Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coupon Woes

I'm a coupon clipper. I shop during sales and use my coupons on top of that. I spend a fair amount of time searching online and through the newspaper inserts for coupons on things I buy anyway. I shop smart, using generic or store brand items whenever possible.

Even so, I can't seem to make coupon clipping work the way the people who are really good at it do. You've probably seen these moms on talk shows who have made a real art of grocery store couponing. They have a system and clearly lots of storage space at home because they can purchase a cart full of stuff for like $10. If I had enough storage space I would do this with paper and other non perishable food items like pasta and such. But for the most part I find that the food I buy doesn't generally have coupons available. At lease not that I've been able to find.

I've never been able to find coupons for fresh produce items and I get a fair amount of produce each week because I cook with lots of whole foods instead of processed or frozen stuff. I've never found coupons for spices, which I use a fair amount of. I've never found coupons for the baking products I use like natural sugars, flours and such. I've never found coupons for beans, lentil or brown rices. I've never found coupons for the whole grain pastas and breads.

Even when I find a coupon for like Reach brand floss, I find that the store brand is even cheaper than the product with the coupon so I just end up doing that. There are lots of coupons for sodas, sugary cereals, white breads, frozen foods and other stuff my husband and I just don't eat. Very frustrating.

A girlfriend of mine from my school days is married with 2 kids, a teenage daughter and a 10 year old son. She's one of these amazing couponers who spends less on groceries for her whole family per month than I do for just my husband and I. I tried to get to the bottom of what she is doing so differently from what I'm doing and it came down to flexibility and cooking. She was making her purchasing decisions based on sales and coupons. She and her family were flexible enough to eat whatever cereal, chips or other foods were the best deal. And neither she nor her husband are able to do much cooking so they rely heavily on pre-perpared foods or quick meals in a box stuff. When I heard this I realized that my husband and I just aren't that flexible. I buy stuff that is as as natural and healthy as possible, rarely buying the processed foods that most frequently show up on coupon databases and in newspapers. And I buy ingredients and cook meals instead of Hamburger Helper for example.

Her way literally costs 1/2 of what my way does. Half! For half the money she is feeding twice the people. I do understand there is a big difference in our approaches and I see how that accounts for the difference in cost. But I still think I can do better. I'm just not sure how yet. I know if I had more room for storage I could take advantage of combining store sales and coupons to always get the best deal on things like toilet paper, Kleenex and pastas. I know I could save money on produce for at least part of the year if I could have a garden to grown some in. But that doesn't help me now and it doesn't address the rest of the stuff I use regularly but never find coupons for.

Do you ladies have any strategies for saving on healthy or whole products?


  1. I completely understand your frustration because I've often wondered the same thing about the "Coupon Divas"... how do they purchase $200 worth of products for $12?! But, you're right, there typically is a difference in WHAT is being purchased. I try to stay away from the processed, pre-prepared food, too. It's such a shame that they're so much cheaper and that's what the majority of the coupons are for, but that's the type of culture we live in.

    What my husband and I have found is more cost efficient for us is to do the majority (almost all) of our shopping at Sam's. The produce there is better and less expensive than other places in our area, and it doesn't matter that it's in larger quantity because we eat a lot of fresh produce anyway. They also have a lot of different pastas, organic pasta sauces (delicious!), meat, cereals, cheeses, etc... And, membership really doesn't cost that much... pays for itself pretty quickly. They don't really take coupons, but you don't need them. :)

  2. I buy a lot of the Badia brand spices. They are cheaper than Schilling/McCormick. You can find them with the Mexican foods. It is ridiculous that you can buy garbage cheaper than good, wholesome food. This annoys me to no end!

  3. Same problem here, too.

    I shop costco and the farmer's markets as often as I can. Costco has good coupons every now and again (but yeah, they're usually for premade foods and household stuff), and if you hit the farmer's markets right before closing, you can often get a better deal on the produce they don't want to haul back home.

  4. We try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and then divide it among families, less cost for everyone. I confess I do shop store brands for some items.

    I can't manage the couponing thing. I saw someone buy three grocery carts of food for $1.25 and coupons and store credits earned BUT one whole cart was full of boxes corn flakes. eeeeeewww uck! I don't know how I would ever get rid of that many corn flakes! sweet potato pies only take so many