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My Non Extreme Couponing Shopping Trip

Exactly one week ago my big, expensive refrigerator died.  I had just purchased two weeks worth of groceries about 3 days earlier, so you can imagine my frustration at having lots of food spoil on top of having to pay hundreds of dollars to the repair man.   Left with a ghastly empty fridge with only three things (peanut butter, pickles and baking soda) I decided to take the opportunity to prove that you can save money on your groceries every single time you shop without being an extreme couponer.

Since I had almost nothing in my fridge, I focused on purchasing things that I knew that we would be eating within the next two weeks.  A problem that I have with extreme couponing is that people purchase things that they would not be able to use entirely in their lifetimes let alone by the expiration date (over 70 bottles of mustard anyone?). Fresh produce would dominate the majority of my shopping list since thankfully, nothing was wrong with my cupboards.

To prepare for my shopping trip I grabbed the coupon inserts out of my newspaper and printed coupons from Coupons.com as well as Redplum.com.  Again, I only clipped coupons for things that I knew that I needed to purchase.  I’m a busy woman working over 40 hours per week on top of a daily commute of almost 3 hours each day plus running this blog and other stuff.  I don’t have time to spend 30 to 40 hours each week looking for coupons.  If I did I would have a second job.  I spend 6 minutes (timed myself) clipping coupons from the paper and another 4 minutes printing coupons from the websites.  Yes, you too can be done with your coupon clipping in 10 minutes.  I didn’t spend money buying coupons either.

I shop at Stop and Shop and while they had lot of sales, they were not all for things that I needed, so I ignored them.  I didn’t care about building a stockpile of Kraft bar-b-que sauce (on sale everywhere right now) because I didn’t need it.  I needed milk, eggs, yogurt, meats and cheeses, not more than 100 candy bars.  Incidentally, those items are often the ones that are least likely to have manufacturer coupons.  You can find lots of coupons for things like cereal and pasta but try to find one for eggs!

I did make one major mistake.  I took BF shopping with me, and you should never take a hungry person to the grocery store.  Invariably you will end up with more stuff than you bargained for magically appearing at the check out line.  We budgeted $225 for groceries which is almost double what I would normally spend at the grocery store.  Remember, we were starting from zero in the fridge and needed to replace some cupboard items having eaten out of the pantry for 5 days before the fridge was fixed.

stop and shop receipt

Stop & Shop Receipt

We spent a total of $278.19.  Yes, we did go over budget somewhat, but that’s not the end of it.  I handed the cashier my coupons and store loyalty card.  After scanning coupons and my store card my total was reduced by $71.97 down to $206.22, a saving of 25.87%.  My store does not double $1 coupons, nor do they double coupons that say “DO NOT DOUBLE”.  If they did I would have saved quite a lot more money.  But that’ s not the end of it.  I paid the bill with my Discover Card which earns me 5% cash back, so I’ll get another $10.31 from Discover card bringing my total savings to 29.57%.  But wait, there’s more!  Stop & Shop is offering a promotion currently where every dollar spent earns 1 point.  Every 100 points earns you $0.10 off per gallon of gas.  On this trip I earned 207 points which is good for $0.20 per gallon off my next fill-up or I can roll it over and add more points.  If I cash in my $0.20 per gallon at about 15 gallons to my tank I will save an additional $3 pushing my total saving for this trip up a little past 30%.

That’s how I saved 30% off my shopping with 10 minutes of work without having to stash rolls and rolls of toilet paper under my bed while buying things that my family will actually eat and use.  You can see proof of my sexy savings at the image to the right.  See, Extreme Couponing,  I save money without the psychosis.

Have you saved some serious money while shopping lately?  Share your experience in the comments below!

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance #311 The Filboid Studge Edition hosted by Miss Thrifty.

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21 Comments

  1. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing” and am amazed at how much these women (and men) save! I have a Randall’s card, and use it when I do go, but I had no idea that loyalty cards actually saved that much money. Do all grocery stores have them? I live in Texas where HEB is the popular grocery chain, but have never heard about a loyalty card from them.

    One thing I have noticed since the recession is that retailers are consistently marking their sale items further on sale. Sometimes I miss these extra mark-downs, because a tag isn’t marked with the new price, or the item is in the wrong location, but the other day I went to Nordstrom Rack and got a $100 pair of shoes on extra discount for only $17! Talk about a deal! Most coupons aren’t good on sale items, so don’t forget to look at these sections more closely… you never know when you’ll find a freaking steal!

    Meredith @ Deals.com

    • I think that a lot of grocery stores now have the cards. It’s always free to sign up but make sure that you scan them every time that you shop for savings.

      That was an awesome find at Nordstom! I plan on hitting Macy’s and Saks off Fifth Ave this Memorial Day weekend to purchase some much needed suits and I am looking out for bargains! I love that many stores now have the price check machines available for customer use. I try to scan everything to see if they are on sale.

  2. Congrats on your savings. I avoid coupons because they seem like such a time sink, but 10 minutes? That’s doable. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider my stance.

    • I don’t have much time either so if it’s going to take more than 10-15 minutes of commercial breaks in between House, I don’t do it. I’d rather skip it. You don’t need to spend all the time that these ladies spend doing it and again, I only clip things that I need.

  3. Great post. I love/hate extreme couponing because it’s amazing to see how organized these men and women are, but it’s frustrating to see how often they don’t get much food with their purchases. Your results are much more realistic to me—yet very impressive. I’ll have to scan your site a bit as you may have already answered my question, but do you have certain blogs or websites we should be checking out regularly?

  4. We recently lost everything in our refrigerator, freezer and stand alone freezer. I feel your pain. Ours was from a week long power outage after tornadoes ripped up our state. Everyone lost everything and it was a horrible loss to all. I was sharing how to replace it like you did as well.

    Your shopping tactics are much how I shop. When disaster hasn’t struck and you can apply those coupons & cash to just the items you will be needing in the next week or so that are on sale, you can really rack up the savings.

    There are coupons for eggs available but the problem is that they are usually for ONLY name brand eggs like Land ‘O Lakes or Eggland’s Best. I have seen a recent printable coupon for eggs (any carton of a doz.) on SmartSource.

    I encourage my readers to use the coupon database on my site to do fast searches to find ALL the coupons in one location. Currently over 5100 coupons listed from every source we can find to include all the coupon inserts, sites, magazines and more. If the coupons are available online, they are linked for quick printing and they open in a new page.

    Great job and may your refrigerator live on for many years to come. I really enjoyed your post. :)

    • Ginger,

      Sorry to hear about the destruction you suffered from. You see these things on the news and pray that no one that you know was affected. I’m happy to donate something to help you recover. I can bitch and moan about how much I spent on the repair and not having a fridge for 5 days, but you’re dealing with much more.

      I see those coupon database things on lots of sites and if I were really trying to save a lot of money I would pay attention to them. I’m so lazy you have no idea.

  5. I agree that extreme couponing is a waste of time, and what I love about your strategy is that you saved lots of money WITHOUT spending much time clipping coupons. Since you spent about 10 minutes getting coupons, and saved $70, you’re “earning” at a rate of $420 per hour.

  6. HAHA… stashing rolls and rolls of toilet paper under the bed :)

    I actually did the same thing and I’m writing up a post on it (inspired by your shopping trip, of course!)- stacking up the points is the way to go!

    I actually did it slightly extreme style- I had the heart palpitations before she rung up the purchases just like the folks in the show do(even though I only used one coupon for each product) because I was worried it wouldn’t go through.

    • When I saw the $278 I almost had a heart attack. That’s a lot of money! I did no an “Extreme Coupon” style shopping trip at CVS. I spent $50 and got $50 in Extra Care Bucks back. :) I impressed the cashier and I had the longest receipt that I had ever seen in my life. But really, it takes too much time.

  7. Very inspiring. We’ve really never proactively collected coupons for our grocery store trips, but that will now change. I’d definitely save a few bucks for a few minutes of my time. Thanks for the info.

  8. Very inspiring. We’ve really never proactively collected coupons for our grocery store trips, but that will now change. I’d definitely save a few bucks for a few minutes of my time. Thanks for the info.

  9. I’ve been thinking about doing more couponing and doing it more intentionally (not just the “hmm, what’s on sale?” or “hey I have a coupon”), but looking to actually go and get coupons to save more money. The inspiration is a friend who pointed me to TheFrugalFind.com. She (and I too) am in California, but I have a feeling that a lot of the general tips apply to a lot of places in the US (and beyond). And Julia (writer of TheFrugalFind) might be considered an extreme couponer.. except she doesn’t have insane amounts of stuff she’ll never use. Instead she has what her family will use AND also gives stuff away to those in need, all the while sometimes making money on her purchases! How’s that for extreme!

  10. I’ve been thinking about doing more couponing and doing it more intentionally (not just the “hmm, what’s on sale?” or “hey I have a coupon”), but looking to actually go and get coupons to save more money. The inspiration is a friend who pointed me to TheFrugalFind.com. She (and I too) am in California, but I have a feeling that a lot of the general tips apply to a lot of places in the US (and beyond). And Julia (writer of TheFrugalFind) might be considered an extreme couponer.. except she doesn’t have insane amounts of stuff she’ll never use. Instead she has what her family will use AND also gives stuff away to those in need, all the while sometimes making money on her purchases! How’s that for extreme!

  11. My story is just about the same as yours. I spend a few minutes online printing coupons. I flip through the coupons that come in the mail. I keep a coupon organizer in my purse for coupons for products that I use but won’t be buying right away; the coupons are organized by expiration date.

    On the day that I’m going to the store, I flip through my coupons and pull out the ones I plan on using. I make a list. I go shopping. It’s only a few minutes of preparation and I save a substantial amount of money. Last night, I went to Target for toiletries and groceries and saved 20%. The week before, it was 41% at Safeway, using their online deals (plus 10 cents off my next fill up at their gas station).

  12. My story is just about the same as yours. I spend a few minutes online printing coupons. I flip through the coupons that come in the mail. I keep a coupon organizer in my purse for coupons for products that I use but won’t be buying right away; the coupons are organized by expiration date.

    On the day that I’m going to the store, I flip through my coupons and pull out the ones I plan on using. I make a list. I go shopping. It’s only a few minutes of preparation and I save a substantial amount of money. Last night, I went to Target for toiletries and groceries and saved 20%. The week before, it was 41% at Safeway, using their online deals (plus 10 cents off my next fill up at their gas station).

  13. Awesome post! I love how you saved so much on so little time. The only time I support the “extreme” couponers is when they’re doing it for food banks or charity. Then, I think it’s a great use of their time. For one family, not so much.

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