Monday, February 15, 2010


I have a friend who is a major coupon user and routinely saves 80% or so a week at the grocery store. Who wouldn't love to do that?! I think it's great. Once in a while I'll find a coupon for a $1 off my contact solution in a magazine and I'll cut it out and try to remember to use it the next time I go to the store. Invariably I forget. So I thought I'd browse around one of the big couponing sites to see what all the fuss was about and to see if there were any good deals in my area and to see if I could find out the secret to saving big at the grocery.

What do I think? I think using coupons requires patience, perseverance, timing, planning, a great memory for where the deals are. It also requires you to develop a taste for boxed/processed foods based on the items I saw advertised.

There were lots and lots of coupons for kids cereals and boxed mixes. There were lots and lots and TONS of coupons for snack foods. There were none at all for fresh fruits or veggies or meat, except for the ridiculously overpriced frozen veggies-for-one or veggies-with-sauce-in-a-bag. Maybe I hit an off week? But if I didn't, coupons will never pay off for me because we don't use a lot of the things advertised*.

But then I had an a-ha moment: it hit me that coupons are subsidized by the food processing industry who OF COURSE want you to buy their processed foods! Duh!

Do I think that I save more by purchasing fresh foods versus purchasing convenience items with a coupon? Maybe not. But I'm not sure I could eat the other way.

*Full disclosure: While I don't count things like flour, butter or sugar, we do buy some things that I would describe as processed foods. Cheerios, Grape Nuts, once in a while a box of Lucky Charms or Mini-Wheats. Pasta. Canned tomatoes. Cheese. Ritz crackers. Peanut butter. Tortillas. Pickles. Chicken broth. Condiments. So I guess if I focused my coupon search on those items I would save some money. Is it worth the time and effort? Not sure.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, most coupons are for junk. I don't consider it much of a savings. The other thing is that there are never coupons on what would be the least expensive version of something. For example, you could buy the name brand version of X cereal for $4/box and once in a while get a 50 cent off coupon. Or you could buy the store brand version of X cereal for $2/box all the time. Hmmm.... Now, sometimes you can do pretty well, because some stores do price matching. Wal-Mart for example (though I don't really like Wal-Mart, it does have relatively inexpensive food) will match the advertised prices from other stores (except BOGO things). So if you bring all those flyers with the loss leader items in them to Wal-Mart, you can get the sale price from the othe stores without the added expense and time of driving all over the place. But it has to be stuff that you use. No point in "saving" money on things you wouldn't buy anyway.

So now I'm curious...what is the 80% off friend's weekly grocery bill?


Debbie said...

Have you ever looked at the coupon flier at the front of Publix? It is right next to the weekly special circular (AKA My Joy of Thursdays). I love seeing new sale items! Anyway, that extra booklet can save you a few dollars every now and then and requires no planning - just tear them out in the store. Publix even marks the items on the shelf if it has a coupon. So as you pick up your pickles, you might see a sign to go get the flier.

I, however, have a particular affinity for BOGO offers. I think a pantry looks empty with less than 15 boxes of cereal.