In Defense of Coupons

by Katy on January 2, 2014 · 16 comments

I’ve made no bones about how I’m an extremely cheap person. I pretty it up by calling it frugal, but that’s just my secret code for cheap.

So when it comes to coupons, I’m a participator. No, I do not have shelves of got-it-for-free air fresheners and cup-o-noodles in my basement, instead I go the cheapest route and just don’t buy them in the first place. Same thing goes for beauty products, feminine hygiene, (I use a Luna Cup) paper towels and cleaning products.

I just now got home from walking to Fred Meyer (Kroger) for a small grocery shopping trip. I made sure to bring my coupon organizer, as I always regret it when I leave it at home. (A certain day after Christmas Pyrex loss leader sale sticks in my mind, as I could have combined the sale with a coupon for spectacular savings.) My shopping list was pretty simple:

  • Milk, nonfat and whole.
  • Cocoa mix
  • Four boxes of cereal.
  • Bananas
  • Four Luna bars.
  • Refrigerator light bulb.*
  • Some kind of fruit.

I was able to combine a $1.50-off-four General Mills coupon with Chex cereals being on sale for $2 apiece, and considered using a 50¢-off coupons for brand name tangerines, but chose not to, as the nameless bag was still cheaper.

I was winding my way to the checkout counter and made a detour to customer service to pick up the weekly circular, and whattayaknow, there was an in-house 4/$5 coupon for half-gallons of milk. This meant it was cheaper to buy two half-gallons of milk rather than the single gallon! Goofy but true.

My grocery total was $26.23 after the $3.30 coupon savings. But as soon as I finished paying, I remembered that  I had a $2-off your next shopping trip coupon that spit out after I bought two tubes of Colgate last week. (They were buy-one-get-one-free, and I had two $1-off coupons.) I took my coupon over to customer service, where I spent a full 60 seconds showing my receipt and being handed two crisp dollar bills.

A lot of people assume that coupons are only for unhealthy foods such as Lunchables, frozen meals and pudding packs. And yes, the coupon circulars are 90% full of these,  but the other 10% are dried pasta, sour cream, decent cereals and other real foods. Heck, my Just4U online Safeway coupons are often for avocados, onions, lettuce and tea!

So if you’ve shied away from using coupons because you assume it’s only for Extreme Couponer types, you are missing out on potential savings.

Today I saved $5.30 using coupons. Had I done a full fledged shopping trip, the number would have been more along the lines of $20-$30, which last time I checked makes it worth the effort.

Click HERE and HERE to read past Non-Consumer Advocate posts about Couponing.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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*Refrigerator bulbs were $1.49 apiece, which killed me as I know they’re 2/$1 at The Dollar Tree store. I’ll have to remember to pick up a pack next time I’m buying my soap and shampoo.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Katy January 2, 2014 at 11:55 am

My husband and kids went to the beach for an overnight trip earlier this week, and they wanted to go to The Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is super expensive. I quickly located some online coupons and e-mailed them to my husband.

Coupons in the digital age are so much more than the Sunday paper circular.


Karen January 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Yay Katy! Yay Coupons!

I would say that at least 70% of coupons I use are for non-food products. But, there are so many coupons now for organics and produce and dairy that the number is shifting some. I am woefully behind in my coupon files, but it’s a new year….


A. Marie January 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Two points stand out for me in this post: (1) making thoughtful and deliberate use of coupons (stuff you really use, etc.); and (2) using “in-house” coupons at stores you regularly patronize. I find I’m using a lot fewer manufacturers’ coupons these days, and a lot more coupons from stores where I shop regularly (here in Upstate NY, that’s the Wegmans and Price Chopper grocery chains and BJ’s Wholesale Club for me).


Dianna January 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I agree with you Katy. I use coupons too, and it looks like for about the same things you do. I think each month there are more and more coupons for things like, meat, produce and other healthier choices. Much more than there used to be anyways.


Sharon January 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I have been extreme couponer since March 2013. I don’t buy anything we can’t use. I can’t believe the junk food people buy! I don’t buy hamburger helper or any of that type of food. We save a ton of money. This Christmas I made gift boxes for family members filled with all my free or near free items. I don’t continue to buy something just because it’s free if I hit my personal limit. I am at my limit on shampoo and laundry soap at the moment. Not all extreme couponers are like the tv show.


Ann Y. January 2, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Yep, love coupons…especially the “dollars off your purchase” ones that come around pretty often. Like you, don’t buy TONS to store, just what I need, but wait for a coupon. Had to laugh at frugal being your code word for cheap….we are the same. Do you have an Aldi near you ? Every so often I go there to stock up on basics….don’t take coupons, but the prices are insane. Bought two boneless turkey breasts for 7.99 each there before the holidays, put them in the crock pot on Christmas, and had a fab dinner and lots of leftovers now in the freezer. To piggyback on your other post…that is my organize goal…get my coupons in order. I hate when they expire…I think someone should invent coupons that automatically disappear when they have expired !


Katy January 2, 2014 at 10:37 pm

We don’t have Aldi, but we do have Winco which may be similar, although they do take coupons.

And I think I need to keep an eye out for post Thanksgiving day turkeys!



Diane C January 3, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Winco is H*U*G*E! and ALDI is (tiny). Both have great prices, but if forced to choose, I’d take Winco and their wonderful bulk bins every time. Their prices on HABA items are not the as wonderful, so I buy those elsewhere.
As to the turkeys, I bought four at Thanksgiving and am sad to say there is only one left. Not sure how that happened.


marie January 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Katy, thanks for clarifying for what most of us frugal (aka cheap) consumers know.
I spend less than $150 month for 2 of us. Today in my safe J4U, I had $1.00 off produce if I spent $5, and I already knew I needed salad fixin’s, onions,and fruit. So that was a dollar saved.
My personal best for saving this week, though no coupons were involved, was my daughter bought a fresh #20 turkey for $5.00 the day after thanksgiving
We froze it, thawed for christmas day.
We fed 13 people that day. We then had 3 days of sandwiches and leftovers, and 3 days of turkey soup .
so the $5 bird worked out to be .20 a meal can’t beat that!


WilliamB January 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I use coupons also, bringing them with me on every grocery trip. I often buy food that is not on my list … but only if the price is good (sale and/or coupon) in order to stock up. For example, a few months ago generic oatmeal was on sale for $1.50 for a large canister. I also had store coupons for $5/5. I bought 5 canisters and I’m wondering if I should have bought 10.


Hope :) January 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Yes! Katy, I’m right there with you. I use coupons — including the Safeway Just4U deals, which are the best deals going for my weekly menu plans since they are, ahem, Just4Me 😉 — in the same manner you do. If an advertised product is something I was planning on purchasing anyway, I love being prepared with a coupon or two to bust out at the register. As far as the rest of that 90%, I agree with you — what’s the use of getting a good deal on an unhealthy product when the better deal is not to buy it?

And those $2-off-your-order coupons are the best thing going! Love free money. 🙂


Liz January 3, 2014 at 3:55 am

I have been using several “in-house” coupons recently, but am not certain if that will continue. Our regional supermarket has been bought out by a national chain, and of course we consumers have not seen the new policies.

I use coupons more often on non-foods as well. The real-food coupons are most likely to be included with the “in-house.” I am also at my limit on laundry supplies and shampoo; it is not too well-known, but these items deteriorate in effectiveness over time.


Diane January 3, 2014 at 6:09 am

The time involved searching and printing keeps me from looking for coupons for the basics that I buy. My HEB usually has in store coupons though and I often save that way. But, my greatest way of saving is buying just what I need and using it all up. This week a small turkey breast became a delicious holiday meal, then an amazing sandwich with turkey, apple slices, and cranberry relish mayo mustard on freshly baked bread and now turkey noodle soup with the bones and few bits of meat left.


emmer January 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

our regional chain, fred meyer, a subsidiary of Kroger, had a pre thanxgiving offer of a free large turkey if you purchased $150–easy to do as this is a department store as well as grocery. we put that turkcy in the freezer for half-thanxgiving, which we celebrate in late may with turkey/stuffing/mash/cranberries and pumpkin/sweet potato pie. I am usually able to take 10-15% of my bill using mfg coupons plus in house coupons on groceries…more on clothing and home dec. it also helps to be aware that certain things go on sale in certain months–like “white” sales in January. for example, i have noticed that cheerios cereal goes on sale in jan-feb, so we aim our coupons at that and buy a year’s supply.


tna January 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I don’t run across many paper coupons but since someone gave me a smartphone I do check online for any offers when I’m buying something. I’m always amazed when there’s a 10 bucks off or a 20-40% off. A kid in the family said its the modern way to be cheap.


Linda in Mass January 6, 2014 at 5:35 am

I am pretty cheap. I use coupons on items that we will use. My food bill is about $40-$60 per week for 4 people with all different diets. I have been on a vegan diet and the rest are on regular diets. One of my kids is allergic to poultry. I buy at least 2 lbs of fish a week. I have found $2.99/lb chowder fish at my local market. They are just smaller pieces of fish but I just bake my fish, so it does not matter if it is in pieces. The fish market tells me that they have seen a lot of people buying it that way. $2.99 instead of $6.99.

I go to a local fruit and veggie market for most of my produce. I can spend $10 there for all the produce for the week. $1 or $2 for huge bags of lettuce, $1 for 3 lbs of apples, potatoes, oranges, etc. $2 for cut up melons (I think 2 lbs). It is so worth the extra time to go to the market. It is only 2 miles away from my regular market.

This week my regular market had $.89 for boxes of Barilla Pasta. I spent $.39 per box on whole grain pasta because I had coupons that I saved. I just waited for the sale. If the coupons expire before the sale, not a big deal because I know another will come out again.


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