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Save on Groceries like a Pro


Almost every week, up to 200 coupon offers arrive with your Sunday paper, in circulars from two companies -- SmartSource and Valassis -- which make up 88 percent of all grocery coupons issued.

It would be mind-numbing to clip and organize all those coupons every week, so don't. Instead, Nelson says to label the circulars with the date and set them aside in a drawer or a box so you have a full ''library'' of coupons. Items often go on sale several weeks after a coupon has appeared. A number of Web sites, including Nelson's, www.couponmom.com can help you match coupons in recent circulars with in-store specials.

''Nobody wants to look like grandma with a great big coupon organizer,'' Nelson said. ''And you don't need to. All you need is a list and your coupons.''



Study your store's weekly advertising circular and plan to eat what's on sale. This will mean thinking ahead and planning some meals. Look for coupon matches on discounted items, make a list of what you need and stick to it.

Learn the coupon policies where you shop. Does your store double or triple coupons? Will it match competitors' prices or honor expired coupons? These policies can vary within chains, so ask the store manager. Combining manufacturers' and store coupons during a sale can add up to huge savings -- you might even get the item for free.

This might sound like a lot of research, but Nelson says once you get the hang of it, it takes just 15 minutes to cut your grocery bill in half.



As you start to recognize patterns -- when coupons appear and when things go on sale -- you'll find opportunities to stock up on your favorites. To do this successfully, you might need to change your approach to shopping, because you'll be buying based on price, not need.

This doesn't mean stockpiling enough conditioner to see you through the apocalypse. Three to six weeks' worth of anything is usually good, Nelson said, because that's about how long the coupon and sales cycle goes at most stores.



Handing over your fistful of coupons and watching the cashier subtract them from your total will feel great, but make sure everything rings up the way it should. Studies have shown that overcharging at the register happens three times as often as undercharging, so always check the store's math. Some grocers have price guarantees, which promise to give you an item for free if you're overcharged. If you don't recognize a mistake until you get home, don't be shy about taking the receipt back to the store at your next visit.



Almost nobody leaves the grocery store with just a carton of milk. Resist the impulse to stop in between regular trips; instead, try to make it for a couple more days and stick to your plan.

Food is the second-biggest monthly expense for many American households, right behind housing. And while it's a great place to cut back when you're on a budget, it's very easy to underestimate your grocery bill. You might think you spend $100 a week, but if you go to the store every four days, your bill is probably much higher.

''If you can plan a good, comprehensive list, you might not have to go for another seven to 10 days,'' Nelson said.

''The best way to save money at the grocery store is not to go.''


This is an excerpt from:     Money-saving tips: Get out your scissors

By MEG RICHARDS, Associated Press (ASAP)
March 20, 2007


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