Sunday, March 8, 2009

Storing Coupons

Storing coupons is as individual as the person doing it. When I tried couponing in the past I used a small (4x6) pink index card file box with alphabetical dividers. I assigned 'B' Breads and so on. When I began a new round of coupon use 6 months ago I knew that my little box was not going to be able to handle the amount of coupons I hoped to accumulate.

A friend of mine suggested that I use a large 3-ring binder with baseball card sized plastic sleeves divided by section. So, I tried that for about 4 months. This binder's big advantage is that you can easily flip back and forth and see the coupon you are hunting very quickly. It also has lots and lots of room to keep all coupons, ads, scissors, calculator and any other information you wish. It's big disadvantage for me was two-fold. It took me longer to clip coupons because I was trying to trim them down small enough to slide in the little baseball card pockets and it took me a long time to stuff them all too. Sometimes I needed to fold some coupons to get them to fit and sometimes when I did that I could no longer see when the coupon expired and had to take the time to write that down on the coupon where it would show through the sleeve. Likewise I needed to put a 'K' on the coupon for Kroger or a 'M' on the coupon for Meijer if it were a coupon from the catalina machine I got with my receipt so I'd know which store I was matching the coupon with.

For a while, I tried just saving up the inserts and dating them with a bla
ck sharpie on the fronts and then going back to find individual coupons when I needed them. Many sites list coupon matches so I'd know the coupon existed (from the Red Plum (RP) or Smart Source (SS) inserts and the date), but I was having trouble finding it this way. My inserts were getting mixed up. And sometimes I'd go back through my inserts and find a coupon I know I'd use but it wasn't matched with any deals on the sites and so I'd miss it. This happened a lot. Instead of using the sites, such as, to find deals and matches to begin my shopping list I use them at the end of making my list to see if I've missed anything or to hopefully find a link to a coupon to something I really need to buy but do not already have a coupon for.

Finally, I decided to try giving the box method another try. Only, my box was bigger this time, and if I do say so "quite cute!" I picked it up on sale at Office Depot. It has an accordian style divider system already inside of it. I added labels with my categories for each pocket. The box method's advantage is that I can clip my coupons quickly without taking the time to trim down to the "itty bitty" edges. I can stack them by category as I cut them out and plop them all into their pocket in one swoop. The box method's disadvantage is that when it comes time to find an individual coupon I need to take out my whole stack within that pocket and start flipping through them. But sometimes I find it right away or I'll look for 2 or 3 at once in the same category. For me, flipping through them (and I do it like I'm counting dollar bills - faster that way) is faster and easier than trimming, labeling and stuffing baseball sleeves. And my box is easier to take into the store with me than the binder was. Plus I don't get as many weird looks from people looking through my box as my binder that took up the entire front seat. I guess I'm self-conscious that way. But you may prefer another option and that's good too. As you learn to coupon, you'll find your easiest storage method too.

Now... my binder is not sitting around collec
ting dust. There's still plenty of work for it to do. It holds a variety of information. It holds the complete list of everything I shop for for my family. (I downloaded this list and just highlighted what we use as well as wrote in a few extras.) It holds an inventory of my stockpile so that I can keep track of what I'm running low on and which deals I need to watch out for. It holds the weekly deals for my favorite stores. It holds past weeks' coupon inserts - just in case I decide I need that one or two coupon(s) I didn't clip earlier. It holds nutritional information for my family. (Yes, you can coupon and still feed your family high quality meals!) It holds menu ideas and recipes. It holds a list of meals that I have made in bulk and given in part to my aging in-laws who no longer cook much. I record what they liked and didn't like. It holds contests and sweepstakes I've entered. And for that I don't take the time to write them down; I just tape the ad for them right to a piece of paper already in the binder! Likewise, I list the free samples and coupon booklets I've requested. (It is so fun to get freebies in the mail!) The back pocket holds coupons for restaurants for any possible date nights with my husband. The front zippered pouches hold my scissors, calculator, pens, pencils, sharpie and paper clips as well as any special coupons or gift cards I might earn in my shopping to keep them separate and easily noticable so I remember to use them. An example might be a Meijer coupon I used a week ago, "save $7 on your next order of $60 or more". Another example might be, "Receive a $25 gift card free with any new or transferred prescription" from CVS. And my binder holds my e-coupons lists from and www.p& (those are sites that allow you to upload coupons onto your shopping card electonically - no clipping). My binder is still very busy!!!

I will write more on other posts about menu planning, clipping coupons, and other related issues. I will see if my friend whom I learned much of this from will agree to have me list her blog address and a little about her on my blog. She's a seasoned pro at all of this! And she lists deal/coupon match ups each week for Kroger, Meijers, CVS and Walgreens. I certainly do not want to take away from anything she is doing in her efforts. I may end up posting some Rite Aid deals I see from time to time but my main love and time committment is for my God, my husband, and my kids right now. And they are the reason I coupon. See my welcome post. But maybe we can learn how to organize our coupons and our stockpiles together! And just maybe we can enjoy more time with our families and more money to spend on the important things in life.

Creating a Pantry

One of the first issues I ran into stockpiling my deals was where to put them all. I needed to organize some space for them. I really wanted to keep my food items in the kitchen. I had been piling them up out in the garage, but as the weather began to warm I began to worry about mice and bugs getting into them and heat and humidity affecting them.

Back in October our neighbor was moving and put out her son's school desk and book shelf with the trash. We grabbed them for garage work space and storage. We moved the book shelf into the corner of our dining room last month. A perfect fit! Then I pulled out some old sheers we used to have hanging in our living room. I measured and cut and sewed a pocket across the bottom just like the one already at the top to give the pantry privacy and a "contained" look. This cost us less than $8. We paid $2 and some for some cabinet pegs to hold up the shelves and about $5 for two spring rods to hold the curtain in place.

Voila! A new pantry! It is pleasant to look at and out of our way. It creates a lot of new storage for my food stockpile. It also gives me a nice place to put the green depression wear my grandfather gave me on our Florida trip a few years back.

This is proof that someone else's trash really can be someone else's treasure! It saved us money. We kept it out of the landfill, reused it and gave it a new purpose. The same can be said of the sheers. You might be surprised what you already have that you can get creative with and put to stockpile storage solution use! Check your closets, garage, shed, and even under your bed.

One last note... When you do stockpile make sure to check the expiration dates and put the items expiring first in the front so that they may be used first. Just like the store does.

Joy's Pantry Solution

Hi! I'm Joy and I have been learning about couponing and stockpiling since August 2008. In the last 6 months I have tried a variety of methods to keeping coupons, cutting them, and shopping various stores. I do not have all the answers. I am learning like the rest of you, but I might have a few creative solutions to some couponing and stockpiling problems. I coupon and stockpile so that babysitting at home won't be necessary and to save enough money to be able to have more fun with it, donate it, or maybe even send my children to private school. Whatever your reasons for couponing and stockpiling, I wish you the best and encourage you not to give up. It really does work and it really will get easier with time.