coupon organization: how i assemble my shopping lists

Jan 5

{if you missed the first post in this series about my coupon binder and how i organize it, you can find it here.}

now that our boys are settled back at school, our daughter and i have been busy catching up on our to-do list. a to-do at the top of my list was cleaning up my coupon binder. i had been so “wrapped up” in Christmas shopping, that i took a break from couponing – and my binder was definitely in need of some attention.

how much attention?

this much…..

that was my stack of expired coupons, mailers, and fliers when the clean-up was said and done! lots of coupons expire on December 31 and i clearly had quite a few of them. i was so relieved to get my binder cleaned up and ready for a new year of saving money.

not only did i clean up the binder by removing expired items, but i also clipped the new coupon inserts i had received over the last few weeks and added each of them to their designated category (see my coupon binder link above to learn more about my categories).

the whole process took about 30 minutes.

with a freshly organized binder, i am ready to jump back into my weekly coupon shopping trips.ย and my updated binder wasn’t the only jump start i needed to get me back in the mood for saving. i received a question from Eva – a reader here on the blog. she asked…

“once you have all of your coupons organized, how do you assemble your weekly shopping lists?”

perfect timing, Eva! read on and i hope what i share will help answer your question.

i always set up shop here in our home office…

 

{my apologies for the dark photos – i did this project last night after the kids were in bed.}

i gather up my coupon binder, a pad of lined paper, and a pen. i sit at the office desk because i utilize our computer for searching coupon blogs or for printing online coupons from websites (like coupons.com)…

i started with my walgreens shopping list. i grabbed this weeks walgreens ad along with my plastic folder used for holding other random walgreens coupons i’ve accumulated (see that binder post for more info)….

as you will see me detail here, i keep my shopping lists very simple. i don’t type up big lists or spreadsheets because i’m not an extreme couponer. this easy process works for me. if this kind of list works for you too, that is great. but if you are new to couponing, it may take you some time to figure out what type of list or system works best for you. just go with the flow and try not to stress yourself out over it! i’ve tried many other list ideas, including writing my list on envelopes and sticking the coupons inside the envelope. but this simple list seems to work best for me.

i like to use a pad of lined paper and detail as much info as possible on that sheet. that way i am not fumbling through the ad or coupons while i’m shopping. and since i tend to shop with 1, 2, or 3 children in tow, the simpler means the better!….

if the deal is on a particular size, for example, i make sure to note that. and i also note things like if i need to buy 1 or more of that item.

then i just get started looking for deals.

while browsing a coupon blog, the first walgreens item that caught my eye was a FREE bottle of nail polish remover. i wrote down the brand name of the polish remover, followed by what the sale or regular price of that item is. that way when i’m in the store and find that brand, to quickly find the item i look at the price or the sale price sticker listed on the shelf. next, i list out the coupons i will be using for that item, and follow that with what my total cost should come to.

like i said, this one is going to be FREE! that is, if there are any bottles left by the time i get there!…

i also found a “moneymaker” while browsing a coupon blog. this one is for GOT2B hair lotion. it’s on clearance for $1.59, but when you buy that item you will receive a $2 register reward. register rewards are like cash that you can use on your next walgreens shopping trip. this is considered a moneymaker because i am spending $1.59 but gaining an extra $.41. hope that makes sense!…

blogs are great and SO helpful for people serious about saving money. there are many blogs that not only detail exactly what you should do week to week or where to find a particular coupon and in what coupon insert, but the blogs are also a wealth of information if you are just getting started with couponing.

i check blogs once a week, but most of my deals can be found by looking through the store’s weekly ad.

examples? coming right up!….

here, inside this weeks walgreens ad, you can see how the store is working on your side…showing you items in their store and telling you there is a coupon inside the sunday paper for even more savings!

see those little red boxes? the inside of that box says “less the coupon savings in most papers”. which otherwise means – look in your coupon inserts to find the coupon for this item. right there the store is helping you save money!…

another example of how being organized with your binder can help while searching through ads – walgreens has nature valley items on sale this week 4 for $10. if you buy 4 items you will receive a $3 register reward. my boys love their granola thins for school snacks so this 4 for $7 item makes a great deal…

but what makes this deal even better is flipping to the “snack” section of my coupon binder…and finding this coupon…

now, if i were an extreme couponer, i would use 4 of those coupons and buy 4 boxes of granola thins…but i don’t purchase extra sunday paper’s each week. that means i have one $.75 coupon. so, i pulled the coupon and will decide in store if i’ll buy just the 1 box or 4 boxes in order to get that register reward.

here’s another deal this week…ester-c gummy vitamins are on sale buy 1 get 1 free. these usually sell for $6.99 a bottle, so already you will be saving $6.99 by not having to pay for 1 of those 2 bottles….

but i remembered i have a walgreens catalina coupon and checked my walgreens file – yup, there it is!…

i didn’t stop there though. i flipped to the “vitamin” section of my coupon binder and found these 2 coupons…

when i use these 2 coupons i am going to save an additional $4 on top of already saving $6.99. so my total cost for each bottle of vitamins will be $1.50.

!!!!

don’t have a coupon binder? don’t fret. here i found the same coupon on coupons.com….

coupons.com will allow you 2 prints per computer, so if you are interested in this deal – head on over to this site, print them out, and go pick up the deal at your local walgreens!…

i continue browsing the ad and flipping through my coupon binder to see if i have coupons for that item. here i found tide on sale for $5.99. i have a $2 coupon which means i’ll pay just $3.99 for laundry detergent…

normally i would buy batteries at home depot or a big box store, but since i don’t have time to do that this week, and i NEED batteries (one of our smoke detectors is beeping at us), i’ll take advantage of this deal. energizer batteries are on sale for $5.99 and i found a coupon to match it…

{the battery scenario above is a perfect example of me not being an extreme couponer. i don’t complicate my life by going store to store to get the best possible deal. i have small children and my priority is them. and you can see by what i am sharing today that i WILL be getting some great deals – there is no reason to be obsessive about it and run myself (and my kids) around like crazy to save a few bucks. so, if you start couponing, keep that in mind and try not to stress yourself out.}

moving on…here is a great deal on soft-soap hand wash. i can always use this in the boys’ bathrooms. it’s on sale this week for $.99 with their in-ad coupon. and i found a $.40 coupon in my binder which will bring my total to $.59…

 

i found dawn dish soap on sale for $.99 with their in-ad coupon – and found a $.25 coupon in my binder…

another idea that i found has worked for me – when i use an in-ad coupon, i go ahead and clip it and add it to my stack of coupons…

that way i am not fumbling through the ad at the check-out counter. and it’s respectful of other shoppers waiting in line behind you. we have all had our fair share of customers taking too long in front of us – i try my best to make that check-out quick and easy for the cashier and myself.

after searching the ad and online (for about 30 minutes), here is my completed shopping list and stack of coupons…

all i do i tear off that sheet of paper, fold it in half, and place the coupons inside the folded page…

 

then i stick that bundle inside my walgreens folder and bring only that, along with my wallet, into the store when shopping…

since i had a few extra minutes, i assembled a short list of items for target. i’ll be going there anyway to grab a few other things, so why not pick up some great deals while i’m there…

and that is how i assemble my coupon shopping lists! i hope this was easy to understand, Eva. if you have additional questions, post them in the comments section and i’ll answer them for you.
there is so much to share with you in regards to couponing and i’ll always share those tips with you as they come to mind. but here are some other things that are floating around in my head this morning….
*what i have found to be the most important piece of the process = having an organized coupon binder. when you have everything updated and in it’s easy to locate place, it makes the process much faster. that is a huge part of the battle.
*i only buy items our family will use. even if i will spend almost nothing on an item, the fact that i am spending any of our hard earned money on something we likely won’t use = waste of money. many people buy items or pick up free items and donate them. that’s great! but for my busy life, i try my best to stay focused and only write down and buy the items we really need/use.
*for the most part, i’m brand loyal. however, i am willing to try something new. like toilet paper for example. we have our favorite brand, but if i find a great deal on a brand of toilet paper we have never tried – why not try it out? you never know, that brand could become your new favorite. and if not, at least you saved money while trying it.
if you are interested in my regular grocery shopping lists for weekly meal items i purchase, i would be happy to share that process too.
{i linked up this project with Delightful Order}

comments +

  1. Kelley says:

    So super helpful! Thank you!! I need to get a coupon binder going. I would love info on how you set up your weekly meal items. I struggle with that too.

    • kelley, great! so glad i could help! when i put together next week's meal plan and shopping list, i'll do the same process and share it here. i think we all struggle with meal planning – i do! and i've been on the hunt for the perfect meal plan software or printable or template – anything. if i find that perfect solution i will definitely share it here!

  2. Punky's Mom says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips & process. I sat down last night & tried your process with two stores (Target & Safeway) & it was super easy when I got to the register. Doing the prep work of writing the list & matching coupons was awesome. I agree that I also only buy why my family needs & uses. I'm so excited for you to share your meal planning cause that along with saving with the shopping list would save time & money each week!!

    P.S. BB&B takes all coupons even an expired one. Oh & Joann & Michaels take each others coupons.

    • @ Eva – thank you! i'm so glad this helped you out! how much did you end up saving when you tried out the system for the first time? i'll be working on meal-planning soon and will def share that in here!

  3. Chelsea says:

    That is absolutely amazing and I love love love your tips… I am currently attempting to get into couponing with the help from my aunt that has been doing it for years but she uses the old accordian coupon holder and I was telling her about a coupon binder and that was how I wanted to organize mine and so this post along with your other one on organizing the binder is a great help to me. I would definiately be interested in your weekly meal items list along with a list of any other couponing blogs like the ones you were referencing in this post that could be of help!!!!

    • @ chelsea – thank you! i am SO glad that i could be of help! yes, i used to do the accordion file too. i did that back when i wasn't matching coupons with in-ad savings. it is helpful that way, but i have found the binder to make my process MUCH smoother and more efficient. all i do is flip to that section of the binder and look for the brand name coupon in need – super easy! the 2 coupon blogs i frequent the most are moneysavingmom.com and the krazy coupon lady. they both pretty much offer the same deals, b/c all of these deals can be found online. but they put it all in one easy to locate place – their websites. so i try to check in on those 2 blogs once or twice a week. a lot of what they offer on their sites requires printing a coupon online…and my new computer doesn't have the latest version of java, which is required for printing online coupons. hopefully you have a computer that is compatible with the latest version and will have no issues! let me know if you have other questions!

  4. Jo Ann says:

    Hi! just found your site thru delightful order and really like it (I truly hate to say but!) but I can hardly read the print, its really light or maybe it's my eyes! Anyone else have trouble? Would love to read this post but its hard, help

    • Hi Jo Ann,

      I'm so sorry you are having trouble reading the font. You are the first person I have heard from who mentioned that to me. However, I take every comment seriously and will look into making the font larger or darker. Check back soon so you can read some more with happier eyes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jo Ann, I changed the font on my blog today – just for you! ๐Ÿ™‚ can you check it out and give me your thoughts?? Thanks!!

  5. Nadia says:

    I must say, that this post was so organized, and informative! Thanks again for another great post. BTW-it is so nice to see you responding and really listening to your readers it shows you care ๐Ÿ™‚

    • awe, thanks! so glad my ideas are informative! that means so much to hear! thank you, nadia! of course – how could i not respond to the comments. i am so so so grateful anyone is reading – let along responding! haha!

  6. I love this post, I am currently trying to use coupons to save money but even though I have a coupon binder I was not using it correctly. I always wondered how people could shop at different stores and get deals. But with this post you just cleared all of the confusion I had. I love the process that you follow it is so simple and not complicated at all. I am going to follow your process and start using coupons the right way. I am not sure if you already posted on how you use coupons for your grocery shopping. I will really be interested in that one too. We are trying to stick to a budget and I am trying to use coupons to help me with that but not being too successful. Just like you I want to buy things that we use I am not into buying things that our family is not going to need. I will update you and let you know once I use your process how it went. Thanks once again.

    • hey! i'm SO glad you found this post – b/c i think people hesitate to use coupons b/c it's hard to stay on top of all of the paper, ads, mailers, etc. and i do try to keep my process simple and uncomplicated – so i am so glad my tips may work for you. you'll have to let me know how it works for you.

      i haven't posted about my grocery list with coupons, but you gave me a little reminder to do that. it's been on my list to share and i promise to get to that very soon!

      thank you so much!!

    • Cannot wait for the post, thank you

  7. Izzy71 says:

    Hey Sam, it's Olga – you have some amazing ideas & I'm definitely will be trying to incorporate them into my life now! Staying home w/bambino now requires me to find ways to save money! Thanks for putting your wonderful ideas on here!! I, for one, appreciate it immensely!

    • hi olga! thank you so much for stopping by! i'm so glad you popped in to see what i was up to over here! ๐Ÿ™‚ and thank you again for sharing on pinterest! i am all about saving money….but do it fashionably. so, i really hope i can help you. we save tons of money each year from just clipping a few coupons a week and staying organized. let me know if i can help you more. so glad you are staying home with the baby!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. […] a detailed list. i’ve shared my simple coupon shopping list before, which you can read about here. there is nothing more important in terms of saving money than NOT buying what is NOT on your […]

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