Food for Thought

042610FEATURE.jpg Food for Thought
Diving into the coupon craze

Food is a necessity, but spending gobs on your grocery bill isn't. This week, one local couponing expert helps you understand the method behind the modern-day coupon madness so that you can save on what you need in order to buy what you want.

When local woman Andrea Deckard's son needed surgery, dollar signs started haunting her mind. The surgery would cost $6,000 out of pocket, and that was $6,000 her family didn't have — yet.


Determined to keep her family out of debt while still providing for her son's health, Deckard opened her eyes and ears for money-saving opportunities. And that's when she heard about the modern-day coupon craze on the news.


"I thought, 'That doesn't seem like the way my mom used to coupon,' " Deckard says. Instead of a casual clip-and-use approach, Deckard recognized a more "planned and focused" practice with coupons, she says. So she decided to adopt that practice.


Through it all, Deckard wanted to see the results of her efforts, so she kept a savings spreadsheet. And just a year after her son's surgery that spreadsheet showed a total savings of $6,500, she says.



Now, couponing has become a money-saving measure of her daily life, but it has become more than that as well. With her experiences, Deckard likes to reach out to others with her blog Mommy Snacks. Readers can learn more about how they can become a part of the couponing crowd as Deckard chronicles her experiences and shares her finds.


To help you get started on your own discounted adventure, Cincy Chic got the coupon scoop from Deckard, so she shares five tips toward saving success:


1. Know Your Stores


Every store deals with coupons a little differently. Both Kroger and Meijer double coupons every day, so when you go in to buy a box of rice with a 50 cents off coupon, the stores will double that savings to a full dollar. One difference between the two, however, is that Kroger will take up to 100 coupons, no matter how many duplicates of the same coupon you have to use. Meijer, however, only will double the first two duplicates of the same coupon, Deckard says.


Some stores like Biggs and Remke will have special "triple coupon" events where you can enjoy even more savings. While Kroger offers these events in some regions, the stores does not hold events in the Cincinnati area, despite Deckard's multiple pleas to do so, Deckard says.


Double and triple aside, however, you should learn each store's couponing policy before you begin developing your plan of attack.


2. Finding Your Coupons


While Wal-Mart doesn't have any double or triple coupon policies or events, the store has one of the best resources when it comes to actually finding coupons, Deckard says. All You magazine only appears on Wal-Mart racks, so you won't find it in your neighborhood Kroger or Meijer. This magazine offers some of the best coupons, with some deals giving you free products, Deckard says.


But you even can get a deal on the magazine itself. Deckard shares a special offer on Mommy Snacks, so you can get 24 issues of All You for $20, which is a 58 percent savings.


Besides All You, Deckard recommends the Sunday inserts in the newspaper. And for the times when the Sunday insert has a really good deal, but you don't want to spend all your money on multiple copies of the newspaper, you can turn to clipping services. While buying coupons voids the coupons, paying somebody for their time to clip the coupon keeps the savings intact, so many people take the time to clip several copies of the Sunday's insert so that you can get 10 copies of the same coupon, without buying 10 newspapers.


A local clipping service Deckard recommends is Run by a local stay-at-home mom, allows you to buy multiple duplicates of the same coupon. (Recognize the word "duplicates" as opposed to "copies," as photo copying coupons is fraudulent and illegal.)


3. Maintain Realistic Expectations


While circulating coupons cover almost every product in the grocery store, some coupons are rarer than others. "You rarely find coupons for produce and meat," Deckard says, so you won't necessarily be able to save on your fruits and veggies.


While individualized coupons like those Kroger prints out with your receipt might offer something like $2 off a $10 meat purchase, don't expect to save a bunch on your meats and produce with coupons on a regular basis. For good deals on produce, however, Deckard recommends Aldi.


Even with products that regularly can be discounted with coupons, keep your expectations based in reality. Yes, Deckard saved $6,500 in a little more than a year, but she made couponing a full-time endeavor. As a working woman, you might not have the time to devote to scavenging for deals, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to save money, either.


4. Don't Go Overboard


Deckard shops for a family of five, but not everyone is in her situation. She stockpiles on pasta and laundry detergent and other items her family goes through quickly, but her practices won't be the same as a single woman's or the shopper of a small family.


Beyond the possibility of a single woman's stockpiled stuff going bad, Deckard uses economics to show the benefit of just stocking the pantry instead of stockpiling. "It's an opportunity cost. What could your money have done for you rather than having it sit in your basement when you're not going to use it for an entire year?" she asks.


Deckard even cautions larger families. Just as there's a fine line between stock piling and stocking your pantry, there's a fine line between stock piling and being inconsiderate. As a civil shopper, Deckard recommends taking other shoppers into account. If there's a fantastic deal going on, you shouldn't just go in and take every single last box, bottle or package of that item.


5. Start out Slow


Before you start hunting down and researching all of the coupon practices of your favorite grocery store, come up with an executable plan. Deckard recommends starting with one store before moving on to another, so you can start with your grocery store, learning its practices and experiencing the ways of couponing to gain a full understanding of that store. Once you are comfortable, move on to the next store, which could be another grocery store or a drug store, which can be helpful when it comes to personal hygiene products, Deckard says.


For help along the way, visit


Photographer: Neysa Ruhl Photography
Models: Gretchen Godsell
Location: The McAlpin

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

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