photo by NatalieMaynor
Guest Post by Beeb Ashcroft who blogs at Super Coupon Girl
With the current economic landscape, more and more families are tightening their belts and looking for ways to cut costs. The prices of basic pantry staples, such as milk, eggs, cheese, and produce, have risen in recent years. And unfortunately, coupons for produce or dairy are often somewhat few and far between. So what’s a thrifty shopper to do?
At the beginning of this year, I was regularly spending between $600-$800 a month for groceries, although I didn’t like it one bit. I am inherently frugal, so it went against my nature to cough up $80 every time I went through a checkout.
Certainly, my two-person household could have gotten by on a dramatically smaller budget. However, eating a healthy diet is important to me, and I paid a lot for my groceries because I felt like I didn’t have a choice. But once I discovered coupons, a whole new world opened up for me.
The myth about coupons is that you can only save money if you buy nothing but Hamburger Helper and Spam. So I was shocked to discover I could use coupon techniques to help pay for my most expensive grocery items.
I’ve found my two major allies in drastically reducing our grocery budget have been overage from coupons and catalina deals. Let me share a little what these terms mean and how, too, can you take advantage of these deals.
photo by *clarity*
Let’s start with coupon overage. Say you have a coupon for $2 off Wheat Thins, but they’re on sale for $1.50. Many stores allow the excess amount from the coupon to be used to pay for another item in your order. So you could buy the Wheat Thins and another item for 50 cents, and get both for free using the coupon.
Occasionally, you may run into a store that does not allow overage, so check with your store’s manager if you are unsure of their coupon policies. More often than not, stores accept overage as correct redemption of the coupon. (The store will get reimbursed the full coupon amount from the
manufacturer so they are not out any money by giving you overage.)
So how do you find coupons that will give you overage? Flip through your grocery sale fliers, and notice the sale prices when you visit the store. Compare these to the coupons that you have to identify money-makers.
Think big: if you discover an item on sale for $0.89 and you have a coupon for $1 off , you’ll get 11 cents of overage. But if you have ten of these coupons, you’ll have over a dollar in overage. See how it can add up?
I use that extra dollar here and dollar there earned from overage to help cover the costs of fruits and veggies or organic food so that I’m "paying" with coupon overage rather than paying out of pocket. [Note from Crystal: Check out this post if you’re wondering how you might be able to snag 10 copies of a coupon. It’s really not that hard!]
Catalina deals are another great aid as you strive to eat better for less. Has a coupon ever printed out while you were going through the checkout? These are known as "catalinas" because the company that markets the coupon printers is Catalina marketing.
Manufacturers will often give out money-off coupons towards your next shopping order to reward their customers for purchasing their products. These valuable coupons print out at the register, and can be used like cash towards your next purchase.
You can get some amazing deals by paying attention to catalina promotions. For example, Glade recently had a promotion at my store where you receive $2 off your next trip for purchasing their Plug-Ins. The Plug-In warmers were on sale for $3.99, and I had coupons for $4 off. This means that the Plug-Ins were free, and I earned $2 in catalinas for each one that I bought! And once again, I was able to use the extra $2 I earned each time I did this deal to pay for some of my fruits and vegetables and meat, instead of paying out of pocket.
To identify catalina deals at your store, keep an eye peeled for items marked with special tags highlighting the promotion throughout the store. And watch your sales fliers–stores will often run specials where you can earn catalinas towards your next order for purchasing a certain combination of items, and you can work these to your advantage with coupons also.
In order to maximize my savings, I write out my grocery list and determine what coupons I can use to get overage and offset the cost of what I am purchasing. If I have catalinas, I pay for the rest of my purchase using those.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to buy organic, fresh foods for pennies. Learning these coupon techniques has radically changed the way I approach my shopping budget. I’m healthier now that I use coupons, and so is my budget.
Originally from London, England, Beeb Ashcroft moved to the US in 1989. Currently residing in a resort town on the North Oregon coast, she works out of her home as a freelance journalist. In her spare time, Ashcroft enjoys clipping coupons and finding the best grocery deals. She chronicles her adventures in savings at her blog.
From Crystal: I’d love to hear ideas from the rest of you on how to afford organic and fresh foods on a budget. Any thoughts or great ideas?