November 19, 2014

Rethinking my Strategy after Extreme Couponing

Jun23

It’s the first day of Super Doubles week at my favorite grocery store, and I’m having to implement a whole new strategy to my “Grocery Guru” status.

I shared my opinion on the reality of the Extreme Couponing show, or the fact that it’s not reality for the common shopper, yet the bottom line is that a whole new wave of couponers have caught the bug of getting items for free, and therefore the whole face of couponing has changed dramatically.

I’ve always been excited to share ways to slash our grocery budgets, and I have taught people the secrets of getting items for free for years,  so it’s not that I want couponing to be a secret. I LOVE that more people are being better stewards of their money, but the biggest problem with what has come from the show is that so many people are not adhering to the limits set within the coupon policies, or if their store doesn’t have strict limits, people have just gone hoarder on us all.  Therefore, stores consistently have empty shelves on those items that are at stock pile prices.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed it takes much more intentionality to get the deals I want. So, I am using some different strategies, or not really different than things I have done before, I just have to be much more flexible with my shopping, and not let discouragement get the best of me.

When I go to the store specifically for a great coupon week, I have three different sets of coupons organized.

One set contains all the free or nearly free items that will be on sale that week. Those are the items that go the fastest, and I realize that many of those items may not be available. Today I went shopping at 11:00 am. The sale began at 7:00am and five of the items (times 3) that I planned on purchasing were already completed gone. So for my Plan A,  fifteen of my twenty coupon limit items were no longer options for my shopping trip. They still had the Cooking Cream Cheese and the Sour Cream (both which were free), but that was it. So I moved onto my coupons that were just good deals, and then those that I was planning ahead for for future events.

You see in the picture I bought bottled water. I never buy bottled water. We always refill our own bottles, but my son has a 16th birthday party coming up in one week, so I knew 48 bottles would come in handy (one case is missing from the picture). I also plan on stocking up on hot dogs. They will be part of the menu for the party, as well as lots of taco dip, so both the sour cream and cream cheese will be perfect for that.

Thinking ahead with necessary groceries is key for frugal entertaining. I had a coupon for $1 off Oreos (which doubled) when I purchased milk, plus I had coupons for the milk, so i got two milks and cookies for only $3.  Not the prices I would love, but it’s much better than paying full price next week when I need the Oreos for Dirt Cake. (Do you think my goal of keeping the cookies uneaten for my son’s dessert is realistic? ;) )

I’m utilizing rain checks more frequently.

Since clearing the shelves has become common place, and many of the items I want on sale are gone, I make sure to ask customer service for a rain check. Sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing because they have to hand write each one, so if I need more than 2-3 rain checks, and there is a line, I get it the next time I am at the store. Often, rain checks when used well can result in even better savings, and it’s hassle free. I wait until I know that the shelves are stocked and I don’t have to fight the masses.

I’m using coupons from magazines more often.

Typically, those items are always available since not as many people have those same coupons. All You has been my “Go To” coupon source for magazine coupons. They always have quite a few that I use each month. I’ve read All You for years, long before I became one of their Saving All Stars, but I am privileged to have that title.

I’m scouring for unadvertised deals frequently.

(Like these examples.)I go up and down aisles very quickly, skimming and looking for clearanced items or unadvertised coupons that are displayed on marketing type boards. When you see those, please take a few for yourself and then leave some for others. Often, I hold onto them because sale cycles tell us that normally,  those items go on sale a few weeks after the marketing push.

I’m using my additional store loyalty card e-coupons.

Many stores are adding additional benefits associated with their store loyalty card. Make sure you register your card to receive all the savings possible, and check to see if they have e-coupons that you load onto your card. This takes a bit more work, since I am needing to keep track of what extra savings is available with which items, but it’s worth it, especially if your store stacks both manufacture coupon and loyalty card coupons  – like Harris Teeter does.

I’m using patience and I realize that the Tourtise always wins.

If you are new to couponing, don’t get discouraged. I encourage you to take it slowly, and understand that they new hype from Extreme Couponing will die down in awhile. Pick one store and just try to get a few great deals every week or every other week. I’m been couponing as a lifestyle for years. I understand every in and out of  getting deals. I know that it takes time and work. It’s not a quick fix,” free food all the time” game. Many people will get tired of it after awhile, and become overwhelmed if they try and get carts of groceries every time for $5.

Grow and Make My Own

I’m convinced that the best way to slash the grocery budget is by taking it into my own hands. Not only does this save me money, but it’s the healthiest route for my family. My garden is something I am prioritizing this year! I’ll let you know how it goes.

These are just a few of my strategies which I am utilizing. But remember, putting all these together over a lifetime equals extreme savings!


Comments

  1. This was my first time visiting your blog. The extreme couponers are making things more challenging here as well. Our local Walgreens are only allowing people to use 2 like coupons per day. It kind of stinks if you are buying something that you have to buy 3 to get register rewards. LIke you said though, the hype will die down. :)

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  2. This was so well writtem Jen! In a world going crazier by the minute, you are truly a voice of reason!
    I did a lot of couponing 2 years ago, then kinda burned out and totally quit. I have just this week started back. I hit CVS yesterday, and did a bit at Bi-Lo and Publix. This time around, I am going to go slow, and not feel pressured to get every good deal there is, every single week. That is what burned me out before.
    Thank you for all these helpful suggestions. I will be using them in the upcoming weeks as I get my feet wet again!!

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  3. Jen…if there is a line behind you and your need rainchecks, just go to the customer service counter when you are done shopping and they can write them out for you. :)

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    Jen Reply:

    I always do get them at Customer Service, but every time, a line ends up forming. :) They have to hand write so much on those rain checks, that it typically takes awhile.

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    Chrys Reply:

    @Jen, I understand the normal benefits of rain checks, but am a bit confused during doubles/triples weeks. The rain check is just for the price, not doubling associated coupons, right?

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    Chrys Reply:

    @Chrys, nevermind, saw the answer below!

  4. I have noticed the same thing the past few times Super Doubles. I even resorted to going at 7 am the day the sales began since we are a one car family I can’t always make multiple trips. Even going first thing int he morning didn’t work. I spoke to an employee and she explained that there were people there at 5 am shopping and filling their carts and then right at 7 they would check out. Which means that those of us honoring the 7 am sale start time get there and a lot of it has been picked over or the shelves are empty before the staff can even change the sales tags. I guess I will have to start utilizing rain checks more often.

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  5. Oh, the trend to over-buy and over-stock ourselves. :( It’s sad, really, to think about these people hoarding groceries. If they’re buying so that they can then donate, I approve – but just to have it? Why?? Every month our church takes non-perishables for the food pantry, and I always seem to have something we haven’t eaten, but it’s only a few items. I can’t imagine having bought a whole cart-load of stuffing, for example; when would I EVER use that up?

    Thanks for another great post – I love your blog! :) Your tips on saving money are great; I love the frugal fashionista and the meal ideas you post. With two growing boys (ages 5 & 8 now) I know I’ll be trying to keep the Oreos for a week soon – heck, we already love to eat the treats up in advance! :) Haha! Maybe you can freeze them, or put them at the back of the cupboard in a brown paper bag…

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  6. I agree going slow is best. It takes time to gather up all those coupons. And to think that every week you are going to only spend 5.00 for 100.00 worth of grocery’s is nuts. Personally I would love to do it just once. lol. I have more luck working a much smaller deal and still get free stuff. I just do not get 6 cart loads and need 2 cars to get it all home. Plus I do not have the storage space. I am now getting a stock pile built back up. Since space is at a limit in my house I have to watch how much of the same item I get. If I go too nuts I might get home and find that I have no where to put it.

    The new extreme coupon people will burn out in time. We just have to wait the trend to fade out and things will get back to a new normal. But its cool that more people are using coupons. We all need to do what we can to save money. Plus its way fun to try out new product, have name brand stuff for the teen in the house. And its not costing me tons of money to be able to use it. :)

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  7. Thank you for this post! I live in North Carolina as well and enjoy the HT Super Doubles weeks. But I do have a question. I thought that if you use your raincheck once super doubles week is over, they will not honor the Super Double coupon-is that correct?

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    Jen Reply:

    The wonderful thing about Harris Teeter rain checks is they never expire. I keep them until the next Super Doubles or Triples or at a time when the sale price is even lower.

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    Abbie Reply:

    @Jen, My local grocery store gives out rainchecks that expire in a week. No exceptions, including if still haven’t gotten any back on the shelf.

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    Jen Reply:

    That is a bummer. Most of our stores have a 30 day rain check policy, but my one store has no expiration date. LOVE that. If you have a CVS near you, they do not have expirations etc.

  8. I love how informative your blog posts are! Thanks!

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  9. Monique says:

    Jen, great post as usual. I just read a post on another blog which made suggestions on how to store all the stuff extreme couponers (if that’s a word) are stocking in their homes. I’m guessing within a year or so I’ll read a story about an extreme couponer who gets sick from eating some 3-year old product in their stockpile. Sad people are so greedy when there are so many folks who just want enough to feed their families.

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  10. christy says:

    Well said Jen! I appreciate your tips for adapting to this and had expressed the same concerns to my husband about how this show had ‘changed the rules’ and made it more challenging for those of us who are simply trying to stretch a dollar and get by in this difficult economy. Thanks for the tips and encouragement – I never even think about doing a rain check but now I will! I can’t afford to stop couponing and won’t let the discouragement get me down.

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  11. Thank you for you blog and all the work you do to share with us. I’ve been couponing for about 10 years. I do follow the rules and limits and I can clearly see how the show has sparked alot of change in this way of saving. It is frustrating sometimes, but I do agree that rainchecks are the way to go even though its an inconvenience. Sometimes it pays off because I may get a better coupon in the mean time. Love that.

    My issue is I feel like I do need a stockpile for economic reasons. I don’t think that I need to have years worth, but a few months worth to me is reasonable. I buy 6 papers a week so when a sale goes on something that I use regularly I will buy 6. I do get stares from people who I just feel are thinking I’m a crazy hoarder. I’m not. I’m just trying to save my family a few franklins. Then there are people who stop and out of the blue ask how do you do it? Its hard to do whats best for my family when so many pp judge based on what they “think” is going on. If I can get the food & supplies I need for the next few months for dirt cheap or free. I need to do that and not worry about what others think. Oh, btw I’m not saying its ok to clear a shelf deliberately. I have cleared a shelf but its because there is only 1 or 2 left to begin with.

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    Katie Reply:

    @Michele, Hey don’t sweat it. I do the same thing. I have four grown boys, plus one that is still at home. He’s only 10, but he’s already almost 6 foot tall and eats a LOT. I quit worrying about what people think of me. I would be buying this much food if it was on sale anyway and my son needs to eat. Buying with coupons and on sale is the only way that I can keep up with him, plus we try to help out our grown sons as well. We stockpile when stuff is on sale, and we have done so for years. Learning to be better couponers is just allowing us to do that for a little less money.

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    Jen Reply:

    I’m with you on this Michelle. Trust me, six of something isn’t “clearing the shelf.” For our family, that’s a typical week for some items. haha

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  12. OK Jen, I went to Harris Teeter today and it was ridiculous! Granted it’s Friday but I tried to go before everyone got off work. I have NEVER in the 10 years that I have been couponing seen so many people shopping with coupons and coupon books. I even worked in a grocery store for 4+ years and never saw that many. A customer must have asked these girls that were in front of me if they were extreme couponing and they answered yes because when I go to walk by she looked at my cart and my coupon notebook and says, “Oh, are you an extreme couponer too?” I just looked at her, smiled and said, “No, this is how I’ve always shopped.” I definitley need to go in the early morning next time.

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    Jen Reply:

    I haven’t gone yet today. I am planning on going tonight during VBS, but nervous nothing will be there. I know. I HATE taking my binder because I got comments all the time now. I never did before. UGH!

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    Amanda Reply:

    @Jen, They appeared to be restoking the shelves like crazy when I was there so maybe they won’t be out. There actually wasn’t anything that I wanted to get this time that they were out of but I wasn’t trying to get any of the items that were free. I was actually surprised at how much there was on the shelves considering the amount of people there. Maybe they got wise and have started to order more or are rationing out when they put more on the shelf so it will last through the sale.

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    Katie Reply:

    @Amanda, My husband has been couponing for awhile now (before the TV show) and nobody ever said much about it. Now we have one store where the checkers will announce us when we enter the store. I’ve had people make nasty comments about having to wait behind me, but this particular store has always opened an extra checkstand just for us so that the other customers are not inconvenienced. Weare starting to get a little burned out by the comments, but we have to do this to make sure that we can afford to eat fairly well. I’m careful to rotate my stockpile and if something gets within a couple of months I donate. I just don’t get why other people are nasty about people stockpiling… isn’t it our business how much food we buy?

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    Amanda Reply:

    @Katie, Katie- Now all of us who used coupons well before the show are being assumed to be extremem couponers. It’s like, oh they have coupons they must watch that show and be trying to get everything for free. LOL I did talk to my parents neighbor who works at our Harris Teeter and he said that this past Super Doubles sale they had a line wrapped around the store at 10 minutes until 7 of people waiting till 7 so that they could check out. He also confirmed that there have been people who come into the store in groups of 10 and each person buys the limit of what they can and so by 8 the shelves are cleared of certain items. Which I suspected was happening. He also mentioned that not all fo the cashiers are adhering to the store quantity limits because a woman came through when the Smart Balance milk was free and bought 4 cases!! Craziness. Unfortunately, I can see this craze having a negative effect in the long run because the stores are going to get fed up and change their policies which will in turn hurt those of us who do adhere to the rules and don’t clean things out but are simply buying enough for our families for a couple of weeks. I really hope that doesn’t happen but if the policies continue to be abused I think it will.

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  13. I’m surprised to see bottled water. It’s a HUGE money waster, and did you know that bottled water is less regulated than the water that comes out of your tap? Buy a Brita/PUR filter and a glass jug to save money and drink cleaner water!

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    Jen Reply:

    I don’t buy bottled water on a regular basis, but it was nearly free with coupons and the BOGO sale that week, and with all our sports kids, it was a great convenience of having it in the trunk. Now back to the filter, fill our water bottle days. :)

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  14. I live in South Texas where there is HEB & Walmart and nothing else. Yes, I check ads, use coupons, and useWal-Mart’s match-price, but “extreme couponing” is not realistic for me!! I constantly keep an eye out for clearance items, but the savings I hear about on the internet and TV programs are NOT available, unfortunately, where I live. I can only long, and dream for there to be an Aldi, Harris Teeter, or ANY other grocery store to open up within a 30 mile range!!

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