Introducing the Fizzle Grocery Coupon Experiment

There has been enormous interest around my Joyce House post recently (though the post itself is more than 2 years old) because she continues to make TV appearances to talk about using coupons for groceries. People are truly amazed at what she’s able to achieve with coupons, like getting food for a fraction of the cost or even for free.

Coincidentally, we recently became very interested in getting our own food costs down. Couponing is the natural result of this interest, and though we’ve tried it before, it was (pardon my French) a half-ass effort. We learned how to double up on coupons and the whole thing ended about there.

In light of the great interest by others in learning how to use coupons effectively, and our own interest to do the same, I’ve decided to make our learning process public and see exactly how much of a dent we can make in our food budget.

Are you interested in coming along for the ride? I’ll post an update about once a month to review our grocery spending and total saved using coupons. We’ll also compare our existing spending to our new spending to see the real difference.

The Baseline

Let’s quantify a few baselines before the experiment gets started. Since I’ll be focused exclusively on grocery spending for the duration, I’ve isolated that spending category in our registers and arrived at an average for the last 12 months. Here is our detailed spending for 2010:

  • January 2010: $121.13
  • February 2010: $131.11
  • March 2010: $204.78
  • April 2010: $370.00
  • May 2010: $451.87
  • June 2010: $461.24
  • July 2010: $636.69
  • August 2010: $378.75
  • September 2010: $338.91
  • October 2010: $417.96
  • November 2010: $330.64
  • December 2010: $354.63
  • Average grocery spending (per month): $349.81

January and February were some kind of flukes. Nevertheless, I’ll be using this average figure to compare our progress through 2011 and see whether our efforts have any measurable effects.

What Are My Goals?

Go big or go home, right? By the end of 2011, my goal is to be spending 50% less than our 2010 average. That equals to roughly $175 per month. For three people eating quality food, I think this would be fantastic, don’t you?

I have a few other guidelines to keep me honest over the next year:

  • We want to buy largely the same quality and type of food we have been eating to date. That means no junk food, snacks, pre-packaged or pre-processed foods, etc. A lot of people have reported trouble finding “healthy coupons,” so this part will be interesting.
  • We’re going to track everything, including our total grocery spending, amount saved by coupons, and also where we found the most valuable coupons and what they were for, as well as the actual cost of getting the coupons (Sunday paper, coupon books, etc.).

How Will I Start?

I’ll be getting started with the few places I’m familiar with: the Sunday paper and online coupons. I’ll search for local and national blogs that follow sales and coupon offers and scour manufacturer’s websites for deals. I’ll also purchase the paper every Sunday to review the offers there.

I already own an inexpensive coupon organizer, so using a portion of that to stash my new coupons and sort them into working categories shouldn’t be a problem.

In the meantime, I’m going to be doing research on the best strategies for coupon use and making notes. I expect that it will take at least 3-4 months to get the system going, so progress should be slow but steady.

How to Follow Along

Easy! The simplest way to get all of my posts is to subscribe to the blog. You can get all of the updates via RSS feed or directly to your email.

I’ve also set up a dedicated category for this experiment called (wait for it…) Grocery Coupon Experiment. Winking smile Just bookmark that link and you can check back in at any time for the latest postings.

Finally, I would love it if you did your own form of this experiment at home, in however small or large a form, and share your tips with me and other readers! Hopefully, we can make this a great collaborative project and help everyone along the way.

Photo by dmdonahoo

17 thoughts on “Introducing the Fizzle Grocery Coupon Experiment

  1. Thank you for doing this! This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time and this will be motivation! I know people locally that meet up and actually have couponing meetings once a week and save unbelievable amounts of money at the grocery store and local pharmacies. They also say it takes committment and can’t just be done on a whim. Look forward to seeing what comes out in your posts!

    1. Awesome, Bayah! We’ll have to share notes. Once I get things up and running, I might check out those local meetups and see what I can learn.

  2. I’m also trying to slash grocery costs. I just spent about $250 at Costco to stock up things like tp, napkins, paper towels, non-perishables etc. My goal is to literally only buy grocery items at the grocery … and when it comes to produce, I’d like to find a good farmer’s market. We’ll see how it goes! The food bill is one of the most flexible expenses in anyone’s budget, so I’m trying to trim it back.

    1. I’ve found Costco to be good even for groceries, particularly meats and refrigerated items (juice, yogurt, eggs, etc.). The meats are sometimes more than 50% less per pound than the supermarket. We just freeze & use as we go.

  3. Sounds like a plan; we’re definitely trying to cut back anywhere and everywhere. We’re in! We’ll probably start this weekend, since we’re running low on food (and funds).

  4. Good luck on your couponing journey! By far, the best deals I found are the “catch all” $5 off Publix/Sweetbay/Other grocery store coupons because those can be used in addition to any other coupons you have. Just remember to scan them first before any other coupons or else you may no longer meet the required spending amount. Keep in mind many stores accept competitor coupons, so you can still use that $5 off Sweetbay coupon even if you don’t live near a Sweetbay. Another great strategy is “stacking” whereby you use a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon for the same item. Most stores allow this unless they don’t accept any manufacturer coupons, such as Costco. The best stacking I’ve done are with BOGOs at Publix. You can use 2 manufacturer coupons and 2 store coupons while only paying for one item because the other rings up free. This often results in both items free or the store owing you money. Some people will buy things they do not need because the coupons outweigh the cost of the items. That savings rolls over to other items they may not have coupons for, such as fresh produce. Finally, if you happen to have a BOGO coupon (store or manufacturer) and the item is already on BOGO at the store, you get both items for FREE! I have a great example of stacking a BOGO that I will send if you’d like.

    1. Thanks so much for the tips! It’s a lot to get my head around, but I’m slowly getting into it! I have heard and tried stacking BOGOs before, so I’ll just have to get more diligent about searching for those deals.

  5. I look forward to reading about your process and your progress! Couponing is like a whole world in it’s own that I haven’t really explored beyond the half-ass method that you described. It’s kind of like the stock market, or getting into Jazz music, starting is the hardest part. Good luck and I’ll be following!

    1. What we really need is a good step-by-step for people who want to get into it. Maybe there’s one out there, maybe there isn’t. Maybe I’ll end up being the one who creates it…we’ll see how things go this year.

  6. This is a great idea and I will definitely be following long. Reducing our grocery bill by 50% would be huge. I wonder though, about the healthy aspect. You don’t see many coupons for fresh produce. It’s nearly always for branded junk. For my own sake I’m hoping you meet your goal so I can piggyback off that success!

  7. I think this is a great idea. One of my goals this year is to track my spending & see how much it would have cost me without coupons. Are you including toiletries; toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, etc. You’ll see a major savings in this department. Good Luck I look forward to seeing how the experiment goes.

    1. Kelly–not officially, since the best hard numbers I have for the last 12 months are groceries. That’s why I decided to focus on that specifically. However, since I’ve seen what Joyce House can do with all that personal care stuff, it WILL be a by-product of my coupon searches, so we’ll hopefully see a decrease in that spending in our overall budget.

  8. I spend more money on groceries then anything else, it’s ridiculous! Thank you for doing this project, even if I could save a small percentage it would help tremendously. I am ready!!!!!

  9. I long ago subscribed to Coupon Mom and still get the weekly emails but haven’t quite figured it out yet. However, on the site, you can look up for example, Publix, and then there is the complex code that tells you that X item is on sale and that in the Weekly coupon flyer there is a coupon for it and then in the store flyer there is another coupon and then tells you the net price. I haven’t put myself to pay attention yet enough to figure it out, but maybe you can give it a try! Also to look to Walgreens and CVS and the like for certain items, even milk or eggs if they have them on sale. GOOD LUCK!

    1. Great tips, thanks! A lot of people have emailed me awesome websites to visit, so I’m a little overwhelmed. There’s an abundance of good information out there.

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