Cutting Coupons

You’re not alone if you are seeking ways to trim household expenses. The average family with children spent $138.90 weekly on groceries in 2010, according to the Food Marketing Institute. So there’s incentive to save. One technique embraced by savvy shoppers is “couponing,” the art of clipping coupons to maximize supermarket savings. Sharpen your scissors to balance your budget. Here’s how.

Read newspapers. Purchase a Sunday paper, even multiples, to clip national brand coupons; match them to weekly newspaper ads from local supermarkets. If your coupons don’t match what’s on sale this week, save them, as prices usually rise and fall in 12-week cycles. Keep a journal on regular and sale food prices to determine pricing patterns. Also keep an eye on weekly “loss leaders,” items priced extremely low to get consumers into stores. Tip: Generally, you can “stack” (or use) both store and brand coupons on the same item.

Go online. Find previews of upcoming ads at sundaycouponpreview.com when planning shopping trips. Download coupons from coupons.com and similar sites. Free registration usually includes free newsletters or email coupons; best sites require free downloadable software to print bar codes. Veteran couponers offer advice at stockpilingmoms.com and similar websites. Tip: “Liking” a favorite product or company on Facebook may garner freebies.

Learn the lingo. Look beyond cents-off coupons to other creative savings. Find such offers as BOGO (buy one, get one free), freebies/samples (check mysavings.com), MIR (mail-in rebate) and OYNO (on your next order). Tip: You can link couponing to a college savings fund at upromise.com.

Organize. File coupons in an expanding folder with dividers or a binder with sleeves. Divide by expiration date, supermarket layout or product categories for easy access. Plan each trip before heading out, checking your pantry and matching coupons and ads to your needs. Stock up if you discover an unexpected bargain. Tip: Download e-coupons to a store savings card from savingstar.com or shortcuts.com.

5 Healthy Food Best Buys

During the holidays—or anytime—it’s easy to get carried away on spending and on eating foods that aren’t the best for our bodies. To control both impulses, stock up on foods that pack a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber—and that are easy on your wallet.

Serving a variety of healthful foods defends against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. As much as possible, choose forms of the food with the least processing to get the best price and the greatest nutrient benefits. For example, choose whole apples over apple juice, and whole cranberries over canned. Often, fruits and vegetables frozen without sugar or sauces have the equivalent nutrient value of fresh, with similar pricing.

Add these budget-wise, in-season and nutrient-rich options to your shopping list.

1. Fruits and vegetables — Apples, Avocados, Blueberries (frozen), Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Citrus fruits, Cranberries (fresh, dried) Pumpkin (canned), Sweet Potatoes

2. Grains — Oats, Popcorn, Rice (brown), Whole Grains (bread, flour, pasta, hot cereal)

3. Proteins — Beans (black, red—dry or canned), Eggs, Meats (turkey, lean pork, lean beef—all unprocessed), Nuts (especially walnuts), Salmon (canned)

4. Dairy — Low-Fat Milk, Cheese, Yogurt (live cultures, probiotics)

5. Other — Chocolate (dark), Spices and Herbs (cinnamon, tumeric, rosemary, garlic, oregano)