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More secrets of TV's coupon pros - Jill Cataldo

Last week, I shared some of the secrets behind those great shopping trips you see on TV, where a person cuts a grocery bill from $70 to $6, or $92 to $10, or $98 to $8… (which, incidentally, were all actual, filmed shopping trips that I've done!)

How, exactly, does a shopper achieve that? It involves a strategic combination of matching high-value coupons to low sales, then using multiples of coupons for those same items. Toss in coupons for free products and use any coupon overage (where the coupon value exceeds the cost of the product, giving you "extra money" to apply to other items you're purchasing) and you're well on your way to shopping like a pro.

Here are a few more secrets of TV shopping trips, and how you can apply these techniques to your own grocery bill.

Focus on ‘Buy One, Get One Free' coupons

Using BOGO coupons will obviously allow you to take home two items for the price of one – a great way to add multiple items to your cart, but only pay for half of them. And, if you can combine those BOGOs with an in-store promotion, you can cash in on even bigger savings.

Catalina promotions are a couponer's friend.

Anytime a store runs a Catalina promotion offering money back for buying specific items included in the sale, it's a great opportunity to stock up and actually receive money back at the end of a trip.

A recent sale at one of my local stores advertised "Buy $25 worth of participating cleaning products, receive $10 back for your next shopping trip." This is already a good deal, but remember that the $25 total purchase requirement is typically pre-coupon. I used several BOGO coupons for a variety of cleaning products, and after coupons my total for the $25 worth of products dropped to $11.48.

After paying, I received a $10 Catalina coupon printed out at the register good for $10 off my next shopping trip. Coupon shoppers consider this kind of Catalina almost as good as cash. Factoring that Catalina in, I paid just $1.48 for $25 worth of cleaning products!

It's fun to work Catalina promotions into a TV shopping trip, too. Not only do I aim for a low total at the register, but I also get money back in the form of a Catalina. It's icing on a coupon-shopper's cake!

So how can your own shopping trip match that of a professional's? First, understand that not every week's shopping trip will be so dramatic. But you can use the same tips I've outlined to reduce your own grocery bill each week.

My weekly grocery shopping trips average between $40-$60 for my family of five. However, I usually buy more than $100 worth of groceries before coupons. That's about a 40-60 percent reduction in my grocery budget every week, which quickly adds up to big savings!

Anyone can enjoy great savings matching coupons to sales. But, when you hit a great sale in which everything lines up well, you may have reason to brag. Just this week in one of my Super-Couponing classes, a shopper proudly showed me the receipt from a recent shopping trip. She's only been coupon-shopping for four months, but she's already expertly matching coupons to sales. Her receipt? She bought $47 worth of products. After coupons, she paid just over $2 for everything! That's a trip even a TV pro would be proud of!

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.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own c.