My Great Grocery Experiment

February 15, 2007

clipcoupons.jpgPersuaded by some enthusiastic coupon clippers, I spent most of last year going from being an occasional coupon shopper to one who was nearly obssessed with coupons. How did that work for me? Here are my results.

In 2005, when I barely used coupons at all, my expenses for the year were as follows:

Groceries (food items & beverages): $4394, or $85 per week
Household (non-food things like detergent, toilet paper): $ 1713, or $33 per week
Toiletries (non-food things like deodorant, toothpaste): $420, or $8 per week

Total expenses for these three categories in 2005: $6527, or $125 per week.

Now, sometime in the early part of 2006 I decided to give this art of couponing thing a go. Based on the expert advice I received, I cut out all of the coupons (even ones I thought I would never use) and filed them alphabetically by brand name. Here are my 2006 expenses:

Groceries: $4475, or $86 per week
Household: $1513, or $29 per week
Toiletries: $483, or $9 per week

Total expenses for these three categories in 2006: $6471, or $124 per week.

Which is to say, I saved an average of $1 per week over the course of the year.  Whoo hoo.  (not!)

Some things are not reflected in the numbers above. Like the fact that I spent several hours every Sunday afternoon scouring the sale flyers to make up my shopping lists. Or that I was going to THREE different stores each week in order to maximize my “savings.” Or that many things I bought only because they were a good deal. I now have a year’s supply of toothpaste in my bathroom closet. And many of the food items I bought ended up being thrown out or given away.

So, what conclusions do I draw after all this number-crunching? What changes have I decided to make to my routine?

  1. I really, really like keeping my coupons in alphabetical order. If something is on sale that was not advertised, I can do a quick check to see if I have a coupon for it. About a week before the end of the month, I go through and pull the ones that are about to expire and sort them by category (snacks, meats, dairy, etc.). As I’m shopping from my regular list, I check to see if there are other items I should buy with those about-to-expire coupons.
  2. I no longer clip ALL of the coupons. There are some things that I will not buy, ever, even if my final cost would only be a quarter. I clip what I want and pass the rest on to my mom, who gives me all of her unclipped coupons.
  3. I only go to one store now, instead of three. SO MUCH EASIER! (Yes, the one store is Wal Mart. They have the best prices and on the rare occasion that the grocery store’s “sale” price is actually lower than theirs, they will match it.) The only time it is in my best interest to go to a grocery store instead of Wal Mart is if something is on sale at the grocery store, the Wal Mart price is higher, and I have a coupon with a face value of 50 cents or less. And even then? I’m still only making (at most) a 50 cent savings by going to the grocery store!)
  4. I love my Quicken program! It made analyzing these expenses so easy! I’ve been using Quicken since 1992 or so and I would be lost without it.


  1. Three things:
    1) I never clip coupons for things I know I will not buy. Ever. No Pop-Tarts, Totinos pizza rolls, certain brands of toilet paper, etc. etc.
    2) I never buy something just because my coupon is about to expire!
    3) I only buy things on sale that I’m low on and would need in a week or so. If I have a freezer full of boneless chicken breast, I’m not going to buy more because it’s $1.68 a pound. I know that within a month or so, one of the stores will have it on sale again and I’ll get it then.

    Sounds like the changes you’ve already made will help out this year. Walmart really does have the cheapest prices, but I do shop the other stores for their loss leaders.
    I’d love some advice and tips on using a money program like Quicken. I tried one years ago and I found it to be a pain, but that may be because I didn’t spend as much time on the computer as I do now. 🙂

  2. I’m glad to know about your experience. I’ve often berated myself because I’m not as much of a “couponer” as I feel I should be. I’m letting go of the guilt . . . :o)

  3. […] happiness with doing all of my grocery shopping at Wal Mart instead of going to three different stores was short lived.  Apparently they’ve […]

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