In her comment on this post about using coupons, Maria said:
"...It seems that all the coupons I get my hands on are for gum, dog food, or products that are still more expensive than store brand, even after coupons. I'd love to know how you get your coupons to work for you, and where you get the useful ones."
Hmm... she got my wheels turning, thinking through how to offer some suggestions and help her out!
First off, I'd recommend making sure you're getting the largest newspaper you can for your area. Oftentimes the smaller papers will have less (and less desirable) coupons in them, even though they're still the "same" inserts. If that doesn't help, then your options would be internet printable coupons (IPQ's) from places like Smartsource, Redplum and Coupons.com, and also watch for "blinkies" (the little blinking coupon dispencers hanging on the shelf) and tearpads in the store. If your store has a loyalty card, see if you can load e-coupons onto it from Shortcuts and Cellfire.
Another option if your coupon selection still stinks would be to get them from clipping sites, or from e-bay. When getting coupons this way, you are not paying for the coupons, but for the person's time spent clipping, and the postage. I will sometimes get extras this way when it's a seasonal sale on something I want to stock up a year's supply of.
"...products that are still more expensive than store brand..." Are you making sure to combine the coupon with the sale? It does take a while to learn the sale cycles, and to know when something is really a sale and not just a flashy sign (WalMart comes to mind with that one... they often advertise"Rollback Prices" but if you look under the big tag, the "Rollback" price is the same as the original shelf price.). If you use the coupon with the regular price, then yes, most of the time the item will still be more expensive than store brand. When combined with a good sale, though, most things are cheaper - at least for me.
And in the end, it might just all boil down to your location and the stores available to you. My Kroger will take however many coupons you have... my sister's Kroger (2 hrs away) will only take 2 like coupons per transaction. A big part of my savings comes from the doubled coupons, and some places you just can't find a store that will double coupons - that is often referred to as LOND, or Land Of No Doubles :)
My trick to getting my coupons to "work for me" it to hang on to them until a good sale comes around, and then stock up as much as I can (within reason - and "within reason" is different for each family). I can usually stockpile enough to last until the item goes on sale again - with more coupons. If it is something that we need, I will buy it even if it doesn't have a coupon or isn't on sale, but I try to plan ahead as best I can so that I don't have to pay full price if I don't have to.
I also recommend reading couponing blogs such as MommySnacks and MoneySavingMom where they post sale and coupon matchups each week. I use their blogs and also subscribe to The Grocery Game, where they provide a complete list of the best sales and coupon matches each week. The Grocery Game offers a FREE 4 week trial, so maybe give them a shot... it might be worth it :) I know it's very worth it for me.
How about you... do you have trouble finding coupons and good deals? What do you do to make your coupons work for you?