Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Confessions of a Reluctant Couponer...

Happy New Year!

I could talk about resolutions and fresh starts but I haven't resolved to do anything except finish unpacking from our holiday travels and take down my Christmas tree before February.

So I'm going to be a bit random with this post. {And I apologize in advance for the longish nature of it.}

I used to hate coupons. I thought coupon people were cuckoo...but now I'm one of them. This is my story.

In August Lily invited me to go to a women's conference in Charlotte. Lysa Terkeurst was the speaker and at the last minute I decided to go. {The conference was amazing. I still have all my notes tucked away in my purse.}

Jen, from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, taught one of the break-out sessions. I don't remember the title but it was about trimming the grocery budget. As much as I didn't want to go {even though I LOVE Jen}, I knew I should.

I didn't want to go because 1} I shopped at Aldi and Wal-Mart and a crazy dented-can salvage store and felt I was already pretty frugal about grocery shopping. 2} Coupons seemed like a hassle and I've seen some of those coupon moms on T.V. and I wondered if they ever slept or had a real life. Some of them were, um, a little weird. 3} It was just one more reminder of one more thing I could do to be a better manager of my home. One more thing in a long line of other things to feel guilty about not doing.

But I went to the workshop anyway. And much to my surprise, I didn't feel guilty. I felt inspired! I went home, told my husband I was ready to try couponing and started in earnest the next week.

Now it's January and I have a solid 5 months of grocery savings under my belt. I have saved an obscene amount of money, my pantry is full all the time, and I always have stuff to give away to someone who needs it more than I do.

I am not a grocery guru. This is not a niche blog about frugal living or home management. I'm just an everyday mom who's learned a lot and decided it's not as laborious as I thought. Here's a quick run-down of what I do. {And then I'll link you to the experts.}

Caveat: I don't share any of this to boast or preach or feel good about myself. If you feel guilty already, stop reading. Jesus loves you whether you use coupons or not. I share my story simply because it has been a tremendous blessing to my family and it came at just the right time for us.

1} I shop for what's on sale, particularly buy-one-get-one free sales {BOGO.}

2} I use coupons on top of that, preferably one coupon for each item I purchase.

Example: Publix had cereal BOGO which made each box $2, a great deal. I had $1 off coupons for each box I bought, which brought it down to $1 a box, an even better deal. Hard to believe but my price-point for brand name cereal is now $1 or less a box.

3} I broadened my horizons. The store where I always shop now is the store where I never used to shop. Why? Because it was too expensive {or so I thought.} Often the pricier stores are the ones with the most generous coupon policies and the best sales. My store doubles coupons up to 50 cents every day and lets you stack a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon for the same item. I don't usually hop from store to store. I shop Publix {and often CVS} weekly and only occasionally grab a deal somewhere else.

4} I took baby steps. Start with just shopping the BOGO items and not even using coupons. My neighbor started doing this and couldn't believe what she saved without even breaking out her scissors.

5} I let go of perfection. I tend to be all or nothing which often prevents me from even trying something new to begin with. I said I'd show myself some grace with this grocery venture. Yes, I've made some mistakes here and there. No big deal. The overall savings have been worth it.

6} I built up a stock-pile. The first few months my grocery budget stayed the same. I simply had far more stuff to show for my spending each month. As I built a stockpile in my freezer, my pantry, and with toiletries, I began to buy less. Now I only buy what I need to beef up my stockpile or stuff that's too cheap {or free} to pass up.

7} I established a goal. As I begin to see the savings and stockpiles grow, I figured I could get our monthly bill down to $300 a month for our family of 5. And I have. That includes groceries, diapers, cleaning supplies, paper products, cosmetics, toiletries, and even some gifts.

8} I reward myself. Seriously, I am a slave for presents. I treat myself to make-up or skin creams or candles that I'm able to score crazy deals on and I don't have to feel guilty about it.

9} I shop the pantry. Instead of making my menu and then going to the store, I look at what I have and make meals from that.

10} My husband loves me! Thankfully he did already but I had no idea how much he would benefit from all of this. I always have brand-name food on hand that he loves. He rarely has to stop at the store anymore on his way home from work. When he's out of deodorant, shaving cream, or soap, he just walks into the closet and gets some more. There's something about having plenty of the stuff he needs that makes him very, very content. I love that.

Now for the experts {which are also posted in the right sidebar of my blog under "Frugal Favorites."}

Jen at Balancing Beauty & Bedlam {who got me started on this crazy journey}
Recipes, grocery deals, and great inspiration for home management and intentional family life!

Click on a store in her header to see their weekly flyer. She lists where you can find a coupon for what's already on sale at that store. Then you can generate a printable shopping list and off you go! I now spend about half an hour going through the list, gathering or printing my coupons, and printing my list before I go. My last trip yielded $112 in savings so the 30 minutes was time well spent.

Read her getting started tutorials! They were really helpful for me.

Similar to Southern Savers in that she lists all the best deals at various stores but she also lists great deals throughout the day at on-line sites and retail stores. Fun stuff!

Sami is my real-life friend {who I recently met at a wedding} and she has a wonderful site full of coupons, deals, and freebies galore. A great site that will save you money! {And she is the guru of doing Disney way cheap.} Go to Sami's blog before this Friday and look for her Jan. 4th post. She's giving away several copies of the book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family.

coupons.com, red plum, and smartsource are some printable coupon sites I use often.

How do you save?


  1. I have been thinking about you! Good to "see" you again!!! Congratulations on your shopping success. Yes, yes, yes! I am seeing all the same benefits. I also stick to one store (Harris Teeter, which I think you said you don't have). Everyone always says it's so expensive. But I barely spend $25 a week there. I also use Costco, unless I can beat the price at HT with sales and coupons. Our grocery budget is also about $300 for our family of 5. I am living it with you! I come home with so many groceries for so little money... I call it "Groceries from God"!!! He is SO good! Blessings!

  2. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!! And have I told you lately that I absolutely love reading everything you write?!? BTW, I've got some more coupons for you.


  3. Wow Scooper! you make couponing seem enjoyable. I'll need to rethink why I stopped using them after your post. I certainly need another method of saving on groceries.
    Thanks for the great links, too.
    Happy New Year!

  4. Whoot whoot!! Like your mom, I am SO proud of you. :) Seriously, you are a total testimonial to the fact..it can be done and it can be fun if you treat it like a game. And for those who don't yet understand, that's ok....we can laugh....all the way to the bank. :)

  5. We sure got it going on now don't we? My best has been 2.84 and saved 38.00 at CVS. I keep trying to get it down further and further. Even found organic chicken marked down to half price at Ingles this past week. I'm waiting for some coupons to arrive in the mail to hit publix this week. Right now we're at 108 for the week and savings of 88. If I can make it to the 8th without spending any more it'll be a good week. Plus the fact that my husband went to the store without a single coupon and spent 30.00. It killed me I'm telling ya!!!

  6. Hey... Malia's friend here!

    Like you, I thought coupon ladies were a little extreme, but trying to shop for my family of 9 was becoming unbelievable! So, in the fall of 2008, I took the plunge, signed up for the grocery game to start things off, and away I went!

    What amazed me in the beginning.. and still does, actually.. is how much you can get for free (or very little). To see my pantry fill up... and to be able to give to others... and still have more than enough to feed my family well.

    Now, if only we could get all the "binder ladies" here in our area to SMILE as they shop! Seriously, I have been scowled at by more women who are couponing (like I do). It's not a competition, y'all! There's still plenty for everyone!

  7. Fellow couponer over here :)
    Good job! I maximize my couponing by using the Grocery Game too. At first I wasn't sure if it was worth the subscription fee, but that it more than paid for itself in the first week! It works out to be about $1.75 a week...less than a paper costs now! And someone does all the hard work (matching up the coupons to sales) for you!
    Couponing is my hobby now and it SAVES me money instead of costing me money :)


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