon to an item on sale — and “stack” — pair one manufacturer’s coupon with one store-specific coupon – to double or even triple savings. What’s nice is a lot of coupon-centric websites offer weekly lists of the best coupon matchups to help streamline the process.

Amass another stash: Of products, this time. Building a stockpile is a great way to save. Start slowly and don’t go overboard. You don’t need enough bars of soap to last you ’til your toddlers hit their teen years, but if you see an item on sale for next to nothing, or even free, stock up. Sales run in cycles, typically 12 weeks, so buy enough to get you through.

Don’t fall into a coupon trap: It’s not a very good idea to buy something just because a coupon exists. Before you toss it on the checkout belt, make sure it’s something you really need. Only purchase items you’ll use, unless you plan to donate your bargains to a local family or organization.

Seek out support: There is a slew of couponing/savings blogs and websites. Poke around and settle on two or three. Visit routinely and scroll through matchups, see what new coupons have cropped up and learn how to nab some of the best fleeting deals.

This is the first in a short series of stories Shannon Fromma, our Shopportunist, will be doing in Unwind on couponing. Pick up future Sunday papers for more of her expertise.

Published at Wed, 13 Jan 2021 15:35:47 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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