Tutorial: How I Prepare for a Coupon Trip (with pics!)

I have been wanting to write this post for awhile, but have been trying to get my brain around how exactly to go about it. With the help of many pictures, I'd like to explain how I prepare for a coupon trip, step by step.  For those of you who are new to couponing, I am sorry to report that I don't just walk into the store with my coupon binder and come out with bags of groceries and a savings of 75% off.  It truly does take preparation and organization to be an effective couponer.  I am not saying that this is the only way to go about it because there are tons methods, but this is what works for me...currently...I am always changing things up and finding more efficient ways to do things. I hope this tutorial helps someone who is new to couponing or someone who is frustrated with couponing who may find something to try.  If you haven't read my post on my coupon binder, start HERE.  Ok, here are the steps I take before my big coupon shopping trips.  Take a deep breath!  It's a lot to take in, but stay with me and see how it all comes together in the end!

The first thing I do is sit down at my computer and make a list of coupons I need.  I use my coupon match ups, other blogs' match ups, forums, online ads, and my coupon data base to create this list.  

This list is nothing special.  Just a white piece of paper with coupons to find on one side and coupons to print on the other.  I use codes on where to get them, like either in my binder or which insert to look in.  PS~ I know I have manly handwriting...but I can read it! :)

Next, I recommend finding a good spot and spreading out all your needed materials.  I use my binder, sorting mat, shopping lists, scissors, and tub of filed inserts....along with a sweet tea. ;)  By the way, I can't believe I am actually posting this picture of myself.  This is at 10:00 at night after a long day and no make up.  Oh well, just ignore the dinner spot on my shirt, fake smile, and terrible angle!

The I use my list to go through my  binder and filed by date insets to pull out the coupons I am going to for sure use on my shopping trip.  I use my binder as a way to organize coupons at home that I print, get from random sources like the mail, or clip because I know I will eventually use it.  I leave the rest in the inserts to clip when I come across really good deals.  I still take my binder with me to the store to utilize if I find things on markdown or for unadvertised sales.

As I pull out each coupon, I add the item to my shopping list.

I place those coupons on my sorting mat, as I go, keeping them organized by category.

After finding all the coupons from my list, I do a binder run through, starting with my freebie page.  I pull out coupons to add to my sorting mat and jot the products down on my list.  I go through my baseball card holder sleeves, searching for coupons that may expire soon or something we need to buy.  Couponing can be a game of knowing when to hold out for a sale and knowing when to use a coupon out of necessity.

*If you are new, you may want to skip this step.*  As I am going through my binder, I think about my stores I am shopping at.  In the example above, I am shopping at Dillons (doubles coupons up to fifty cents) and Walmart (no doubling).  Fifty cent coupons I usually end up spending at Dillons and add those products to my Dillons list, looking for that doubled coupon extra savings.  Many $1 off or higher coupons I will use at Walmart, utilizing the lower priced selection.  Some things I will put on both lists with a check, which means I will do a price check at each store and use the coupon at the store with the lower priced product.  For example, I haven't heard of any big drug store deals on the higher dollar $2.50 Finish Dish Soap coupon and I have several of them, so I will compare prices at the stores I'll be at, looking for the best deal.

Next I put all coupons that I am for sure using in my smaller holder to have handy at the store.  I found myself needing to do these kinds of trips during the day with my children, so this is the most effecient way for me to be completely ready at the store.  This step could be skipped and the coupons can be left in the binder....it just seems more stressful to me.

The next thing I do is head to the kitchen to do some of my flexible meal planning (read my post HERE for details about it).  I check my list to see how many meals I need to buy before my next trip.  I check my fridge shopping list that I add food to during the week as I find that we're about out, so I don't have to make tons of extra trips.  I add these items to my mega list.
I check my fridge, pantry, and stockpile to find meal ideas.

If I'm in the mood, I go through cookbooks for inspiration.

If not, I go to my trusty recipe binder.  It may be ugly and decorated with post it notes, but it keeps my family's tummies happy!

Although I should have stopped there, I here's a peek into my secret recipes.  Although it's mess, I know where everything is!  

I add to my shopping list and meal planning list the few ingredients needed after taking into consideration all the ingredients I will be getting super cheap to free with coupons.  I left this step out for a while, especially on the big coupon trips.  Sometimes its fun to see how low you can get the total at checkout, but to be efficient and avoid running to the store constantly,  you can work up to combining coupon trips with needed ingredients for meals trips.  You'll save time and money. Going to the store more often can result in buying more if your not careful!

That's it!  You made it all the way to the end!  I know it may be a lot to take in, but for someone who is struggling with the steps on how everything comes together, hopefully this helps!  It has taken me some time to find a way that works for me, which like I said, is always changing!  Happy shopping!

How do you prepare for a coupon trip?  What do you do differently?  What do you think of my method?


  1. Love this, Mandie! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I've been holding on to my Finish $2.50 coupon as well- but haven't tried very hard looking for the best place to use it. Could you let us know when you find the best store for it in Springfield? Thanks!

  3. you are very organized! Totally impressed

  4. Good Job Mandie, Simple and easy to follow. Same goes here on the finish, not sure when they expire but was able to 25 boxes last year at Target for $0.49 a piece and am on my last two boxes.

  5. This post is very helpful but I have a couple of questions. First, how long does this take you? And, do you do this every week? Secondly, you state the first step is to determine what coupons you need. What is that list based on?
    Thanks tons for your site. I've been a visitor for many months now and you have been very helpful to me as I learn how to do all of this!

  6. Hey Denise! I usually spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour getting ready, but it seems to go faster the longer I have couponed. I would say if I don't do this every week, then atleast everyother, but try to stay on top of it each week. I base my coupon list, at first, from coupon match ups from my site (weekly Dillons match ups) and other sites, along with online ads and my coupon data base. This lingo can look like a foreign language when you first start out, so check out how to read match ups here:


    Great questions! Hope that helps!

  7. I'll certainly keep you all posted if come across a good deal on with the Finish coupons. I know, I had a BIG stash that is gone as well...hoping to find one quick!