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Eating Well On $1 A Day
June 28, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Jeffrey believed that with couponing, he could live on $1 a day for food and have plenty to eat.

On the final day of the month, he tallied the following:

Money Spent $27.08
Money left to spend: $3.92 ($2 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $597.96
posted by gman (181 comments total) 145 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can only use 2 computers to print coupons. Although I have access to more which would make this challenge much easier, we agreed that not everyone will have access to a lot of computers.

I don't understand why it is useful to have two computers.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:43 PM on June 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think this assumes his time is worth $0.
posted by mrnutty at 2:43 PM on June 28, 2010 [58 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how coupons work? Because I've looked at the first day and he somehow bought 19 punnets of cream cheese and MADE MONEY.
posted by doublehappy at 2:46 PM on June 28, 2010


I don't understand why it is useful to have two computers.

Two unique IP addresses, I guess, which equals twice the number of vouchers.
posted by doublehappy at 2:47 PM on June 28, 2010


I bet most coupon sites use cookies rather than IP addresses. Just clear the cookies.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:48 PM on June 28, 2010


His sister, the originator of the bet, sounds like a sore loser:

Sister: “Like I said. You are palate challenged. You don’t know how to cook or make appetising meals so you failed at the challenge. Nobody likes peanut butter and bananas except you.”

Peanut butter with bananas on toast a sign of being palate challenged? I'm not a cheapskate when it comes to food, and I think that's a tasty breakfast.
posted by zabuni at 2:48 PM on June 28, 2010 [37 favorites]


> I don't understand why it is useful to have two computers.

Online coupons designed for printout usually have barcodes with serial numbers keyed to the account or browser session, to prevent people from cashing in coupons in bulk by printing out a zillion copies. He could probably have run Explorer and Firefox and spared himself from running two computers. People point this out in the comments on the first page linked to.
posted by ardgedee at 2:49 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


pretty much everywhere I shop has signs saying they don't take internet coupons.
posted by sio42 at 2:50 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude bought 36 boxes of cereal and donated another 32 boxes to the food bank.

68 boxes of cereal. That's at least $204 retail. I think it was mostly corn flakes which are kind of dull, but wow. THat's a lot of cereal.
posted by GuyZero at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2010


The retail value of what he got comes to nearly $600, he got it for $27...

...and a huge percentage of the population of the world actually has to live on $2/less a day without hope of such retail pricing games.

Interesting concept, great illustration of how insane retail is in a first world country. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I look at the other 50% of humanity on the planet.
posted by hippybear at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2010 [14 favorites]


>I think this assumes his time is worth $0.

Presumably he's aiming at compensation through his website. Other people challenge themselves like this because they're interested in conservation and bucking the status quo.

Also, he cut his costs by $500 in one month. Assuming he's got the hang of the process now, even if he doesn't do the same every month, that's an impressive way to effectively increase your savings over time. Depending on his age, that could mean the difference between a decent retirement and no retirement at all.

Finally, he's found several false assumptions about frugality that may benefit others.
posted by circular at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2010 [13 favorites]


He's trying to eat cheaply, so why would he throw away perfectly valid cookies?
posted by benzenedream at 2:51 PM on June 28, 2010 [45 favorites]


I can’t supplement what I buy at the store with free food from trees, dumpster diving, friends, food banks, donations, growing my own, etc.

Now I may be a simple hyper-chicken city boy, but wouldn't someone -- considering he listed "grow my own" as a separate item -- own those trees? And, therefore, the fruit growing on them? I never thought I'd run into a literal case of "get off my lawn."
posted by griphus at 2:52 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the above the fold text I was guessing this was an obit post.
posted by ODiV at 2:52 PM on June 28, 2010 [21 favorites]


Most people don't assume that "living on $1/day" includes "gaming coupons to get store credit".
posted by meowzilla at 2:52 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow. Just reading that first post made me tired and cranky. I can't imagine actually doing this for a month, but hats off to him. I also got some great tips for using coupons!

pretty much everywhere I shop has signs saying they don't take internet coupons.

I've never seen a sign like this.
posted by lunasol at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most people don't assume that "living on $1/day" includes "gaming coupons to get store credit".

Well, maybe they should.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.
posted by oddman at 2:58 PM on June 28, 2010 [24 favorites]


Now I may be a simple hyper-chicken city boy

Hi city boy! Not everybody is a thief. Example:

"Hey man, mind if i grab a few of those oranges off your tree?"
"Sure! Now I won't have to pick 'em up off the lawn."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:58 PM on June 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


catalina. Not a total waste of time, I learned a new word.
posted by fixedgear at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


this whole post is awesome, thank you. he seems to have learned quite a bit when working on this project.

http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/ashamed-at-my-embarrassment/
posted by radiosilents at 3:00 PM on June 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


Cletus: Hey slow down! I wants to talk to you! Give us three hundred pretzels.
Marge: You see? A little persistence and patience paid off! That'll be three hundred dollars.
Cletus: Hey I don't think so. I got me three hundred coupons.
Marge: I should've said "Limit: one per customer."
Cletus: Should'a but didn't so hand 'em over. Hey! Kids! We're eatin' dinner tonight!
posted by griphus at 3:00 PM on June 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


Right from Day 1, I was kind of shocked. I've never seen a store actually give change back for a coupon. If the item's $0.79, and you have $1.00 off, you get it for free, not "free plus $0.21 change."

I guess this sort of thing is easier if the stores have weird policies that give you $3.00 of coupons from the machine, and money back. My local Shaw's offers me $5 back when I spend $50 as its most generous POS-printed coupons.
posted by explosion at 3:02 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


the signs are at Giant food stores...something about their inability to tell legit coupons from fake ones.

I am in southcentral pennsylvania.

but maybe internet coupons are becoming less easy to fake?

not trying to derail, but it's central to his ability to do this project that all the places he shopped accepted internet print out coupons.
posted by sio42 at 3:02 PM on June 28, 2010


One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.

Honestly that's my biggest problem with what he did. But it did make me realize that one of the rarely mentioned benefits of having a decent salary and living in the first world is being able to eat what you want, when you want.
posted by exhilaration at 3:03 PM on June 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


He should have to make a single dish out of what he buys for the day.

2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal
4 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream
10 apples
2 lbs of carrots
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
1 jar of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
2 cans of pork and beans
1 bag of long grain brown rice
2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 count each)

posted by heyho at 3:03 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


A metric tonne of wheat costs about $200. A metric tonne of soybeans costs about $350. That's about $2/day for more than a year's worth of nutritional requirements, with only two transactions.
posted by No Robots at 3:06 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


"3. I can only use 2 inserts from the Sunday paper each week. Although I have access to many more than this (I usually pick up anywhere from 3 to 5 copies for free from the local coffee shop alone each week)"

Most coffee shops I know don't offer several copies of the Sunday paper for "free" for people to take. Of course, the inserts, nobody cares about those.

There is a house near my office that has been undergoing renovation for several months. In the back yard, adjacent to the alley, there is an enormous avocado tree with dozens, if not hundreds, of huge avocados all over it. The fence has been taken down so that the contractor can get in and out through the alley. I have been wrestling with my conscience and my laziness about scaling the tree and helping myself to a hundred bucks worth of avocados. Would suck to fall out of the tree, I guess.
posted by Xoebe at 3:06 PM on June 28, 2010


This may be a little far afield, but my mom was doing this in 1970. With her file cards, indexes, and a system for keeping organized. She didn't have a blog, though.

She was also a big refunder/rebater. She subscribed to a print magazine (remember those?) where people would trade complete deals. The proofs of purchase (POP!) and the receipts necessary to get the cash back or the other coupon. One per household, so people swapped. Each Pay Own Postage (EPOP), include a SASE. She was a full time homemaker and so had time to do so. As other folks have pointed out, his time is apparently worth zero.
posted by fixedgear at 3:06 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


He should have to make a single dish out of what he buys for the day.

Why, do you? Remind me not to accept any dinner invitations from heyho. No Mountain Dew-bacon-cucumber-raisin bagel-Tabasco Sauce Surprise for me, thanks!
posted by phunniemee at 3:08 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


sio42, the two closest grocery stores to my house also don't accept internet coupons. I feel your pain.

There was a Japanese game show along these lines - the contestant was given a certain amount per day and had to feed a family of four as cheaply as possible using coupons she was given.
posted by desjardins at 3:08 PM on June 28, 2010


I think it's the Tampons & Pantiliners post that really impressed me:
Woman: “That guy trying to eat well on a dollar a day bought tampons and pantiliners just so he could have a jar of peanut butter. Are you saying that you value me less than a jar of peanut butter?”
WELL PLAYED SIR
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:10 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have been wrestling with my conscience and my laziness about scaling the tree and helping myself to a hundred bucks worth of avocados.

You'd feel better if they fall off and rot? I'm no freegan or whatever they're called, but why not?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:12 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Peanut butter with bananas on toast a sign of being palate challenged?
No. It's a sign that you're Elvis.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:12 PM on June 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't figure out where this guy lives. I wonder how much travelling he had to do to get from store to store.
posted by desjardins at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, he cut his costs by $500 in one month.

Well maybe. Did he already spend $500+ on food beforehand?

It sounds like he had a lot of bleedover and donated it (which is good) but $500 of extra cereal isn't the same as $500 extra dollars you can put away.
posted by yeloson at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2010


we have the "no internet coupons" signs in owasso, oklahoma.
posted by nadawi at 3:17 PM on June 28, 2010


Honestly? This dude's fucking wonderful.

Y'all can bitch about the technicalities of whether this was scientifically/mathematically sound or not, but in the end, he took retail for a ride rather than being taken for a ride himself.

I am very grateful this has been posted, and I've bookmarked it. I doubt I'll take it as far as he did, but I'm in a stretch of seasonal unemployment just now. I know I can get by 'til work starts again, but at the moment I have the time and motivation to stretch my money. This could potentially really help.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2010 [20 favorites]


wouldn't someone -- considering he listed "grow my own" as a separate item -- own those trees?

I don't know about whether this is the case universally, but in Los Angeles, you're free to harvest fruit off of any tree growing on or over public land.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2010


I just read Day 1, but with the amount of running around he's doing, I think he's probably spending more on transportation than he is on food.
posted by Malor at 3:24 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, his sister really is a buzzkill. Hey, I'm going to change the rules at the very last minute because it's clear you are winning.

Anyway, that was an interesting post. Obviously not everyone could game the coupon system like that but we could all probably eat for much less than we do. I'll be thinking about that.
posted by 6550 at 3:27 PM on June 28, 2010


If everyone "took retail for a ride" then retail would stop giving out free rides. He abused the system and shouldn't be THAT proud of it.
posted by pibeandres at 3:32 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's great that he donated much of the food to a foodbank. Maybe this could be a viable charitable enterprise:

1) Someone at United Way etc. sends out an email with links to cheap-to-free coupons for non-perishable foods
2) People buy the food alongside their normal shopping
3) People donate anything left over to a foodbank
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:32 PM on June 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't figure out where this guy lives. I wonder how much travelling he had to do to get from store to store.

Silicon Valley. He has store receipts from places in Saratoga and Cupertino. Here's Google's suggested route between those places; about 3 miles.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:34 PM on June 28, 2010


So my guess is this would be near impossible without a car.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on June 28, 2010


...but wouldn't someone...own those trees?

If your an orchard, yeah, you're not going to be real happy with him. If you have a dwarf fruit tree or two, you're also liable to get a bit surly. If you have the big apple tree that used to be in my grandparents back yard, my grandfather wouldn't let you get away without taking at least a bushel. There comes a point where you, your family and your friends will only eat so much of any kind of fruit after which it's just another lawn care chore.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:42 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


griphus: "Now I may be a simple city boy, but wouldn't someone -- considering he listed "grow my own" as a separate item -- own those trees?"

I can't speak to elsewhere, but there's an arcane law on the books for the City of Los Angeles that if a fruit tree grows on or over public property, the fruit is no longer the sole property of the owner. There's a group called Fallen Fruit that maps out places where fruit trees are growing in public places.
posted by sharkfu at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


So my guess is this would be near impossible without a car.

I think it might be doable with a bike. None of his grocery hauls were particularly huge....
posted by mr_roboto at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2010


Fascinating.

I watch my husband do this . . . he checks the Sunday paper and clips the coupons, looks at the coupons we get in our mailbox, checks catalinas, and, though rarely, prints Internet coupons. (No, this does not take much time for him.) He has an encyclopedic knowledge of food prices everywhere, making his brain a comparison shopping whiz. He has a large stock of healthy staples in our pantry and freezer, and will grab something else when he sees a good price, meaning he also has an amazingly exotic collection of pantry items too. By and large, he remembers all the things he has in the pantry and freezer. He shops two to three times a week, but his trips to the food store (never a drugstore) are quick because he knows where he is headed and what he is buying.

Also, unlike this guy, my husband is an incredible cook and a very competent gardener.

The result is that my husband spends a good deal less than I do for food, spends less time in the grocery store, and even spends less time planning meals and cooking than I do. And what he makes and eats and feeds me is very healthy.

Very interesting reading this guy's use of many of my husband's techniques.

I ask myself, why don't I operate this way ? (Though I am better than I was before I met my husband.) I think I'm lazier and not as good at this kind of shopping technique, and not near as good a cook as my husband. And that I simply don't remember what we have and what comparative prices are the way he does.
posted by bearwife at 3:48 PM on June 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


So my guess is this would be near impossible without a car.

Well, if he lives near Cupertino/Saratoga, I think most things would be very difficult without a car. It's pretty thin on public transportation.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2010


Only coupons we get here in Oz are stuff like "10% OFF YOUR NEXT POOL RECHLORINATION!" and "FREE TIRE ROTATION WHEN YOU PURCHASE AN ENGINE" or "BONUS WINE GLASS WITH ANY MIXED DOZEN". All valid up until yesterday. Nothing actually, y'know, useful.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


How is it possible that after 50+ comments in a thread about coupons, not one user has mentioned orange juice?

It is not possible!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:56 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, turgid, to my surprise my local Coles (*spit*) is trialling coupons. Of course, what with my "no junk mail" sign I only knew about it when the check-out girl specifically asked if I (a) knew about the coupons, (b) knew about the specific coupon for 50% of the already-reduced block of cheese I was buying, and (c) cut out the coupon for me, scanned it, and gave me cheap cheese.

I'm not sure she entirely got the point of coupons, from the retailers point of view. But hey, cheap cheese!
posted by coriolisdave at 3:59 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


To everyone criticizing the sister, it is ALWAYS a sibling's job to change or narrow clarify the rules when ridiculous bets are being attempted by another sibling. This is part of the Sibling Agreement on Records, Bets, Stunts and Streaks (SARBSS).
posted by amethysts at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2010 [27 favorites]


But hey, cheap cheese!

The best kind! Which Coles is this?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:08 PM on June 28, 2010


On faking coupons, we noted at a grocery store last night that every register had taped up a photocopy of a coupon with the word FAKE marked on it in pen. It was a rather authentic-looking coupon for a free case of Pepsi. Maybe it's a scam going around?
posted by JHarris at 4:12 PM on June 28, 2010


One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.

This is the big stumbling block because most coupons are for cereals/deserts/snacks. I've never seen a coupon for fresh fruits, vegetables, and very rarely for meat (Tyson chicken sometimes does $1.00 off a package.)

I did the coupon thing intensely for about 6 months, but finally decided I was just spinning my wheels. I have a large number of sites that I used to check for the best deals-- matching up coupons to sales-- as well as sites that offer coupons for printing and others that "charge" your store loyalty card. But there are lots of bumps in the road to buying free and cheap food:

Stores may take only a certain number of coupons
Stores may not double at all, or if they do double or triple the value of the coupon, may only do so on certain coupons (depending on the code.)
The best deals-- free after coupon-- usually sell out within a few hours, so You may need to go shopping at 6:00 am.
Sometimes the deals depend on you buying a certain number of items and then mailing in a rebate. It becomes mentally exhausting to remember all these complicated deals.

I have made money buying food. It goes like this: Special K Bars are normally $3.95 a box but go on sale 2 for $5.00. The store will also give you an instant rebate of $1.00 a box if you buy 4 boxes. You have coupons for $1.00 a box plus a form for a merchandise rebate of $10.00 if you buy 5 boxes. So if you buy 5 boxes @ 2.50 minus $4.00 store rebate, minus $5.00 coupons tendered, minus $10.00 mail-in rebate equals $6.50 profit not including the price of a stamp. But then you have 5 boxes of Special K bars sitting in your pantry...

It's not just mentally exhausting, it is a pain in the ass because instead of driving to one store and buying what you need for one week, you drive to 4 or 5 different stores and buy whatever deals are being offered. I stopped. I just felt like it wasn't worth my time and energy to get Progresso soup for 49 cents a can, when homemade soup is far superior in taste and nutrition.

I've never seen a store actually give change back for a coupon.


That sounds really suspicious to me. In fact if it is "Triple Coupon Week" at Harris Teeter and you give them $.75 off of Tabasco which only costs $1.79, they won't credit you for 46 cents, they'll just double the coupon and then take 29 cents off.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:20 PM on June 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow. I've never seen a store give change back for a coupon either. Usually it says something like "Discount cannot exceed value of item" i.e. "you'll get it free but we're not giving you money". I've also seen the "no internet coupons" sign alot of places. I've also never seen a coupon for an item I wanted to buy. I guess I'm destined to never live off coupons.
posted by amethysts at 4:24 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I admit that I cut straight to the chase: Free Beer – Day 36.
posted by spock at 4:31 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I admit to reading the whole thing. Toward the end he eats mostly pasta with chopped up vegetables, sometimes tuna, and miracle whip. Yet his sister keeps criticizing the peanut butter and banana?
posted by hydropsyche at 4:35 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a game show in Japan where they gave four contestants (four TV personalities, basically) and gave them all 10,000 yen ($100) for a month. That money was for *all* of their spending for the month: food, gas, electric, everything. At the end of the month, the person with the most money leftover was the winner.

They'd follow around the four people and each person would have a different technique for stretching their money. Some lived on rice and a few veggies, but most would make whatever they could from scratch--much cheaper. People were making their own pasta from scratch, as well as tofu--not an easy thing to make from scratch. One guy got bean sprouts and put them in his closet. At first they looked pretty pathetic, but a few days later he had TONS of bean sprouts and ate them several times a day. That same guy, I think, rented a chicken and at the eggs.

(Anyone know of the show I speak? I tried to find clips online but couldn't.)
posted by zardoz at 4:37 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


About a year or so ago a read an article online about people doing this coupon thing. They interviewed a woman who had a garage full of crap like Scrubbing Bubbles products and body washes. Her thought process was that she had stocked up everything her family needed through ingenuity. I thought she seemed like a weird hoarder. I like this guy's approach so much better - if I don't need it, donate it.
posted by jeoc at 4:42 PM on June 28, 2010


Does he factor in the cost of printer ink? Whenever I buy new cartridges, I regret every single (non-harbor freight) coupon I printed out.
posted by drezdn at 4:49 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Her thought process was that she had stocked up everything her family needed through ingenuity. I thought she seemed like a weird hoarder.

When I used to read the slickdeals forums, I would get the same impression. People would say things like "I don't plan on having a baby for years, but now I'm set with 50 sippy cups. Me FTW!"
posted by drezdn at 4:51 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


He seems to be aware of the problems of foraging food from peoples' gardens: in this entry he takes lemons from a tree on city land. Makes me wish I lived somewhere warm enough to pick lemons off a tree.
posted by Tapioca at 5:14 PM on June 28, 2010


Boxford, Massachusetts mother Kathy Spencer: 'How to Shop for Free.'

The Coupon Queen Shares Secrets.
posted by ericb at 5:23 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate him because he bought Miracle Whip and kept calling it "Mayo". Love it, or Hate it, It sure ain't Mayo.


It's like buying Guinness and calling it "beer"
posted by Megafly at 5:58 PM on June 28, 2010


Did this in college when I was living on less than $100 a month (for everything). It's so very very not worth my time now.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:00 PM on June 28, 2010


Most would rather starve to death than pick up pantiliners and tampons at the store for any reason, let alone a jar of peanut butter.

Back when, I would have bought tampons everyday because, hey, it meant I wasn't buying diapers.
posted by madajb at 6:06 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Usually these stories feature people buying a whole mess of processed food, but it looks like he has a decent selection of fresh food mixed in there.

Going to have to read this a little closer.
posted by madajb at 6:10 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure she entirely got the point of coupons, from the retailers point of view. But hey, cheap cheese!

Actually, I think she got the point quite well. The point of sales, coupons, or otherwise cheap items serve as both advertisement/brand marketing ("My local Winco always carries milk $0.50 cheaper than Safeway." and "Look at all the sales advertised for Meijer! I guess I'll go there this weekend instead of my usual VG's.") AND they provide loss-leaders. Most people will go in for their coupon items and pick up a bunch of other stuff on the way through the store. Only the most careful shoppers will buy only the items on sale or for which they have coupons.
posted by asciident at 6:39 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey just emailed me to say he put up an FAQ which may answer some of your questions.
posted by gman at 6:40 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It's like buying Guinness and calling it 'beer'"

I am a piece of shit white trash and I will fuck you up. Don't pull that shit again.I will go to jail. I don't give a shit. I will fuck you up. I will fight every single fucking person in this room.

ok not really, but I will drink 5 pints of guinness in his honor
posted by HopperFan at 6:40 PM on June 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


zardoz: Doesn't sound like the same show, but there was an infamous Japanese game show in the late 90s in which a comedian called Nasubi was basically abducted (supposedly, who knows how on the level it really was) after coming to what he thought was an audition, locked in an apartment naked with no food, and forced to live only on what he could get from mail-in promotional giveaways (i.e. via coupons). It included surreal scenes such as Nasubi's joy at receiving a promotional giveaway of women's panties, so he finally had clothes. He mostly lived off plain rice. The show was on Hulu for a while, I forget the title.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2010


Wiki article on Nasubi: here. The show was named "Susunu! Denpa Shōnen".
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:48 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


...actually has to live on $2/less a day ... great illustration of how insane retail is in a first world country.

It's so insane that he's blameless, in my eyes. He may have very well rescued that food, which might have otherwise been on its way to a landfill or an incinerator.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:50 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most would rather starve to death than pick up pantiliners and tampons at the store for any reason, let alone a jar of peanut butter.


I've never understood this. Why? Why is it embarrassing? They're obviously not for you, if you're male. Are they afraid someone will see them and suspect they're concealing a vagina? So if they're obviously not for you, you're picking them up for someone else: is THAT somehow embarrassing? "HAHA, WHAT A PUSSY, DOING A FAVOR FOR A GIRL!". It makes no sense.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:00 PM on June 28, 2010 [43 favorites]


A metric tonne of wheat costs about $200. A metric tonne of soybeans costs about $350. That's about $2/day for more than a year's worth of nutritional requirements, with only two transactions.
Only if you want scurvy.
Does he factor in the cost of printer ink? Whenever I buy new cartridges, I regret every single (non-harbor freight) coupon I printed out.


That's a good point.
posted by delmoi at 7:03 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.

This is the big stumbling block because most coupons are for cereals/deserts/snacks. I've never seen a coupon for fresh fruits, vegetables, and very rarely for meat (Tyson chicken sometimes does $1.00 off a package.)


This was precisely why I never used coupons for the longest time (that and the value of my time) but this past year Kroger has been brilliant and mails out once or twice a month a booklet full of custom tailored coupons based on what you've bought already, aaand there is regularly stuff like "spend $10 in produce, get $3 off" and similar things for the meat and seafood and dairy departments. Doesn't require me to wade through a bunch of boxed-food-coupon crap from each week's inserts, involves fresh food, is already everything we regularly buy anyway. SO GREAT. It's singlehandedly tipped us on the Kroger side of things (where we live there's another major supermarket with less total market share but that still does strong business in our area); now we shop there weekly without even considering alternating between stores.
posted by ifjuly at 7:03 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey all. I'm the guy that has been doing this the past two months. I read through all of the comments and decided I probably needed to add a FAQ section which I did - hope that helps a bit. I am a reluctant couponer -- I hate it and have do the absolute bare minimum that I have to. I spend a lot less time than most of you assume (and I assumed I'd have to when I began). I've learned that there are a lot of incorrect assumptions made about couponing (I know this because I made a lot of them as well) and it really is a game that is pretty easy when you learn the rules. Not rocket science by any means although there definitely is a learning curve when you first begin. If you have any specific questions for me, I'll do my best to answer them here.
posted by savingadvice at 7:27 PM on June 28, 2010 [49 favorites]


Hi, I'm a pretty dedicated couponer. I wouldn't call myself "hardcore" exactly, but I've managed to bring our grocery bill (for a family of three) down to about a hundred bucks a month.

One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.

This is the big stumbling block because most coupons are for cereals/deserts/snacks. I've never seen a coupon for fresh fruits, vegetables, and very rarely for meat (Tyson chicken sometimes does $1.00 off a package.)


I have in my files right now coupons for $1.00 of "produce" or eggs when I buy bacon, and some "catalinas" that I can use for any product in the store. Not to mention that bringing down our costs on everything else we eat - flour, sugar, cereal, pasta, etc. frees up a lot of money to buy more (and better) fresh produce than I would have bought a year ago.

And, while not fresh, I have a freezer full of Bird's Eye frozen veggies (peas, corn, mixed veggies, green beans, etc.) that I got for eight cents a package (using double coupons) when they were recently on sale for $1.00 package. These will probably last us a year, and get us veggies at every meal through the long Maine winter. Tonight I bought four packages of fresh ravioli with lobster stuffing for seventy five cents a package.

Are there a ton of coupons out there for junk food? Sure. You have to pick and choose what coupons to use. But if you have a store near you that doubles (or triples) coupons and are willing to stock up on things when they go on sale you too might find that you're getting free shampoo, coffee, and soap which frees up a your budget to splurge on organic local strawberries for $6.99 a quart.
posted by anastasiav at 7:28 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll also add that the forums at the website A Full Cup are invaluable if you're interested in getting started with couponing. Users there produce fairly comprehensive shopping lists for stores all around the country, matching coupons with advertised and unadvertised deals. An hour or so once a week on the web can save me a ton of running around town and can guide me to avoid certain stores entirely for weeks at a time.
posted by anastasiav at 7:35 PM on June 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


I love this guy.

I deeply regret that we don't have coupons here. I used them regularly when I lived in the US but had a friend who was really good at it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:38 PM on June 28, 2010


I don't think I've ever used a coupon in my life for groceries, so I definitely found this a fascinating read -- it seems like an unbelievable effort. But I was very impressed that someone even attempting this would still think to donate to a food bank -- definitely a lesson for all of us in there, I think.

Also, this:

>Most would rather starve to death than pick up pantiliners and tampons at the store for any reason, let alone a jar of peanut butter.

I've never understood this. Why? Why is it embarrassing? They're obviously not for you, if you're male. Are they afraid someone will see them and suspect they're concealing a vagina? So if they're obviously not for you, you're picking them up for someone else: is THAT somehow embarrassing? "HAHA, WHAT A PUSSY, DOING A FAVOR FOR A GIRL!". It makes no sense.


Agreed entirely. When I go out to get tampons or pills for my gf's menstrual cramps, I am in no sense embarrassed; it's called shopping for something someone asked you to get. What the fuck, children?
posted by modernnomad at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


Coupons are actually socially useful and good for the food industry - at least when people aren't gaming the system. The marginal cost of each package (the cost of making, distributing and retailing just one more package) is usually much less than the average cost. The food industry would be perfectly happy to sell extra packages at the marginal cost plus a profit margin, but they can't afford to sell all their packages at that price. Coupons let them sell packages more cheaply to people who care about the savings, while selling the rest at the full price.

Everybody benefits - poor people can trade their time for the money they don't have, and the food industry gets a few extra sales. This benefit is squandered to some extent by the time that coupon-users have to waste in complying with the coupon rules, but at least they have the option.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:46 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Instead of using coupons, he could go for bulk food and unprocessed veggies.
posted by Sukiari at 7:55 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


...and a huge percentage of the population of the world actually has to live on $2/less a day without hope of such retail pricing games.

Interesting concept, great illustration of how insane retail is in a first world country. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I look at the other 50% of humanity on the planet.


The thing is, having lived and regularly grocery-shopped in a third world country, the game is very different there. Right now, living in Indiana, I can't live on what I lived on in India, even with crazy coupon games. There is no man down the block from me selling fresh produce off a wooden cart for pennies a pound. This is largely because of our grossly unnatural and morally questionable industrialized food system; but it's also because even the underpaid illegals who tend to and pick our crops around here get paid closer to a living wage than the average Indian farmer, and we are to some degree paying those wages with our grocery store tabs. I'm also paying state sales tax, and paying to compensate the suppliers all up the line (not just the farmer, who admittedly is probably receiving state aid, but also the store, the truckers, the warehouses and refrigeration facilities) for all the taxes they've paid in the process of running their business; this is stuff that helps subsidize the myriad and remarkable public services I partake of here, from potable city water to stop signs to an inconsistent but often remarkably high-quality public school system . This goes for staples as well: rice, flour, vegetable oil. You can't buy it here for what you can buy it for there. And what you buy there is what you get: don't expect well-paved roads, or the comfort of making a proper moral choice with your organics and fair-trades.

Our system is very different from that of the average third-worlder. When you see figures like "less than $2 a day," that doesn't mean exactly what it sounds like it means. They aren't walking into a supermarket with two dollar bills, they're walking down the street to a series of carts and ramshackle dry goods stores, with 100 rupees that will get them a lot more. Which is not to say that our system is or isn't fucked, or that lives elsewhere are or are not unconscionably difficult. Just that it's complicated, and the fact that this fellow is operating only within our system doesn't make what he's doing somehow wrong because not everybody in the world has that option.
posted by bookish at 8:13 PM on June 28, 2010 [44 favorites]


Also, for a really fascinating depiction of what all sorts of people around the world spend their (drastically different) food budgets on, I can't recommend the book Hungry Planet enough.
posted by bookish at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


If everyone "took retail for a ride" then retail would stop giving out free rides.

Yeh, that's because hell would be frozen over.

The stores just seem to be so addicted to coupons they can't stop. All the stores where I live, they make you use a store card if you want the good prices. The promise when I got them was: no more coupons. Well GUESS WHAT? Coupons in their flyers, even.

There's no shame whatsoever in working over the system. The system is set up to work you over (ever notice?). The shame is that some people have been conned into foregoing benefits by some mysterious circuitous morality that says you have to play the victim.

"Oh no, the clerk raised an eyebrow at me! What if my friends find out?"

<>The preceding commentary is the result of me channeling a N'Yawkuh<>
posted by Twang at 8:19 PM on June 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


pibeandres: "If everyone "took retail for a ride" then retail would stop giving out free rides. He abused the system and shouldn't be THAT proud of it."

Abusing the corporate system is a good thing.
posted by Bonzai at 8:42 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's like buying Guinness and calling it "beer"

???WTF??? No, it's like buying Miller's and calling IT beer.

@Hopperfan: I need 3 G's to wash down the taste of one Ho-Guardin.
posted by Twang at 8:44 PM on June 28, 2010


But if you have a store near you that doubles (or triples) coupons

I wonder if this is more prevalent in the Midwest/South or larger metro areas.
Maybe I'm just in a non-competitive grocery environment, but so far as I know, none of the grocery stores near me double coupons.

Or if they do, they certainly don't advertise it.
posted by madajb at 8:54 PM on June 28, 2010


He was in the emergency room by day two. I'm pretty sure that didn't get counted towards his $1/day.

But in all fairness, that was part of the learning process. This blog is pretty compelling evidence that one could live on $1/day, and maybe even get good enough at it to not spend hours daily searching for deals.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:55 PM on June 28, 2010


I just read Day 1, but with the amount of running around he's doing, I think he's probably spending more on transportation than he is on food.

I did have to run around quite a bit at the beginning because I had no food at all when I started (this would not be the case for most people in most instances ). Now that I have built up a base of food, I am going much less frequently. If one has a full pantry, they should not have to go anymore than the average person does. In fact, they would probably go less because they are focused on exactly what they need to buy and so won't be running to the store when they accidentally forget something.

Right from Day 1, I was kind of shocked. I've never seen a store actually give change back for a coupon. If the item's $0.79, and you have $1.00 off, you get it for free, not "free plus $0.21 change."

Most stores don't give change back. I never counted on this and always try to make it so my purchase comes out on the positive side because when it comes out negative, it is much more likely there will be a lot of hassle involved. But there were times when I was a few cents over and the money was given to me.

Did he already spend $500+ on food beforehand?

That number is deceiving because a lot of it went to stuff that I wouldn't normally buy (and thus I donated it to the food banks or other charities). That being said, I spend a lot less now than I did before mainly because I usually ate out before I started this challenge.
posted by savingadvice at 8:57 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you have any specific questions for me, I'll do my best to answer them here.

On the first day, did the Safeway actually give you 9 cents back?
posted by madajb at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2010


He was in the emergency room by day two. I'm pretty sure that didn't get counted towards his $1/day.

It was an abscess in my intestine that had been developing long before the challenge started (although I did think I had poisoned myself with my cooking at the time)
posted by savingadvice at 9:01 PM on June 28, 2010


On the first day, did the Safeway actually give you 9 cents back?

Yes - although not normal, on several occasions I was given small amounts back (when the cashier put it thought, the coins would come out of the change maker). I always tried to make the transactions come out positive, but still learning I sometimes miscalculated.
posted by savingadvice at 9:04 PM on June 28, 2010


I wonder if this is more prevalent in the Midwest/South or larger metro areas.
Maybe I'm just in a non-competitive grocery environment, but so far as I know, none of the grocery stores near me double coupons.


I did this all without ever having the luxury of double coupons (I would love to give it a try though), so it can be done even when you aren't in areas that double.
posted by savingadvice at 9:06 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I need 3 G's to wash down the taste of one Ho-Guardin."

I think you need a beer intervention, you don't drink Hoegaarden! I'll buy you a pint of G, too.
posted by HopperFan at 9:08 PM on June 28, 2010


I don't understand why it is useful to have two computers.

This question is often asked - here is the answer. Basically, you are limited to 2 coupons per computer and there is no way around it.
posted by savingadvice at 9:10 PM on June 28, 2010


WTF, who gets change for coupons? I've literally never heard of this...
posted by odinsdream at 9:12 PM on June 28, 2010


I've gotten change back from coupon transactions. It's rare but it does happen.

Given the discussions I've seen on this and other sites in the past that were extremely dismissive of couponing, I can't help but wonder (and no disrespect to savingadvice) if so many of you are paying more attention because it's s guy writing this blog. I can't help but think if the author were a housewife we might see a much more mocking and dismissive tone in the comments here.
posted by anastasiav at 9:18 PM on June 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


One problem with this technique is that you are basically forced to eat only what the food companies want you to eat.

This is simply not true for most people (although it was in the beginning when I had no food at all). The system allows you to buy what you want when you can work coupon overages. For example, yesterday I bought the following for $1.35:

30 bottles of Kraft salad dressing
1 package Peppridge Farm Goldfish
1 package Peppridge Farm Goldfish Grahams
3 bottles Ocean Spray Blueberry cocktail drink
1 package mushrooms
1 one lb package baby carrots
1 package spinach leaves
3 tomatoes
6 bananas

That is what I chose to buy - basically the Kraft deal allowed me to buy $15 worth of anything I wanted, so any person could gave purchased differently.
posted by savingadvice at 9:23 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Given the discussions I've seen on this and other sites in the past that were extremely dismissive of couponing, I can't help but wonder (and no disrespect to savingadvice) if so many of you are paying more attention because it's s guy writing this blog. I can't help but think if the author were a housewife we might see a much more mocking and dismissive tone in the comments here.

I think it may be (and I could be wrong) is that I don't like couponing. I seriously hate it, but I see it as a means to help a lot of people and therefore it is worth doing since I have learned to spend very little time doing it. People assume it takes a huge amount of time (it does take time to learn the system at the beginning), but I don't spend a lot of time. I don't clip, sort or organize coupons - that would drive me nuts. Then again, I could be wrong...
posted by savingadvice at 9:28 PM on June 28, 2010


Man, this guy is the son my father wishes he'd had.

That said, when I used to use coupons occasionally I also never got money back. Maybe I should have said something, but I just figured if I was getting something for free that was good enough.
posted by bardic at 9:30 PM on June 28, 2010


when I used to use coupons occasionally I also never got money back.

heh - let's try to put this to rest. It is a rare occasion when this happens. Usually if the total is negative, the store will not give change back (you just get everything for free). Store policy says you are not supposed to get money back, so I assume I never will and try to make the transactions always come out positive. But on rare occasions when I have miscalculated and a cashier puts the purchase through, change comes out the machine. IO could have done the same things without ever getting change back - they were very minimal.
posted by savingadvice at 9:35 PM on June 28, 2010


I can't help but wonder (and no disrespect to savingadvice) if so many of you are paying more attention because it's s guy writing this blog. I can't help but think if the author were a housewife we might see a much more mocking and dismissive tone in the comments here.

I'm actually more interested because he seems to have made an effort to eat reasonably healthy and dealt with the excess in a decent way (donations).
So many "coupon queen" stories end up with someone with 2 carts full of complete junk for which they paid only $5.

That is not an admirable achievement in my mind however impressed I am with their dedication.
posted by madajb at 9:39 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kraft Salad Dressing – $1.49 (limit 3)
Buy 3, Receive a $2.00 Catalina coupon
**Use 3 $1.00 off 1 Kraft Salad Dressing coupons from 6/20 SmartSource Sunday newspaper coupon insert
Pay: $1.47, Receive a $2.00 Catalina


This Catalina was for Kraft dressing then?
posted by madajb at 9:51 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


ok but the most important question has not been answered yet:

KOO-PONS or KYEW-PONS?
posted by desjardins at 9:52 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I lived in LA, I got by on $100/wk, $50 for rent, and $50 for everything else. I never bought anything unless I had coupons for it (and I shopped only at the stores that gave double value for coupons). I had some staples, like toaster oven pizza (spaghetti sauce on english muffins) and dressed-up ramen (add vegetables and an egg to the soup at strategic moments as it cooks), but the variety of coupons that were available kept me from getting too boring.

That was back in '87-'88, so things were a little cheaper, so I'm very impressed with this guy.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:58 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is absolutely fascinating. Good work, savingadvice!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:58 PM on June 28, 2010


This Catalina was for Kraft dressing then?

Nope. Usually in these deals (including this one - although this particular Catalina deal expired yesterday so don't go out and try it) the Catalina coupon is good on anything on your next purchase, but you roll it (buy another 3 bottles of Kraft dressing for $1.49 and buy something else for $0.51) so that the total comes out to free and you get another $2.00 Catalina coupon. wash, rinse, repeat.
posted by savingadvice at 10:00 PM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


he bought Miracle Whip and kept calling it "Mayo".

When I was a kid, I thought I hated mayo. Turns out my mother had been buying Miracle Whip because it was cheaper. That stuff is awful.

Guinness, on the other hand, is food.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:09 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


When gaming the system involves taking advantage of a marketing ploy, I think it is a person's duty to take advantage.

Marketing being one of the roots of all evil and all that.
posted by Sukiari at 10:19 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


JHarris: "On faking coupons, we noted at a grocery store last night that every register had taped up a photocopy of a coupon with the word FAKE marked on it in pen. It was a rather authentic-looking coupon for a free case of Pepsi. Maybe it's a scam going around?"

4 Chan pretty regularly has coupon threads, where anon posts similar coupons they've no doubt made. I've always been tempted, but fraud is a step above what I'm willing to do for cheap pop.
posted by graventy at 10:29 PM on June 28, 2010


This is not reproducible where I live. There's obe chain tha does catalinas, and they're almost always for local businesses, like dry cleaners and resraurants. Local newspaper coupons are for packaged, processed, name brand, crap food. One chain doubles coupons, but only up to $0.50. Internet coupons are hit or miss, usually miss.
posted by aerotive at 12:33 AM on June 29, 2010


What's all this about flying boats being used to get money off groceries? Isn't that a little unwieldy? I am confused.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:52 AM on June 29, 2010


Also, for a really fascinating depiction of what all sorts of people around the world spend their (drastically different) food budgets on, I can't recommend the book Hungry Planet enough.

Portfolios of the Poor is another good read on a similar topic, though it focuses on the management and movement of money rather than specifically on food budgets.
posted by not that girl at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2010


Usually in these deals (including this one - although this particular Catalina deal expired yesterday so don't go out and try it) the Catalina coupon is good on anything on your next purchase, but you roll it (buy another 3 bottles of Kraft dressing for $1.49 and buy something else for $0.51) so that the total comes out to free and you get another $2.00 Catalina coupon. wash, rinse, repeat.

See, I'm having my eyes opened here. Because I'm realizing that where I've gotten stuck in the past is in not being able to look beyond my complete lack of need or desire for Kraft dressing to how buying things I don't like or use can be leveraged to buy things I actually do like and use.

Not that I'm going to take this up, though I find it clever and fun to read about.

On the other hand, a few years ago I tried The Grocery Game, and learned that way that where I live, no stores ever double coupons anymore. I did, though, at that time develop a useful habit of planning meals around what was on sale; I should start doing that again.
posted by not that girl at 8:07 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not reproducible where I live. There's one chain that does catalinas, and they're almost always for local businesses, like dry cleaners and restaurants. Local newspaper coupons are for packaged, processed, name brand, crap food. One chain doubles coupons, but only up to $0.50. Internet coupons are hit or miss, usually miss.

Making a statement like that before even trying the game is how most people approach coupons and why they end up not saving in the game. I'm not saying that you can save as much as I did, but I would guess from what you have said that you could. If I had stores that doubled coupons up to $0.50, I would be in heaven (and be able to get a lot more). If your store does Catalinas, what you have seen from the machine isn't necessarily all that is available and it is simply a matter of finding the good ones that you can use. Again, you use the crap, name brand food to buy the food that you want. Again, can't tell you about your specific area, but sounds like you have given up before even trying.
posted by savingadvice at 8:22 AM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've tried, and certainly save some cash using coupons, but there's no way to do here what you've done there. You live in a much larger, more urban area with an enviable choice of grocery stores. I live in an area with half a million people and three grocery chains, with Wal-Mart by far the dominant one. I've never seen, ever, a coupon that be used to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, or meat. In combo with name-brand food not.
posted by aerotive at 8:35 AM on June 29, 2010


I do admire the chutzpah it must take to run 155 separate transactions in one visit to the grocery, but I hope I never get stuck in line behind anybody following your advice.
posted by ook at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've never seen, ever, a coupon that be used to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, or meat. In combo with name-brand food not.

They exist - you just need to know where to look for them. I had never seen one before I began this and also didn't believe they existed. They do - and a surprising amount of them. They tend not to be where you wouldn't assume - Kraft recently had one for buying salad dressing. Again, I'm not saying you could pull off $1 a day (I really don't think anybody should), but with the information you have given me, you could drastically reduce what you spend if you are just buying what is on your weekly list right now. The doubling of $0.50 coupons alone is huge (again, what I would give to have that) and Walmart should price match the grocery stores if they carry food which means not a lot of traveling around. I went into this with a lot of assumptions that it couldn't be done that I managed to put aside -- I think it is the assumptions that keep a lot of people from doing this.
posted by savingadvice at 10:18 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, but what am I supposed to buy with those doubled coupons? It's all packaged, name-brand stuff--frozen meals, frozen desserts, non-deli meat, spaghetti sauce etc. Things I don't often buy, and it usually comes out to be a bit more than no-coupon store brands.

Where specifically do you find coupons for fresh produce, meat, and bread?
posted by aerotive at 11:07 AM on June 29, 2010


Now I'm curious. I had never heard of a Catalina machine before reading this thread, and certainly have never seen a little machine that prints out coupons at any grocery store I've ever shopped at here in Canada. But then again, I've never bothered to look. The next time I go to the store I'm going to check, out of curiosity. Savingadvice, I'd be curious to see how your scheme could work in a situation where Catalina coupons aren't available/don't exist.
posted by LN at 12:26 PM on June 29, 2010


That sounds really suspicious to me. In fact if it is "Triple Coupon Week" at Harris Teeter and you give them $.75 off of Tabasco which only costs $1.79, they won't credit you for 46 cents, they'll just double the coupon and then take 29 cents off.

Thanks for the memory. We coupon for our family of five--a lot (thanks, Mrs. RikiTikiTavi!). As a result we stock up on non-perishables when they are on sale, and we save up coupons so we use them when the items are on sale (which can often make the items free, or a net positive after rebates).

One fine day, the local Ralphs was having a triple coupon deal. It doesn't happen often, but we were ready. We compiled a list, grabbed the coupon box and set off. It was truly a marathon session, and making it worse was the fact that every deal hunter in the area was doing the same thing.

Finally, we hauled two overflowing carts to the checkout. It took a while, especially with all those coupons (why don't they make them easier for the cashiers?). We had over $400 worth of groceries, and I dug out my wallet and the charge card while patiently waiting to pay. The total went lower, and lower, and lower, and finally:

"That'll be $3.88, please."
[Blink.] "...Oh, OK."

I put my card away and dug out a fiver. I wasn't sure if we were going to get applauded, or rather apprehended.


(Postscript: it appears that their system was disregarding tax in the discounted amounts, and letting the discounts apply to tax in addition to the item price. As far as I understand, this is not normal practice and was probably an error on their part.)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:36 PM on June 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's all packaged, name-brand stuff--frozen meals, frozen desserts, non-deli meat, spaghetti sauce etc. Things I don't often buy, and it usually comes out to be a bit more than no-coupon store brands.

Where specifically do you find coupons for fresh produce, meat, and bread?


If you don't keep track of the prices, they can be more expensive. You have to hold on to the coupons until said items go on sale. Sometimes (even often), the coupons expire without a decent deal happening. Oh well. When there is a deal, it helps to be able to store things away. Certain deals tend to happen at certain times of the year. For example, I don't know when they happen but it's often the case that razors have large coupons (to get you buying their blades, naturally). Combined with a good sale or clearance the razors are free. If you buy 10 at a time, that's 10x whatever skimpy amount of blades are in the package that you shave for free. Repeat with cereal, or shampoo, or whatever.

It's not that we're hoarding, it's that I'd rather not pay for things I don't have to, and I'm willing to part with some time and space to do so. Others may not find the tradeoff worthwhile. Like many other financial decisions, it doesn't matter so much what the outcome is as long as the result is the product of a conscious decision. As for us, we save hundreds monthly while giving up some storage space and a bit of time for clipping/organization (that can be done comfortably at home, in the car, whatever). It's definitely worth it for us.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]



Where specifically do you find coupons for fresh produce, meat, and bread?

Oops, I forgot this. These are fairly rare in the mailed circulars, and less common all around. However, they do show up in the stores from time to time. For example, there are occasional meat coupons offered by beer manufacturers. There are sacrifices involved; we once had to buy Bud Lite. So-called "wine tags" can have deals on paired items like bread and cheese, or whatever.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:47 PM on June 29, 2010


I wish I was following this blog as it happened as I would have been all over those reader comments saying "BUY SOME SALT" (it's cheap and it's essential for cooking)
posted by Bonzai at 1:38 PM on June 29, 2010


I would do this if I didn't live in a tiny NYC apartment. No space for overflow.
posted by gaspode at 2:05 PM on June 29, 2010


Stuff like "Triple Coupon Days" and having coupons apply to items on sale is so foreign to me. Is this mostly an American phenomenon?
posted by ODiV at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2010


(still reading through it) Day 24!

You don't buy salt and pepper until day 24? Insane.

Also no butter or oil, which is almost as bad.
posted by Bonzai at 2:23 PM on June 29, 2010


MeTa, but the good kind.
posted by fixedgear at 2:27 PM on June 29, 2010


Ok, but what am I supposed to buy with those doubled coupons? It's all packaged, name-brand stuff--frozen meals, frozen desserts, non-deli meat, spaghetti sauce etc. Things I don't often buy, and it usually comes out to be a bit more than no-coupon store brands.

Look at my reply with the Kraft coupons above - the name of the game is to buy what will allow you to buy what you want, not what you want. If you don't want that food, donate it to your local food bank. They are in desperate need of any food these days. If it is a non food item, donate it another charity.

Where specifically do you find coupons for fresh produce, meat, and bread?

This simply takes practice and being more aware when you are in the stores. There is no one place. You learn some general rules - meat coupons will come about when it is BBQ season, etc. I know that it sounds complicated, but all it really is is a bit of practice and learning to keep your eyes open. What are the names of the stores in your area?
posted by savingadvice at 2:29 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd be curious to see how your scheme could work in a situation where Catalina coupons aren't available/don't exist.

It makes it easier, but I do not rely exclusively on them. There are instances through the 2 months were I have been able to do the same thing (money makers) without the help of catalinas.
posted by savingadvice at 2:31 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


RikiTikiTavi has solid advice and has obviously been doing this a lot longer than I have. I don't clip, sort or organize -- can't stand that part of it and just don't have the time. I'm sure I could do better if I did, but I really am a reluctant couponer and try to make it as simple and basic as possible. Anyone that enjoys the organizing part should be able to really do wonders.
posted by savingadvice at 2:39 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Xoebe: "There is a house near my office that has been undergoing renovation for several months. In the back yard, adjacent to the alley, there is an enormous avocado tree with dozens, if not hundreds, of huge avocados all over it. "

Heh. My first thought: where do you live, here?! Ah, so you do!

Yeah, sometimes people come by and ask to pick them and if you say "no" they come back when you're not home. I don't have a tree right now, and have to wait and hope for the back neighbor's tree to grow out over our fence.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:41 PM on June 29, 2010


I'm still uncertain about how to plan for Catalinas. My Vons definitely dispenses them, but how could I plan to capitalize on them?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:16 PM on June 29, 2010


This is pretty cool and I applaud it.

But there should be a special line at the grocery for you types, since inevitably everyone stuck in the same line wants to throttle you.
posted by cucumber at 3:22 PM on June 29, 2010


I need to go back and try my hand at this again. Our food bill for two people and two cats is probably a little embarrassing. I just get overwhelmed by Coupon Mom and The Grocery Game - even when I was out of work, I tried couponing FOR REAL and I felt like I wasn't able to make a difference. I think SavingAdvice needs to make a Slacker's Guide to Couponing for those of us who look at Coupon Mom and GG and just . . . decide to nap instead.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


savingadvice, I read your two months' worth of entries a couple days ago and enjoyed them very much. I have to say, though, the thing I was happiest to see come out of your project was you learning how to cook a few new things. Your quiche looked great - especially for a first attempt! Good work on acquiring another skill that'll help you save money. (Oh, and I noticed your comment about the super-tasty restaurant meal. The key to meals that taste as good as restaurant meals? Most restaurant meals include plenty of delicious, delicious fat and salt.)
posted by jocelmeow at 4:58 PM on June 29, 2010


I appreciate your answers savingadvice, sorry if I seem skeptical. I come across these sorts of coupon discussions every now and again, it's frustrating to not be able to replicate these sorts of food-for-nearly-free type successes.
posted by aerotive at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2010


Nope. Usually in these deals (including this one - although this particular Catalina deal expired yesterday so don't go out and try it) the Catalina coupon is good on anything on your next purchase

That's interesting. I've never once seen a register coupon for cash off your next purchase.
They always seem to be coupons for whatever the competitor is for what you just purchased*. Coke if you bought Pepsi. Dannon if you bought Yoplait, etc.

* which is always vaguely creepy, but there ya go.
posted by madajb at 5:35 PM on June 29, 2010


Our Harris Teeter limits the amount of coupons to about 20 per transaction, altho they do double-and occasionally triple-coupons.

What I do (I'm lazy) is look for coupons for things I actually eat or will use, example being sour cream. I clip the sour cream coupon and wait for HT to run a sale, whereupon I pay next to nothing for it. The rest of the time I buy unprocessed food.

(also if memory serves HT won't double internet coupons. In which case one is better off using them elsewhere since they are usually fairly high priced unless something is on sale, which usually makes them just reasonable.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:49 PM on June 29, 2010


OK, because I'd never heard of catalinas before: these are the coupons the come on the back of your receipt, correct?
posted by lunasol at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2010


lunasol, yes, that's exactly what they are.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2010


savingadvice, you don't show the actual coupons you're using on your blog. I'd love to see this for two reasons.

While I've used coupons (and hunted down deals) in the past, there are usually limitations reflected on those coupons: "on your next visit," "limit 1 per family per visit," "limit 1 per family per day," etc.

Now, I know that you can just turn around and go through a different check-out line to cycle through multiple offers in a single visit and (usually) get away with small violations of those terms with at most a dirty look, but it's still against both the spirit and letter of what's printed on the coupon. What I'm interested in is whether or not these deals are true deals: whether you're actually respecting the restrictions laid out by the coupons and not what you can get away with at your particular store.

In addition, it would be helpful to see the actual images of the coupons so that readers can quickly identify these coupons to help with their own savings.

Would you be willing to post not only your receipts, but also voided copies of the coupons and catalinas, with a description of the actual terms of those coupons and catalinas?
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 6:25 PM on June 29, 2010


I find that coupons are never for anything I'd actually eat and most of the staples my household budget is blown over are things like milk and cheese, which, thanks to a local milk mafia, costs $3.00 for 2L of skim (and my partner drinks a litre daily and refuses to try plastic bagged or powdered).

However the local Provigo just started a coupon wall of peel and grab coupons and is heavily pushing their PC no name brand, so once in a blue moon I do find good deals, but not having much freezer space, the only thing I can bulk buy is pasta (whole wheat) and beans. There's also a strong tendency to run the feast-famine-feast style sales, where about once a month every kind of meat will go on sale, and it's nice when whole chickens drop down to $6, but when pork, sausage, beef and even something exotic like duck or horse are also dropping and falling together, either you have a meat glut for two weeks and then no meat, or you soak the non-sale price during the lull.
posted by Phalene at 6:38 PM on June 29, 2010


I'm still uncertain about how to plan for Catalinas. My Vons definitely dispenses them, but how could I plan to capitalize on them?

First you have to find out what Catalina deals are available to you. The sales are announced by way of catalina printouts that appear with your purchase, however sometimes you can find a forum where shoppers contribute to spread the word. For my region (the Southeast) I can find out what Catalinas are on offer here. Notice that at the moment there is very little on offer.
Buy Frozen BACARDI Mixers between June 25 - July 18
Buy (4) & Get $1.00 OYNO
Buy (5) & Get $2.00 OYNO
Buy (6) or more & Get $3.00 OYNO

Received from Lowes Foods.
OYNO= Off your next order and note that it is only one particular chain; each chain has their own catalina deals so again you may need to shop at multiple stores. I then go to Sue's Database where she keeps track of every coupon in the Sunday papers and I find there are no Bacardi Mixer coupons. That doesn't surprise me, it is pretty rare to find a match-up between a coupon and a catalina deal. There may be coupons out there on the internet, but I'm not seeing any.

However, let's say there is a coupon, an extremely good coupon for $0.75 off 1 can and let's say that Lowes puts them on sale for $1.20 each. You could conceivably make a profit of 30 cents by buying 6 cans if all your stars are in alignment but so what? Are you going to go through 10 transactions (if the store allows you to do so) in order to make $3.00? More importantly, where are you going to find 60 coupons? I'd like to know how our savvy blogger found 30 coupons for salad dressing. There are coupons for sale on line (basically it is a coupon clipping service) but you usually have to put your order in one week in advance and pay 5 or 10 cents per coupon. I used to get twice the number of Sunday coupons because my neighbor didn't use hers, but then she canceled her paper. Maybe I just live in an area where everyone prizes coupons because dumpster diving for papers or trying to get them from the library is impossible.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:32 PM on June 29, 2010


savingadvice you have been very patient about answering all our questions/accusations.

Thanks.
posted by shothotbot at 7:49 PM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


A few other things off the top of my head:

The beer and wine tag coupons are so rare here, that I've never actually seen one in person-- although I have heard of them. Because of our wacky alcohol laws you don't have to buy any beer or wine in order to redeem the coupon-- basically it is as good as cash. Because of this, any spotting of coupon tags sets off a frenzy of excitement and I think people on the spot take as many as they can find.

Certain things are always on sale and there is always a coupon-- I haven't paid more than $0.50 for a tube of toothpaste in years and most often I get toothpaste free.

On the other hand, no amount of doubling or tripling makes paper towels with coupons any cheaper than the store brand.

I do get the meat coupons from Krogers but they are usually a minimum order purchase ($3.00 off your next purchase of $20.00 or more from our meat department) they're nice but infrequent. Much nicer is their cash back policy which is based on your total purchases per yearly quarter.

I opted out of the frenzy of shopping at multiple stores and buying stuff like brownie mix just because I could get it for a dime a box. I still base my weekly meals around what is on sale, and I still use coupons for non-grocery items like toilet paper and dish soap.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:51 PM on June 29, 2010


This is amazing, thanks for posting and thanks for taking on the project savingadvice. Cheers.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:06 PM on June 29, 2010


First: hats off to savingadvice for coming here to field questions. Thanks!

Second: what I love/hate about these "Lookit this guy who demonstrated how to do X dirt cheap!" threads:

1. The Mefite who posts, "Yeah, but he isn't considering the cost of driving his Hummer with the AC blowing full blast from city to city!". (In this case: as a college student I regularly walked nearly 2 miles for groceries, and walked them home. All the time. Bikes would have made it even easier, and still free. I've also lived within blocks of multiple grocery stores. Also: public transportation exists, cheaply, in many urban cities.)

2. The Mefite who posts, "Yeah, but he didn't account for the cost of his time! As a lawyer, I charge $150/hr, and this project would cost me an additional....". Apparently, he charges himself for crapping, wiping, and hoisting his pants...

3. The Mefite who posts, "Yeah, but he didn't count in the cost of these "free" items he found! They aren't really free for reason X..." (The best is when they complain that recycling materials isn't free, because the cost of the original, new materials aren't accounted for... Yeah, really.)

Applause for anyone who finds ways to save money. savingadvice isn't abusing retailers, as some have suggested; he's working the system. NBD. Capitalism will still survive, amazingly enough.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:18 PM on June 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Basically, you are limited to 2 coupons per computer and there is no way around it.

you must download a small client to your computer to be able to print coupons ... I actually had one computer hard-drive completely crash on me where I had to erase the hard-drive and reinstall everything and it still wouldn’t let me reprint coupons I had printed the day before.

This means that the client is tracking which computer it's running on based on something that isn't affected by the hard disk contents, like the processor serial number or the Ethernet adapter MAC address.

If I didn't live in a country where every discount offer I have ever seen comes with the magic words "limit one per customer; cannot be used in conjunction with other discount offers" I might be tempted to crank up VirtualBox and work around this limitation.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The answer to the coupons for fresh produce and meat is that they're pretty rare. You get produce and meat for free/cheap by buying a whole bunch of "money makers" - items that by virtue of being price reduced + coupons + (sometimes) money back mean that after they're added to your total, you're actually running a deficit.

Most stores won't give you money back, so you use that negative total to get the produce/meat for free/cheap. If you look at the first few days of the challenge, you'll notice that he bought a ton of those single-serve packs of cream cheese. The reason he did that was that with a buy 5 discount he got them for $0.49/each. Then he had a $0.55/each coupon, which meant that he actually got $0.06/each back. That's why he bought so many (and in multiples of 5) - the cost of the carrots & apples were offset by the -$1.20 tab he ran up with the cream cheese.

Then of course, he ate some cream cheese and donated the rest.

I do some couponing myself (nothing like this), which is why I cracked up when I saw the first item he purchased was a Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-a-clean. Coming out of a $1/day food budget, it seems totally counter-intuitive, but that's the way "money makers" work. Buy stuff you don't need (in his case, to donate) in order to rack up negative tabs and catalinas to buy the stuff you do want/need and which may or may not (in the case of produce/meat) have many coupons.
posted by clerestory at 11:33 PM on June 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Applause for anyone who finds ways to save money. savingadvice isn't abusing retailers, as some have suggested; he's working the system. NBD. Capitalism will still survive, amazingly enough.

Because this was a catalina deal and to make it work, I had to buy 4 boxes of cereal at a time, I spent over 2 hours at the cash register doing 9 transactions of two Fruit Loops / two Corn Flakes, 9 transactions of two Apple Jacks / two Corn Flakes, 9 transactions of two Corn Pops / two Corn Flakes and 137 transactions of four Corn Flakes (after I ran out of the other coupons)


No, I'm pretty sure he is abusing the system, and the system will fight back by changing the process. 2 hours at the cash register? After half an hour of one clerk dealing with one customer I'm pretty sure a store manager would have become involved. If savingadvice continues to frequent the same stores in his area, they will start changing their policies.

Many of his tricks won't fly in my neck of the woods. Harris Teeter will not take more than 20 coupons per customer, per day and since you have to proffer your customer loyalty card, the only way to get around this is to borrow the cards of friends and family. Also the cash registers at Harris Teeter, Lowes, and Kroger (I don't know about Food Lion) will not credit you with more than the price of an item so you can't run up a negative tab.

(I used a $1 off produce when you buy 2 Kraft salad dressing coupon I found in the produce section last month in addition to the $1 off 1 coupons) for $0.07:

All the stores I shop at won't let you combine coupons.

I can only use 2 inserts from the Sunday paper each week. Although I have access to many more than this (I usually pick up anywhere from 3 to 5 copies for free from the local coffee shop alone each week)"

I would still like to know how he got 30 coupons for Kraft Dressing.

OK, because I'd never heard of catalinas before: these are the coupons the come on the back of your receipt, correct?

No, they are spit out of a machine in addition to your receipt. In stores with catalina machines, the cashier will hand you your receipt and one or more strips of paper that have one of 4 things on them:
Advertisement. Buy KalKan dog food!
Coupon. Get 50 cents off the next time you buy 6 cans of KalKan
Announcement. Between June 18 and July 10 by $15.00 worth of Propel water and get $2.00 Off your next order
Cash Back. $2.00 off your next shopping transaction (expires in 1 week from today.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:20 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marge: I should've said "Limit: one per customer."
Cletus: Should'a but didn't so hand 'em over. Hey! Kids! We're eatin' dinner tonight!


True story, ca. 1991: I'm involved in a student organization at college. We want to have a pizza party. One local pizza place is attempting to lure customers away from its rivals by having a deal where if you collect 30 coupons from any other pizza place(s) in town, of any sort, they'll give you a free pizza.

They neglect to put a limit on the offer.

One of our organization's members works at a different pizza place. Naturally, they have stacks and stacks of coupons sitting around in their store—after all, one gets stuck on the top of every pizza box that goes out. "Hey boss," he says, "mind if I take a bunch of these coupons?" "Sure, help yourself."

600 coupons = 20 free pizzas. They honored it, but also discontinued that promotion shortly thereafter.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:49 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does he factor in the cost of printer ink? Whenever I buy new cartridges, I regret every single (non-harbor freight) coupon I printed out.

A low-end laser printer on low-toner mode alleviates this problem for me, but I'm not sure I could justify it if I didn't print things besides coupons.
posted by almostmanda at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2010


After half an hour of one clerk dealing with one customer I'm pretty sure a store manager would have become involved.

On the cereal day (I can't find the link again, darn it), a manager allowed him to special order a pallet full of cereal to use in a cascading-catalina scheme. I was astonished. I think this blog is great and am enjoying it, but this is one thing I'd be amazed if it could be replicated.
posted by not that girl at 10:38 AM on June 30, 2010


savingadvice- the hard part for me seems to be taking the time to figure out the schedule of sales and coupons so you can play the 'money maker' game.

You say you don't clip coupons or organize or whatever, so how are you remembering that last week you got a coupon for $0.50 off cookies that are on sale for $0.25 this week, and therefore you need to play the money maker game with cookies to get yourself something else? Spreadsheets? Some other centralized listing of your local coupons and sales?

I am interested in implementing this on a less grand scale once in a while, but it seems like a somewhat all-or-none procedure; either you make sure you get the catalinas and watch the sales timing and print your coupons or pay full price. Is there a 'lazier' way to do this that involves some time running around but less mental work keeping track of all the deals?
posted by slow graffiti at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2010


Yes; this is not really a "how to eat healthy and cheaply" guide. It's more akin to the Pudding Guy who realized he could play the system with the pudding airline mile promotion. That's interesting and fun as a novelty but it's not even close to being a reasonable system for the great majority of people. For one thing, if more than a handful of people started doing it, it would quickly be made impossible.

So this isn't "Eating Well on $1 a Day", it is "Pudding Guy With Groceries!".
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2010


My newspaper will have coupons on fresh food -- even milk and eggs and bagged salad have brands, and periodically trade groups like "Apple Growers of America" or whatever will do a produce coupon.

I'm not a very good couponer, but it's always worth flipping through the circular, just in case.

Plus, toiletries have brands too and you can knock SIGNIFICANT money off your bills just by couponing for toiletries and so forth. I saved the P&G BrandSaver circular for P&G sale week right before the baby came and I stocked up enough toiletries, home cleaning products, toilet paper, and paper towels to last a year for 45% off retail ... I was surprised by how many brands I use actually turned out to be P&G, and I'm typically too lazy to wait for a sale on toothpaste ... when I run out, I just buy toothpaste. So that was a real eye-opener and put a cushion in our budget for the impending diaper-and-wipes line item!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:32 PM on June 30, 2010


Secret Life of Gravy: "I'm still uncertain about how to plan for Catalinas. My Vons definitely dispenses them, but how could I plan to capitalize on them?

First you have to find out what Catalina deals are available to you. The sales are announced by way of catalina printouts that appear with your purchase, however sometimes you can find a forum where shoppers contribute to spread the word. For my region (the Southeast) I can find out what Catalinas are on offer here. Notice that at the moment there is very little on offer.
"

Thanks a lot. I used a Catalina tracking blog (just national-level ones... so far my google-fu has not been able to overcome the trouble of living in California, where Catalina is LOCATED... no I don't want travel coupons to Catalina...) and today bought 3 Arrowhead flavored sparkling waters essentially for free. That's great!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:07 PM on June 30, 2010


I think SavingAdvice needs to make a Slacker's Guide to Couponing for those of us who look at Coupon Mom and GG and just . . . decide to nap instead.

I'm working on it. I guess I should have realized that there are a lot of people out there that hate couponing as much as I do...

The thing I was happiest to see come out of your project was you learning how to cook a few new things.

Still a long, long way to go ;)

I'm still uncertain about how to plan for Catalinas.

I've never once seen a register coupon for cash off your next purchase.
They always seem to be coupons for whatever the competitor is for what you just purchased


Yes, those are common catalina coupons as well. If your grocery store is good (which many aren't), the will post the catalina deals where you get money back under the price tag of the items. In my area, there is only one of about 6 stores that does a decent job of this (and even they don't list them all). There are sites online that list these deals and I am currently trying to compile a list for Safeway

While I've used coupons (and hunted down deals) in the past, there are usually limitations reflected on those coupons: "on your next visit," "limit 1 per family per visit," "limit 1 per family per day," etc.

A lot of this verbiage is not what people think. For example, virtually all coupons will say "Only one coupon per purchase..." This does not mean one coupon per time going through the line, it means one coupon per item. cashiers who are unfamiliar with the way coupons work will often point this out - if you run into someone like that it is always best to speak with the manager who will know better. The basic limitations is that you can only use one single manufacturer coupon per item you buy. I don't believe I have ever seen a "limit 1 per family per visit," "limit 1 per family per day" manufacturer coupon before, but then again, I am still new at this...

Would you be willing to post not only your receipts, but also voided copies of the coupons and catalinas, with a description of the actual terms of those coupons and catalinas?

Again, terms besides one manufacturer coupon per product (these can be stacked with store coupons and eCoupons) and often product size, the other terms are a rarity - if a coupon has these restrictions, I would definitely point it out. I will try to take photos of coupons and catalinas I use from now on

I'd like to know how our savvy blogger found 30 coupons for salad dressing. There are coupons for sale on line

Where I Get My Coupon Inserts -- because I do buy for food banks, I get as many as i can each week.
posted by savingadvice at 11:52 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, I'm pretty sure he is abusing the system, and the system will fight back by changing the process. 2 hours at the cash register? After half an hour of one clerk dealing with one customer I'm pretty sure a store manager would have become involved. If savingadvice continues to frequent the same stores in his area, they will start changing their policies.

If you read the post you would have known that I specifically asked the store manager to order those items (no store has that much cereal on hand) for me and told her exactly what I was doing. She signed off on it, ordered it for me and was the one that did all the transactions at the register (and she opened a special register to do it so it didn't inconvenience any of the other customers).

(I used a $1 off produce when you buy 2 Kraft salad dressing coupon I found in the produce section last month in addition to the $1 off 1 coupons) for $0.07: All the stores I shop at won't let you combine coupons.

The coupon wasn't combined - it was a coupon for Kraft dressing and a coupon for produce for buying kraft dressing. The coupons were for 2 different things.

I would still like to know how he got 30 coupons for Kraft Dressing.

Again Where I Get My Coupon Inserts in case you missed it.
posted by savingadvice at 12:09 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


savingadvice- the hard part for me seems to be taking the time to figure out the schedule of sales and coupons so you can play the 'money maker' game.

You say you don't clip coupons or organize or whatever, so how are you remembering that last week you got a coupon for $0.50 off cookies that are on sale for $0.25 this week, and therefore you need to play the money maker game with cookies to get yourself something else? Spreadsheets? Some other centralized listing of your local coupons and sales?

I am interested in implementing this on a less grand scale once in a while, but it seems like a somewhat all-or-none procedure; either you make sure you get the catalinas and watch the sales timing and print your coupons or pay full price. Is there a 'lazier' way to do this that involves some time running around but less mental work keeping track of all the deals?


Oh, please don't underestimate my laziness :) I don't have to remember anything because I use a coupon database to match the best deals of the week. Any good deal I see in the advertising insert, I just plug into the coupon database and if one appears, I know exactly where to find it or print it. Simple as that.
posted by savingadvice at 12:17 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I answered all the questions since the last time I was here - if I accidentally missed something, let me know and I will answer on my next visit. Apologies for not coming by more often - been extremely busy these last few days.
posted by savingadvice at 12:21 AM on July 1, 2010


Here are all the current Safeway catalina coupons that I know about:

Current Safeway Catalina Coupons

This should include Safeway affiliated stores: Vons, Dominick’s, Geruardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumbs, Pavillions and Carrs.
posted by savingadvice at 1:32 AM on July 1, 2010


either you make sure you get the catalinas and watch the sales timing and print your coupons or pay full price

Well exactly. I know you're asking for lazy but it does take some work. But if you look at this list of current Safeway catalinas, though, there might only be five or six for products you'd want to buy, so you'd save the ones for say sparkling water, Kikoman, KY, Minute Maid, Sara Lee and Milkbone.

That's like $10 in coupons which you can keep in your wallet. Wait for those products to go on sale (or not) and/or match them to other coupon offers for products you want to buy, and you've saved a bunch of money.

I think this is a very nice explanation of the kinds of catalina offers you can get.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 AM on July 1, 2010


If you want to coupon and take full advantage of deal, you probably need a bare minimum of 2 inserts per week and should shoot for at least 4 copies of each.

Another good thing to know about coupon inserts is they don't come with the Sunday paper on Holiday weekends. So the July 4th Sunday paper won't have any coupons. Why? I don't know.

On recycle days, I take my walk in the evenings (again, this is something I would do anyway, I simply change it from the morning and take a different course) when the recycle cans are placed out for the week. I can usually pick up 10+ Sunday newspaper coupon inserts this way.

Fewer and fewer people bother getting the paper anymore-- especially around here because the Raleigh N & O upped their price while reducing their content. Unfortunately if you subscribe to out of state papers (I used to get The New York Times) they don't come with coupon inserts. Around here the coffee shops mostly have the small, independent couponless papers. I'm not trying to be overly negative, I'm just saying that outside of California, Chicago or New York, people will have a lot more difficulty duplicating your methods.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:46 AM on July 1, 2010


I'm just saying that outside of California, Chicago or New York, people will have a lot more difficulty duplicating your methods.

I live in Portland Maine and pick up 10 ish copies of the inserts weekly, usually evenly split between the recycling bin at my workplace and the recycling bin at my husband's workplace.

You also wrote: On the other hand, no amount of doubling or tripling makes paper towels with coupons any cheaper than the store brand.

Marcal recently had coupons that, combined with a sale, made paper towels virtually free - around .04 cents per roll. If you look around its pretty easy to get free paper towels. (Another trick a lot of couponers use for free paper towels is to return used printer cartridges to Staples for their $3.00 recycling credit, then use that credit to by paper towels in bulk.)

I'm not trying to be overly negative,

But you are -- you're convinced this won't work, can't work, doesn't work. Yet, there are tens of thousands of people who do this weekly, in every state, in all parts of the US. Given the resources available on the web its really easy to be lazy about it, and not put in much more than an hour or so a week. Its not a stretch at my house for me to say that taking up couponing has enabled me to save about $125 per week vs. what we were spending on food, groceries, toiletries, paper goods a year ago. That was enough to enable me to quit my second job and just work 40 hours a week like a regular person. The hour or so I spend spread out over the week doing the prep work and shopping is more than a good trade. Rather than continue to point out the reasons this will fail, take some time and read over the resources linked here, pick out a deal and try it. I think you'll be surprised. (I know my husband was!)
posted by anastasiav at 7:07 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


But you are -- you're convinced this won't work, can't work, doesn't work.

Anastasiav, I've couponed intensely-- put thought into it, spent hours on the computer, clipped, sorted, and drove around town. It doesn't work for me. Maybe the stores around here are different. Maybe I don't want to eat the food offered by coupon. Maybe I don't want to put all the time into it that you do. I DO use coupons and I look for sales and sometimes I get great bargains. I don't need to "pick out a deal and try it" because I've done it, my friends have done it, and my ultimate decision was it wasn't worth it to me.

And by the way: "Marcal recently had coupons that, combined with a sale, made paper towels virtually free - around .04 cents per roll." I would know about it, I would be on it, and I would stock up on it. I have yet to find a good deal on paper towels.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2010


(Another trick a lot of couponers use for free paper towels is to return used printer cartridges to Staples for their $3.00 recycling credit, then use that credit to by paper towels in bulk.)

Uh. That's not free. You paid money for the printer cartridges unless you found them in the garbage. In which case I suppose it is technically free but, hey, if I found a bunch of unused paper towels in the garbage that would also be free.
posted by Justinian at 4:55 PM on July 1, 2010


Gravy: My apologies if I offended you. Its just that your comments sound so much like my husband a year or so ago.

Here's the terms of the Marcal coupon. It was published in the 6/13 Smartsource insert. (Note: I'm linking to a site that sells coupons; I'm not suggesting you do this, but rather it was the easiest place to show you the coupon since I don't have it any longer). There have been two prior versions of this, one of which expired at the end of May and one which expired mid June. Looks like Kroger near you sells these. Most everywhere up here has the single rolls for about $1.00, but I'm sure prices vary.
posted by anastasiav at 6:47 PM on July 1, 2010


Does anyone remember that website that showed the best places to glean fruit in SF?
posted by mecran01 at 9:59 PM on July 1, 2010


I was wondering if I was missing out on tons of awesome deals, so I checked the free circular that came in the mail on Wednesday. It included: coupons for Pizza Hut, coupons for Papa John's, coupons for Dominoes, ad for Family Dollar with no coupons, but presumably advertising discounted merchandise. I don't actually know where a Family Dollar is close to my house (we have lots of Dollar General, which is similar, but no Family Dollar). Maybe my neighborhood is the wrong demographics for awesome deals?
posted by hydropsyche at 7:51 AM on July 2, 2010


The tears are flowing as people write "This can't be perfectly duplicated in my neighborhood, therefore it is a scam and a fraud!" So what? Let's say that you can only be 50 percent as effective and end up saving only $200 per month. How is that a crime against humanity?

As far as working the system goes, well, I have never once seen a store or corporation shed a single tear of regret when they have spent thousands of dollars to persuade me to spend my money in ways that I otherwise would not have. Sometimes I am influenced, occasionally to my benefit but more often not.
posted by mecran01 at 6:49 AM on July 5, 2010


I never said he was a fraud, and I don't think anybody else in this thread did, either. All I was saying was that on my initial reading of the blog I was thinking that this wouldn't be as easy in my neighborhood because we don't get great coupons in the mail and our "catalinas" never are things like "$3 off your next purchase" but more like getting a coupon for Pepsi when you buy Coke.

I would be interested in the reasons for the differences in coupons nationwide that a lot of people have commented on. I suspect it has to do with different grocery chains having different marketing strategies and also different demographics getting targeted. I wonder if the wealthy suburbs up the road get better coupons than my more urban, diverse, and poorer neighborhood.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:20 AM on July 5, 2010


I suspect wealthy suburbs get fewer coupons, because the point of coupons is to increase sales. Wealthy people would stereotypically be less interested in switching brands to save money.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2010


Oh, sorry, by 'wealthy' I mean neighborhoods where there is someone in the household who has time and energy to spend figuring out which grocery stores have the best deals and things like that and thus is likely to actually use coupons. There's bound to be some explanation for why the "Red Plum" circular in Silicon Valley has coupons that one can make money on at the grocery store while the "Red Plum" circular in my neighborhood has coupons for pizza delivery.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:04 PM on July 5, 2010


Here's a blog about a similar project from 2006, though with much less emphasis on couponing: Hungry For a Month
posted by miskatonic at 6:05 PM on July 5, 2010


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