I May Actually Be a Couponista

by Katy on April 4, 2009 · 15 comments


Coupons are a double edged sword. Sure you save money on that particular item, but if you put something in your cart you wouldn’t normally have bought, there are actually no true savings.

I had written last year about why I don’t use coupons, but had decided to give them a second chance after reading Teri Gault’s book about The Coupon Game. Really though, I mostly thought it be interesting to write about, and was curious to hear what readers say.

I didn’t expect much savings as I cook from scratch, rarely buy convenience food, don’t buy commercial cleaners; and stay away from disposables such as paper towels and napkins.

I started leafing through the Sunday coupon circulars and even clipped a few coupons here and there, sticking them in an envelope. 

But then I started to notice that the grocery store sale items were matching up with the coupons I had clipped a few weeks earlier. 

Hmm . . . if  I double that coupon with a sale item, it’s almost embarrassingly cheap!

Another phenomenon rose to the surface, which is grocery store loss leader coupons not just for crackers and cookies but for butter, eggs, cheese and sugar. Stuff I buy anyway.

I was starting to save a respectable amount with each shopping trip. And it wasn’t the suggested purchases from The Grocery Game, (Bottled water? How stupid does she think I am?!) but food items I would be buying anyway. (I have since cancelled my trial membership.)

The Portland, Oregon area Safeway stores place a $10 off your $50 purchase in the food section of the newspaper once a month. (This is an excellent coupon, as you can realize 20%-off savings on items that never go on sale.) I try and remember to use these coupons, but I have lately become vigilant about it, as I consider this to be free money.

So with my $10-off coupon, grocery circular coupons, my manufacturer’s coupon, my double coupons, and of course my re-usable grocery bags; I aimed the ol’ mini-van for Safeway. 

This is what I was able to buy for $40:

  • Two 5 pound bags of sugar
  • Two 5 pound bags of flour
  • One Bottle of canola oil
  • Two bags of Nestle mini chocolate chips
  • One pound of organic brown rice
  • 18 large eggs
  • Two gallons of fat-free milk
  • Half-gallon of vanilla ice cream
  • One pound of butter
  • Two pound hunk of Tillamook cheddar cheese
  • One tube of toothpaste
  • One loaf of bread
  • One chicken to roast
  • One frozen turkey breast
  • Six pounds of apples
  • One avocado
  • One box of clementines
  • Two packages of shrimp

Many of these items had coupons, (even the eggs, butter, cheese) and the chicken and shrimp were at their sell-by dates, which I do not fear. I saved $26 from coupon use with this one trip.

The woman in front of me was also trying to spend exactly $50, but was mostly buying large numbers of power bars and tins of Progresso soup. Hardly  meal worthy items.

I was able to glean my neighbor’s food section from last week’s newspaper, (Okay, stole — they’re out of town and I’m watching their cats.) and I plan on doing one last grocery store trip before the $10-off coupon expires. I figure I can stock up on enough groceries to last me through at least a few weeks this way. Heck, I may even buy a vegetable next time. (We eat a green salad with dinner every night, but I had enough lettuce at home already.)

I will be hyper aware to not buy so much food as to invite food waste into our home though. And note that I didn’t buy any convenience food or junk food. (The chocolate chips are for bran muffins.)

I may not be a coupon queen, but I think I may actually be a Couponista. 

It has a nice ring to it, doncha’ think?

Have you been seduced by the siren song of coupons yet? Please share your story in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Lee April 4, 2009 at 4:42 am

I actually found a coupon I could use in last week’s newspaper for sour cream!! Not only was it on sale at my grocery store for .99 but I had that additional .50 off coupon! Not bad. I usually only find one, maybe two coupons per week in the Sunday paper because I too cook from scratch and don’t eat much in the way of boxed food. I’ve converted to dry beans now that canned, organic, low salt beans are about $2/can – outrageous! Yesterday, I saved $37 on my weekly order due to BOGO’s extraordinaire and two-fers – only on items we use. I never fall for the “ooh, it’s only…” on things I don’t normally use in our home. I’ve read it pays to go on manufacturer’s websites to get coupons for their products like organic milk, etc. (probably here on your blog!) so I’ll do that next……I’ve become a grocery warrior!! If only I could convince my bagger to ease up on the load he puts in each reusable bag – my achin’ back!!!


Kristen@The Frugal Girl April 4, 2009 at 8:41 am

Oh yes, loss leader sales are a very good thing. I shop those a lot. Safeway has some good produce loss-leader items pretty frequently.


thenonconsumeradvocate April 4, 2009 at 9:34 am


You are a “Grocery warrior?”

I LOVE that!

Perhaps with armored re-usable grocery bags and a kevlar bullet-proof coupon carrier.

Don’t mess with that lady.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Angela April 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

Okay- here’s my question for all you coupon queens (or kings!) and couponistas out there…

How much time do you spend doing this? Is it something that you can do in 5-10 minutes per week once you know where to look? Because like a lot of people have expressed on this topic, I don’t use packaged food or soda or meat, and when I’ve tried to use coupons in the past, it took a long time and I’d put them in my drawer and they’d be there months later, expired.

So- how long do you spend looking and clipping, and what are your top tips for keeping this organized and worth the extra time and effort? Any advice would be most welcome- thanks!


thenonconsumeradvocate April 4, 2009 at 11:13 am


I spent maybe four minutes clipping the coupons. The Safeway circular had all the loss leader coupons for the staples, (eggs, butter, cheese) and maybe an extra five-ten minutes at the store.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jen April 4, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I do not consider chocolate chips junk food but a necessary staple item! Life is too short to live without chocolate.


Jen April 4, 2009 at 6:37 pm

We don’t have Safeway here. Is Kroger the same chain?


Pennie April 4, 2009 at 9:52 pm

I believe Kroger is the same as our “Fred Meyers” here, which is a different sort of animal.

I spend about 10 minutes a week clipping coupons(and sale insert researching) between the 2-3 stores i frequent–all are on my way to somewhere else, i.e. work, gym. I haven’t found driving out of my way or out of town for sales to offer much payback for my time or gas.

My system is simple: place matched store/mfgr/doubler coupons in an envelope, add in my weekly “needs” list kept under a magnet on the fridge, and put the envelope in my car so that i have it on the day(s) i can stop by the store(s).

Like Katy, Safeway definitely gets the majority of my business on $10 off weeks! (i spend just the $50 necessary for the coupon to activate, and spend only for preselected sale items or needs list items, so consider the discount “free food.”)

Between growing food in our garden, couponing and sale shopping, and cooking from scratch, we eat really healthy and well on about $30/wk for the two of us.


Dawn April 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

I do not use coupons because I was finding I was buying items just because “I had a coupon”.
My question is, if you do not use paper towels or napkins, what are you using? I would love ideas on how to cut down on paper product use, but the reusable cloths seem to smell after only a few uses so I throw them out and go back to the jumbo packs of paper towels.


thenonconsumeradvocate April 5, 2009 at 10:35 am


Instead of paper towels I use squares torn from an old towel. I also have a bag of rags from torn old T-shirts.

Here’s a piece I wrote about it:


And I only use them once. I have a plastic wastebasket in my kitchen that’s ventilated on the sides. I throw my dishes towels, cloth napkins and towel squares into there. I then add them to the laundry when I’m running a load.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jen April 5, 2009 at 3:48 pm

We use cloth napkins, even the ones I bought for “nice” occasions, which we never seem to have. Might as well get some use out of them! We also have some bar cloths which are supposed to be super absorbent, and old cotton socks and pieces of cotton t-shirts for cleaning. I haven’t had any trouble with odor, except if somebody spills milk. I do laundry frequently enough it doesn’t seem to be an issue. I do keep a toll of paper towels put away (out of sight, out of mind) for draining grease off cooked hamburger and other such things.


Clean Simple April 6, 2009 at 12:54 pm

We use cloth napkins and have for years. I picked most of mine up for a song at the thrift store. I keep them in a basket on the table for easy access. We use paper towels for truly messy things, the sort that if you picked them up with a cloth towel, you’d want to toss the towel!

As for coupons, I am very selective, but I do play the Drugstore Game with help from a few websites (Money Saving Mom and A Full Cup). Cherry pick the good deals and leave what you won’t use.


alunachic April 12, 2009 at 8:49 am


I wrote about the hip new lifestyle I lead last year. It is fun to be happenin!


Kristin @ klingtocash April 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I clip coupons while doing other things. Last week, I had tea with a frugal friend of mine. I cut and arranged my coupons at her house while hanging out. She went through all my fliers when I was done and took what she needed also. We had a blast.


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