Confessions of a Couponer

Heather O. is a SAHM with two kids and one crazy dog. She likes to read, garden, do yoga, and blog. She is the co-founder of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars, and really likes Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We’re glad to have her as our guest this week.

…Because, don’t you know, couponing is the new black. Or, the new khaki. Or, whatever. It’s hip. It’s in. This is evident in the fact that “coupon” is now a verb. All the cool kids are doing it.

I found this out when I asked a friend how she was doing. Her husband is out of work, hopefully temporarily, and I know she’s feeling the pinch. I asked her, “So, have you gotten into coupons yet?”

She gave me a withering look and said, “Yeah, I’ve heard that’s the new scrapbooking. That it’s the new Mormon woman thing to do.”

I didn’t know that I was now part of the in crowd. Cool. There must be something to what she says, though, because on the day that our local grocery store triples coupons, it’s like a Relief Society meeting, every time I go. Like a little mini coupon enrichment. (And yes, I go several times that day. They only allow 20 coupons per transaction. What’s a girl with 60 coupons to do?)

This woman was scornful when I talked about how much time and effort this “hobby” takes. But when I said that I have 8 sticks of deodorant in my cupboard, all of which cost less than $2.00? THAT caught her attention. Her eyes got big, and I could see her world shift. Just a tiny bit, but it was there. Suddenly, she saw a world where she didn’t have to pay full price to prevent BO. And it might not just stop with deodorant. Who knows, she could even get to the point where she doesn’t pay for toothpaste. I could see it in her face. The toiletry possibilites were endless.

But that’s not to say there’s not a dark side to all this frugality. Recently I had to hear a tale of woe from a friend who forgot a 25 cent coupon. She had to pay full price for Palmolive. FULL PRICE! It kept her up all that night.

I felt her pain. And her intense need for therapy.

Another drawback of this couponing frenzy is now my pantry is full of all kinds of funky stuff. Even my kids have noticed a difference.

“Rice Krispie Treats?” my seven year old exclaimed when he opened the pantry. “You NEVER buy Rice Krispie Treats!” He was gleeful as he ripped the box open and handed one to his friend.

Yeah, well, I had a coupon, the coupons were being doubled that day, they were on sale, how can you resist 2 boxes for a dollar? My toddler is, at this moment, eating chocolate chip Eggo waffles that cost 14 cents plus tax. After a lifetime of eating oatmeal and cereal and fruit for breakfast, she’s quite pleased. If the trans fat cost less than a buck, does it still clog your arteries?

So, do you coupon? IS couponing the new homemaking art? Is everybody obsessing over 25 cents they lost on dishwashing soap? Is it due to the spiraling economy, and our thrifty food storage hoarding genes gone bad? Or has this been going on for years, and I’m just slow to catch on? It wouldn’t be the first time I was late to the party. After all, I didn’t know Buffy was cool until season 7.

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  1. I refuse to coupon–because I don’t want Rice Krispie Treats. I am convinced coupons would suck all my time (you know, all the time I spend blogging) and I would never buy with them anything I use. I don’t care if it’s free! I still don’t want gross cereal that my kids won’t even eat in the cupboard.

  2. Someone needs to do a serious cost-benefit analysis of the whole coupon racket. My wife tried the Coupon Lady thing a while ago to see if it would save us money. We clipped coupons and even found people in the ward who didn’t use coupons to give us theirs’ so that we could have twice or three times the coupons. The Coupon Lady list tells you when things are on sale so you can get the maximum discount combined with coupons and possible doubling/tripling opportunities from the stores at which you shop.

    After the first week we noticed something: everything on sale is stuff we either do not buy, or buy so seldomly that stocking up with 10 of the same item makes little sense. We quit the Coupon Lady subscription, and now just clip the coupons we might actually use. If it doesn’t expire before we need to buy something for which we have a coupon, its a bonus. Otherwise, we just keep to our normal, frugal shopping habits.

    I wonder: does coupon clipping and deal-seeking behaviors increase or decrease the overall bottom line expenditure on groceries and cleaning and health/beauty products? My gut tells me that the more people feel like they are getting a “deal”, the more inclined they are going to be to part with their money for stuff they didn’t know they needed until a coupon came around to tell them they needed it. Plus, being tethered to the coupons, you end up eating Eggo waffles, yogurt in a tube, frozen dinners, and other highly-processed foods all the time.

  3. I haven’t done coupons in ages. I used to get great deals on baby food by using $1.00 off coupons that I could get doubled. But that was ages ago.

    I spent many years clipping coupons that I would never use. I finally stopped even looking at the coupon section of the paper. I realized that I kind of hate coupons. My life is too short to save and catalog little scraps of paper that I will never use.

    My husband still clips them, though.

  4. Steve-

    I think it does decrease costs, overall. Definitely. If you do it right. But there is temptation to, as you say, buy things that you never needed before just because you have a coupon for it. So you just need to be focused and figure out where you want to spend your money. And your time.

    On the other hand, I have toothpaste and hair stuff that has cost me a fraction of what I used to pay, and I have it in storage now, too. Not a bad way to build up some part of your recommended food storage.

    The Eggo waffles, I admit, were a little over the top. But 14 cents? Hard to pass up, my friend.

  5. Heather, what does it mean to say that using coupons is “the new Mormon woman thing to do”? Are there “Mormon woman thing[s] to do”? Why coupons?

  6. Researcher says:

    My objections to the use of coupons are also the time it takes, and the processed foods. It can be worthwhile for toiletries and brand name cleaning products, but since I shop mainly at Aldi and Costco and vegetable stands, and none of them take brand coupons, it simply isn’t worth my while to spend the $1.50 on the Sunday paper. I would have to stop all my writing and blog reading and commenting to find the time to use coupons, and it would sure cut down on the quality of life.

  7. Yeah, I think there are Mormon women things to do. Scrapbooking is definitely up there. A woman in our old ward owned a chain of photo/camera shops, and she said she had a tough time getting scarpbooking stuff stocked because she said it’s a market that’s largely Mormon driven. Perhaps I’m simplifying it, I don’t know.

    I WAS surprised when this woman said that it is the new “Mormon woman thing.” We had an enrichment night about it at our ward, mostly as a way of saving money, being frugal, etc. I wasn’t aware that it was sort of a church-wide thing, although I’ve heard it’s popular in Utah. I was just throwing it out here to see if other people do it, and if it could be identified as pecular to Mormons, or, if not peculiar, at least that a lot of Mormons are couponing.

  8. I dutifully look through the coupon section of the newspaper every Sunday. But I never see anything I want. Really, never. I try, I really do, but never. So I don’t get couponing. But then, I never got scrapbooking either. I knew couponing was big when I started seeing friends’ Facebook statuses bragging about couponing triumphs.

  9. Here in my house we do not coupon very much but we do what we call “stock-up sales”

    We watch the ads and stock-up on items when prices are low. So when chicken is say $1.57 a pound I buy 15 pounds and put it in the freezer. Then we plan a few meals around the cheap ckn and other items we also bought in previous or current stock up sales. Eventually almost everything comes up in a good sales in the ads. We never buy cereal for more then $2.00 a box or soup for more then $1.00. I stock up on Campbells when its .50. I have 50 boxes of cereal and 100 cans of soup on the shelf right now. It will be a couple of months before the 5 boys start to make a dent in the cereal. Same can be true for fruit and veggies but you have to eat the fresh produce much quicker of course

    I conservatively calculate we save about $200 a month on groceries doing this. Plus we always have lots of food in the pantry and freezer.

  10. When I first started couponing I was regularly saving about 50-60%. This is possible in California where a couple different grocery stores double coupons up to a dollar everyday, all the time.

    But it did take a lot of time and planning. I don’t do it so much anymore. If I have time I’ll go through and grab coupons for stuff I know we’ll use and keep it simple.

    I got into it because of a friend who is heavily into it, she runs one of those coupon email lists. She told me, “You should never have to pay for toothpaste.” One of those items you can often get free.

    A box of Capri Suns for a quarter. A quarter. Some deals are just amazing.

  11. Not even a temptation. To the best of my knowledge, grocery stores in New York don’t take coupons. (Okay, Fairway sent us a something-percent-off if we bought $100 of groceries. But because we never use coupons, we forgot it the few times we hit the $100 minimum. Plus, as others have kind of said, when we want prepackaged food, we go to Trader Joes. which seems cheap and, to the best of my knowledge, also doesn’t do coupons.)

  12. Women in our ward do it, apparently (we have a sister called specifically to present ideas on frugality, and she’s already held a couponing workshop). Not me — when you’re buying for one, on foot and can shop only at one grocery, I’m not sure I would save enough even to pay for the newspaper. And if you add the cost of public transport to get to another store, I’m pretty sure there would be no savings at all. But yeah, it seems to be growing in popularity among Mormon women.

  13. I use coupons for things that I am interested in anyway, but I skip coupons for items I do not want. Basically, I am happy when my couponing pays for our $8 a month newspaper subscription(which we greatly enjoy reading). I don’t buy Eggos or CapriSun, though I don’t have kids. My favorite coupons are for Tampax, V8Fusion, and Tyson 100% Natural Chicken Nuggets for my hubby.

  14. Mark Brown says:

    We don’t do coupons for groceries, but we often use a 2 for 1 deal when we go out for dinner.

  15. My sister used to be the Queen of Coupons. She would get $100 worth of groceries for, like, $20. It was insanely awesome. But she is overall a better person than I am. I am lazy.

    I wasn’t aware it was necessarily a new Mormon woman thing. I’ve actually wondered, recently, if Mormon thriftiness is going the way of Mormons baking their own bread.

  16. I agree with Steve somewhat. I know coupon clipping can save me money, but how much am I spending for the coupons? People buy them from others and have to buy the papers they come in and then you buy things you may not need or really want in your diet. My mom had these Oreo Casters in her pantry because she does the whole coupon thing, and they were not that good and included palm oil and high fructose corn syrup. Two things I don’t really want in my diet or in mt children’s.

    I also have a small house and though it would be nice to have eight deodorants and shampoos, I just don’t have the space.

  17. We use the $10 off $75 or $100 minimum purchase at Fairway because we do the bulk of our grocery shopping there and we aren’t restricted to buying whatever the manufacturer is pushing. But next month we’re moving away from NY to a place with no Fairway or Trader Joe’s, so we’re going to have to rework our grocery store strategies. But manufacturer’s coupons will NOT be a part of it–you couldn’t pay me to bring those fake rice crispy treats into my house. (Which is how I feel about most things advertised through coupons–disposable diapers, baby formula, processed, prepackage foods, frozen entrees, highly scented chemical cleaning products and so on.)

  18. Heather O.: I forgot to write in my first comment that I enjoyed the post–your writing voice is entertaining and funny. I, too, think there’s a coupon meme burgeoning into a movement among Utah Mormons, at least. When we used that Coupon Lady thing, I went to the store one Monday armed with my best coupons for some stealz-n-dealz, only to find that the store was completely out of stock for _every single product_ for which I had a coupon. It seems that there were others who were tipped off before me (and willing to shop on Sundays; the Coupon Lady list comes out late on Saturday)

    One more thing about buying large quantities, though. Everything has a shelf life, including cereal, canned food, frozen meat, toothpaste, Tylenol, etc. Stocking up on 20-30 lbs of chicken is alright if your family can eat it all before the freezer burn sets in. But although I came from a larger family (oldest of 5 kids) and my mother shopped with coupons and bought in bulk, I ended up eating a lot of cereal and soup past its expiration date, and felt really bad when we threw out pounds and pounds of frozen meat that had gone bad (all those animals, dead for nothing). We just couldn’t keep up our rate of consumption to match the “deals” on the food. So in the end, you often either eat or use stuff that’s stale, or you just throw it away.

  19. My thing is when I look through the ads, there are seldom things I regularly buy. Being on a tight, unemployed budget, I can’t just get something because it’s cheap- we’ve got to NEED it. I love the idea, and I have friends who really get into it but it’s just too confusing for me.

  20. We don’t buy anything that coupons are good for, but back in the day I clipped everything, timed it with sales, went to the places that double coupons, and regularly paid $10 or $15 for $100 worth. So it works, and if you’re a starving student with the time to put into it, then go for it :)

    these days, I can look through the sunday paper and not see a single coupon for an item we use. Oh, except toothpaste and toothbrushes, and when you get the $1 off and have a local store that doubles them… yeah, it’s dumb but I don’t make the effort, I just pay for those items. I should clip a few, make a special trip to that store and just stock up.

  21. My contention that watching sales, buying house brands at supermarkets and shopping for 2 or 3 different stores actually saves more money than couponing.

    I recently got a subscription to the weekend paper for about $10.00 for the coupons. Have I saved $10 or more a month from the coupons? No. First, I got so sick, I was just asking dh to shop for me, bring home applesauce, crackers, and uh, yeah, stuff for the kids. I couldn’t actually use the coupons. Also, I save about the same amount of money as coupons offer on buying house brands. (My sister works for kroger’s and says that the House brands are often made at the same factories as the name brands and are the same quality.) I shop the sales and plan my menus around those sales.

  22. #4: is there a brand of toothpaste that tastes good and is nutritious? I’d hate to spend the month I survived during the apocalypse eating Crest mint-flavor.

  23. Peter LLC says:

    Coupon clipping in Mormon circles is old news. My cub scout den mother was way into it in, like, 1984, and was always extolling its virtues.

    we’re moving away from NY to a place with no […] Trader Joe’s, so we’re going to have to rework our grocery store strategies.

    Isn’t Trader Joe’s pretty much the most expensive grocery chain in the world? Wouldn’t moving away from one yield significant savings as you switch from, say, “Bing Cherries in Premium Chocolate” to bulk chocolate-covered raisins?

  24. smb-

    But if you’re starving, at least you won’t have bad breath while you die ;)

  25. I will also say that often, buying generic can be cheaper than even double coupons. I’ve often discovered that after all my scheming and thinking and clipping, once I get to the item I’m after, a generic brand is sitting next to it that is cheaper even after using coupons. Still, I like to think that couponing has made me a better shopper. Plus, my mom figured out that with the money I save, I am basically earning $6/hr for my time. Not exactly minimum wage, but not something I’d say no to.

    The good thing about coupons, though, is that if you do it right, you will always save something. You can do it at whatever pace you want, and you will still save. The first time I ever tried it, I saved $24 on my grocery bill. That doesn’t seem like much, but do that 4 times a month, 48 times a year, and, well, it’s hard to say that it’s not worth it.

  26. I do use coupons, but I only use the coupons for things that my family will use. We get the coupons from my in-laws so it doesn’t cost us anything. As for buying things you wouldn’t normally buy, that can happen if something is on sale for a good price. You don’t need a coupon to be dumb about your shopping. ;o) I also don’t go from store to store. I just shop at Walmart (please, no one stone me!) and they ad match. You just have to have the ad with you and point it out. It’s a double bonus if you have a coupon for it too.

  27. #23-

    I don’t know about Trader Joes’. I don’t shop there often, only because I’m lazy, and it’s further away from me than any grocery store except Walmart (and I almost never go there, for the same reason). I had a neighbor brag to me that Trader Joes has SIGNIFICANT savings over my grocery store, pointing to a thai dipping sauce that was 4 dollars cheaper at Trader Joes than anywhere else. Well, that’s peachy, if you’re into Thai dipping sauce. Myself, well, I prefer going to the store that has the cheapest milk in town and just skip the dipping sauce altogether, thanks.

    But like I said, perhaps Trader Joes is cheaper, and I know that if you do want to go strictly organic, TJ does have some deals on things that would be astronomically expensive in the regular grocery stores.

  28. In California, at least, the cost of coupons is easily *way* less than the amount you save. I mean, use one dollar coupon (which saves you two dollars) and you’ve already made money back on the cost of the newspaper.

  29. Peter LLC says:

    I know that if you do want to go strictly organic, TJ does have some deals on things that would be astronomically expensive in the regular grocery stores.

    Ah, that makes sense.

  30. Trader Joes is indeed expensive, but its frozen foods and range of ethnic foods cannot be beat amongst regular grocery stores.

  31. I find the calculations about whether one is losing money on the newspaper subscription to be very funny. Everyone realizes that there are other sections in the newspaper, right? Man, no wonder newspapers are a dying breed.

  32. Cynthia-

    Yeah, other sections is right. Like the comics :) The Washington Post has the best comments of any newspaper, hands down.

  33. The coupons in the Sunday Times go straight to the recycling bin. But I watch the Fairway circulars, and when filet mignon is $5.95 a pound, or porterhouse steaks at $8.99, I’m there.

    If I had to move from New York to some benighted town that didn’t have good food, I think I’d just quit eating altogether.

  34. What is this “double” and “triple” coupon day thing? We haven’t had grocery stores that did that since the 1970s.

    It’s called Aldi’s. Go there.

  35. I use the Grocery Game and save about $200 a month. It must be like Coupon Lady. I like it b/c it doesn’t require a ton of effort on my part and I feel like I’m getting good deals. The sad thing is that Albertson’s has stopped taking competitor’s coupons, that’s where the real deals were.

  36. I don’t do coupons, because I pretty much only buy specialty items that don’t ever have coupons (being gluten, dairy and soy free does that). I will have to look into coupons for V8 Fusion, though, because I do get a lot of that, and it’s expensive (like everything else we buy).

    When I was trying to figure out how to save a little money on our very expensive grocery bill a couple of months ago I started looking for formula coupons on ebay. I didn’t find coupons, but I did find people selling the formula. So now I get my son’s (specialty super-hypo-allergenic) formula for 16.50 a can rather than 25.00 a can, and I’m quite happy.

    Growing up my mom did coupons, and I know she saved us a ton of money. She didn’t just clip coupons either. She also saved the box tops and UPCs from everything we ate and had boxes of them in the storage room so she could send for any and all rebates, plus she met with a local group of moms (I don’t know that any of the rest of them were Mormon) once a month or so and exchanged coupons for things they didn’t use. She was amazing, but I know it took a ton of her time. When I was in high school a water pipe burst in the storage room and soaked all her boxes of UPCs, etc. My dad was making a little more money by then, and she took it as a sign and decided she didn’t need to spend all her time doing that any more. I think she was a lot happier not doing it (but I know it really helped our family in times of financial crisis).

  37. MoJo-

    Yes, indeed, we have stores that will double and triple coupons. One store doubles coupons up to $1.00 on Wednesdays. The other store, Bloom, triples coupons for one entire weekend once a month. That’s where you really start to save big.

  38. I think you have to watch yourself, and keep close tabs on what you have. For instance, I have 16 things of salad dressing. I only buy it now if I’m actually making money on the transaction (which I did on Saturday). So, even if I pay 5 cents for salad dressing, it’s still not worth it because i have so much — which I never knew until I organized. Now, I really take stock of what I have before I get to the store, and THAT saves me the most money of all (but I still do coupon).

    Also, Trader Joe’s has amazing prices on the fundamentals — eggs, sour cream — they can rarely be beat, except at Costco in bulk. I never thought it was true, until I compared.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    I haven’t had a chance to actually read the post–I’ll come back to it–but I just wanted to say, Heather, what great taste in TV shows you have. Everyone around here loves Buffy, but I’m also with you on Gilmore Girls. I watched the whole thing.

  40. Oh Kevin.

  41. Gilmore Girls is a new obsession. I traded with The Wiz, who said that she would watch Buffy if I would watch GG. The Wiz has just seen the last episode of Season 2, the one with Angel and Buffy, and she called me, incredulous. Best episode on television ever, I say.

  42. hilary, —
    Really, TJ’s is that good? Guess I’ll have to mosey on down there….

    And, for the record, you have to be REALLY careful at Costco. Their yeast prices are super duper cheap, but you’re not saving a nickel on cereal. Seriously.

  43. I thought this was just a “historic triangle” thing–I have friends who have told me that couponing is taking over the world down there. :) I didn’t realize it was more widespread than that (at least as an enrichment activity/”mormon woman thing.” People subscribe to the same newspaper multiple times for the coupons, right? I only use coupons for things I would actually buy without a coupon, which turns out to be shampoo, cosmetics, etc. Heather, do you only use coupons the local paper, or do you subscribe to another service? I’m sure I could save more than I do by shopping on double coupon days, but I think I’m lazy.

  44. I grew up clipping coupons, and some habits die hard. I still use them when I remember, but don’t stress out about it if I don’t (and I most certainly DON’T get my kids up at 5 am the day after Thanksgiving to take advantage of the buy one get one sock deal at Freddy’s. And they’re not old enough yet to send them through a different line with their own coupon and own item limit). The best is when I have a manufacturer’s coupon, and the store has an unadvertised price cut on the same item. In those cases, I buy the limit. It’s true that a lot of the coupons are for prepared foods we just don’t eat, but I do clip them for the things we do use, like cereal, crackers, mayonnaise, and diapers. Oh, and deodorant, can’t forget that.

    The funniest thing about this is that I don’t even have a grocery budget, or pay attention to the cost of the items, just how much I’m saving. But I am careful not to buy anything I wouldn’t have bought anyway. And I’ve gotten a lot better about not getting on my husband’s case when he forgets the coupons (he grew up not using them).

  45. Oh, and my favorite coupons are the ones in the newspaper insert from our preferred grocery store. Bonus–if you forget to take your coupons with you to the store, they always have extra inserts there.

  46. cynthia, in regards to the cost of the newspaper and the coupons, for me it is really important to consider that. I read my news online. A newspaper cost is a big deal to me, especially when my grocery budget is $300 per month for a family of 6 soon to be 7. So $10 a month, which is coming out of my grocery budget, better be saving me as much money as possible.
    Yes, there are other sections of the paper, but do most of my reading online and stay up-to-date with news, events, etc.

  47. I’ve been couponing for about a year and a half. I’m not nearly as good at it as some people, and not nearly as obsessive. But it has cut our grocery bill almost in half, and now my storage room is pretty darn full. (So to answer Steve, yes, it can be very useful–today I paid 25 cents for a bar of deodorant, for example–something I’ll definitely be using.) It can get out of control with buying stuff you don’t need or want or use, but as my kids get older and they eat more, it’s been a real help to keep costs down. I hate that it takes more time to shop and plan to shop, though. In some ways, I look forward to the day when I can stop doing it.

  48. Trader Joe’s is a specialty store and prides itself on using more natural and organic ingredients, not that everything is healthy there, but you can find some healthy things cheaper. Like free ranged eggs for just $1.50 a dozen or whole wheat spaghetti for under a dollar. Some things are expensive, but they’re also a higher quality product.

  49. I just started couponing in the fall and it allows us to eat much better than we would otherwise. Occassionally, I probably buy things I don’t need. But I am always surprised about the people who say that they don’t eat any of the processed things in coupons. Do people really never buy … oil, spices, rice, salsa, canned soup or fruit, condiments, yogurt, cheese, crackers, spaghetti sauce, pasta, frozen vegetables, bread, cereal? Not to mention toiletries which we rarely pay for anymore. We even get coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables sometimes (especially the ones that Kroger mails specifically to us). We eat mostly fresh food and also buy most of the our fresh food from our CSA or the farmer’s market in the summer and stock up at Trader Joes sometimes, too. I find it can be a big help for a budget for two strapped graduate students with one kid and one on the way for only an hour or so a week. But I think a lot of people suffer a lot of misconceptions on what coupons are all for.

  50. Amanda, I agree with you. While there are a lot of coupons out there for junk food, I almost always have a coupon for shampoo, deodorant, ziploc bags, trash bags, toothpaste and toothbrushes, not to mention feminie hygiene. I also consider the pasta and pasta sauce as part of my food storage, and figure that if I don’t use it within the year, I can buy cans from our local cannery and seal it, which makes the spaghetti last about 20 years. I also got a deal on sugar the other day, and was able to can 24 pounds of sugar for $6.00. I felt pretty darn good about that one!

    But again, it is a time factor, and I understand if people feel like their time is worth more than the money they save.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever even used a coupon. But I have to admit I’m kinda fascinated by the new couponing craze. I saw this tory on it on TV not too long ago. They showed this champion couponer come up to the register with four carts filled to heaping with all sorts of stuff. Her total bill was 25 cents. She handed the cashier a quarter and was on her way.

    That was impressive.

  52. Hmmm…why would for-profit businesses do something like this? To save us money and time?

  53. I do all our grocery shopping (for my sweet wife and me, kids are all gone — yea!), and I don’t use coupons.

    I do bulk shopping at Costco and occasionally Sam’s Club, then use ‘member cards’ at Safeway and King Soopers [no, really, that’s the name of a grocery chain]. If I can’t get it in bulk at Costco/Sam’s Club, I wait for member discounts at Safeway/King Soopers and stock up a bit. And there a few things that I can only get at Super Target (low fat Knudsen cottage cheese, plus their Progresso soup there is always $1.52 or so per can).

    I tend to cook things in bulk (spaghetti sauce, stew, beans) and then freeze part or most of it. Likewise, when I grill, I will grill a lot of meat (usually chicken breasts), and we’ll use it for a week or two. I also bake almost all of our own bread (picked up a 25 lb sack of flour at Costco today for under $7 bucks, or about the price of two loaves of bread). We eat a lot of canned soup, fresh fruit, bread, frozen (diet) entrees, cereal, etc.

    I should probably look at using coupons; we don’t get a newspaper, but they come in the mail a few times each week. It’ll depend on whether the coupons cover anything that we actually consume, food or otherwise. ..bruce..

  54. Does using a Coca-Cola can to save $4.00 at Lagoon count as using a coupon?

  55. Scott B-

    You betcha!

    As to the newspaper question, I subscribe to two newspapers, but only one of them really delivers on the coupons. I suscribe to both of them for other reasons than the coupons, (like the comics I mentioned :)) although I obviously find the coupons and the ads that come with it to be big bonuses. This last weekend, though, I finally broke down and bought two extra Saturday papers for 75 cents each. That came to $1.50. With those extra coupons, I was able, for example, to buy 3 frozen mini pizzas that were on sale for $3/10. With 3 coupons for 75 cents off each pizza, and then with each coupon tripling to $2.25, I ended up paying just over $1 for each pizza. My entire bill for the day was about $35 dollars for $105 worth of stuff. Not as good as the quarter lady, and not as good as other people in my ward, but the savings definitely covered my initial $1.50 expense.

  56. #22: Eating toothpaste (fluoride) can kill you. Doesn’t anyone watch CSI? (side note: love, love, love the Gilmore Girls!)

    My wife does the coupon thing – it’s a science with her. She does these Walgreens and Rite-Aid rebate things online and gets a TON of near-free (and better!) stuff. We end up donating a reasonable amount to the local women’s shelter. Her two sisters around here do it too.

    Heather, very fun and enjoyable post! Hope you do more!

  57. I do use coupons. I probably don’t use them as much on food…except for things like yogurt, baby stuff ect…

    BUT I use a ton of them for non grocery items. In particular I do CVS where I often get things nearly free, free, or they pay me to take it out the door. Love it.

    I do love ALDI too, but it’s impossible for us to get everything we need at ALDI, they just don’t have the selection. But I do much of our shopping there.

    Kmart in different area’s is double and triple couponing. This week it’s in my area. So I will have a plan set up and go out and see what I can get for nearly free.

  58. esodhiambo says:

    The couponers I love are the ones who leave the coupons they don’t intend to use on top of the appropriate item at the store. I just think that is so sweet.

  59. Just to point out that some of us really don’t use the things coupons are for, Amanda said,

    “Do people really never buy …
    oil — about one container every 6 months, and it has to be corn or canola oil
    spices — occasionally (though not often), and it has to be a specific brand, because I know they don’t use flour to keep their spices from clumping
    rice — only from the Asian food market, which definitely does not take coupons
    salsa — yes
    canned soup — definitely not
    canned fruit — very occasionally (as in, I probably use one can a month)
    condiments — only ketchup
    yogurt — coconut milk yogurt (no coupons)
    cheese — vegan rice cheese (no coupons)
    crackers — EnerG Seattle crackers (no coupons)
    spaghetti sauce — yes, but it has to be traditional Prego, since pretty much everything else contains something my kids are allergic to
    pasta — corn or rice pasta from the health food store or online (no coupons)
    frozen vegetables — sometimes
    bread — Kinnikinick white sandwich bread (no coupons)
    cereal — EnviroKidz Gorilla Munch or Amazon Frosted Flakes (no coupons)

    So of the things on your list, the only things I buy regularly are ketchup, spaghetti sauce and salsa, and I stock up when the store has a big sale on them. Even if you include toiletries, I buy one thing of shampoo every 4 months or so, a couple sticks of deoderant a year, and probably 1 tube of toothpaste a year. And with 3 babies in the past 4 years, I haven’t needed much in the way of feminine hygiene products, either. The one thing I do try to find coupons for is diapers, because we go through a lot of those.

    So there are very very occasionally coupons that I could use, but mostly there really aren’t, so it’s not worth the time to me to try and find them for the few things I could use.

  60. I enjoyed couponing for about three months. That was about the time it took until the backlog of Sunday papers took over our home and I tired of obsessively planning when I was going to go back to the grocery store. Because it doesn’t do to shop once a week if you’re into couponing; you gotta keep up with the sales, make multiple trips to multiple stores, and stay on top of it all to really get the full $$ benefit. If I were more organized, enjoyed shopping, and had no small terrorists riding in the cart, I’m sure I’d still love it, but I burned out quickly and completely.

    My new strategy is to go as long as possible without stepping foot in a grocery store. When I do, I scan the store ads and stock up on any really good deals for things I know we’ll use (cereal for $1, chicken for 88 cents/lb). I do still save any cereal or diaper coupons I come across, but I don’t seek them out. Using this method, I buy a lot less junk, spend about the same amount per month, and it’s pretty painless.

  61. I will echo that this certainly seems to be the “new mormon woman thing” but also that it’s not really new. It seemed big in the 80s and to have had a revival lately. I think it somewhat coincides with increased popularity of actually rotating and using your food storage.

    I typically just use the coupons that are in the flyer at the store, and my shopping is way more needs based than stocking and rotating. I think after I get married and move this summer that will change a bit. I think we will keep an eye open for sales and coupons on any toiletries or canned goods we use so we can stock up, plan which meat to buy based around sales, and get produce from our CSA share.

    I definitely think that couponing certainly has a point where there are diminishing marginal returns. I think an extra hour or two a week spent shopping can certainly be worth it, but if it goes beyond that it seems like the time lost just wouldn’t be worth the money saved. (of course, if someone is saving a very large amount of money or has to really struggle to make ends meet a large time commitment may be worth it)

  62. I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I have to say, I LOVE using coupons. I can’t even remember when I first started (years ago), but it is such a habit now that I usually will not buy cereals and some other things unless I have a coupon. It might seem a little crazy to some, but then again, isn’t it a little crazy to buy a box of cereal for $4 when you can get it for $1 or less (combine a coupon with a good sale price)? It is really a kind of game for me to see how good of a deal that I can get. Just for fun, I’ll be headed to Albertson’s in the morning with a couple of $1 off coupons that they will double and will get some kind of treat for virtually free.

    If anyone knows of a coupon-a-holics anonymous, let me know…

  63. when I was into this, I had a coupon circle of friends nationwide, we’d all clip them, keep what we wanted, and mail the rest to the next person in the circle. Because different papers and regions get different offers, you really could do more that way, and the single stamp was always worth it.

  64. JimJiminy says:

    I haven’t found a huge need to get into couponing because our favorite local grocery store (Publix) has plenty of 2 for 1 deals every week: cereal, juice, milk, canned items, ice cream, pasta sauce, etc. I just stock up on things we actually eat when it’s on sale. Since taking over the responsibilities of grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve been able to save $20-$50 off our weekly food budget. I have to admit that it’s a great feeling to walk out the store knowing that I just bought $120 worth of groceries for about half that price. I can see myself, however, getting into the coupon craze. Baby steps…

  65. My wife uses coupons all the time, but she also follows prices and when it is a good deal we stock up. Like the time we bought 80 pounds of chicken or 100 jars of peanut butter. But her all time favorite couponing moment is when she figured out a deal using our grocery store’s 2 for one deal coupled with a use it now coupon on the can for refried beans. For every 2 cans she got, we made 4 cents.

    Gilmore Girls was great – watched the whole show on DVD. I have never watched Buffy besides the movie with Pee Wee Herman and Luke Perry back in the day.

  66. “I finally broke down and bought two extra Saturday papers for 75 cents each. That came to $1.50. With those extra coupons, I was able, for example, to buy 3 frozen mini pizzas that were on sale for $3/10. With 3 coupons for 75 cents off each pizza, and then with each coupon tripling to $2.25, I ended up paying just over $1 for each pizza. My entire bill for the day was about $35 dollars for $105 worth of stuff. Not as good as the quarter lady, and not as good as other people in my ward, but the savings definitely covered my initial $1.50 expense.”

    I don’t get it, how do you figure all of this out? It sounds like hours of work, which subtracts from your savings, right?

  67. It doesn’t have to be hours of work, although it can be. Really all you have to do use a coupon for anything that’s already on sale and you’ll save bigtime.

    *If* your store will double coupons.

  68. Researcher says:

    “I don’t get it, how do you figure all of this out? It sounds like hours of work, which subtracts from your savings, right?”

    The receipt usually shows all this information. I used to shop sometimes at a grocery store in San Diego–I can’t recall the name now, but it was right across the freeway from the temple, and it’s not Trader Joes. They would advertise all the coupon and sales specials in the Saturday/Sunday paper along with all the coupons, and on a good week, I could save 75 percent on the total, assuming I wasn’t buying milk. At some point it became too much work and I mostly just shopped at Costco and Henry’s and signed up with a wonderful CSA.

  69. Matt Rasmussen says:

    I didn’t read all the comments here because it wouldn’t be cost effective… The way to save money with coupons and sales is to 1) shop for sale items you regularly use when it’s on sale. I pass up on sales of candy, artichokes and antacids because I don’t use them. Why buy something you don’t use just becuase it’s on sale or you have a coupon? 2) Buy extra to use them when you need them next. This week you may buy canned vegies, condiments and turkey. Next week the sale will be chicken, toothpaste, aluminum foil and shampoo. I might have a full bottle of shampoo at home but sooner or later, I’m going to need another. Same for mustard, flour, soap, whatever.

    Nearly everything goes on sale at one point or another. That’s when we buy it. If we don’t save 50% when we check out, it’s because We’re buying milk, eggs or other perishables.

  70. Marjorie Conder says:

    While other people use coupons, I do think there is a particular aspect of Mormon culture in there use. It is probably driven by food storage and/or larger than average families. This dinosaur remembers coupon usage going back into the 60s. Early on there were places that would occassionally double or triple coupons. But you almost never see it along the Wasatch Front anymore. A grocery executive I know says that the Utah grocery market is the most competitive in the nation and that when they doubled coupons a much larger percentage of customers participated here than in any other area of the country. The grocers just couldn’t afford to do it so it mostly stopped here. Of course you can still use coupons for things you would buy anyway and feel doubly smug if you also get the item on sail. Also, I have never “cut” coupons, just ripped them out–much quicker and they work just fine.

  71. I coupon. I save money.
    When I first started couponing I struggled with a lot of what is mentioned here.

    Most coupons are for processed foods that I would really rather not feed my family, OR waste our money on.

    Here is what works for me.

    I found a place where I can buy multiple copies of the sunday paper on Monday for a MUCH reduced price. this means if there is a product for a coupon we use in the paper, we now have multiple copies. This also means that if there is a popular coupon for a product we don’t use, I can now trade it for a coupon we do use.

    When I cut coupons I keep the question “if this were free, would I want it?” in mind. I use that to determine whether to cut the coupon or not.

    And I am still very picky about what I buy. We like certain products. So I tend to stick with those. If we don’t have a preference on say, what brand of butter we like, I’ll cut all the butter coupons out.

    I do cut some coupons that I’m iffy on. But that is purely to trade with others for the coupons I will use.

    Yes, couponing does take a couple of hours every week in cutting. but can you argue with 5 boxes of Honey bunches of oats for $1.16 total (multiple times!) at the store around the corner?

    I also print extra coupons off the internet for free. mostly from but occasionally from the manufacturer website.

    I follow websites such as and

    Yes, you can be a picky couponer and still save money!

  72. #36, go here for a v-8 fusion coupon

  73. If TJ and Costco can match 15 cents for 4 rolls of toilet paper, $1.15 total for 5 boxes of honey bunches of oats, and free milk, then I’m totally there!

    Seriously guys. There are ways to make coupons really pay. And it didn’t take much effort.

    First, call around and find out the couponers specials for your local papers. Frequently they have deals where you can get JUST multiple Sunday papers for a reduced price.

    I was able to find a place where I can buy Sunday papers on monday for a fraction of the price.

    Watch sites such as for coupons you can print, http://www.pinchingyourpennies, . All of these sites are free and all offer tips on sales, and other couponers sharing what deals they found and where.

    You can be picky and still coupon. It just means that while your friends are gushing over the Albertsons sale that starts tomorrow, you may find yourself bummed because there is nothing that you regularly buy that is part of the awesome sale.

    Get store rewards cards. Albertsons has a gas rewards program (part of the store card) that gives you 5 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend. My husband thought it was a joke, and we’d never use it, until I showed him a receipt that said we had earned $1.10 off per gallon. He was the one racing down there to fill up.

    Fred Meyer has a rewards card that gives you a percentage back.

    Get a credit card that pays you a percentage back. We will pay for Christmas with what we earned back this year. And we pay the bill in full every month, so we don’t even pay interest.

    There are a lot of ways to save money and be frugal.

  74. I’m one of those who never seem to find coupons for things I actually buy, or at least can always find cheaper in the clearance carts.

    Last year, the cook for girls camp really outdid herself with coupons. She shopped nearly every day for weeks, working out one deal after another. Unfortunately, I get to do food this year and feel a bit freaked over the budget because I don’t do coupons. But so far, the total bill, buying nearly everything at Sam’s Club, is lower. And all I do is email my list to Sam’s and show up, since they’ll pull everything off the shelves and have it waiting for me. I do have a business membership there. Don’t know if they do this for non-business members. But that costs a whopping $5 more.

  75. Idahospud says:

    I second and also offer as sites that make couponing a virtual (pun intended) no-brainer. These bloggers tell you what is on sale at which store, and which coupons from which inserts or websites will match the sales and give you the best deal. Both are Idaho-based and therefore may not have the stores in your area listed, but even so, I have found the hints and tricks offered at both sites to be very helpful.

  76. I’m a huge couponer. I started around a year or so ago though it actually had nothing to do with the economy, from which we haven’t been sorely affected, yet. I just knew I needed to change my spending habits. I haven’t looked back.

    CVS is my coupon mecca. Their Extra Bucks program is incredible. Then of course there are the double and triple coupon promotions at our local grocery store.

    The time and effort I put into clipping and organizing coupons (maybe two hours a week) is more than worth the savings I get on products we need.

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