Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Couponing - It's not just for Hoarders

A couple of friends have asked me if I would teach them to "Coupon," so here it is...

Here was my score this morning....

It's a lot of food - and it's all name brand, the fruit and veggies are organic, (yes, there are some processed convenience foods, get over yourself). There is 202.70 worth of food here, but I only paid 126.30. That's a savings of 76.40.

My mile-long receipt....

Not my best haul, but it's a good example of a typical shopping trip for me. Once, only once, did I save more than I spent... if memory serves, I spent 104 and saved 107 and on that day I did a happy dance at the checkout.

Couponing is nothing to be ashamed of. I've tried to get friends and family who are struggling financially to take up couponing and they roll their eyes at me or say, "Um, we don't use coupons." So let me get this straight, couponing is tacky, but being on food stamps and government assistance isn't... ok. And I've also had friends and family beg me to teach them to do this and then decide it's too complicated and give up without ever trying.  So here is my tutorial - don't ask me to teach you anymore, just follow these tips and tricks...

One year ago, (and this is embarassing for me to admit) we were spending no less than 150.00 a week on groceries and household items (toilet paper, diapers, etc.) and getting practically nothing. We ate our cupboards bare to the point that by our next paycheck we were eating walmart brand graham crackers all day because that's all we had. I would make a list of food we needed for the week in order of importance and I was never able to get everything on my list. We always made sure the kids had food and diapers but Matt and I survived off of very little. We never had fresh fruit or vegetables in the house because we couldn't afford them.

One day I was flipping through the channels (yes, we had cable but not food... priorities....) and I saw the show "Extreme Couponing" where I watched women walk into a grocery store with a 5 dollar bill and walk out with thousands of dollars worth of food. "" I said to Matt. And I did. I bought the sunday paper and clipped the coupons that I wanted to use, went to the store...and I still got practically nothing and I still spent 150.00. Why wasn't this working?? And then I met my dear friend Aimee, who politely shook her head at me and said, "You are doing it wrong... here let me show you." And my first shopping trip after Aimee's "How to" tutorial, I only spent 100.00 and I saved 80.00.

ANYONE can do this. It's easy. It sounds complicated but after you do it once or twice it becomes second nature and you will never shop the same way again.

Here was what my cupboard looked like one year ago:

Yeah.... nothing. I don't have a picture, but if I did it would be of an empty cupboard with cobwebs hanging from the corners. Imagine a tumble weed and a lone piece of candy corn if you want to.

And here is what my pantry looks like today:

And there is also a top shelf that you can't see with a crap load of condiments. 

I paid next to nothing for all of this. Still think couponing is tacky?

So here are my tips for getting started. 

1. Start buying the sunday paper when there are coupon inserts. You can go to to see what will be in it and if it's worth buying. If there aren't enough coupons that I want to make it worth spending 3.00 on the paper, I won't buy it. If there are a lot of coupons I think I'll use, I'll buy anywhere from 2-4 copies. (Tip: don't clip the coupons, just write the date it was in the paper on the outside corner and file it away. Most couponing websites will tell you where to find a certain coupon by telling you the date it appeared in the paper.)

2. Bookmark websites like and print coupons right from you computer. You can usually print 2 of any coupon. Also go to the website of a particular brand that you like. I like to feed Kellan that YoBaby organic yogurt so I go to and I can print coupons from their website that you won't find anywhere else. 

3. Pick your store. Where I live, Publix and Target are where I get the most for my money. My friends and family back in Michigan, I suggest Kroger. When you are at your store, keep your eyes out for "Store Coupons" (coupons that are redeemable ONLY at that store. At Kroger you have to get a Kroger card and they will send you store coupons in the mail, at Publix they set them out on display at the store) Most of these places will allow you to use 1 store coupon and 1 manufacturer coupon on the same item. For example, let's say Kraft Salad dressing is on sale for 1.99. You have a Kroger store coupon for 1.00 off any one Kraft dressing and a coupon clipped from the paper for 1.00 off any one Kraft dressing. You can use them both and get it completely free - which I HAVE done several times. Salad dressing seems to be on sale a lot. (Tip: some stores will take competitor coupons. My Publix will take Kroger coupons not just for name brand things, but for store brand as well. I get a lot of coupons from Kroger for like, 40 cents off Kroger brand frozen veggies, Publix will honor it on their Publix brand frozen veggies... and they double it so it works out to be 80 cents off...)

4. Find out if your store "doubles." What this means is that they will match your coupon up to a certain amount. For example, my Publix store will double my coupon up to 50 cents. So if Ramen noodles are 99 cents and I have a coupon for 50 cents off, my store will match it at the register and it will be free. 

5. Meal Plan. Sit down and plan what you will make for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week and ONLY buy what you need. If you just go to the store with a stack of coupons and no list you will be there forever and get a lot of crap you probably didn't need. Meal planning is essential to winning this "game." I never go without my list and I rarely buy things that are not on that list. 

6. Use a "cheat sheet" from a website. There are several websites that will do all the work for you. They scan the ads and sales, and tell you where you can find a coupon for these items and how much your final cost will be. Here are some good ones:,,, and I'm sure there are several others, you just have to hunt for them but they will make your life and your couponing endeavors infinitely easier. Facebook is a good resource - if you "like" products that you use a lot you can find exclusive coupons and samples.

So that's the best I've got for you. I hope it helps! You shouldn't be embarrassed to use coupons, the teenager at the checkout making minimum wage will not laugh at you, I promise. I rarely spend more than 100.00 a week and I get SO MUCH food. And you don't have to buy 100 bottles of ketchup and 1000 rolls of dental floss, you can be practical about it and eat well, and every so often you'll score some free stuff. So off you go! Good luck!


  1. I really need to start using coupons as well. I keep telling myself I'm going to and then never do it. We usually spend $75ish a week on food. Then of course there are the middle of the week trips and they really start to add up, it's crazy!

  2. Love it! And the humor as well =)