How My Couponing Has Evolved Over The Past 7 Years

I’ll never forget my very first couponing trip. I went to Zellers (remember Zellers?), armed with about 3 coupons, and paid full price for my items (cereal and soap), using just coupons to knock my total down a little bit.

I think I only saved about 2 dollars or so, but I was incredibly excited. Those coupons were like paper money that I just used at the store (I honestly felt like I was paying with Monopoly money, that’s how surreal it felt to me at the time).

Things have changed since that first couponing trip.

Vegan Groceries

Soon after, I realized that the key to saving big at the store was not just using coupons, but by stacking those coupons with sale prices. That’s where the real savings came in. I scoured other couponing blogs (mostly US-based, since there weren’t any good ones available for Canada), watched what they did, and applied it to my shopping trips.

Eventually, I started saving upwards of 50% off my grocery bills every time I shopped – just by watching for sales and combining those sales with my coupons.

And things got even better…

After couponing like that for a year or so, I started to get better. I learned how to coupon on clearance items – which often meant I would walk out of the store paying absolutely NOTHING. I couldn’t believe that coupons started paying for my groceries. It was surreal – and so exhilarating!

When I first started couponing back in 2007, it wasn’t a popular practice. There was no Extreme Couponing, no one at my local Zellers (my favourite store to use coupons at the time) that cleared shelves, and no one in the store when I shopped for deals (early morning, weekday shopping is the best!). It was amazing. I loved it. I went to the store 3, 4, sometimes 5 days a week to see what deals I could find. I couldn’t get enough. I lived and breathed coupons.

But things changed…

In 2009, I had my first child, and that’s when couponing changed for me. I no longer had the time to hunt for, trade, clip and file coupons for hours a day. I had no energy to shop 5 days a week. The groceries that I did end up purchasing would sit on our basement floor for weeks, until tripping over them became annoying, and I finally organized the stockpile again.

After a year or so of managing life with a baby, I got back into the swing of things, and I was couponing like usual. I started to get excited about shopping again. Our stockpile was overflowing with free razors and dish soap and cereal. I was back in love with couponing.

And then wouldn’t you know it – I got pregnant again. And my days were spent sleeping and puking, for all nine months of my pregnancy. I kept up couponing a bit, but most of the time, I’d send my husband to the store for me, and thus, my couponing love started to fade away again.

Once our daughter was born, my energy was completely gone. I had a newborn that would scream all night, and when we’d finally get her to sleep, our toddler would wake up and demand breakfast and playtime. I’m not even going to admit how often I let the television babysit our toddler during the first few weeks of the screaming newborn phase.

As time went on, our daughter got better with sleeping, she stopped screaming so much, and everything at our house got back to normal.

Except my couponing.

Vegan Grocery Shopping

No longer extreme…

With 2 kids to take care of, I barely had enough time to go to the bathroom by myself, let alone clip coupons and go shopping for hours each week. All I wanted was some time to myself and a nice, long, uninterrupted nap. So I did what I could, shopped the sales, used coupons whenever possible and saved whatever I could. I went from extreme couponer to casual couponer, and that suited me just fine at that stage of my life.

Fast forward to September 2013, when I made one of the biggest changes in my life – I cut out all animal products from my diet. A few months later, my family did the same. Earlier in 2013, we’d also cut out white sugar/flour/bread, processed foods and pop from our diets. It wasn’t until eliminating all of these things that I realized that that’s exactly what the majority of coupons were for – and that it was going to be near impossible for me to use coupons if that continued.

There are tons of coupons for cheese and yogurt, packaged meats and sugary cereals, but it was rare when I’d come across a coupon for a bunch of leafy greens.

In addition to changing our diets, we are also transitioning to more natural health & beauty and cleaning products, and we will no longer personally support any companies that test on animals (which is almost all of the companies that put out coupons!). So this means that our grocery budget has gone up a considerable amount.

The biggest change of all…

For the past 6 months, I’ve used not a single coupon. Not one. At first I felt really guilty about it. Who was I to teach others how to use coupons when I don’t even use them myself anymore? I’m a hypocrite. Why should anyone listen to me?

It took me awhile to realize that although I have not used coupons in awhile, I still think that couponing is extremely beneficial for those that are struggling financially, or just want a bit more wiggle room in their budgets.

I’ve also learned that just because the majority of coupons are for food that my family can’t eat, there are still vegan food companies that offer coupons!

Groceries Vegan

 

How I plan to save on groceries now…

One of my goals for 2015 is to start saving money on our grocery bill again, but without spending a lot of time doing it. Here’s my plan:

  • Take advantage of cash-back rebate offers
  • Contact my favourite vegan food brands and ask for coupons every 6 months
  • Follow my favourite vegan food brands on Facebook and watch for special offers and contests (I’ve won a bunch of free coupons doing this!)
  • Continue to shop at our favourite grocery store, Organic Garage, only for the dirty dozen and sale items
  • Continue to get grocery delivery from Grocery Gateway, for all other produce and groceries we need (paying special attention to sale items)
  • Continue to shop at Costco for the bulk items and produce we can’t get cheaper anywhere else (raw almonds, maple syrup, frozen fruit, etc.)
  • Continue to shop at Yupik.ca for bulk items we can’t get at Costco (certain nuts, beans, etc.)
  • Continue to shop online for sales on health & beauty and household items (Well.ca, Amazon.ca, Walmart.ca, etc.)

That’s it! This is what I think will save us a great deal of money without having to carry around a 10 pound coupon binder to store after store and without spending hours and hours organizing paper coupons.

I know this won’t work for everyone, but is what I think is going to work best for our family at this stage in our lives. I’m excited to see if we can make it work, and will be sure to share my successes and failures with you along the way.

Has your couponing changed recently?

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Comments
  1. edith says:

    here is the link you are looking for http://yupik.ca/

  2. Cassie Howard says:

    Jan, the reason we use Grocery Gateway is because we almost always get good quality produce at the sale price. In the past, when I would go to the store (Longos), they would either be sold out of the produce I wanted, or what was left wouldn’t be in the best shape. With Grocery Gateway, I get the sale produce in stock (and other groceries) 99% of the time, and always in great condition. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss on 25% or more of the sales, because they were sold out by the time I got to the store.

    We also use Grocery Gateway for the convenience. So while we do pay $10 for delivery, it’s worth it to us right now. Plus, Grocery Gateway sometimes has promotions where you can save on your purchases with their coupons and discounts. 🙂

  3. Cathy says:

    I don’t use coupons all that much either now because most of them are for unhealthy stuff I don’t want to buy. Especially personal care products!!!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for your honest post–enjoyed the read. I too have noticed how couponing has changed since I first started 4 years ago. Like you I have been transitioning to eat healthier (though not to the same extent as you) and really realized that it’s the companies who make “junk food” that put out the most coupons. Even though I may use less paper coupons, I still save considerably by using Checkout 51, mail in rebates, 10% off days etc., evening combining these to further the savings. Couponing has made me aware of how to make my budget stretch
    and its now a way of life–which I love 🙂

  5. Tiffany says:

    Don’t forget PC Plus points, I have gotten free, near free and really discounted produce and other natural items using price matching (and/or just watching sales) and combining them with both the in-store and personal points offers. I once got 600 pts for each celery bunch I bought while finding a price match of $0.77…making each bunch ~$0.17 oveall 🙂

  6. teachermum says:

    I never really have used many coupons for our family as we tend to eat just real food and there are very few coupons for that! I have, in the past, used many of them to buy things we don’t use to donate to our local foodbank. Mainly H&B products. I don’t buy any scented products and that is mostly for what they are.

    Now the coupons are really not as good as they used to be, at all! I can’t even remember how many free shave creams I donated with the P&G $5 off 3 products coupon or free toothpaste with the dentist coupon! I will still use them if I see a great sale and have a coupon for a donatable item–that way I still get to play the game. Lately I’ve taken to just picking up great sale items…Yesterday I dropped 2 12x Kraft Dinner packages and 4 Kraft peanut butters in the bin at No Frills checkout…easy peasy.

    Boy do I wish the fellow we bought our half grass fed cow from took coupons!

  7. Leslie says:

    I started following you in 2011 when the financial situation in our house drastically changed and I was very thankful for your tips.
    Over the years I have shifted from using coupons to maximizing point programs such as PC plus, Shoppers Optimum, Airmiles and a credit card with kick backs and no annual fee.
    Because of your help, recently during a Shoppers Mega Redemption I walked away with $210 of free groceries, I also have redemptions waiting with PC plus, AirMiles cash and Checkout 21 giving us over another $200 in savings. Oh and you can’t forget about Ebates 🙂
    Thank You for your education and inspiration!

  8. Kayleigh says:

    casey I’m wondering where you find the best place to buy almonds? Costco?

  9. sarkel says:

    Don’t forget the obvious!
    Grow food.
    Buy and cook IN SEASON.
    Buy direct from farmers in quantity and at the end of bumper crops.

  10. Cassie Howard says:

    Kayleigh: Definitely Costco. 🙂

  11. Susan says:

    I still collect coupons, but find it hard to get motivated to keep them organized so I end up missing out on some deals. I find that I went so crazy in the beginning the beginning that imam still using up all the shampoo and lotion and soap etc that I got for cheap. Now I only buy shampoo or toothpaste or lotion if I can get if for free or almost free. I have enough sdm points to do 3 95,000 point redemptions but have no room in my stockpile at the moment so I have redeemed for anything this year and haven’t done a 20x shop in months. Although now that there are a lot of pc organic products on the shelves I think I will eventually get around to using points. I do use the personalized offers I get weekly from sdm when ther is a good offer and a good sale. I am all over pc plus. I have concentrated on saving money that way. I have a card and dh has a card so we both get different offers each week and stock up when we have a good offer. We have received about $900 in points in a year and for buying produce and a large quantity of natural value items. Recently I spent $200 in the natural value section but by buying smart and using points offer to the best advantage I received 90,000 points back and all on healthy food. Was super excited. I have also saved huge amounts of money on clearance items at Target. My favourite is when the stars align and you get a sale price, a coupon, a pc plus offer and a checkout 51 offer all for the same item!

  12. Susannah says:

    Thanks for this post!! I eat very healthy so I’ve been struggling with this coupon thing because very rarely do I find coupons of foods that I would eat. I’ve been wondering what I’m doing wrong and why so many others save so much money while I might save a dollar here and there. I kept thinking I was missing some of the main sites!

  13. Thanks very much for sharing this, I’m sure it was not easy! I’ve been trying very hard to evolve the way my family eats and thinks about food and it hasn’t been easy, especially on a budget. I would LOVE to see/read more about your budgeting/spending/menu plans/lifestyle changes. It’s a hard road but the journey has to start somewhere. Thank you for all the help you provide each of us, keep up the great work!

  14. Catherine says:

    GREAT job! I am a long time vegan but have been following your blog anyway for about 3 years and have learned a ton. I have purchased some of the crappy products in the past (some junk food vegan items) and possibly some products that are not entirely vegan or that do test on animals. I did get green works products, tampons, Dove body wash, garnier lotion, etc. as I got them for free or for cents and as a broke single mom sometimes you do what you have to do and I thank you for sharing your secrets. Now I don’t purchase these things anymore but the meal planning for the week around all the sale veggies and then all the new grocery apps that now give cash-back for fruits and veggies certainly helps. There’s still a lot of good advice here on this blog and plenty of ways to save atleast SOME money on the healthy products. Teaching people to be savvy shoppers is the best lesson anyway.
    Congratulations on your new vegan diet and lifestyle. I actually had a feeling you would go vegan and it was less than a year later I noticed your buying habits changing then you told your subscribers you were going vegan.
    Wonderful job xo

  15. Anne Peers says:

    I too have seen changes in my couponing since I began to coupon in 2009. I had phases where I was couponing every spare second and phases where I did not coupon at all due to working 50 hours a week while also attending university. (Combined with the fact I’m married it got exhausting.) Our income level also dictated how much I couponed too. When I was working those ridiculous work hours I had a high income so it was not on my radar to coupon.

    I have not been as diligent as I should be but my eating plan is meant to be gluten and wheat free, dairy free and low in processed sugar. My husband has no such restrictions. I too have found Costco to be a great source for certain foods that we need at the lowest price I can find.

    My husband and I are also avid gardeners which stretches our food budget further. We eat lots of fresh veggies and also use our crops to can and freeze. We make all of our own salsa, jam, pasta sauce, dill pickles and whatever else takes our fancy.

    Many years ago we started out really small just growing a few peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and as we learned how to garden it expanded from there. We grow a variety of crops and are now in the process of planning to plant more early spring and late fall harvest crops such as asparagus. We also have friends and neighbours who garden and trade certain crops with since we often grow different foods.

    Have you thought if trying to grow a few things in a small space in your yard or in some planters?

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