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