Free Food!

I made my first foray into the world of triple-coupondom today.

I'm not a hardcore coupon shopper, despite the influence of a former flatmate who had it down to a science, because the variables were too overwhelming. I can keep a lot of information in my head, but finding the best deal with a given coupon is beyond me. Store A doubles coupons up to 99 cents, but has higher average base prices. But it is also closest to my home, cutting down on time and gas expense. Store B only doubles coupons up to 50 cents, but has better base prices, but is further away. Store C doesn't double coupons at all, but has even better prices than store B, but has poorer selection. Plus it is even further away, and engages in questionable business practices. And that doesn't even begin to cover my grocery shopping options -- there's still Stores E, F, and G to take into consideration!

And none of them are a genuine discount grocery, like Aldi or Save-a-Lot or Grocery Outlet (a fun chain with an annoying website, so don't bother with the link). My family affectionately calls these the "used food stores," since they often specialize in close-out lots and offer exceptional prices, akin to our beloved used book and used clothing stores. My brother didn't believe me when I complained that there were no discount groceries in Durham. He had reason to doubt my reliability on this matter -- I had also complained that there were no discount groceries in New Haven, and he found two within 24 hours of moving to town. In my defense, I didn't have a car in New Haven, so looking for stores was a challenge. I would love to be proven wrong about Durham, but after four years of looking, I'm not optimistic. (Chapel Hill, of course, is hopeless -- it managed to keep three high-end groceries going within about a block of each other for more than a year, two of which are still going strong, but can't even sustain a single middle-of-the-road establishment. But at least we're getting a Trader Joes!)

But I digress. Boy, did I digress. I think I've been wanting to whine about that for a while. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, coupons. Don't even get me started on how buying the non-name brand product without a coupon seems to save you over the name brand product even with a doubled coupon at least four times out of five. All in all, it seemed a better use of my time to stock up when I find really good deals in the meager food sections of discounters and be a savvy shopper of the weekly grocery circulars.

But, hey, triple coupons! That's got to be a good deal, right? Tripling makes even that wimpy 25 cent coupon look worth cutting out of the newspaper.

So I got my coupons together. I got organized. I sorted my coupons by the part of the store and the significance of the discount. And I made sure I got there on the first day of the sale, since the best deals tend to sell out.

I made off with $101.33 worth of groceries for $37.95.

That's not as good a deal as it sounds.

For one, the serious coupon clippers collect and organize for months in anticipation of triple-coupon sales, and manage to save 75-85% or more off retail, making my 62% savings look kind of wimpy.

For another, I don't for a second believe that the food I got was really worth $101.33. There were some things on my list that required an in-store special plus a triple coupon just to get the price down to the top end of reasonable. And some I walked away from because even with the megadiscount they cost too much. Looking over my so-called savings on my receipt, I was incredulous about some of the regular retail prices. Does anyone ever really pay that much for that item? Really? So I got some special treats and some higher-quality stuff than I normally would, rather than coming out way ahead of my normal grocery bill.

Then again, there were some very good deals to be found. I bought five or six items simply because I had a coupon that made them come out FREE, and who am I to turn away free food? Even if they weren't things I would normally buy, now that I have them, for FREE, I will eat them instead of something else which would have cost me money. You can't beat FREE!

Well, yes, you can. I actually came out 43 cents ahead on a couple of items because the tripled coupon was worth more than the sticker price, and the overage got applied to my other purchases.

I'm not sure I'm totally hooked on couponing yet. But triple coupons, well, that's a treasure hunt that's worth the effort.


Sarah said...

Yay! Isn't this fun!

I had a blast, too. I didn't do quite as well as you, but I took advantage of two big sales--half price on certain meats (red meat! iron! yum!), and twenty cents off beans. Of my total bill, this represented about forty dollars.

So, what I paid was $60; what I saved was $75. Better than fifty percent is *always* a good deal.

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