The Ultimate Guide to Couponing in the Northwest: Know how to shop

by Angela Davis on January 14, 2014

We talk a lot about couponing on this site and if you’re new to this way of shopping, it can be confusing. Never fear! We are here to help. Over the next 11 posts, we are going to walk all of you newbies through the basics of using coupons to score big on your food and household items:

The Ultimate Guide to Couponing

Let’s start at the very beginning: Why coupon? Simply, to save money. And you can save a lot of money if you start shopping strategically. Strategic coupon shopping is different than what the average American thinks it is.

Let me illustrate. A couple of years ago, before my couponing adventure began, my husband and I were facilitating our church’s Financial Peace University class and a participant asked if I used coupons. I answered, “No. You can always get your food for cheaper buying generic at WinCo or Walmart.” And it’s absolutely true, but only if you use coupons the way most Americans do. I had so much to learn…

Most people believe that “couponing” is going to the same grocery store you always shop and use a manufacturer’s coupon on a name-brand, full priced item that you need to purchase for that week’s meals. According to this strategy, you’re not saving money. Generic at WinCo and Super Walmart will always be cheaper than buying that full-priced, name brand item with a manufacturer’s coupon.

But that is not how we shop. Instead, we use manufacturer’s coupons when, and only when, we can accomplish the goal of couponing:

To get the name brand for less than the generic equivalent at WinCo or Super Walmart.

How is this done? We combine that manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon, store promotion, and/or rebate. We hold on to coupons, regardless of value and brand, until the “couponing stars” align and we can get the item for cheap, free or yes, even make money buying it. And then, when those stars do align, we stock up! That’s strategic shopping!

Here’s an example. Awhile ago, I was in the market for saltine crackers and had a $1/1 Nabisco crackers coupon to use. I went to WinCo to see what type of deal I could score.

The Nabisco Premium Crackers were priced at $2.71. After using my $1/1 coupon, I would have paid $1.71 out-of-pocket. But that would not have been a smart choice, because the WinCo generic brand was priced at 98¢.

Generic wins again! What’s a couponing girl to do?

Well, this smart girl headed to her neighborhood Safeway. Right around the same time, Safeway had a Nabisco cracker promotion that made the Premium Saltines around $1 a box when you purchased four — right about the same price as WinCo generic. If I would have used the four $1/1 coupons at Safeway, I could have picked up 4 boxes for FREE and had enough crackers in my pantry to last until the next opportunity rolled around to score them for free.

I solemnly promise that this type of shopping does not need to become your new part time job, nor does your stockpile need to take over three of your home’s bedrooms. You are in charge of how often you use coupons and how much time it takes.

If you give us 1-2 hours a week (including reading this website!), we can help you drastically reduce the amount of money you are spending on your family’s groceries and household items. And most of the work involved can be done while watching your favorite TV show (or your kids are watching theirs!).

Read more from The Ultimate Guide to Couponing in the Northwest here.

Pin this series to your Pinterest boards here! Make sure you pin from the Ultimate Guide to Couponing page so you have access to all the posts in the series!

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Karrie January 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I am so grateful for your web site. I have learned many things from it. However I live in the South West and do not see any thing like this in our area. Do you know of any site like this that can help me where I live? Thanks again for all your work and this great site!

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Kate from Frugal Living NW January 15, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I think there is a site down there called Southern Savers? They might be able to help. We’re glad we’ve helped though :)

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Sherry January 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

One of the biggest obstacles friends give me about couponing is the time it takes…and I get that. I remember having new babies and going for days without being able to shower. TMI? Sorry. Anyway, I’ve found that you can find hidden pockets of time for couponing. Getting up just 15 minutes early each day gives me enough time to scan this and a couple other blogs and print a few lists & coupons. I work 60+ hours a week but I do get breaks to eat, so I can usually squeeze in 20 minutes/work day to organize my coupons. I also spend what seems to be innumerable hours driving my kids to rehearsals and practices and waiting, waiting, waiting then driving them home. Rather than reading a book as most of the other Moms do, I listen to an audio book and organize my shopping trips. I also do a fair bit of traveling for my job and hotel time gives me the perfect opportunity to really spread out and do a full coupon purge about once a month. I don’t feel like couponing takes a lot of my time…I’ve just changed the way I USE my time.

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Heidi January 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I have found that the generic Winco brand saltines and graham crackers also have added sulfates/sulfites that the name brand crackers don’t have. This make just one more reason it is wise to coupon!

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Heidi January 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm

*makes

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Kate M December 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

This site is SO helpful. I really appreciate the work that goes into matching coupons and sales for each store in my area. I can’t overstate that :)

I’m a lot less interested in brand names than whether the food is healthy, preferably organic, and as affordable as I can get it given those things, so my goals for couponing would be stated differently.

Most of the food matchups I’d be looking for would be at Trader Joes or Whole Foods/New Seasons, with a sprinkling of items at regular grocery stores. So I’m wondering if the financial tradeoff is worth it to subscribe to the Sunday paper just for the inserts (I’m also only supplying two people).

Having said that, the household/personal care items and cleaning supplies savings even just using printable coupons have really made an impact, so thanks again!

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lisa October 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hey I wanted to thank you for the great articles on couponing!

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Julie D March 27, 2013 at 10:29 am

I went to the Winco on 122nd and Halsey and didn’t see many generics. Maybe I have to look again. The good news is after a year of working your site I could spot the good deals and the not so good deals on stuff I buy.

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Nancy February 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm

OMG!!! The things you learn here. I cannot believe the savings I have missed for not knowing that. Most of the manufacturer’s coupons that I have say “Limit one coupon per purchase”, which means I could’ve used more than one in the same transaction, right?. I guess I better get myself back to the store!

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Angela February 28, 2013 at 8:10 am

Yes! You can use multiple coupons as long as they match with a product. But 4 products, use (4) $1/1 coupons. Totally legit!

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Nancy February 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

I’m sorry I did not understand your example. You said you had a $1/1 manufacturers coupon. Then Safeway had a promotion that made the Saltines around $1 a box when you purchased four. If you would have used the four $1/1 coupons at Safeway, you could have picked up 4 boxes for free, but the thing is that manufacturer’s coupons tell you “only one coupon per purchase”, so how could you have used all 4 at once in one transaction? I would imagine you would had been able to save only 1 dollar for all 4 boxes. Can you please, clarify? Thanks. I’m new at this.

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Kate February 27, 2013 at 12:48 pm

One coupon per purchase means one coupon per ITEM. One coupon per TRANSACTION means one coupon per order. The coupons will say TRANSACTION when they require that you only use one.

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Tara October 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I want to know how to click on the printable coupon sites WITHOUT getting viruses.. ;(

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Destini March 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I like the comparison, that helps! But here in UTAH they don’t offer double coupon days ;( please help!

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Jessie f January 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thank you so much for this post also. I like to save money and always look forward to learn more about it.

Can someone explain me about doubling the coupons. How can you double the coupons?

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Melissa August 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I have always been a coupon clipper because for the obvious reasons I like to save money. However I didnt ever match them up with ads and look for the “best” deal. So now I am working on that. However I would like to know what the best way to organize your coupons. I tried sticking them in a manila folder the other day and it was a nightmare. What do you do once you find that item & you have the coupon so it is not mixed in with other coupons?

Thank you

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Linda May 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

When Walmart came into town, numerous stores went out of business because they could not compete with it.
Now, my problem….there are only a couple of stores left. NOBODY doubles coupons…ever! I am 50 miles from Portland and wondering with gas teetering on $4 a gallon, would it be wise to save up a good amount of coupons and then go. Problem is I would not know what store is doubling.
I have shopped as you here are doing. I got my Wed paper and Suinday paper and reamed the coupons! My husband laughed at me until I came home with 50%savings. He didn’t laugh anymore!

Is there anyone here have to drive a distant as I? If I get a list of stores I can probably run ads down online. Oh, what I would love right now….after seeing that the US pulled everyone out of the embassy in Pakistan and closed it tells me we are on the brink of war. If not Pakistan, Iran, etc etc This country is beyond turning around.
Get your family ready and store you food and tell no one.

Anyway, are there warehouses that a person can buy from directly? I have several hundred dollars I have held onto until I felt the necessity. I feel it is time to stock up. I have a local store that I have bought 50# of flour, sugar, salt; oh, stock up on salt. I have bought it at Food4Less for under $5 and I think it was 20 or 25 lbs. Our body must have salt in order to survive.

I really like this site and know I will learn a lot. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

Linda in Salem

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Debbie April 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Just want to say thank you for this website. I am trying to understand all this, and trying to get organized on clipping, and putting it all together to go out for my first shopping trip. I have found a lady coming to Salem, to do a clipping class, can’t wait. It is in June and I will be thier with one or two of my daughters, maybe a friend to. I am a hands on learner. :) .

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Linda May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Debbie, noticed you mentioned Salem. I was hoping this was in our state. I would like to attend the clipping class. Will a notice be sent to our mailboxes? In fact, I never have since I got my first PC which was in…1 998. Right after that Walmart came to town. Oh, we were all so thrilled. And I do know often you can get things cheaper on their label. I read somewhere that it is not their product but it is their label. However, I loved shopping with coupons! For once in my life I felt like I really got something over on these darn corporations.

Thanks, Linda

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Smita Arun April 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm

But sometimes @ Safeway I have seen that the in-store and manufacturer’s Coupons do not work @ the same time. They told me that I can use only one of those which ever is higher. That was a bummer I was hoping to save $6.00 on a $8.00 product .

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Sherry January 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I’ve run across this as well. It depends on what the in-store coupon is. Many times they are manufacturer’s coupons which means you couldn’t also use the manu that you brough with you.

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Tracy January 21, 2011 at 8:03 am

I am hearing about the Safeway doubles lately – the only doublers I have seen are the Albertson ones. Is this regional? I live in the Puget Sound-Seattle/Tacoma area. I haven’t seen the Safeway doublers out here – unless I am missing them.
BTW – I thank you so much for your posts. You and the other couponers make my life so much easier by doing the lists and match ups!! I have just started couponing (about 6 months ago) and have a family sized stock pile of things we use regularly. It is invigorating to get something for cheap or free – and pretty addicting as well. A fairly healthy addiction though. Thanks!!

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Kate January 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

Only SW Washington and Oregon get doubles at Safeway. We’ve started posting Non-Double Deals for the Puget Sound area.

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Sherry January 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thank you for doing this. I’m in Spokane and double-less as well.

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Daena January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Thanks for your wonderful blog! Even us East-Coasters love it. I am slowly getting my church friends couponing and this “ultimate guide” is really going to benefit all of us. Your blog is one of the few I follow through my “real” email address because it’s just so good!

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Jennifer January 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Linda if you have a Walmart by you that might be, for me it’s a minimum 30min drive to Walmart so lose any savings in gas and time. By 30 min I mean about the time it would take at 2AM when there’s no traffic.
I’m so glad to find a coupon site for the NW, every other one I’ve seen is for east coast stores and deals that I’ve never seen here.

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Linda January 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Since Walmart will take competitor coupons and advertised prices, does it make sense to just stack up all your ads and coupons and shop at Walmart instead of driving to all the other stores?

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Jane January 14, 2014 at 6:32 pm

For some stores, yes. But for stores like Walgreens and Rite Aid, it really won’t work. A lot of the savings you get are issues as store treats that can icky be redeemed at that particular store (+Up rewards at Rite Aid and Register Rewards at Walgreens). Walmart won’t match those. Places like Target will frequently offer Target coupons that you can pair with manufacturers and sometimes they offer gift card promos. Again, you can’t march that at Walmart. They also don’t honor BOGO deals.

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Jane January 15, 2014 at 5:03 am

Sorry for all the autocorrects. “issued as store credits that can only be used” and “match,” not march.

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theresa January 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Wow! That actually clears things up a little for me. I kept thinking “Well that’s the lowest price for Nabisco crackers I’ve seen so I should get them” but it didn’t make sense. As a newbie, I would love a “great price” list for some obvious things like soup or crackers. Maybe your readers could add to the list? I also don’t shop Walmart or Sam’s so I don’t know how low they go. Seems like Fred Meyer has good everyday prices. (?) What do you think?

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Amy S. January 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Thank you for these posts. I don’t live near the coupon-gurus I’ve found online and therefore am unable to take any “classes” they offer (or afford them, quite frankly). So these articles are right up my ally and I’m taking it all in. Thanks again!

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Heather January 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for doing this–I am excited!

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Robin Lesh January 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Perfect timing! My husband went grocery shopping for us (armed with coupons) just last night so I could put our 5-year-old to bed and not be on my feet longer than necessary (I’m pregnant with twins due in April – nope, not kidding). I had the list made, with store & manufacturer coupons clipped and paired up all together. He first looked at me like I was off my rocker. My reply to The Look: “Here’s the list. Thanks for going and tell me how much we save when you get back.” When he returned, there was $30 in saving from our club card and $11 in savings from additionally clipped coupons – totalling over $40 in savings off a regular trip to the store. Couponing really does work! :D

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Brenda January 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Congrats on the Twins, I just had boy/girl twins in Oct and they are sooo much fun! Do you know what you are having yet?

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Leah January 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Congrats, I had twin boys in April. They are fantastic, but it was rough. I was on bedrest for 3 months,but don’t worry, it’s totally worth it! Couponing saves our tails. Two boys are super expensive!! Good luck!

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Jen January 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

This is great! I’ve been saving coupons, but haven’t used very many and have just recently organized weeks of coupons. I’m ready to hit it and it will be nice to get a tutorial as I refresh my memory about all this stuff. Plus, we just moved to The ‘Couve and I’m so glad to have found a local site that applies to me! Thank you and I’m looking forward to following segments!

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kirsten January 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm

So many cashiers and customers ask me how I save so much and I always refer them to your site (and a few others). It is daunting at first but then you get in the zone, so to say, and the deals just seem to fall into your lap. I’ve gotten the whole family hooked on couponing and am slowly converting coworkers – at least on how to save some $ at lunch.

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Leanna January 11, 2011 at 9:52 am

I just referred a cashier a few weeks ago to this site (Fred Meyer’s.) She was wondering where I got all my coupons, and was very appreciative that I told her about this site!

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Linda H January 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Exciting Series!

Thanks so much for adding this to your site and thank you for the helpful emails.

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Angela Sherbert January 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I am so excited!! Thanks so much for writing this series. I am new and I am ready to roll with all of my new found knowledge. :-)

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Sara Tetreault January 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I’m not a big coupon shopper – the foods we purchase don’t usually have coupons for them – but I’ve enjoyed your tweets and look forward to this series.

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charolyn January 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm

But I imagine you use shampoo, razors, soap, sanitary pads, toothpaste, face wash/cream, allergy medicine, eye drops, nail clippers, tweezers, eye lash curlers, deodorant, vitamins…s-all items over the past year I am now stocked up on (not to mention the bags and bags of items I have given away to those who need some help now) and have gotten for a fraction of the regular price, free or- and not infrequently-made money on buying!

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nichole May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

go charolyn!!!

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Kelleigh @ Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs January 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

LOVE that you are doing this!! So many people have asked me to teach a class, and I can’t understand why I would do that when YOU are doing that right here for me!! YAY!

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Betty January 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I live in the same town as you, and if you did teach a class that would be great! I really do need a few more tips. New to this, and seems like I am spending WAY to much time on it. Would be helpful if there was a local person to ask questions and get a little more direction. :)

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Krista S. January 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Thank you so much for this post. I have been helping a few friends coupon and this series will be wonderful to show them. I already posted it on Facebook so hopefully you can get a few new followers as well :)

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