Save on your grocery bill with tips from coupon-clipping moms

Local money-saving Web sites have it down to a science

bgutierrez@idahostatesman.comMarch 7, 2009 

0310 life thriftymom 1

Caldwell mother Sarah Barrand, who blogs at athriftymom.com, scours Albertsons looking for the best deals. On this particular trip, she left with $77.17 worth of groceries but paid just $21.71. She also received a $10-off coupon for a future visit. “The first couple of times I was so embarrassed to bring this thing with me,” she said of her coupon binder. “Now it's like my kid.”

JOE JASZEWSKI — Joe Jaszewski / jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

"Last month I bought $888.10 worth of groceries for $147.04. I saved $741.06, and I have $18.41 in rebates coming back, and $35.50 in Catalina coupons (check-out coupons that offer incentives good on your next shopping trip to that retailer), which I can use as cash on anything I want," said Sarah Barrand, wife, mother of three and a blogger.

Impressive? You bet. But it's not like Barrand just woke up one day and decided to start clipping coupons.

"Couponing isn't about getting the Sunday paper and just clipping the few coupons you think you might need," Barrand said. "I clip every single coupon that comes my way, and then I organize them so when the store is doing a sale or the manufacturer is doing a special, I'm able to buy all of my groceries for 50 percent off, if not for free.

"Clipping coupons and just throwing them in your purse is a waste of time because if you don't use the coupon with the sale, the item may not be worth buying," she added. "If I can find a sale, and a rebate and a coupon, then I can get the item for free or even get paid to buy the item."

Barrand, 28, a stay-at-home mother in Caldwell, spends hours a day researching, shopping and seeking out the best deals. And she's sharing all her hard work for free online at athriftymom.com.

"I started the blog mainly as a goal for myself," she said. "I'm terrified to try new things, and I was terrified to try couponing. But then as I started doing it more, it got to the point where I was spending so many hours on the phone telling people about how to use coupons. So I started the blog mainly for friends and family, and then they passed it along to friends and family."

Recently, blog reader Jeanette Byers purchased Reynold's Wrap, razors, Theraflu, a selection of candy bars, Oust odor eliminator and Zucol cold medicine for just $4 using coupons at Walgreen's.

"I wouldn't be able to do this without multiple coupons," Byers said. "It is really helping our family stock up in a way we never have before."

While Barrand does the research and shopping, her husband of eight years, Matt, a nurse, helped with the technical end of creating the blog and updates the links.

After the first five weeks, athriftymom.com averages 1,000 readers and 3,000 page views a day.

Coupon Web sites have taken off lately, with coupon-clipping moms from all over the country sharing tips, freebies and printable coupons to maximize your grocery dollar.

Katie Givens, 27, of Meridian, calls herself the Krazy Coupon Lady and started a Web site by the same name in November.

"I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, and have two kids - a 3-year-old little boy, and a 1-year-old little girl," Givens said.Ê"It's just taken off."

With coupon basics, local store policies on coupons, and price lists for Winco bulk foods and Costco items, the Krazy Coupon Lady blog averages about 1,200 hits per day, drawing readers from Boise and beyond.

A recent blog post shows how Givens saved 84 percent on her February grocery bill - spending $171.44 (for a family of four) on $954.53 worth of groceries.

"It's incredible these days," Givens said. "You can't walk into a store without seeing someone with coupons. I love it and love that so many people are learning great ways to save money."

Barrand was raised adhering to thrifty living.

"Growing up, I lived on a dairy farm, and my mom taught us to be thrifty," Barrand said. "We made things last. We reused things. So when I got married, we were both working, and we had debt to pay off, and we had a grocery budget of $30 a week, or some weeks it was $15, because we wanted to get out of debt, so that's what we had to do. So I started to learn to coupon."

And with the latest economic woes and increasing job loss, money-saving Web sites are attracting thousands.

"Couponing isn't for everybody," she said. "There's a time and a place. But as people are losing their jobs and the uncertainty of the economy is all around them, they may be thinking: 'How am I going to make this $100 stretch, or put something in to my savings in case I get laid off next week?' "

If you're new to couponing, start small and keep it simple, to make it worth your while, Barrand said.

"Nobody is going to use coupons if it's not easy," she said. "But if you can walk into a store and buy $100 worth of groceries for $30 or $10 or for free, it will start to make sense. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I'm still really busy. And if it wasn't worth my time, I wouldn't be doing it. I have to be organized.

"I'm happy anytime I save 50 percent. That's my goal - to get my necessities and my must-have items for 50 percent off," Barrand added. "So while it may be hard to find a coupon for broccoli, I'm OK with that because I got my toilet paper for 10 cents."

Brenda Gutierrez: 377-6440

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