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Michele Easter, a Farmington homemaker, took the Deseret News grocery shopping to make a point: you can save a fortune by using coupons.

With a reporter and photographer in tow, Easter strolled the aisles of a Dan's Food store recently, first scanning the shelves then scanning her coupons to find the best buys.She filled two shopping carts with $316 worth of groceries, including produce and meat. But with her fistful of coupons - all of them doubled by Dan's Food - she paid only $50.03 for her goods. Coupons saved Easter $266 on two weeks' worth of groceries.

She uses Shea's Aisle View to organize her coupons. Shea's coupon organizer is offered at the Deseret News Home and Summer Living Show to those who buy an eight-week subscription to the Deseret News or extend their current subscription by eight weeks for $16.48. The show runs at the Salt Palace May 4 through May 7.

Easter has literally made a career out of clipping coupons. Every month she publishes a newsletter about coupons called "Refunding Makes Cents." The 60-page publication has a nationwide readership. The section on swapping coupons includes ads from every state in the nation.

Her April newsletter contained the photograph of a family of five who had just taken a five-day vacation to Bermuda with money the wife saved from all of her refund checks.

To use Shea's coupon organizer, you need to map out the organization of your favorite grocery stores on the coupon dividers, listing the major items on each aisle. However, Dan's Food has already printed maps of its aisles to fit Shea's organizer, Easter said. Simply ask for the free aisle maps at the customer courtesy counter.


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Michele Easter, a coupon aficionado, offers the following suggestions for those who want to maximize their coupons:

-Take advantage of stores that offer double coupons. They literally double your savings.

-Subscribe to a newspaper. "I get 90 percent of my coupons from the newspaper," she said.

-When using a discount coupon, buy the smaller size of a product, not the larger size. Too often people think they are getting a better deal by using a $1 coupon on the larger size of a product, Easter said. But if you do a little math, you will find you are paying less per ounce by using the coupon on the smallest size of the product.

The exception to that rule is a coupon for a free item.

-Be willing to use different brands.

-Send in those box tops and net weight statements. "When you send away box tops, you get the very best kind of coupons: free item coupons," she said.

-When using those free item coupons, go for the biggest, most expensive item you can find.

-Perk up your mail by sending in those proof of purchase seals. "We mail away our proof of purchases and just about every day we get checks in the mail. They aren't big checks, but they come every day." Easter held up a fistful of checks ranging from $1 to $3 she had received in the mail that day.

-Watch for coupons on new products. Those coupons offer some of the best deals, Easter said.

-Don't assume you can't buy produce or meat with coupons. She had a Keebler cracker coupon for $1 off any produce. She doubled the coupon to get $2 off a case of strawberries, buying the strawberries for $1.75 instead of $3.75. She got two heads of lettuce free with a General Mills coupon and six pounds of bananas free with yet another coupon.

Easter also received substantial discounts on three kinds of meat, several dairy products and half a dozen loaves of bread with coupons.

-Plan to spend an hour a week on your coupons. It takes that much time to make a reasonable savings, Easter said.

-Look for savings everywhere. Post is currently offering a certificate for $10 off AT&T long distance phone calls if you send in UPS codes from 20 boxes of cereal. (The UPS code is the small series of lines on each item that check-out clerks pass over a scanner to get the price.)

In the last several months, Easter has sent in 250 UPS codes and received 25 coupons, knocking $250 off her family's long-distance phone bill.