Admittedly, the Paradise family (mainly Mrs. Paradise) used to spend quite a few hours per week organizing and planning out grocery spending using coupons. We bought the paper every weekend just to get the coupons (starting out $3.00 in the hole!). There’s definitely a rush when you score multiple tubes of toothpaste for free1, however, we soon realized that the time it takes to be good at this is completely untenable and ridiculous. Multiple hours a week cutting out little paper squares to save $0.50 on something we probably didn’t need? No thanks.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s not worth skimming through the ads2 for the stuff you were going to buy anyway. It’s also much easier than it used to be to get online coupons using the store apps. We live in the vicinity of both Kroger and Meijer, both of which have apps that contain coupons. These can be quickly scrolled through in five minutes while you are making your list, or if you’re like me, while you follow your husband around the store trying not to run into anybody. For having a store card, Kroger mails us vouchers for free stuff that we buy often, like eggs, milk, carrots, and bananas. Meijer frequently offers cash back when you spend a certain amount of money on anything, and all you have to do is click the button on the home page of the app. There’s even an option to clip ALL the coupons and maybe then you’ll collect one by accident!
Top reasons why we don’t use coupons:
- Most coupons are for crummy processed foods that you don’t want to buy anyway.
- Extreme Couponing ruined it for everybody. Remember that TLC show? Where they saved 95% off their grocery bills and fed a family of four on $5 a week? Yeah, it was super fake, and now lots of stores are cracking down on how coupons are used.
- This is not time well spent. If you are spending multiple hours a week to save $10-$20 on groceries, there are better, easier ways to make money. Additionally, couponing is just a total waste of everybody’s time. Why not simply make everything a little bit cheaper for everybody? Then take all those extra manpower hours and volunteer at a local charity. Free chicken soup for your soul, boom!
Strategies we use to save money instead:
- Way more money can be saved by not buying things you don’t need or won’t use before they go bad. About 1/3 of all food produced in the world goes to waste (this is of course not all due to individuals, but we can still do our part to reduce this number!). Check out this post by the Frugalwoods on Club Thrifty where they laid it out perfectly!
- We stock up on products when they go on sale. Most items at your local grocery store will go on sale on a rotation that lasts about 6 weeks. Watch for these sales.
- If you live near two grocery stores like we do, learn which products are cheaper at each store and then alternate which store you go to each week3. Factor in the gas and the driving time. Don’t drive an extra ten minutes to save $2. We cherish our weekend minutes too much for this.
- Check out your local warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club. We are very fortunate to also live within a few miles of Costco, but this strategy still works if you live far away – just make mega-trips less often. There’s all sorts of debates online about whether the annual fee is worth it. Check out Mr. Money Mustache’s thoughts on the matter. If you buy a lot of gas, this may pay for your membership alone.
- If organic / free-range / cruelty-free is important to you, look online for local farms that distribute in your area. This is so much easier now! We used the website Eat Wild to find Seven Sons farm. We buy chicken and beef from them and they (the actual farm owners!) deliver nearby our house. WAY cheaper and more transparent than buying at the grocery store.
- Other specialty and organic products are sometimes cheaper at the fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods. It might be worth a quick browse through the aisles if you can handle the sticker shock on everything else. Seriously, who is buying Cheerios for $5.99?
- We try not to go to the grocery store hungry. This leads to much purchasing of chips and candy.
- Grow your own fresh food in a garden!4
- Actually, while taking the photo for this post I thought, “ooh, I should grab that Colgate coupon…”
- When you have a house it turns out they come in the mail for free, woohoo!
- Don’t go to both each time you shop, this is another waste of time and gas money.
- Ok, the Paradise Family does not have a garden because Mrs. Paradise keeps killing everything by accident. She is working on this…