Thursday, July 24, 2014

Couponing Myths, Busted: You can't eat healthy and coupon

I think one of the top comments I get when talking about couponing is the thought that you can't both eat healthy and be a couponer.  Totally untrue!

Yes, it is far easier to get crazy deals on prepackaged items that are full of things you can't pronounce.  I got some Chex Mix last week for $.15 a bag -- that's not the type of deal you expect to get on, say, an avocado.  Grains and chemicals are cheap.  I try to balance things for our family, but given our lack of income right now, I do take advantage of some of those deals when I think the product isn't too toxic.

But couponing isn't an all-or-nothing thing.  You might not walk out of the grocery store having spent $5 on a cart full of groceries, but you can still save quite a bit!  Here are my biggest tips:

Look for store coupons
The local supermarkets here typically have store coupons in their weekly flyers.  They often send coupons in the mail as well.  The items could be anything, but here's where I typically find great coupons for meat, produce and dairy items.  Store coupons can also usually be combined with manufacturer's coupons, so if it is an item that happens to have a MC as well, you can save even more.  I also often get coupons at checkout for money off a minimum purchase -- like $10 off $50 -- that can be used for anything.

Couponing isn't just about food
Even if you buy nothing but farm fresh produce and meats for your family (hey, can I come over?), you can still save big on other essentials for your family.  Paper products, personal care products, and cleaning supplies very commonly have coupons and deals.  I think I have enough laundry detergent right now to get my family through the next year; nearly all of it was under $1 a bottle.  The key is to keep an eye on the sales and stock up on those supplies when they're at their cheapest.

Keep an eye on the deals
It's not uncommon to find some great deals on natural and organic products.  If you're checking into the deals each week, you'll find them.  Mambo Sprouts is a website that specializes in coupons on natural and organic products.  Hopster often has some too.  If you shop at Whole Foods, they also have a page with their own printable coupons.

Take advantage of moneymaking offers
This isn't something you can do at every store, but if you're lucky enough to shop somewhere that will allow you overage toward other items, that's a great way to save on things that don't typically have coupons.  ShopRite allows overage when it involves using an eCoupon.  Target also allows overage so long as you have another item to absorb the cost (they won't pay you cash at checkout).  I don't think my husband will ever run out of deodorant again, because there have been so many moneymaking deals lately, saving me $1-$2 every time I buy one.  It's free money!  If it's a product you won't use, donate it.

This week was one of my healthier shopping trips and I still saved a lot.  Of course, everyone's definition of healthy is a bit different, and this isn't meant to be the ideal trip by any means, but here's what it looked like:

(Yes, I know ramen noodles aren't healthy -- but they were for a delicious cabbage ramen salad I made today!)

  • 4x Maruchan ramen noodles, $.25 each
  • Quick Oats, on sale for $1.69
  • Slivered almonds, $2.69
  • Sesame seeds, $2.29
  • Chicken drumsticks, on sale for $1.19/lb ($5.74)
    • Store coupon for $.50 off/lb ($2.41)
    • Total: $3.33
  • Fresh dill, $.99
  • Scallions, $.50
  • Land O Lakes Soft Butter Spread, on sale for $1.88
    • $.55 MC (requested by mail), fully doubled
    • Total: $.78
  • Butter, on sale for $3.49
    • $1.50 store coupon 
    • Total: $1.99
  • Butterball Deli Turkey, on sale for $5.99/lb ($18.03)
    • Store coupon for $2 off/lb, up to 3 lbs ($6)
    • Total: $12.03
  • 4x Matlaw's Stuffed Clams, $4.99 each
    • 4x $4.99 printable MC
    • Total: Free
Other deals:
  • $3 off $35+ store coupon
Total: $24.49 (savings of $46.74)

As you can see, not everything I bought was on sale or had coupons, but I still saved 66% off my trip.  The free stuffed clams definitely helped, but I also got some great deals thanks to store coupons.  I came home with a lot of meat and seafood!


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