Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FREE Groceries and Money Makers: the In's & Out's

I've gotten a few emails from some of our readers trying couponing for the first time. Some are experiencing the frustration of not "doing the deal" the right way and other's are experiencing the euphoria of walking out with a basket of groceries for $20 or less. There is a learning curve here. You will make mistakes. We did. (We still do!) Don't worry, there is another "deal" around the corner! Ask questions. Research how other's are taking advantage of a sale. Copy their success.

On the flip side, it is easy to get all caught up in the "it was free" feeling. Every new couponer goes through this. Have your husband or a friend help you to stay grounded. Talk with him/her about your purchases.

Be realistic about your storage/freezer space. Know that your family likes an item before you stock up on it. Stick with your family's eating habits. I never let my kids eat the real sugary cereals, but found I couldn't resist the 50c/box of cereal when I first began couponing. I bought it and then I cringed when the children chose to eat it in the morning. Mommy's error. (I've made this mistake more than once - shame on me).

Do stock up on what you will use and have the space for. I just ordered 20 Nestle Toll House Morsel Qs to go with a Rain Check from a store that had these on sale $2/bag. My 75c Q will double to $1.50 off. I will pay 50c/bag for my chocolate chips. Do we "need" 20 bags of chocolate chips? Nope. But, the next time I use them in baking I'll know this recipe cost me $3 less than it could have. Also, the shelf life on a bag of chips is several months. Besides, how often do you think the food bank gets Nestle Toll House chocolate chips?

Now, a money maker is something different all together! A money maker is always a good thing to take advantage of regardless of whether or not you need the item. If you get paid in future grocery $ to carry items out of the store -- DO IT! Donate it if you don't want it, but DO get paid to purchase it!

Most $ makers come as a result of combining (1) a Q with (2) a sale with (3) a promotion and sometimes (4) a second (overlapping) promotion. The Bertolli purchase Frugal Momma posted is a perfect example: They are on sale $2/pouch. They is also a promotion from Bertolli giving you $2 in CATs when you purchase 2. Making them $1 each. Further combine this with the $1 off Q and you get a free item, OR combine it with a $.75 Q that doubles to $1.50 and you get "paid" 50c to take 2 pouches home. FURTHER combine that with a second pomotion, the "Living Well promo" which lists the Bertolli pouches as a qualifying item in the promotion buy $30 in qualifying products get $10 back.
Here is how this becomes a $ maker. On a day when you know both promotions are overlapping:
Buy 16 pouches ($32 - you need $30 to qualify for LW - just 15 pouches, but you need to purchase in groups of 2 to get the $2 Bertolli CATs ).
Use 16 $1/1 Qs. OR, use 16 75c/1 Qs that double to $1.50 off each pouch
Pay $16+ tax. OR, pay $8
Earn (1) $10 LW Cat AND (8) $2 Bertolli CAT's.
You paid $16 (OR $8) OOP and left the store with $26 in free future groceries.
Either coupon makes this a $ maker!

If an item it is not a $ maker but is free after Qs and you don't need it, ONLY buy it if someone else could use it. My girls have put in volunteer hours at our local food pantry. Once, when I dropped them off I donated 10-15 bottles of shampoo. I was told that people on Food Stamps cannot use FS to pay for personal care items. There is a real need for H&B items in food pantries and shelters in your community.

I do not have time to run around finding every deal to benefit the local food pantry, but I am doing my own personal shopping for my family and I can spend a little extra $ on coupons from Ebay (or buy a few extra Sunday papers) and use these Qs to get 5-25 free bottles of shampoo (the name brand stuff) and then donate it. If I donated the $2 I spent on the Qs it sure wouldn't go far. I multiply my charity when I put a little work into it.

Think of all the families who will enjoy the Bertolli Summer Tomato & Basil pasta sauce instead of having the cheapest store brand tomato sauce that fits their limited budget.

Frugal Momma helped her family by slashing her future grocery spending AND she is making a generous donation of a high dollar product to a local food bank.
She reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman!