Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am oddly obsessed with grocery shopping. I enjoy the act of grocery shopping, but strangely love talking about it too. My husband can recall times throughout our marriage, where I have called him at the office just to let him know what produce I decided to buy. Kindly, he’d listen, but I knew at the time that it was one of my idiosyncrasies he has chosen to overlook.
I couldn’t sleep the other night. I foolishly ordered a Diet Coke with dinner and although I was able to fall asleep, two hours later I was wide-awake.
I turned on our bedroom television and was glued to the show that popped up on Channel 50. TLC’s Extreme Couponing was airing and I was fixated on the characters in the show.
Ah, the lengths they would go to. One woman had an entire portion of her home dedicated to coupon clipping and storing the mass tons of goods she’d purchase. Bins upon bins of Crest Scope-flavored toothpaste and Barilla Picollini; mass amounts of Febreeze lavender scent and a lifetime supply of Kids Cuisine frozen dinners.
I couldn’t believe this woman’s stash – it was unfathomable that she took so much time to clip and store and file and plan. Her entire week was mapped around the organization of getting a deal. The show followed this lady through the five-hour shopping trip and 10 packed shopping carts later, she endured a two-hour check out. Seven sales people helped her unload her goods into two SUVs and then she and her husband had the workout of their lives unloading the cars. I was exhausted just watching them.
But I was hung on the idea that even though this woman spent hours upon hours organizing, she saved big. Her bill totaled $1,290, but it only cost her $50.58. Now I know this is extreme, hence the name of the show, but still!
While doing my weekly shop in Belmont last week, I watched another mom coupon shopping, aisle-to-aisle. She was systematic. She’d first choose an item, flip open her transparent mini-accordion coupon file, read the voucher, place the item in her cart and file the coupon in her Safeway cart’s drink holder.
She was so normal, so organized and uniquely made the couponing game look hassle-free and by the looks of her sizeable cart, quite fruitful!
I began following her, watching how she methodically went about her shopping trip. I tracked her moves until I felt as though she was on to me, so I hung a left down the pet food aisle. I found this humorous because if she had complained of a grocery stalker, the evidence against me would be palpable, as I have no pets.
All this exposure to couponing piqued my interest, so I thought I would try to clip a few coupons and see where it got me. Who knows, maybe I could save enough for that ridiculously expensive pair of designer jeans I’ve been eyeing. Besides, couponing is about as “mom” a thing to do as the PTA.
I began my quest. I clipped from the Sunday paper, read that week’s Safeway ad and clipped the Friday Five. I was armed with a sparkly new coupon file and I took some time organizing. I had food items in one place, household cleansers in another, random foods I have never tried but have wanted to and miscellaneous.
I was armed with an extensive grocery list, with notes reminding me of the items I hoped to buy with my coupons, as well as a list of dinners I planned to cook that week. I was methodical; I looked at the item, my coupons, slipped them in my cart’s drink holder… In my frugal frenzy, I even took advantage of Club Card deals too. It seemed easy enough.
I was ready for check out. I brought to the register my cart stocked with my food choices for the week, including items for T-Ball snack and school lunches. I felt in control, prepared and productive. I wouldn’t be back at the store for a week at least!
But when I got the register and proudly handed over my seven coupons (yes, for some reason I only used seven of my 85 coupons!), my charge was $50 greater than my weekly average… how did that happen?
When I looked at my bill, I had saved $7.56 with my paper coupons. Subtract the cost of my new mini-accordion file and I really only saved $5. Yes, $5. Five dollars for the time it took me to clip, plan and execute. Five dollars for the effort it took to track down a cute mini-accordion file.
When I got home and unloaded, I realized I had few of the food staples my family and I use, unless we were having potato chip sandwiches on English Muffins and canned corn.
I unloaded four boxes of cereal, four bags of Doritos, four 12-packs of soda, two 16-packs of GoGurts, two large-packs of String Cheese, a two-pack of Thomas’ English Muffins, three boxes of Eggo waffles … and a ton of other random things I bought thinking I was saving.
I should have called TLC to follow me around the store. Instead of their show titled “What Not to Wear,” my show could have been “What Not to Do.”
Couponing is tough. I guess TLC is ahead of the game with its extreme couponing show. But there might be some benefit to the network exploring a possible precursor relationship between couponing and hoarding. Perhaps that’s another late-night episode.
Oh, and I was at the store two days later with a new list of family staples in tow and no coupons.