There is a new TV show on TLC called “Extreme Couponing.”  The people featured in this show have taken coupon clipping to the extreme. They spend several hours a week collecting coupons and preparing for a shopping trip in order to maximize the amount of money they can save at the grocery store.

I’m all for stretching your food dollar, but I have mixed feelings about spending so much time collecting coupons. I agree that it makes sense to look at the food ads each week, and to only collect coupons for items that you typically buy. Purchasing an item simply because you have a coupon for it doesn’t save you any money if you are buying something you don’t want or need. I also think the advice to look online for coupons and to write to companies to request coupons for items you like is a great idea – and one that I never would have thought of myself. But how many of us have six to eight hours a week to dedicate to coupon clipping?

Queercents reader have offered their own mixed reviews of coupon clipping in the past. One of the tips that readers have shared resonates with me: generic store brands are often cheaper than the name brands, even with a coupon. The ultimate key to maximizing your grocery savings and sticking to a food budget is being aware of food prices so that you can know when you’re getting the best deal. I used to keep notes in a little binder that I kept in my coupon organizer (see – I’m not TOTALLY averse to clipping coupons) where I could write down the prices of items that I frequently purchased. I would note which store I was shopping at so that I could compare prices while I shopped. I don’t need that little notebook anymore, because the numbers are pretty cemented into my brain at this point. But if you’re just getting into setting healthy food budget habits, this is a trick that might work for you.

What has your experience with coupon clipping been like? Are you into extreme couponing, like the ladies featured in this video clip? Or do you take a more moderated approach? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for streching your food dollar.