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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget: Using Coupons to Get Free Groceries

Here’s this week’s 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video. Enjoy and my apologies ahead of time about the poor lighting/picture. We’ve been experimenting with different things as far as lighting goes and, so far, none of them are working. We’ll hopefully get the hang of this whole video blogging thing one of these days! 🙂

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  • Crystal says:

    So glad this series is back this week! 🙂 Thanks, Crystal, for all you do ~ hope you’re doing well!

  • Freebies says:

    You need to go with natural light. Stand facing the window (open blinds) with the window to the camera’s back. Make sure there is no bright light source (ie another window) behind you.

    Without pro lights this will give you the best look. (I was a pro photographer for 15 years)


    • Crystal says:

      You mean I can’t do the videos at night after my children are in bed?!? 🙂

      Actually, I’ve been thinking that this is what I need to experiment with next… if I can just find a time to do it when my husband is home, the house is quiet and it’s still light outside!

      • Freebies says:

        In order to give you more options- get a tripod. Then you don’t “have” to have your hubby or another person there with you.

        If you have a video editor (there are free ones out there) you can easily “trim” the ends of it off where you need to turn on and off the camera.

        Just “pause” after you turn it on and then start your dialog- at the end pause for a second and then walk to turn it off. These pauses can then be trimmed off.


        • Crystal says:

          I’ve not wanted to mess with the extra step of editing, but I probably should learn how. Babysteps… 🙂 However, I’m not sure that a tripod would work as well when I have visuals like this time.

          • Freebies says:

            Excuses..!!! 🙂

            Trimming is easy.. it’s adding music and words that can sometimes be a pain.

            The tripod may not work every time.. buy will give you more options much of the time.

            If you want you can take a look at a video I shot a while back..


            I used an intro trimming and natural light (just as I described in the first comment). So that is what natural light is probably going to look like for you.



          • Challice says:

            hmmm I kind of like the natural setting. I HATE music in videos. PLEASE PLEASE dont do that. 😉

            Natural light is good but I know that the best time for mommies to do anything is bedtime. 😉

      • Sarah says:

        Apparently the lighting by your “pantry” is quite good, you looked excelent in that video (when you showed us your storage space). So shoot them all down there, lol!

        • Crystal says:

          I’ve considered it — and am going to try it if I can’t get the natural light thing to work! But it just feels weird to be shooting a video in the bathroom, ya know?! 🙂

  • I love this one. I can’t get over how many times I hear that coupons are only for junk.

    • Andrea says:

      Agreed! I always ask people, ‘Do you brush your teeth? What about washing your face? Do you eat frozen veggies and fruit?” And like I heard once…everyone uses toilet paper. 😉 Great job, Crystal!

      I plan on sticking to my local grocery stores that I shop at for an upcoming series I’m going to launch on my blog this Thursday. Hopefully it goes well! 🙂

  • Freebies says:

    If you decide to go with some “lighting” (other than regular household lights, which will ALWAYS turn out yellow). here is a video to watch:


  • Jack says:

    I really liked this – can’t wait for next week’s video! Thank you!

  • Coupon-users, unite! Thank you, Crystal, for giving people concrete evidence that coupons are far from junk. Great job with the video. I especially enjoyed your seemingly bottomless mystery bag of free grocery items. Impressive!

  • Renee says:

    Yay! Looking forward to next week! 🙂 That was a fun video!

  • lizajane says:

    Excellent, inspiring video! I LOVE coming home from a well-planned trip, and putting on a show-and-tell like this for my husband. The absolute bonus is when one of his brothers is visiting, and I keep pulling things out of my bag and saying “FREE!”. Their jaw drops open!!!

  • Samantha says:

    Love this weeks video!! Its amazing how much you can get for free and so many people don’t realize it!!

    BTW: I like how you just keep pulling stuff out of the bag… made me laugh.

  • amanda says:

    I use to be one of those people who thought couponing was a waste. Two months ago I decided to do an experiment to see if it was worth it. (I was primarily concerned about adding the cost of a 2.00 paper into our budget.) I have concluded that it is indeed worth it. I have been playing the CVS game every week after our weekly trip to the library and have scored free items every single week! It is more than our family of three can use so we have been blessing others. I would just challenge people to do their own experiment. I have found it especially helpful to look at a preview of the coupons that are coming out in the Sunday paper to see if I am going to buy it. I probably only buy the Sunday paper 2 times a month. Thanks for your great blog!

    • Holly says:

      You should check the rates for Sunday-only paper delivery… I found it was half price for the Post to be delivered (and I don’t have to remember to run out and get one early as our area actually runs out of newspapers!)

  • Laura Jane says:

    Great video!! I love the show-and-tell. If anyone was wondering if they could get some good deals on non-junk food, they should be convinced now!

  • Renee says:

    Great video shine the loght that coupons are just as good as gold or money. If you can learn how to tie your shoes you can learn how to coupon it might take a few months or a day or two. Try, try again until it clicks. Thanks Crystal!

  • Shannon says:

    Awesome video! It’s great that you showed some of the items you can get free with coupons. Even if a person doesn’t keep it all, he or she can use those coupons for freebies to donate.

  • Thank you so much for this series. I am a couponing newbie. This a goal of mine to get our grocery budget under control.

  • T says:

    Great video. I am impressed. I can’t wait until next weeks segment. 🙂

  • Courtney says:

    I think this was one of my favorite posts yet! I love how you took the “I wouldn’t use coupons” excuse and so optimistically tore the excuse apart. 🙂 Love it!

  • Amara says:


    Perhaps this is too personal, but do you mind sharing what your weekly cash budget is for groceries these days? I know your family has grown, and I wonder if your budget amount has grown slightly, too. Also, do you cook 7 breakfasts/lunches/dinners a week, or do you do some eating out?


    • Crystal says:

      It’s averaging $50/week. We normally eat out for one dinner each week, which is budgeted in a separate cash envelope category.

      • Janet says:


        Don’t you often eat at a church event and or with family as well on the weekend?

        • Crystal says:

          We typically get together with at least one side of the family once a week for a meal. Some weeks, it’s both sides for two different meals, it just depends upon schedules, etc. If we have a church or other get-together event (which also happens pretty frequently), we usually bring food to it. I plan 20 meals/week most weeks, but then bump them to the next week if we end up not using what I’d planned.

  • CJ says:

    I keep a list every month of everything I’ve gotten for free and am always amazed how much it is by the end of the month! I only buy one Sunday paper, print a few internet coupons and only shop for myself and for donating. There is so much out there you can get for free with so little effort!

  • Darlene says:

    I have a Wags that is extremely coupon friendly,Rite Aid, and CVS. I am able to play the drug store game pretty well. My problem is that where I live upstate, NY, I don’t have great supermarkets. I have Walmart, Hannaford, and Price chopper. Price chopper has some pretty good deals, but none of them really offer any catalinas. Sometimes Price chopper does, and Of course I take full advantage of that. But, I rarely ever get things for free even though I print and clip from multiple newspapers. Am I missing something?? I would appreciate any advice given.

    • Leah Mason says:

      Darlene, I don’t know where in upstate, NY you live, but the Albany area is supposed to be getting Shoprite back. We love Shoprite here in NJ! I used to live in the Scotia/Glenville/Schenectady area and Price Chopper, Hannaford, and Wal-Mart can use some stiff competition.
      If the Shoprite that is moving into Albany doubles coupons, then there will be some great deals.

  • Darlene says:

    Thought I should quickly add that I have difficulty getting free things at the supermarket. I am doing well at the drug stores.

  • Anonymous says:

    Here’s my question: How do I get good deals with coupons when I live out in the country thus not going to town very often (and when I do go, I’m normally pressed for time). I’d say I maybe go to town twice a month. We head to the “big city” with an Aldi every few months to stock up.
    Also, my local Dillon’s does not double internet coupons which makes the deals not quite as good.

    • Janet says:

      I shop once every 10 days we live an hour from town. I have to be very accurate with my shopping and it takes me about an extra 15minutes at the store which can be tough when I am always pressed for time as well. It is really tough to get back home before dark and when it gets dark it is like pitch dark you can not see two feet in front of you to drive so in the winter this is tough but if I hustle I can do it. Not certain if this helps at all but I prepare exactly what we need pad just a tiny bit and do not shop again for 10 days. I can say Crystal’s blog has been a massive help with teaching me what I need to get thru the 10 days. If you pay close attention to all of her series you can work it for you family too!

      I buy the main meat/ poultry item for 7 meals and stretch these to make 10.
      I buy 4 produce veggies, and 2 fruit fro my family
      I also buy 2 freezer ones.
      I buy cheese, sour cream, yogurt , milk , bread and eggs
      I get the items we need for the bathroom from playing the grocery game and I keep a running total
      I might run out of something but I almost always have something else in the home that will work. I often google to find out what else will work.

      I stock my home when things are on sale and I use all the coupons that I have each week that match with sales. This has worked for me and I was a city girl who use to run to the store sometimes three times per day.
      I do go out on Sunday’s and if I forget a main item I will pick it up when I am out on Sunday. However, if someone at home is sick I miss going out on Sunday too. So I often make what I buy work for 10 days.

      Hope the suggestions help.

      • Janet says:

        I failed to mention I keep extra cereal, popcorn,eggs, tea and juice in the house along with a box of powdered milk and an extra package of tp. This gives a snack, a drink, and an extra item I can use for a dinner (the eggs) in a pinch.

    • Rachael says:

      I live in a rural area, too, and try to limit big shopping trips to once or twice a month, and fill in with my local grocery store as needed. One thing that helps me plan is to learn when the stores usually have bigger sales. For instance, next week (with Easter coming), a lot of things will most likely be on sale (like ham, potatoes, pie crusts, etc.). Around the winter holidays, stuffing, turkey, and baking supplies were on sale, so I stocked up on those. With some of the summer holidays approaching, watch for sales for items like barbaque sauce and hotdogs. I buy a lot when I shop and use coupons for whatever I can. When I know I won’t have much time, I make my list very very detailed and organized–that way I’m spending my time working on grocery shopping at home before I hit the store. This helps me not overspend, too. Also, if you have a Target in the “big city” close to you, try matching their store and internet coupons. Even if it’s not a SuperTarget, they still have a lot of groceries: cheese, soda, frozen chicken, frozen vegetables, etc. That is one way I get a lot of items cheaply or even free.

  • Lisa says:

    Okay, you have convinced me that coupons will work and are worth the work. I have been reluctant to do the couponing because of the mindset you argued against. Coupons are for junk. But now I can see that if I got the free things I would free up some money to buy my preferred products.

  • Leah Mason says:

    Yes, I have gotten at one point or another every single one of the products that Crystal put on the table for free using coupons-except the Annie’s Mac and Cheese-would love to get that one for free, just haven’t managed to yet.

  • Caroline says:

    Great video! Way off topic, but where to you all buy your printer ink? Since I’ve started couponing, I go through a lot. TIA!

    • anonymous says:

      Try Amazon. It depends on your printer but you can get ink for cheap sometimes. We have a cheap printer that came with our computer when we bought it a few years ago. The printer isn’t great but I happen to be able to get the ink really cheap from Amazon.

      • Jen says:

        Save up those empty ink cartridges. I do not KNOW if they will do it again this year, but last year Walgreen’s refilled printer ink for $1on Earth Day. Now, granted they do not last as well as new ink cartridges, but definitely $1 worth!

        • Julie says:

          If you get your refills at Walgreens, on the end of the box they give you your cartridge in has a 50% off coupon for your next refill. Although the date of expiration says 12/31/10, I just keep the box (that has the label with the date I received it from WG) and they always take it. I get refills that way for $7.50 for B&W and I think $8.50 for color. Well worth it! Then just keep re-rolling your new box!

    • Allison V. says:

      Also, see if you can set your printer’s default to black & white, and fast draft or economy. It saves lots of ink, plus they print super fast! I never have any trouble with scanning, but I do have a super nice quality printer (that my MIL didn’t like so she *gave* it to me!).

  • Jessica says:

    Hmm – could you find a capable young person (or even a mom!) from your church that is interested in video stuff and hire him to do the recording and technical side for you?

    Your site is *so* snazzy and professional looking – I think taking these videos up to that step would complement your brand and I don’t see why you need to take the time and effort to delve into creating professional looking movies yourself when, at least in my experience, most young people have some experience with video recording and editing and are willing and eager to learn more. And I think most would be enthusiastic about trading their skills for Amazon gift cards 😉

  • anonymous says:

    p.s. Crystal, I love your videos.

  • I have always loved this series, and I just wanted to thank you for showing a practical point of view for couponing. I love how you previously stressed that you really should only have enough on hand for 3 months or so. Also, I appreciate how in this post and the previous post you showed a realistic stockpile and practical and useful freebies. Personally, I am beyond tired of seeing blogs bragging about their stockpiles of 600 bottles of ketchup! LOL! Thank you for looking at the bigger picture when it comes to groceries! Lovely job, as always!

  • Yours is one of my favorite money saving blogs. I also appreciate your tweets. Great video!

  • Great job, can’t wait to see how to get coupons for free. I’m only getting 3 circulars right now and we are paying for one of them!! 🙂

    • Freebies says:

      here are a few ways to get free coupouns:

      Dumpsters- not necessarily for the faint of heart, but it is not as bad as it seems. My mom lived in an apartment complex for a long time and they had a recycle bin right by the garbage. You could usually pick the coupons right off the top.

      Friends- Ask your friends to save them for you, they probably will. Maybe bring them a freebie you got with the coupons every once and a while as a thank you.

      Coffee Shop- Stop at a favorite coffee shop on Sunday, pick up a treat and check out the Sunday papers left around the place, many will have coupons left in them. And the money you save on the paper means your coffee might be sort of free 🙂

      • Rachael says:

        My friend has a paper route and gives me the extra circulars. Also, spread the word to your family and friends that you coupon. A lot of people don’t use them, or don’t use all of them, and are willing to share. For example, my mom does coupon, but obviously never needs diaper coupons, so she always gives them to me. All I have to do is ask.

  • Kristine says:

    All of the items are great! I have tried couponing, and it doesn’t work for me. I buy the Sunday paper, and clip the coupons there, but have a hard time with sales and matching the coupons, and have NEVER gotten anything for free. Also, when I try to print the coupons, I have a difficult time, and it never works unless a coupon is e-mailed to me. If I try to download the coupon printer, it doesn’t work, and my coupons never print. I have tried this a few times, and gotten frustrated. I just go to Aldi and shop there, and my shopping is truly bare minimum. I would love a lot of these items, however I simply can’t afford them.

    • I’m with you, Kristine. Although I do consider myself a couponer, I only use between 3 and 10 coupons every trip and I’ve never gotten anything other than toothpaste for free. 🙂 Still, every 25 cents counts and since I’m brand-loyal on things like mustard and ketchup, I figure I’m saving a bit more money than I would be if I ignored coupons all together. I do most of my saving by stocking up and shopping the sales.

    • Kristine says:

      Hey, we have the same name. 🙂 I can relate to what you wrote, Kristine. I don’t do a lot of couponing either although I do clip a few here and there when I see a good deal–and then only on things that I would normally buy. I know people say that coupons are not all for junk, but frankly most of the food coupons that I see and even most of the coupons for household items are for things (or brands) that I just don’t use.

      I don’t have a CVS or RiteAid nearby, so I don’t play the “drugstore game.” I do watch the sales at my local grocery store and at Walgreens, and occasionally I buy a Groupon deal. Otherwise, I buy almost all of my groceries at Aldi, and I save a lot of money that way. My shopping is as minimal as I can make it, too. I really hate shopping, especially if it involves going to multiple stores, and I hate trying to match coupons and sales. It’s too frustrating and time-consuming for me. If my very limited couponing keeps my stress level down (and my gas expenses down), it’s worth it to me even if I miss out on a few good deals.

  • Lisa says:

    I saved up all my fun high coupons and took one day just to get free stuff! Didn’t buy anything extra, just got the free stuff and it was soooo much fun! Ended up with 4 pasta, 4 tomatoes, 1 cat food, 2 dish detg, 2 deodorant, 1 halls cough drops, 4 nail clippers, 3 floss, 2 sour cream dip and 2 candles! I plan to do that again sometime!

  • Challice says:

    Where did you get the Annie Mac n Cheese coupons? I found a GF mac n cheese… good for occasions but not a steady diet though but $3 a box is kind of 0_o

  • ruth says:

    Target has Annie’s mac and cheese (a variety of flavors) on sale frequently for a dollar, and the bunny grahams go on sale there for $1.99, which we also enjoy as snacks at our house. You could check and see if they also carry the GF mac and cheese at a lower price than $3.

  • Spendwisemom says:

    Coupons are a great way to reduce spending. That way you free up money for produce and organics if you can swing it. I believe some coupon use can help everyone, but we all have to balance out the time, opportunities in our area, need and desire and it will be different for each person. We don’t have double coupons here or a large variety of stores, but I can still get some benefit from using coupons with sales to save money.

  • Marci says:

    Great Video!! I love all your tips and tricks, you have really helped me save my family so much money! We used to live paycheck to paycheck and now thanks to you and all my coupons we have a nice savings acccount and are starting on some much needed home remodel stuff.

    I always tell my DH, I can not believe we used to pay for toothpaste? 🙂 He used to think I was off my rocker but now he really appreciates it!

  • Allison V. says:

    Crystal, you need to go to Wags with me. I’ve hit different locations in every corner of town and they’re always very friendly, at the worst just merely silent. Granted, my drug store trips are pretty small these days, and I can break them up over several days since I’m going in to work anyhow. But I’ve always been treated well, even when a deal doesn’t work right and I return the stuff.

  • Allison V. says:

    Also, an easy way to get rolling with free stuff from the grocery store is to wait for the 10 for $10 sales. A lot of stores double coupons, so there’s bound to be a few good freebies that week!

  • Emily says:

    Well, now, if that doesn’t convince someone, I don’t know what will! 🙂

    Can I just point out that every. single. item. that you pulled out was name brand – NOT generic? Yes, couponing can get you great stuff!

  • Sheri says:

    Could you please post your videos to YouTube, as well? Older computers like mine can’t play the type of video you have here…I’d love to see what you have to say, because I’m just getting into couponing! 🙂

  • Christy Newland says:

    I’ve always wondered how I could do get basic household items for free. I’ve watched some of your other videos and I didn’t really care for them, but I really like this video. It makes me think that there is a possibility that this coupon thing could work for me. 🙂 I am looking forward to next week’s video! 🙂

  • Tammy :) says:

    Crystal – I think these videos are wonderful! I haven’t used many coupons but after seeing this latest video I am definitely going to give them a good try.

    I like that these videos are *real* and not edited it lets me know you’re a regular mom. 🙂

  • erickajen says:

    didnt really solve the problem of 25cents off junk. LOL. but obviously, watching coupons and sales is your point. right?

    up here i have NEVER gotten anything for free using coupons. the sales arent low enough (because the prices arent low enough to begin with, likely due to higher shipping costs to an area in N MN that nearly doesnt have a growing season for anything LOL), and the coupons arent high enough. also, NO stores near me double. ive never believed in doubling until watching your posts. ive never known a store that doubles.

    anyway. keep up the good work. as far as lighting, your other videos were much better with lighting. artificial light is bad, natural light is good. 😉

  • Shannon H says:

    What store do you do most of your shopping at?

    • Crystal says:

      Our Kroger affiliate and Aldi and then I rotate Target, Walmart, Dollar Tree and the health food store, depending upon the deals, how much time I have and what we need to buy.

  • Jamie says:

    I love the video’s but I have a hard time hearing them – I have to have the volume turned ALL the way up on the video and on my computer.

    • Crystal says:

      Someone suggested trying headphones, if you can’t hear through your computer speakers. Also, make sure the volume is turned up all the way on YouTube.

      Since I’m not using a fancy camera or mic, the recording quality isn’t as good. We’re considering possibly investing in better equipment down the road… but I’m just using what we already have right now and trying to do the best I can with that.

  • Michelle says:

    Crystal, I think your videos are just fine. They are a teaching tool and a chance for us to see you as a real person in your home. I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t expect the videos to be perfect. You are doing a wonderful job and there are people who are learning from them. I think that’s what is important. Keep up the good work.

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