Monday, January 25, 2010

Clipped by Coupons

My first foray into the coupon savings world was, ah, well, er, -- interesting.

I was dying to leave the small town pickings in Greenville and go to the Metroplex, sure to get a deal and better access to cool “big city” goods, right? Just 25 miles down the road to Rockwall. Heck. If I save 60% on groceries, the $8 in gas, should be well spent.

I chose Kroger because I called ahead and found that every day was triple or double coupon day! Wow. I called every Brookshire in a 50 mile radius, but nooooooooo, they do not double or triple coupons. I should make my gas money back with the double and triple coupon savings alone.

The coupons are triple up to 35 cents and double up to 50 cents. Not bad. That translates into $1.05 or $1. “So long” Brookshires in Greenville, “Hello” Kroger in Rockwall! I even signed up for free to get my Kroger card for additional savings. Yay, me.

But wait, there’s more. Target had my Tide laundry detergent on sale for $17.99 (reg. 21.99 I noticed while I was there). Even better and I’m combining the trip so I’m beaming, because I have now made the trip totally worth the drive.

After clipping my coupons while watching Martha Stewart at lunch, I feel pretty stoked about multi-tasking and I’m certainly not wasting my time watching TV! I’m physically cutting coupons (saving money), eating at home (saving money) and mentally standing next to Martha planting that rhodendrum or cooking with guest chef Emeril and cataloging all the handmade Christmas presents I’m gonna make next year (saving even more money!). That’s a ton of savings going on in one hour!

I studied this coupon stuff ahead of time and learned that planning the menu helps make you buy what you need and keeps you on track. I took stock of what I had on hand already and made “The List” for items I still needed to complete the menus.

With The List in hand and the coupons in my purse, I head to Rockwall, set to buy $150 worth of groceries for $80. I knew I wasn’t as seasoned as the legendary Coupon Mom Stephanie Nelson who could buy $150 worth of groceries for less than $45, so I was prepared to not do as well. I’ll improve as I get this down. But I was prepared for mild coupon savings extravaganza.

Arrival at Kroger was like the first time I walked into the Redwood Forest or New York City. My jaw dropped and I just stood there slowly turning around taking in the tall trees/building/shelves. Anyone caring to notice, would have thought I was a hick and had never been to the city before. Kroger actually had a Sushi section. I’m in heaven. I stroked the edge of the bar to make sure it was real and wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth. Then I spotted the olive bar! Oh, dear. I read every name of all 10 olive selections. I’ll never get out of here in one piece. Yum.

Don’t get me wrong. I get out plenty. But when I was employed, grocery shopping was the worst chore I had. I did not want to spend one more minute in there than absolutely necessary. I was working, so cost was not necessarily a priority. Get what you need, get out. That was my motto. Besides, we usually ate out. I certainly didn’t drive to the swanky grocery stores 25 miles away!

Kroger had about 6 aisles dedicated to wine. Wow, an actual selection. I hyperventilated over some of the labels (I love the designs and typography and sometimes the cleverness of the names). Hence, the reason I bought a merlot named “Mad Housewife.” I even loved the picture on the front of the bottle. A retro looking woman in her late 20s, maybe early 30s. She was classed up and sophisticated with bakelite and faux bead bracelets, a pink frock and pearls. (I love pearls, but that’s another story.) It was humorous, clever, and the teaser on the back was amusing. Besides, it was merlot. What’s not to like? I don’t care for light, fruity wines, but this “Mad Housewife” was literally speaking to me -- and it was just $6.

Now it was time to buckle down and get serious about what was on The List. I spent about 4 hours perusing the aisles and inspecting all the cool stuff. I began to notice that I usually had to buy two or three items to get the coupon discount. Okay, I’ll have enough for two weeks instead of one I reasoned. I ended up deciding against some of my coupon purchases because the coupons would still be good for the next shopping trip and I won’t need them right away. Good thinking on my part. Less cost, less space for the stashed items.

I’m at the checkout lane and it’s my turn to go through the register. I’m excited and I can’t wait to see how well I’ve done.

I had the exact coupons in hand for the items I was purchasing. Now keep in mind, I wasn’t only buying items that had coupons, but I was buying what was needed to fulfill the menu items and utilizing some of the items that had coupons. I still needed things like milk and chicken, but didn’t have a coupon for those. Stephanie Nelson did it, but somehow I failed to find those at this point!

Total of the groceries was $189.51. Well, okay. I got some stuff I didn’t need and weren’t on the list, like the wine. But here come the coupons. Drumroll, please. I saved a total of $7.79, hardly the incredible savings I was looking for. And if you take into account, the fact that I had to drive 25 miles one way to get there, well, it takes me back to about even.. Well, I noticed that the Kroger card saved me some on the actual purchase of items without the coupons, so surely that made up for it. Oh, and the $4 I saved on the Tide will help. I’ll have to figure this out when I get home.

The drive home was not the victory dance I had hoped. Something went wrong, terribly wrong.

Here’s a few lessons I learned from this initial shopping experience. I’m sure I will learn more and get better at it as I get the process down:

1. You’ve got to learn and know the prices of items you buy regularly. I had never paid attention to the cost of items much before now. Take the Tide for instance. I thought because it was $21.99 at Target (in Rockwall), that the $17.99 was a great deal. I save $4. Reality is, I check my local Walmart and the same size of Tide was regularly $17.49. I would have saved money shopping in Greenville and didn’t have to drive 25 miles to do it. Keep a price list. I have started mine in a spreadsheet so I would have really known that Tide for $17.99 was not such a deal. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I still had a full bottle at home already. I am tripping over the new bottle now! I’d like to know if there is a better way to keep this info updated and handy while shopping. Have you discovered a good price list strategy?

2. Know if you have coupons that qualify for double or triple savings. I realized, after going through this exercise, that I only had one coupon that qualified for the double savings. All the other coupons were 55 cents or higher and didn’t qualify to be doubled or tripled. I could have gotten that same deal locally at Brookshires or Walmart!

3. Get what is on The List and stick to The List! The $6 wine was cute and funny. But it tasted terrible. I ended up with a $6 decoration (if I decide to keep it).

4. Don’t shop hungry. Everything looked so good. While I was able to refuse the sushi and olive bar, it was very difficult and I think it led to several other items purchased that weren’t necessarily on The List or needed.

5. Organize your coupons. I’ve got to find a way to keep from sorting, resorting and dropping coupons while I’m shopping. As I get more, it will get more cumbersome as expiration dates come into play. I haven’t figured this out yet, so if you have any ideas, I certainly welcome them.

6. Find a place to store the extra surplus. When you get a good deal, get lots of it. The one thing that was a good deal was 4 tubes of Crest for $5. I probably should have gotten more than the one set, but I was wondering where it was going to go before we used it all. I am open for creative options here. I already feel as if we are stuffed to the gills as it is. Where would you store 20 extra cans of soup, laundry detergent or toothpaste?

7. It’s definitely okay to clip the coupons while watching Martha Stewart or other TV show, just be sure to find out what they really are worth before you add them to The List or drive 25 miles to use them!

The good news about my shopping trip is that we are still stocked and I haven’t had to go to the grocery store in over a week! We did eat once. So the eating out habit is improving. It also looks like since I am only 1 day away from the 2-week mark since I went to the grocery store, the $189 of groceries will hold us up well for 2 weeks. We ate well and very little has gone to spoilage. I am very pleased with that!

1 comment:

haleyleann said...

Kim!!! Promise me you'll check out!!! You will be soooo glad. They have saved me thousands over the last few year. They will teach you how to do it the right way. Don't give up!