Coupon Queen

Today before work (when the shelves were stocked and the checkout lanes were empty) I stopped in at Publix to get my hands on all the ridiculous coupon deals that were available this weeks sale.

How did I do?
Does paying $10.72 for $96.01 in groceries sound good?

For some time now, almost a year, I've changed the way I shop for our food and household items in a pretty big way. Smaller changes over time have gotten me to here and while this is a drastic example of what can be done when combining deals, it's common for me to walk away having spent around $50 for $85 in goods.

Last summer Collin and I had chosen to stay in our house for another year - but without our roommate to help us pay the bills. This meant some budget rearranging and as House Manager, I thought I could make a change in how much we spend at the grocery store. This is where I disclose that we are in no way trying to eat organic/whole/non-processed foods. I eat what I eat and I eat it in moderation. Someday in the future we may be more concerned, more thoughtful, or more financially able to choose these types of products - but for now I am happy letting the veggies in my cart share space with pop tarts and frozen pizza. I do like to grow my own food each summer at eat seasonally from the produce section of the market as those are the best prices anyway. (I also have genuine conflicts of interest with the 'organic' movement as a whole but I don't like to soapbox it, maybe another post in the future outlining my priorities and position is warranted).

In the beginning I started shopping exclusively from the weekly sales at my favorite store, Publix. They offer normal sales for a small amount off a particular item, but what they also offer are buy one get one deals, aka BOGO, that are serious savings. I find it's easiest to stick to one primary grocery store. Publix is my favorite for a lot of reasons (6 store locations on the way to and from my work, superior packaging design, insider trust in their store brand) and so I go with them. You can do this with any store you like, but every one has a different coupon policy and sales strategy.
I started saving probably $50 a month or more from our previous bills by making this small change. Each month I looked at what I had in the kitchen already, thought of several meals to make from our existing food and brainstormed what ingredients I should look for on sale that month. As the item when on sale, I bought it and made those meals. I started doing a lot of batch cooking and intentional leftovers too. Purchasing a few extras of what was on sale to last us until the next time it was discounted was making a difference.

I tried clipping coupons then too but gave up after just a couple weeks. The coupons never seemed to match what I wanted to buy and when I did remember seeing a great deal in the flyer I would usually have forgotten to cut it out and bring it with me. I was already satisfied with my savings so I ditched the coupons and have shopped this way for almost a year now.

Until I found the blogs.
Oh my god the coupon blogs. I just love them. I even stumbled upon my magical most favorite of all: www.iheartpublix.com. Somehow this lovely woman finds the Publix ads nearly a week early and posts them in a full list with links to printable coupons and matches of the coupons available from sunday paper inserts by date. Holy crap this has changed my life.
She is the only reason I had the monster savings I did today. Thanks to her I now happily use coupons as much as I can. Paring down our shopping list every week to what is on sale and has available coupons for me to use. Sure I buy a lot of items that don't have applicable coupons like meats, fresh produce, and bread but even they are discounted at times when I have overage from coupons that value more than the item they're for. I also stockpile items like shampoo, baggies, canned goods and dry pantry items we use frequently because I know they will last until we want to use them and I hate the thought of having to go out and purchase something at full price just because we ran out and the great sale is long gone.

So here's the breakdown for the trip today. You'll notice it's low on the actual food items but that's because we're going on vacation next week and I wasn't about to fill up the house with food that will go bad while we're gone. Shampoo and chips and frozen veggies though? Totally good for when we return.

6 boxes frozen green giant veggies at $1 each
-$0.50 per box manufacturer coupon = $3 spent
2 boxes eggo waffles at $2.59 bogo
-$2 store coupons, $1 manufacturer coupon   = $0.41 made
2 cans organic tomato paste at $0.89 each
-$2 manufacturer coupons   = $0.22 made
5 Dove deodorants at $2 each
-$10 manufacturer coupons, $3 competitor coupons   = $3 made
6 John Frieda shampoo, conditioner and styling products at $3.99 each
-$15 manufacturer coupons, $9 competitor coupons   = $0.06 made
2 taco dinner kits at $2.93 bogo
-$1 manufacturer coupons   = $1.93 spent
2 family size Tostitos chips at $4.99 bogo
-$2 competitor coupons   =$2.99 spent
2 Ziploc freezer bag packages at 2/$7
-$1 manufacturer coupon, $2 competitor coupons   = $4 spent
2 GE light bulb packages at $3.49 bogo
-$3 competitor coupons, $1 manufacturer coupon   = $0.51 made

My math here may not add up quite right at first glance because my grand total from the top also includes additional discounts on each item (like the John Frieda products being $1.50 off on sale).

To sum it up:
 $96.01 in goods
-$28.30 in store advertised sales
-$34.00 manufacturer coupons
-$21.00 competitor coupons
-$4.20 coupon overage
+$2.21 tax
=$10.72 Total
Some quick tips:

  • Remember you can use one coupon on each item when it is on sale bogo. So, 2 coupons on 2 items, even though one is free.

  • Stack manufacturer and store coupons for the best deal. Target has great printable coupons and those are what allowed me to make money this week on all the shampoo and deodorant.

  • Use multiple computers (IP addresses) to print internet coupons - and don't forget to hit that back button to re-send your information and print each one twice.

  • Go shopping early when you have tons of coupons and stay organized so your cashier and any customers behind you don't give you the death stare.

  • Happy Shopping!

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