I’ll never forget my very first couponing trip. I went to Zellers (remember Zellers?), armed with about 3 coupons, and paid full price for my items (cereal and soap), using just coupons to knock my total down a little bit.
I think I only saved about 2 dollars or so, but I was incredibly excited. Those coupons were like paper money that I just used at the store (I honestly felt like I was paying with Monopoly money, that’s how surreal it felt to me at the time).
Things have changed since that first couponing trip.
Soon after, I realized that the key to saving big at the store was not just using coupons, but by stacking those coupons with sale prices. That’s where the real savings came in. I scoured other couponing blogs (mostly US-based, since there weren’t any good ones available for Canada), watched what they did, and applied it to my shopping trips.
Eventually, I started saving upwards of 50% off my grocery bills every time I shopped – just by watching for sales and combining those sales with my coupons.
And things got even better…
After couponing like that for a year or so, I started to get better. I learned how to coupon on clearance items – which often meant I would walk out of the store paying absolutely NOTHING. I couldn’t believe that coupons started paying for my groceries. It was surreal – and so exhilarating!
When I first started couponing back in 2007, it wasn’t a popular practice. There was no Extreme Couponing, no one at my local Zellers (my favourite store to use coupons at the time) that cleared shelves, and no one in the store when I shopped for deals (early morning, weekday shopping is the best!). It was amazing. I loved it. I went to the store 3, 4, sometimes 5 days a week to see what deals I could find. I couldn’t get enough. I lived and breathed coupons.
But things changed…
In 2009, I had my first child, and that’s when couponing changed for me. I no longer had the time to hunt for, trade, clip and file coupons for hours a day. I had no energy to shop 5 days a week. The groceries that I did end up purchasing would sit on our basement floor for weeks, until tripping over them became annoying, and I finally organized the stockpile again.
After a year or so of managing life with a baby, I got back into the swing of things, and I was couponing like usual. I started to get excited about shopping again. Our stockpile was overflowing with free razors and dish soap and cereal. I was back in love with couponing.
And then wouldn’t you know it – I got pregnant again. And my days were spent sleeping and puking, for all nine months of my pregnancy. I kept up couponing a bit, but most of the time, I’d send my husband to the store for me, and thus, my couponing love started to fade away again.
Once our daughter was born, my energy was completely gone. I had a newborn that would scream all night, and when we’d finally get her to sleep, our toddler would wake up and demand breakfast and playtime. I’m not even going to admit how often I let the television babysit our toddler during the first few weeks of the screaming newborn phase.
As time went on, our daughter got better with sleeping, she stopped screaming so much, and everything at our house got back to normal.
Except my couponing.
No longer extreme…
With 2 kids to take care of, I barely had enough time to go to the bathroom by myself, let alone clip coupons and go shopping for hours each week. All I wanted was some time to myself and a nice, long, uninterrupted nap. So I did what I could, shopped the sales, used coupons whenever possible and saved whatever I could. I went from extreme couponer to casual couponer, and that suited me just fine at that stage of my life.
Fast forward to September 2013, when I made one of the biggest changes in my life – I cut out all animal products from my diet. A few months later, my family did the same. Earlier in 2013, we’d also cut out white sugar/flour/bread, processed foods and pop from our diets. It wasn’t until eliminating all of these things that I realized that that’s exactly what the majority of coupons were for – and that it was going to be near impossible for me to use coupons if that continued.
There are tons of coupons for cheese and yogurt, packaged meats and sugary cereals, but it was rare when I’d come across a coupon for a bunch of leafy greens.
In addition to changing our diets, we are also transitioning to more natural health & beauty and cleaning products, and we will no longer personally support any companies that test on animals (which is almost all of the companies that put out coupons!). So this means that our grocery budget has gone up a considerable amount.
The biggest change of all…
For the past 6 months, I’ve used not a single coupon. Not one. At first I felt really guilty about it. Who was I to teach others how to use coupons when I don’t even use them myself anymore? I’m a hypocrite. Why should anyone listen to me?
It took me awhile to realize that although I have not used coupons in awhile, I still think that couponing is extremely beneficial for those that are struggling financially, or just want a bit more wiggle room in their budgets.
I’ve also learned that just because the majority of coupons are for food that my family can’t eat, there are still vegan food companies that offer coupons!
How I plan to save on groceries now…
One of my goals for 2015 is to start saving money on our grocery bill again, but without spending a lot of time doing it. Here’s my plan:
- Take advantage of cash-back rebate offers
- Contact my favourite vegan food brands and ask for coupons every 6 months
- Follow my favourite vegan food brands on Facebook and watch for special offers and contests (I’ve won a bunch of free coupons doing this!)
- Continue to shop at our favourite grocery store, Organic Garage, only for the dirty dozen and sale items
- Continue to get grocery delivery from Grocery Gateway, for all other produce and groceries we need (paying special attention to sale items)
- Continue to shop at Costco for the bulk items and produce we can’t get cheaper anywhere else (raw almonds, maple syrup, frozen fruit, etc.)
- Continue to shop at Yupik.ca for bulk items we can’t get at Costco (certain nuts, beans, etc.)
- Continue to shop online for sales on health & beauty and household items (Well.ca, Amazon.ca, Walmart.ca, etc.)
That’s it! This is what I think will save us a great deal of money without having to carry around a 10 pound coupon binder to store after store and without spending hours and hours organizing paper coupons.
I know this won’t work for everyone, but is what I think is going to work best for our family at this stage in our lives. I’m excited to see if we can make it work, and will be sure to share my successes and failures with you along the way.
Has your couponing changed recently?