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Getting Back to Basics on DSM

by Tara Kuczykowski on July 3, 2010 · 38 comments

You often hear the saying, "You have to learn how to walk before you can run," and it's absolutely true. Learning basic fundamentals is key to mastering any skill, and so it goes with couponing.

I post a lot of deals here on every week, but I'm sure that they can seem a little confusing and even intimidating to someone who's unfamiliar with using coupons but looking to cut their grocery budget.

With this in mind, I'm embarking on a series of posts this summer that will share the basics of paring back your grocery budget, starting with everything you ever wanted to know about coupons and moving on to how to shop strategically, using this knowledge to dramatically cut your weekly grocery bill.

Perhaps you may be thinking that there are dozens of books out there on this topic, but I feel that blogs have a huge advantage over any book available in that we have the ability to carry on an ongoing conversation about a topic. Don't understand a concept in a post? Just ask a question in the comments. I love that so many of you are willing to offer your time and knowledge to help others save money as well.

Much of this information will be old news for some of you, but my hope is that each of you will learn something along the way. The discussion that I see taking place in posts here on DSM is often more valuable than the original post itself. I learn from your comments every day (like the Toilet Paper Principle!), and I'm eager to hear your tips, suggestions, and perspectives as we get back to basics over the next few months!

Do you have a specific topic that you'd like to make sure I touch upon? I'd love to hear about it -- just leave a comment below or feel free to contact me!

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cheryl July 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Thanks, this will come in handy. We moved at the end of May & between packing, getting rid of the stockpile & then one thing after another going wrong at the new place I haven't been clipping coupons & now I'm faced with not even knowing where to start again.
We've moved to a different part of town so all the stores & cashiers are new to me & even though I use to shop at the same stores (Kroger, Meijer, Wal-mart & Target) over here they handle coupons differently..... i.e. it's a HUGE hassle & it's difficult to get into the swing of things again (yet a necessity with the one thing after another going wrong)

I look forward to the refresher course & hoping to find a new coupon buddy (here's hoping; fingers crossed)


2 Kelly July 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Idea for a topic: What coupons you can combine, and what coupons you cannot. I'm new to couponing, and recently went into target with a bunch of huggies coupons, target and manufacturers, for two packs of diapers and one box of wipes. My coupons started being rejected, and she explained them to me, but I think she felt bad for me so she started overriding the rejections, so I ended up using all of them! I'll try visiting that cashier again :) but I'd like a little guidance as to what I can get away with, and what I can't.


3 Tara Kuczykowski July 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Thanks, Kelly! This topic is definitely on my list to cover.


4 Christine S July 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I can't wait for this series.... I need a tutorial in the basics, I feel like I am floundering, unorganized, spinning my wheels. I've made some progress, changes, but I know I need to step back and start with a clear understanding and plan... I truly am looking forward to this and I thank you in advance.

We are in an area that has Walmart - Target (not a super store), Shop Rite and Stop n Shop and a CVS and Rite Aid. That's it. My head spins on what is or is not allowed. How best to get the right deals and be better organized doing it.


5 Gwen July 3, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Thanks for everything, Tara!

One thing I've been wondering: what is the ppd (price per diaper) that good couponers consider a bargain or good stock-up price?

I bought a bunch of Jumbo packs of Huggies at 2.99 ea. a few months back and am looking to re-stock soon...


6 Tara Kuczykowski July 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Gwen, a good stock-up price would be around $0.10 per diaper. It may be harder to get to this price when you move up into the larger sizes, but it's a good guideline. I'm hoping to compile a list of frequently purchased items and their stock-up prices.


7 Kristina July 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I love this idea! I feel like I learn something new everday! I struggle with grocery stock piles. I have the health and beauty and cleaning supplies down pretty good thanks to CVS and their ECB and Scrubbing Bubbles!! But I just do not understand how a $50/week budget can feed a family breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I need help with this area! It is only me, my husband, and our 18 month old daughter and I still cannot seem to do $50/week.

Thanks for all you do!!


8 Tricia H July 3, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Ditto- I have a terrible time getting food at good prices.


9 Roni July 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Me too, I live in CA and do not have the double coupons, Kroger, Meijer or some of the other supermarkets that are regularly posted on this site. But I find the Drugstore deals have helped me save so much.


10 Rachel July 3, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Me too. I am able to do wonders on health and beauty products and cleaning supplies, but cannot do as well with groceries.


11 Margaret July 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Hold might have a "Kroger" and not know it. The Kroger website ( lists these sister stores...some names I've gotten the idea somewhere were only out West. Ralphs, King Sooper, City Market, Dillons, Smith's, Fry's, QFC, Baker's, Owen's, JayC food stores, Hilander, Gerbes, Pay-Less, Scott's, Kroger fresh fare. Listed as a "multi department store" is Fred Meyer. Some of the promos & deals are bound to work at the sister stores. (didn't check to see)


12 Roni July 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Margaret, I found 2 stores in my area that are affiliated with Kroger: Food 4 Less and Foods Co....Thank you so much for your reply.

13 Kelly July 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm

I honestly can't grasp the concept of how to take advantage of CVS's ECBs program...I have never really been able to figure it out. A nice detailed article about this would be really helpful!


14 Tara Kuczykowski July 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm
15 Alise July 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm

How about a tip for a sad lady who lost her coupon book in Target yesterday - had just cleaned it out, reorganized for target and the grocery store, and then ... gonzo. Good thing I had my target coupons out in the front of the carriage.

PS - I don't expect a tip, just looking for a little sympathy!


16 Tara Kuczykowski July 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Oh, that's horrible, Alise! I'm so sad for you. Did you have your name and address in it?


17 Kimber July 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

You have my sympathy! I would be so sad!!


18 kat July 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I did that once. Left my file in the cart at Von's. But thank god for the employees there. They recognized it in the cart and held it for me. I was very impressed by that and then it dawned on me that I must go there alot if they remembered by


19 Dizzy mommy July 3, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I would suggest an article about how to deal with a cashier or manager who gives you trouble either just being annoyed by you or not knowing their own system. When I started out a few years back the whole dealing with cashiers and managers thing was one of the most intimidating things. It took a while to learn when to ask for a manager or just decided to leave. I've gone as high as a store director and was proven right. I've also noticed around here in detroit as the economy continues to spiral coupon use goes up and stores continue to tighten their policies. Oh the other thing going over not copying internet coupons and faking them thats one of the things I hear about all over that stores don't want to take internet coupons or cashiers are weary of customers with them because of the fake ones. I'm always having cashiers act like i'm a thief because a few people either do it on purpose or don't know it's wrong.


20 Brandy July 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I have a hard time with the "BOGO coupons with a sale and a store coupon and a free gift card" senarios. I don't know what I can stack, how many coupon's to use or not, and I often get so intimidated about the BOGO coupons that the cashier's have to fill in that I don't even use them. Most of the time I am told that I can't use them with a sale or in combination with a store coupon. I have tried to be brave and decipher everything to the cashier...but sometimes I don't understand it myself so I just don't do those deals...which is a bummer because all of my coupons for BOGO bodywashes and deodorants "look" like a good deal to me...but I can't seem to make them work in the store...even when I am brave enough to try. :) So...a post on BOGO coupons and what you can combine them with or how to stack them would be great IMO.


21 Laura July 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Brandy, Don't feel bad, I do too! Meijer's candy deal had me upset. The cashier thought I was nuts & I was!!!


22 Roni July 3, 2010 at 11:06 pm

How to save money on ink for the Printable Coupons would be a great topic!


23 melissa July 6, 2010 at 2:56 am

Check out Ebay for ink! They may be expired but I've bought TONS and they work just fine! At the store ink runs me over $20! On ebay I get them for $3 shipped! HTH!!


24 Michelle July 3, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Thank you so much for doing this. I have been wanting to coupon, but there is way too much info out there and I have no idea where to start!


25 Gale Bizzell July 3, 2010 at 11:18 pm

the toilet paper principal was great, nowI would love the paper towel principal


26 JP July 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

Yesterday, (Friday) I managed to save $58.15 with coupons. I shop at Price Chopper here in Rutland VT. They always double coupons up to a dollar so I am already saving when I use coupons. Periodically they will run coupons in the weekly ad that will double coupons up to $3.00. I always keep a few $1.50, $2.00 or $3.00 coupons for things that I really don't need right now but would like to purchase in the future, When the store runs these double coupons then I use them and make a killing. This week one of the items I purchased was one of those OFF clip ons which were on sale for $5.99 ($2,00 off the regular price). I had a $2.00 coupon which was doubled so the product cost me $1.99. I also had a $3.00 coupon for a TIDE liquid stain remover and as it was on sale for $6.99 and it ended up costing me .99 cents.

I am so grateful for the ideas that I get here at DSM. I have save a BUNCH since starting this and as I am a senior citizen it is such a great help. I will often get remarks from the cashier about how much I have saved, Thank you!


27 JP July 4, 2010 at 1:27 am

A P,S. to the above....I am a deal seeking man.


28 Tara Kuczykowski July 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Good for you, JP! I named this site Deal Seeking Mom after myself, but I always encourage men to check it out as well. I try to post deals that everyone will be interested in. My husband isn't much of a deal seeker on his own, but I frequently send him to the store with a stack of coupons, and he does a pretty good job.


29 Kimber July 4, 2010 at 5:08 pm

My husband found a really good deal the other day, and he came home proudly calling himself a "Deal Seeking Dad" :o)


30 Lindsey July 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

I need help with organization! Is it best to clip the coupons or leave them as is and try to find them later when needed? What do I keep them in? I need to make the best use of my time. Thanks!


31 Christie July 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

Hi Lindsey,

Just wanted to let you know that Tara did an "Ask DSM readers" on this very subject, you can find it on the site under living on less. There were a lot of great ideas!


32 Lindsey July 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Thank you so much! I guess I missed that one. I'll definitely check it out! Thanks again! :)


33 Christie July 4, 2010 at 11:34 am

I have an idea for a weekly post. There were a number of posters that agreed that the health/beauty and cleaning deals are fantastic but they are having trouble saving money on actual food and how you can stretch your budget that week.

How about a weekly post, something that's called 'what's cooking'. People could post the items on sale at their local grocery store (meats, seafood, etc) and what recipes they are planning to make to maximize that deal. Just a thought.


34 Sherry July 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Great idea, Christie. I'm in that situation, and I would appreciate any extra help. I've already stocked up on the health and cleaning deals, but I'm clueless when it comes to grocery shopping...and cooking!


35 Margaret July 4, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Y'know...I really don't know how much to stockpile yet. I also don't know when something is a recurring really good deal that I only need to get enough to last a few months/season til the deal returns. I also don't know when it's a stupendously, once-a-year, fantabulous, snap up every one you can & drive to the next town if possible & get some more there, kind of deal. Cleaning supplies are easy, since there's so many different ones and so many reward promos to encourage purchase. It's the stuff like food that's hard to determine how/what to stockpile when a sale hits. (or is that something you do very gradually, such as getting only 1 or 2 extras of the super good buy item so that you still have variety in your meals?)


36 Julie July 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I'd like some guidance on good stock-up prices at warehouse clubs.

Thanks for all you do!


37 Twyla July 4, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I have been doing coupons thing for about 3 years and I am yet to see any benefits in my grocery bill. I might save a few here and there but nothing significant. Also, my coupons are overwhelming. I have som much but only use about 5% of them. I can honestly my investment in the time and effort gathing and researching coupons have not yet paid dividends yet.


38 Bonnie July 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

This is a great idea and it's going to help me tremendously. I am a newby and sometimes just don't understand how to hand the stacks correctly to cashier.
Splitting orders would also be a good topic for example.
How about BOGO and how to do that the right way to get the best bang fior the buck.
Wallgreens is confusing for me and how you have to addfillers to make a deal come out correct. Any help with a store that has a BOGO and also customer having a BOGO coupon. Should this be even tried AND IS IT LEGAL TO DO.
BTW Thanks Tara for all you do and any help would be great for a newby like me.
Thanks again , Bonnie, Northen KY


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