Powerful “Couponing”

May 2010

I did a quick shop this morning on a challenge; I had been trying to convince a friend that using coupons is actually a good thing. He countered me stating that he felt they encouraged you to “buy more things.” My counter to him was “Yes, you can buy more things, and pay less. That’s the point.” I invited him along to shop with me so I could show him the ropes. He said they didn’t have money in the budget to buy groceries this week. (I’m quite sure this was true; one of the household has lost their job recently, which is why I had reached out to try to help them.) I offered to put together a deal where he wouldn’t have to pay anything for the groceries, but he didn’t “bite.”

So, I proceeded to tell him I would shop on Wednesday, and get everything I bought for free, and send him the numbers. If he was interested after that, we’d do the same deal for his family. Now this takes time, planning and finesse, and I don’t really normally shop “this hard.” I’m not an extreme couponer, but the conversation had obviously deteriorated to this point.

Take a look – I got  “paid” to buy groceries. I have a $5.00 coupon for my next purchase. Subtracting the tax I paid, I have a positive balance of $2.86.

I did have to make some compromises on my purchases, but nothing I can’t live with, especially if I had “no money” to go shopping with. Normally, I would probably have gone a little heavier on the vegetables, gotten something besides the iceberg lettuce, and the hot dogs are a little questionable.

I still bought a lot of groceries for no money at all, and I know I could feed my family for at least a week off this shopping trip, especially if I were to use the chicken in a casserole, make soup from the bones, use the Rhodes rolls as hot dog or hamburger buns, make potato soup and stretch that three pounds of hamburger as far as it can go. It would not be the greatest gourmet food week, but it would be better than making do with what’s in the fridge and cupboards. This other family has no freezer and doesn’t keep a very well stocked pantry. They have one upper cupboard devoted to food.

Item         full price         sale price         my price        
Rotisserie Chicken         $6.99         $5.49         $0.00        
Milk, 1 gallon         $2.59         $2.19         $1.88        
Dannon Yogurt 4 pack         $2.19         $2.00         $1.00        
Dannon Yogurt 4 pack         $2.19         $2.00         $1.00        
Potatoes 5 lb         $1.99         $1.29         $0.78        
Iceberg Lettuce 12 oz         $1.69         $1.21         $0.88        
Strawberries 1 lb         $3.99         $3.99         $1.39        
Rhodes Br Serve Rolls         $2.69         $2.29         $0.29        
Rhodes Br Serve Rolls         $2.69         $2.29         $0.29        
Sara Lee Buns (8)         $2.17         $1.49         $0.98        
Motts Natural Apple Juice         $3.19         $1.99         $0.98        
*** Friskies Cat Treats         $2.59         $1.25         ($0.75)        
*** Friskies Cat Treats         $2.59         $1.25         ($0.75)        
* Hamburger (3.00 coupon) 3 pounds        $8.67         $5.97         $2.97        
Bar S Hot Dogs         $1.01         $0.89         $0.58        
** Gillette Body Wash (7)         $31.43         $24.50         $6.00        
Colgate Toothbrush         $2.99         $2.00         $0.50        
Colgate Toothbrush         $2.99         $2.00         $0.50        
Bic 4 pk Razors         $5.99         $3.50         $0.50        
Bic 4 pk Razors         $5.99         $3.50         $0.50        
Bic 4 pk Razors         $5.99         $3.50         $0.50        
Batteries 4 AA         $2.99         $1.00         $1.00        
Subtotal         $105.60         $75.59         $21.02        
Coupons         $20.00        
Final Price         $1.02        
Tax         $2.12        
Money off next purchase         ($5.00)        
Grand Total to the Good         ($2.86)        


* I could have done better on the hamburger had I waited for a better sale.  My coupon also would have allowed me money off chicken legs which were at a much better sales price, but we prefer breast meat. Had I gotten the legs, they would have been free.

** This does seem like a lot of body wash, but I have a teenage son who is now set for the next several months. In order to get an “instant” $10.00 off the grocery bill, I had to buy $25.00 worth of P & G products. Between sales, coupons and the money back, I actually “made” money on the deal and did it twice with two different trips. I determined that of all the sales offerings, the body wash and toothbrushes were the best deal, and something we weren’t stocked up on already. I am quite sure that they will be used up before any deterioration in quality. Buying these items also helped get me up to the dollar amount so that my store will double coupons.

***Notice the cat treats “made” me money, 75 cents each. These are often a “money-maker.” Clip them and use them even if you don’t have a cat, save the money and give them to a cat loving friend.

Part of what I did here was use “deals” from Manufacturers offering money to spend on a future visit or money off the total grocery bill to lower my total cost of the groceries. Had I just bought food using coupons, I would have spent about $15.00 on the items I bought. Because the Manufacturer deals had great coupons, I spent less than the money I got back and the extra money “slopped over” and applied to the food purchases.

My grocery store doubles the value of coupons as long as you spend $25.00, so buying the extra “non food” items actually allowed me to get that double value and spend less money in the long run. Some of the items are ‘buy something, get something else free,” and some of the items are just at so low of a cost, they’re hard to pass up. It actually took a lot of figuring to come up with a mix of items that were very low in actual cost and had coupons so that I could get special offers, etc., and lower the “total” cost I paid to below nothing.

When one is spending little money, the instinct is to buy as much cheap food as possible, and forgo all other unnecessary items. This is usually counter to the way that coupons work. I’m sure that’s why sometimes when one looks at a list or photo of items grouped by a couponer as being “free” or for a very little cost, one might look at that and think something like what are they thinking?  If they didn’t buy such and such, or why would they need that? etc, etc. Remember the strategy to apply coupons, and the strategy to “buy low, eat high.”

(The chicken was free on a coupon deal from the previous week, by the way.)

All in all, I’m quite pleased with the challenge, and although I did have to put quite a bit of work into finding the best deals, working the calculations and sorting coupons, I pulled it off. I also did two transactions, and “my” store, Rainbow, and the managers and clerks that work there were wonderful. Of interest, when I was calculating my prices, I could have continued this on with the coupons I had and made at least two or three other trips, buying “free” items, the deals were so good that week. I really didn’t feel like making any additional trips, and felt I had proved my point.

By the way, because I was credited on my Roundy’s card for the sales price of the items, not the actual price paid, I got $.50 per gallon off my next purchase of gasoline. I generally let that add up on my card until I’m nearly empty so I can get as many gallons at as cheap of a price as possible. I figure I’ll put in 18 gallons, and save another $9.00 due today’s purchases.

So what did my friend say about the email and prices I sent him? Did he call me up and say, “Wow – that’s amazing, do you have time this afternoon or Saturday to go to the store with me?” Nope…

Related Reading

Links for The Twelve Strategies:

Grocery Coupon Guide – Written by a person who ate on $1.00 a day for a hundred days!

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