More tips for winning the coupon game

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By Darby Dugan, the Coupon Goddess

The 12-week rule

Generally, sales will repeat themselves every 12 weeks and it usually takes about 12 weeks worth of inserts to accumulate the coupons needed to take advantage of the sales. What you want to do is purchase the number of items that you and your family will use in three months.

Knowing that the sales will come around again soon means that you don’t have to go crazy and buy out the store, thus buying more than you need for that time period. Trust me, mustard will go on sale again. You don’t need to buy 20 bottles of it because it’s such a good deal.

“How many Sunday papers
do I need to buy?”

As a guideline, it is recommended that you buy one paper for each family member. I generally get four Sunday papers a week. Of course, if the coupons are exceptionally good, I buy more. In order to take full advantage of BOGO (Buy One, Get One) sales, you will want to get an even number of papers — more on that later ...

One word of advice: When you buy your extra papers from a kiosk, don’t get the ones on top, reach down into the stack and get them. I’ve seen people in the store stand at the kiosk, take the coupon inserts from the paper, put the inserts in their cart and the empty papers back on the stack. I kid you not. Also, if your paper is missing the inserts, call customer service and report it. They will send you the inserts that were missing from the paper.

Stop making out a weekly menu

Do not make out your menu until you’ve checked out the grocery ads and Internet forums. Plan your meals around what’s on sale. If chicken and hamburger are on sale, guess what your menu will feature for that week?

That’s right — chicken and burgers, chicken salad and pasta with meat sauce, etc.  Buy enough for the week and extra to put in your freezer. Shop the manager’s special in the meat department and if you have coupons for meat, keep them with you.

Try to have a couple of meatless meals each week. Don’t worry if your family balks, they’ll get used to it. There are many delicious, hearty vegetarian dishes out there and loads of recipes online to get you inspired and started.

Set a budget

With that budget, buy your needs items first and then begin to build your inventory, buying only what is on sale and for what you have coupons. Your goal is to build an inventory with enough food, housecleaning items and toiletries to see you through for 12 weeks. As your stockpile grows, you will see your grocery bill start to go down and you’ll be shopping from your own “store.” This will not only save you money, you’ll be saving time and gas also. Gotta look at the big picture — all of it adds up.

Your homework assignments for the week Buy extra papers, find out what stores near you double, and start making menus around what’s on sale. Think you can handle that? I thought so! Till next week!

Frugal tip of the day

Tired of replacing your razor so often? The real reason it gets dull is not that you’ve taken the edge off of it, the real reason is rust. In order to keep the rust away, simply dip the blades in oil - baby oil will do just fine - shake the excess off and let dry. Abracadabra! It’s Magic! No, not really, it’s science.