My daughter had sporadically posted on this particular blog, but doesn't do so any longer. So, I am taking it over and dedicating it to blog about my foray into couponing and hopefully frugality.
There are several sites out there that deal with couponing. Some you pay a fee for and others are free. All say they will teach you how to get a lot of groceries (as much as $100 or more) for a little bit of money. There are a few catches though - - first, and foremost, you have to work at it. That means that you have to do some work. There are some easy shortcuts, but still you must work and learn when items go on sale - - believe it or not there is a cycle. Second, you must plan and not be a needs-based shopper. What you are purchasing this week is not what you use this week, but you stockpile certain items when they go on sale. I have a couple of issues here, but I will discuss this later. Third, if you are into organics, you can still coupon, but your savings may not be as high.
The "game" of couponing can save a lot of money at the grocery store. I, myself, have gotten brownie mix for 25 cents a box, cereal for as low as 75 cents (name brand, too), and more. These deals have never constituted a large part of my order, but I felt good saving $60 or more off of groceries between coupons and store sales. Luckily, there are many websites out there that do much of the leg work for you. Unfortunately, living in Maryland, not all grocery stores are listed, so that means you will have to do a little bit of work.
Do not think that couponing and sale shopping means that you need to drive to several stores to get the bargains. The cost of gas could quickly eat up your savings if that were the case! What most sites and books suggest, is that you learn the sales cycle at your favorite grocery store and shop when items go on sale. This makes sense, but it also means that you need to be willing to buy today what you may need next week or even next month - which means stockpiling when you get a great deal on say, cereal.
Which brings me to some of the issues I have: first, many of the items that you have coupons for are for overprocessed foods - - things that come in boxes that need to be reconstituted or frozen or shaped and reformed. You know what I mean - - foods that are "convenient" foods. Many times these items are not as good for you as food that is freshly prepared.
Secondly, how good it is to stockpile? Some items don't expire - like soaps and shampoo, but others like food, usually have an expiration date. I bought some pretzels through a dry foods bulk order coop that went stale well before we could eat them all and ended up throwing a couple of large bags away. Is that a bargain? (OK -- we forgot we had them in the basement, so maybe it's a storage issue, but still it was sad to throw away food.) If we stockpile, are we hoarding like the farmer in the Bible who filled his barns and then died? Just some questions I have. What do you think?
And third, does couponing tempt us to purchase items that we will never use? There are items in my pantry that I had bought quite some time ago that have been in there since the beginning of time - - okay, not quite that long, but you get my drift. Cans of soup that I bought marked low-sodium by mistake, for example. (Yes, these expire!) I guess you can clear them out before they expire and send them to the local food bank, but I swear there are some that I have had in there since we moved here eight years ago! Does couponing tempt us to buy things that perhaps we should leave on the shelf at the grocery store?
As I mentioned there are several sites that deal with couponing. I am putting these along the side margin for your perusal. I currently use Coupon Mom for printing coupons from on-line. It's free, so that saves me money from the get go! There are also several books out there that touch on couponing and frugality. I will post those, as well. Many of these can be borrowed from the library.