Extreme couponing for survival what you need to know to keep your pantry full

by Petticoat Prepper

This recession hit my family hard. We are self-employed and there isn’t a helping hand/safety net from an outside source. I began using coupons after seeing ‘that show’ which produced my, ah-ha moment. Books have been written about this subject and there are many dedicated bloggers who can help with your quest if this little tutorial piques your interest.

An extreme couponer is one for whom coupons have ceased to be a small slips of paper cut from the local Sunday newspaper; for them it’s money. Don’t roll your eyes, how many of us will stop and pick up that penny in the parking lot? If you enjoy Las Vegas or a similar sin city you may find a comparable rush if you start on this addictive habit.

This weekend I was at the local Safeway (not my best store to shop at but do-able). I bought $160.51 worth of grocery items and once the checker ran all my savings I paid $40.67. Yesterday, I realized I’d forgotten to pick up the Kleenex and popped in. I bought 2 boxes of cool touch tissues and after all my savings they PAID me $.42 to come in and get them. I am planning on adding gold/silver to my preps this next year off my coupon savings.

Often the first things I hear from those in line behind me when checking out is; how did you do that and where do you get your coupons? The how is a bit time-consuming at first but it gets quicker the more you do it. The trick is to be kind to yourself as the learning curve is huge and you will make mistakes. You’ll need to understand your stores coupon policy and generally you can get it off the internet or from customer service. Carry it with you when shopping in case you have a checker who doesn’t understand the policy. Remember to be polite to them even if they make a mistake.

Coupons are collected from any source I can find, Sunday newspaper insert, magazines, and internet. When you are looking for coupons check the paper from the largest city in your area, for me it’s Portland. They have more coupons in their inserts and often they will be for more money off. I buy between 3-20 papers on Sunday. The rule of thumb is one paper per person in the household. At first I had no money for these papers and I made DH go dumpster diving with me. Yes, self employment is fun!

If you are printing a coupon from the internet the thing to remember is you are allowed to print two coupons per computer. We have three computers thus I get 6 coupons. Do not photocopy as this is illegal! Each coupon has an identifying number and your store will not be reimbursed for fraud coupons.

Once you begin to collect the coupons you’ll need to find a way to store, organize and find them. At first I used a 3 ring binder with baseball trading card plastic sheet holders and filed them by grocery aisles. When I found myself spending 8-10 hours a week cutting and filing plus carrying two oversized binders into the store I realized I needed a different strategy. Now I have a large plastic file box with hanging file folders. Using a sharpie I write the date on the coupon inserts and file by provider(smart source, red plum etc). Never toss a coupon until it’s expired (those can be sent to military bases if you’d like). I can guarantee you that you will be digging through your garbage/recycle for those coupons once you get going, so save them all.

The next step is to ditch brand loyalty. There are few things I’m loyal to with mayo being one of them. Don’t be afraid to try a new product. Often there will be really good coupons such as FREE. Read your coupons. The word ‘any’ is priceless on a coupon. Manufacturers will put a picture the most expensive item on the coupon but it may cover any of their products. Look to see if it says ‘limit of 4 like coupons in a single transaction’. We’ve all seen ‘one coupon per purchase’ but each item you buy is a purchase. So if you have 15 coupons for dish soap you can get 15 bottles unless it says limit of 4 then you have to read the fine print; 4 per transaction or day. Purchase = item…Transaction = trip through the check-out line.

Ok, so you’ve gathered the coupons and filed in a way that makes sense to you. Now what? Start small. Get out the grocery ads and do your regular shopping. Those of you with a stock pile will be able to progress faster than those without but over the course of a year you’ll shop vastly different. The idea is to buy as much as your family will use until the next sale cycle. Sale cycles are about 6 months in rotation, example come January healthy/diet food ie oatmeal, power bars etc. will be on sale. If you’ve coupons then this is the time to stock up.

The object is to build your own grocery store that you restock from their sales. Don’t try to do all the stores at first. Pick one store until you understand how they tick and keep an eye on the coupon policy as you don’t want to get to the check out only to find they messed up your plan. Get their shopper card; I once dropped my total from $180 to $120 off just the card savings. At first you may only have one item you’re couponing but as your stock pile builds you’ll get more and more couponing items until the only things in your cart are the coupon items.

If you live in an area where your stores offer ‘double coupons’, you’re in luck! My area has a couple of store that offer them and their policies are very different. I’ll use my favorite place, Albertson’s for my example of how-to’s. I drive quite a ways to shop there but I save enough on my first transaction to pay for my gas. Yes, I did say first transaction. I’ve been known to go through the line 7-10 times. Why? Because I’m allowed to do 3 transactions in a row and I can only use 3 double coupons in each transaction. Think it’s too much work? If I use 3 double coupons on each of 10 trips/transaction and each doubles a $1 coupon that’s $30 in my pocket just off the double coupons.

Did you know you can ‘stack’ coupons? As an example, the store is having a sale on say ABC pasta sauce and they are normally $2.50 each but they are on sale for $1 each limit of 4 with a store coupon that you cut from their ad and you’ve got a $.50 off manufacturer’s coupon for the product plus a store double coupon. You stack all three coupons on that one can of sauce and you get it for free. Now if like my store you can do 3 double coupons each transaction I’ll get 3 free pasta sauces. I may get 30 free pasta sauces that day.

Another lovely way to save is with BOGO (buy one get one free) recently my Albertson’s had a BOGO sale on disposable razors. I just happened to have 20 BOGO coupons for this product. How many are thinking I’m going to buy one and get two free? I could, but instead I got 40 free razors. I bought one with the manufacture’s BOGO coupon and got one free with the store’s BOGO sale. Yes, it pays to know your store coupon policies!

Another thing to think about is size. My DD likes Nesquik chocolate milk powder and I had $1 off coupons. It would be nice to get a buck or two off a large container but I had 15 coupons and didn’t want 15 huge containers. Instead I used them on the 3.9 oz packet that Walmart had on a roll back for a buck each, free is good.

Depending on your view about the love/hate Walmart you may not be interested but they do ‘roll over’. If you have an MQ (manufacture’s coupon) that exceeds the cost of the item you’re buying the remaining amount on the coupon rolls over to the rest of the basket. Doesn’t sound like much, huh? I had 30 MQ for $8 off ANY (remember how important that word is?) two covergirl products. (Guys heads up you could get free stuff in the fishing section or elsewhere). I went to the makeup area and found the cheapest product. I got items that totaled $4.50 leaving $3.50 remaining on each coupon for my ‘roll over’. 30 coupons X $3.50 = $105.00 that rolled over to the rest of my basket! Of course, I had coupons for everything in my basket and I paid something stupid like $10 for a huge cart of items.

This is long I know and I could go on and on. There are blogs out there that will help you. I use www.thekrazycouponlady.com to look up my coupons. I sit with the sales and the items I want to buy I check for coupons. They list like this: Hunt’s pasta sauce $.50 SS 11/4/12 exp 1/15/13. This means Smart Source (Sunday coupon insert) from the November 4, 2012 newspaper, $.50 off and the coupon expires January 15, 2013. I pull all the inserts from that file folder, cut all the pasta coupons and put the insert back in the file box. SS= Smart Source, RP=Red Plum, PG=Proctor and Gamble. Insert names are on the front page.

Other internet sources for help:

www.DiscountQueens.com www.QueenbeeCoupons.com www.LivingRichWithCoupons.com www.WildForWags.com (Walgreen’s)

Almost all these ladies have beginner sections and you can sign up for their daily feed. Once you begin to understand you’ll see other ways to roll offers. I bought a $50 Sears’s gift card from Safeway because they had an offer of buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 coupon for Safeway groceries. I went to Sears with the gift card because they had a sale going, buy $50 in the men’s department and get a $25 gift card. So I got my DH father’s day stuff and me a free pair of fashion boots plus $10 off my next grocery run.

Coupons have really saved me and I’ve managed to rebuild my stock pile. I’m planning on adding metals to my preps this next year with the money I’m saving. Hopefully, this will help the pack with more cash for preps!

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Petticoat Prepper,
    Great article!
    I have got to follow your example. I have gotten so lazy in recent years. Once DH and I became empty nesters it was easy to develop bad habits.
    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  2. Thanks for a great article! I coupon as well and use it to increase my preps as well as our “normal” shopping. I plan my trips to use all the money I have budgeted, however, instead of saving the savings.

  3. Great article PP!
    I too have the coupon and saving addiction. I save an average $200.00 a week on sales and couponing. $800.00 a month is alot of money. Yesterday I spent $80.00 and saved $140.00. That is a slow week. I do not buy anything we do not use.

    Don’t forget that some stores offer gas points when you fill up! I usually save $35.00 a month on fuel. I am a fuel point saving NAZI! If anyone in the family even thinks about touching my fuel points I will have their heads!
    My daughter has shoppers card in each store also. For multiple check outs, she will get in line with me and do purchases also. She is 9 yrs old. She is savvy and knows how to figure savings in her head already. We use shopping and saving it as part our homeschooling experience.

    Some of the store checkers have appaulded. They all get excited to see what the totals are.
    My best was saving $240.00 and spending $23.25.
    As far as time spent….I don’t spend too much time on it anymore. It simply becomes part of your daily ritual.
    This has built our stores up at an amazing rate.
    I also grow a large part of our produce and raise meat, so I am invested in my families food in every way. It makes me feel good to sit with a cup of free coffee and admire my work.
    Not to mention that our investment of time plus the rate of inflation makes our purchases worth even more. 400 percent or more.

  4. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Tactical G-Ma,

    Our DD recently moved to her first place so we’re empty nesters too. It’s easy to let it slide but given the thousands of dollars I’ve saved I’m going to make myself keep at it. This started out from desperate measures trying to feed my family. I’ve managed to re-build my stock pile and expand it PLUS I found this blog because I was searching for how to’s on storage. So see, ya just don’t know where couponing will take you!

  5. Petticoat Prepper,
    Thanks for the instructional article about couponing – it is something I have tried to do over the years but with minimal success. This gives me a plan to work – Appreciate the experienced advice!

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Nancy V,

      Just pick one store and then get their coupon policy to study. Customer service should be able to give you a copy or you can find on line too.

  6. Petticoat Prepper, Thank you for this very interesting article. We have been using coupons way before it was kool. We have 7 children (4 still at home), 3 grandbabies and 2 dils. My husband works at a lg chain grocery store and gets tons of great in store deals that are not advertized. All our kids love to use coupons. We did not realize WM does a roll over. Thanks for the web site addresses. I love the 1st one listed. Cheyenne

  7. Petticoat Prepper,

    Thanks for the great post. I have been couponing for years. But since “that show” came out, most of the really good coupons have dried up.

    I shop at Publix most of the time and I hit their BOGO sales hard. This week the salad dressing dh likes is on sale and I have no problem putting 12 bottles in my cart. Ginger Ale is also on sale and I will pick up some of that too. So my grocery cart will include milk, eggs, bread and the rest of the cart will be filled with BOGO stuff.

    My dh refused to go through other people’s recycle bins to pull out their coupons. But once he saw how much I was saving he started “keeping the lookout” while I rummaged through other peoples’ recycle bins.

    Keep a close eye on the sales cycles. I kept a price notebook and found that some products went on sale every six weeks (such as TP) and other products would go on sale every three months. I also researched and found that products will go on sale at certain times during the year–e.g., butter and other baking stuff goes on sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas, hams go on sale for Easter and Christmas, and so on.

    I am able to cut my bill in half by buying BOGO and using coupons. The main advise I have for new couponers is to not get too carried away once you see how much you can save. If it’s not something you are going to use, don’t spend money on it. Couponing requires discipline–I learned that from experience.

    Thanks again for putting this together. Once people understand couponing and sales cycles, and start a stockpile, it’s amazing how much money you can save.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Amen Bam Bam,

      It’s easy to get carried away. The only time I get something I don’t use is if I can get a ‘roll over’ to the rest of the basket. Those few items then go into my donation pile.

      I have noticed the coupons aren’t as good as before but I’m still making good strides in the savings. Last time I say stats it said coupon usage has increased 60%. Maybe when the economy is better the use will slow down and the coupons will get better. More of an advertizing thing I think and I’m sure the companies had a gasp moment!

      My DH was just horrified to dumpster dive but went any way. Like yours, once he saw the savings, he was on the look out for more!

    • Bam Bam, didn’t you do an article on sales cycles?

  8. My family used to do this as well. Last summer we were able to save so much and get some really great deals. However, the coupon bug hit really hard here and many stores just stopped doing the great deals. Also, there is a code of ethics, so to speak of, that used to be amoung couponers. Don’t clear the shelf, take what you need but leave some for the next person. Many times we would go to a store just to find that someone had come in and cleaned out the shelves. This is what happens when people just jump on the bandwagon without getting into the culture. The Show that was mentioned is not realistic at all and the stores generally allowed many things for the show that they would not let you do in real life. FYI,

    • Petticoat Prepper says:


      Yes, the stores do allow LOTS of stuff for ‘that show’. We’ve been hit hard here too, we have clubs of all things! I’m not part of any but I’ve a client who is. I see her at the store sometimes. She’ll get there before 6AM (when the door opens) and when I get there around 9…she’s STILL THERE SHOPPING!!!

      I’ve never approved of clearing the shelves but when I find them cleared I’ll ask for a rain check. If I’m doing a large amount I’ll place a special order so I don’t clear the shelf. It’s very frustrating to go in to pickup one or two items only to find every store is wiped out.

  9. Great article Petticoat Prepper!

    Also, Safeway has a fairly new electronic coupon savings program (called Just for U) where you upload coupons to your Safeway card number. Great savings and easy to do/use – no paper coupons. I think you can load coupons to your Smith’s card as well.

    Anyways, thank you for reminding me how much money can be saved using coupons!

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      WYO Ryder,

      Yes, Safeway has the new program and it’s free to sign up. I’ve had some trouble with their e-coupons not coming off at the register but I really like the card savings. The produce coupon is a favorite of mine.

      • Yes, Petticoat, I too like the produce coupons (I need to start dehydrating again!).
        I live 90 minutes from any big grocer like Safeway so i try to buy
        1) local, IF not getting $$ gouged. However, I can buy lots of reduced produce at our small town grocer (the chickens like that too 🙂
        2) and while at the big grocers, besides being armed with my precise shopping list & coupons – I always hit up the 50% off section. Can’t tell you how many organic products I’ve picked up 1/2 price there 🙂 I only buy what is on sale w/coupons and I try to never, ever buy China! I can’t believe how many FOOD products are really from PRC!
        Happy weekend! 🙂

  10. Wow, great going, Petticoat Prepper! Good article, too.

    I use coupons as much as I can (and have time for), but no way to Petticoat’s extent.

    Be sure to check your favorite store(s)’s policies. Many have tightened up their limits, plus they might have limts on the total # of items & coupons for the total sale, meaning they might have to stop half way thru and do one register slip and then start again for another register slip. Be sure to ask about that because you might have to sort your coupons accordingly while at the register.

    Some stores and/or items also have 3-month cycles instead of 6 months. That really helps, too.

    Big peeve of mine — many manufacturers now often have coupons that are only good for a month or six weeks. Fortunately, the stores have sales for those items in the beginning of that coupon’s life. Some mfgr’s are slick in having 2 coupons, one for now and one for later.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:


      I know, what’s up with the short dates? I’m so old….I remember when coupons didn’t have any expiration date…

      • I remember the no expiration date coupons too… I have a couple I received direct from the manufacturer that have no expiration date and was told by my store they wouldn’t accept them because of that. Huh?!?!? Put up a fuss the first time and they took them, but to save myself time, I just went to a different store the next time.

  11. I always wondered how this worked. Thanks

  12. I have couponed since I was a poor college student working my way thru school. I mostly shop at Aldi’s and Krogers now. Kroger in my area doubles coupons and since I only buy for myself I don’t get huge savings but do like that Kroger prints at the end of the reciept how much % wise you saved and if I don’t get around 50% it was a bad day.. In college I worked full time at a regional dept store chain similar to Target and learned the value of clearance shopping, I now try to never buy anything unless it is on sale, marked down or clearanced out. About the only thing I pay full price for is gas and my weekly powerball tickets.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Yes, Target is great. They will price match from an ad and they have store coupons at their website plus you can stack MQ’s too! Always have shopped clearance…DD knows how from early childhood education!

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        One thing I always do is ask if they give any discounts. Our KMart gives military (active, reservists, and retirees and dependents) 10% discount if you use cash or debit card.

  13. Troy's girl says:

    Thank you. I now know how and where to start. While it is just dh and I, I’m still stocking when and what I can. Never hurts to be prepared. Thanks again.

  14. Nan in NC says:

    My biggest problem with using coupons is that we use very few prepared items. And I do mean VERY FEW. Among them are mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, some soups (for emergency use), and crackers, one or two breakfast cereals. Everything else I buy in bulk from Costco, or I get at Aldi, or I grow in my garden and can/ freeze/ dehydrate for later use. I use coupons whenever I can, but when I go thru the paper on Sun, the only thing I can find that I use is haircolor coupons, sometimes soup, sometimes mayo. We don’t use commercially frozen veg, pizzas, chicken nuggets, pancakes/waffles. My OH is an engineer for a company that designs displays for things you see set up in stores, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors/blades, soap, etc. and we get those for free when they dismantle the display models. I am definitely “brand loyal” to my shampoo, hair spray, conditioner, and so is my husband to his, but not much else except mayo. I know that doesn’t compete with “Free”, but we are also self-employed, and my time has value as well. For me it’s not worth the extra time to go through the gyrations.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Nan in NC,

      Yes, time is money in self-employment, but we lost 80% of our work/income just before TDL’s first election. So I had Lots of time on my hands. Now I don’t spend much more time than normal doing my grocery list unless I’m working on an extreme trip. Then I’m a bit longer in the store and the prep.

      On a normal grocery trip I can plan what I want and get the coupons cut in about an hour; before couponing I’d spend about 30 minutes. I know where everything is in the store so I don’t spend that much extra time unless it’s an extreme trip for me…you know, a big trip. I figure if I spend an extra hour working on my shopping trip and save myself $200-$300 by doing so, I’m happy.

      I too garden and can; 50% off new lids, jars and pectin last year with BOGO sales and coupons. I don’t buy much of the processed food either. Although I have to say we love the Idahoan mashed potatoes so I’m always looking for coupons for that. Easy to fix and shelf stable, tastes good on my home canned beef in red wine sauce (ball book). Plus recently Campbell’s came out with ‘skillet sauces’ that are pretty tasty and as they are shelf stable I stocked up on those to help fight off food fatigue just in case TSHTF. 😉

      Awesome you get all those great freebies!!! Those are items I work on stocking up all the time.

  15. This is very helpful, but I have just one concern. The store cards track your every purchase. I realize that they do this for advertizing purposes and the store probably doesn’t have any nefarious intentions. HOWEVER, think how easy it would be for a government entity to get ahold of the data. Personally, I don’t like giving out information about myself to people I don’t know.

  16. If you live in the South, this is an excellent website to track coupons and sales.


  17. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Have any of you been receiving Freebies? I have some peeps on fb who posted invitations. Is this for real or a way to get our names and addresses on lists?

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      That would be good to know. I’ve seen those but never clicked or heard from anyone who’s tried it.

  18. Like some have said, my store also has a “coupons to card” program, but there is a website that offers a similar program, and often has the same “coupons” the same times as my store.
    This website is https://savingstar.com/ and you register your loyalty cards with the website, choose which ‘coupons’ you want, then…when you buy the product, the coupon amount is saved to your account. After accumulating $5, you can cash out and you’re paid via PayPal, bank deposit, or Amazon card.

  19. Im going to have dw read this so we can use cupons again. Thanks P.P. Cowboy ps 12 year old boys eat alot of food

  20. So excited to see this! I wanted to do an article on this, but I didn’t think anyone would be interested. So happy to see that wasn’t the case.

    I’ve been couponing for about 3 years now. When I started it was because something had to give; I had 6 people to feed and not enough money. Now it’s a habit. I don’t look at anything without trying to find a way to get it free. =)

    I mainly do Walmart for groceries and manage to save 50% on average with overage on some items. But the coup de grace is CVS. Imagine what $100 will get you at Walmart if you only spent it on fresh produce and meat. I purchase almost everything else at CVS using their Extra Care program and ECBs (store credit). Stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons, get ECBs for qualifying purchases. Use those ECBs to pay for the next transaction and get more ECBs. After a few transactions, you’re not using real money any more. My weekly cash allowance for CVS transactions is $1, and I normally take home several hundred dollars worth of product from their shelves. If I can’t use it, I donate it. That leaves me $99 to buy real food.

    Another new program I’m using is the ibotta app (iphone). They partner with several stores, including CVS and Walmart. You tell them what you’re going to buy, upload your receipt, and they will bank money for you for each item, that you can transfer to your paypal account. This is in addition to any coupon savings you already got on those products.

    All of the coupon sites OP mentioned should have a section on CVS and Walgreens or Rite Aid (they have similar programs). And like she said, don’t give up! It takes practice.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Kim in Texas,
      Oh lucky you! We don’t have CVS but I’ve heard about them. If you’re trying to learn about Walgreen’s then the link in the post to http://www.WildForWags.com will help.

      Yep, you’re right…don’t give up. It takes time to learn how to work within each store’s coupon policy and they change them often. So always check before you go for a big trip.

      • Thanks!

        I have done Walgreens, but I never saw the savings I do at CVS. So far this year I’m at $500+ worth of product for about $3 out of pocket. I just can’t do that anywhere else. =)

  21. Someone did their homework well. I am fortunate to have a store that gives me 40% off other store prices and takes coupons off that 40% savings too.

  22. I have couponed for years & have seen a decline in good coupons. I don’t coupon as much as I used to because we buy very few prepared items & the ones we do buy are not brand name. I hit up the CVS & the Walgreens & seem to get the most bang for my buck that way. I tried saving the whole coupon packet from the paper but was wasting coupons as some would slip by me so I’m back to clipping anything I might possibly use. I would rather clip something that I might use and not have it go on sale & throw the coupon into the recycle bin then have it go on sale & not have the coupon. The main grocery store in our area doesn’t take internet coupons so I just use Sunday paper inserts. We get 3 papers & if there are any good coupons I will go buy another paper or two. Haven’t had to do that recently as there are not many good coupons. Used to be a lot better!

  23. I get free toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, soap, and free food sometimes. All the money I save goes into other long term food products.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:


      Good for you, I’m aiming for silver this year for part of my preps. Then too, I’m always looking to add something good to my stock pile!

      Big thanks you everyone for your kind words on my little attempt to help MD with something more to read. Thanks too for the extra input! Like always…I learn more here….

  24. Excellent article! I used to rack up on savings when our local store did the triple coupon days. They don’t do those anymore, but I can still save a significant amount just with coupons.

  25. Southern Belle says:

    Great article. We, too, have been finding different ways to make ends meet. Coupons have been a life line for us. I had to figure out how the game was played but once I caught one, there was savings to be found. I also lucked out because some of the teachers from work bring in their papers so I found a free source for finding more coupons. Kroger also sends out coupons quarterly if you sign up with their value card. Thanks for all the tips and useful websites.


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