If you do any kind of shopping you know there are a million places to choose from and every store is different. They run different sales (sometimes different weekly cycles too), they have different coupon policies, different reward/member cards, and overall different prices.
Right now, I mainly shop at Walgreens, Target, Giant Eagle and occasionally Walmart. I used to do all my shopping at Walmart for food and Target for diapers and what not (I really didn't care for the Walmart brand). I'm most comfortable with these two stores because I have shopped there for so long. I can probably tell you the price of most of the things we use coming from these two stores. That's because even when they aren't running sales, their prices are pretty cheap.
I started shopping at Walgreens and Giant Eagle slowly. I didn't know much about either store so I had to do my research and start small. Now I'm pretty familiar with their policies and how they run their sales and rewards.
Now...here's a good way to figure out where you want to shop. I normally "shop" more than once a week and all my stores are close to one another so managing four main stores isn't hard for me, but I do think that if you're just starting out, pick two stores that you're pretty comfortable with as it is and read up on them. Most stores have websites where you can view their coupon policies and their rewards programs. I don't recommend choosing Walmart. Walmart keeps their original prices low because they don't have a rewards program, their coupon policy kind of stinks and they really don't have great sales. I still shop their for my food because I don't do as much couponing for food as I do for other things and their prices are normally lower than most places. And I hate to do my grocery shopping at four different stores.
Ok so we've covered step one: Pick two stores that you're pretty comfortable with and research them. I also recommend browsing through the store and taking note of the original prices of some things you buy/use regularly (this way you know if a "sale" is actually a good deal). Also, many blogs that you read will refer to Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid as the drug store game. I do recommend researching one of them. I've found that Walgreens is a little bit easier to understand than CVS and Rite Aid (they give register rewards and you don't need a membership card). But work with what is closest and easier for you.
Step two: If they have a rewards program, read how it works and sign up! (Giant Eagle gives fuel perks and we use it like crazy, plus you don't get the sale price without a GE card.)
Step three: Find where you can acquire their ads. Most stores put out a weekly ad, either in the Sunday paper or you can view it online. Become familiar with the ads and which days they run their sales (Some run Monday-Sunday where others might run Thursday-Wednesday). Also, take note to whether or not the store doubles coupons on certain days.
You can actually take these steps with multiple stores even if you don't frequent them. This way you can at least keep your options open if you start to notice that one store gives better deals and rewards than another.
Coming Tomorrow-Where Can I Find Coupons?