Monday, February 25, 2008

Since I Don't Seem To Have Any Marriage Counseling Coupons...

If you know me even a little bit, you know that the coming of Spring every year is not heralded with glee in my household. When a loved one is dealing with bipolar disorder, it can be an emotionally exhausting time, and I tend to react by hunkering down in the bunker and concentrating all my energies on what's going on at home. Ironically, I'd probably be doing better for myself if I just forged ahead and kept writing during these times. Now that I've actually opened up the blogging software, I'm a bit stymied, so...I'm gonna post about groceries. You heard me.

I've posted on this topic before, and I'm still at it. I get a lot of questions about couponing and store sales, and one of the most common is, "But aren't coupons always for highly-processed junk food? I try to eat healthy, so I can't really save money on groceries."

The short answer is, yes, most coupons are for crap. But your store sales will usually have lots of good deals on the "outer perimeter" of the store, where the nutritionally dense foods tend to be--your meats, produce, grains, dairy. And, believe it or not, many coupons are for staples that are not frozen pizza and cupcakes, and you can make the most of those. So, to answer all the, "What do you buy with your couponing?" questions, here are some recent examples. I shoot for an average of 60% savings, which I usually meet when averaging trips. In the examples below, two of the receipts showed around 53-55% savings, while the other got darn close to 70% saved.

Click on the pictures for notes and a closer look.

Kroger 2/17/08

On this trip, the receipt total was $109, and once I'd applied my coupons to the store sales, I paid $53 for all this food, plus a couple of things that didn't get pictured because Alex had already taken them downstairs to the freezer in the basement. Here was the haul:

Wonton wrappers
Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat bread
Several cans of store-brand veggies
Couple cans of Dole pineapple
T. Marzetti Fat-Free Ranch veggie dip
Fresh asparagus
Fiber One bars, 6 boxes
Milk & Cereal bars for Bella, 3 boxes
Organic carrots
Black table grapes
Packaged tart apple slices for Bella
2 Freschetta 4-cheese pizzas
10 Banquet chicken pot-pies for Bella (they're very small)
15 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, great sale price (these I opened, repackaged into single-meal size servings, and vacuum sealed and froze, so now we have enough chicken for 7 meals)

Yes, there are some prepared foods there (breakfast bars, bread, veggie dip), but also plenty of "real" food to show for that trip, where I paid for less than half of my groceries. It can be done. Next:

today's haul  68% saved

This trip included a good few non-grocery items, which, if you're paying attention, can REALLY save you some dough. This was the trip where, but for that roast, I'd have broken the 70% saved mark. As it was, this was $216 worth of food, for which I paid $74. YES. Here was the take:

14 cans Healthy Choice vegetable soup for one, for my lunches
5 boxes Kelloggs Frosted Flakes Gold, for Bella (I know, cereal, ewww)
20 Yoplait YO+ digestive health yogurts
5 Lloyd's barbecue chicken & beef (tasty and lean)
10 lbs. Riceland brown rice
1 bunch bananas (sliced & frozen for use in smoothies)
White seedless grapes
Frozen strawberries
7 boxes Garnier Nutrisse haircolor, MY actual preferred brand
7 Gillette Fusion Hydragel shave gel
2 boxes bandages
1 roll bandaging tape
3lb. English beef roast

It may look crazy to buy 7 boxes of haircolor or shave gel at a time, but look at it this way: You're going to need these things (well, I am, anyway) sometime, and if you wait until you run out, you're likely to have to pay full price. In the case of the haircolor, that would have been a $6-8 difference PER BOX. So you can see, it pays to stockpile while the sales are on, especially if you can combine those sales with coupons.

Kroger 2/25/08 53% saved

This trip, today's, was what we call a "cherry-picking" trip, in which, outside of my actual needs, I was ONLY buying things that were deeply discounted due to the combination of store sales and my coupons. What did I NEED when I went into the store? I needed bread and juice. That's it. And those things were not on sale, so they threw of my percentages somewhat, but that's OK. Here's what $99 bought me (the ticket total was $206):

3 bags Baked! Lays potato chips (shut up, they make my lunches sufferable, all 14 of them at a time)
1 large bottle pomegranate-blueberry juice (the base of my berry smoothies)
6 bags Kraft string cheese
10 boxes Orville Redenbacher light popcorn (*sighs* for Act II Kettle Corn)
4 packs Huggies wipes, for the car
6 tubs Kan-Doo pop-up wipes for Bella's bathroom
6 bags Welch's dried fruit
1/2 gallon Florida's Natural orange juice
10 Glade jar air-freshening candles (what--you don't stink?)
2lbs white seedless grapes, for the freezer
2 loaves Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread, for Alex
1 loaf Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat bread, for me
48 Fiber One Yoplait yogurts. That's right, 48. Stored in the basement fridge until I finish the current stock of Activia and YO+ I already have.

You may be wondering things like, "Where's the veggies? Where's the milk?" Well, I already have pretty good stores of most things, and I even freeze milk when it's on sale--it thaws just fine, good as new. Cheese also freezes well, as does bread. And we buy MOST of our vegetable frozen, which actually means that you're usually getting a fresher product than by buying "fresh" produce, since frozen veggies are flash-frozen on the spot shortly after being picked, instead of being shipped from wherever they're harvested to your grocery store.

The meat that we feed our dogs, and most of our own meat, we get from a small, wonderful, local butcher, where we're able to pick it up on the day the cow is processed (the only do one cow at a time), and it actually winds up costing less than grocery-store meat.

And of course, our larders are full-to-bursting with canned goods, pastas, rice, and beans.

The only thing I can add is that I AM now using The Grocery Game, which only became available in my area this year. I can't say that it saves me more money than what I was managing to save going it alone, but it saves me HOURS of time, which is worth a lot.

So...any questions?


  1. Just one question: When are you going to come visit me and take me grocery shopping your way? :)


  2. Next question: When can I have lunch at your place? ;-)

  3. The store I shop opened a natural foods section on par with Whole Foods, and it has its own (separate from the store's weekly) flyer with coupons. It helps, because those items can get pricey. Farmers' markets are a great place to save, too.

  4. That made my head hurt. I am the twit that goes to Stop and Shop 3 times per week because I never make a list. Coupons? Ummmmmm. Nope.

  5. I have lots of questions about this...but my biggest is...if you want to send me an email referral, I was going to join for a'll have my email from this comment...

  6. Can you please teach me? You are the goddess of frugal shopping - my husband would be so impressed with me(you). :)

  7. You need to come back and we need to go shopping. :)

    Miss you! Love you!

    Hi Bella!! :)


  8. Yeah, if anyone wants to try The Grocery Game, go ahead and put me down as a referral! (I think I get some free weeks for every three referrals, or something) My username there is ninjapoodles, or if they ask for email address, it's ninjapoodlesATgmailDOTcom (replacing the capitalized words with symbols, of course).

    One thing I forgot to add...if you are saving money on some stuff at the grocery store, and cleaning products, toiletries, paper goods, etc., then that frees up income that can be spent on more whole/healthy foods.

  9. Oh my LORD. And you have posted about being disorganized?? You are the goddess of couponing. I am... speechless.

  10. Kneeling before your greatness. Well, that and printng out this post so I can go over it with a fine toothed comb before my next shopping trip.

  11. i'd like to be like you when i grow up. *sighs* :) you rock the grocery store!

  12. My problem is that I have trouble finding coupons. Where do you find them?

  13. I used you as my referral on the Grocery Game!

  14. Oh, cool! Maybe I'll get some free weeks.

    I get all my coupons out of the weekend papers. We're lucky to have a small local paper that includes all the inserts, comes out on Saturday instead of Sunday, and only costs 25 cents! So I buy one, and if there's something I can use, I'll get several copies and "stock up."

    There are also coupon-clipping services you can use, as long as you don't purchase coupons, which would constitute fraud.

  15. I've been paying for The Grocery Game for four months now.

    Haven't gotten around to actually using it once.

    I'm pretty sure that is defeating the point. Heh.

  16. Yeah...I did the same thing. But FOR A YEAR. Signed up for the trial, they didn't have our area Krogers (they do now), and I promptly forgot ALL about it. Whoops. Then they emailed me a couple months ago when they got our Kroger stores going, and I got right back over there--after a month. *ahem*

  17. WOW! Our stores must suck or something, I never see the good coupons. :(

    Do you supplement your dogs diet with meat, or are they 100% raw fed? I love your poodles by the way (we wrote back and forth about poodle fabric and greyhound soap a while back). We do a half hearted attempt at raw feeding. The boys get turkey necks for dinner buy Orijen for breakfast. It works for us.

    Best Wishes to you and your family durring the chaning season. I'm sure you'll work through it, you always seem to!

  18. I'm with emily! Our stores are never this good on coupons. I'm thinking of joining the grocery game...

  19. Lynn (oddthomas)March 3, 2008 at 3:05 PM

    will you come and do my grocery shopping for me??? pretty please????

  20. sk-rted it. my editor's pick. the world needs to know.

  21. I do the coupons for groceries too. Some manufacturers have them online that you can print as well. It delights me to no end to save money with coupons or by finding the sales.