December 17, 2018

How to Make a Coupon Shopping Plan

Aug 12, 2010

How to make a coupon shopping plan! How to budget, make a list, and menu plan in order to maximize your coupon savings!

This is the fifth post in my new series entitled “Teach a (Wo)Man How to Fish…..” In case you missed the introduction, this series is based on the Chinese Proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”  So, rather than just finding fish (deals, freebies, coupons, etc.) for you, I’m going to be teaching you HOW to find them yourself!

One thing beginner couponers seem to struggle with is planning their shopping trip. I have equipped you with the best deals at the store, where to find the coupons, and even how to use them.  However, one thing I have not really explained is how to plan your shopping trip.

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 towards 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 List

Next you need to begin building your list. I’m going to use Kroger in this example. Look at my Kroger matchups post and highlight the entire list with your mouse. Then copy the list (for PC, press ctrl + c or right click and select “copy”) and paste it (ctrl +v) in a word document.

Then begin deleting the items you don’t want and don’t have coupons for.  Plan to get any free items and any really cheap items that you have coupons for and can use. Also get items on the list that you need (were planning to buy anyway). By now, your list should be pretty short.

Then pull out any coupons you have that correspond with the items on the list. 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.

Make a Menu Plan

Now, make your menu plan. Look at the list on my site, the weekly flier, and your recipe book/box to plan your meals for the week. Don’t forget breakfasts, lunches, and snacks in addition to dinners! Plan your meals as closely to what is on sale 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!

For instance, if chicken and broccoli are on sale and rice is already on my deals list 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 in the word doc. I would also check to see if the ingredients are in the flier or if there are any coupons available for them by searching the coupon database.  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 then 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 need to estimate how much you will be spending on your needs.  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 grocery list. Print your list, grab your coupons, and go shopping!

Do you have a particular method you use for planning your shopping trip?


  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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.

    • @Bree, Wow, you are very detailed!! I bet it helps tremendously though!

      • @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.

  3. 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!

  4. Ruby Taylor says:

    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!

  5. 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.

  6. Thank you for sharing your tips!

  7. Great strategy – planning helps me so much to use more coupons and stay on budget!

  8. Great idea. I have to plan or I would be in serious trouble. 😉

  9. Awesome tips!

  10. Great tips!

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