This is EXACTLY where I am. Skeeter and I changed over to a cash-only system for grocery shopping last month.
Anything pertaining to food or toiletries comes out of our grocery budget. That includes any eating out and food for the dogs. I spend $10-$15 a week for coupons, so I subtract that from what I take out of the bank. Oh, and I toss my change into our Disney fund every night. I do SPEND the change when I'm out though -- if I haven't dumped it yet -- so it's usually less than $1. I am all about change management.
Changing over to the cash system made it evident that I was going over budget regularly -- sometimes not by much, but regularly -- in search of that elusive deal. Not good. That has stopped due to the cash-only constraint. If the money isn't there, I can't buy it, no matter how good the deal is. I can also honestly say that I've learned to choose the deals I buy more carefully. I was moving there before, but changing the way we handled grocery money is making it a reality.
When I first began couponing, I was really overwhelmed with all of the information available. I spent hours finding deals and even more time getting the coupons together to do them. But deals will come around again! If I miss it, no big. I will get it on the next go if it's something we need.
I've changed to choosing the stuff we need that week (bread, milk, produce ...), then finding the deals on items that we already use, then finding deep, deep deals for things to stockpile or donate. I have certain sites that I check, and that's about it for the searching. I use the time that we are waiting for Spyder at fencing class to sort coupons so that I have to spend less time doing it at home.
The deal sites that I use have become more of a launching point than anything, looking for what others already know is available. Some of the best I have found simply by looking at the clearance sections to see what is there.
Last week, I lucked upon half gallons of organic milk discounted to $.99. I bought two of them, but I should have bought at least three. I should have known that we would use them before the expiration date. (We did. They all had a July 31 date. I had to go back and buy more milk -- full price -- on July 30. My urchins love milk.)
Kroger has a fantastic clearance area. Absolutely fantastic. I never know what I am going to find there. A few weeks ago I bought dental floss for $.19 a package after coupons. I found Pull-Ups for a friend for $2 a package.
Target also has fantastic clearance sales. I've been shopping those for years; I'm just using coupons to make them better now!
So it has only taken me a year (!!), but I think I finally have a handle on how it works best for us. Changing over to the cash system was just another piece in the puzzle.