Q I have read numerous articles over the years where people say they get their order for free or for a very low cost. These articles never show what was bought and the coupons used. I have always said this is smoke and mirrors, as there is no detail.

A: When you can combine great sales with coupons, it's true that you can bring your totals down significantly at the register. I'll walk you through one of my recent shopping trips, detailing the items I bought and the coupons I used:

Gallon jug of store-brand milk: $2.19. I used an ecoupon from the store's website for a free gallon of milk and paid zero.

6.4-ounce Colgate toothpaste: $1. I used a 75-cent coupon from the newspaper inserts and paid 25 cents.

Colgate Wave toothbrush: $1. I used a 75-cent coupon from the inserts and paid 25 cents.

Snapware food storage container: $2.39. I used a $2 coupon from the newspaper inserts and paid 39 cents.

20-pack of Finish dishwasher tablets: $2.69. I used a $2.15 coupon from the inserts and paid 54 cents.

Three 16-ounce boxes of Barilla pasta: $3. I used a $1-off-3 coupon from the inserts and paid $2.

Three 16-ounce cans of Old El Paso refried beans: $3. I used a 60-cents-off-3 coupon that I printed from the Internet and paid $2.40.

15.5-ounce box of Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey cereal: $1.99. I used a $1 coupon from the inserts and paid 99 cents.

16-ounce Tennessee Pride roll sausage: $2.50. I used a $1 coupon from All You (a coupon magazine) and paid $1.50.

72-ounce bottle of Purex laundry detergent: $2.99. I used a $1 coupon from the inserts and paid $1.99.

Two bottles of 59-ounce Trop50 orange juice: $5. I used a $1-off-2 coupon from the inserts and paid $4.

16-ounce box of Purina One Beyond cat food: $2.99. I used a coupon for a free box from the inserts and paid zero.

12 double roll package of Angel Soft bath tissue: $4.99. I used a 45-cent coupon from the inserts and paid $4.54.

Before coupons, my total for all of these items was $35.73. After coupons? Just $18.85! No smoke, no mirrors and certainly no magic involved.

Smart Living Tip

If you're an avid couponer, your couponing habits will more than cover the cost of a weekly newspaper subscription. With my shopping trip above, I saved $13.09 with newspaper insert coupons.

Visit www.jillcataldo.com or email jill@ctwfeatures.com.