Tips on how to save on food and other items by clipping coupons

Posted March 20, 2013, at 9:34 a.m.

Senior Beat

by Carol Higgins Taylor

Eastern Area Agency on Aging

Getting sticker shock at the grocery store? I know a special senior with a solution.

Maybe it’s due to being a “depression baby” or maybe it is the thrill of the bargain hunt but whatever the reason, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that can make my mother giddier than saving money at the grocery store.

Coupons. The word alone is enough to make her face light up and send her scurrying for scissors. You may be thinking, “How cute. Margie is watching her pennies by clipping coupons.”

Don’t be fooled. My mother is the master clipper. She has clearly turned her hobby into an exact science, as her well-stocked shelves demonstrate. Often, she hears naysayers remark that coupon shopping does work but only because people usually buy what they don’t need.

“This is not true,” said Margie. “I only buy what I can use or what I know my family likes. Sometimes I stock up on items that are being asked for by food pantries, like canned goods and macaroni.”

This goodwill belies her fixed income, so just how does she do it?

“You have to watch the store fliers for sales,” she said. “Then check what you need against the sales and your coupons. Storage was a problem so I put a bookcase in my kitchen to use as a pantry. Sometimes you see 10 items for $10 in the Shaw’s flyer, which makes each item a dollar. You don’t have to buy all 10 to get that price. And you can mix and match the ‘ten for ten’ items.”

Her numbers are impressive. I’ve seen her take as much as 50 percent off her bill.

“You have to watch the sales and the unadvertised specials when you get to the store,” she said. “Take all your coupons with you because you will need them if something is on special. And look ahead. While you might not need an item right now, it’s good to stock up on staples. For instance, I bought a jar of spaghetti sauce that was usually $1.99 but was on sale for $1 and I had a coupon for 50 cents which Shaw’s doubled, so I actually got the sauce for free. And then there are the baked beans. They were two for a dollar and I had a coupon for a dollar off of four cans. I bought four, used my coupon, which made them 25 cents each. And they will keep. That’s important during the winter and iffy weather.”

She is particularly proud of her toothpaste savings. “The original price was $3.69, but it was on sale for half off, and I had a coupon, which came in the box of my previous tube — you can find coupons in many places — for 55 cents, which was doubled,” she said. “The end price was 75 cents.”

It is not just the using of the coupons that she has down to an art form, but the organization of them as well.

“Being organized is key,” Margie said, displaying her tightly stuffed envelopes. “I like using these. I label them such as ‘current’ for those that expire in the present month, then each envelop is labeled by food category. At the end of every month, I go through all of them, putting the ones for the next month, in the order of expiration date, into the “current’ envelope. Wouldn’t want to lose one.”

Her system works and is worthy of admiration, like most everything else she does.

“It’s a numbers game. You merge what is on sale against the amount of the coupon,” she said. “You will be amazed at the bargains if you do.”

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.  For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or go to EAAA.org.

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