Saturday, November 24, 2012

To Coupon...Or Not

To coupon or not has been a decision that I'd been avoiding.  My daughter recently took a class in extreme couponing via the locally based Stretching Your Dollar$ and shared what she learned with me.  Because I buy very few processed and prepackaged foods (thus avoiding an excess of sugar, salt, toxins, chemicals and genetically modified ingredients), extreme couponing doesn't really make much sense for me.  But price matching combined with light couponing - especially those too infrequent coupons for organics - ah, a very different story!

My initial attempt at price matching paid off for me, with close to $55 in savings my first time out.  With a monthly food budget of $350, the savings was substantial!

I looked up grocery ads online and kept a running list of sales, especially for produce (both fresh and frozen) and pantry staples.  Then I opened up my Excel program and created a spreadsheet to track items, sizes, sale price, store and coupons, if any.
Example of my spreadsheet
I used several online databases to find relevant, printable coupons for as many of the items on my list possible, to maximize my savings.

I was able to take the spreadsheet with me, which made it simple to track things both while shopping and while checking out.  I didn't need to have the various ads with me (although store policies vary on this, so be sure to check!).

Some of the best deals that I found included 6 oz of sliced pepperoni (for pizza) at only .50 per package; half gallons of milk for $1.25; a 10 lb bag of russet potatoes for .98; 32 ounces of organic broth for 1.79; Alexia frozen potatoes $2.35 per bag; fresh organic greens $1.50 per bunch; and 1 dozen organic eggs for .99.

I also preserved the last of the harvest season, making chunky applesauce, pumpkin puree, dehydrated and frozen carrots, and slicing and freezing sweet potatoes.  The apples were purchased at Grocery Outlet for .98 per 3 lbs.  The pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes were given to me (free) in quantity.

Combining a few coupons with price matching, and preserving the harvest bounty will help us to eat more healthily as well as more often (it can be difficult to afford eating 3 meals, plus 3 snacks per day as ordered by my doctor!).  And the investment that I made in buying a small chest freezer when my kids were teens is still paying dividends.

Do you utilize coupons, price matching or preserving as a way of maximizing your food dollars?  Feel free to share your strategies and stories!