By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: Coupon Mom Stephanie Nelson says that strategic shopping is not about changing the way you eat, it is about changing the way you buy the food that you like. For years I’ve been a loyal follower of Stephanie’s website, So as we kick off 2015, here is some Coupon Mom advice that you may be able to put to use.

1. The key to saving is planning ahead. Save time by using websites that do the work of matching store sales with coupons and promotions to find the best deals each week.

o Plan your meals and shopping list around the store’s sale items.
o Use the store loyalty card for sale prices and promotion discounts
o Compare deals for 2-3 stores each week to pick the store with best deals

2. Use coupons—but wait until the item is on sale to get rock-bottom prices.

o Collect coupons from multiple sources to be able to stock up when items hit their lowest sale prices such as Sunday newspaper (80% of coupons distributed), printable coupon sites, digital coupons on store websites, home mailers, checkout coupons, store coupons from in-store kiosks or flyers, coupons mailed by manufacturers when requested
o Easiest way to organize coupons: “Whole Insert Method”: Clip only the coupons needed for each shopping trip, following directions on websites (15 to 30 minutes per week = $100 per week savings average)

3. Know your item’s prices and stock up when they hit their lowest prices. When you run out of your items, you’ll be shopping from your own discounted inventory instead of paying full price at the store.

o If a popular sale item is out of stock, ask the store for a raincheck You will be able to buy the item at the previous sale price in a future week when it is back in stock

4. Know how your store’s savings programs and coupon policies work. Stack the strategies to get the lowest prices.o Combine coupons with store sales and special promotions

o Combine store coupons with manufacturers coupons
o Use automatic rebate programs to save on future orders (e.g. CVS Extrabucks, Walgreens Balance Rewards and Rite Aid +UP Rewards)

5. Turn your Smartphone into a cash machine

o Use free cash back apps for grocery items (such as Ibotta, Savingstar, Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon), on top of coupon savings
o Get digital coupons from the stores’ apps to either load to your loyalty card or access at the register with your phone number