First, as others have mentioned it's important to remember that the show is called EXTREME couponing for a reason. It's EXTREME. Even for the people on the show. Most of them don't have trips like that every time they go to the store. For the purposes of the show, they were asked to put together the biggest trip they could and get it for the lowest amount they could. On average, most couponers save about 50%, as an average over the course of the year. This means some trips are only a 20% savings, some are an 80% savings, etc.
Ok, having gotten that disclaimer out of the way:
1. None of the stores near me double $1 coupons. Do these people have great stores with awesome deals I do not have? None of my stores double $1 coupons either. Actually, I think that's more rare now, though there are still stores that double up to $1. The stores around me double up to $0.50. And, they only double 2 of the exact same coupon. The way around this is to do more than one transaction. If I have 4 coupons for $0.50, I will do 2 seperate transactions, using 2 coupons for each transaction, that way all 4 of them are doubled.
2. Most coupons are for $1 off 2-3 name brand items. Am I missing something? This is NOT a deal. I could buy the store brand for less. What you are missing is the sales. It's when you combine the coupon with the sale that the deals start rolling in. For example, at my favorite store here, Barilla pasta averages $1.60 a box, store brand $1.10. So, if I have a $1 off 2 for Barilla, that's barely going to bring it down to the store brand price, why bother cutting the Barilla coupon at all. BUT, Barialla is on sale this week with the store's 10 for $10, get the 11th free. This means that the price of the Barilla is now effectively $0.91 each box. And, if I buy two boxes and use that $1 off 2, (assuming I have counted all my 10 for $10 get the 11th free items correctly) I am basically paying $0.41 a box. Now that's a good deal, and I will never get generic that low. Another example: There's a coupon floating around now for $1 off 3 Birdseye Steamfresh. These normally run $1.50 each, generic usually runs $1.25 each. So, taking just $0.33 off that $1.50, that only makes it $1.18, basically the same as the generic. But when you use that coupon when the Steamfresh goes on sale for $1 each, now you are paying $0.88 each, which is now cheaper than the $1.25 for the generic. And then, there are store coupons a lot of places that you can stack with your manufacturer coupon. To use that Barilla example, my same store that has it on sale with that 10 for $10 get the 11th free, also has a store coupon that you can print off their website for $1 off 4. So, if I have 2 of those $1 off 2 and 1 of the $1 off 4, I buy 4 boxes as part of this sale, and now I have effectively paid $0.16 each box. Now THAT's a stock up price. That's when you gather as many of those $1 off 2 coupons as you can.
3. Where do they get so many coupons? Are they buying 100s of news papers every week? Are they printing out coupons? A little bit of everything. Some weeks I buy 4 or 5 papers, some weeks just 1 or 2. Depends on the coupons in them. You can also get plenty of coupons online. printablecouponsanddeeals.com has a database of IPs (internet printables.) The main newspaper inserts are RedPlum and Smart Source, and you can also print from their websites as well. Also, you can find coupons on ebay-selling of coupons is illegal so what you are "actually" paying for when you get them there is the "time and effort to gather, organize and cut" those coupons. But it's a cheap way to get a lot of the ones you are specifically looking for, especially if you don't need most of what else is in the actual insert. Also, digging through recycle bins (I have done, but not to the extream they are talking about, I just sift though whatever I can reach at the top layer,) asking friends and family, taking the inserts from the papers that Starbucks and other coffee shops leave out for people who are actually reading the paper, (ask and most coffee shops don't care at all) and trading with other couponers. And, even if you do buy papers, check with your dollar tree or other dollar stores, many will sell your Sunday paper, for just $1 instead of it's regular price (which for me is $1.75.)
4. If they are printing off coupons, can you copy a printed coupon? Copying is fraudulent, but as another poster mentioned, if you hit the back button, you can usually print twice. And if you have more than one computer, you can usually do the same at each computer. If you have friends and family printing too, you can end up with a lot of the same printable.
5. What system are they using to keep track of all those coupons? I have a binder, like other posters have mentioned and like at least one of the people on the show had, though I don't think they showed it. I have baseball card holders to hold the coupons, and I have it sorted into catagories that match up with my favorite store's aisles.
Ok, so, I have to address the "copuons are just for processed crap" issue. That's simply not true. What is true is that it is a lot easier to get processed crap with coupons. Yes, you will find more coupons for hot dogs than you will for fresh berries. But, if you are interested in fresh berries, here's a link for one of those
http://printablecouponsanddeals.com/2010/11/50-off-any-package-of-driscolls.html You just click the "Get Coupon" link there and you will have to sign up to get their emails (and most likely, they will periodically email you more coupons.) Lots of couponers create a special coupon email, so their regular inbox doesn't fill up. And in case you think you can't get coupons for your organic stuff, here you can find plenty of organic deals, coupons and match ups. There was also a coupon in this past Sunday's inserts for Cuties manderine oranges. Aunt Millies breads, no HFCS, often has coupons out. Sometimes with a good sale, those coupons make it cheaper to buy the bread than to make it myself even. There are coupons for cheese, butter, yogurt, milk, eggs, and no, they aren't just for the Kraft sliced "processed cheese food" or Yoplait HFCS fill yogurt cups either. And that doesn't even touch the non food items-razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo etc etc.
There are lots of coupon blogs and sites that you can use to do coupon match ups, so you aren't spending hours pouring over your binder/coupon box/file and sale papers. Many even have little tools that you can mark particular deals and it will put together a shopping list for you, so all you do is pull up the deals on line, click the ones you like, print, gather your coupons and go. Money Saving Mom was mentioned, I LOVE that one. She has what basically amounts to a database of links to coupon matchups for just about every store out there, including Aldi, Whole Foods, and hard to find local stores. She's also got a video series tutorial on how to do it. She also regularly posts "Natural and Organic Coupons and Deals" on the blog as well.
Some other things to remember: Not all "extreme couponing" uses coupons. Sometimes just the straight store sale is a top notch deal, like when turkey goes on sale in Novemeber.
Storage, as you have seen on the show is important. Storing 500 rolls of toilet paper in your shower is beyond dumb, IMO, but a small stockpile of say 3 momths of tp should easily fit in most folks under the sink cabinets and/or the floor of even a small linen closet. If you don't have a freezer, look into getting one, like on CL or FC. I got one free that way, so that when those November turkey sales happened, I was able to get 6 turkeys. They sit in my freezer, I take one out every other month and we either roast or smoke it. Then, I have enough leftovers to have turkey like once a week (freeze those cooked leftovers, in one meal size portions, so that they last) until the next time I pull out a turkey.
Sale cycles vary, depending on the item. It doesn't make any sense to stockpile more than you will need to make it to the next sale cycle. On the show there was one point where the lady pointed to boxes of Finish dishwasher tabs asking if the 40 they had was enough. Now, each of those boxes holds 20 tabs, each tab representing 1 dishwasher load. She had 7 kids, so I am guessing they are averaging about 3 loads of dishes a day. That means 40 boxes is nearly a year's worth of dishwasher detergent. You don't need that many, they are going to go on sale again, for a great stock up price (free!) in way less time than that. For us, we only average 1 load a day, there's no reason for me to have more than 9 boxes, or 6 months worth, because they will go on sale again in about 6 months.