Couponing- Was it really worth it?


I would say the jury is still out on the benefits of couponing within a whole foods diet. Here’s how my savings went on Saturday:


Seventh Generation Dish Soap– $3.89 (with advantage card)
$1.00 off coupon here
Total- $2.89

Darigold 8 oz Sour Cream– $1.59
$0.40 off coupon (in-store dispenser)
Total- $1.19

Total before coupons- $5.97
Total after coupons- $4.43
Saved: $1.54

Sadly, that was all that I bought there. There was supposed to be Organic Valley Butter on sale for $3.99, which I also had coupons for and really wanted to buy several of. The particular store that I went to didn’t have any, and didn’t even seem like they carried it at all! I also contemplated buying the XXL Ziploc storage bags (I use them for storing my children’s too-small clothes), which were on sale and I had a coupon for, but wondered if they were cheaper at Walmart (they weren’t). Nothing else was a great deal, so I gathered coupons from the dispensers in the aisles, and moved on to Walmart.


Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour (5 lbs)- $2.88 (I use this for baking for others, as we have wheat sensitivities)
$1/1 coupon here
$1.88 after coupon

Wacky Mac Pasta (for Christmas hamper)- $1.26
$0.50 off coupon here
$0.76 after coupon

Progresso Canned Soup (for Christmas hamper)
Regular $2.50 each. In-store sale 2/$3, plus $1 off 2 coupon here (actually, this coupon is slightly better than what I used)
$1.00 each

Green Giant Frozen Broccoli (we rarely buy frozen, but it might come in handy in the winter- what I really wanted was the Cascadian Farm Organic Frozen Veggies, but this Walmart didn’t seem to carry them, so I settled for Green Giant instead)
On sale for $1.00 each, minus coupon for $0.50 off (slightly different coupon here)
$0.50 each

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda– 2 lb box- $1.14
$1 off 2 boxes here
$0.57 per box

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda– 1 lb box- $0.54
$1 off 2 boxes here
$0.04 per box

Muir Glen Organic Canned Tomatoes– 28 oz can- $1.83
$1/1 coupon here and here
$0.83 each

Goody Ouchless Hair Products– $2.12- $3.18 each (the ones I bought, anyways)
$2/1 coupon here
$0.12 or $1.18 each

Kotex Thin Pantiliners (small box)- $1.00 (I’m transitioning to cloth pads, but these are still good to have on hand)
$0.75 off coupon here
$0.25 a box

Pure and Natural Soap Bars– $3.37 for a 2 pack
$1 off coupon (per bar) here
$1.37 for 2 bars

Quilted Northern Toilet Paper (12 double rolls)- $6.00
$1.00 off coupon here

Sensitive Baby Wipes (small package)- $1.97 (not on sale, I just needed them being away from home!)

Total before coupons: $47.18
Total after coupons: $28.09
Saved: $19.09

(I should also mention that I should have actually spent $2 less, but the cashier rang up some coupons wrong. The lineup was already slow, and I had been shopping for a long time, so I let it go. Oh well.)

I was fairly happy with my Walmart Shop. I think I’ve got enough baking soda to last a couple of years! I was pleased to get the soap bars, as I needed more soap for the kids and also to get the Goody hair stuff, since I’m running out of hair elastics and really needed a new comb, plus I got two packages of nice ponytail holders for Abbie’s stocking. The Muir Glen tomatoes were a great deal, and though I still have plenty from my own canning that I did this fall, they won’t last me all year and it’s always worth it to stock up my pantry. The pastas, soups and flour are nice to have for giving to others, or doing baking for those who might not appreciate spelt or barley flour! It was also great to get the 7th Generation dish soap, for about 1/2 what I’d pay for it in Canada!

So was it really worth it?
I’m not sure. Preparing to do this took me a lot of time. A. lot. of. time. Wow. It’s hard to say whether it’s worth it to put so much time and effort into something that saves me only a very small portion of my grocery budget, compared to all the bulk grains, fresh produce, local meat, eggs and dairy, etc. that I buy.

Now, I’m sure that it gets easier and faster all the time. I’m sure that I would develop systems for finding and printing my coupons, for organizing and storing them, for choosing which stores to shop at and figuring out what the deals were, and then working my way through the store. All of those things were new and a bit too long-winded for my tastes, although it was a bit of a fun diversion for awhile.

I did definitely save money- around $20 off of just under $55 worth of stuff. Not bad for a first time!

The things that I bought were mostly things that I would buy anyways, though a few weren’t. I loved the idea that others shared about using deals they find on products they wouldn’t normally buy, in order to have more to give to others, and I did pick up a few things to give away. I also spent a bit of money on things that I wouldn’t have bought right now except for this experiment, though I was happy to get them for a deal (Goody’s products, Kotex, frozen broccoli, soooo much baking soda!).

One thing I noticed that I didn’t like: When you’re buying with coupons, it often makes sense to buy the smallest package available. This is simply because you are more likely to get it for free or for mere pennies, than when just taking $1 off of a larger sized product. So, you find lots of coupons and stock up on more of the smaller packages. This bothers me in the sense of wastefulness and buying so much packaging.

Also, it’s just not always a good deal, even if it seems cheap. For instance, I considered buying olive oil, which I need right now. To make the oil a decent price, I was looking at the smaller bottles. But even with coupons, they added up to much more than what I pay when I buy it in large tins (3 L). In fact, even the mid-sized bottles, cheaper per ounce than the small bottles plus the coupon I had, were still more expensive than my large, regular-priced tin (when you look at cost per ounce or litre). In the end, I decided that some things are definitely going to be worth it to buy in bulk, almost no matter what.

Lastly, I really, really disliked having to spend so much paper and ink printing up the online coupons. If I lived there, I would work hard to find printed coupons in the newspaper, etc. rather than printing them up myself (though there are definitely good deals to be had on the web).

Some final thoughts
I will try this once more, now an ever-so-slightly more seasoned couponer! We’ll be back down for a week at Christmas, and I will spend some time preparing before we go down, and then spend a morning shopping once I get there.

I signed up for a QFC card, and am excited to use my card number to download online coupons, not only store coupons but also from coupon inserts, like the P&G Saver. I may also give CellFire a try, if I can use it with my hubby’s cell. I’m definitely into the idea of digital coupons, for ease of use and less coupon printing.

I’m so grateful to Money Saving Mom, for sooo many of the coupon alerts, links and tips I found there! For those who live in the US, it really is a fantastic site for finding deals, so thanks Crystal!

My next step… see if any of this might work on my side of the border (Canada)! I was pleased to see how I could shave a few bucks off of the items that I do actually buy at the regular store, and would like to see how that could transfer over to my local stores, though there are definitely a few kinks to work out first. More to come, for sure!

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  1. Well done on the savings! In my opinion couponing here in New Zealand isn’t worth the effort unless you happen to find one for something you were already going to buy. You would end up making too many compromises and buying things you wouldn’t usually, in order to get any ‘savings’. Some people find out all the weekly instore specials for each supermarket and drive to them all to buy the cheapest product at each, but once again I find this false economy by the time you take into account petrol costs and time!

  2. Good job! It does become easier after you do it for awhile, although it will always take some effort and time.

    I’ve found that I can almost always get frozen veggies for free or nearly free with coupons.

    The buying all the small containers has bothered me too. Sometimes, I get free items from couponing that I would not normally buy or eat and there is just so much packaging. My recycling bin gets full much too quickly!

    I coupon and try to eat pretty healthfully. I’ve found that I save a lot more and use more coupons on health and beauty products than food. I have CVS in my area and get almost everything but food for almost free. I use the money saved to buy a few more organics.

  3. Good job! You’ll never know if something works for you until you try it 🙂

    I’m in NC and it helps tremendously that our grocery stores double and triple coupons. Some of those items you mentioned from your Wal-mart trip – Wacky Mac, Green Giant, Muir Glen, Kotex – I’ve gotten free with double or triple coupon promotions.

    Personally, I’ve come to a very good place with my couponing (spending less time and making healthier choices). Our diet has actually improved greatly. I’m able to save so much on household and personal care items, that I can devote more of our grocery money to fresh foods and organics.

  4. This has nothing to do with the post but I wanted to ask you if you knew of someone who has a really large family and eats whole, natural foods or vegetarian. I am finding nothing out there and really interested in finding out some tips for our large family. Nine children ages 21 – 2 with one more on the way and only one of them out of the house so far.


  5. In my experience coupons are not worth the time and effort when trying to buy healthy foods. I have a friend who is a coupon-a-holic, she spends hours each week cutting multiple newspapers of coupons, and ends up with plenty of free stuff, most of which she ends up giving away because she doesn’t need it. For us, with our specific food needs, Aldi, Sam’s Club, and our local wholesale organic foods place are MUCH cheaper though I check between them to for sales.

  6. Christi, I really don’t know! I tend to run across either big families who don’t talk much about nutrition or healthy cooking, or blogs of smaller families who do. Congrats on your new little one, though!

    Does anyone else have a recommendation?

    Rebekah, practically all of my coupons were online printable ones. I grabbed a few from store dispensers once I was already shopping, but that was really it. I found most of them through and links on posts, as well as by googling things like “toilet paper coupon”.

  7. Well done on the savings! In my opinion couponing here in New Zealand isn’t worth the effort unless you happen to find one for something you were already going to buy. You would end up making too many compromises and buying things you wouldn’t usually, in order to get any ‘savings’.

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