Coupon classic: Our shopper trims time at grocery, yet saves $86

Consumer Reports News: March 26, 2010 07:08 AM

Sunny and a crisp 65 degrees. Last Sunday’s weather was my idea of plum perfect. So when my husband innocently asked if I’d be grocery shopping, my response was less than enthusiastic. All I wanted to do was lounge on the patio with my favorite beverage, maybe read a bit, and catch up on my sleep. But we had nothing to throw on the grill, and very little else to eat next week, for that matter.

And I’d committed to do all the major grocery shopping for at least a month. I’ve been tracking how much I would save by clipping coupons, and reporting my progress here. That was after talking with two hard-core couponers, I’d surprised myself at how much money I’d saved—$71 on $225 worth of groceries on the last trip.

So I scanned the A&P ad to see what was on sale and pulled what I could use from my growing coupon library. The more coupons you collect the better, I’ve learned, since that increases the likelihood that you’ll have the right coupon to match the sale item you want.

While the savings from my last trip were impressive, there was one thing I didn’t report about it: I spent two full hours in the grocery store tracking down all the bargains and wound up pretty exhausted. I chalked that up to inexperience.

This time I was unwilling to spend two hours at the supermarket. Too much fine weather awaited. So I sorted the coupons according to the order I’d find the items in the aisles. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend more than a minute or two looking for a particular brand. No backtracking either. If I couldn’t find the sale item as I cruised the aisles, I’d grab something else and save the coupon for next time.

I cut my shopping time down to an hour and a half, and to my surprise saved even more than I had the previous trip. Coupons cut $85.70 off $234.75 in groceries. Maybe I’d focused more on the task at hand: buying the stuff on my list, and ignoring what I didn’t need. I don’t know how I did it, but I’m newly committed to keep doing it.

And that’s not all. When I settled into my favorite chair on the patio and looked over the receipt, there was a certificate at the very bottom good for $10 off any purchase the next time I shopped. The store had been running a special deal, and I’d earned the rebate by spending $75 during a certain time period on frozen food.

So now I’ve learned to carefully inspect every receipt, all the way to the bottom. I never knew they put coupons there!

An hour and a half is still too long to spend grocery shopping, so I need to find ways to improve on that. One tactic I intend to try: Shop on Saturday rather than Sunday to avoid the crowds. A new study by Parade Magazine says that 72 percent of Americans shop for groceries on Sunday. Who knew?

I continue to follow my favorite tip from the coupon pros: Put your savings from using coupons in a jar so you can watch them grow. Week 3 savings: $85.70. Total in jar: $166.70. —Jean Pietrobono

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