Clever grocery-store coupon strategy

Here's a clever strategy for grocery-store coupons from The Simple Dollar: sit on your coupons for a month, then spend them. Coupons are often the leading edge of product promotion, which features progressively deeper savings. By waiting a month, you can apply your coupons to an already discounted price. Food prices are up -- do something about it.

He gave me a tip: he said to take the coupon section out of the Sunday paper and put it aside for four weeks - don’t even bother to look at it. Four weeks later, open it up and clip everything that’s even remotely of interest, whether you’d buy it normally or not.

At that point, take the wad of coupons to the store and just look at the shelves. Magically, most of those coupons you have will sync up very well with stuff that’s already on sale on the shelves. When you combine the sale price and the coupon, you’ll usually be able to get items for next to nothing.

Why does this work? 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. I’ll admit to noticing this working for me in the past with products like V-8 Fusion.

Link (via The Consumerist)

(Image: Chicken and Seafood Pages, a Creative Commons Attribution licensed photo from Ninjapoodles's Flickr stream)


  1. This presupposes that one would want ANY product advertised in a supermarket circular. It’s funny, in a way, ’cause after years of thinking “well, maybe I’ll save a buck”, I’ve come to the conclusion that any product advertised in these circulars are complete bollocks. I don’t discount the strategy, I just don’t want what they’re selling.

  2. Manufacturer’s coupons, which come in slick booklets bundled with (in my area) Sunday newspaper, are usually good for a month or two.

    Coupons from specific grocery stores do indeed have a one week life.

    Another “secret:” The two types of coupons are compatible. If you match up a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, you can get some great deals. Especially if the store offers “coupon doubling.”

    Last fall, I took advantage of several great sales on cereal and a clutch of coupons. I ended up with three dozen boxes of cereal; average price, perhaps $1.50 a box. The shelf life of the stuff is a year or more, so why not? I’m down to a dozen boxes, and starting to collect coupons again.

  3. @#2:

    Huh, that’s a mighty hard and fast rule you got yourself there. So if someone were to go “Hey Nick! Check out these awesome deals!” you would respond with “Oh yea– oh wait? Is that a supermarket circular? Screw that.”

  4. Coupons in Sunday’s paper do tend to come before the goods are on sale in the store. Store circulars usually come on Tuesday or Wednesday, so there’s that lag. If the product marketing team has done its job, then everything should come together within a week: media advertising, print ads, coupons, shelf space, product placement. You’ve got to make 8-10 impressions to cement the product in the mind.

  5. @2 is right. Junk that has coupons is junk, period. Manufactured, processed garbage. If everything you eat comes in a tray that goes into your microwave, great, but if you eat real food, coupons are almost never useful AT ALL. When’s the last time you saw a coupon for yellow onions or spinach?

    Tyson Frozen Ready To Eat: you can keep it. I wouldn’t take them if they were free.

    And food prices aren’t high, they’re ridiculously low, and distorted by government price supports that protect exactly this kind of high-fructose-corn-syrup-stuffed puke.

    Eat real food. Cook it yourself.

  6. I still want to save up a 100 coupons and then demand my penny. Many of them do say in black and white right on them “cash value 1/100 cents.”

  7. At least 95% of the coupons I know about say something like “Not valid with any other offer, discount applies to full price only.”

    Here in Australia, business really don’t understand coupons and are deathly afraid of anyone stacking discounts.

  8. Up here in Montreal, there are a few enterprising practices on customer and store level. A majority of stores from the big chain groceries are franchises. The owners will do anything to get that extra dollar. Each store gets bundles of fliers for each store, just in case a customer does not get one home. When the week is done, the employees clip all the coupons and add it to their sales of each store. In turn the head office of each said chain sends out refunds for products not sold. It’s a scam that has been going on for several years. So at the store level coupons are a blessing. It’s a way of making a few extra bucks. The smaller stores that don’t give out coupons are even more enterprising, they buy your coupons for half price without buying any products. You go to a small store and you bring him a pack of coupons with a street value of 50. 00 of products he carries in his small store. The manager gives you 25.00 for your trouble and later he will get 50.00 from the companies. Not bad for doing nothing. Where there is a loop hole, people will take advantage. So it also works on the other side of the table too. Food for thought.

  9. There have been many abstract things on, but this one is beyond all… I didn’t know that boingboing is read by retired people walking like zombies in supermarkets. Someone has really a lot of time on their hands for saving a buck (no litteraly – a buck – one dollar).
    Just joking, please don’t get me wrong and try to lecture me on the importance of saving…

  10. Food prices are up

    If prices are increasing, then wouldn’t waiting a month result in paying more?

    The only coupons I’ve bothered with have in decades been in the local green book, EcoMetro Guide. $20 from local nonprofits (they make up to 50%), unlike the classic regional “Entertainment Guides” these include both national grocery discounts on brands we already buy and lots of combinable grocery discounts (typically $5-10 off on a $50 purchase at some local non-chain groceries, including the incredible Monterey Market) and free and half-price deals on many local performance venues we patronize… it was pretty easy for it to pay for itself in a day without increasing consumption or switching brands or getting junk (right on, @7). The trick, as always, is to stick with only coupon-and-sale items… plus to do independent comparisons to determine whether the coupon value makes up for the price premium of a particular brand.

    Full disclosure: After finding that I wasn’t alone in enjoying the deals and even buying more than one, I bought a couple of boxes on consignment for a nonprofit I’m part of, and left copies in my cohousing neighbors’ community mailboxes with a note, giving them the choice of returning it or leaving a check to the nonprofit. A majority made a contribution to buy the guide.

    I’m looking forward to disintermediating my consumption by taking advantage of my membership in the latest iteration of a neighborhood-serving cooperative grocery, where providing a few hours a month of unpaid labor results in low prices in theory. However we do it, local year-round farmer’s markets remain our primary source for both veggies and the incredible fresh-baked olive bread from Phoenix Pastificio.

  11. Clipping coupons is at least one-half hobby. Cutting, organizing, scouring the stores for the discounted product, often burning more gas making more than one stop. If you were to add up all the time you spent, you are paying yourself back in pennies. If you were to spend that same time, say, working on your career, or doing something you enjoy the return on the investment is much greater.

  12. This is a great idea Cory and it works well.
    Also NEVER be shy about reporting a problem or your endorsement of a product to the manufacturer.
    Most calls to a product hot line result in an avalanche of coupons and discounts.
    Customer retention is an important marketing stratagem.
    Coupons and freebies are simply written-off as promotion.
    Shake the Tree, the Loose Fruit Falls!

  13. Jocoska (12), you’ll just have to feel pity for those of us who thought it was interesting. You could even spare some faintly uncomfortable sympathy for readers whose grocery budgets need the help.

  14. I used to clip coupons, among other things, to save money. Saving money and getting something for nothing (or little) was a a highly organized obsession of mine. Then I was diagnosed with severe food allergies and all my coupons were worth zilch. It was then that I realized that 99.9% of all coupons were for products that are terrible for you and the environment. They don’t give you coupons for healthy foods like whole grains, fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy etc. At best you’ll get a coupon for sugar coated overpriced cereal, bags of soggy iceberg lettuce (the bag is mostly filled with air and iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value) and ‘yogurt popsicles’ made with zero yogurt and full of saturated fats. If you want to save money (and your health and the environment) buy local, buy organic, plan meals so you don’t waste half of what you buy and use your own cloth bags instead of grocery bags. I guarantee you’ll save more money that way than using coupons.

  15. About once a year, one of our local TV stations runs a piece about saving with coupons:

    I did this for awhile until I figured out that the I was saving money on food of questionable nutritional value. I agree with THEBLESSEDBLOGGER that you can save money with careful shopping and planning and eat better.

    I used the site mentioned in the TV piece,, and another I can’t remember. Both provided timing information, lists, and best deals. If you’re serious about coupons, these sites are essential.

  16. The proper strategy is to clip coupons, yes, but ALIGN their use with corresponding store sales. Some days that means using them the day they come out, and sometimes you’re holding onto them for months waiting for that perfect storm of big sale + coupon.

    And YES, you can buy “real food” this way. We get some processed food–cereal and cereal bars are what we’re most guilty of, and an occasional frozen pizza or pot-pie. But for the most part, we buy tons of frozen veggies, lean meat, fresh produce when it’s on sale, etc. As a matter of fact, I JUST posted on this very topic:

    I average a 60-65% savings on all my groceries, always. I haven’t paid shelf price for groceries in two or three years. And that money saved can be off somewhere earning interest. Think about it–it’s worth your time to at least learn the “game.”

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