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Pair coupons with Rock-Bottom Sales

Armed with the knowledge that every item in the grocery store is on sale at its lowest price just once in a 12-week time span, planning your shopping trips around what is on sale versus what you need in a particular week is the next step to saving money on groceries.

For example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a perfect example of a price-volatile item. Last week at my grocery store, chicken breasts were on sale for $1.79/pound. This week, they're $5.29/pound. While I may not plan to make a meal with chicken breasts this week, I know that because they were at their low price point last week, it will be about 3 months before I see them at that great price again. Last week, I bought enough chicken to last my family until they're offered again at a low price.

But I didn't pay $1.79/pound for my chicken. I paid $1.29/pound. I used a 50-cent coupon for each package I purchased, but the coupons I used weren't offered in this week's paper. The coupons I used were several months old - not expired, just older than this current week.

Now, if you currently use coupons, let me guess how you do it: Your Sunday newspaper arrives. You page through the coupon inserts, clipping out the items you want to buy this week ... and you throw the insert away. But this is the No. 1 mistake most coupon users make.

Why is this a mistake? Grocery stores' best sales rarely coincide with the week coupons for these items appear in the newspaper. The grocery store knows weeks in advance what coupons are coming out in the paper. They also know that most people who use coupons will cut them and use them the same week that they came in the newspaper. So, the grocery store will typically put some of the coupon products on sale - just not at their lowest price points. Shoppers will think they're getting a deal, but the store has enticed you into purchasing at a higher price - even with your coupon. If you use your coupons when the chicken is on sale for $3.29/pound, you won't have them anymore when the chicken's price drops below the $2/pound mark.

Until next week, I'll leave you with an exciting example of another reason you should save your coupons. Pairing a $1 coupon with a $1 sale results in free items! Now, you may be thinking, "Really? Is it that easy?" You be the judge.

This week, pasta, cartons of lemonade, instant potatoes and toothbrushes were on sale at my store for $1 each. I redeemed a $1 coupon for each of those items, so they were free to me.

But in each case, the coupons I used came from inserts published weeks ago; a shopper wouldn't find them in the current week's inserts. Shoppers who clip coupons the old-fashioned way might not have needed a toothbrush three months ago, when the $1-off coupon ran in the paper. So, they threw the insert away. Super-Couponers keep their inserts. They understand that the coupons inside may provide them with the chance to land a free item in the future.

Why throw away money?

(c) CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her Web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.