The Learning Channel’s most recent show, “Extreme Couponing,” is beaming a bright spotlight on a coupon trend that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Once the province of Depression Era mothers, the recession has made the game of couponing more popular and mainstream.

Some extreme couponers save over $20,000 a year through their efforts, while other happily use coupons to shave $5 to $10 off their weekly grocery bill.

With the start of TLC’s latest “Extreme Couponing” season, it’s a good time to review some basic tricks that these coupon pros use plus look at ways to make your coupon clipping a little more eco-friendly. Read on for seven ways you can save like an extreme couponer while still being green.

1. Start Small

Don’t try to go extreme all at once. Take it step by step, rather than show up at a checkout with 50 coupons and little idea what you’re doing. Don’t clip or print every coupon you see-it’s a waste. Just pick a few that will apply to your shopping list.

2. Never Pay For Coupons

There are some things in this life you just shouldn’t pay for, and a coupon is one of them. Paying someone to clip or organize your coupons defeats the purpose of living frugally. Instead, surf Sunday newspaper ad supplements for coupon savings; ask your neighbors for their unwanted papers; or dive inside a recycled dumpster or two. Also, free online coupon sites like CouponSherpa.com give consumers access to a multitude of coupon codes and printable coupons for thousands of merchants.

3. Get Organized

A little organization can go a long way. Always create a shopping list and have your coupons and shopping strategy organized before you even enter the store. Use an expandable coupon binder to sort coupon inserts by date, categories and expiration dates. Transfer to a small couponizer only those you’ll need for a specific shopping trip. Better yet, use a mobile phone app to avoid wasting paper. Cellfire is a great one for grocery coupons.

4. Location, Location, Location

Where you shop is a key factor in making the best use of your time and coupons. Only shop at locations that allow coupon stacking and combining coupons with in-store offers. Don’t be afraid to call and ask about policies before you show up. You don’t want to wind up embarrassed at the checkout line with a handful of useless coupons that will just be dumped in the trash. Plan certain shopping trips based on your daily commutes to reduce gas and energy consumption. Otherwise, you could end up driving all around town to take advantage of the deals.

5. Shop Online

Countless studies show that consumers who shop online consumer 35% less energy. Not only is that great for the environment, but also great for your monthly gas expenditures. Most local grocery stores offer online shops where you can buy groceries with just the click of your mouse. The sites offer the same in-store deals and sometimes even exclusive Web offers. Check out Amazon.com and big box chains like Walmart or Target for other online deals and don’t forget to enter a virtual coupon or promo code at check out for additional savings.

6. Loyalty Rewards

Always take advantage of club membership rewards. These programs are usually free and have many savings perks, like rewards points, cash back programs, and double points for every certain amount you spend. You can find store coupons on many supermarket websites. The stores even allow you to upload coupons directly to your loyalty reward card so you can save paper since there’s no need to print the coupons. The coupon discounts will be automatically deducted from your grocery bill at check out by scanning your card.

7. Be Green, Not Greedy

This is often where extreme couponers cross over into the world of hoarding. Only shop for items you actually need, products you can stock up on that aren’t perishable, and those you can donate. Remember, a bargain is only a bargain if you can actually use the purchase. If your pantry has expanded into your living room and the kids are sleeping on rolls of toilet paper, you’ve probably reached hoarder status.

About the Author

Consumer savings expert, Andrea Woroch, has appeared on ABC News NOW, NBC’s Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC and has been quoted by SmartMoney, Kiplinger Personal Finance and many more.