I promised a while ago that I would do the great coupon experiment, using the Grocery Game, Couponmom and other forms of couponing and let you know how it went.
I first went with the Grocery Game's free 2 week free trial. After that the cost for a 1 store membership is $10 every 8 weeks. A 2 store membership is $15 every 8 weeks, a 3 store membership is $20 every 8 weeks and so on.
I tried out 2 grocery stores and 2 drugstores after my 2 week trial ended. This was a mistake... way too many options. Albertson's, Safeway, Rite Aid and Walgreen's. This was too expensive, and every time you add or remove a store, the membership automatically renews for another month, so by the time I had messed around a bit with switching stores, etc, I was prepaid for 6 months. Whoops. :-(
I also tried Couponmom.com. This site has free coupon shopping lists. They do have less stores listed, but hey, free is fabulous! Couponmom has lists for walmart, target, and the drugstores, and if you are in another state, check the grocery deals by state list.
You need to shop from mon-tues for the list prices of the grocery stores on the grocery game to be accurate. This was hard for me. I homeschool, so Mondays at home are vital to the rhythm of our week. I prefer shopping on Saturday for upcoming week, rather than going early in the week. Also, there are a lot of "Sunday only" deals on the lists that are actually Friday through Sunday deals, but since the lists aren't out until Sunday am, they say Sunday only. We don't shop on Sunday, so we miss all those deals.
The lists for the stores I did were accurate and good.... Did I need them? Well, they got my feet wet couponing, and I liked seeing at what percent off things were considered a good deal. After a month or two of list following though, I felt perfectly able to go it alone, because I had the basics down.
Basic 1. STOCKPILE! If you can get things at a great discount, use all the coupons that you have and buy enough for your family to last about 6 months, this is usually when the sales rotate around again. To do this you need room for things. It can really pay off though, if you get 10 boxes of cereal for free. :-D
Basic 2. GET LOTS OF COUPONS! duh.... Sounds silly, but to stockpile quickly and well, you will need LOTS of coupons. Ideally you want about 1 insert per family member with a spare or two. If you have neighbors, friends or relatives who get the paper, ask if they want the coupons. I have even heard of looking though the small paper recycling bins on trash day. (I would do this, but we have giant cans for recycling here, and I am not getting into them) You can also try asking the store for the inserts when the paper is being changed out. You can get by with just 1 insert, but it will take longer to built a good stockpile.
Basic 3. DOUBLE COUPONS. My local Safeway has ads in the front of the store, and they 99% of the time have a coupon that doubles 4 manufacturer's coupons up to $.50 off.... I use these every time I coupon for an extra $2 off. Albertson's has doublers too, but their ads with doublers aren't in the Sunday paper, and I always have trouble finding them.
Basic 4. BRING THE COUPONS Even while using the list, I occasionally forgot a key coupon, or just left them all at home, so I invested in a zipper binder with some pages to sort my coupons into. This is wonderful! I have them sorted by type of item, canned , baking, paper goods, tp, deodorant etc. Now I have a "No Coupon Left Behind" policy, and I can see at a glance if I have a coupon for a certain item, with or without the list!
Basic 5. SET A BUDGET and stick with it. If you aren't careful it is pretty easy to think "WOW! look at my deals!" and go crazy buying. This will get a stockpile built really quickly, but you will probably overspend for the month. It would be better to budget a certain amount just for stockpiling up deals each week, so you don't overdo it.
""All that work for a few pennies off???"" Well, if I can get 10 boxes of cereal for free, you can too. How did that happen? A sale, with coupons for all the boxes, a doubler or two and a mail in rebate. I had plenty of school supplies for our home school this year.... free or $0.10, kids shampoo under $1 per bottle, free toothpaste and way too much deodorant.
If you don't use packaged foods, and always buy store brand toiletries and cloth diaper, this may be too little savings for too much effort, but I found that the free items made it worth it for me. It also allowed us to buy more luxury items like snacks, paper plates, air fresheners, and ready made lunches that we ordinarily couldn't afford. I also found myself really enjoying the late night shopping trips alone. I was out of the house, and seeing how little I could pay, did indeed, feel like a game.
On a side note, I found that both types of coupon organizing (by insert date or each coupon in a binder by type) took about the same amount of time, and for me the binder allowed me to dash out in the evening without spending an hour choosing and cutting out coupons. If you use a binder you NEED a zipper closure, so any loose clippings won't fly all over the floor at the safeway. I'll do a post on the binder later....
Bottom Line: Definitely worth a try!