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How to shop with grocery coupons for beginners

Woman shopping with coupons at the grocery store
(Image credit: SelectStock/Getty)

With food prices up 10.4% (opens in new tab) in June 2022 compared to June 2021, chances are you’re looking for a way to cut costs.

Dabbling in grocery couponing might seem tedious and overwhelming, but it’s a way to keep more money in your pocket when you venture to the grocery store.

You may also be relieved to know that collecting grocery coupons doesn’t have to become a hobby (or obsession) to save money. Below is a newbie guide to couponing to help you get started.

Grocery coupons: what they are and how they work

At a very basic level, a coupon is a discount that shoppers can use to pay less for an item. In the world of grocery coupons, these are the main coupon types: 

  • Store coupons: Store coupons have to be redeemed at their corresponding store. For example, you can only use a Giant (opens in new tab) or Kroger (opens in new tab) coupon at Giant or Kroger. 
  • Manufacturer’s coupons: Manufacturer’s coupons come from the manufacturer and could be used in many different types of stores. For example, a General Mills coupon could be used to buy General Mills products at any grocery store that accepts the coupon.
  • Catalina coupons: Catalina coupons are the coupons that print off of your receipt when you check out, which could be manufacturer coupons and other store-related discounts.
  • Loyalty coupons: If you’re a member of a particular store, you might get special coupons and discounts exclusively for members.

The discount opportunity of a coupon can vary. For example, some coupons will give you a certain dollar amount off for buying one item or two items.

In other cases, you may get to buy one item and a second one free. Reading the terms and conditions for each coupon could help you spot exclusions of items not covered by the discount.

Where to get coupons 

We all know you can get coupons in the Sunday paper, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Shoppers can also get coupons online through sites like Coupons.com (opens in new tab)Redplum.com (opens in new tab)TheKrazyKouponLady.com (opens in new tab) and SmartSource.com (opens in new tab).

For example, Coupons.com features coupons that you can print or save. Plus, you may be able to connect your store loyalty card to Coupons.com to add digital coupons.

This way, you don’t have to print and keep the paper. Instead, when you use your loyalty card at checkout, the coupons on your loyalty card should automatically be applied.

(Image credit: Future)

Besides going to coupon websites that aggregate coupons, you may be able to go directly to a grocery store’s site to find coupons. Below is a snapshot of what Harris Teeter (opens in new tab) has to offer.

(Image credit: Future)

Lastly, manufacturers may have their own coupon and rewards sites. For example, PepsiCo has its Tasty Rewards website (opens in new tab), where you can find offers on beverages and a wide range of PepsiCo food products, such as Doritos, Quaker Oats and more.

(Image credit: Future)

How to maximize coupons 

Now, this is where the magic happens. You may have seen episodes of reality TV shows where people are buying groceries and actually getting money back instead of paying for their large haul.

How do they do this? Here are a few ways:

  • Use multiple coupons on one item. Some retailers will let you use multiple coupons on one product, and pairing a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon could help you pay next to nothing for products. If the coupon equals more than the item's price, you could even get a credit toward your bill. 
  • Use coupons on discounted products. If a store is running a special on an item, whipping out a coupon for that product could help you pocket even more money.
  • Some stores will double coupons. Sometimes stores will double the value of your coupons. For example, if you have a coupon for 25 cents, they'll bump up that value to 50 cents. The website Grocery Coupons Guide (opens in new tab) lists grocery stores in each state where you may be able to get double value. There's no mention on the list when the information is updated, so you could use it as a starting point, but you may need to confirm offers with the retailers mentioned.

Reading the fine print can help you avoid having your coupons denied at checkout when trying tactics like using multiple coupons at once.

And if your coupons get denied, don’t worry—think of it as practice, and get clarification on how you can use them next time.

Putting a coupon strategy into practice

Couponing can get overwhelming if you have a bunch of paper lying around that’s hard to find when you want to make a purchase. Here are a few tips that could help you start couponing with less stress:

  • Audit your pantry. Take note of the products and brands you buy so you can keep an eye out for relevant coupons and make a point to check out manufacturer websites for deals on brands you regularly use.
  • Find an organization system. The best strategy to manage your coupons is what works for you. You could get a small accordion folder or decide to only deal with digital coupons. 
  • Schedule couponing time. Pick a time during the week to run through different circulars, coupon books, coupon websites and manufacturer websites to find coupons and deals.
  • Subscribe to coupon websites. Websites like The Krazy Koupon Lady regularly post grocery and drugstore deals along with coupons so you can sign up to get ongoing offers delivered to your inbox.
  • Purge expired coupons. Keep track of coupons that are no longer valid so your coupon stash doesn’t become unwieldy.

What if couponing isn’t for you?

Let’s face it—couponing isn’t for everyone. And if it’s not for you, you can still save at the grocery store with other deal-finding strategies. Here are a few websites that offer money-saving offers that don’t involve clipping coupons. 

  • Ibotta (opens in new tab)Ibotta is a shopping deals app that gives you cash back when you shop at certain retailers. After signing up, you’ll get access to exclusive cashback deals that you can activate at checkout online. For in-person shopping, you may be able to store cashback deals on your store loyalty cards or turn in receipts to get your rebate. Grocery deliveries (opens in new tab) may also qualify for cashback.
  • Rakuten (opens in new tab)Rakuten is another cashback website that offers deals at retailers, including grocery stores like Kroger and Food Lion (opens in new tab)
  • Honey (opens in new tab)Honey also offers cashback deals at different retailers and on specific products for members. 

While it’s true that couponing or signing up for a cashback website might take some time to set up, the time invested can pay off if it means more money stays in your pocket.

Consider setting up time in your calendar this week for deal hunting and experiment to see how much you save.

Taylor Medine
Personal finance writer

Taylor Medine is a personal finance writer with over eight years of experience writing books, courses, guides, and articles that demystify personal finance topics, such as how to repay debt, build credit, shop for credit cards, and more. In 2013, Taylor started documenting her efforts to stretch a dollar as a recent college grad on a personal blog. Eventually, her passion for finance writing grew into a full-time career in explaining intimidating money topics to the everyday consumer. Taylor’s work has been featured on Bankrate, Experian, Forbes Advisor, The Balance, Business Insider, Credit Karma, and more. Follow her on Twitter @taytalksmoney.