PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Nothing in life is free unless you know your way around couponing. WINK News has discovered you can get more for free than you probably thought. It all starts with organization and paying attention to prices and sales. If you combine that with couponing, you can save in upwards of 60 percent off your grocery bill.
If you've never used coupons before, owner of the website LivingWellSpendingLess.com, Ruth Soukup has some tricks of the trade. First, start with what's at home.
"If you don't know what you have, its really easy to buy more of it when you don't need it or to not buy the things that you do need," said Soukup.
A stockpile is usually non-perishable items: canned veggies, pasta, juices. You can keep it all in a cabinet for weeks and use it for a variety for meals.
"Rice and beans, potatoes, hamburger helper is a good thing to have on hand for a quick meal if you need that," said Soukup.
If you've checked what you've got at home, then you make the list. Soukup said many people complain they don't have the time to coupon. For Soukup in Punta Gorda, she doesn't clip until she's ready to head to the store.
"I have to make my list and usually I use mostly printable coupons these days. I don't even clip out of the paper, I just go online and print the things that I need," said Soukup.
Websites like IHeartPublix.com, SouthernSavers.com and Soukup's site LivingWellSpendingLess.com, all do the work for you so seeking out savings is easy.
"There are a lot of different websites that you can use online and I actually used them to find out not only what's on sale at Publix this week but what coupons will match up with what's on sale this week," said Soukup.
Remember to try and only shop the sales. It's how you'll get the most bang for your buck. Soukup said Publix is the best place to do that. Between Buy One Get One deals and sale promotions, you'll save the most. Soukup said Wal-Mart has good deals on meat but doesn't generally accept competitor coupons. Most Publix stores will accept competitor coupons but check with your local store to make sure.
At the store where shopping is a pleasure, Publix has Buy One Get One deals every week. Plus, you can use store coupons, competitor coupons from Target or Winn-Dixie and manufactures coupons but not all together.
"You would not be able to stack a competitors coupon with a store coupon because a store coupon, you can use a store coupon or a competitors coupon but not both. One of them has to be stacked with a manufactures coupon," said Soukup.
"One thing you always want to do when you walk into a Publix is check and see if they have any displays with coupon booklets. If you can find a store sale and then stack a Publix coupon and a manufactures coupon chances are you're going to save a lot of money," said Soukup.
"When something says two for $5 or ten for $10 a lot of people think they have to buy two or they have to buy five, that's not the case," said Soukup.
Coupons for bread and milk are rare. Soukup said shop the sales and the Buy One Get One deals. Even if you don't have coupons, you can still save.
"You can buy healthy foods with coupons, you just have to be a little more vigilante about what you're buying. Great things about using coupons with buy one get one free items is, some people don't know this, but you can use not only one coupon but two coupons. You're getting two items," said Soukup.
Also, make sure you're checking expiration dates.
"Never buy stuff that's on sale that you're not going to eat. There is no point in having stuff in your pantry that you'll never eat, that's just a waste of money," said Soukup.
Soukup's shopping trip consisted of four gallons of milk, three boxes of Triscuits, four blocks of cheese, two loaves of bread, four Progresso recipe starters, four cans of Progresso soup, four boxes of Chex cereal, two packages of cookies, eight Oikos Greek Yogurt, six packages of Yoplat kids yogurt, and two half gallons of soy milk.
Grand total before coupons was $117. With coupons, Buy One Get One deals the grand total was $41. A savings of 35 percent. Meaning nearly $80 was back in Soukup's pocket instead of spent on groceries.
Soupkup's blog breaks down, step by step, how to start couponing at home and head to the store. Check it out at www.livingwellspendingless.com
Friday on WINK News at 6:00 p.m., we'll go shopping with a single mom of four. She has never used coupons before and we'll show you how she does.