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Home >> Grocery Shopping Tips >> Step 7: Coupons

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Menu Ideas & Planning
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Step # 7: Superior Coupon Planning

Which of the following is worth the most to you?

A $100 a month pay increase.
B. Saving $90 a month by using coupons.
C. The monthly interest earned on $100.
D. Both A and C.

Answer B.

The savings you receive by using coupons are savings with after tax dollars. Even if you are in the lowest tax bracket of 15%, a $100 raise is only worth $85 after taxes.

COUPONS! $1.25 for a newspaper on Sunday can turn into major savings in coupons. Get to know your local grocery retailers. Many offer double or triple coupons on certain days. This can add up to double-digit savings on your grocery bill. (Personally, coupons usually account for a 15-20% savings for me!)

READ THE ADS ! Sunday grocery ads are filled with great weekly sales, especially on meats and produce.

In 2003, 77% of people reported that they have used coupons when shopping, saving an average of 11.5% on their grocery bills.

In 2003, manufacturers offered more than $250 billion in coupon savings.

The average face value of manufacturer's coupons offered to consumers increased 4.9% to $.85 � more than double the pace of the Consumer Price Index, which climbed 2.3% in 2003.

Coupon Use by Age:

68% of people age 18 - 24 use coupons.
75% of people age 25 - 34 use coupons.
78% of people age 35 - 44 use coupons.
79% of people age 45 - 54 use coupons.
80% of people age 55 - 64 use coupons.
75% of people ages 65 or older use coupons.

Coupon Use by Income:

77% of people with an income of between $0 - $25,000 use coupons.
79% of people with an income of between $25,000 - $50,000 use coupons.
80% of people with an income of between $50,000 - $75,000 use coupons.

A Short History of Grocery Coupons

1894: Asa Candler, created the first coupon. After purchasing the formula for Coca-Cola for $2,300, he distributes hand written tickets for a free glass of his new fountain drink.

1895: The first grocery coupon was created by C.W. Post. He distributes a one-cent coupon for his new health cereal, Grape Nuts.

1930's: During the Great Depression, coupons come into their own as many households look to save money any way they could.

1940's: Supermarkets come on the scene. Coupons make the jump from neighborhood grocery stores to these new regional grocery stores.

1957: Coupons create a new industry, as the Nielsen Coupon Clearing House becomes the first company devoted to coupon redemption.

1965: It is estimated that 50% of all Americans use coupons.

1975: Over 35 billion coupons are distributed and the number of households that use coupons rose to an estimated 65%.

1995: The first coupons appear on the Internet.

1998: America celebrates the first National Coupon Month.

2002: Shoppers save and estimated $3 billion dollars by redeeming some 3.8 billion coupons.

2003: The number of households estimated using coupons stands at 77%.

Where Do I Find Coupons

I find one of the most important sources on coupons is the Sunday newspaper coupon insert. However, there are also a number of other choices where you can get coupons to increase your savings.

The Sunday Newspaper: Most Sunday newspapers come with two grocery coupon inserts. From time to time, you want to check special inserts published by the product manufacturers. They show a wide variety of products that you find at your local grocery store. You especially want to check for those brands that you often use, these inserts can contain a wealth of savings.

Wednesday (Thursday) Newspapers: In many areas, the Wednesday (sometimes Thursday) newspaper includes a food section. They contain food related articles and have weekly special advertisement fliers.

The weekly special fliers will sometimes contain store specific coupons, which are only redeemable at that store. Sometimes, you find a product manufacturers' grocery coupon as well. Most stores also publish their weekly special advertisement fliers.

Grocery Store Member's Clubs: More and more grocery stores are abandoning physical coupons and distributing paperless coupons an special offers through their store membership or discount cards. These store programs are usually free to join so they are worth the ten minutes it takes to do so. The savings can be quite significant and the store automatically deducts the savings when they swipe your membership card at the register when checking out.

Women's Magazines: Although not a common place to find grocery coupons, women's magazines do carry them from time to time. When they do, they are usually quite a good deal so it pays to keep an eye out for them if you subscribe to any.

The Products: You can sometimes find coupons on or in the products themselves. They can come in a number of different forms. The most convenient are those that can be peeled off the outside of the package inside the store and presented at check-out for instant savings. Coupons are also sometimes printed on the outside of the product packaging and you have to cut it off the label or box. Other times a coupon may be placed inside the packaging.

Trade Coupons: Trading coupons with others in your area is a great way to have access to a lot more than you would normally find. Small groups exist almost everywhere and they are easy to begin if there isn't. All you need to do is gather a group of your friends and have each member make a list of about 20 items that always use. If you find a coupon that is on someone's list, you put it aside for them. If you all live nearby you can meet at a designated area and trade them. If you live farther apart, you can send an envelope full of all the coupons you have gathered for each friend once a month.

Coupons Bins: Some grocery stores have coupon swap bins within their store where you can take coupons you want and leave coupons that you will not use. Public libraries also have coupon swap bins on occasion.

Online Internet Coupons

The Internet provides a number of websites you can visit to get printable grocery coupons. This means that you are no longer limited to the coupons that happen to arrive in your Sunday newspaper and should make saving with coupons much easier. Here are a few of the better websites:

SmartSource.com: Smartsource is one of the companies that puts the coupon inserts in your Sunday newspaper. Registration is free and coupons print directly from your computer.

ValPak.com: ValPak is another company that sends a variety of different coupons to you through the mail. Their available coupons go well beyond grocery store products, but they usually have at least a few coupons for grocery stores available to print for free.

Boodle.com: This is an online version of a free-standing newspaper coupon insert that is available exclusively on newspaper websites. Consumers can print the coupons by completing a simple registration process and then using the print-at-home software to download and print the coupons. There are approximately 250 newspaper websites offering these cents-off coupons.

ValuPage.com: The coupons from this website work a bit differently than regular coupons do. These are the steps to their program:

1. Enter your zip code
2. Select a grocery store
3. Chose the coupons you want from those available and print the page
4. Purchase one or more of the items on the page you printed out
5. Give the page you printed out to the cashier so she can scan it
6. You receive a coupon for the amount of money that you saved that you can use toward a purchase anything on your next grocery store visit.

You get your savings a trip after you actually give the coupon sheet to the cashier instead of instantly at the register as would happen with regular coupons.

Upons.com: This site has a coupon relationship with a number of grocery stores including Kroger, Giant Eagle, Dillons, Ralphs, City Market, Gerbes, Fry's, Smith's, Cala Foods, Beth Markets and King Soopers. You select the coupons you want and they are automatically transferred into your grocery store frequent shopper card. When you hand the frequent shopper card over on your next check out at the store, you instantly receive the coupon savings you chose online.

Coupon Paid Membership Sites: There are a number of websites that will provide coupons specific coupons for a fee. Rarely are these sites worth the price unless buying certain items consistently in bulk. If you think they may be a good alternative in your situation, make sure they can provided coupons your regularly use at a price that is lower than the money you must spend for the membership. They should have a preview function for coupons they currently have in stock which you can go through to make the decision. Also take note if they charge a handling fee with each order which can quickly erode any savings the coupons provide.

Grocery Coupon Organizer

When you start to use coupons, one of the first things you'll learn is that to fully utilize them, you'll need to keep them organized. One of the most frustrating feelings is being in the check-out line knowing that you have a coupon for a product somewhere, but not being able to locate it.

There is no "best type" of coupon organizer. Different systems work for different people and you base your system on what works best for you. There are a few general ways that most people who use coupons store them.

Envelopes: Here is the most basic form of organizer and the way most people start off. For those who don't use a large variety of coupons, envelopes can work just fine. As you expand, you can just add more envelopes with different each envelope representing a different category. The problem with envelopes is that finding the exact coupon you want inside the envelope can be troublesome.

Recipe Box: For those who start collecting more coupons or find that envelopes lack the organization they want or need, a small, plastic recipe box can be the answer. You can use as many dividers as your want to categorize your coupons, it's large enough to hold a good number of coupons and there is enough space to be able to find most coupons quickly. Some people use a combination of a recipe box to organize their coupons at home and place the ones they will use for their grocery store trip into an envelope before leaving. The recipe box is also small enough to be taken along to the grocery store on its own.

Shoebox: For those who start to gather a significant number of coupons, the space that a shoebox offers can be helpful in organizing your coupons. Again, dividers can be used to categorize the coupons any way that is best for you. The problem is that they are a bit large to use efficiently while grocery shopping. That is why some people use them to organize the coupons they have at home and them transfer the ones they will use when shopping to either a recipe box or envelope system.

Plastic Coupon Organizer: These are organizers made specifically to organize grocery coupons. They are usually about the size of an envelope, but expand with different sections inside to make accessing coupons easier than an envelope. Many also come with a small device that will allow you to attach the coupon organizer to your grocery cart. You can usually find these advertised along side the grocery coupons that come in the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts.

Binder Coupon Organizer: This organizer is for those who like to be extremely organized or have decided to take couponing quite seriously. These are complete binder systems much like a day-planner that is able to organize your coupons with quite a bit of detail. It is also handy because it allows you to also keep your Grocery Price Book giving you easy access to price information when you want to combine good prices and coupons together. This convenience comes with a price, however, and these systems usually run between $20 and $30.

Double & sometime Triple Coupon Grocery Stores

If you are lucky and live in certain areas of the country, some grocery stores will double or even triple manufacturers' coupons. This is where the grocery store will match (usually with some limits) the price listed on the coupon offered by manufacturers. Times and days when double coupons are offered vary from store to store, so check with your local store for days that they offer them.

You should also make sure that the coupon you want to use does not say .Do Not Double  on it as this will most likely exclude it from the grocery store's offer. Some stores will require you to join their store member program and you'll have to present the program card before the coupons will doubled.

Using double coupon days in conjunction with sale items can greatly reduce the amount you pay for groceries. Here is a list of some grocery stores around the country that have double coupon programs. If you know of others not on this list, please email me or leave a message below and I will add it to the list.

Frequently, you will need to convert recipes to different amounts. For example, you may have a recipe for 10 servings of Swiss steak, but you only need 5 servings. Converting recipes is a very important technique. Nearly everyone can double a recipe or cut it in half. It seems more complicated to change a recipe from 4 to 7 or 8 to 5. Actually, the principle is the same: you multiple each ingredient by a number called a conversion factor, as follows:

1. Divide the desire yield by the recipe yields: new yield / old yield = conversion factor

2. Multiple each ingredient quantity by the conversion factor: conversion factor x old quantity = new quantity.

(It is best to convert all weights to ounces and all volumes to fluid ounces.)

Let's say Tom Mix Beans goes from a 8 servings to a 5 servings.

New Yield/old yield = 5/8 = .625

1 pound dried beans = 16 oz. so, 16 oz. x .625 = 10 ounces.
8 cups water = 64 ounces
64 ounces x .625 = 40 ounces = 5 cups

For the most part, these conversion procedures work very well. However, when you make some very large conversion, like from 10 to 400 portions, or from 500 to 6. However, in the home context, this would be a rare occurrence. Not only does it factor in reducing quantity of ingredients and would change the kitchen equipment to do the work. Importantly, it is going to increase or decrease the cooking times.

Food service operations are businesses. However, even though the home is not a business, you still have to worry about budgets, cost and bills. (It's the reason for the book.) You have a great deal of responsibility for food cost controls. You must always be aware of accurate measurements, portion control, and careful cooking and handling of foods to avoid excess trimming loss, shrinkage, and waste.

In order to calculate portion cost of recipes, you must first determine the cost of your ingredients. For many ingredients, this is relatively easy. You just look at your invoice or at a price list.

Many recipes, however, specify trimmed weight rather than the weight you actually pay for. For example, a stew might call for 1/2-pound of sliced onions. Let's say you pay 24 cents a pound for onions, and to get 1/2-pound of sliced onions, you need �-pound of untrimmed onions. In order to calculate the cost of the recipe correctly, you have to figure out what you actually paid for the onions. In this cast, the true cost is 18 cents (3/4 times $.24 per lb.) not 12 cents (1/2-pound times $.24 per lb.)

It is the total cost of all the ingredients in a recipes, divided by the number of portions. Portion cost = cost of ingredients / number of portions

I will cost out a sample recipe to show you how the procedure works. First, not the following points and keep them in mind when you are calculating portion costs. Many errors is costing are caused by forgetting one of these points.

1. Cost must be based on as purchased amounts, even though recipes often give edible portion quantities. For example if the chicken recipe calls for you to remove skin, de-bone and chop chicken into pieces. The whole chicken is the purchased amount and the skinless and de-boned is the edible portion.

2. Include everything. That means the lemon wedge and parsley garnish for the fish filled, the cream and sugar that go with the coffee, and the oil that was used for pan-frying the eggplant. You call these the hidden cost. Seasoning and spices are a typical example of hidden costs that are difficult to calculate. I've seen where some add up the cost of all hidden items used in a year and divide that by the total food costs to get a percentage. You add this percentage to each item. For example, if the cost of an item is $2.00 and the seasoning cost percentage is 5%, the total cost is $2.00 plus 5% of $2.00, or $2.10. You can calculate other hidden costs the same way. For example, you use Crisco Vegetable oil. The bottle is 48 fl. oz. (The bottle contains 96 -1 tablespoon) The bottle cost $2.00 / 96 = $.02 per tablespoon.

3. Record the number of portions actually served, not just the number of recipe is intended to serve. If the roast beef shrank more that you expected during cooking, or if you dropped a piece of cake on the floor, those cost still have to be converted.

Procedures for calculating portion costs

1. List ingredients and quantities of recipe as prepared.

2. Convert the recipe quantities to as purchased quantities.

3. Determine the price of each ingredient. The units in step 2 and 3 must be the same.

4. Calculate the total cost of each ingredient by multiplying the price per unit by the number of units needed.

5. Add up the ingredient cost to get the total recipe cost.

6. Divide the total cost by the number of portions served to get the cost per portion.

Step 1
1 - pound ground beef
2 - cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 - can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, undrained
1 - package (1.25 ounces) chili seasoning
1 - cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Chopped onion (garnish)

Step 2
1 - pound ground beef
2 - 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
1 - 15 ounce can red kidney beans
1 - 1.25 ounce package Chili Seasoning
1 - cup shredded Cheddar cheese
chopped onion (garnish)

Step 3 & 4
Ground beef = $3.99 / lb. = 3.99
2 cans tomato sauce = $.49 = $.98
1 can kidney beans = $1.49 = $1.49
1 pkg. chili seasoning = $.69 = $.69
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese = $2.88 / 2 cups = $1.44
chopped onion = $.25 per onion = $.119

Step 5
Total = $8.71

Step 6
divided by 4 = $2.18 per serving

When it is all said and done, there is one important question. Do you read the grocery ads or look for coupons before figuring what recipe you're going to use? It is the which came first, chicken or egg theory. One of the great things about a restaurant is their menu is standard and their recipes are standard. The items they need don't vary like in the household.

Go to Step 8.  Next Step

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