Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rules of Couponing and Building a Stockpile

I was a lucky kid. I had 3 sets of grandparents. This was because one of my biological parents died when I was very young and I got to be adopted by another parent. So, I had 3 sets of grandparents. Two of those sets of grandparents were active preparedness and self sufficiency practitioners. Meaning that two sets of my grandparents, not ironically the two sets I was most familiar with, did things like garden, can their own food, and practice food storage and stockpiling.

Today, when we hear the word "stockpile", we think of hoarders. That's because this lifestyle went out in the early 80's with modern convenience. But, some of us still practice it. FEMA now recommends that you have at least 3 days of food and water in your house. I think that's a pathetically low estimate to shoot for. After 3 days, if the disaster is bad enough, you're screwed. Have a 72 hour kit, you say? Okay, I'll admit, I've got a 72 hour kit. Wanna know what it's for? It's for me getting the hell out of dodge, as they say. If I'm relying on that 72 hours worth that FEMA recommends, it means that shit has gotten bad enough for me to GTFO, so to speak.

No, my grandparents would never have sat back on their laurels with only 72 hours of supplies on hand. I can imagine the panic attacks they would have had just being that low on supplies. The apples don't fall far from the trees as they say, and my brother and I both practice preparedness and stockpiling. We don't hoard, we can actually walk through our homes and if you were to enter one of them you wouldn't really know we actually had food storage or stockpiles.

I don't do couponing the way that you see on reality TV. I don't go into the CVS, mainly because we don't even have a CVS, and come out with 17 lugs of Arm and Hammer. I don't walk into the store and load up a cart with $300 worth of groceries and walk out after paying only $11. First of all, you can't even do that here. We don't have enough grocery stores and places to shop to do that. We have Walmart, United and Dollar General. And, we stay the hell out of Dollar General, more on that later.

Here are my rules and ways of couponing and stockpiling.

1. Don't Shop During Peak Hours

Nothing pisses off an entire checkout line full of people like a woman and her coupons. Couponers are second class citizens these days. The reason for that is all the trash TV like Extreme Couponing that give honest couponers a bad name. It's all good if you take up people's time because your debit card magnetic strip is worn out and it won't read your card. Or if you take up other people's time freaking out over your EBT card, or even having them do a price check on all 400 items in your cart at the cashier. But, if you pull out a wad of coupons here, you might as well have announced to the entire store that Jesus Christ never existed. And, by the way, the machine never wants to scan the coupons. It takes the cashier like a minute and a half on each coupon to get the shitty machine to scan it. How do you make that worse? Shop at 5 o'clock on a Friday night. Or at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Hell on Earth.

I shop during non peak hours only. Lately, that's been 9am on Thursday mornings. However, that's about to change because apparently there are more unemployed people hanging out in the stores than usual lately. It was packed today. That ain't right. I've also shopped after 9pm on a Sunday. By far the best time, I'll probably return to that. Bottom line is, the only time I consider it okay to even enter a store during a peak time or during any kind of rush event, is when it's an emergency.

2. Only Two Coupons For the Same Item Per Trip

We don't have extremers here in my neck of the woods. It's not possible to do that here, so I've never seen one. However, I can only imagine that gnashing of teeth involved with being behind a person in a checkout line who's got 70 coupons for the same item. Not only that, but shelf clearing is not okay, ever. I buy two like items with coupons at one time, never more than that. If I've got more coupons and it's a great deal, I do back later for two more. Never more than two.

3. Don't.Buy.Coupons!

Most of the coupon fraud going on right now is a direct result of people purchasing coupons from clipping services and ebay. I don't do it and I don't condone it. I print my coupons (this might be changing since coupons printed at home are even harder to scan than the regular newspaper coupons) and get them from the Sunday paper. I pay for 3 Sunday papers a week. This is more than enough coupons for me.

4. Don't Stress About My Percentage Saved

Times are tough. I know that. But, you know what? Adults were saying this when I was 6. That was in 1977. Times have always been tough. That's part of life. My goal is to save money. However, my goal is not to reduce my grocery bill 90%. In fact, I almost consider that highway robbery. I'm not opposed to paying for my groceries, I would just like a moderate discount.

That said, if I happen to end up getting free stuff along the way, I consider that a win. But, I am in no way aiming for free anything. It's not really even possible here, except for maybe once in a blue moon, so, I don't sweat it.

5. Buy Only What Is On Sale

This takes time. If I had more stores to pick from, this would have been easier to do. There is an initial investment to build a stockpile. And, until you actually have a stockpile, you will be paying full price for almost everything. Meal planning based on sales works, but it can work better if you have a stockpile. Today, my shopping list is built on 85% sale items. But, I didn't start out that way. I started out buying extras of everything we use. 

If I was buying toothpaste that week, I bought two. Sometimes three. If I was buying cans of tomato sauce, I bought 5. After awhile, I noticed that since I had been building the stockpile based on our menus, I had a store built up and I could add more sale items to the list. Now, I build the list almost entirely out of sale items. The items on it that aren't on sale are usually on one of my prep lists and I need to start getting them.

I do my sale lists a bit differently. I can't just write down a sale item on a list and go buy it from the store it's on sale at. If I did that, I would not be saving the maximum amount of money that I could save. Instead, I add whatever is on the United Supermarket sale ad to my list. I also write down on it the price. If I can get a better deal at Walmart, then I get it there. Sometimes, I don't get the brand name that's even on sale. I get something cheaper. I was going to get the item anyway, now I'm going to get it the cheapest way I can.

Once in awhile, it happens that something is on sale and I happen to have a coupon for it. I love those times and that's the only way I use coupons. I don't use them on any full priced items. Sale items only. This means I have a lot of expired coupons that I don't get to use, but it also means that I saved when I could. Rarely, I can get cheaper store brand items for even cheaper than sale items plus the coupon. 

6. Stay the Hell Out of the Dollar General!

I used to love Dollar stores. I used to love them because everything in them was a dollar. No so anymore. Most things at Dollar General are not even as cheap as I can get them in Walmart unless they're on sale. Dollar General is like Walmart-Lite.

Secondly, our Dollar General used to occupy a large industrial type building. Then they rebuilt another building for it and moved. That building is like a match box. It's tiny! The aisle shelves are so close together that you feel like you're in the trash compactor in Star Wars! Seriously, the building isn't even 1/4th as big as the last building they were in. Why they moved, I have no idea. It was a bad idea, to say the very least. 

Did I mention they're sitting on top of a hill? And, that the parking lot is on a very steep incline? Yeah, there's that.

The third reason is the most polarizing. I mean no disrespect with what I'm about to say, but, some will no doubt take offense. Dollar General, at least here where I live, is the EBT mecha of my town. It is full of food stamp recipients from the minute the doors open until they close at night. This is not automatically a bad thing.

The thing is, once you get there for their sales, there's nothing left there. It's usually wiped out on sale items about 4 hours after their new sale ad comes out. The store isn't big enough to stock for even the population of this town. So, it sort of means, that by default, it's not worth it to go there because the food stamps have wiped out the sale. On top of that, I dare you to pull out even one coupon in my Dollar General. The slant ways looks you get are mind boggling. It's okay to pull out EBT cards in there, no one even looks at you cross eyed. Take out coupons and suddenly you're wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm a baby eating Satanist! RAWRRRRR!". Saving money is on par with Satanism, here.

So far we have:

It's not cheaper than Walmart. It's not even a dollar!

It's a tiny building, are we about to die in here?!

What is this, the apocalypse?!

Waste of time, cats, waste.of.time.

7. Only Buy Stuff You Use or Can Donate

The bone that I have to pick with extreme couponing is that most of the time I see people just buying random shit simply because they can get it for free. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to those people and assume they're donating it. But, I watched a video of a girl buying Glucerna shakes and admitting she's not diabetic. I can't imagine why she just had to buy those shakes, but I'm going to assume she donated them to the nursing homes. Please. Let that be a reality.

I donate some items every week to my son's day-habilitation center. This week it's two twelvers of lime soda. Sometimes it's giant bottles of Germ-X. My son has Down Syndrome, so he goes to a day hab two days a week. These people are a great place to donate sale items. If I ever do score anything I can't use, it will go to either the day hab, his former teachers and aides at the high school, or one of our nursing homes.

Other than that, I do not buy anything that we don't use. I don't buy 15 bottles of laundry detergent simply because I make my own. I might buy 1 bottle and donate it. If there ever comes a time when I can actually do a CVS sale and take advantage of what they have to offer, I will end up buying things just to donate them.

My stockpile took me months to accumulate. And, none of it, so far, has been free. It's all cost me money, as well as, gas and time. I save about 20% on my bill right now. That will change as my stock grows and changes. There will come a time when I only spend half of what we spend right now. I look forward to that day.

So, there you have it. Those are my 7 basic rules for practicing what I consider to be basic fundamentals of cottage witchcraft. Stockpiling and preparedness. This was more about stockpiling today, but I will get into preparedness later on in another entry.


  1. I had no idea that people bought coupons...

    1. Unfortunately, they do. The funny thing to me is that people are under the impression that these people are saving bookoo money getting all this stuff for free. What they don't know is that some of Extreme Couponing's worst offenders are buying obscene amounts of coupons to make it look that way.

      All the websites you see out there about couponing, take it in the extreme direction. We need one called "Couponing for the Rest of Us".