Couponing Basics

How to Make a Coupon Shopping List

A lot of people who want to coupon never even get started because they don’t know how to make their coupon stack make sense with their real grocery needs. This post will teach you how to create an effective coupon shopping list. Make the most of your coupons while still buying things you actually want and need.

Hopefully after reading this, your weekly shopping trip will become something to look forward to.

Set a Budget

The first thing you need to do is set your budget. Without a budget, you will spend too much, regardless of whether you use coupons or not. Then you need to divide that budget into two categories: needs and stockpile. If you are a beginner, you probably don’t have a big stockpile yet and will have to buy quite a few items to get you through the week. An example of this budget split would be:

$75 Weekly Budget

  • $60 – Needs
  • $15 – Stockpile

That is just an example; you can adjust these numbers to your own budget and needs. As a beginner though, the majority of your weekly budget will go toward needs. As you get into the hang of things and build your stockpile, those numbers will gradually change until you spend very little on your needs each week.

Build Your Matchup List

Next you need to begin building your list. Start with finding a coupon matchup for your preferred grocery store for the week. Search online for “coupon matchup your store” and be sure the matchup you’re looking at is for the current week. This will show you all the items you can get for free or really cheap at this specific store by combining weekly ad deals and coupons.

Jot down or type up all the items from the matchup that you want to buy. These should be items that you will actually use. Even if something in the matchup winds up being free, don’t get it if you won’t use it!

Then gather the applicable coupons or clip the coupons online if available. If you have 2 of a specific coupon then add a quantity of “2” to the item so you know how many to purchase. Add up the total cost of all the items on your list so far and make sure they do not exceed your stockpile budget.

This list is your matchup list, containing no full-price items. It probably won’t have everything you need, but is a great place to start.

Make a Menu Plan

Now, make your menu plan for the week. Don’t forget breakfasts, lunches, and snacks in addition to dinners! Plan your meals as closely to what is on your matchup list as possible. If you don’t have a stockpile yet, this will really save you a lot of money – even if you don’t use coupons! Once you start to build a stockpile at home, you can base your menu off of what you already have.

As an example, if chicken and broccoli are on the matchup list and I have a stockpile of rice at home, then I might plan to make Cheesy Broccoli and Rice with Chicken! I would note the other items in the recipe to see if I need to purchase anything else to make it. If I didn’t have cheese or cream of mushroom soup, then I would add those items to my grocery list. I would also check to see if the other ingredients are in the flyer (but didn’t make it onto my matchups list) or if there are any coupons available for them that I wasn’t looking for initially. Any recipes that would require the purchase of several additional ingredients would probably be saved to make another week when more of the ingredients are on sale.

I know that part sounds like a lot of work, but it really doesn’t take that long, especially after you get the hang of it! Just try to think of meals that use mainly ingredients that are on sale. If roast isn’t on sale this week, don’t plan to have roast! If chicken and pork chops are on sale, plan a couple of meals using chicken and pork chops. If you get stuck, is a great recipe resource, and you can even search by ingredient and exclude ingredients you don’t have!

Now you should have rounded out your list with the few full-priced items you’ll need for the week.


From your full coupon shopping list, try to estimate how much you will be spending in total. If you go way over your budget, you may need to make some menu adjustments.  If you are only slightly over, then I suggest eliminating some items from your stockpile list. Then, count the coupons you have listed and count the coupons in your stack to make sure they match up. If they do, write the number on your list to make it easy to check your receipt (to make sure all of your coupons scanned) after shopping. Just make sure to make a note by that number if your shopping plan changes at the store and you don’t use all of your coupons.

Ready? Set? Go!

Now, the hard part is over. You should have a meal plan, stack of coupons, and a coupon shopping list. Print your list, grab your coupons, and go shopping!

Do you have a particular method you use for planning your shopping trip? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. I personally like to start out stockpiling as much as possible by constraining menu choice a bit. Not for everyone though. Great tips.


  2. Thank you so much for your advice, tips and help on couponing I’m new to this and have lots to learn your site is great for me as a beginner.


  3. I followed your link to Kroger match-up list and was taken to a Kroger site that shows weekly specials. I don’t see a “match-up” list. Am I missing something? Thanks much!


  4. Great advice! I do most of those things. Also, I try to make sure my shopping list is in the order that I will find the items in the store.

    When I don’t have time to plan meals before I go shopping, we sometimes end up throwing together some unusual meals using whatever was on sale. This is not always a bad thing!


  5. My methos is very similar to yours. If I have any coupons that I have yet to find a sale to match it with, but the coupon is about to expire – I purchase the item anyway. Of course this is only for things I know my family will use/eat.
    My husband and I go over our list the night before our shopping trip. We make adjustments and figure totals from my price book and past receipts.
    Like you, we write down quantity and coupons but we add in the price before and after the coupon. At the bottom of the list we have:
    1. the number of items we’re purchasing
    2. the price before coupons
    3. the value of the coupons
    4. the price after coupons have been used but before tax
    I do most of the work, but my husband sits with me to look it over so that he’s aware of the finances. Also it prevents a lot of discussion in the store over items that either of us may be tempted to toss into the basket.


      • @Stephanie, You’d be surprised how often cashiers don’t know the policy. Too many times we’ve gotten home and then realized that coupons were counted for or that products were scanned more than once. It’s very detailed, but better than paying for three pizzas but only taking home one. Or even printing coupons to find out that they were counted for. I don’t care for wasting money or ink.


  6. Thank you so much for this! I’m new to coupon clipping and was overwhelmed as to where to start. You really helped me to understand the process from start to finish. So, I guess it’s the chicken this week 🙂


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