{Couponing 101- How, Where and Why to Save}

Last summer my family made a military move to our Nation’s Capital. We were super excited, but after about a month one thing had become very clear- the cost of living here is extreme! I have always depended on my post Commissary, but traffic here often makes the trip too long, and just plain not worth it. So I turned to my local grocery store and soon one more thing had become very clear- I really, really needed to coupon!
But where to start? 
I’m super short on time, and grocery shopping is definitely not at the top of my fun list. I needed someone to take the guess work out of the process and give me a little “how to”. So today I have asked my sweet friend Rachel, a sister military spouse and coupon clipping diva, to give us some tips on how, where and when to start couponing! 
1) How did you get started couponing?I got started couponing on my own about a year ago. I watched h the extreme couponing show on TLC, and I just thought, if they can get all of this stuff for free or really cheap, I can too! I’ve watched my mom use coupons my whole life, and she had saved so much money doing it! Though, I will say, I am not an extreme couponer, nor do I think that the show is a real depiction of what most people do with coupons
2) How much time per week would you say you spend clipping? I actually don’t clip coupons like most people think. I keep all of the coupon inserts together, organized by date. When I plan a trip to the grocery store I clip the coupons that I need. I think doing it this way saves me a lot of time. I have a lot of coupons that I get from friends and family, so it would take hours to clip all of those coupons, but by organizing them this way I end up only planning/clipping about 2 – 3 hours a week. 
3) Do you use paper coupons or Apps? What’s the best way to find coupons?I use paper coupons for sure, mostly from the newspaper, as well as free printable coupons. I use coupon inserts from Smart Source, Red Plum and Proctor & Gamble. You can print coupons from so many sources such as coupons.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com, Facebook, manufacturer’s websites, and target.com. There are also apps you can use to maximize your savings, such as Ibotta, Checkout 51, and SavingStar, where you pick out things that you are going to buy at the store and create a paypal account to get reimbursed for your purchases. Another great way to get coupons is by emailing/writing the company themselves and either complaining about a product or telling them you love a product. They will most likely send you coupons- really good coupons!
4) Can you coupon and still eat healthy? Are most coupons for processed food?Actually, most of the coupons that we get in this country are for personal/hygiene products, and household products. We do get many food coupons but they are not all for junk food. In fact, it is very difficult to get some types of junk food cheap or for free. All of the stuff I get for free on a regular basis are things that we all use, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo & conditioner, hair products, body wash, bar soap,lotion, feminine products, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, baby shampoo and soap, diapers, wipes, paper towel, toilet paper, just to name a few.  As a couponer, I often get asked if I could eat healthy and still coupon.  
The answer is yes, you can! 
Not all coupons are for processed food and while there are some are coupons for boxed/processed food, there are also coupons out there for healthy/natural or organic food. Some of those brands include Cascadian Farms (General Mills brand), Bear Naked (Kellogg brand), La Brea (organic/natural fresh bread sold at Harris Teeter), Del Monte fresh fruit, Driscoll’s fresh fruit, Organic Valley, So Delicious, Stonyfield yogurt, Newman’s Own organic/natural, Earthbound Farms organic, Annie’s organic, Horizon organic, Food Should Taste Good (general mills brand), Method, Toms of Maine, and Seventh Generation, and many more. Most of these coupons come from the manufacturer’s website, where you can sign up to receive coupons by email, though some occasionally come in the newspaper.
5) How do you keep it all organized and avoid overwhelm when shopping?I keep it all organized in tote bag. I keep all the insets together in folders based on the date they came in the paper and I have a small zip up pouch that attaches to the bag to keep all my coupons together for my grocery trip. I do have to go through my coupons every other week to make sure they are not expired. Sometimes I get overwhelmed when shopping because they may not always have everything in stock that I wanted to get, but generally I’m able to stay pretty focused and organized. 

Here are Rachel’s Top 5 Tips on How to Start Couponing! 

Rachel resides in the D.C. area, where she is a stay- at- home mama to 22 month old daughter Anna and a little boy due in August! She attended Eastern Michigan University where she majored in Elementary education, specializing in Special education and Spanish teaching. She is passionate about teaching, especially about teaching people to save money!

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