Everyone Can Use Coupons and Be an Extreme Couponer
By Denise on March 02, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
This extreme couponing stuff is fun. Who knew? Seriously. When I watched those TLC Extreme Couponing videos in January, I was fascinated and overwhelmed and felt a little queasy about it all -- I really didn't think it looked like fun. The extreme coupon community is so friendly, helpful, encouraging and supportive that I find myself smiling every time I read their blogs and their forums. And it is definitely fun to buy 28 frozen food items and have the Target cashier hand you $15 in Target gift cards after already saving more than $30 on the purchase. That's not just fun, it's down right exciting. The most fun of all is teaching other people how to extreme coupon - and hearing their shopping trip success stories. Best. Feeling. Ever. (OK not ever, but you know what I mean.)
"I only shop at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods." No problem, you can use extreme couponing and stockpiling strategies to save money at the grocery store, too. Have you subscribed to Organic Cents or Healthy Life Deals?
"My family doesn't eat that way." Huh? What? You don't put food in your mouth and chew? You don't ever buy anything from a grocery store, drug store, supercenter or wholesale warehouse? Because unless that's true, you can save money through stockpiling and couponing. If you only buy organic, there really are coupons out there for you -- and lots of ways for you to save money on your grocery bill.
Here's an example, last Saturday I asked TW what we needed at the commissary. Her answer was milk, sub rolls, a loaf of cheese bread, tomato, green pepper, and sliced mozzarella cheese. That's it. That's all we needed and that's what we bought except I tossed in a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies (I'm addicted to the Bordeaux and had a $1 coupon that was going to expire) and two boxes of Pepperidge Farm Bakes (again, because I had two more $1 coupons that were going to expire). I used $3 in manufacturer coupons and I used the $10 Catalina coupon I got at my local grocery store for stocking up on ConAgra products several weeks ago. My final out of pocket cost -- $11.52.
If you play the drugstore game, at Walgreens, you can buy your makeup, razors, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, medicines, etc -- most of which you can get for free or for pennies -- and use your RR Catalinas at your local grocery store to buy produce or meat or whatever it is that your family eats. (Not all grocery stores will take Catalinas this way but many, many do. If you're not sure about your store's coupon policy - look for it online. Or ask them. Or ask me, and I'll help you find out.)
I'm Canadian. Heh. I like Canadians and I've always heard that Canadian couponing just doesn't exist - or it exists but there aren't enough deals to make it worthwhile. I believed that because Canada is like a different country. Err, it is a different country, and things are different. But then I discovered Mrs January and Canadian Coupon Mom. Canadians can coupon - and they can get some really amazing deals. Start reading their blogs and let them teach you extreme couponing - Canada-style!
I don't have time to be an extreme couponer. I hear you. Believe me, I do. I went from spending a couple of hours a week on extreme couponing to more than four hours a week (not including shopping) and I started to panic. I calmed down and realized that the hours I spent last week, getting organized, cleaning up my coupon binder, and making multiple (unplanned) trips was the exception and not the rule. I firmly believe the long-time couponers who say it gets easier and takes less time as you go along. I've already started to see my time spent on couponing drop again -- back to the two hour a week level. I know there will be weeks when I spend more time on this -- like when there's a really big stockpiling opportunity, or two. That's what happened to me last week, but it was worth it. Let me show you why.
Late last week, I clicked into my favorite coupon forums at A Full Cup while I ate a late lunch. There wasn't anything really new or interesting in the forums I usually read, so I clicked the Target forum where a woman was talking about making her fourth trip to Target this week. There was another woman who said her husband bought her a new freezer just for this deal. Huh? Wah? What did I miss? Apparently I overlooked the small little print in the Target weekly ad that said "Get a $5 Target gift card with every seven frozen foods you buy".
That sounded interesting, particularly after I realized a) some of the foods we might want were on sale b) Target offered store coupons for some items that I also had manufacturer coupons for.
I grabbed my frozen food coupons and headed to the tiny Target that's just around the corner from my house. We bought two bags of Boca crumbles (which the commissary never has) and five frozen pizzas (TW eats these when she's not feeling up to cooking but has to eat something. I, on the other-hand, won't touch them with a ten foot pole.) We spent $7.81 (after coupons) and walked out with a $5 gift card. Wow.
The next day, I pulled out ALL of my frozen food coupons and dragged TW to the Super Target that's about 20 minutes away from our house, (but only five minutes out of our way when we drive to the commissary.) We came home with another 21 frozen foods, plus four bottles of shampoo and two bottles of conditioner, two jars of pasta sauce, and four tubs of margarine. We spent $36.82 (after coupons and the first $5 Target gift card) and walked out with three more Target Gift Cards.
But that's not all!
When the new sales went into effect on Sunday, we went to CVS, Walgreen's and our little Target to stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, body wash, cereal, dish soap, Poise pads (for TW's mom) and more!
Those two boxes of Kashi cereal -- free. The other two boxes of cereal, .50 each. The dish soap, .24 each. The pain reliever, toothpaste, nasal spray, pantyliners, baby lotion, three tubes of lip balm - all free. Total out of pocket cost: $42.51 with a $5 Target gift card and $39.29 in cash RRS (register rewards) and ECBs (extra care bucks).
Last week, TW asked if we were really saving money. The answer is yes - yes we are:
Total spent on groceries in January:798.19
Total spent on groceries in February: $616.66
Our freezer is overflowing. Our pantries are packed full. Our laundry room storage shelves are full, our weekly shopping trips are getting smaller and smaller -- and we're taking our first round of donations to the food pantry this weekend.
You can do this too, if you want to. Your purchases won't look exactly like mine (ewwww, frozen pizza) -- but you can save money on the things that you choose to buy.
How much would you like to shave off of your grocery bill? Share a photo and/or a link to your big savings last week:
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