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.
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. 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