Love Story

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is it worth it?

Lately I have been hearing a lot of comments about couponing and other means of frugal shopping being a waste of time or that people just don't think they have the time to do it. It made me wonder how much time I really spend on couponing, ad matching, and meal planning and if it is worth it when I compare it to the money I save. I figured the only way to know would be to keep track so that is just what I have done for the past two weeks.

Monday 8/8:
  *20 minutes cutting 4 MDA coupon booklets from Safeway
  *10 minutes planning a Walgreens run (matching sales ads to coupons)
  *10 minutes cutting 2 Smart Source inserts
Tuesday 8/9:
  *Walgreens: Spent $3.76, Saved $13.55, got back $4 in Register Rewards
Wednesday 8/10:
  *16 minutes cutting 2 Red Plum inserts and 1 Smart Source insert
  *10 minutes planning Walgreens run
  *25 minutes planning Albertsons run
  *13 minutes planning Safeway run
  *15 minutes meal planning for 7 days
  *5 minutes adding store coupons to my card through Just4U
Thursday 8/11:
  *Walgreens: Spent $10.11, Saved $25.24
  *Safeway: Spent $166.70, Saved $92.21
  *Albertsons: Spent $38.87, Saved $41.12, Got back $10 towards next trip
Sunday 8/14:
  *10 minutes cutting coupons from the Smart Source and Red Plum inserts
  *20 minutes planning Safeway and Albertsons run
Monday 8/15:
   *Safeway: Spent $12.12, Saved $12.02
   *Albertsons: Spent $1.02, Saved $17.52
Wednesday 8/17:
  *15 minutes planning a Safeway and Albertsons run
  *Safeway: Spent $14.30, Saved $19.00
  *Albertsons: Spent $7.73, Saved $9.72

-169 minutes or 2.82 hours spent cutting and putting away coupons, ad matching and meal planning
-$231.08 saved
  **That comes out to $81.94/hour when you compare hours spent to money saved**

As you can see I don't sit down for 3 hours at a time cutting coupons and planning shopping trips. It is broken up over several days usually for 10 or 20 minutes at a time while my youngest is napping or the kids are in bed. I would think a majority of people would be able to commit to 10 minutes a day. Especially if that 10 minutes is worth something like $13.66...that's more than you make in an hour at a minimum wage job!

For those of you thinking, how do I do that or how do I even get started let me share what I do. The very first thing you need to do is start collecting coupons. I recommend getting a subscription to your local newspaper. It usually comes out cheaper then buying a paper each week and it is delivered right to your door. I like to get the Wednesday paper for all of the grocery store ads and the Sunday paper for the coupon inserts and other store ads. There are also lots of places on the internet to get coupons, whether it be from company's themselves or from sites that allow you to download coupons right onto your store card. I recommend following a coupon blog that will give you constant updates on printable coupons and other great deals (I follow several on my Facebook page so they are all in one place).

Now that you have these coupons you need to find a way to organize them so you can maximize their use. There are dozens of ways people organize their coupons. If you are just starting out a simple accordion wallet size holder will do just fine. As time goes on you may find yourself upgrading to a binder or a shoe box or some other system that works for you. Play with it, there is no right way to keep your coupons. I organize mine by categories like canned goods, dairy, toiletries (this can get big so you probably want to break that down even further) and so on. As I sit down and cut out coupons each week I immediately tuck them all away in the proper place which saves me time in the long run. It is going to take you at least a month to get a stock of coupons going that will make a dent in your savings so don't get discouraged the first week when there isn't much you can use. The key is to store them up and use them when a good sale hits.

This brings me to ad matching. When I say that I just mean that I sit down and scan ads for sales and match them with coupons I already have. My 3 main shopping stores are Walgreens, Albertsons and Safeway. Mostly because that is what is closest to me. What I am looking for first are items that I can stock up on for cheap or free and items that I need for snacks and meals. The best way to stretch my coupon is to pair it with a sale. So if I see that canned veggies are marked down to $.59 a can and I have a $1/4 coupon for the same veggies I take advantage of that deal and end up paying $1.36 for 4 cans. I also look for deals that will give me money for my next shopping through Catalinas (the coupons that print out at the check stand).

I then take the list of groceries I have compiled so far and start to plan meals based on those items and what I already have on hand. I usually plan a weeks worth of meals at a time and write them on a menu planner like this:
If you want to see how I made this, click on the picture
I then add to my list any additional items needed to complete my meals or any staples like cat food, milk, diapers, etc that weren't already on the list.

We also try to stretch our dollar when it comes to produce and meat. In the summer months we are hitting the Farmer's Market to get locally grown in season produce at a great price. This not only saves us money on the produce itself but we count it as part of our weekly entertainment and family time. There are always fun people to meet, interesting stuff to look at and new things to try and our kids have a blast. In the other months we use Bountiful Baskets for our fresh low-priced produce.We don't typically buy our meat at the grocery store because we go in a cow with my in-laws and buy our chicken 40lbs at a time through Zaycon Foods. I occasionally buy ground turkey when it is buy 1 get 1 or on sale and we do buy most of our pork products at the grocery store, again usually when there are sales and coupons to match.

There you have it. That is the gist of how I use couponing, ad matching, and meal planning to stretch our dollar. Yes it does take some time and thought to execute it all. And some weeks are more fruitful then others. But for our family it is totally worth it. I am blessed to have the ability to stay home with my kids and tend to our home and so I take that job seriously. Part of my job is stretching the money my husband makes as much as possible and I have found the best way to do that is through saving on groceries. I would love to answer any further questions you have and have you weigh in on whether or not it is worth it in your house so feel free to leave comments with your questions or opinions.


  1. Love this! I shared it on Simple2Save. Hope you don't mind.

  2. Of course I don't mind Lindsey, thank you!


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