Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cheap Doesn't Have to be a Bad Word

A few days ago our friend, Mr. Fabulous posted his grocery receipt on his blog Pointless Drivel (PG-13--No violence, but he sometimes writes about his nethers, lemurs, his nethers, raspberry jelly and his nethers. Often in the same sentence!).

Another blogging buddy of his had commented that Fab could post a grocery receipt and people would STILL love him and leave comments.

So Fab put it to the test.

The first thought that went through my head was "Olive Loaf? Who in the heck eats Olive Loaf?"

Why not buy some head cheese while you're at it? Or some liver puddin'?

My second thought was, "Dude---you spend wayyyy too much money on groceries!"

So I was feeling snarky and sent him an email entitled, "Ha! My grocery receipts are better than yours!" and included this (click on them to make them larger):

We shared a couple of emails back and forth, and I confessed that these were my personal best---usually it's more between 60-80%.

Fab very graciously asked if he could blog about it if I wasn't going to.

I said, "Sure why not? I never figured people would want to read about groceries!"

Guess I was wrong. From all the nice comments on his blog and the emails I've received, I guess people do want to know how to save a lot on their groceries!

Or would like to, as Mr. Fab would say, "Stick it to the man!"

Well, it's not really like that.

Companies put their offers out there to be used. And if you use them the right way, the savings can be enormous. There's nothing illegal or shady about it. Anybody can do it.

You might say, "I don't want to waste the time clipping coupons!"

First of all, neither do I. I hate wasting time.

It's not a lifestyle choice. I don't reuse bath water, or turn my underwear inside out, or wash Ziplock bags, or practice the myriad of other penny pinching but time-consuming tricks that are out there.

I just found a fairly easy way to save money so our family can spend it on other things. Better things. Like college. Or a great vacation.

If you invest a couple of hours in the very beginning to get organized (and stay organized!), it takes about an hour a week.

That doesn't include time spent actually going to the store, but you were going to do that anyway.

I promise.

I do it most of it in front of the TV, watching a favorite show.

So what's an hour of time in front of the TV worth to you? $25? $50? What about $100?

Second of all, it isn't just about cutting coupons. It's about coordinating the different offers local stores have to optimize your savings.

Holy cow! I sound like an infomercial!

Because this is a multi-tiered and lengthy process (explanation-wise), I'm going to have to spread it out amongst a number of posts over several days. I think 4 posts might just cover it. So check back over the next week or so.

The last one will cover stuff other than groceries (new name brand or designer items at bargain basement prices--perfect for gifts!).

If you would like to share your own tips and tricks, please send them to me in email, with the url to your blog. I'll post them all with a link to you in the last installment!

So let's get started.

Who will this help?

Mostly families of 4 or more, simply because quantity is involved.

I don't mean quantity as in "buying-10-pound-jars-of-Miracle-Whip-which-will-expire-before-you-can-finish-it-unless-you-eat-bowlfuls-for-supper" kind of quantity. I'll explain in the next post.

If you're single, or a couple without children, you might think about hooking up with a pal or two to do this with.

I have no idea what the set-ups are outside the US, so this might not work in other countries.

Here is what you need:

1. An organizer for your coupons. I don't like the traditional ones, because they only give you one space for each type of product. It's a drag (and a big time waster) to have to shuffle through a handful of cereal coupons to find one for Special K.

Especially if the store is crowded and some lady is bumping your ankles with her cart because she wants you to get your crap and get moving.

I use a photo album. Not the big huge ones, but the ones with 2 windows for pictures per page. I make tabs every few pages labeled "Laundry Detergeant", "Frozen Desserts", etc. Then I put different brands in different windows so I can see everything.

This falls under your initial investment of a couple of hours to get organized.

And people either think I'm an auditor or a professional shopper when I walk in the store with it and get the hell out of my way.

2. A big freezer space. Better yet, a separate freezer. Mine is big enough to hold a body or two (like those belonging to ladies who bump my ankles with their carts).

3. Large pantry storage space.

4. Large bathroom storage space (under the sink will do, or a linen closet).

5. A Sunday paper.

6. A value card for all your local grocery store chains.

7. A Wednesday paper. Yes the whole paper---not just the store sale inserts! I'll close with an anecdote to explain why.

8. A notebook and pen

9. A Paypal account or a credit card, which will be explained in the next installment.

A few months ago, there was a coupon in my Wednesday newspaper for $10.00 off of this extra special Angus beef at a large grocery store. It was in the Lifestyle section where you'll find lots of interesting coupons for local stores that you won't find on Sunday.

It was good for any of their fresh beef products. The only caveat was that you had to buy a minimum of 10 pounds. No "one coupon per customer" rules.

I don't usually shop at that store, because their stuff is a little more expensive on the average, but when I looked at their sale circular, I saw that they were having a 3-day beef sale over the weekend. 50% off selected items. If I bought the "family pack", I suspected, it would be another buck a pound off.

I called my husband and ordered him to beg, borrow or steal 2 more Wednesday papers on his way home.

I bought 30 pounds of Rib Eyes. They were a little over a pound a steak, so there were 24 of them.

I know it's a lot of meat. But with family, entertaining, and the many tail-gating parties hubby goes to before football games, it's a good price in the long run. Since we live in a very dry climate, we're able to age our own beef in our freezer. Wrap 'em up individually in foil, label and date them, then toss 'em in.

Of course, I had to get rid of one of the bodies first. ;-)

Originally the steaks would have cost $9.99 a pound for a total of $299.70. With 50% off, plus the dollar a holler off for the family pack, plus $30 dollars in coupons, I paid $89.70, with a savings of about 70%.

And I didn't even get a chance to sit in front of the TV!

Stay tuned for the next installment!


Me said...

You have convinced me. Geez. They should teach this in school !!!
Atilla, roomie and I are heading out the door right now to get a newspaper.

Nightmare said...

When I was in college (the first time) I had a friend of mine who worked at a grocery store and she would do a "fast slide" on most of the food we were purchasing, and what didn't go beep, she didn't retry. But the best part was we were allowed to turn in coupons for stuff we didn't buy. Since I am not a woman I always took one with me just to keep up appearances, because that was back when they were still giving out coupons for $5.00 off of Vagisil.

Everyone in town had a yeast infection according to her coupon count.

We would end up paying 50.00 for 250.00 worth of food.

Wrong? Maybe, were we starving students? YES! So we did it anyway.

St Jude said...

They don't tend to do the whole coupons thing here. The savings are direct in the supermarket, so you do need space to make use of them, but also the savvy to make sure that you are not buying just for the sake of an offer, it has to be something you'll use. Once you have an eye on who has what bargains it is worth it to take a bit of time and shop around.

KL said...

About time you share your secrets!! Lord knows I have wondered for years how you do it!!

Michelle Flaherty said...

You rock, Mom! Can't wait to read the follow-up posts!

Mia said...


My husband never let's me live down the time he saved 46.00 on a 200.00 bill. Never mind the fact that he came home with several bags full of CRAP!

I can't wait to try your method out. If for no other reason than to shut him the hell up.

RC said...

how cool...i usually save between 30-40% and my friends consider me impressive, but this is really nice.

i look forward to more tips.

And nightmare, that's horrible...the "fast swipe" that's no good at all.

--RC of

carmachu said...

Or, you could just shop at superWalmart and save a bunch too....I havent gone back to convential stores yet....

No clipping coupons necessary.


I'll try your method and see how it goes.

Kelly Wolfe said...

I am already impressed.


James Medhurst said...

Wow. This is very impressive and is a lot better value than club card points. I once worked out that to gain the 0.2p saving when spending two pounds, I would actually be earning less than minimum wage for the few seconds that it took for me to get the card out of my wallet.

Brenda said...

I'll keep checking back, groceries cost more than the mortgage here!

Nikki said...

(drops to knees and wimpers)

Oh great one. I have struggled for so long with damn coupon organizer.

Are you talking about a brag book (the mini photo album?)

What are your thoughts on Sams Club and BJ's Wholesale? I myself am a BJ's shopper.

I am a member of their 2% members - meaning, I get 2% back off of everything I buy there and they cut me a check for it bi-annually. It pays for itself (75.00) in 6 months (that includes the standard membership fees).

Feed back please my lady.

Attila the Mom said...

Me---LOL! Go get'em girl!

Night---Oh dear, I DO remember the starving student days! ;-)

St. Jude and James---I suspected things might be different in the UK. You'll have to clue me in on the good shopping places before our trip next year! Which was supposed to be THIS year. Never mind, we'll be there if I have to come all by myself!

KL---Ha! It's not like it's a big secret or anything, silly adopted person!

BB and Mia---It's kind of weird...a bit addictive. It's like playing the slots but while YOU'RE in charge. ;-)

RC---it's really just a process. The longer you stick to it, the better the benefits to the wallet.

Carmachu--I shop at SuperWalmart as well. I still haven't walked out of there with $115 dollars worth of groceries for 4 bucks yet though. Do you know if they accept coupons? It's an idea!

Lisa---You're laughing at me aren't you? ;-)

Brenda---LOL! I have kids like that too!

Nikki--Not a brag book...those usually have a space for 1 photo per page? It's about twice that size. Each page has an upper and lower space for pictures on both sides? Geez I hope that made sense!

As for Sam's Club--we're members. We've found super deals there for household items---like FANS! We also buy our dog food there, simply because it's actually practical to buy the equivilant to a 10-lb jar of Miracle Whip. ;-) Our dogs eat a lot.

I've never heard of BJ's---must be a regional thing, so I'm sorry.

We do have a UPromise card where a percentage of everything goes into an account for the kids college, which I'll talk about later. :-)

Ally said...

cheap isn't bad at all. kudos to your massive savings!!! amazingly cool.

Mr. Fabulous said...

You know, there may be a Nobel Prize coming your way for this...

karaoke queen said...

Chanting sounds as moms drop to their knees all around the world. I will be forwarding this to my mom. She loves saving money and could use some tips!

Michele said...

Great tips ATM,before i start
clipping let me check my lottery
numbers.Damn!didn't win 13
million,clipping coupons now.

Maidy said...

OMG! You're my new hero.

*bows down*

I'm not worthy

I'm not worthy

You are SO being bookmarked.

Anonymous said...

Holy Toledo Coupon GURU!!!

I can't wait to read more! You are so bookmarked!

Big Pissy said...

Wow! You're good!

Since my children are grown and gone, this isn't worth it for me.

But I still applaud you! :)

Erin said...

You are my new hero. I can't wait for the next installment. I'm going out to buy the photo album right now. I always try to save coupons, but they end up in a pile on the table and never actually make it with me to the store.

carmachu said...

I'll be honest and say I do not know if super walmart accepts coupons. Because if they do you'd save even more money.....

Maritza said...

Amazing! I spend about $350 a month for 4 adults. I tried using coupons but found that I did better buying store brands or the other items on sale. I don't buy any prepared or frozen foods so how do I save money on staples and meat, fruits and vegetables?

Jod{i} said...

Came by via Mr Fab...Years a go, I went fanatic about it and my girlfriends and I used to have competetions who could save the most..Of course alot rode on the honor system, of not buying just to buy...
I have 4 kids at home, one living away..You are absolutely correct! The companies put it out there...if you use the product, use the coupon..
Another agreement only buy what you will use.
Grabbing the ones they have in the store too...I email many commpanies tell them I like their product or if I dont I tell in the mail!

I look forward to your next installment!

Samantha said...

OMG I think I love you LOL!! You are definetely going on my favorites list!! Hurry with the next installment pulllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssseee!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello, all! I just found this blog and am enjoying the posts. Just to add my input, as I have family members who work at WalMart.

Just so everyone here knows - yes WalMart does accept coupons. And even better, if you find a deal better at another store (i.e. the flyer deals) WalMart will honor the offer. The other customers may have to wait a bit behind you -but to save money it would be worth it and think of the time saved by not having to visit the other store....

Anonymous said...

I was referred to this blog by a friend of mine. I have enjoyed reading the comments here and will be practicing a new way of shopping. Anyhow - I would like to respond to a question asked here and provide some good information for all of you!

First, YES WalMart does honor coupons!

Second, many people are not aware of this, I guess. If you find something in a competitor's flyer cheaper and show it to the cashier at WalMart, they will honor that competitors price! Takes extra time at register and people behind you may get upset for the wait resulting, but think of the time you save by not having to go to multiple stores! At least stores in NY state do, I imagine all WalMarts would be the same.