The Ultimate Guide To Stacking Coupons And Deals On Groceries

The ultimate guide to stacking coupons and deals on groceriesI’ve been couponing for years now, and have heard many like-minded people state that this cannot be done in Canada effectively.

In the United States, it seems like a fairly easy thing to accomplish. We’ve all seen the shows: lucky shoppers who manage to bring their checkout totals down so low that they are being paid to wheel all those goodies out the door! Those examples are more of a half truth. Only the best shopping trips are highlighted on the show, and in the States there are much fewer restrictions on the use of coupons.

Here in Canada, as usual, we are over regulated in terms and conditions and couponing is no exception. The only store I am aware of that allows customers to more than one paper coupon on a single item is London Drugs, which I explain fully in a section below. But don’t lose hope, there is a way for us crafty Canadians to come out on top!

What Type Of Offers Can Be Stacked

Depending on the wording on coupons and deals, these are the types of things that can be stacked together on the purchase of a single item to get it for the lowest possible price.

  1. Sales - the Flipp app is a good way to find the lowest weekly sale price on a specific product in your area.
  2. Price matching - so you don’t have to run around between grocery stores, you can price match at one store and still get the best sale price.
  3. Manufacturer’s coupons - this is a paper or printable coupon that gives you a fixed amount off the purchase price. Most stores will only allow you to use one manufacturer’s coupon per item.
  4. Store coupons - some stores put out flyers with coupons in them, or will email you personal coupons when you submit your email address. Superstore is also well known for their large coupon boards just inside the main entrance where you can find an ever-changing array of store and manufacturer coupons.
  5. Redemption apps - the five cash back grocery apps available to Canadians can give you additional cash back on your purchase when you submit a photo of your receipt using your smartphone. If multiple apps feature the same product, then this cash back can often be stacked further.
  6. Regular rewards - if you shop at a store that offers regular rewards on your purchases, then this is like receiving a small discount on your purchase.
  7. Bonus event rewards - stores like Shoppers Drug Mart have 20x points days where you earn a boatload more points by shopping on certain days. This can represent a huge additional opportunity for savings.
  8. Bonus product rewards - bonus points will often be attached to a specific product and that can usually be stacked with both regular rewards and bonus event rewards bringing your rewards savings up even further.
  9. Mail in rebates - MIRs are becoming increasingly rare, but you still find the odd one. I know Tostitos runs one annually around Super Bowl time that either gives you a gift card or high value coupons for future savings on their products.
  10. Credit card rewards - every purchase you make should be done with a top tier rewards credit card that you pay off every month. Paying with debit or cash is like throwing money out the window, unless using credit forces you to overspend or live above your means, then not using one is a wise choice.

Getting Ready To Stack

Effective stacking requires thinking outside the box. Retailers and manufacturers are not fully aware of all the coupons, rewards, discounts, price matching opportunities, bonuses, etcetera that are out there for one product at any given time. Marketing departments quite honestly simply aren’t that coordinated!

That’s where you can swoop in and grab those extraordinarily large savings for yourself!!

To be ready and able to do this, you need to know three things:

  1. All the types of offers that can be stacked - already listed above.
  2. Which rewards programs, apps, sites, and coupon sources to join or use.
  3. The specific offers that are available to you in a given week.

Here are some more details on parts 2 and 3:

Programs And Apps I Use Personally

Both I and my spouse have Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus cards. We also have memberships to the five main cash back redemption apps through my iPhone. I’m an Air Miles cardholder as well. Finally, I have the Changio app on my phone, but it isn’t that great so it rarely gets utilized. I also have a very well stocked accordion binder with thousands of coupons.

Being Tuned-In To Sales

The start of any good stacking opportunity is a good sale on a product you need. Using the Flipp app to browse grocery fliers and search for individual products that might be on sale is a great place to start. It also allows you to create easy shopping lists by circling items in virtual flyers as you browse.

You can also use the old school method of regular flyers and a notepad to make a list but I think you’ll find Flipp is a big time saver! However, if you have a rather large coupon collection and multiple stacking opportunities, it is still be handy to keep a detailed list of sale and offers matchups for in store reference.

Learn more: When Popular Items Go On Sale

Preventing The Run-Around

Once you’ve found all the best sales, chances are they are going to be scattered all over the place at different supermarkets. However, if you do all your shopping at one store that price matches like Walmart or Real Canadian Superstore, then you can start with the best base price on all your products without wasting the time and gas to hop from store to store.

Learn more: Everything You Need To Know About Price Matching

Finding Coupons Offline

Finding paper coupons offline is a bit of an art that takes practice. You always need to keep your eyes open and set aside some time every week to collect the ones you know you will use (don’t waste time on the others) and put them into your coupon collection.

Here are some places you can look:

  • Newspaper and flyer inserts (SmartSource, RedPlum, Brandsaver, etc).
  • Newspaper pages themselves (don’t forget the free ones).
  • Inside store flyers for occasional store coupons.
  • Inside or on boxes of products you purchase.
  • Inside magazines you subscribe to or even free ones.
  • Coupon boards at the front of the grocery store itself.
  • Trade coupons with your friends and family who coupon.
  • Join coupon trains for easy coupon trading.
  • Get multiple copies from friends and family that don’t coupon.
  • Check unwanted flyer stacks in apartment buildings for extras.

Getting Coupons Online

The internet is an ever growing source of coupons that can be found in various formats including electronic and printable coupons. The number of places you can find them is also growing rapidly. Here are some sources to consider:

  • Coupon websites like SmartSource, RedPlum, webSaver, and BrandSaver.
  • Hidden coupon portals for the above websites
  • Manufacturer websites or Facebook fan pages.
  • Store websites, apps, and email lists.
  • Request them directly by emailing your favourite manufacturers.
  • Trade with others using coupon trading forums or Facebook groups.

Learn more: How To Find Coupons Online

Cash Back Apps To Download

There are 5 main cash back apps available to Canadians and they are as follows:

  • Checkout 51
  • Snap by Groupon
  • Zweet
  • CartSmart
  • Cashback

Learn more: The Top 5 Cash Back Couponing Apps

Rewards Programs For Groceries

Canadians love their rewards programs, but knowing and joining the ones you need specifically for stacking with grocery coupons is what you really need. Here are the most popular programs for doing just that:

  • PC Plus for the Loblaws group of stores (click the link to see all 14 of them).
  • Air Miles for Safeway, Metro, Sobeys, Co-op, Foodland, Foodland, Lawtons, Pharmasave, and more.
  • More Rewards for Save On Foods, Overwaitea Foods, Cooper’s Foods, PriceSmart foods, and Urban Fare.
  • Shoppers Optimum for Shoppers Drug Mart (they carry a lot of food items).
  • Thank You Rewards for Longos, Grocery Gateway, and The Market.

Learn More: Rewards Programs Explained

Being Aware Of Reward Bonuses

Being tuned into rewards bonuses that are happening at your favourite stores can alert you of a good time to look for stacking opportunities. There are a lot of ways to keep your finger on the pulse of rewards, so you have to choose what works best for you:

  • Store flyers usually list big bonus events on the front page.
  • Join the rewards program email list. They will always alert you about bonus events along with product bonuses you might be interested in.
  • Get the app for the rewards program or store if they have it. You can check it weekly and some come with notifications built in to remind you when new offers are available.
  • Simply check the rewards website on a regular basis if you don’t like annoying notifications.

Putting Together Great Stacking Opportunities

I created my own system for stacking offers together that I call “my virtual coupon binder”. Basically, it is just a folder on my laptop that is an inventory of every coupon, deal, or offer that I have or am aware of. When I need to create a stack, I simply type some keywords into the search bar and I instantly have all the applicable offers listed that can stack together on one product. With the prevalence of personalized offers these days like those that come from PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum, cataloguing the offers yourself is really the only way you can effectively stack all your available offers together.

I always keep my coupon folder updated weekly with the latest paper coupons and online offers that I receive. I also make sure to delete any expired coupons or offers, before I make up my shopping list. See how to create your own coupon folder on your computer with the helpful information in the article linked below. Being able to find all these personalized stacking opportunities ensures that I am able to get free products almost every week.

Learn more: My System For Stacking Grocery Deals & Coupons

Let Others Do Some Of The Work For You

Several Canadian couponing and deal blogs post weekly coupon matchups that combine good sales with coupons they are aware of. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to searching for deals yourself, this can be a godsend and a great starting point for your own personal stack.

However, no one can possibly be aware of ALL of the coupons in existence, so your collection may be completely different than what they know about. Also, rewards programs like Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus are moving towards personalized coupons and offers that are definitely not available to everyone. That’s where taking the time to compile things yourself really outshines this approach and allows you to save much more than you otherwise would.

Truthfully, I do put a fair bit of time into my couponing regime because I enjoy doing it and the amount of time I invest doesn’t feel like a waste to me. I also don’t mind the organization required to keep everything updated, or flyer searching using my coupon database on my laptop. However, using your own coupon database is definitely geared towards the more extreme couponers.

Here are some coupon matchups to help you along:

There are also several coupon databases that combine coupons from multiple sources. Just be aware that these databases don’t contain anywhere near all of the coupons available, especially the offline paper variety. They are also sometimes out of date and may be biased towards listing coupons they are paid to list. However, databases like these can still help immensely to quickly find most available coupons along with providing the ability to filter by categories like “baby” or search for a specific product or keyword.

London Drugs Coupon Policy

London Drugs is one of the only stores in Canada that will allow stacking of multiple manufacturer coupons on the same item, which can increase your savings substantially. I contacted them by email to clarify exactly how their policy works:

If a coupon states it cannot be used or combined with any other coupon or offer, then that coupon cannot be used with other coupons (applies to all coupons in-store, manufacturer, e-mail, etc). If the coupon states in the text, only one coupon per purchase, this means only one of this exact type of coupons can be used. You can redeem multiple coupons on the same item if each coupon is different.

They also price match, and will allow you to price match an item and use a coupon on it as well. They will not pay overage, if the total of your coupons are more than the cost of the item. You cannot use a BOGO coupon and any other coupon together on either the item being purchased or the free item. They also will revoke your personal coupon stacking privilege if they suspect that you are buying large amounts for resale. They accept both manufacturer and internet printed coupons, provided they contain a Canadian address in the fine print for redemption by the retailer.

Tips For More Effective Stacking

  • Combing a sale price, a paper or printable coupon, and redemption app cash back is the easiest stacking combo to achieve on a single product where all the terms and conditions will easily align.
  • Shop early if you want the best cash back redemption app offers because they often have limits and sell out quickly.
  • Understanding basic coupon terminology can go a long way when trying to decipher the terms or if you are reading forums or articles online.
  • Keep a detailed list of rewards program offers with you before you create your shopping list so you know when you can earn points on your stack as well.
  • If more than one redemption app has an offer for the same product, you can usually get away with claiming the offer in all the apps even if it seems like it might be against the terms and conditions. Don’t be surprised if you get rejected though.
  • Remember to combine rewards from your credit card with regular store rewards, bonus events, product bonuses, and personalized rewards offers. Sometimes they won’t all stack together, but most of the time they will.
  • Choose to shop at a store that will price match and offer good rewards bonuses like some PC Plus affiliated stores.
  • Be aware of customer limits and restrictions. There’s no harm in trying to do an amazing stack, but keep your composure if it doesn’t work out. Chances are you still probably got a great deal and may have been pushing the limits anyway.

A Successful Stacking Example

As a general rule, I try to stack personal Shoppers Optimum spending offers like “spend $100, get 18,500 points” with one of their flyer advertised points bonus or multiplier shopping days, like a 20x the points day.

One time, I was able to walk out of Shoppers Drug Mart with 38,000 points having only spent $100. In addition, I stacked and couponed other offers wherever I could in the transaction to get many more products than I otherwise would have for my $100. Being in the store working out that deal took some steady nerves, I can assure you, but I went in prepared and came out way ahead!

During that trip, I bought many essentials for my household like milk and other food so it wasn’t frivolous spending either. In the end, I used $28.00 worth of coupons, and redeemed $22.00 worth of offers through Snap and Checkout 51. Also, 38,000 is worth about $80.00 in free goods during a bonus redemption day at Shoppers Drug Mart. All told, that means I spent $78.00 out of pocket for $208.00 worth of goods and that doesn’t even count the savings I got from buying things on sale. That’s a discount of 62.5%. Pretty crafty huh?

Learn more: How To Maximize Shoppers Optimum Points

Is It Worth Your Time?

You may hear comments from friends like “I would coupon, but you can’t get good deals here in Canada” or “my time is too valuable to bother”. Now, you can politely correct them and show them the kind of results they can achieve if they follow the steps in this article. There are many ways to stack, and shop effectively. It is not a zero effort task, but the payback in savings for the amount of time spent is more than I have ever been paid for an hourly 9-5 job.

So, are couponing and deal stacking worth your time? Ultimately, with savings like this, I think the answer for many people is a definite yes.

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