My Adventures in "Extreme" Couponing

Maybe some of ya'll heard about this...recently there was a show on TLC about "extreme" couponers. According to an article I read the day after the show aired, these people take couponing to a whole other level. For example, the woman who dumpster dives for coupons, or the man who's turned his garage into a mini-warehouse to store all the stuff he buys with coupons (including approx. 150 years worth of stick deodorant). I didn't personally see this show, but my impression from the article I read was that the show painted these people as borderline hoarders who buy anything as long as they have a coupon for it. I use coupons when I can, so I have to admit the concept of "extreme" couponing intrigued me in a train-wreck sort of way, so I did some digging for articles about it on the Internet. To my surprise, there was quite a lot of info. There are lots of blogs and websites dedicated to couponing, extreme and otherwise, with all kinds of systems and theories that seem (to me) very elaborate, complicated and time-consuming. Worse than that, many of them seem to be more about what you save than what you buy. I was more mystified than ever.

Most of what I found was overwhelming and a bit frustrating, because it didn't seem to apply to me and my lifestyle. My time is valuable (so is yours!) and I'm just too busy for some of the stuff I read about! A lot of these women are stay-at-home moms so I'm not sure how they have time for elaborate systems either! Obviously they must be more organized and better time managers than me. Then, just when I was getting ready to give up on finding anything useful, I came across a website that made me stop in my cyber tracks. It's called Southern Savers and it's written by a lady named Jenny who really knows her stuff. She explains in an easy-to-understand way how to effectively use coupons, and she doesn't advocate complicated systems or elaborate methods. On top of that, she has links to most of the major coupon sites like RedPlum and, as well as current weekly sales circulars for most major grocery chains. The best part of all, though, was that Jenny isn't trying to sell me anything...she's simply trying to share what she knows with the rest of us. Amazing! At was what I was looking for...a site full of common sense and practical advice! I looked at the weekly sales circulars for the stores close to my house, checked off items I was interested in and printed my shopping lists with the convenient tool built right into the list. So easy! Jenny even tells you which items have manufacturers coupons, so I was able to grab those from my coupon file and match them with my shopping lists. It only took me a few minutes and I was ready to shop.

I approached this trip to the store very differently than normal. Instead of just making a list and then shopping like usual, I focused on items we use regularly that were on sale and for which I had coupons. For the first time ever, I would build my weekly menu around what I bought instead of creating a menu and then making a list of what I needed. This fits in perfectly with the $2 Dinners savings pyramid idea of having core budget-friendly recipes that make use of what items you have on-hand. Getting those items at a discount just maximizes the savings! My extreme couponing shopping trip took me to three grocery stores and one drugstore, all within 3 miles of my house (I wouldn't have gone to so many stores if they weren't so close). A few things I bought were necessities that weren't on sale, and for which I didn't have coupons, but most of what I bought was stuff we use on a regular basis, that was on sale, and for which I had a manufacturer's coupon, a store coupon, or both. Some of what I bought is planned for meals this week (I'll be posting recipes), and some things, like the canned tomatoes (5 cans for $1!) were purchased to stock up because I use them often. Here are the stats on my extreme couponing shopping trip:
  • Time spent = 2 1/2 hours
  • Grocery  bags unloaded = 28
  • Total money spent = $97.83
  • Retail value of purchase = approx. $150.00
  • Money saved = approx. $52.17
Here are pictures of the loot from my trip, so you can see for yourself what I was able to buy for less than $100.

I think once I get used to this new way of shopping, I can cut down the time it takes considerably. I have to admit it was fun...almost like a game to see how much I could save, and I was extremely pleased with the results. I learned that you don't have to go to extremes to save on your grocery bill, and you don't have to buy 150 years' worth of deodorant! So far this week we've had chicken and dumplings and pot roast, all made with items I purchased on sale.Thanks to Jenny at for her great site, practical advice and awesome tools! If you're interested in learning more about couponing, I encourage you to check out!