Prepping

How to Use Extreme Couponing to Stockpile for Pennies

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If you’ve just started prepping, one of the first things you’ll notice is just how much is out there when it comes to gear and supplies. And as a new prepper, it’s so easy to impulse buy and try to get everything you need as quickly as possible.

Before you know it, you can really blow your budget. In fact, once you’ve been bitten by the prepping bug, it seems like the clock is ticking and it’s really easy to overspend, no matter how experienced you are. The best way to avoid overspending when building your stockpile is to create a list of everything you eventually need to have in your stockpile first.

Start by making a list of the items you are currently using in your home for daily life. These are the items you want to begin stockpiling first. You can include any items you would need if there was some type of local disaster like a blackout or an extended snowstorm.

Once you have 3 to 6 months stockpile of items you use daily, then add any other items you would need to survive a widespread catastrophe or SHTF event. So include things such as batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, and maybe a generator or portable propane heater.

While you build your stockpile of common items, you can save up for bigger items such as handheld radios, solar panels, or an alternative long-term heating option that doesn’t require power.

It’s very important to take the time to make a good list at the beginning and then stick to it as much as possible. Sticking to your list and having a plan will help you avoid overspending on items you really don’t need. To save even more money, below are some tips on how to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies.

Know the Sale Cycles for Your Area

Anyone who works in the grocery or any part of the retail industry will tell you that sale items are typically on a cycle that repeats throughout the year. Find an experienced couponer in your area who knows that cycle for your area or take note of all the sale items from each store yourself and over time you’ll start to see a pattern.

If you know the sales cycle, you’ll be able to predict what week of the month paper products will be on sale and you can save your paper product coupons to use during that week. This ensures that you get your items at the lowest price.

Utilize Research from Others

When it comes to extreme couponing, there’s no reason to waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of resources already done for you, like this stock-up price sheet from the Krazy CouponLady. She’s done quite a bit of research on pricing for a wide variety of items.

You can use her price sheet as a guide to know whether or not an item’s price is cheap enough to warrant buying multiples at one time. There are also a ton of Facebook groups and websites that focus specifically on sharing deals and coupons for specific stores or types of products. You can utilize this research that others have done to make the couponing process more efficient.

Make Use of Double Coupon Policies

There are some stores left that will give you double the value of paper coupons that you use on your purchases. Some stores may only do double coupons on a specific day of the week, or only for coupons to a specific dollar amount, whereas other stores may give double the coupon value on any day or for any amount.

If your store offers double coupons on Tuesdays, make sure that you shop at that store on Tuesdays to get an even bigger discount. In some cases, double coupons may even mean you get an item for free, especially if the item is on sale that day.

Utilize Printed Coupons When Possible

Although many stores have strict policies regarding coupons that you print yourself from the Internet, it pays to use these printed coupons whenever possible.

The best thing about coupons that you print yourself is that you can typically print only the ones for items that you will use. I find this much faster to do than clipping coupons from the flyers that come in the mail.

Most coupon sites will have a search or filter feature that allows you to just look at beverage coupons or baby coupons, which makes it easy to find the ones you need. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can usually print coupons at the library or even from a friend or neighbor’s computer who doesn’t take advantage of coupons.

Know the Coupon Policies for Stores in Your Area

Stores handle coupons differently so it’s important for you to become familiar with the coupon policies for the stores in your area. If you are shopping at a new store, make sure you get and read their coupon policy before you head out to shop so you can use your coupons in the way the gives you the best price on each item.

There are stores with a coupon policy that allows you to use one paper coupon and one “printed” coupon for each item. Knowing how to take advantage of the more liberal coupon policies is one of the best ways to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies.

Stores that let you use coupons on items that are already on sale means that you will usually get a better price. Some stores won’t allow you to use coupons for an item on sale, or an item that is “free” because you bought two others of the same item for example.

On a “buy two get 1 free” sale, you would typically be able to use at least two paper coupons, one for each item you are paying for. But there are some stores who will allow you to use one coupon per item that is rung up, which means you could use 3 coupons, and get an even bigger discount.

If a store offers “e-coupons” or digital coupons through a store advantage card, make sure you know how these are handled. Some stores, such as Giant Eagle, require you to “clip” the coupon before you shop and then it is automatically deducted whenever you buy that product.

The key thing to remember is that if you have a paper coupon and an “e-coupon” for the same item, a store may only allow you to use one or the other and not both. So if you clipped an e-coupon for chicken broth but you find an even better paper coupon, you may have to unclip the e-coupon before you shop, to get the bigger discount from the paper coupon.

Compare Prices Carefully

One of the things I’ve noticed as I shop recently is that many products I normally purchase are slightly smaller packages or less volume than they used to be. So even though the price for toilet paper is still it’s usual $4.99 for example, it may be only 4 rolls instead of the usual 6 rolls.

Coffee which used to always come in a one pound can, now is only 12 ounces! That’s 4 ounces less but the prices didn’t go down. Make sure you are comparing prices and volume carefully to ensure you are getting the best value.

Pay specific attention to items such as apples, potatoes, oranges, etc. You may find that the 4.5 lb bag at one store is the same price as the 5 lb at another store.

Watch Out for Misleading Advertising

One of the dirty marketing tricks you need to watch out for is stores that advertise in a way that is misleading. I noticed this in my local convenience store the other day when I stopped in to get a bag of ice. The store had a huge sign in the snack aisle that advertised a brand of chips as “two for $5”. Not a great price but still better than paying almost $4 per bag.

As I read the sign again, I noticed that in much smaller print, the sign read “7 ¾ oz quantities only”. On the display shelf directly behind the sign, there were original flavor chips that were 10 ounces in volume.

There wasn’t an obvious difference in the size of the bags. Certainly not enough to notice if you simply saw the sign and grabbed one original bag and one barbeque for example.

But at the register, the chips would have been rung up at their higher individual prices because you only had 1 bag of the 7 ¾ ounce weight and not two, therefore the sale price wouldn’t be honored.

Sales may often be limited according to the weight or flavor and if you don’t pay attention to the fine print in the signs, you could end up paying full price.

Always Check Your Receipts

One of the ways you can save money when building your stockpile is to make sure that you always check your receipts to make sure you actually got the sale price or received the discount for coupons you provided. If you aren’t paying attention as items are being rung up and you don’t check your receipt afterwards, you could end up paying full price for your items, without even knowing it.

This happened just last week to someone I know. She checked her receipt and discovered the store had failed to give her nearly $10 in coupon discounts! She was able to get a manager who quickly made the corrections, but even the cashier was “unaware” that the coupons hadn’t been deducted properly from her total.

The other reason to check your receipts is because the sale items are updated in the computer whenever sales change. If this is done incorrectly or an item that goes on sale isn’t updated properly, the register will ring up the full price. If you aren’t paying attention, you can end up paying full price for items that should be on sale.

In addition to using coupons to stockpile, you can also save a ton of money by shopping for supplies and gear at flea markets, thrift stores, and surplus stores. What’s your favorite way to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies? Do you have some tips we didn’t list above? Let us know in the comments below.

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Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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17 thoughts on “How to Use Extreme Couponing to Stockpile for Pennies

  1. I really started paying attention to prices at the grocery about 5-6 years ago.

    The item that got me started was spagetti. It was $0.79 a pound, shelf price. Then it went to $1.09 shelf price and about once a month would go on sale for $0.79. Now the shelf price is well over $2.40/lb and it goes on sale for $0.79 to $0.89 about once a month or so. Great item to stock pile, if only in your pantry. It keeps well (at least here) with no special preparation. I would think that if you live with high humidity, things would be different, but 26 pounds (in 1 pound bags) fits in a 5-gallon plastic bucket (about $5 if you have to buy one new). Easy way to save money and put something away for later.

    1. It pays to know your stores sale cycles. Know when the things you need for your stockpile are on sale and have enough cash in reserve so that you are in the position to stock up when the sale happens. Thanks for sharing!

  2. At least where I live coupons are useless unless you have to buy the expensive name brands. Here store brands are always cheaper then the coupon price for those. Also local stores do not double coupons. Walmart has the lowest prices for everything except meat, I get that at the supermarket near me that uses low meat prices to lure in customers who then buy their over priced produce and canned goods.

    1. Daddio7,

      At least where I live coupons are useless unless you have to buy the expensive name brands. Here store brands are always cheaper then the coupon price for those. Also local stores do not double coupons.

      That’s pretty much the same here; but, our Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, and Meijer’s, while all 15-20 miles from the homestead, are within a few miles of each other, so we hit the stores with the best prices for the items we need. Aldi’s has overall good prices on canned goods and dairy, with Meijer’s having the best produce. We still have a ton of beef in the freezers; but, our best meats and deli are from Mosier’s Market, an independent IGA store about 6 miles from here. The owner is a real butcher and they have high quality meats and deli goods. We don’t use coupons there; but, we do get a biweekly flyer with their deals, that are often great on bulk meats, such as pork chops purchased in 10 pound packages.

    2. I agree that Walmart often has great pricing, especially on their store brand. Since you primarily shop at Walmart, look for and pay attention to price matching to help make sure you are getting the lowest prices on anything you need that isn’t store brand. Also, you might want to try some of the automated savings programs where you submit your receipts and get refunded if it’s cheaper somewhere else or if it goes on sale within a specific period of time after your purchase.

  3. Before you know it, you can really blow your budget. In fact, once you’ve been bitten by the prepping bug, it seems like the clock is ticking and it’s really easy to overspend, no matter how experienced you are. The best way to avoid overspending when building your stockpile is to create a list of everything you eventually need to have in your stockpile first.

    The easiest way to do this with a logical process is the threat matrix, that I have explained enough times in enough places, to have a file explaining it in detail. I’ll include that information at the bottom of this comment.

    Start by making a list of the items you are currently using in your home for daily life. These are the items you want to begin stockpiling first. You can include any items you would need if there was some type of local disaster like a blackout or an extended snowstorm.

    This would be in addition to the threat matrix and the easiest way to build a stock would be using the “Can copying” method, where every time you replenish your stock you by an extra one or more if on sale. When you get lo on beans and need one, buy at least two and you will see your stock increase without much real planning, other than to not purchase too many cans of beans, etc.

    Make Use of Double Coupon Policies
    Stores around here stopped double coupons a long time ago. Like free 5-gallon food grade buckets or used vegetable oil for making biodiesel, once these things get trendy and everyone starts doing / using them, the stores often shut things down.

    Utilize Printed Coupons When Possible
    I do these all of the time for my main coupon addiction: Harbor Freight” where the discount on items can be huge and often get you things that are free with any other purchase.

    Coffee which used to always come in a one pound can, now is only 12 ounces! That’s 4 ounces less but the prices didn’t go down. Make sure you are comparing prices and volume carefully to ensure you are getting the best value.

    While I am not a coffee drinker, the DW is and is always on the prowl for deals on her addiction, LOL. Recently she found her Folgers high test red container in 30.5 oz (1 lb 14.5 oz) for $5.99 @ Rural King. You can sometimes find the same thing at Dollar General for north of $7.00 and other places more than $10.00 so watching the prices and keeping track of which store has what is also important.
    Your mention of comparing prices and volume carefully should probably be comparing prices and weight since often the same container for dry goods will simply have less product in it, with only the fine print weight having changed.

    Another thing to watch for is that many stores will not only indicate the price for the container; but, the price per unit, such as cents per ounce. For those that do not, carrying a calculator along and doing the quick calculation is another good habit to form.

    Always Check Your Receipts
    We do that; but, most places have a display that shows the prices as they are being run through the system, so also keep an eye there.
    If you are really picky and tight on money as we once were, take a calculator and keep a running total of the items as they hit your cart. On a large order, you could be off by a few cents due to taxable or non taxable items; but, you should be able to hit the checkout number within $0.50 or figure out why. When the DW & I shop together, I’ll often calculate and keep the running total in my head as a game of sorts and I’m still usually pretty close, until she pulls out a coupon I didn’t know she had. It’s been said that keeping the mind active is a good deterrent against things like Alzheimer’s and this one is an easy way to work the brain as a fun game, playing only against yourself.

    Also some stores like Home Depot, Harbor Freight, etc, will email a copy of the receipt to you. I find this handy, especially for things that may need a receipt for a warranty, since a dead thing 23 months into the 2 year warranty can often have you scrambling for that receipt; but, in my case, it’s been tucked away safely on one of the computers where it’s easy to find & print.

    And now as promised:
    ”The Threat matrix revivited”
    Something you might want to do to organize your start is a technique called
    ”The Threat Matrix” , that I will describe here. This tool is not hard or complex; but, will take some clear and honest thinking as you create it, and once it’s completed, you’ll have a map to start you on your way with some semblance of organization, and perhaps a little less stress. You can use paper and pencil, a dry erase board or Post-it Notes, or a spreadsheet or word processor, if you’re comfortable with one of those tools. Here is how you construct the one for your situation.
    Start with a list of threats in prioritized order, with loss of your income, death in the family, or sudden acute illness at the top. Add global nuclear war and life ending asteroid strike at the bottom. Fill in the middle with the threats you and your family could actually face. As an example, in my location we can have blizzards and tornados; but, are not concerned with earthquakes or hurricanes and generally not much with floods or wildfires at my actual physical location, so be honest with yourself for your area, location, and situation.
    Next, starting at the most likely / highest priority event, make a list of the resources required to mitigate that threat. A resource in this case would be Materials, knowledge, and/or skills.
    Keep in mind also that often people confuse information, knowledge, and skills with each other. There is; however, a simple way to understand the difference and that is the application of each to your own situation. A library with all of its books or the internet with all of its web pages, podcasts, & videos, contains absolutely no knowledge. That content is only information. When you apply that information by reading, listening, or watching, then you gain knowledge when you start to understand the concepts.
    That act of absorbing and understanding information does not however make a skill until you then apply that knowledge by ”doing” something to create a skill, and then practice that skill to become proficient. One additional concept to keep in mind is that the old maxim, ”Practice Makes Perfect” is only partially correct, since only ” Perfect Practice Makes Perfect” , especially when doing things that could be dangerous, like chopping or splitting wood or running a chainsaw, so take your time.
    Once you have made your threat list, and added the knowledge, skills, and resources required to mitigate that threat, move on down to the next one on the list. What you will find is that as you move down the list, you start needing to add fewer & fewer items, since they have already been covered in the levels above. Once the matrix is complete, you have a plan with a map for the supplies, knowledge (books and other information), and skills to acquire, and like any journey, it just gets easier with a map to the destination.
    Also, note that as you prepare your way down this list, other things you missed will pop into your head; but, be assured that this is normal, and as you move on this journey in an organized fashion, you should occasionally stop and smell the flowers, looking back for just a minute to see how far you’ve come. Always looking ahead will only tend to disappoint you, because this journey like life itself never has a final destination. I’ve been seriously on this journey and lifestyle for 50+ years, and still on occasion wonder what I’m missing.
    Your journey forward into preparedness will be constantly changing as you acquire new resources or skills, many of which will then equip you to think of and ask questions that might not even have been thought of at the start, since we are often sometimes to ignorant to even ask the right questions. One of those resources are the incredible people here who are not too proud to admit ignorance and ask a question and often have the knowledge or skills to answer one., so don’t be shy and ask or answer.
    Sometimes not knowing what we don’t know is our biggest problem; but, as you move forward, often very obvious things will pop into your head, at which point you go back and rework the matrix; but, I think you’ll find that it will only get easier and you will eventually gain some peace of mind

      1. Meg & Dan if you are watching,

        Very good tips here. And I agree the threat matrix is a very thorough method for making plans. Thanks for sharing!

        That short version was originally an article published here when the site was under previous ownership. It may still be in the archives, and you are welcome to look at it and publish it again. The original contains some links to web resources, so before republishing it, someone should probably check to make sure those links are still valid.

  4. I realize this article is about couponing. There are ways to save big without couponing, which I found cumbersome and time-consuming.

    1. Brand loyalty is very expensive. While I firmly believe that, as a general rule, you get what you pay for, name brands don’t always equate to a better product or a better deal. It pays to try different products.

    2. Those of us who have worked in the grocery retail industry know that the most expensive products on a shelf are those at eye level.

    Retailers pay more to have their items shelved at eye level because that’s where most consumers will look. Research shows that position on a shelf is more important than advertising. Where it sits on the shelf has no bearing on product quality or effectiveness.

    Look high & low, and all around eye level. The best deals are going to be the highest and lowest shelves.

    3. Buy “kill dated” meats as often as possible They’re perfectly good. Either get them in the freezer immediately, or cook and can within 24 hours.

    I live very rural. There is a small independent grocery that does a good job with meats. They have sales every 2 weeks on certain meat items. I take advantage of those.

    The butchers have gotten to know me. I look at the “sell by dates” then I go back about 9:00 am on that date. Gives butchers time to work. I load my cart. Then the butchers take it in the back and mark it down again. I have never asked them to do this. They volunteered. What started as a 30¢ per pound savings is now a 60¢ per pound savings.

    Then I cook and can it.

    One of the owners of this store recently called me to make sure I knew about a certain special meat sale, which I did not know about.

    It pays to have friends in high places!

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips on how to save money other than with coupons. There are many people who feel clipping coupons is too time intensive. We all have such busy lives. I wish I could pay someone to do my couponing and my shopping for me–I hate it. Love that the butcher calls you to tell you about a sale–that’s just another benefit of small town living. It pays to network! Thanks for sharing!

  5. You’re right about starting to stockpile with the things you already use. Here’s how I started: When I ran out of something nonperishable, I would buy two to replace it. Whether it was canned vegetables or fruit, pasta, shampoo, toothpaste, or Band-Aids, I would buy two. I also bought extra when something went on sale or I had a good coupon. Buying two to replace one quickly added up.

  6. Pay close attention to pricing based on product size. A lot of products listed as specials are smaller than the normal size. Often buying two items on special could cost more than the regular sized item with the same or even larger quantity. When some items go on special it applies to individual units, family packaging, which used to be a money saver, may not be included in the special because it has it’s own UPC code.

  7. I love coupon shopping but since that stupid show Extreme Couponing, came out a few year’s ago it just ruined it for all of us that did coupon shop, that’s when the value of a coupon, went down and they put on the coupon only 4 coupons per shopping trip. It REALLY made it hard to shop after that. I do stack my coupons, and I use store card’s, and store coupons too but most coupons, we’re just worthless to use. I also check for coupons on the product itself which I have found anywhere from .25 to $1.50 off of one product. I went to our Fred Meyer, and with my coupons in hand had $68.00 of products toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, feminine pads, razors, Carmex, and body wash with my
    manufacturer coupons, store card, store coupons, the price dropped down to $36.00 I had around 17 products, and the checker was quite surprised at how much I saved all name brand items too a $32.00 savings. I usually have $ 70 to $125.00 in groceries, for around $20-$40.00 when all said and done. I usually do self checkout early in the morning, when people are not so frazzled, Don’t shop on a weekend, unless it’s early or right at 5:00 pm, or near a Holiday. Going in the morning right when the sales starts you can get everything on your coupon list and not have to ask for a raincheck.

    1. mom of three,

      I love coupon shopping but since that stupid show Extreme Couponing, came out a few year’s ago it just ruined it for all of us that did coupon shop, that’s when the value of a coupon, went down and they put on the coupon only 4 coupons per shopping trip. It REALLY made it hard to shop after that.

      This is what I call the ”Yuppie” phenomenon. I’ve been doing this frugal preparedness “thing” for most of my life, and along with wood heat, growing gardens, and other aspects of the lifestyle, I subscribed to the magazine ”The Mother Earth News” from its inception in 1970 when it was published in northern Ohio. One of the early articles discussed modifications to a modern diesel engine to run on straight vegetable oil, the fuel that Rudolf Diesel initially used in his first public demonstration of vegetable oil based diesel fuel at the 1900 World’s Fair using peanut oil.
      Back in the 1970’s, some Back to the Land / Hippy / Homesteading / tinkering types of people made those modifications, and were able to get free vegetable oil from local restaurants, that could be used after simple filtering. I recall an article where a guy running a VW Bus mentioned the exhaust smelling like French Fries. For the restaurants, it was a free way to get rid of the oil they had been paying someone to haul away and dispose of. The problem is that over time, more people made the modifications and then started making their own biodiesel and demand went up for the used oil. When a couple of oddball hippies are hauling it away, it’s a bonus; but, when legitimate farmers and companies started wanting the stuff, it went from free trash to the sellable commodity it has become today in many places, with large companies making and selling biodiesel.

      I next saw this phenomenon happen with food grade buckets, first as trash handed to anyone who would haul them away, and then as a commodity as more people started wanting them for preparedness storage or making water filters at which point they got scarce or were no longer free.

      It looks like the rare odd people doing extreme couponing turned into a hit TV show has done the same thing to couponing that it did to used oil & buckets. Be careful what you ask for. LOL.

      I also check for coupons on the product itself which I have found anywhere from .25 to $1.50 off of one product.

      We do the same, often on paper products and pet food or cat litter; but, it’s always worth checking. Looking over the same product you may see some seemingly identical packages with the only difference being that some have the discount coupon attached and others do not.

      All in all some good tips, often still dependent on the stores in your area and their policies.

  8. I was shopping late at a Fareway a chain supermarket in my area and quite by accident I discovered that they mark down their own brand of ground beef. 15 lbs of fresh daily ground beef for less than 2.50 per pound.
    Sometimes saving money is nothing more than the fleeting chance of being in the right place at the right time.
    Everybody keep their eyes and ears open and let the buyer beware.

  9. Check brand websites for your favorite products too! Sometimes you can find a coupon there which isn’t available elsewhere. Also some companies will send you significant coupons if you contact them via email with either a compliment about their product or a complaint. And some have email lists you can subscribe to which will get you extra coupons and notices about sales that most people don’t get.

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