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Couponing's Best-Kept Secrets:

I'm sure you know by now that I love getting groceries for free with coupons whenever possible. But we can't get everything for free all of the time. Here's a fun way to maximize coupon savings and get items very inexpensively, even when they're not completely free.

Super-Couponing Secret: Buy 'Small'

and Save the Biggest for 'Free'

Manufacturers will often issue coupons for an item that's free "when you purchase any of these 3 brands." The coupon often shows various other brands or products sold by the same manufacturer. I recently had a coupon offering a free package of hot dogs if the shopper purchased three other items from the same manufacturer.

During the sale at my store, the hot dogs were on sale for $3.99. If the total cost of the three additional items is less than the sale price of the hot dogs, I'll get the hot dogs cheaper than I could have purchased them otherwise - plus, I'll have three additional items to take home as part of the deal, too.

When I spot coupons like these, I will look closely at the additional brands featured. I do not necessarily think about whether I want or need these items. Instead, I calculate what would be the least expensive thing to buy to make the larger item cost as little as possible.

The additional products with the hot dog deal included coffee, crackers, condiments, gelatin desserts and powdered drink mixes.

Of those items, the gelatin desserts and powdered drink mixes seemed like the best candidates. They're both usually pretty inexpensive, and buying three of either will qualify me for my free $3.99 package of hot dogs. After checking the prices on both, I saw that the gelatin was on sale for 33 cents a box. I could pay 99 cents for three boxes and get a free package of hot dogs, too! Not bad at all.

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