Coupon mom saves hundreds
Local blogger and resident super-mom Sarah Pinnix went to the
grocery store Tuesday.
No, that's not the bill, that's the amount she saved playing her favorite game: couponing.
"I love coming to the grocery store, because it's a challenge for me to see how little I can spend each week and how much I can get," she said.
Pinnix spends about 45 minutes a week clipping and organizing coupons, but it's worth it when she spends about $350 a month on groceries for a family of five. Organization is the key.
While some couponers use three-ring binders with baseball card holders, Pinnix uses a check organizer with specific tabs separating food coupons into several categories, i.e. frozen, canned, cereal, etc.
"Your number one goal is to never pay full price," she said, and, thanks to meticulous organization, she never does. "It's really a part time job for me, and I take it very seriously, because it saves us hundreds of dollars each month."
And, with a little time and organization, you too can put more in your cart for less.
The first step, she said, is to find out where the sales are.
To do that, she checks out Web sites like thegrocerygame.com and couponmom.com. Some stores even offer double and triple coupon days.
Sign up for finance benefits at your local chain, like a Food Lion MVP card or a Harris Teeter VIC card. Next, she hits the newspaper for coupons. "You can also get a lot of coupons online," she said.
And, if there's a product you really want to try, she suggests writing the company. Most of the time, they'll send you coupons.
Combining sales with coupons is where the real savings come in. That means, even if you have a coupon, wait until it's on sale. "You're going to save so much money if you wait," Pinnix said.
That's where the game comes in, matching coupons with store sales to save on the items you need each week.
Sometimes it's tricky.
"The deal is three for $6," she said, picking up two boxes of shredded wheat, "but the coupon is buy two. If I were to get three, that would be too much. They try to trick you sometimes."
A common mistake, according to Pinnix, happens with BOGO offers, or "buy one, get one free." "Most stores will charge each item at half price," she said.
It depends on the store, she said, but most of the time, you save the most by only buying one item in BOGO situations.
Once you have your list organized, it's time to hit the grocery store. Opt for a cart, because Pinnix says the real savings lie in bulk purchasing. "For example, last week there was buy-two-get-three-free 2-pound bags of shrimp," she said.
She stuck the extra shrimp in the freezer, a must-have for serious couponers.
"I won't feed them all this in a week," she laughed, piling five tubs of ice cream in her cart, buy two, get three free.
Don't shy away from large, intimidating cuts of meat if it's a good deal. "A lot of times, they'll slice it in boneless chops... a big chuck roast, you can get it ground," she said, and all you have to do is ask the butcher.
Couponing gives Pinnix the opportunity to try new foods. "Sometimes you'll try something really great because you got a good deal," she said.
The grocery store is also a great place to get good deals on cosmetics. "I never pay over $1 for a toothbrush," she said.
Pinnix bought an $8.49 stick of deodorant for less than half price. "It's 4.99 on sale, and I have a $1 coupon," she said.
While generics can be cheaper on the surface than name brand products, couponing can tip the scales. "Sometimes you have to be flexible on brands... but most of the time with coupons and sales, you can get name-brand items for less than store brand items," she said.
The third and most important step is only to buy discounted items. "These are door buster deals, but they're counting on you buying other things while you're here," she said.
A rookie mistake, Pinnix said, is to splurge on extra items because you're saving money. "It adds up," she said.
And a coupon doesn't give you an excuse to buy items you'll never use.
"You're not forced to use the coupon," she said, "only buy things you eat."
She can't stress organization enough. "Before I really found a system, I used to have a few coupons and come to the store and say, 'What am I going to get?' That didn't work for me," she said.
The more couponing you do, the more tricks you'll learn. For example, Tuesday Pinnix walked right by asparagus, even though it was on sale for $3. "The lowest price it gets is about $1.69," she said.
And Pinnix always pays the lowest price. She suggests making a grocery price notebook, so you'll be able to gauge what's a good deal and what's not.
If the store is out of an item it's offering on special, ask the cashier for a rain check. "Then you get it for that price when you come back," she said, just remember to save the coupon.
Sales typically turn over on Wednesdays, making Fridays the ideal day to shop, she said.
A mother of three, Pinnix uses couponing to teach her children fiscal responsibility.
"I never say we can't afford things," she said. "I say we don't want to spend our money on that now."
That way, her kids don't think of anything as "forbidden." They learn the value of delayed gratification, waiting until there's a coupon.
"They learn you don't take your money for granted," Pinnix said. "You're being a good steward of what you have."
Tuesday's grand total: $88.21, even though she bought more than $200 worth of groceries.
"It's easy," she said. "You just have to be organized."
For more tips, visit Pinnix's Web site, http://www.highcountrymomsquad.com. How much do you save? Let me know at (firstname.lastname@example.org)