Coupons and couponing have been given a bad wrap with the reality TV shows that show extreme coupon users. I know I've sat in awe of the people who use hundreds of coupons for their grocery order and somehow get their purchase to mere cents. Of course what they aren't sharing in the TV show is that they are likely abusing double coupon days, store loyalty cards and other special circumstances.

But the other thought is who really needs a palette of toilet paper? One hundred cans of baked beans? Does anyone but these insane people shop this way? I know I don't. I just don't have the storage space or need. But I do have a modest stock pile that could last us about a month if the money ran out. We'd not eat like kings but we'd eat and that's why I have the stockpile I do.

Coupons work great to help me develop my stockpile and save money on the things I buy. Not all coupons are for every family or shopper. That doesn't mean that I can't make coupons work for the way I shop. You can too.

And here's the real secret to using coupons:

Coupons only really save you money if you use them correctly.

What do I mean by that? I mean using coupons only on things you normally buy, not being brand loyal and knowing your store's coupon policy.

Knowing what your normally buy should be easy if you've done a common meals list, a master pantry list or a stockpile list. Bonus points if you've done all three! With these tools you know what foods you commonly have on hand, as well as what you prefer to have for toiletries and cleaning. It's all there for you to analyze.

If you have them, get out those lists and look over them again. Make note of the things that you must have a certain brand, for whatever reason, be that allergy or a firm preference. Everything else on that list you are going to be more flexible on.

In our house for example, KnyghtMare refuses to use any other toilet paper than Charmin Ultra Strong. We've tried many others and this is the one he has said I am to get. It's not the cheapest, by any means, but he'd have my butt (ha ha) if I started experimenting again. So, when looking at coupons I'm going to be on the look out for Charmin ones.

But canned green beans on the other hand I can get whatever brand is the most cost effective. And that's what I mean by brand loyalty. When couponing the best thing is to NOT be brand loyal; that way if you see a coupon for green beans and they make another brand cheaper than the brand you usually get, you buy the coupon ones. It's more about saving money than sticking to what you normally get. We are creatures of habit and while that is helpful for many other things, it is not helpful for saving money in the grocery store. I buy the cheapest whenever I encounter an item that I'm not brand loyal on. Granted being gluten-intolerant has limited that to being cheapest AND gluten free, I can still shave off a few cents here and there.

Also keep in mind that you should never use a coupon just to save money. Sure that pimento loaf is only 50 cents a pound, but if you don't eat pimento loaf, what's the point? And that goes for clearance items that you think you might need someday, but not now. Or something that you think someone might like as a gift but you can't think of who. Some great deals are meant to be skipped.

Know Your Store's Coupon Policy

Every store has a different coupon policy. Some will accept competitor's ad prices on matching items, others won't. A few stores double coupon amounts on special days. Few will still stack coupons also. Knowing what stores will do what can maximize your grocery savings.

Go to the store's website and look up their coupon policy. If possible bring it with you when shopping. You can do this by saving it to Evernote! You do this because a lot of customer service personnel are not completely informed about all of their policies and having their own coupon policy easily available will help with any conflict.  This is especially helpful if you are using competitor's coupons or sales flyers.

Where to Find Coupons

Now that you know a bit about what to do with coupons where can you find them?

The old school way still exists in most areas; your newspaper. On a certain day of the week you'll find inserts in your paper with coupons and sales flyers for your grocery stores. Find out what day that is and subscribe to the paper for that day.

There are coupons sites online that allow you to clip and print manufacturer's coupons on your home printer to use at the stores. is the largest and most recognized for people using online coupon sites.

Register rewards are becoming more popular with today's shopper. With a store loyalty card you can load savings directly on your card to use when you shop. It sure makes it easy that you don't have to have the slips of paper to keep track of!

Coupon machines at the check out. I have a local chain that prints coupons based on what you've purchased that day. On a good day I can get 5 coupons on brands I purchased that day to use again another time. It's very helpful.

And don't forget coupons in the aisles! A lot of stores have coupon machines near the items that are on sale. They might even have a flashing light to get your attention. Oh and I like to leave coupons near items myself if I find something else I want more and won't be using the coupon before it expires. Passing on the savings to someone else makes me feel great!

The Last Clip

Hopefully you've learned how to use coupons and where to find them to maximize your grocery savings. Are you a coupon clipper? What is your best tip for using coupons?

This is the end of the 31 days of Better Domestic Service. Let me know which post was your favorite and what other topics you'd like to see covered that have to do with domestics and I will try to have them in future posts!