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Coupon Queen: Readers share their tips for shopping and saving

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Coupon Queen: Readers share their tips for shopping and saving
Fargo ND 101 5th Street North 58102

My readers have been busy sending in their favorite tips for shopping, couponing, saving money and more. Here’s a roundup of some of the best emails I’ve received lately.

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Dear Jill: This tip is so easy but I’m afraid many people don’t take advantage of it. If you carry a coupon wallet or binder, put a return address label inside the cover with your name and address on it. If you lose your coupons (and face it, a lot of us carry many coupons around) you have no way to get those coupons back to you without some info on it. You wouldn’t take a suitcase on a trip without a luggage tag, right? Couponers are generally pretty good people, and I sure would mail someone’s wallet back if I found it left in a cart. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention.

– Aimee J.

Dear Jill: I have seen you mention after-holiday clearances before, but here is what I do to get ready for them. I have noticed that there are “holiday” varieties of everything from cookie dough to candles to napkins. Right around the time a holiday is drawing near, I will clip all my coupons for those items and carry them with me in my coupon wallet. Then, when I spot a clearance on something marked down after a holiday, the coupons are with me and ready to use.

– Pam K.

Dear Jill: I read one of your columns on reusable shopping bags and wanted to share this tip. A lot of people like these fabric bags because they are strong and friendlier to the environment. But it’s really important to wash them regularly. A lot of the bags can’t go in the dryer if they are not made of synthetics – otherwise the plastic fibers will fall apart. But you can machine wash them and line dry them easily. I like to wash mine once a month and hang them on a clothesline outside so the sunshine can refresh them, too.

– Pattie R.

A: This is an excellent tip! I agree that the importance of washing reusable shopping bags doesn’t seem to be stressed enough. A University of Arizona study noted that 97 percent of people surveyed do not wash reusable shopping bags. The same study noted that harmful bacteria, including E. coli, were found on more than half the bags tested. If you store your bag in a vehicle’s trunk, as many of us do, the higher heat in this environment also helps bacteria bloom and grow.

To be safe, I also ask for my meat products to be bagged in plastic before being placed in my reusable shopping bags – it’s an extra step that can help prevent bag contamination. Another issue is that many people, myself included, like to use these sturdy bags for carrying items other than groceries. Back in 2012, a girls’ soccer team in Oregon fell ill with the norovirus, which was later traced to a contaminated reusable shopping bag. The team used the bag to carry prepackaged snacks, which several of the girls directly touched, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

Smart living tip

Over the past month, I’ve had quite a few readers asking what the best way is to obtain legitimate, free product coupons. I obtain free product by following my brands on social media. Brands sometimes hold “flash giveaways” for free coupons to the first 5,000 people to respond to an offer. I’ve also taken part in many “Twitter parties,” where a brand will engage consumers for a chat about its products, then reward party participants with free coupons.

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