Yes, I’m one of those coupon ladies in the grocery store with the binders. Not one of those crazy ladies from the coupon show with enough toilet paper and toothpaste to last till the apocalypse, I’m only a little bit extreme. Now that Zachary is eating mostly “big people” food, I’m officially feeding a family of six on one income, which is a challenge. That’s why at least once a week, you’ll find me with a cart full of kids and a binder full of coupons, trying to score as many deals as I can.
It takes time to plan my shopping trips each week, clipping and organizing my coupons and comparing the sale ad with coupons from newspapers and the Internet. I also use some of my favorite deal Web sites that offer match-ups of the sale items with available coupons. These Web sites also offer links to printable coupons and help me find all the best deals. The sales run in cycles, so I’m able to stock up on cereal, granola bars, baking ingredients, snacks, and yogurt when they reach their lowest prices, and never have to pay full price for them. I also do pretty well with bath and beauty products like toothpaste, tooth brushes, deoderant, hair products, and bath products. If I stock up when I find both a sale and a coupon, I can frequently get items for free or very little money.
I sometimes get weird looks, both in the aisles and in the checkout lines. Here I am, usually with all three boys (ages 4, 3, and almost 1), making shopping more complicated than it probably needs to be. The older boys know the drill now: They ask for things, but they usually know that if it’s not an essential item, the answer will be “no” unless it’s on sale and I have a coupon. They know to look for the yellow sale tags by the cereals they like, and have started to ask “Do you have a coupon for this?” rather than asking for the item directly.
It’s sometimes challenging to take the boys with me to do the shopping, but getting that done during the day allows us to have family time in the evenings. As long as they’re not hungry or tired, they enjoy coming along, riding in the racecar cart, and picking out whichever of their favorite foods are on sale. Since it’s almost always part of our weekly routine, they usually have pretty decent behavior, although I’ve been known to threaten (and occasionally give) timeouts in the store. I’m always thankful for the free “cookie club” cookies. The bakery is our last stop in the store, and the good-behavior-reward cookies usually keep the boys happy for most of checkout.
Checkout can take a while, both because of the quantity of food and using a ton of coupons, but when I’m done and can see that I’ve saved 50 percent or more on my groceries, I feel like it’s time and energy well-spent. Some weeks are better than others, and it’s always a challenge to find time to get organized for my trip, but it’s one of the things I do to be able to stay home with my kids. And on a day like today, when my three little helpers get a compliment from another shopper in the checkout line, I’m glad that I bring them along to learn patience, the value of money, and the way we can save by putting forth a little effort. And of course, to get their free cookies!