I’ll admit it: TLC’s Extreme Couponing fascinates me. With the exception of the people who donate their deals to food shelves or the troops, I think that most of the people profiled should probably be on Hoarders instead – 40 some bottles of acid reliever just because it’s on sale and you have a coupon??!! But when they get to the
finish line checkout with their carts, I can’t help but be slightly amazed at just how low those total bills end up being.
I’m certainly not going to spend 4+ hours every week getting coupons in order, matching up to sale prices and then driving to 6 shops all over town to get the best deals (after all, time is money) but I’ve been wondering if there’s a way for me to save even just a little bit more on groceries/household items each week by couponing. And, I wondered if I could do it within my criteria: healthy food only (with the exception of a Magnum bar every now and then) and kosher-style items – my kitchen is “ingredient kosher” now but will be fully kosher once I get married this fall. As good as those deals on frozen shrimp can be, crustaceans just aren’t invited to my house.
I was pretty excited to get started but when I flipped through the Sunday coupons, it seemed like the deals were on Oscar Meyer bologna (neither healthy nor kosher) and fruit snacks. So I had to ask – Is there anybody else couponing with the same criteria? I can’t remember if it was Twitter or Google that lead me to Mara at Kosher on a Budget and I don’t suppose it really matters. All I know is that I got sucked up in her story of getting out of debt (using advice from a book written by a fundamentalist Christian) and her approach to couponing seemed easy/sane enough. I’ve been using her tips and tricks modified to fit my needs – I don’t have kids to buy cereal for and my kitchen is tiny with limited pantry space. I’m only on week 3 of my money-saving experiment, but I think I’m off to a good start.
For me, couponing is not a “need to” but a “why not do” – at least at this point in my life. I figure I’ll get started now so that I’ll be a well-qualified Chief Frugality Officer by the time kids come around (I’ve heard offspring are ridiculously expensive). And, in the meantime, I’ll get a kick out of watching the savings add up.
Your turn: Are you a couponer? Shopping for a kosher kitchen or not? Other tips and tricks for saving on groceries/household items?
I think that serious couponing is not worth the time or effort if you’re trying to eat healthy, let alone kosher. Aside from the odd store coupon, I don’t use them, despite my hopes to be frugal. I avoid most processed food and prefer scratch cooking, so there aren’t many manufacturer’s coupons that work for me, and I don’t think it’s worth it to work hard to find the few random ones that are.
These blog posts cover more about couponing – or, rather, reasons for not couponing – when your goal is healthy eating: http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/category/coupons/
I save more money by buying things in bulk and in different stores, and by making food from scratch.
By the time the kids come, the REAL COUPONING will be the savings on luvs, huggies, and pampers, not the food.
Or you could cloth diaper and not have to worry about coupons for diapers, either. 😀
I think Couponing’s less well-known cousin, Hunting-the-Newspaper-and-Junkmail-Circulars-for-Good-Produce-Deals is my key to eating super healthy on a budget. Also, going to produce markets instead of supermarkets (though I’m not certain they have those in MSP) has been really helpful on the produce front in helping me keep my food bills low.
For me the problem is meat. I am an eco-kashrut adherent, which means, given the choice between a factory-farmed chicken with a glatt hechsher and a non-hechshered, free-range, hormone-free, organic, vegetarian fed option, I choose the latter. Either way you cut it, that meat is gonna be more expensive. Which is a bummer. And an argument for vegetarianism.
@Tiffany – I definitely agree that “serious” couponing is not the way to go to meet my criteria! But, I’m finding that spending a little bit of time on finding some deals with coupons on things that I’d normally buy is adding up to decent savings. When I started, my only goal was to save the $1.75 that the paper costs each week and I’m definitely meeting and exceeding that.
Thanks for sharing the link to The Frugal Girl – some good tips and tricks there!
@Steve – That does seem to be true about diapers. Luckily, nothing I have to worry about that anytime soon (and, as Tiffany points out, cloth might be a better way to go for multiple reasons).
@Anna – I’m looking forward to the farmers’ markets this summer and I think that’s a good way to go for so many reasons. I do sometimes hunt for good produce deals but want to make it more of a habit. As far as the meat thing, yup, that’s a kicker either way you go. I’m hoping that by making some savings in other areas (including sticking to a mostly vegetarian diet), I’ll be able to even the grocery bill out a bit even when purchasing kosher meat.
All in all, it’s probably a hybrid approach – a little bit of couponing, making good choices about eating locally and in season, etc. that will really make a difference in the long haul!
At least around here, Safeway lets you go online and click on the coupon offers you want to use, and associates them with your discount card. So you just have the one plastic card to carry around, not a bunch of differently-sized pieces of torn paper. Of course, this does limit you to just one store.
Unfortunately, the stuff of coupons does seem to be mostly processed foods and household cleaning items. I hardly ever see a coupon offer for fresh fruits and veggies.