Now remember, I have only been doing this for a short period of time, so I am NOT an expert. When it comes to CVS, I almost always rely on someone else to tell me what the good deals are and what THEY are buying...baby steps!
What are the sites you use for help?
I bookmark LOTS of sites and then use some information from each of them to find the best deals. Here are some of the sites:
Hot Coupon World - (HCW) You have to join (free) but it's a wealth of information. I use this to get sneak peeks on the upcoming sales, especially Publix. It helps me with planning.
Southern Savers - Matches up coupons with the best deals on sale (bogo)
Swaggrabber - Matches up coupons as well
There are many others, but these are where I check first. I then pop into the other sites on my side bar to see what they are doing.
What do I do to prepare for my shopping trip?
After opening the site, I then copy and paste what I see that I want to buy in my email or word document. Be sure to copy the coupon match ups! I do this from each site and then PRINT!
I take my print out and then look for the coupon match ups on the sheet. This saves me tons of time because I have an active 21 month old. Time is precious! I use the binder clips to clip them together with my list. While I am doing this, I take the time to get my bottom line of payment. I simply write down the final price of my items on my list and then total it up. This helps me when the cashier hits total. I am always aware of what I am spending.
Before going to the store, I make my list in order of the store and then clip my coupons together in that order. I used to take my coupon box with me, but found that I was spending too much time pulling them out and with Caroline, I was afraid they were going to end up in the floor!
When do I shop?
I shop at Publix on Monday. I ALWAYS take advantage of the mystery penny item. I break up my transactions into increments of $10 (before coupons) and buy several of the penny items. I mainly go mid morning.
CVS is a different story...sometimes I shop on Saturday nights before closing and sometimes I get up at the crack of dawn to be there at 7:00! YUCK!
Walgreens is funny. I used to shop there during the afternoon or evening because of a VERY grumpy cashier. One day, I gave her some coupons for basically free cookies and milk. She's now really happy to see me! So, now I shop whenever I can fit it in. I try my best to AVOID a certain store because of a RUDE manager named (Krwayszhankia). No joke!
When do I plan my list?
Publix's ads run from Thursday morning-Wednesday night (where I live). I use HCW for the sneak preview of the ad on Tuesday night. This gives me an idea of what I see that I am planning on buying. I may even copy and paste into a document for later reference. So, I use the sites to plan my trip a little each night. I DON'T do it all on Sunday because I would be STRESSED!
How long does it take?
That's the question of the day! It truly depends on my focus and my extra time. I am not an expert at this...I probably average about 45-60 minutes a week planning my list. Some weeks are longer because of the better deals and others are shorter (like this upcoming week for me).
Do you have certain items you buy each week and what if they aren't on sale?
Yes, I always buy milk and half & half (for my coffee). I almost always buy 3 gallons of milk each week (2 whole milk and 1 1% milk). Currently they are listed as a Publix essential and is holding steady with the price of $3.19 each and $1.75 for my cream. I use these constant items to do one transaction and get the mystery item for one cent. So, you can see where $10 of my budget automatically goes.
To stockpile or not?
YES! YES! YES! I do believe in this! However, you cannot become a hoarder. AND, remember if you can't afford it, don't buy it this week! Another deal will come around again. I currently have about a year's worth of dishwashing detergent (I paid around $5 total) and other items. If I have a TON of an item (such as potatoes or rice), I don't buy them for a while (not even when another sale comes around and it's free). Others may disagree with this, but I have found this works best for my family.
When I first started, I would see a great deal and buy as many items as I had coupons. I ended up with a pantry full of cake mixes, brownies, potatoes, rice, and spaghetti sauce! YIKES! I didn't understand that the sales are cyclical and I didn't need to use all of my coupons at once. Hey...baby steps! :) I donated a good majority of those items to a local food bank. I still buy one item each week to donate. I simply buy the free items and then put it in a bag to take when it gets full.
Where do you find your coupons?
The Sunday paper (double edition), the free papers that are delivered to my door (and my neighbors) on Thursday morning, and the internet. Always be on the lookout for coupons found in the grocery stores. I find tons of "blinkies" and tear pads. I always take them EVERY time I go to the store and file them when I get home.
How do you organize your coupons?
I have a plastic shoe box with labeled envelopes for my cut out coupons. I also have the inserts binder clipped (like ones together) and sorted by date. They are currently in a plastic crate. I cut out my internet coupons and file them in box, file my store coupons, and any others that have come apart.
How much money do you spend a week on groceries?
My personal goal is $40/week. This includes all food, diapers, bath/household items, and pet food. Some weeks I do go over a bit, but it makes up for weeks that I spend less. Yes, I do spend less sometimes! :) Some weeks are right at $40 because I mainly purchased meat. Other weeks are cheaper because I didn't buy any meat. I don't always buy diapers either. For instance, this week, I will use my ECB's (free money at CVS) to purchase diapers without spending a dime!
How do I stick to my budget?
This is still hard for me. I try my best to avoid stores that I know I will spend money in....SuperTarget, Wal Mart, Michaels, etc... They are like blackholes and I just get sucked in! I also stick to my list. I put on blinders and shop with a mission...to save money! If I happen to see a great deal and I don't have my coupons with me, I simply return another day. If it's not there, I get a rain check. These rainchecks have done wonders for me. It's like getting a layaway plan but without having to put any money down!
What is your favorite store?
My favorite store is Publix. But, I also love CVS and Walgreens. I shop for different things at each store and love them for different reasons. Publix because it has BOGO and accepts competitor coupons. CVS because they give me money to spend on my next purchase. Walgreens because they offer many free items and give me money to spend at Publix.
Will I help you out?
Of course! I can't promise that I can do wonders for you, but I will help you with your list. I am currently clipping some coupons for my sister and helping her with her list. Granted, she doesn't always listen to me, but I trust she knows what is best for her family. :) I also have another friend, Debbie, who is in love with saving money. We bounce ideas and information off each other all the time!
If you have any other questions or want to add anything, please lelave me a comment. I'm always looking to help out or be helped!! :)