Today, I have a confession to make.
By the time my youngest daughter was born, I had a full year’s worth of Similac formula stockpiled. I also had almost 100 packs of various brands and sizes of diapers. Of course, I had no idea if my baby would be allergic to Similac or not, and I didn’t know if she would be able to use a particular diaper brand.
I also didn’t care. I had been sucked into the world of extreme couponing.
The Lure of Extreme Couponing
Over the years, I had been a casual coupon user, but I really stepped it up a notch while pregnant with my second daughter. While it’s true that most women “nest” during pregnancy, I became a woman possessed.
I was consumed with having anything and everything that I could possibly need for my baby. I wanted mass quantities. Nay, I needed them! I even bought extra shelving units to keep up with my new obsession.
During this pregnancy, I even did a lot of coupon trading. I traded at a few different internet sites, which is how I got over 300 coupons for Similac formula. Each $5 coupon would almost pay for a quart of Similac at most stores. We spent our evenings and weekends going to Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and Target. These stores only allowed us to buy small quantities at a time, so we had to spread our purchases out over days and weeks.
Time Equals Savings
I also amassed large quantities of other items during this time – body wash, soap, cereal, razors, shampoo, and toilet paper. At the time, it didn’t seem excessive at all. Each coupon purchase became a chance to spend as little as possible for as many items as possible. It didn’t seem to matter what I was getting – or how many I was getting – as long as they were free or nearly free. Hours were spent cutting and organizing the coupons. I even got one of those coupon binders to organize them all.
My husband would often find me organizing and reorganizing baby supplies for hours on end. Stacking things up… lining my items in neat rows… I lived for this. I loved it, and I couldn’t get enough.
My husband played along because – well – he was scared not to. I had a mission in mind, and he was wise not to interfere. Who could blame him? What man would be brave enough to get between a pregnant hoarder’s diapers and formula? No man that I know.
Once my second daughter was born, things began to change. Luckily, she was able to drink Similac and use any brand of diapers. But, I began to notice that I didn’t have time to cut, organize, and plan these intricate coupon purchases. I began to lose interest and got back to my casual coupon roots.
When I look back at that time, I feel horrified and proud at the same time. I am proud that I paid approximately $75 for a year’s worth of formula for my baby. I am also proud that I didn’t have to buy diapers over her entire first year of life. At the same time, I am horrified at the excessive hours I spent planning my coupon binges, relentlessly scouring blogs for upcoming sale tips.
These days, I typically use a few coupons on each shopping trip. Sometimes I forget to cut them out or bring them with me, but I no longer lose sleep over it. There are still plenty of ways to save money on groceries and personal care items that don’t involve cutting and using coupons. Here’s my list of easy and universal ways to save:
Easy Ways to Save on Groceries Without Coupons
Buy What is On Sale
If chicken is on sale and you eat it often, buy a few extra packs for meals in between sales cycles. If certain kinds of produce are on sale, buy them and incorporate them into your meals. If what you want is not on sale, don’t buy it. Wait until it goes on sale to indulge.
When you cook, make enough so you have leftovers for at least another dinner at home. Then be sure to eat them! Throwing good food away is wasteful and is definitely not frugal.
Leftover chicken from last night would go great on a salad for tomorrow’s dinner. Use your leftover pot roast to make beef vegetable soup the next day. There are websites all over the internet with helpful advice on how to use leftovers. Use them! Or, try subscribing to a cheap meal plan like this one.
Go Meatless, at Least Part of the Time
Vegetarian spaghetti is a cheap and easy meal that most families enjoy. Salads and pizzas taste great without meat. If you insist on eating meat, eat smaller portions and you will save money.
Eat Breakfast for Dinner
My kids love scrambled eggs, toast, and pancakes. Not only are these things easy to make, but they are also cheap.
Keep it Simple
Sometimes it can be impractical to make a fancy dinner if you have worked all day. While I don’t think meal delivery services are worth it, don’t be afraid to keep it simple, especially with little kids. Have peanut butter and jelly with fruit, crackers and cheese, or macaroni for dinner.
I have to admit, I benefited from my days of extreme couponing for quite a while. I didn’t buy toilet paper for over a year. I had over 50 containers of laundry detergent stashed in my stockpile. At one time, I even had enough floss to span the entire United States.
And although I have finally had to start buying razors and soap again, I’m now shopping in moderation. I have learned that you can save plenty of money just by buying things when they are on sale… and avoiding them when they are not. Yes, using coupons is still fun, but I’ve learned that saving time is often as important as saving money. After all, I’m still a girl who loves to save – in every way possible.
Have you ever been into extreme couponing? Was it worth it to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!