Sunday, August 28, 2011

How Busy People Exetreme Coupon for Healthy Food

Now that I have a sorta extreme couponing system, I'm pretty lazy about devoting a zillion hours to couponing for healthy food.

Scratch that. I never devoted a zillion hours to couponing to begin with and I still end up saving around 50% on my purchases.

Just as before I started my couponing experiment, I continue to buy healthy food and products for my family.

Another reason I don't spend a lot time of on couponing and deal searching is there are many products I don't use or buy due to ingredients. My family tries to avoid high fat, high sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils in our food. I buy and cook with ingredient type foods, not junk food, or prepared foods. That reduces my coupon clipping and deal finding. However, I'm still able to reduce my grocery bill by 50%.

A good chunk of my savings comes from watching store sales and shopping accordingly. Fresh fruits and vegetables go on sale and are the cheapest when they are in season. Hi green shopping! I'm talking to you :)

Here is an example of my last grocery shopping trip to Meijer. I spent $38.08. The regular price would have been $65.60. I saved 42% on my total. Almost everything is fresh fruit and vegetables, but all of it is healthy. (Well maybe not the bag of pretzels but they are the one of the few high fructose corn syrup and hrydogenated oil free salty snacks we allow in the house.)  The green packets are pectin for canning jam. The juice is 100% juice to make Popsicles. The frozen spinach is our backup for sauces, etc. when we run out of fresh in between shopping trips.

There are a few compromises like the pickling spices and jarred garlic because Miejer was out of fresh garlic and mustard seeds as well as the deodorant. The natural stuff doesn't work for Husband either. 

The key is to buy the items we use on sale (preferably with a coupon for additional savings) is before we need them. That's why there are three deodorants in my tally. It was a buy 2 sale and I had three coupons. Husband is set for the rest of the year. Not everything on my table is a sale/coupon situation like the borax, vinegar, and onions. However, for me buying  vinegar and borax at full price is a cheaper green cleaning alternative than getting a bottle of questionable ingredient cleaner on super sale.  As always, your mileage may vary.

I also stock up in April when green items that don't normally go on sale go on sale for Earth Day. That way I'm less likely to comprise on cheaper products with not so friendly ingredients later in the year if I find myself in a situation where I need to save a few dimes here and there. That is another reason why my trip is mostly ingredient type food.

I write the date I open something like dish washing liquid and track how long it lasts. Then I know how many to keep on hand until the next sale cycle. Usually it's only one or two extra for my small family.

When I first started, I read multiple coupon and deal blogs. Now I stick with We Use Coupons because it's the most comprehensive coupon site I read. I get the blog's feed in my feed reader and scan it when I have time to read blogs. From them I learned some stores will email you the Sunday ad/it is available on line.  

Every Sunday/Mondayish We Use Coupons updates the coupon + sale match ups (called stacking) on a forum for each major grocery store, including big box, and specialty stores. There's also a forum for Natural and Organic items. They also list monthly price reductions by store. Some people will post if they found a deal the mods haven't posted which helps too.

Where to Get Coupons on Healthy Food and Green Products

I don't buy a newspaper to get coupons. You can, but I’m too lazy to leave the house on Sunday mornings and too cheap to buy a newspaper subscription. I rely on the Tuesday SmartSource mailer I get whether I want it or not and printable Internet coupons. I added a printable coupon database  to Condo Blues so I don’t have to search the Web for coupons. If you coupon I’d appreciate it if you print your coupons from my printable coupon database. I get a bit of a commission for each coupon you print. The commissions will help my family rebuild our Emergency Fund after the July cracked car engine block/robbery/familyemergency road trip tapped it hard.

You can search my printable coupon database by zip code which means that some coupons may appear for your but not for me. You can print two coupons per computer. The coupons reset/new added at the beginning of the month. If you are more of an on line shopper, click the  Coupon Code tab to get discount coupon codes for on line stores and orders.

I don’t have any control what coupons and coupon codes appear in my database. There will be some junky foods and not so environmentally friendly products. However, I’m been pleasantly surprised to find some coupons for healthy and green items I buy as well as DVDs that make good gifts. I happily printed a discount coupon for Cedar Point!

I also check out and sign up for newsletters from the healthy and green products I use because they send coupons right to my in box. All I have to do it print them!

How to Track Product Prices

To keep track of prices see if a deal's a deal I created a spreadsheet with prices for the staple items I buy from my receipts. That took a little time because I did it bit by bit. It is a little anal but it helped me realize that Seventh Generation products are more expensive at Whole Foods with a coupon than at Target without.

I still shop Aldi and Trader Joe’s for basics. With my spreadsheet, I can quickly check if a sale + coupon match up on an item is cheaper than Aldi. If it isn't I put the item on my Aldi shopping list. For example, I can rarely get a coupon deal on whole wheat pasta that beats Aldi’s price for Fit and Active Whole Wheat pasta. Sometimes buying the store brand without a coupon or sale is cheaper and I stick with that.

I learned from We Use Coupons to save my coupon fliers even if there's something in it I don't think I'll buy. A couple of times they tipped me off on a deal for something I ended up buying for someone else, such as the Brita water pitcher and water bottles someone had on their bridal registry. Whiiiiiiiiiich I just tipped them off that I got their gift on sale. Oopsie.

I use the binder method all with items I had on hand to organize my clipped coupons. I only clip the coupons for products I use and sort them by category in the binder (produce, dairy, drinks, etc.) I pull the coupons I'm going to use on a shopping trip and put them in an envelop from the recycling bin 'cause I'm classy like that. I take the binder with me in a tote bag just in case I see something in the store that we use and  I can get for cheaper doing sale + coupon. This part is key because sometimes I’ll stumble on to something I would normally buy at full price. The tote has a couple of Chico Bags in it so I'm never stuck without a reusable shopping bag.

This might sound like it takes forever but it doesn't. I don't have that kind of time. I keep a running grocery list on the fridge. I skim the Sunday store ads online while I'm chugging my first gallon of coffee in the morning. I skim the We Use Coupon Forums  when I do regular web surfing or if there are things I see on sale in the Sunday circulars on line. I have a lof this stuff sent to me buy email and stick it in a folder when it arrives and read when I have time/making out my grocery list.

How do you save money on groceries and green items?

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Joselyn @ The DIY Spot said...

This is a great post! Like you, I am a vinegar, borax, green product, organic girl who does about 75% of her shopping at Trader Joes. I have tried the coupon/binder thing many times but often get discouraged because there are few coupons for the groceries that I buy. Why is it that there are no coupons for whole grain foods? I am going to try We Use Coupons and your printable coupon database and give it a try once again. Thanks so much for this informative post.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Joselyn - Couponing for healthy food takes more patience, at least for me. Sometimes I only find one or two coupons for items I buy and I can't always pair that with a sale for extra savings. But I look at it as saving me time because I'm not tempted to run to the store every week or few days to get bargains on items I wouldn't normally use or eat.

Emily said...

Great tips. We joined a CSA so now most of our produce we get from there weekly and it's all organic. Then I only buy food that's on sale and if the majority of the ingrediants to something is on sale, I stock up and fill my freezer with preped dinners. Thanks for linking up!

Linette said...

Great info! I do try to shop in season, and we have a local farmer's market where I've found some great deals on produce. I tend to buy ingredients too, I hadn't thought about shopping cycles though, hmmmm....

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Husband and I decided to not to renew our CSA this summer. We loved it and were on the fence because it was more than we could eat or preserve at times but the renewal came during the time of Blitzkrieg's surgery so we went with that. We have a new farmer's market close by and are trying to grow a few organic heirloom veggies in the front yard. I think it all evens out.

Linette - the sales cycles are another piece of the money saving puzzle. For example, with back to school there are deals on natural peanut butter and hippie colon blow type cereals. I buy a couple extra to get us through until the next time those items go on sale.

LaVonne said...

I pretty much quit couponing when we switched to organic and natural products in the beginning of 2010. I still keep an eye out for printable coupons but mostly shop the sales or in bulk at Costco. I realized spending a bit more on healthy food was worth it!

I am visiting tonight from WFMW. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Thanks for sharing these tips and links.

LaVonne @ Long Wait For Isabella

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

LaVonne - Warehouse club shopping no longer works for my husband and I because the amounts are so big for our small family. We used to buy larger ticket items like camping equipment and gift baskets there but when our shopping dwindled to my husband buying energy bars and razor blades a few times a year we decided not to renew our membership. I might check into it again, I've heard many of them now carry organic/natural food which they didn't do when I had a membership.

Sara said...

I will buy my organic coupons on Ebay. My kids love Cliff Z bars and I bought 20 coupons for a dollar off for about three dollars. My Kroger also doubled my coupons!

Kristina @ A Home Made by Kiki said...

Great post! It definitely isn't as easy to use coupons when you shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Most coupons *are* for the junk that we don't really need. Thanks for sharing some tips on how to save money on the healthy stuff!

Karen Hanrahan said...

i admire those who do this, i truly do and you've got it down that's for sure, but with multiple efforts I have to say I simply give up. I will say this though, cooking scratch and buying on sale is the next best thing. I also think things through, like how much does it cost to make this chicken soup, and marvel in comparison to paying for the same thing out somewhere. I can at least feel like I am doing the best i can.

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