By ERIN TURNER

So you want to save money on your grocery bill?  That’s great!  But if you were like me a year ago, I had no idea where to start!  Here are the basic keys of saving:

First of all, you need coupons…lots of coupons.  Ask your family and friends for their Sunday coupon inserts.  SmartSource, Redplum, Proctor & Gamble and General Mills all put out coupon inserts in the Sunday paper.  You can also get a discounted price from the Missoulian for a Sunday only Subscription.  My family and friends provide me with their inserts weekly.  Sometimes when there is an absolute to-die-for sale coming up, I will even order coupons from ebay.  (More on that in weeks to come!)

The second place you get coupons is online.  Sites like coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com are all sites which provide what we call “printable coupons”.  You will have to download a quick program then you’ll be able to print all coupons.  To save ink, make sure you tell your printer to only print in grayscale otherwise all your hard efforts at saving go out the window in ink costs!

Once you have a supply of coupons, then start looking at the sales from Walgreens, CVS, Albertsons, Safeway and Wal-Mart.  These are my “go-to” stores.   Albertsons is awesome because they offer twice the value coupons every couple weeks…meaning if you have a $1 off coupon, they will double it!  So, if they are having a sale on pasta for 10 for $10 ($1 each) and you have a $1 off coupon, they will double it thus “owing” YOU a dollar!

The stores never give you back money but if you throw something else in your basket that is worth a dollar then basically you’ll get it AND the pasta for free.  Are you following me?  Do you see how it works?  This is extreme couponing and it will save insane amounts of money.

The key is pairing your coupon to a killer sale.  Sometimes you have to be patient and sit on your coupons for a few weeks before that sale comes around.  And remember, check your expiration dates!  If you missed a sale don’t worry, it will come around again!  I used to panic thinking I missed the sale of a lifetime but then came to realize the industry is on a 3-6 month cycle so I’ll be able to score a good deal in another few months.

While I’m talking about cycles, I should mention the second key to savings is stocking up.  This is where a lot of people jump ship.  But if you’re serious about saving, you will come to understand the importance of stock piling.

Okay, how many of you have gone to your medicine cabinet only to realize the fact that you have run out of deodorant?  And what do we do?  Run to the nearest store and buy some, right?  Well, your friends, family and co-workers are probably thankful for it but your wallet is screaming mad because you paid full retail price!

With stockpiling you are buying items that you use regularly in large quantities (think: 3-6 month cycles!) when they are dirt cheap.  In my stockpile, I easily have a year’s worth of deodorant for which I paid 0-50 cents each.  I will never again pay full price for a household staple!  I’d much rather save my money for a mai-tai on a Hawaiian beach than to fork it over for deodorant because I failed to plan ahead!  Wouldn’t you?

So your assignment for this week is to collect a bunch of coupons and to access your house for areas for your stockpiles!  Get creative and explore unknown territories of your home…you’ll be amazed at where you can find space!  Back to Save It blog home page.

For more from Eric, visit www.makeitmissoula.com