Last week, we discussed pricing cycles at the supermarket. Every shopper knows that prices fluctuate for a given product at the store. Since the prices of your groceries change week to week, how do you know when you're getting a good deal?
It's time-consuming and difficult to keep track of price variations for everything you buy, especially if you're new to couponing and are just beginning to learn the best prices. As you start to recognize the lowest prices, the process gets easier. You'll almost develop an instinct to watch for 99-cent toothpaste sales and match 75-cent or $1 coupons to them!
But, wouldn't it be easier if someone just told you what to buy and when? What if you could print a list of every product that's cycling low in price at your store of choice, and that list also told you exactly which coupons you need to cut those already-low prices even more? These magical-sounding lists exist, and they're among the best tools couponers have to cut their grocery bills dramatically without spending a great deal of time cutting and sorting little pieces of paper.
Grocery list "matchup" web sites take all of the hard work out of couponing. They follow sales cycles for stores around the country, and each week, they present a list of everything on sale at your store of choice, typically 100 to 200 items. Shoppers simply click the "on sale" products they wish to buy, print the list and use the site's matchup information to locate the inserts in their stash where they can clip the corresponding coupons.
Here are two examples of typical listings for grocery-item match-ups:
Name-brand dish detergent (11 ounces):
Regular price: $1.89.
Sale price: 99 cents.
Coupon value: $1.
Final price: FREE!
Percent saved: 100 percent.
Name-brand fruit-and-nut trail mix (6 ounces).
Regular price: $2.19.
Sale price: $1.29.
Coupon value: $1.
Final price: 29 cents.
Percent saved: 71 percent.
Examine these entries for the detergent and the trail mix to get a sense of how these matchup lists work. First, they show shoppers the best time to buy the product. If the bottle of dish detergent is priced at $1.89, but goes on sale as low as 99 cents a bottle, it's smarter to wait and buy it when it's priced almost half off. Even without a coupon, a shopper could buy two bottles during this sale for only slightly more than one bottle costs when it's not on sale. Add a $1 coupon and the detergent is free - the best price of all!
The trail mix priced at $2.19 for a 6-ounce bag is not an item I'd buy regularly. I consider that a high price. When it's on sale for nearly a dollar less, however, it's a better buy. And with a $1 coupon, the price drops into the super-cheap range, and it's an item I'm interested in taking home.
Now, imagine a list like this that spans every category in the store: canned foods, frozen foods, meats, produce, dairy, dry goods, pet care, baby care and personal care. You click only the items you intend to buy, print out the list and then use the site's coupon insert references to sort through your files at home to find and clip the specific coupons that correspond to your shopping list. You know you're buying the products you need at the right time and at their lowest prices, because the matchup sites do the hard work, tracking sales and matching coupons.
On my web site, supercouponing.com, I maintain an updated list of grocery list matchup sites featuring stores around the country. Simply click the "Getting Started" link to view them.
Next week, we'll discuss one of the best features of using a grocery list matchup site: not having to cut all of your coupons. Yes, you read that right! Next week I'll teach you how to go "clipless" and save even more time planning your shopping trips.
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.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.