Couponing Tips for Maximizing Your Savings

There are many tips that I have learned while couponing and as I think of/learn more, I will be adding to this list. Below are some of my favorites.

Join a Coupon Forum – I cannot stress this enough. It takes a village to really get the most out of your coupons. No one person can find every deal and by joining a coupon forum, you are recruiting the help of thousands of other couponers who are looking for the same deals you are.

Be Patient! – As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, Keys to Couponing, patience is one of the most valuable tools to saving money. You don’t want to use a high value coupon for a free item this week if it is going to be on a B1G1 sale next week and you could have gotten two. Always check couponing websites that will give you the ad scans for future weeks and make sure that there isn’t a better deal coming up before your coupon expires.

Don’t use a coupon just because you have it. If the item is something that you are never going to use, can’t donate and don’t know of anyone to give it to, don’t bother with chasing down that deal unless it is going to either make another deal sweeter or they are going to pay you to take the item home. There have been times when I had so much toothpaste that I refused to bring anymore home, even for free, unless they were also paying me something to take the item home.

Look for bonus packs! – This is possibly my favorite tip for couponing. Just last month when I first started couponing again, there was a coupon for $2 off any Tide liquid. There was also a sale at Family Dollar where the smaller bottles were on sale for $5 each, making the 19 load bottles only $3 each. When I got to the store they had countless small 19 load bottles of Tide for only $5 each, but when you looked at all of the available bottles, there were also Tide with Downy bottles that had a bonus 25% more detergent for the same price. So I made sure that I grabbed only these bottles, giving me 24 loads for $3. I got 10 of these bottles which means that if I had gotten the 19 load bottles, I would have ended up with 190 loads for $30, but instead, I got 240 loads. That was like getting an approximately 2.63 more bottles for free! This worked out to a total savings of $39.47 ($5.50 x 12.63 bottles = $69.47 – $30 = $39.47)!

Always check store apps for more coupons than what they post in their ad. For example, from the same week as the above scenario, Dollar General had an ad for a 3 pack of Schick Xtreme3 razors on sale for $4.85, and there was a $3 off coupon in the Dollar General digital coupons, making it only $1.85 per pack or 61.6 cents per razor. I have a couple female friends that wouldn’t use these razors because they were for men so they allowed me to use their digis and I was able to get 10 packs of these razors. But when I went to load the coupons on to my account I found that there was another digital coupon for the same item, but if you bought two packs you would get $7 off instead of just $3/1. That brought the price of the product down to $1.35 per pack or 45 cents per razor. And then to add some sweetness to the deal, when I got to the store, at the back of the hook there were bonus pack that gave you 1 additional razor for free! I made sure to snag these, making the razors only 33.5 cents each! That is nearly half of what was already a really good deal and also gave me 10 free razors, or 3.33 packs for free on razors that were regularly priced at $5.85 per pack of three. My total savings on this deal, with bonus razors worked out to $64.05 (13.3 packs x $5.85 = 77.81 – $13.50 for 10 packs = $64.05 in savings)!

Check the Clearance Section! – Stores usually have a section where they have items on clearance. This is especially true around the holidays where they will have limited edition holiday fragrances and such. These items are usually deeply discounted and your coupons will normally work on these items, making them free or nearly free.

Roll Your Store Rewards! – Over the next few weeks we will be posting about different drugs stores and how their coupon policies work. With store rewards and catalinas and a small initial investment in order to get these rewards, you can use what I call “store money” to make more store money and end up getting thousands of dollars per year in free items.

Don’t forget Dollar Stores – Don’t forget that you can coupon at many different places. In addition to grocery stores and drug stores, the various discount stores will also accept coupons. Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree all accept coupons. Check with other Dollar (type) stores in your area and see if they accept coupons and ask if they have a coupon policy that you can have or print or take a picture of so that you have it on hand when you are prepping and working out all of your deals for the week.

Learn One Store at a Time – If you try to jump into every store and chase every deal at once, your couponing days will probably be numbered. Couponing can be very overwhelming at first and trying to learn everything all at once will make things even more confusing and overwhelming. Start with one drug store or Dollar Store and one grocery store and learn the ropes of that particular store. Once you have mastered that store, then move on to the next one. This way you will know everything that you need to know and can keep up with the latest changes in policy on the ones that you already know while making your way through all of them.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the posts from the previous six days, take a look! If you have already looked and feel that couponing is for you, take this new knowledge and get to saving! If you have any tips, please add them to the comments below so that we can all share in the wealth!

Cooking Basics: How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Potato slices for mashed potatoes

The reason that mashed potatoes become wallpaper paste when you put them in the mixer, or use a hand mixer or blender is because of starch. Starch is your enemy when it comes to making creamy mashed potatoes. So how do we fix this mess and still end up with smooth and creamy potatoes? Add a little longer to your prep time and a little less to your mashing time.

When peeling and boiling your potatoes, take the extra step and cut your potatoesPotato slices for mashed potatoes in thin, chip like slices. You slice your potatoes as thin as you would like, but try to be consistent in the thickness of your potatoes because the thinner they are, the faster they will cook and if you have a wide variety of thicknesses you will end up with over done potatoes and potatoes that are still hard in the center. I like to do mine about three times as thick as a potato chip.

Once you have your potatoes slices, let them soak for about an hour in a pot of cold water. If you think about it during the time they are soaking, change the water a couple times. Helpful, but not necessary. Then right before you start to boil your potatoes, change the water one last time.

The reason for doing this is because slicing them thin will expose as much surface area of the potato as possible for the upcoming soak, allowing more starch to escape the potatoes, and the water that you are changing will have a milky white tint. That tint is the starch escaping from the potatoes and being washed down the drain.

Starch in water potatoes are soaking in

Once your potatoes are cooked through, do the extra work and use a potato masher. Since you potatoes are sliced so thinly, they will be easy to mash and will leave you with fewer, and smaller lumps. If you must use a mixer, use it for as short of a time as possible, but the thin slicing and subsequent soak will have removed a good bit of the starch from the potatoes, which will make them less likely to have that paste like texture. Then simply add the things that you would normally add to your potatoes and enjoy. I like to add milk, butter, salt, pepper and sour cream. All of which to taste.

Peach Stuffed French Toast

French Toast Stuffed with Peach Compote.

Want to add some variety to your breakfast French toast?  Try adding some fruit! This is a very easy recipe that requires no measuring and should just be done by eye and to taste.

What you will need:

  • Fresh PeachesFresh Bread
  • Brown Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Whipped Cream (optional)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • A Loaf of Bread (We prefer to bake a loaf the night before so that it will be cooled and easier to slice. If you can’t bake your own bread, at least attempt to get Texas toast or some sort of loaf that would be good for French toast so that the slices are nice and thick.



Peach Compote

Slice your peaches and let them sit overnight in the fridge, marinating in a mixture of the brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and enough water to cover the peaches. You do not have to let them sit overnight, but I like too because it tastes better and makes things easier in the morning.

The next morning, pour the mixture with the peaches into a frying pan. Add butter and let simmer over medium heat until the peaches are tender and allowing the syrup in the pan to reduce.

While the peaches are reducing, make a typical French toast batter by scrambling eggs, a shot of milk, cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar in a bowl. Dip thick slices of bread in the French toast batter Peach Compoteand fry the slices over medium heat until the eggs that has soaked into the bread have cooked through and the edges are nice and crispy.

Once the French toast has cooked, place one slice on the plate and then spoon peaches and syrup over that slice and cover with a second slice of French toast. Slice in half and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut in half and serve with more syrup from the peaches, or regular pancake syrup. Top with whipped cream if desired.




French Toast Stuffed with Peach Compote.

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons! Where Do I Find More Coupons?

So you see these people rolling down the aisles with their coupon binder or box, and they have TONS of coupons. You see them in the lines using multiples of the same coupons over and over and if you have been reading these last few days, you know that one of the keys to couponing is to stockpile your coupons. But where do these people get all of these coupons? The following is a list of the different ways that you an collect coupons to build up that stash and maximize your savings.

The Sunday Paper – As we all know, the Sunday paper is where you would traditionally find coupons. The Sunday paper has coupons nearly every week in inserts that are put out by Smart Source and Red Plum, and once a month there are coupons put out by Proctor and Gamble. In addition, different companies often put out random inserts in the paper that have coupons for their products.

Buy Coupons – There are several websites that sell whole coupon inserts, as well as individual clipped coupons where you can pick just the items and quantities that you are looking for.

Print Coupons – There are many, many places where you can print your own coupons on the web. In addition to services, such as, there are often coupons that can be printed on the manufacturer’s website, the product website, restaurant websites and websites for different promotions.

Ask Your Friends and Neighbors – More people do not coupon than actually do. Especially in the way that we are talking. I ask friends and neighbors to save any coupons that they are not using for me and then add them in to my binder. This is a great way to collect coupons for free.

Blinkies and In Store Booklets – Look around the store when you are on your way in and out and on all of the aisles. A lot of the time you can find more coupons in booklets at the front of the store or in the aisles and in the little boxes with the red blinking lights.

By Mail – Visit your favorite brands and manufacturers and sign up for coupons. They will periodically send you coupons in the mail and a lot of the times these will be some of the best coupons that you can find.

Recycling Centers – Look in the paper bins at recycling centers and trash dumps. Some people even climb into the dumpsters and dig around. Especially on the weekend, when people are recycling their papers. You can really come home with quite a few coupons and whole inserts by doing a little creative digging.

Store Apps – By adding apps to your phone you can load coupons on to your account and use them at the checkout. Sometimes you don’t even have to log in to your app and can simply type in your phone number to apply the coupons to your purchase.

Coffee Shops and Fast Food Restaurants – Visiting coffee shops and fast food restaurants that serve breakfast in the afternoons on Sundays is a good way to find more coupon inserts that people have left behind after reading their paper.

Trade Coupons or Join a Coupon Train – We all have coupons that we simply will not use. Joining a coupon train or finding a buddy to coupon with is a great way to get rid of the coupons that you won’t use while snagging some of the coupons that you will use that others won’t.

I will continue to add to this list as I can think of more ways to obtain more coupons. What ways do you collect your coupons?

Couponing: My Categories

Sometimes when getting started, people get overwhelmed with all of the different coupons and have difficulty deciding what categories they should put in their binder. As you get further into couponing, your binder will evolve and you can decide what are the best categories for you that make the most sense. But in order to get you started and give you an idea, I have listed here all of my categories in the order that I have them in my binder. You can look this over and get your own inspiration on what you need to add to your binder so that you can keep organized and maximize your savings.

The following is all of my categories in the order that they are placed in my binder:

The first page is a 9 pocket baseball card insert that I use for all of my store loyalty cards and gift/merchandise credit cards. If I have a store loyalty card and a gift card for the same store, I will normally put both cards together in the same pocket with the gift card on top, so that I don’t forget that I have it.

Next I have a full size sheet with a piece of paper in it that just says “File Me!” I try to keep this page empty and put my coupons away at the end of my trip, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible, especially while standing in the store and I use this spot to save my coupons that I have just picked up in store (blinkies, catalinas, etc) so that I don’t lose them and can put them away when I have the time.

Next are full size sheets with the printed store coupon policy. Often there are 9 pocket sheets between these pages with the name of the store, for store specific coupons and what I call “store money coupons.” These are things like ECBs from CVS.

All of the next pages are baseball card inserts and the occasional full size sheet for oversized coupons. The categories are as follows:

Free! – For all coupons that are for a totally free item.
Must Use – For all food and non-food items where the coupon will expire soon and I would have purchased the item if it were on sale or not. I keep these as long as possible in the hopes that there will be a sale, but still have them front and center so that I don’t forget about them and miss out on the savings the coupon gives me and end up having to buy the item at full price.
Other – For all coupons, food and non-food that are items that not enough coupons come out for, such as batteries and odd items such as things that come out only during specific times of the year, such as school supplies in August and September.

Non-Food Section

Paper Goods – For all toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, etc.
Food Storage – For zipper bags, disposable storage containers, aluminum foil and plastic wraps. I also put things like wax paper and parchment paper on this sheet.
Cleaning Supplies
Laundry Supplies
Air Fresheners
First Aid
Feminine Hygiene
Toothpaste and Dental Products
Shaving Supplies
– This is where I put make up and hair color and different kinds of make up remover, etc.

Food Coupons

Frozen Meals
Frozen Meat
Frozen Bread
Frozen Fruits and Veg
frozen Dessert
Ethnic Foods
– This is where i put Mexican and Chinese food coupons
Meats – Normally this is only things like lunch meat, bacon and sausage
Fridge Desserts
Fridge Bread
Fridge Meals
Salad Items
Crackers and Snacks
Cooking, Spices and Broth
Canned Goods
Canned and Jarred Fruit
– I also put the little plastic cups with fruit and applesauce here
– This is for things like breakfast bars and Pop Tarts
Candy and Junk
– Yes, it actually says “Junk.”
Drinks – For everything not Coffee or Tea
Coffee and Tea

As I mentioned before, this is just my list, provided for your own inspiration. It is important that you choose categories that make the most sense to you. If you don’t need a category, then just leave it out. It is your binder and you need to let it evolve into your own thing so that you can find things easily and quickly when needed. There are a lot of times where I find items on clearance that I wasn’t expecting and end up getting things for free or nearly free that I wasn’t expecting and being able to find the coupons quickly and easily is key in making that happen.

In addition, if you have a ton of categories, like I do, it is important to have tabs that you can look to in order to get to the category you want quickly. Adding in 50+ page dividers, for me, is out of the question, as the binder itself is heavy enough without all those extra pages. This is why the Post It! Tabs is so convenient and easy. And with them being removable, and able to be stuck to the inserts again and again, they are a no brainer for my coupon book.

Couponing Part 1: The Binder

The first thing that you are going to need if you plan on being a serious couponer is a way to organize your coupons so that you can maximize your savings. I have found that organization is key and the best way that I have found to organize my coupons is in a coupon binder.

Gather What You Need

First you need to choose the binder that is right for you. Very quickly I decided that I need the largest zippered binder I can find, and so far that is a 4″ binder made by Case It. This appears to be the best choice for me because you can zip it up and you won’t lose your coupons, and because it will look much neater in your home, because I can promise you should keep it somewhere handy!

Next, you need to purchase at least 25 full page sheet protectors and a minimum of 50 nine (9) pocket baseball card holder sheets.This may seem like a lot but you would be surprised how fast you can fill these sheets up. I currently have approximately 50 full size sheets and 140 9-pocket sheets and most are totally full.

Some people choose to purchase dividers with tabs for each of their sections, but I find that these take up too much space in my binder, so I go with a product from 3M, called Post It! Tabs. They are removable and I can just move the tabs up and down the page as I choose. You just write your category right on the tab and they peel off and stick back on over and over and over. This is a much better way to go for me because I break my binder down into 50+ different categories and this eliminates 50+ sheets of heavy, cardstock paper that does nothing more than hold a tab, making the book that much heavier and thicker. Next, especially if you have chosen a binder that does not zipper, there are plastic pencil holders that you can get on the school supply aisle, usually for around $1 that go on the binder rings. These are good for holding scissors and a small calculator or any other small supplies you want to keep, such as extra Post It tabs.

Once you have gathered all of these things it’s time to put your book together….

Putting Your Binder Together

I am showing how I have my book put together to give you an idea of how I do things, but you should put your book together in the way that makes the most sense to you and helps you to make things as easy as possible for you.

Because I don’t use the divider sheets, I just put in one 9 pocket baseball card sheet for every category and then attach my category tabs. I keep all of the extras in the back and every time I fill a sheet, I just add another one behind it. The first page of my book is a 9 pocket baseball card protector and this is where I put all of my store loyalty cards. The cards usually come with small cards for your keyring and credit card size cards for your wallet. I keep them here on the first page so they are handy and easy to get to if I don’t have my keys available. This is also where I put gift cards. The following page is a full page sheet protector with a piece of paper on one side that says “File Me!” This is where I put the coupons that I need to file or re-file.

The next couple pages I also have full page sheet protectors. In each of these pockets I have a one page printout of the different store’s coupon policy on each side. There are 10 places here that accept coupons, so I have 5 sheet protectors. It is good to have all of the rules and policies at your fingertips should you encounter a problem at the checkout. If possible, print the store’s policy on that page, so that the store employees can see that it came straight from their site. Sometimes this saves time. Between the store policy pages, if the store has their own coupons or some sort of Catalinas that print when you make purchases such as ECBs from CVS, I also add in the 9 pocket sheets to hold all of that store specific money.

Setting Up Your Categories

After the store policies, I have my coupons in their various categories. Some people do this alphabetically or by category. I just put mine in to the binder in a way that makes the most sense to me. I start with another baseball card sheet for coupons for things that are totally free and another page for “must use coupons” such as coupons for things that items that I would buy even if it wasn’t on sale or coupons that I really want to use and the coupon expires soon. My next page is for “Other” which are things such as batteries or things that don’t usually have coupons and it would be a waste of space to add a whole sheet for.

This is followed by all non-food coupons and then that section is followed by all food coupons. Each of these two sections are separated by things that go together. For example, I have separate sheets for soap, deodorant, shampoo, shaving items, dental items, medication, first aid, etc. But all of those are together. All cleaning supplies, air fresheners, laundry supplies are separate pages, but they are together. In food I have separate pages for frozen meats, frozen fruits and veggies, frozen dinners, frozen desserts, etc. All of these are together in the food section.

When setting up your categories, you want to put them in an order that makes things as easy as possible for you. Many people get stumped on the categories that they want to put in their book, but you can break it down as small as possible or as large as you choose, and when you use the tabs like I have, you are only limited to the size of your binder and your book will evolve as you collect your coupons. Once you start sorting your coupons, it will sort of just come to you. I will be posting the list of my categories tomorrow for people that would like to look them over as a starting point.

As I mentioned, after the coupon category pages, I like to put all of the leftover 9 pocket and sheet protectors in the back so that I can add to my sections as needed. I used to put all my restaurant coupons in the back, but my binder just gets too big, so I now keep the restaurant coupons in a separate small binder that I keep in y car. I will discuss that binder in a later post.

Other Tips and Things to Keep in Your Binder

Once you have your book put together it is time to start sorting your coupons and putting them away in an organized manner. I put all of the coupons away at least once a week. While doing this, sometimes the coupons are too big to fit in the pockets. When this is the case, you can put them in full sized sheets, or you can fold them. I normally will fold mine, but when doing so I always make sure that I do not fold the barcode in any way, if possible. Why cause any more hassle than you have to at the check out? When I have to fold them so that I cannot tell what the coupon is any more, I may slide a piece of paper in front of it that says what the coupon is for, if it is a “Do Not Double” coupon and the expiration date but for the most part you can usually fold them so you can see what it is on one side and the terms on the other, so you just flip the page and peek. Whenever I am going through my book I am always on the lookout for coupons that have expired so that I can get them out of my binder so that mistakes are not made with expired coupons.

If you use the Case It binder that I use, there is also a zippered pocket on the outside that I use for storing more coupons that I just picked up, so that I have a place to keep them without actually opening the whole binder. There is also a zippered pocket on the inside where I store a calculator and my scissors as well as my extra Post It tabs, a pen and a small notepad for things that I need to remember, such as items that were sold out but will be back on a certain day. In addition, there is a section that is closed with a velcro strap on the right hand side of the binder on the inside. This is a small section with dividers to make five. In this section I keep the store ads for that week, as well as my lists for each store.

Now that you have an idea about organizing your coupons, it is time to start collecting as many as possible! Trust me, it is all about the number of coupons you have and the stockpile. You don’t have to have 180 boxes of cereal saved up. Just about a 3 month supply of everything and you will be able to significantly decrease your grocery bill. Later this week we will discuss different types of “store money,” like Catalinas. This is where a ton of savings can come in. By making a small upfront investment, you can end up spending that money over and over again getting tons of free products.

Do you use something other than the binder?? If so, what do you use and how well does it work for you? If you do use a binder, what kind of things do you have in yours that help you to make shopping easier? We are always looking for ideas and tips from other couponers!