It all began during the Great Recession. Like so many others of our generation, those of us young and new in our careers, this period of national economic hardship hit us like a ton of bricks. Add to it the Hubs returning to graduate school full time, and we found ourselves having to watch every.single.penny. Y’all, I can’t understate how difficult our financial situation became at times. Around this time I found Southern Savers and it frankly changed my life. I dove head first into learning this couponing thing (yes, it is a verb for me) and found I could save several hundred dollars per month, and I was hooked. Now, years later, because I formed a habit, I still coupon aggressively and these principles guide my shopping and therefore my menu planning. I can’t share how I cook, or menu plan, or even eat, without sharing how I shop.
Through the years I have streamlined my systems and below I share my four key principles.
1. Never need anything.
This one is huge. When you need an item (this means you run out of an item) you are forced to pay full price. Never paying full price is key principle #2. Now I’m not saying I do not, on occasion need, a staple item (think salt and pepper) (and I have mom brain moments) and we run out of something, but I try to keep all of our essentials stocked. If you have ever seen the show Extreme Couponing, you have seen people take the concept of a stockpile to hoarder proportions. I do NOT do that! I buy enough of an item to get my family through about 6-8 weeks (a sale cycle), and that is all.
2. Never pay full price.
Everything goes on sale at some point and you want to buy at that time! For most grocery and household items, this sale cycle is about every 6-8 weeks. Some things are less frequent and fall into a more seasonal type pattern (think soup, ice cream, fruits/vegetables). My goal each week at the grocery store is to save 40-60% (off the regular price). It is for this reason, that I love buy one, get one (BOGO) sales. BOGO makes the sale price 50% off, and when I add a coupon to that sale price, I typically land closer to 60% off.
3. Plan each week’s menu based on the stocked freezer, pantry, and in-season fruits and vegetables.
As much as I despise menu planning, I still do it and I do it based on the weekly sales and what I have available in my pantry and freezer. You will find that some weeks have amazing sales and great coupons and you will come home with a trunk full of groceries. Other weeks will be focused on the produce sales and fresh dairy. Learning to roll with the sales cycles is how I ultimately found long-term success with the couponing lifestyle.
4. Focus on one grocery store, one drug store, and MAYBE one other sale.
When I first started reading Southern Savers I realized that I would quickly become overwhelmed if I tried to get every great sale item at every store, every week. It is just too much. So I chose to focus on one grocery store and one drug store. Through the years, and the advent of Amazon Prime*, along with Ibotta rebates, I have added Amazon to my regular shopping list. Because I live in Charleston, I choose to either shop at Publix or Harris Teeter for my weekly groceries, and CVS as my drug store.
Do y’all notice anything missing? Such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and Sam’s Club? That is right. I do not do big box shopping. I do best, from a financial standpoint, at the grocery store and drugstore. It is a rare occasion to find me in one of those big box stores (though I do confess a love for Hearth & Hand at Target, but that is another story).
These four principles guide my shopping each week. I’m happy to discuss any practice in more detail, so let me know if I can help!
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