WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

JoAnne's couponing story: Income cut in half!

Posted June 6, 2013


JoAnne's story is the 13th couponing journey we are sharing in our weekly series about how couponing works at your house. She started couponing 3 years ago after her husband lost his job and they were down to one income with a family of 4. She has very good advice on how to build your stockpile. Here is her story and how she makes couponing work in her home.

My great thanks to JoAnne for sharing her story!

I also want to thank everyone who has sent me their stories so far! I look forward to sharing them every week.

If you would like to share your couponing story, it's not too late. Just send me an answer to the questions below at  We would love to read your story!  To see the previous stories, click the links in the box above. As long as you all keep sending in your personal couponing stories, I will post them on the blog for everyone to enjoy.

Here is JoAnne's couponing journey:

How many people are in your household?
We are a family of 4 including 2 teenage boys.

Why did you start couponing? In June 2010 my husband lost his job. I was in a total panic because we were already living paycheck to paycheck and I had no idea how we would survive without his income. I knew from experiences with my own father that older workers struggled to get jobs in recessions and my husband also has a slowly progressing disability. I knew unemployment was going to be a long term problem for us. I knew we would have to get radical to survive (and thrive) on my income alone.

How long have you been couponing? I turned to couponing after reading about people who were spending $70-100/week on groceries. I have been couponing ever since.

How much do you spend on groceries and non-food essentials per week? I spend about $100 per week on groceries/toiletries/cleaning supplies.

How much do you save each week? I don't calculate my savings % but I was spending $150/week, shopping mainly at Walmart in May 2010 so I guess I have cut my budget by about a third-even though I now have teenagers (and their friends) who eat alot more.

How much time do you spend couponing and shopping each week? I think it is hard to calculate how much time I spend couponing because I do it in small amounts of time.

How do you organize your coupons? I use a binder to organize my coupons. I clip my coupons on Sunday night & throw them in an envelope I keep in my binder. I take my left over coupons to work where I trade with co-workers. I usually get plenty of coupons for the things I want but I do occasionally order from a clipping service for things I really want to stockpile. I usually pull expired coupons & file new coupons in the car when I am waiting (in car line, picking up from an activity that is running long, etc).

Where do you shop for groceries and non-food essentials? Harris Teeter and Aldi's are my favorite stores. I very rarely hit Walmart anymore though I do go every 2-3 months to pick up items that never seem to go on sale (ie: white whole wheat flour). Some weeks I only go to Aldi's & Harris Teeter. Some weeks I hit alot more stores (Kroger, Food Lion, Walmart, Lowes) I look at all the store's sales every week to cherry pick for my stockpile. I am lucky because I have all of these stores less than 15 min from my house and I pass the majority of them daily.

Do you have a weekly/monthly grocery planning/shopping routine? My routine is: Wed when the sales come out I start looking at what is a good buy & planning how I want to spend my food budget that week. I never shop til the Friday email comes out and I check the weekend specials.  I try to do my major shop early Saturday morning.

Do you do any meal planning? I look in my pantry & fridge, then I make out my weekly menu using what I have & what is on sale that week. I list all ingredients that I need to buy. I also list everything I have decided to buy for my stockpile that week. As time goes on, I need less & stockpile more. If I have recipes I want to make I start looking for those ingredients to go on sale rather than add them to my buy list.

What’s the worst part about couponing? I would say that the worst part of couponing is that it is endless-it is easy to fall behind with organizing and get into paper chaos!

What’s the best part about couponing? The best part is the thrill of the hunt for bargains. It is like a giant game and it is thrilling to get stuff free or really cheap that I want to buy anyway. I don't save coupons for stuff I don't want so I pass up alot of free stuff.

Do you have a stockpile? Storage space is at a premium at our house (no garage or basement and no extra freezer) so I am very particular about what goes into my stockpile.

Do you have any words of wisdom for someone just getting started in couponing? My words of wisdom would be that it takes time to get good at couponing. You have to figure out what is a great price for the products you buy and build your stockpile. The "secret" is the stockpile and never paying full price-for some items that means buying all you need for months at a time. If something is free or really cheap I try to get as much as I will use before the expiry dates. My main regret is that I lived paycheck to paycheck for so many years before I figured this out!


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  • raesmom1612 Jun 6, 2013

    I love your meal planning ideas and the fact that it leads to a bigger stockpile for you......i'll learn someday lol

  • jdouglas13 Jun 6, 2013

    JoAnne, thanks for sharing your story. Wow, there are so many similarities between our stories from living paycheck to paycheck to layoffs. I have also found that the longer I stockpile, the less I need to buy. I am grateful that, for the most part, I can cook from my stockpile for weeks at a time now.

    We are still living from check to check, but our income is a small fraction of what it once was. We've learned how to be frugal and make it work, and even be able to splurge on some reggiano parm every once in a while. :)

  • corbin04 Jun 6, 2013

    Thank you for sharing Joanne! Feeding two teenage boys on a tight budget is no easy feat!

  • TJ84 Jun 6, 2013

    JoAnne, I agree with you on the worst part and the best part of couponing. If you fall behind it does take a while to catch back up and it's like a treasure hunt looking for the bargains! Great story.