- You can never find a product on the shelf because it’s sold out or
- You can never use your coupons on the items you want because someone has shelf-cleared the stash, bear with me and see what I’m talking about!
I do have a confession. I was one of those big binder-packing, visit all the stores every day, dragging the kids in to make extra purchases kinds of couponers. However, what I wasn’t was a couponer who filled her pantry with massive amounts of cheap, overly processed foods that I would probably never even eat, or my linen closet with a bajillion kinds of skin and body care products I didn’t want to put on my body or my kids’ bodies.
What I am is a SMART couponer.
And I say that because I don’t waste my time on things I’m never going to buy and that I know are beyond my budget or that I won’t use. If I can get something relatively inexpensively and know we won’t use it, I’ll put it in our food pantry giveaway bag to take to church the next time we’re in. I also don’t waste my time buying papers every week, combing through them in order to find out what I might need. I just don’t have time for that life anymore.
12 Tips to Using Coupons to Help Prepare for Emergencies
1. Subscribe to Couponing Blogs
There are quite a few blogs out there like Southern Savers, Stockpiling Moms. Be aware that they may also include a lot of affiliate links to other deals, but get past that stuff that you don’t need to just the coupon deals that make sense to you.
2. Subscribe to Coupon Preview pages
I use this to determine if I’m going to buy a newspaper or not. Here’s one I use – Sunday Coupon Preview If there are only one or two coupons I might use, I don’t buy the paper – the cost doesn’t make sense. But if it’s full of ones I’ll use, I’ll buy one or two that week.
3. “Like” Your Favorite Brands & Stores on Facebook
Many brands give awesome coupons away on Facebook, Google+ or even their own blogs. I love following Kroger Krazy on Facebook because she constantly updates with new offers and coupons and because she focuses on my primary local store, it’s really convenient when she posts about the new sales + coupon matches.
4. “Buy” Some Coupons
Controversial, yes, but it works for me. You cannot legally buy a coupon. But what I pay for is their time to cut and gather the coupons and make them available to me, which I’m willing to pay – sometimes. You can do it through coupon sites like Coupon Dede or eBay. I know which products we go through a ton of, so I’m always on the lookout for new coupons for those products. If a new one comes out, I will go straight to one of those two sites and see the current price of purchasing the coupon in bulk. (you’ll have to do be sure to do your math on cost of coupon+shipping vs final price of product and if it makes sense to go this route).
When a favorite protein bar of ours goes on sale at the store, and I can combine it with a coupon, they are next to nothing, and I try to stock up with as many of them as I can get. This is where having purchased the coupon online can help. I don’t try to grab them all..but may visit 2 or 3 times during the week to take advantage.
5. Join Your Store’s Rewards Program
At the grocery store we frequent, we get discounts on gas, coupons in the mail geared to the things we already purchase (even store brands and many free items), and get the best sale price on the shelf. And now that most grocery stores are moving to apps and digital coupons, it’s even easier to get customer rewards via the apps.
Sure…they then track every single purchase we make, gear marketing towards us and the like, but this is one area we don’t really care about. Hopefully, they see that we don’t buy a ton of processed foods, we buy a ton of vegetables and healthy foods and will begin to stock more that way :) Power of the $$!
6. Keep a Tight Inventory
I have an inventory sheet for everything. One on the deep freeze, one in the pantry, one on the fridge, and a pretty detailed excel spreadsheet that I shop from to make sure that I’m purchasing what I need and keeping track of the things that I need to be on the lookout for coupons for. (more on this later)
7. Use Coupons on Non-Food Items
I don’t buy a lot of cleaning products, and rarely find good coupons for vinegar and baking soda that I use in bulk, but I do use coupons on toilet paper, on paper towels, on dental items, and shampoos and body washes/soaps that we do use. This helps put more money towards fresh fruits and vegetables and meats that we don’t get coupons for.
Also – make use of couponing programs like Groupon or others to get deals on things you do in life on a normal basis. If you normally go out to eat once a week at a favorite restaurant, check to see if they have coupons available through Groupon or a lcoal penny saver type magazine. Going bowling? Look for coupon deals online or trade out some with your friends who buy the coupon books every year!
8. Use Online Coupon Providers
9. Don’t Buy Crap
Again, there are an amazing amount of awesome coupon deals on foods that aren’t really food. While I do subscribe to the idea of keeping some foods stocked for emergencies, don’t make a habit of feeding this to your family on a daily basis – the price may seem incredible now, but the price you pay down the line in bad health aren’t worth it. Again, focus on couponing in ways it can benefit you and your family.
10. Be an Extreme Couponer (the right way)
If you come upon a mess of coupons for a product that your family needs, USE THEM! But don’t go and use them all at once clearing off a shelf. Yes, you may have to make a couple of trips to do it, but DO IT! What better way to get items that you normally buy than finding them on sale and having coupons to add on top of that. Plus…you’re stocking up on the food at a rock bottom price, thus saving yourself money in the long run.
Did you know that you can often contact a store manager or buyer and ask them to purchase stock for you? Say…you “purchased” coupons from a supplier for a particular item that you need to stock up on. But it’s going to clear a shelf easily if you use it all in one visit, and you don’t want to make ten trips in a week to do it. Talk to your store manager about ordering enough product for you to buy, explaining that you do have a coupon and you’re trying to work with them on the purchase, and often they will order it in. It usually arrives within three days (remember the grocery stores have a 3 days supply of food ?) and you can pick it up, check out, and not be a bad extreme couponer.
Also, be sure to know your store’s sale cycle and make those coupons work for you even more! Most stores/products have a sales cycle that you can get to know and make work for you!
11. Stack Coupons for double the benefit!
Did you know that you can stack coupons? So if you have a coupon for a paper towel product that you love from the manufacturer, and the store happens to offer its OWN coupon for the same product, you can use both coupons on that product, getting even more savings? You have to be careful when using this because you need to make sure your 2nd coupon is, in fact, a store issue coupon (it will usually say store coupon and not manufacturer coupon). Also, check your store’s policy to see if they will honor this, but most do.
12. Turn those coupon savings into being more prepared!
Now – you’ve saved a ton of money on products that you’ve used coupons with…what do you do with that money? Roll it over to your preps – stock up on more food that you can preserve for long storage, buy more preparedness supplies for the home or your emergency bags, use it to take first-aid classes you might not have been able to afford before. Roll that money into your preparedness – make those coupons work for you!
Note: My rule of thumb is that unless a coupon is at least .50 off, I don’t print it because the cost of ink+paper doesn’t balance out. However, if I lived in a double/triple coupon area, that rule would be .25 cents.
13. Join Coupon/Shopping cash back programs
Make the most of your shopping by stacking sales, coupons and cash back rebates together. IBOTTA has been an amazing app. I’ve been playing with it for the last few weeks, and even without coupons, can earn money back on common purchases. It does require wifi to take advantage of, but most stores have that available. I get rebates on produce, people, PRODUCE! It’s great to tap the item, follow the prompt, and shop for my produce while earning a little. There are also programs like E-bates for online shopping, but since you can use it online at Amazon and Walmart, you can use Amazon Pantry and get money back!
I’ll share how I use an inventory list, meal plan and price list and sales cycles, and other references to help me stock my pantry and preparedness supplies to better prepare my family with the Build a Better Pantry series.
Build a Better Pantry Menu Planning Challenge
Other Great Resources
The Pantry Primer by Organic Prepper (this is my favorite series – Daisy shows you how to build your pantry from scratch with TONS of useful information)
The Case Against Coupons by Are We Crazy or What.net – here is Jennifer’s take on why coupons aren’t such a great tool.