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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stores & Policies

These are the stores available to me; like I said in my original post, it's important to start off SLOW and EASY with just one or two stores. Find your ground, find the methods that work best for you, and then branch out to other stores.


This is my main store of choice for all things coupon for a few reasons:

  • Kroger doubles all paper coupons up to $0.50 when you use your store card.
  • Kroger accepts/doubles printable Internet coupons the same as paper, though they do have a few rules on IP coupons and any store has the right to refuse an IP. Most all IP coupons are good to go so long as:

*The coupon is not for a free product or for more than 75% off the original cost. (Coupons from mailers or inserts are fine for this, however)
*The coupon scans properly at the register. If the registers do not register it, it is most likely not a valid coupon. (Fair)
*The coupon is not altered in any way. (You should never photocopy much less try to alter an IP; it’s wrong and it causes those individual stores to stop taking them, thus ruining it for everyone)

  • Kroger participates in all 3 e-coupon programs (Cellfire, Shortcuts, and P&G E-Saver) via their store loyalty card AND you can stack those with regular coupons. E-coupons do NOT double, however!
  • Kroger does not have any limits on # of coupons used in one transaction that I’m aware of. They will also usually double coupons on up to 3 like items (some stores may allow more; this is just the average and I generally don’t go beyond this myself).
  • Kroger often runs additional sales/deals such as their “Mix and Match” or “Buy Any 10, Get $5 Off” promotion. Combine with coupons and you can get a LOT of FREE groceries.

I’ve only tried couponing at Ingles a couple of times because their policy is more complicated than Kroger and more varied in how it is enforced:

  • There’s no limit on TOTAL coupons allowed… but they will only double 3 coupons per $10 of purchase (pre-coupon price, thankfully).
  • On like items, their doubling limit is only 2.
  • They seem to have a similar policy on IP coupons as Kroger (they do take them and double them with the same exceptions as Kroger) but I’ve heard a lot more stories of individual stores nitpicking or flat out refusing IPs.
  • I’ve also heard and experienced a general distaste for coupons at Ingles; maybe it’s b/c of the weird policies but their cashiers visibly don’t seem to like getting them (whereas I’ve occasionally had a tired Kroger cashier, but still reasonably pleasant about it).
  • On a positive note they DO supposedly TRIPLE coupons more frequently than Kroger (but I think the rules get even MORE finicky). I’ve not experienced a triple special at EITHER yet, but there is the hope…

    Still, I like Ingles as a store; my plan with them usually goes something like this:

    (1) I always go with a mindset to also buy higher dollar items I need so I can be assured of doubling the max amount of coupons. They often have Pepsi 12-packs on sale 5/$12 (which we go through like water), plus I really like their pre-seasoned seafood.

    (2) I take a detailed list of the sale items I intend to buy and the number of coupons I plan to use and I DON’T really deviate too much here (unless it’s a non-coupon item).

    (3) Primarily, I go to Ingles to score FREE items, or use coupons that won’t double anyway.

I’m really new at couponing at Walmart and it’s probably just because you have to hunt around a bit more for the deals. Walmart does issue a sales flyer each week but it’s only a handful of what’s on sale. This is one of those times where I am REALLY relying on all my other wonderful blog connections to help me find the best buys!

Also, Walmart rollbacks vary from store to store so any list of deals you get is really more of a guide. You should definitely have your coupon stash handy here to catch any deals specific to your location. Some quick bits about Walmart:

  • They have a pretty wide open coupon policy including manufacturer, “Free” or BOGO, and internet coupons. However, their staff’s knowledge seems to be pretty wide open as well! If in doubt, bring a copy of their policy with you.
  • No doubled coupons but Walmart will price match items at other stores within a reasonable distance including ALDI’s and other grocery chains. You’ll probably need to bring the sales flyer with you to verify. Also, the item must be the same as the one you’re trying to match at Walmart (i.e. if you’re buying Corn Chex cereal in the 24 oz size at Walmart, you can’t price-match it to a 15 oz size box or a different variety at Kroger).

I had held off from stepping into the CVS/Walgreens ring when I first started couponing because there was so much to learn. About 2-3 mos into it, however, I decided to give CVS a try because so many other coupon-bloggers seem to have great success and get most of their high-dollar freebies there (I also chose it because with the retirement of Walgreens’ Rebate program, the 2 seem to be on a level playing field now and the Extra Care Bucks program seemed easier to learn).

So far, so good! It has taken me a while to get into the swing of “rolling” my ECBs (where the previous week’s ECBs pay for all or most of the next week’s deals in order to reduce the out of pocket cost), but it’s doable with practice. At first I was making one purchase at the beginning of the week to get my ECBs, and then spending those immediately on whatever I needed that week and then having to start all over. This, I am told, is not how a true coupon-queen operates. Yes, I was being careful, using regular coupons and getting some good free stuff on those 2nd trips, but I’d be back to square one the next week. Here are some of the highlights of learning to work CVS:

  • Like with every store, you have to sign up for an ExtraCare card to participate. It’s better to get it in store so you can start using it immediately. NOTE: YESSSS... CVS prices are HIGH. Way higher than you would want to pay for most items. This is why it makes sense to maximize savings and try to spend as little out of pocket there as you can.
  • Every week CVS will advertise certain items on sale that give you Extra Care Bucks which are basically like free money you can spend the next time you shop there. When you buy a specific item at CVS that has the special ECB calculation tag, you will get whatever ECB is stated on the tag. Sometimes it’s a straightforward transaction: “Buy 1 Crest Toothpaste at $2.99, Get $2 ECB = $2.99.” Just grab that tube of Crest and go! Easy! Other times you have to spend a certain amount on select products to get the ECBs advertised: “Buy $20 in Aveeno products, Get $10 ECB.” In this case, be sure that the items you purchase EACH have a sale tag stating that they are part of that deal.
  • ECBs DO have some funky expiration dates that you need to be aware of; some may last a couple of weeks, others are good for a month. If you’re afraid of letting them expire (like I was) you can usually plan a second shopping trip that week. But don’t just spend them on random stuff like I did unless there’s really NOTHING else you can buy to get more ECBs to use the next week.
  • ECBs are printed on the regular register tape and are spit out on the bottom of your receipt. FYI: The ink on these fades really easily if mistreated; I’m also told they turn BLACK in the heat. CVS will not reinstate or replace your ECBs if you lose or damage them so put them in a safe place!
  • You can use regular coupons, printable coupons, CVS coupons ($5 off $20)and ECBs altogether in one transaction, however you must present them in a certain order to maximize your savings. Jenny at Southern Savers has a great post explaining all the details HERE. Since I haven’t been CVSing long, I’ve only used manufacturers coupons and ECBs. When I get those special $-off ones, I will give them a try!

Unfortunately, Food City bought out most of the Bi-Lo stores when Bi-Lo left the Knoxville area a couple of years ago. Sad. I liked Bi-Lo. I like Food City for their pre-marinated meats but I feel their prices are generally high for everything else. The main problem for me is that although their corporate policy is to accept legitimate manufacturer-issued IPs… the handful of Food City’s I’ve been to DON’T. Maybe I’m just getting the wrong cashiers all on the wrong days, but even managers have confirmed that those stores won’t accept them due to past issues of “legitimacy.” They do take regular coupons, Catalinas, and their own store-issued coupons… But they won’t stack Food City coupons with anything else. Overall… just not worth it.

Okay, I know – NOT a grocery store! But we have furballs and so this is a frequent stop for me! I haven’t been able to dig up a formal “coupon policy” for them so this is all based on experience with my store. Overall I have found Petsmart to be very accommodating and pleasant about coupons:

  • They DO accept IP coupons, no problem.
  • They accept regular manufacturer coupons.
  • They will gladly combine EITHER of those with their own store issued coupons (usually $ Off Purchase, i.e. $5 off $20).
  • I have EVEN had them accept coupons for items that weren’t scanned in! Short story: Had $1.50/off cat treats making them near free; put the big stuff up for scanning; gave them my PetPerks card and ALL coupons; was signing my receipt when I noticed the treats had fallen under the cart. The cashier didn’t even blink; she just showed me where the $1.50 had come off my main order anyway... and I paid for them separately.

    BTW, I’m NOT telling you that so you’ll try to slip a bunch of coupons by the cashier for items you aren’t actually buying!!! Just to show how easygoing they are.

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