By Coupon Sherpa, http://www.couponsherpa.com/
Stephanie Nelson is founder of CouponMom.com, a free grocery saving website started in 2001 that now enjoys a 3-million membership. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two teenage sons.
We asked Stephanie to share her coupon wisdom with us. Read on for more.
You wrote the book “The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half,” a New York Times bestseller. Tell us a bit about it.
The book is a comprehensive guide to getting the most for your food dollar, from learning how to be a strategic shopper by combining sales, promotions and coupons to getting the most value in the meat, dairy and produce departments with other types of savings strategies. It also covers strategies for saving beyond the supermarket, such as warehouse clubs, dollar stores, discount stores and natural food stores. It has had a great response from readers and many people have said that they started by checking it out from the library and ended up buying a copy to use as a reference book.
It looks like you’ve turned couponing into a full-time profession. How did this come about?
I’ve used coupons to help save on my own groceries for nearly 20 years, and began teaching others how to do it 10 years ago in an effort to increase food donations to our local food pantry that had a food shortage. I would figure out the best coupon deals at our local stores each week and post that information on a website to make it easy for others to get the deals too.
You advise consumers to change the way they buy the food they like, not change the way they eat. What steps should they take to do this?
The three steps to strategic shopping are to “know prices,” “know store savings programs,” and “know coupons.” If you pay attention to the prices of your common items each week, you’ll notice a cycle of high-to-low prices. Once you know the low price point, you can stock up on each item when it hits that point. When you know how your store promotions and coupon policies work, you can combine those with low prices to save even more. And when you know where to find coupons and use them along with sale prices and promotions, then you’ve mastered strategic shopping. You’re getting the same food items, you are just buying them differently to save 50 percent or more.
Which merchants offer the best and easiest-to-use coupons?
I focus on grocery stores, and the national chains like Kroger and Safeway have done a great job of offering a wide variety of coupons: electronic, printable, register coupons, in-store display coupons and of course, they accept newspaper coupons.
How should online, downloadable and mobile coupons figure into a shopper’s strategy?
Strategic shoppers should get in the habit of checking CouponMom.com for new printable and electronic coupons every week when they make their shopping list.
Non-coupon question: You’ve worked with a lot of major media, from “Oprah” to the “NBC Nightly News.” How do you stay so cool and calm while being interviewed?
That makes me laugh! Actually, I play a little mental game whenever I go on TV. I think how lucky I am that I get to spend a few minutes with this famous person, and imagine that the two of us are just chatting, without the cameras. If I let myself get nervous, then I’d miss out on that.
Coupon Sherpa is the penny pinching, coupon clipping, deal digging, Himalayan haggling, he-man of bargains. Visit http://www.couponsherpa.com/ for more shopping advice, insider tips, and coupons.