It was 1998. We had just moved to Colorado Springs where the climate was mild, the mountains were beautiful and there were all kinds of fun and wonderful things to do. Naturally then, upon moving to this great new city, what do I get excited about? The grocery stores there doubled coupons!!!!
Just before moving, I had started to try out a little bit of couponing. I had begun to realize how using coupons in the grocery store could really save money. But DOUBLE coupons? Be still my heart. (By the way…let’s all be reassured that each time I am typing the word coupon, I am expecting you to pronounce it KYOOPON. You are, aren’t you?)
Our boxes weren’t even unpacked yet when I clipped the few coupons I had and headed out to see what kinds of good deals I could get. I quickly discovered that if I watched the sales very carefully and asked everyone at church to give me the coupons they didn’t use…I could get all kinds of groceries for free or practically free.
I became quite an expert at spending almost nothingat the grocery store. People started calling me The Coupon Queen. I would come home with bag after bag after bag of groceries for $15…total! During the time we lived in Colorado, our family size grew from a family of three to a family of five. I was feeding all of us (plus a constant flow of guests) for only $100 per month. That number included the purchase all of our toiletries and paper products too.
I was awfully proud of this accomplishment. Matt was awfully proud of this accomplishment too, not to mention grateful for how much money I was saving our family.
I remember taking my friend Heather grocery shopping with me one night (because she wanted to see how I did that coupon thing I did). She was amazed at how I used coupons to save money…and also incredibly relieved to see so many processed foods go into my cart. She said to me, “Since you are a stay at home mom, I thought you were one of those people who grinds their own flour or something.” I believe my exact response was, “No way! People actually grind their own flour?!” (Yes Laura, people actually grind their own flour.)
So, what were we eating for $100/month?
Well, since my main focus was spending as little as possible and using as many coupons as I could, I tended to avoid the produce section. I hardly ever had coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables and those items seemed expensive to me. I watched for meat to go on sale, then used it very sparingly. When a recipe called for a pound of ground beef, I often just used 1/4 to a 1/2 pound instead to make the meat stretch farther.
I did believe in feeding us all fruits and vegetables at each meal, but the fruits and vegetables we ate were almost always from a can since I often had a coupon for those, or waited for them to go on sale 4/$1.00.
Therefore…my pantry was filled with boxes of Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, boxed potatoes, spaghettios, mac and cheese boxes, pop tarts, fruit snacks, cereal, canned soup…whatever I could get for free or cheap.
That became my focus. Free or cheap.
I did still make quite a bit of food from scratch (although making food from scratch has a new meaning to me now).
I was just trying to do the best I could with our small income. By spending so little on food, we were able to put a little money into savings. I was helping my family save, I was feeding others, I was having a BLAST! Using coupons was a really fun hobby!
In 2002…we moved back to Nebraska…the land of NO double coupons. NOW what would I do? What about my fun hobby? How would I afford groceries now?
To be continued…
This post is linked to Frugal Friday.