Use coupons wisely to avoid overspendng, expert says

Careless couponing use could cost more at the grocery store, said Robbie McKinnon, Pike County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Coupons can be a great tool when you’re trying to save money on the rising cost of food,” she said. “The first rule of coupon clipping is to only use coupons for things you would have purchased anyway.”

“A dollar off something that is an add-on to your food bill is not a good deal,” she said.

Coupons are popping up in more places: the Internet, food packages, in store aisles and on grocery receipts, in addition to the “usual” spots like the Sunday newspaper, magazines and a weekly bulk mailing.

You can make your coupon value go further.

“Look for grocery stores in your area that offer double or triple coupons,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon has other tips for helping keep down the cost of the weekly grocery run:

• Plan meals — Having the food on hand you need to make simple meals is essential. Start with a list. Plan the meals you are going to make during the week. Pull recipes as appropriate and make a complete list.

• Check store sales – If you planned on making chicken but pork loin is on sale, you may want to change your menu. If you use coupons, pull the ones you think you will use. When you shop, check unit pricing for the best buy. Select the best buy for your budge and family’s taste.

• Be flexible – If the fish does not look good and is expensive, change the menu. Don’t shop when you are hungry. Don’t buy a lot of snack food that is not on the list.

• Buy fresh. – Purchase fresh vegetables when they are in season and fit your food budget. However, frozen and canned are healthy as well. Keep frozen and canned vegetables on hand for quick heat-and-eat dishes. Frozen and canned vegetables are quick and easy to prepare.

• Choose vegetables without sauces, butter, cream, added noodles, potatoes or toppings. Choose frozen and canned fruit without added sugar and salt.

• Use store loyalty cards to get discounts on selected items. Check your store’s policy on buy-one-get-one free specials.

• Buy in bulk if you have freezer space. Use meat substitutes. Dried beans and peas are very inexpensive, healthy, delicious and easy to prepare. They are great substitutes for meat.

• Use your leftovers. Don’t let leftovers go to waste. Plan to use them in another lunch or dinner.

For more information about saving money, visit, or contact your county extension office.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.