Supermarket Trick: Wait One Month Before Using Coupons

Trent at the Simple Dollar describes the “one month coupon strategy”—a cool trick that lets you line up coupons with in-store sales for massive discounts. Set aside grocery coupons for a month, then go through and select the ones you’re interested in. Bring them to the store and you’ll find that many of them are for products that are now on sale. On Trent’s last visit to the supermarket, approximately 40% of the coupons matched on-sale products—in the most extreme example, he was able to purchase some ice cream for 19 cents.

Trent’s friend works for Hy-Vee grocery stores and gave him the tip, and he explains why it works:

Coupons in the newspaper are usually the first wave of a product push from large companies. They’ll put out coupons to start bumping up the sales, then they’ll move onto sale prices later on in the promotion. The reason for doing these in waves is so that the overall product sales trend looks solidly positive and not just a big spike with a fall-off. Plus, coupon users who use the product, like it, return to the store, and notice the item on sale are often willing to buy the item again.

“The One Month Coupon Strategy: A Really Clever Way to Make Coupons Worthwhile” [The Simple Dollar]
(Photo: Brett L.)

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  1. DJC says:

    great tip, i’ll just have to see if its true in my area

  2. MercuryPDX says:

    @DJC.: Ditto, but I’m also thinking there has to be some Old Lady Coupon Clubâ„¢ in my area, where I can trade them Cat food and feminine product coupons for stuff I can use.

  3. ClayS says:

    I’ll have to put away my knitting and get to work on my coupon stash.

  4. outofoffice says:

    Even more effective is to simply only use a coupon when it can be combined with a store discount otherwise just purchase the cheapest price per ounce alternative instead.

    At Safeway I only purchase items on club card special and ideally if I can combine with coupon. Saves like crazy.

  5. homerjay says:

    BTW- if you use a lot of expired coupons like I do- you can use them in the self-checkout lane, if your store has one. :)

  6. KarmaChameleon says:

    That’s a good tip, for the few times I go to the supermarket. 90% of my grocery shopping gets done at Costco.

  7. EYESONLY says:

    Also try to combine this strategy with double- and triple-couponing–I’ve gotten things for free when an item was on sale AND I had a tripled coupon.

    Btw, stores with “buy 1 get 1 free” offers typically ring them up in such a way that you can use a separate coupon for each item (you can use a coupon on the item you’re “not paying for”)–which is another way to dramatically whittle down the price. I’ve been allowed to do this at Rite Aid, CVS, and other stores. It’s especially useful for vitamins–with two $1.50 off coupons and B1G1F, you’re paying $2/bottle instead of $7/bottle for brands like Nature Made.

  8. RottNDude says:

    I’ve never seen a store classify cheese so specifically as “hanging cheese”… lol.

  9. ludwigk says:

    Where do you get coupons from? I’d probably use a coupon if I could get my hands on some.

  10. Garbanzo says:

    @ludwigk: There are frequently coupon inserts in the Sunday newspaper. If you’re a heavy coupon user the cost of the Sunday paper should pay for itself.

  11. MercuryPDX says:

    @homerjay: THIS is why I follow you. :)

  12. MBZ321 says:

    @homerjay: Don’t do this if they are more than a few days past the date! The stores do not get reimbursed for expired coupons, so the store then loses money, has to raise prices, or at the very least, have stricter coupon policies. (Many of the markets around here you have to hand the coupons to the supervisor at the self-checkouts.)

  13. whereismyrobot says:

    The grocery game more than takes care of this for you. Seriously, I have a hard time paying full price for things now., but I rarely have to.

  14. qitaana says:

    My all time best was paying -$0.71 for a hamburger-helper type thing. (One of the nicer Betty Crocker ones, I think.) I had a $1.50 coupon, which was doubled, and it was on sale. I wound up with more savings than the item cost!

  15. spinachdip says:

    @whereismyrobot: @whereismyrobot: I can see this being a problem for consumers and retailers. When I’m at the grocery store, I look for discounts to the point that I almost instinctively pass on a product that’s not marked down, even if that already low price happens to be a good deal.

    And not to be a broken record or nothing, but price strategies are an awful way to build branding and loyalty.

  16. demonradio says:

    @ClayS: It’s like your comment came from my very own head. Eerie! ;)

  17. forgottenpassword says:

    Interesting. I usually just hold onto the coupons & wait til I see the items on sale in the newspaper flyers…. then specifically go to purchase the item thats on sale & use the coupon as well.

  18. wesa says:

    90% of my grocery shopping gets done at Costco.

    Ouch. Your diet can’t be very healthy.

  19. kamikasee says:

    One thing that’s not clear to me about this: by doubling up the sale and the coupon, you’re saving more on the item then you would have anyway. But if I go buy some new potato chips with the coupon and save 30 cents, then I go back a month later and they are 50 cents off, then I still saved 80 cents overall. And I didn’t have to wait a month for chips. So it seems like it just *feels* like you’re saving more when you double up.

    Another thing, if it’s a % off coupon, you’re actually saving less doing it this way, because you’re getting a fixed percentage off a lower price.

    Unless I’m missing something (perhaps the joy of paying 19 cents for something), this doesn’t seem worthwhile.

  20. newspapersaredead says:

    I’m going to stick to buying the foods I actually want when I actually want them. If I happen to have a coupon fine, if not, no big deal. I’ll pay the extra $.50.

  21. Milstar says:

    As someone who has worked grocery for over 8 yrs at 2 major chains I can say that most store items are on sale every 4-5 weeks. In my experience most items on sale at most stores are on sale when coupons come out in the Sunday paper, then 4 weeks later they are on sale again. Like I said this is in general and not every single item out there.

    Trust me I had to do the sticker changes for 8 yrs I know….

  22. riverstyxxx says:

    Great idea, I’ve heard of this before. Last I recall, coupons have expiration dates, and there aren’t a lot of self-checkouts here. And I’m sure in some places you can’t combine coupons with sale items. I know I’ve seen this rule. Haven’t I?

  23. FMulder says:

    Combining the store coupon/discount with the manufacturer coupon works well for me — and sometimes that store coupon/discount appears the same week I see the manufacturer coupon in the coupon brochure in the Sunday Newspaper. Although you can’t use two manufacturer coupons for one item, you can use both a store coupon and manufacturer coupon for the same item. I do this at CVS a lot — and stock up on my “basics.”

    I need to get better with using coupons for food shopping!

  24. aristan says:

    My mother uses sites like Grocery Game to do this. They send you a list with the sales at area stores automatically matched with the coupons. You’ll see “Store X has Product Y on sale for $1. There was a 50 cent coupon for Product Y in Sunday’s paper.”

    And since some chains have double coupons here, she saves even more. Her last trip, she spent a little over $100 for $500 worth of groceries. And it wasn’t even a TRIPLE coupon week. Those weeks, we’ve gotten negative totals. They don’t like paying you to shop.

    We get a lot of 20 cent boxes of Hamburger Helper and free toothpaste though. But we save enough on stuff we need to get the nicer version of stuff we want.

  25. aristan says:

    Oh, and if someone thinks stores don’t like coupons, think again. The store usually gets 8 cents or so for ‘processing’ a coupon. So, if you buy a $2 item with a $1 coupon, you spent $1, but the store makes $2.08.

  26. Squeezer99 says:

    i guess there just isn’t much grocery competition where i live. all we have is kroger, brookshires, and super walmart. and to my knowledge none of them double or triple coupons. and the coupons in the sunday paper here are only for proctor and gamble or johnson and johnson. and since they’re the name brand, usually even after using their coupons in the paper, the generics are cheaper

  27. snidelywhiplash says:

    Double coupons…? TRIPLE? Damn, I’m missing the boat out here in the Midwest. NOBODY does that here. For a short while, after Kroger bought one local chain (Baker’s – Omaha, NE), they did double coupon sales. But not anymore. Cheapasses.

  28. legotech says:

    I poked around at the Grocery Game…it was totally confusing…it wasn’t just coupons in the paper, it was coupons you had to buy from them, it was coupons from some mythological booklet that someone once saw somewhere on a stoop. Ghak…not easy at all.

  29. unoriginal says:

    I use a free site called Coupon Mom [www.couponmom.com]

    They list deals from various different stores and match the coupon to the items on sale. Most of the coupons are out of the Sunday paper but a few need to be printed instead.

  30. ShadowFalls says:

    It also depends on where you go. CVS’s ad will even tell you if there was a coupon for a sale item in the Sunday paper.

  31. dgcaste says:

    @mercurypdx: that’s creepy.

  32. Murph1908 says:

    When I lived with a girl that was an assistant manager at a grocery store, she could bring home bags and bags of groceries for very little money. She clipped coupons and combined them with what she knew was or was going to be on sale. If you do it right, it really can be very advantageous. It’s pretty easy. Go through the coupons and clip what you know you already buy.

  33. jameslutz says:

    @kamikasee: I was thinking the same exact thing. You are not increasing the value of the coupon. Seems like unneeded effort. Why not just use the coupons when you need the item? I guess it can help you predict when an item may go on sale.

  34. MameDennis says:

    @jameslutz:
    If it’s something you have some flexibility on (say, frozen vegetables), it’s often well worth it to try to time coupon usage with sales. I could happily buy Birds’ Eye or Green Giant or what have you, but if one of them is on sale for $1 and I have a $0.50 coupon (which the market will double), my vegetables are free.

    @wesa:
    Costco has an extensive grocery section, including fresh fruit, vegetables, etc.

  35. @ludwigk: Sunday paper! Coupons AND color comics!

    But yeah, it pays for itself if you use the coupons. My coupon use easily covers the cost of my yearly 7-day subscription, which makes me double-happy because a morning newspaper is one of my biggest little joys in life.

    @whereismyrobot: Is it worth the subscription? I keep thinking about it but never sign up. Do you have to shop weekly to get the best prices?

    @snidelywhiplash: Does your Kroger not double to $1? I thought they all did.

  36. youbastid says:

    I have a drawer full of completely free Colgate, Crest, and Aquafresh toothpaste and Edge shaving gel. I stock up on the coupons when they come out and wait until they’re on sale. With coupon doubling, they’re 100% free. Take that, anti-freeze laced 99 cent store toothpaste!

    On good days, I’ve gotten 24 rolls of cottonelle, usually 11.99, for 1.50, and Tide detergent, usually $6, for $1. People call me cheap for clipping coupons but then they see how much I pay for things and start doing it themselves. They all think you do all this work to save a quarter on something you wouldn’t buy anyway, but it’s more like you can save a quarter of your bill.

  37. youbastid says:

    Also, I think that this “trick” is purely coincidental. Only 40% of the coupons matched. A lot of times companies will have coupons released for items that will be on sale that particular week. Probably around 30% of the coupons I clip are for items that will be on sale the next Wednesday.

  38. wring says:

    supermarket trick: give them your coupons even if you didn’t purchase coupon item. most cashiers dont care.

  39. Amelie says:

    I still have “No Expiration Date” coupons from my former life, when I was a coupon queen. Coupons today are a farce and simply not worth my time. Back in the day you had a good six months to redeem them. Now they are not only short-dated, but the expirations are bizarre dates, like the 8th of the month.

  40. Amelie says:

    @wring: “supermarket trick: give them your coupons even if you didn’t purchase coupon item. most cashiers dont care.”

    I don’t know where you shop, but most coupons that are for the wrong product, won’t scan. Sure some clerks don’t care, but one simply can’t rely on it. On the other hand, certain chains will accept “expired coupons” if they are within a month or two.

  41. PencilSharp says:

    I’ve been in retail for over a decade and can confirm that this works with traditional supermarkets (not Aldi/Wal-Mart/Save-A-Lot, etc).
    In fact, the best way to play this game is to pick up the Sunday paper with the most ads (if you have more than one) and compare.
    1. Pick the coupons for stuff you actually use. Getting a pint of ice cream for 19 cents is throwing away money if you’re lactose intolerant…
    2. Now, go through the supermarket ads and look for the items with good discounts that match your coupons. Some items will go on sale immediately for an extra boost.
    3. For coupons without matching sale prices, hold them for 3-4 weeks, and start checking those ads again. Sure enough, you’ll spot about 80% of them on sale!
    Also, look for double & triple coupons (usually with big chains in highly competitive markets). This can really rack up the savings. One caveat, though. Stay away from the HBA (health/beauty aid) and pet food aisles in this type of store, and avoid non-sale items. Any savings you would get from the coupons will disappear if you overpay for mouthwash/shampoo/dog chow…

  42. TMurphy says:

    @kamikasee: If it is something like ice cream, which you may not want to buy every week at $5 per carton, then you either buy two or buy one, and save the same couple of dollars… it’ll be cheaper that way (perhaps less tasty though).

    It seems these mysterious ‘double’ and ‘triple’ coupon weeks help too… I’ve never seen those… I hope there are plenty of those around wherever I end up after college. Is it the consensus that the Midwest is supercoupon deprived, or is it just my immediate area?

  43. joebobfunguy says:

    Albertsons accepts competetor coupons, like the safeway double coupons. My sister in-law gets toothbrushes and cleaning supplies for free, then sells them at garage sales in the summer and gets about 2,000 dollars a month. A lot of times I go with her she uses the 10 off a purchase of 50 dollars, and since everything was free after coupon, the checker actually pays her ten dollars.

  44. gretch9er says:

    Man oh man, I have been obsessed with using coupons the last 6 months or so. I’ve never gotten an item for free, per se, but I make out like a bandit at CVS every other month or so when I need to buy Shampoo, Conditioner, Contact Lens solution, and all those other items that I seem to run out of at the same time that are overpriced. Just this month, I ended up saving $19 on those things just using coupons for items that were on sale, and using a $4 off CVS coupon…I was so excited!!!

  45. Geekybiker says:

    The time to savings ratio just doesnt make sense here. I spend maybe $200 a month on groceries. Typically sale items, etc save me $20-30. Even if I doubled my savings its not worth the time and filing such a scheme would require. Maybe if you have a big family….

  46. joebobfunguy says:

    @Geekybiker: breakfast lunch and dinner, 2 dollars for each meal for 30 days = 200 about. Don’t you ever want steak for dinner? Or asparagus?

  47. youbastid says:

    @Geekybiker: I spend about the same monthly on groceries, and save $20-$30 every month with coupons alone. I spend maybe 10 minutes every sunday clipping and organizing them. That’s $240 to $360 a year, for 40 minutes a month. If you consider clipping coupons work, you could be getting paid roughly $34 an hour to do so.

  48. theblackdog says:

    @wesa: You’d be wrong, they have a pretty good produce section and a number of “healthier” items. I’m going to be picking up ground turkey from them this weekend to use for meatloaf.

  49. edwardso says:

    Most coupons seem to require buying more than one item in order to get a discount and that just doesn’t work for only 2 people

  50. whereismyrobot says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I really think it is worth it. It takes about an hour every week. (which I just do it while I watch tv). I save about 40% off my grocery bill and I get a lot of stuff for free. But I think it depends on where you live. Here, they triple and double coupons, so you can save a lot.

    I am busy (grad student, full time job, kids) but I think it helps if you do look at it like a game. It is fun to see how much you can knock of your bill, but it takes about a month to start saving a lot. I suggest you keep your coupons for a month and organize them by date if you choose to do it.

    This article may help:
    [www.associatedcontent.com]

  51. @youbastid: I do it while watching TV on Sunday night. Keeps me entertained during the commercials on the Simpsons. :)

  52. hoosier45678 says:

    I’ve tried to save money with grocery coupons, but the once or twice I made a concerted effort to look through the coupon sections I found coupons for:

    - chain restaurants
    – fast food
    – bottle pasta sauces
    – frozen pizzas
    – frankenbreads
    – saltbomb rice and pasta side dishes
    – frozen dinners
    – jarred salsa
    – potato chips
    – other processed crap I don’t eat

    I think the exercise netted me a savings of 40c on a couple tins of pintos. You don’t get coupons for onions, apples, or non-“enhanced” pork. There were also coupons for health & beauty items, but for these I’m brand loyal and tend to buy in bulk at Sam’s Club (whose membership pays for itself in alcohol and bulk meat savings).

  53. kalzo says:

    @Garbanzo: There’s a grocery link on [BlogDividends.com] where you can bid for coupons for a certain product. That way you can get the coupons you need for the products you need. It’s an interesting way to monetize coupons.

  54. skeleem_skalarm says:

    won’t work in my area – the coupons come out the same Sunday/Monday the sales start, and the same things usually aren’t on sale again for a while.

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