Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our Grocery Store Coupon System

With the rising price of food, we all need to find ways to save as much money as possible. There are different ways that people keep track of coupons and some systems are better than others but I don't think that there are any wrong ways. This post will cover the system we use for keeping track of our coupons.

We try to keep it as simple as possible and it has worked for us.

We start with a simple 3 ring binder, Post-It flags and some sheet protectors for either 4x6 photos or baseball cards. The baseball card protectors are nice because they have more pockets but the other works just as well. These items can be purchased at most major stores including office supply stores and should not cost too much.

Now that you have the supplies necessary, it is time for some legwork. The next step is to go down the aisles of your grocery store and write down what is in each aisle. Before you start freaking out, you don't need to write every single item that is in it and just stick to the major groups that are shown on the large signs above each aisle.

While you are taking a breather, you can sort the coupons you may already have into separate stacks by aisles. My wife says she keeps about 2-3 pages per aisle but it may be more or less for somebody else. We are only two people and really don't buy that much. We try to stick to essentials and really don't deviate from that, unless there is some ridiculous price on something. Some items may be free when "stacking" coupons. (I may write a post on that subject.)

So, you've got around 20 stacks of coupons sitting in front of you. Now we must start putting them into the sleeves but remembering to keep them in order by aisle. However, keep in mind where you normally come into the grocery store. We normally start off in the produce section of the store and move to the left. The numbering of the aisles ends at the produce and goes backwards. If you usually start off in aisle 1 and go up from there, then you can start by numbering your first sheet "1". As you move along in the store, the numbers will ascend but we actually do the opposite. As you can see in the photo above, the first blue tab says "Produce" and the next one down is "21" and goes down from there. There is no "wrong" way to do it and it just matters how you normally do it. This makes it easier because you don't have to bounce aisle to aisle and you end up flipping pages every which way.

As you are filling the pockets with your coupons, keep in mind that 1 sheet per aisle may not be enough but 3-4 may be too many. If the coupons are for the same product, stick them in one pocket as this makes it easier than looking for multiple coupons in different places.  Remember that not all aisles will require the same amount of pages. If you find that you pick up more items in one aisle, give it more pages than an aisle where you don't find yourself in very often. For example, we buy more cereal than we do ice cream. (Although I wish the opposite were true but that is just the kid inside me talking.) The cereal aisle also has other breakfast foods and therefore will need more space but we don't buy as much ice cream. The cereal aisle in our book is 2-3 pages but the ice cream aisle is just 1. It is different for everybody and keep that in mind when sorting the amounts of pages but the great thing is that pages can always be added or even subtracted. 

When filling in the pockets with one aisle, remember to label. Grab one of those post-it flags and write the number of the aisle. Use as many pages as you need for the aisle and when moving to the next aisle, grab another flag to mark that number down. This will initially take some getting used to but will get easier with time. Also, remember to keep that aisle list as it will help guide you when adding coupons later. 

I think I've covered most of the initial set-up and you are now ready to go shopping!


Additional Notes: 

1. I know this system may not work for everybody and may need to be modified for personal preferences.

2. If shopping at multiple stores, multiple binders may be needed.

Helpful Links:

Post-It Flags - Any of these could work.

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