Archive for the ‘Coupon101’ Category

Catalina Offers and Issues!

March 25, 2010


There is nothing more frustrating than doing a deal and your Catalina does not print. When this happens you have a few things that you can do.

When a Catalina does not print, ask the cashier… or head over to Customer Service. Get a Manager if you need to. Don’t be shy about it… Catalina’s can be really high value after all!

~ I always double check with an add if possible that I was supposed to get one.

If they don’t know or are less than helpful make a choice to either return the order completely (get your coupons back) or you can contact Catalina directly.

Catalina can be reached at 888-826-8766 and press 3. (Write this number in your phone book, trust me you’ll need it one day.)

They can look up the transaction by receipt and clubcard number.

I have found the folks at Catalina to be really helpful, last time I had a problem the store was offline and they mailed me my Catalinas. 

~ What is a Catalina?
Catalina Category Marketing (CCM) rewards purchases of promoted products with “catalinas”, also known as “check-out coupons”. These offer incentives good on your next shopping trip to that retailer. There is usually a 4-week window on any given program/incentive promotion.

Ever wonder what Catalina deals are coming up?

Here are just a few!
Purchase 3-4 (three or four) Kellogg’s Cereals (10oz+), Receive Catalina goof for one (1) Free Gallon of Milk
Purchase 5-6 (five or six) Kellogg’s Cereals (10oz+), Receive Catalina goof for two (2) Free Gallons of Milk
Purchase 7+ (seven or more) Kellogg’s Cereals (10oz+), Receive Catalina good for three (3) Free Gallons of Milk
runs 3/19 – 4/10/10

Purchase two (2) Oscar Mayer Bacon, Receive $1 OYNO
Purchase three (3) Oscar Mayer Bacon, Receive $2 OYNO
Purchase four or more (4+) Oscar Mayer Bacon, Receive $3 OYNO
ends 3/21/10

** It is up to your store to pick up the deals from the Catalina company, these are the deals that they are offering. 


Index card method, Organizing coupons!

March 11, 2010
I wanted to show you some options of how to grocery shop with coupons!
When I first started couponing this is typically how I shopped.
1. I looked through all the deals and broke them up into transactions, if needed, and wrote each transaction on an index card.
2. Attached all the coupons that I would need for each transaction to that index card.
3. Placed them into a envelope and added any extra coupons I might need in the back.
This method worked well for me for a while. But, I reached a point where I just had too many coupons and where I could just eventually do it all in my head.
This past week with the great deals at Safeway/Randalls for Frozen Food Month, my husband has been running to the store for me. To make it easier for him I have gone back to organizing them in this method so it is easier to shop.
Since the Frozen Food deal requires you to buy $25 worth of frozen items (to get a $10 catalina back) I broke each transaction up into as close to $25 as I can, just going over a little bit. I had to guess on a few of the prices. I attached the coupons to the back, and each day Paul has been grabbing one of the index cards and doing the deal for me!
Isn’t he awesome?! 🙂
This method works really well when shopping at CVS. Infact, I would absolutely suggest doing it this way in the beginning.
Below, you will see 2 examples of what a catalina is. They are the narrow coupons that you get back when the cashier hands you your recipt. These below are just like cash or a gift card to the store. You can use them on your next purchase to pay for it. The $10 one is from the frozen food deal, and the $3 one is from purchasing 4 California Pizza Kitchen pizza’s. So when Paul goes tomorrow he will purchase $25 worth of frozen items, then they take off the coupons, so his total is around $16, then he will hand over the $13 in catalina’s from today, so his out of pocket total will be about $3. PLUS he will get back another $10 that he will use the next day! This is called “rolling” your catalina’s. This particular deal lasts all the month of March.
The gift card is because the cashier messed up with scanning the coupons and so the catalina didn’t print. Paul pointed it out and they just issued him a gift card for the $10!

In conclusion, do what works best for you! You will change methods here and there, but it is always helpful to see what other people are doing!

What method did you start with?


How do you shop?

February 18, 2010

This is a comment from a reader on one of my Kroger shoppng trips.

OK!! I’m working on my couponing skills, but you always have so many coupons. Do you actually buy that many Sunday papers? When do you actually sit down and do all of this. These might be stupid questions but I need to know. Do you sit down with your sale paper and your coupons together do you clip the coupons and put them in your binder? then check out the paper while going through the binder? Give a girl some hints, Please. Jen.

Do you actually buy that many Sunday papers?
Yes, I usually buy 6 Sunday papers a week, I also print a lot of coupons online and get many in the mail from different places. Also, I have been known to buy some off ebay if there is a great deal or a really great coupon that I know I will use a lot of.

When do you actually sit down and do all of this?
I try and get all my coupons put away immediately or things get out of control! But that doesn’t always happen, so I try and pick a night when my husband is watching T.V. so I can sit with him and organize my stuff. My days are so crazy that this is something I usually do after the kids are in bed, or I have coupons strung from one end of the house to the other 🙂 I clip my coupons right away and get them put in my binder first. Then I start looking at adds, this way it is so much easier to see what I have.

Do you sit down with your sale paper and your coupons together do you clip the coupons and put them in your binder?
When I get the CVS and Sundays adds I take a look through them to see if I have missed anything, I already know what is going to be on sale because I look at places like that show me what is coming up in the next few weeks. But for me it is easier holding it in my hand than reading it off the computer screen. I also shop my 24 hour CVS late Saturday night so I need to get my act together quickly on Saturday’s so I can run without the kids! During the week if I have to go to the store I will check the store adds quick, check my site for any match-ups, and browse any other sites that might be helpful. For the most part I just do all my match-ups at the store while I am shopping. This is why I like the binder. All my coupons are in one spot and organized by isles of the store. So as I walk down each isle I just flip to that section and I can see all my coupons at once. This way if there are any unadvertised deals I usually catch those.

When I first started couponing, I made a lot of lists. I would pull the coupons I needed and put them in an envelope with the list and use that in the store along with my binder. If I am doing a really big shopping trip I still do this. But this way I didn’t forget anything.

Right now I have such a large “stockpile” of groceries I am shopping just for all the staples and fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of my stockpile items I only pick up if they are free. It took about a good 9 to 12 months to get to the point where I didn’t care if a box of cereal was $.50 I was only going to pick it up if I got it for free.

I find that most Moms have to do much of their organizing while the kids are in bed or taking a nap. Then you can get a list together and go to the store. I know that it can be hard to shop with little kids, trust me I have done it with 6 for many years. Only recently have my older kids been able to babysit while I run to the store. It is hardest for me when I have a little one sitting in the front of the cart because that is where I put my binder, which then gets moved to the basket of the cart and is heard to look through. I like to grab the carts with the little cars if I have the little kids so I can still keep my binder right in front of me.

Always start slowly, if you try and get every deal at one time you will get burned out, frustrated and quit. If you miss a deal, there will be another one. All sales go in cycles, usually about every 3 mo. so that same deal will probably be back again. Pick one store and one drug store to start with and when you are feeling comfortable shopping there and are understanding what deals they run then try other stores. Don’t kill yourself trying to coupon. Just do a little at a time.

How do you shop? Any other tips you can give a newbie?


Breaking Down a Coupon Binder! PLUS A LOADED BINDER GIVEAWAY!

January 11, 2010

** Giveaway CLOSED!

There are many different ways to store your coupons. For me the easiest

and best way is a coupon binder. I realize that it isn’t the sexiest thing to be carrying around a grocery store, but hey, your saving money and they aren’t!

I would only get a binder that has a handle and for me a carrying strap. I have to hang onto too many kids in a parking lot to be carrying this anywhere other than my shoulder. : )

I have tried a few different binders, you will see in the video below that I was using 2 different binders at one time, but for the past 9mo. I have been using one huge binder. I use a Case It brand binder that has 2 rings inside. One is a 2 1/2 inch ring and the other is 1 inch ring.
In Aug. for back to school it is easy to find these binders. Right now it is next to impossible! I can only find them online until next August.
The left section is bigger and holds all my coupons for groceries or things I might find in a grocery store. The right side I use for everything that I buy at CVS or Walgreens. Toiletries and Pharmacy items.
I love this binder because it has so many pockets and zipper bags. I keep store circulars, grocery cards, coupon books and scissors here.
PUT YOUR NAME IN YOUR BINDER! Just incase you loose or forget it in the cart, make sure someone can get it back to you!
I use baseball card holders to store my coupons. I have a few clear CD pages in here but those are just in the back for really big coupons I can’t fold. I cut and put all my coupons in at one time. You can watch a VIDEO HERE how I do this. This method is best for me. I love to be able to flip through the pages and see exactly what I have, it also makes pulling out expired’s easy. My sections of the binder are labeled like the isles of a grocery store. I sit my binder in the child seat of the cart ( if a kid is there I have to put the binder in the cart) than I as I walk down the isles I just flip to that section of the binder and can easily see what coupons I have.
These are the categories that I have in my binder.
First section:
Second Section:
Places to buy supplies. I would estimate it to cost about $40 to put together a good binder.
AMAZON is the only place right now that I know you can get a CASE IT binder and HERE.
During the back to school sales try Target, Walmart, Walgreens and the Office Supply Stores.
Baseball Card Pages:
I get mine at Walmart, they are about 35 for $5.98. They are located in the front of the store by the baseball and Pokemon cards. Target has a bigger pack for about $15 but they are always sold out. I have heard that people get them at the Dollar Store but I have looked for a year and have never seen them.
Page Dividers:
Again, usually Walmart. Just make sure you don’t use the paper pages, they will tear in no time. Get the plastic pages. I used a label maker to label mine.

Now the fun part!!

Do you want to win your very own Coupon Binder?? It is a Blue MEAD brand, cool binder loaded with all the pages and dividers, plus some coupons!

Leave a comment telling us how you make couponing look good at the store and you are entered to win!
For additional entries, blog about, facebook, tweet or follow me!
Make sure to leave contact info of some kind!

What to do with expired coupons!

January 10, 2010

I have read in the past about programs that can distribute expired coupons to members of the military. They are allowed to use expired coupons 6 months past the expiration date. Thanks to an email from my friend Heather O. she gave us an address to send them to. There are some “rules” to the way they want them sent, so please go here to find out more details as well as which military base to send them to. This is one small way that we can help our military families.

1. Send coupons that are just a month or two past their expiration date, since it takes time to ship, sort and distribute to personnel.
2. If possible, try to sort coupons into smaller envelopes in the same categories you would use. At the very least, sort them into FOOD and NON FOOD if possible.
Donna Presslor (coordinates multiple coupon sources to be mailed to bases)
205 N.  Harrison St.
Russellville, IN  46175  (she coordinates several coupon packages for shipment overseas)

**PLEASE sort the coupons into categories before shipping them to Donna.  The great news is that she’s getting lots of coupons and has sent out over 8 packages to military bases in only one month with your help!  If you do send her coupons, please consider including $1 to help her defray the cost of postage. 


Minding your manners when couponing!

January 7, 2010
Oh dear! This could be ugly!
We all have very strong opinions when we think we have been wronged or we see someone do something rude. But, maybe in the other persons defense they didn’t really consider that what they are doing is rude or not very coupon friendly. I know, they probably know better, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt, this time!
The following is just a small of things that might be considered not very polite.
We could add probably 100 more things to it, you are welcome to leave a comment with your pet peeve. But keep it nice, it is just something to think about!
Never clear the shelves – When I complain about this I am talking about buying 10 of an item that just went on sale and taking every one of them. If you happen to get the last 2 of something, totally different story. If I plan on using ALL my coupons at a sale I don’t buy all 20 at one time. I spread it out during the week and give them a chance to restock. I have also special ordered from a store when I knew a sale was coming up and I wanted a case of something.
Never take all the peelies – If you notice a bunch of peelies on packages, if you are not buying the items please don’t take all the peelies! My husband came home from the store one day with a handful of cereal coupons. He was so proud of himself until he told me where he got them…. to everyone shopping at Randalls in August in Grogans Mill, I apologize! Now he knows!
Never block aisles or race other shoppers – Really, did I just have to type that?! You would not believe it but it has happened. It is embarrassing and greedy, plain and simple. The huge sale at Kroger when they were doubling all $1 coupons ( that I missed!) got really ugly I have heard.
Never hide products before a sale – Can’t get to a sale when it starts? Don’t ruin it for those who can. I have been amazed when I have found sale products hidden all over my CVS. Deodorant that is free with ECB’s hidden behind boxes of cereal. I am sure it isn’t the employees playing a game. It seems really silly but I think it is a little rude to do this.
Never, ever yell at or insult store employees! – I have cried at a register I have been so mad at the cashier, but I never said an ugly word to them. Always be polite. They will not be on your site even if you are “right” if you get rude and ugly. It also, I believe, causes problems for other couponers in the long run. Cashiers just assume that you have an attitude also. No matter how bad you want to grab them by the collar and let them have it, it really does you no good.
Never take more “in store” coupon books than you personally need – Like a reader commented, it is so frustrating to have all the Walgreens pharmacy books gone the first day only to find 100’s of them on ebay. It ruins it for the rest of your “couponing community”. The stores only get so many of the extra coupon books, it is just plain greedy to take more than you personally need.
Never steal coupons – One friend of mine had someone steal her coupon binder right out the cart and leave her purse. Yuck! Also, taking neighbors coupons without their permission is stealing, even if they don’t use them. You have to ask them first. I would say dumpster diving is O.K. though 🙂 Many friends walk in the mornings and will grab them from the little recycle buckets we have in our neighborhood on trash day. I personally don’t have a problem with this. Do you? A reader left a comment that people were taking the coupons form the papers of the old folks homes or at the hospital. That is still stealing if you don’t ask.
I could go on and on. I have unfortunately seen some really ugly sides of people when they coupon. It is really a shame. We have to remember that we are a community. We need to stick together, watch each others back and help one another. If we try and cheat each other, what is the point. We also have to work together so that stores enjoy and like couponers, and want them in their stores. We have to be a good example and friendly.
Thats all I have to say about that!
P.S. I will write another post on multiple cards at CVS next week. We can’t have all the fun in one day now can we?!


Keep track of your spending!

January 5, 2010

One of my goals this year is to get better organized as far as keeping track 100% of what we purchase and where the money goes.   I have spent some time looking around the web and I am using the google doc. Andrea at Mommy Snacks is a really cool blogger and has put together a really nice doc. She has it all available for you for FREE! There are 2 different documents, Groceries Savings Chart and Weekly Deal Scenarios.  If you would like to figure out how much you are spending on your groceries, check out the free google doc she shares with everyone HERE.


Is couponing ethical?

January 4, 2010

A few posts below one reader was worried because a family member had criticized or raised concern about couponing and getting things for free. Suggesting that it might not be ethical. I am not trying to single you out Susan, you have a reason to be concerned especially if someone is suggesting you are doing something wrong and personally I would be worried about their opinion of me. But, the facts are COUPONING IS COMPLETELY ETHICAL AND LEGAL, if you do not take advantage of it.

A few months ago I wrote a post about the life cycle of a coupons. I have been searching for hours for the post to give you a link. It was apparently lost in one of my moves, I can’t find it anywhere, I must have mislabeled it! I spelled out what happened from the time you cut the coupon out and used it until the store was fully reimbursed for it by the manufacturer. Citing sources and statistics about the benefit to the stores and the manufacturers when you use a coupon. Not only are you going to the store and shopping there, more importantly you are moving their merchandise, which as my CVS manager explained to me, is more beneficial to them that they give you it your free and get reimbursed than it just sitting there.

Now, there are ways in which couponing is unethical and just the same as stealing. This is were I jump on a soapbox. When I teach a coupon class unfortunately I have to spend quite a bit of time on explaining the “right” way to use coupons. When people use coupons the “wrong” way they ruin it for the rest of us.

What to NEVER do with a coupon.

NEVER use coupons for products they are not intended for. If a coupon says you must buy 2, you must buy 2. Even if the coupon does not beep when they scan it. If you try and slip these through it is coupon fraud, this costs the stores and the manufacturers money. It is stealing.

NEVER use expired coupons. There is the possibility they will not get reimbursed for them. Stores usually have 3 months to send in their coupons after they expire, but that is not for us to decide. If you are trying to slip these through, that is also stealing.

NEVER EVER copy coupons. I have heard that printable coupons have a unique code in the barcode that is linked to your ip address. If you copy them the code is all the same they can track it to you, it is coupon fraud to copy ANY coupon.

NEVER Decode the Barcode. I am not even going to start explaining what this is. I heard it being discussed at one point and just walked away. It was clearly taking advantage of the “system” and coupon fraud at the best.

NEVER alter coupons. I am going to throw in, or use pdf’s sent to you by friends. MANY pdf coupons in files are fraudulent. They have been altered by people and then spammed around the internet. Honest Friends send theses around, but many times they are not valid. Be VERY cautious, esp. if they are high value, anything over $2.

NEVER buy something with a coupon, intending to return it for full value. This blows my mind. You might as well just steal it from the store and not bother with the coupon in the first place. Also, stores will “tag” you and keep track of anything that you do in their store, with good reason. My CVS will tell me stories about people like this, they know exactly who they are. They have refused to sell them anything with a coupon.

Fortunately, most people don’t do these things. I have to admit that I have mistakenly used an expired coupon and not realized it, only to have the cashier catch it. I am really embarrassed and apologize.  I have also later when I have gotten home and was typing out scenarios here, realized I used a coupon that was intended for 2 products on 1. Obviously, I had to not use that deal. But it wasn’t intentional. So, we might make a few mistakes, but, knowingly taking advantage is completely another story.

The future of couponing and finding great deals depends a lot on the people using coupons. If people are stealing and manipulating coupons, manufactures will stop using them to entice us into buying their products. They are hoping that we like their products and tell our friends. They want us to buy that product in the future even if we do not have a coupon.

Off my soap box now… what do you think? How do you feel about coupons?


Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010

I wanted to take a few minutes to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

This past year has been full of challenges and rewards! The middle of January last year I didn’t even have a blog. My sister Anna talked me into starting one and “the rest is history”! By February, I was nominated into a group of amazing woman for a chance at Mommy Blogger of the year from Scholastic Book Club. After a month of voting I was chosen as one of the 5 Mommy Bloggers! I was featured in the June edition of Parent and Child magazine. This fall again I had the amazing opportunity of being one of only 30 Deal Pro’s chosen by to travel to San Francisco, all expenses paid, for an awesome weekend of rubbing shoulders with Woman who I consider “famous” in the blog world and learning from them! It was wonderful! I was featured in many Houston newspapers through out the year and was on The CBS Early morning show in San Francisco and the National Show in New York. My own local Houston channel 11 station did a fun show this fall on 11 gifts for $11 and under thanks to an email to the reporter from my friend Suzanne. One year ago I could have never imagined that any of this would have happened.

I have made many mistakes this year and am still learning. This fall I switched to a different platform, and tried using a designer for my site. It didn’t work out at all for me and my site was down for a couple of days. I found a new amazing designer and moved back to a platform I was comfortable with. But, in the process I lost many readers. As your readership grows you have to make changes, I just jumped to quickly without a firm plan and wasted a lot of money. I can’t tell you how much ugly and mean email I got. I was very surprised. I assumed that I was “providing a service” for people that didn’t cost them anything and never expected the ugly mail. But you learn to be thick skinned and move on.

The purpose of my blog is to provide a place for woman ( and some men too!) to learn how, and have the resources to financially take care of their families. Either to help make it possible to make ends meat, to build up your food storage, to free up some spending money or learn how to spend less. I try and keep it real. I don’t always get my coupons cut out. Sometimes I yell at my kids, my house isn’t always clean and I have cried at a Target checkout counter when I was sick or arguing with a (idot!) cashier…

Before I started couponing we were spending $1200 a month on food and toiletries. It took me a good 6mo. to learn how to coupon, get a good stash of coupons and feel comfortable with what I was doing. But I could not have done it without the help from a good friend Susan W. She held my hand and showed me what to do. With her help it finally “clicked” for me. That is what I want to do here. Somehow through the internet I want to hold your hand and help you learn how you can save yourself thousands of dollars a year! We now spend about $400 a month on food and toiletries. What can I do with that extra $800 a month? Well, here in Texas that is almost my house payment. I feel like we are living for free and it only takes me a few extra hours a week.

Because my family is my life, and I am so proud of them and all the funny and crazy times that we have I write about them all the time. I have been told not to by the “big” deal bloggers and the real professionals, but I can’t help it. How do you not write about tips for traveling with 6 kids, and stuffed animal poop, imaginary pets, and my 3 year olds opinion of me naked? This is all part of my life and I have to share it somewhere because I can guarantee that I am not saying it out loud to anyone!

So, thanks for hanging in there with me, thanks for reading my little blog everyday and sending me kind emails… Thanks, The Woodlands readers for recognizing us in the grocery store and making my kids think I famous, it is easier to get them to clean their rooms that way! I hope this year brings you so much happiness and some financial freedom, please feel free to email ( anytime with any questions or concerns, I want to help everyone that I can, if I don’t have an answer I find it for you!

Happy New Year!

Trouble printing coupons? Help is here!

December 30, 2009
Have you ever gone to print a coupons and it says, “Please wait” so you wait and wait and wait? Or you get a message that says you have already printed the coupon, and you know that you haven’t? Or, you have been asked to install the coupon printer over and over again? These are very common problems and they can be very frustrating.

It happens to me a bunch. One of the reasons why is that I am on a Mac, but it can happen to you even if you are using a PC. It is SUPER SIMPLE to fix.

Install coupon printing software. Some printable coupons require a small software download in order to print. This download is free, and I have never heard of any viruses associated with it. It could be possible that your browser settings are not configured properly to allow ActiveX items like the coupon printer to install. If you are using Windows XP, SP2, or Vista, a yellow information bar should appear at the top of your window. That bar can only appear if your security levels are set to “medium” and all ActiveX items are set to “prompt” or “enable”.
Print coupons as quickly as possible. Many coupons have a print limit. Once that limit is reached, no more coupons will print, even if you haven’t yet printed any from your computer. Other coupons are limited to two prints per computer. To get a coupon to print twice simply hit the back arrow on your browser and the coupon should print again.

**The solution below happened to me today when I tried to print the Steam Fresh vegetable coupon in the post earlier. All I did was switch the 2 little letters and I was able to print! If you are on a MAC you must learn to do this!
If your settings look right, it may be that a past encounter with another product has irreparably shut the prompt down for downloads like the coupon printer. When this is the case, switching to a new browser will give you a clean slate. This happened to me in Internet Explorer- so I downloaded Firefox- and now I have no problem printing coupons. It will not replace Internet Explorer as your default browser if you don’t want it to. You can run both browsers on your computer (even at the same time).

Troubleshoot bricks coupons. A bricks coupon has a url that begins with “” If you have issues printing bricks coupons, try changing a few letters in the url.

This is an example of a bricks coupon:

The highlighted letters in the url are the letters you’ll need to change depending on the browser you use in order to make the coupon print.

Here are the letters you should use instead:

Firefox: wg or vg

Internet Explorer: vi or wi

Safari: xs

This is a screen shot I took of the steamers coupon I wanted to print, sorry I wish I could have made it larger, but if I had hit “print coupons” it would have given me the “please wait” notification.
All I did was change the 2 little letters in the browser, located where I wrote “Right Here” to xs for Safari the browser I use, and I was able to print it.
I hope this helps!