Friday, February 5, 2010

How Much Time It Takes

So whenever anyone hears about my crazy couponing obsession and savings, they always seem to ask me how long it takes. So, I thought I'd give you an idea of my usual routine and how long it takes me. Now, keep in mind that I am WAY overly organized when it comes to all of this because most of the time when I'm shopping, I have a 5-month old with me, and I cannot rely on my brain for anything other than singing songs about the groceries we are looking for or putting into the basket.

Ok, so I sign up to have the Sunday paper delivered to our house. Usually on Thursday or Friday, you can get a sneak peak of what coupons will be in the paper by looking here. I usually glance through this to see if I think it's a really good week for coupons or not. If it is, I'll go out on Saturday to get the Early Edition Sunday paper (at Walgreens or the grocery store) for $2 each. Typically, if it's a good week, I'll get 3 extras, if it's not, I don't get any extras. And really, you can judge by looking at the coupons that you would use as to whether or not it's worth spending the $6 to get extra papers. (I've read some people suggest getting 1 paper per member of your family, I personally just like having 4 for whatever reason).

On Sunday (after I get my paper that is normally delivered), at some point I try to clip the coupons. Sometimes this is while the baby is napping, other times it is when he's gone to sleep and my husband and I are watching tv. Sometimes, it doesn't happen til Monday or Tuesday. After I clip the coupons, I file them away in my coupon binders (I'll post about my whole nerdy organization later). There are plenty of people out there that believe in a "no-clipping coupons" way of shopping - that just doesn't work for me because I'm visual. But to give you an idea of what they do, basically they just take the inserts as they are in the paper, and write the date at the top and then file them away in a drawer or whatnot. Then, when they see the deals listed online (ex: Heinz ketchup coupon insert 12/31 SS) - they would know to look in their inserts from 12/31 at the Smart Source section, and then they could find the coupon. For me, it's easier to just flip to the condiments section in my binder, and bam, there's my coupon. Again, it's whatever works for you.

Ok, so every other Tuesday is when resets. If you are new to the world of couponing, my advice is to make an account with and register your shopping card. Don't be nervous about putting in your cellphone number, I've never been called, texted, anything from them. Load ALL coupons onto your card, and then wait. You'll be tempted to charge out to the stores (which is fine if you are shopping somewhere like Kroger that will only take off 1 loadable at a time), but if you are going to try the Randalls way (which is extreemely exciting and rewarding I must say), then load the coupons and wait. In another 2 weeks, load more coupons on - this is when you will see some duplicates and THIS is when you can go shopping. Now, if you want to get real nuts and crazy with your savings, load the coupons from also. Then you will see even more duplicates and this is when Randalls shopping is the best! Combine it with some paper coupons and you are good to go!

Back to my crazy way of doing things, I repeat - I have to be SUPER organized! So, I actually have a word document on my computer for Kroger and one for Randalls. On there, I list all the different loadable coupons I have on my card. Here's a little clipping from it to see what I mean:

Green Giant frozen bagged vegetables
SC - $0.50/1 Green Giant frozen bagged vegetables (19-24oz) (x2/27/10)
SC - $0.50/1 Green Giant bagged vegetable (x3/27/10)

Hamburger Helper
CF - $0.75/3 Hamburger, Tuna or Chicken Helper (x2/8/10)
SC - $0.75/3 Hamburger Helper (x3/27/10)
CF - $0.75/3 Hamburger, Tuna or Chicken Helper (x2/22/10)

This way I can see at a quick glance, what I have duplicate loadables of, which is one of the ways I make my shopping list. I also put the expiration date on there so that I can see which ones have expired (been taken off my card obviously) without having to double check the website to see. Anal retentive or genius? You decide. Anyways, so on every other Tuesday, I make it a point at some point during the day to update my list of loadable coupons. Once you've done it a few times, it doesn't take very long. Another option if you don't like the whole "word document" approach, is on each of the loadable websites, you have the option to "print your shopping list." You could just print out the new list every 2 weeks and it will show you the expiration date, what you have duplicates of, etc. I have thought about doing it this way myself to save some time, but now I've kind of gotten the hang of this whole word document stuff, so it goes pretty fast. I would say that it may take me 45 min-1hr total time to organize all my computer documents and whatnot =).

Wednesdays are the days that the grocery store ads come out. Yay! I become kind of stupidly excited about this. Anyways, usually I like to look at the ads online in the morning, or sometimes I'll wait til the afternoon when the mailman comes and then my baby and I look at them together (he loves all the colors - especially HEB even though I don't shop there). Now, as far as putting my list together - I'll tell you about each store separately because my approach for each store is different:

Kroger - As far as Kroger goes, I usually just try to look for good deals in their ad and pair it up with coupons. If there is something I absolutely need that I don't have a coupon for, I'll usually buy the Kroger brand. In general, if I see things in the ad that I could get for really cheap (like under $1 or free) with my coupons, I'll ad them to my list. Other items of course like toilet paper, diapers, etc, you have to have more of a price point in your head. Same goes for meats and produce. If I see meat for a good price, I stock up. That's why some weeks I'll spend more out of pocket, but then I'll have some weeks following where I'll hardly spend much at all. I'm still not very good at figuring out what is a good price for __. But, I've heard from some people that they kind of use Walmart as a point of reference. For example, I know that you can get a bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast at Walmart for roughly $2/lb. So, if I can get chicken for less than that (fresh or frozen), I'll get some. If it's way less than that, I'll stock up. Even if it's fresh, I'll get it, rebag it and freeze it. We don't eat much fish, so I don't have any savings ideas on that. Also, our meals usually consist of either ground turkey or chicken, so I don't have many ideas on fresh beef either. Ok, I think I've gotten a little off topic. Anyways, basically when it comes to Kroger, I just look at their ad, make a list of items I think I may remember seeing a coupon for or what I think is a good deal, then later on I check to see if I do in fact have coupons (loadables, paper or both), and yea, that's pretty much it.

Randalls - my Randalls shopping list is totally different. I have a document on my computer with the prices of items that I commonly have loadables for (ex: pillsbury products, soups, betty crocker products). Usually when I see that I have lots of loadables for one of those items, I match it up with a paper coupon and see what the price will be:


Green Giant boxed vegetables - $1.89 ea.
- $0.50/2 SC

- $0.50/2 CF

- $0.50/2 CF

-$0.50/2 printable

=1.28 for 2

Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters - $1.50
-$1 CF

-$1 CF

- $1 SC

-$1 printable


Usually I only try to get things from Randalls with my loadables if it will be free or negative. (That way it can help pay for my milk, eggs, bread - things that you don't have coupons for). That is why often you will see that my Randalls trips seem to have a few commonly appearing items (frosting, soups, etc.). Then, I use the negative to get items that I need. Sometimes Randalls will have really good prices for stuff (recently I've discovered some good sales on their fresh produce), and then I will buy those items, but my general rule is that unless it is an AMAZING deal at Randalls, I won't buy it there. They are just very expensive in my opinion.

So, Wednesday is kind of my big day as far as couponing/shopping list organization goes. I put together my list, type it on the computer (it's just easier to move things around that way), gather my coupons, then I go through and reorganize my list according to the store (usually just put it into 4 categories: grocery, non-grocery, frozen, refrigerated). - Again, I don't have time to think when I'm there. Then, ooo you will laugh at me for this, but I take my coupons and put them in the order of my list. That way, if I end up not getting something on my list, I know EXACTLY where the coupon is in my envelope and don't have to deal with shuffling stuff around. (Did I mention that my baby likes to be in the shopping cart, as long as it is always moving - and fast!). Now, I realize that I do a lot of extra organization that other people do not need to do. But, it makes things so much easier for me and makes my trips to the store more enjoyable. And, I can usually get in and out of the store in under 30 minutes (that's including the time to wait in line and wait on my coupons being scanned!). Now that I have been doing this for a while (probably close to 3 months now), I have gotten much faster at my organization and everything. I would say that I probably put in about 1 1/2 - 2 hrs on Wednesdays getting my list together (and of course this is not un-interrupted time, this is over the course of the afternoon/evening depending on baby's nap schedule for the day). Sometimes it takes a little more time if I need to search around for extra coupons online, sometimes when the deals aren't as good it takes less time. For me, it's worth the approximately 2 hours to save so much money each week.

Now, in general as far as the deals I find, I use google reader to follow the different blogs that I like. I probably follow about 15 blogs, but google reader puts them all together so you can quickly read just the latest posts without going to each different site. It's amazing and has saved me SO much time (thanks Jennifer!). Being a stay-at-home mom, contrary to popular belief, I don't just sit on the computer all day. Usually, the only time I check the blogs is when I'm nursing my baby. I have an iPod touch which makes things so nice because I can check the blogs while he is eating while we are in his room. (except now that he likes to grab everything, the whole "touch" feature of the iPod gets kind of crazy!). If I see a deal that I want to read up more on later, I'll usually "star" the item and then later on (usually once he is down for the night or maybe during one of his naps), I'll check it on the actual computer so I can print if necessary, or use the whole screen if I need to see it. So, in actuality I guess, yes, I check the blogs approximately 6 times a day? (I think that's about how many times he nurses now). And I realize that full-time workers probably don't have that option (at least teachers don't, as for some of you other people out there, you could check blogs instead of your solitaire breaks!), but for me, this has kind of become my job since staying home. We took almost a 50% pay cut for me to stay home with our baby. But it is SO worth it to both of us, and so I try to do what I can to save us money wherever possible to help make the most of the paycheck we get.

By the way, I am so glad they have an autosave feature on here, because I have no idea how long I have been writing this (leaving, coming back, etc.).

In summary:

Sunday - clip coupons (takes 30min-1hr, depends on how many coupons)

Monday - file/organize coupons into binders (takes 30min-1.5hrs - again, depends on how many coupons) *this is also the day that I'll go to Target/Walmart about once every 3 weeks or once a month to get the freebies!

every other Tuesday - organize loadable coupons (takes 45min-1hr)

Wednesday - organize my shopping list (takes about 2 hours)

Thursday - usually when I do my grocery shopping (Randalls and/or Kroger, and Walgreens if there are good deals for toiletry items) (takes about 30 minutes per grocery store, and 15 minutes tops at Walgreens)

Friday - look ahead at coupons in Sunday Paper preview (takes 5 minutes)

Saturday - get extra newspapers if it's a good week for coupons (takes 5 minutes at store)

Sooooo that's pretty much my week as far as couponing goes. Hope that gives you a little insight as to how much time goes into my crazy savings. Again, if you are not shopping with a 5-month old, there is no doubt that you could do all of this in 1/2 the time that it takes me. But I have found that the more organized you are, the smoother the trip goes, the less problems you have at checkout, and the more excited you get about being so frugalicious! =)

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