Manufacturers and stores want you to take advantage of their coupon offers, because they get you into the store, to try their product. However, don't think that just because you have a coupon you will save money. You want to find coupons that are paired with sale priced items. That is when you are really going to get a great deal. If it is regularly priced, you are more likely to get a better price on a generic brand item.
At first I tried to avoid getting the newspaper to get coupons, but I couldn't hold out for long. If you have a family member or neighbor that gets it but doesn't use coupons - ask them for the ads each week. Free coupons = free money. Unfortunately I couldn't find anyone that got it so I went ahead and bought a subscription. Since doing so it has way more than paid for itself. There are 3 main coupon inserts to watch for. Red Plum, Smart Source, and Proctor & Gamble. If you don't want to commit to that though, there really are a lot of coupons you can print from your home computer.
The most important advice I can give you! Do not clip the coupons until you are going to use them! This was such a rookie mistake that I made. I was spending so much time printing coupons off and gathering them and then clipping them out and sorting them. It was taking up so much time and then I didn't even use most of them, and when I did it took an hour to find them in the piles and piles of cut out coupons that I had. When you get an insert, grab a sharpie and write the date of it on the front, big and bold. Sometimes they come on a different date than they are supposed to so look at the left edge and in the tiny fine print there will be a date. You need this because our blog, other coupon blogs, and grocery smarts use them. After you have done that, put them into a binder or accordion folder, something like that and leave it there until you need it. Recycle after 5 months. If they are printable: if it is for something you absolutely know you'll use print it immediately, if not just wait til there is a good deal on it and if the coupon is still printable then print it off. You will save paper, ink and time.
The lingo: When you are on grocery smarts and coupon blogs, you are going to see something like this:
Cheap cereal at Smiths!
Use $1.50/3 coupon from 11/14 RP
The first time I saw that I thought what the heck does that mean!? It took me a while to figure out. So here is a crash course- 1.50 off of 3 boxes, from the 11/14 (November 14) Red Plum. The others will be abbreviated as SS=Smart Source PG= Procter & Gamble. If it is a printable coupon that is still available, there will be a link.
Last but not least: Every once in a while, you will get your coupons in order, get to the store and everything you planned on getting will be gone. This happens sometimes, especially with the rise in popularity of couponing. Don't get too discouraged. Your shopping trips will not always go as planned and it's frustrating, but it's still worth it to keep going!
Resources: My favorite coupon blogs to follow are Money Saving Mom and Savvy Sister Shops. Savvy Sister is a local Utah coupon blogger, so if you don't live in Utah but would like to keep up with your local grocery deals a simple google search should bring up some coupon bloggers in your area! GrocerySmarts.com is also an amazing resource, they compile all the grocery ads for each week into a data base, rate everything on how good a deal it is from one star to five stars (five being best deal) and then have links to coupons you need to save even more. Try it out, it's super helpful!
The best place to print coupons from is Coupons.com (check it out and print some milk & cheese coupons at least!)
If you still have any specific couponing questions or are confused about any of this, I'd love to hear from you. E-mail me at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org