I'm always looking for ways to reduce my grocery bill. I'm not opposed to buying generic, shopping sales, and clipping coupons. However, I often wonder if these strategies are really worth the effort. A recent episode of TLC's Extreme Couponing answered my doubts. I watched in awe as 1200 boxes of cereal were handed over to a shopper for mere pennies. I felt pangs of envy as I saw the stockpiles of toilet paper, hand soap, and pasta. If these shoppers are the extreme, can the average shopper cash in on at least of fraction of those savings? Here are five tips for clipping your way to savings in the checkout lane.

Subscribe to the Sunday paper

Even if you don't receive a newspaper on a daily basis, consider subscribing to the Sunday edition. You'll likely find sale flyers for local stores, and coupon inserts from Smartsource, Proctor & Gamble, and RedPlum. Websites such as Coupons.com and SmartSource.com allow you to choose and print coupons from manufacturers โ€” a convenient way to get exactly what you want/need.

Learn the Lingo

Do you know how to stack coupons? Are you versed in ECBs and Uprewards? Can you navigate a BOGO like a pro? If this all sounds like grocery Greek, take the time to study. Many couponing blogs have a "getting started" section that will explain coupon terms and redemption strategies. Also, take a few minutes to visit your favorite store's website and search for "coupon policies." A little education will prepare you to maximize your savings.

Plan Your Shopping Strategy

Heading to the store with a fistful of coupons is not a strategy. Devote the time to matching up coupons to store sales. Better yet, let someone else do the planning for you! Couponing blogs such as The Krazy Coupon Lady and Money Saving Mom post coupon strategies for major retailers weekly. Once you've reviewed the deals, write down your plan for each store. Take your notes, and a copy of the sale flyer, to the store with you.

Organize Your Coupons

A little organization goes a long way! It's important to find a system that works for you โ€” if you're overwhelmed with clipping and sorting, you'll probably quit couponing. Some people use a file box (similar to a recipe box). Others use envelopes marked with coupon categories. I store my coupons in page protectors inside a 5.25 x 8 binder. It's a size that isn't cumbersome to carry to the store, and doesn't force me to fold coupons (a personal pet peeve!). I also find it helpful to have an envelope for each store โ€” prior to shopping, I sort the coupons that I plan to use. This saves time in-store and at the checkout.

Be Patient

It can be tempting to use coupons as soon as you've clipped them. Many times, if you wait a few weeks, you'll be able to combine that coupon with a sale to give you better savings. You may also have to be patient while you wait for the store to restock their shelves if other shoppers beat you to the deals. Don't hesitate to ask for rainchecks!

You don't have to take couponing to the extreme to slash your grocery bill. With just a few extra minutes of planning (and clipping), you can enjoy substantial savings on items that you'd be buying anyway.

See Also:

This post was included in the latest Total Money Blog Carnival and Carnival of Road to Independence #28.