Anyone who lives in the Bay Area can tell you how expensive it is just to live here. High-living costs for rent also means increased food costs. I can personally attest to this; since moving here nine months ago, my grocery bills have jumped from an average of $40 to almost $70 a week to feed two people. I'm already a frugal person and I do a lot to keep all my costs low, but there is one thing I haven't tried until recently—learning couponing skills to save money on my grocery bill. 

In the last month, my grocery bill has dropped down to $47 per week on groceries because I've started actively couponing.

To give you some perspective, I normally live off of home-cooked meal prepped foods throughout the week and I adhere to a mostly clean-eating omnivore diet due to my on-going wellness journey. But I'm also a low-income student, which means my grocery budget matters week to week.

Using coupons to save money has been a trial and error experience. Getting an efficient system down has been one of the more time-consuming aspects of this experience. Overall, I've had a quite a few successes—like getting two weeks worth of yogurt for free—but have also had my share of failures; I recently bought an exorbitant amount of stevia. Here are some things that I found worked for me and some things I learned along the way.

What Worked

Checking The Krazy Coupon Lady Website While Making My Shopping List

Emma Sroat

This really helped me focus on what items I needed for the week. If I needed yogurt, turkey bacon, tomatoes, or coffee, I could look up whatever item I needed on the app. Instead of searching in different apps, their one app will show mobile and printable coupons that you can pair together to get the best price possible. I was able to get Nativas Chia Seeds at Target for some chia seed pudding by pairing a Cartwheel App offer, an Ibotta rebate, and a manufacturer coupon for less than a dollar.   

Following Favorite Brands on Social Media

Emma Sroat

Occasionally, brands will post coupon deals on Facebook or Instagram. It's worth it to see when those deals come up on your feed so you can act quickly. For example, Organic Girl recently posted a sweepstakes on their Facebook page. I lost, but ended up with the best consolation prize possible: a coupon to buy one dressing and any leafy green mixture I wanted for free at Whole Foods.

Going to a Different Grocery Store

Emma Sroat

Safeway has always been my go to for grocery needs because of their Just4U program. However, Ibotta and Checkout 51 offer different rebates to different stores. Going to other stores like Sprouts, Target and Whole Foods, and utilizing their mobile apps, has upped my couponing game. I bought pre-marinated frozen fish from Whole Foods, originally priced at $6.99, for $1.74.

Check the Clearance Section

Emma Sroat

Not every grocery store has a clearance area, but the ones that do often have hidden treasures in plain sight. Sprouts has a great clearance section and I've continually scored free items. Using the Ibotta app, I'll scan certain items to see if there is a rebate. I've bought multiple Quest Protein Bars for less than a dollar using this technique.

What Went Wrong

Not Using a List

My first shopping trip using coupons without a shopping list was unsuccessful. I wasted time and I got frustrated. Make better choices than I did by making a list and sticking to it. 

#SpoonTip: Divide your list into the different sections of your preferred store. It will help you save time during your grocery trips.

Not Having an Organization System

On that same note, make sure to keep your coupons organized. A simple paperclip can save you a lot of frustration. On the same trip mentioned above, my clipped coupons were everywhere in my large purse. After that terrible shopping experience, I got into the habit of writing which stores I intended to use any printed coupon at, just to make sure nothing went wrong again. 

Couponing Without Intent

There is a dark side to couponing and I learned that the hard way. Make sure you are actually going to use whatever it is you are going to buy using your coupon. I found several bags of Nativas Cacao Butter in the clearance section of Sprouts for 99 cents and went a little nuts. I bought five bags and still have those five bags taking up space in my pantry.

Not Researching Grocery Store Coupon Rules

Each store has a different set of rules for coupons, and a little bit of research can mean the difference between a great deal or a bad shopping trip. Safeway's Just4U program offers one time manufacter coupons to add alongside personalized deals. I, unknowingly, printed out the same manufacter coupons and expected them to work. California law prohibits doubling the same coupon on one item, so some of those "deals" I was expecting were a total bust. 

Emma Sroat

I'm glad I went through this experience as I plan to keep saving money this way. It will take time, patience, and some major strategy to get couponing down to a science. However, whether you are trying to stretch your grocery bill to get more food for the week or saving money for your summer abroad trip, couponing is a valid way to do both.