Saved $99.48 With Coupons, Bought 51 Items For $45.46

Consumerist reader LadySiren, married with 5 kids, is a coupon ninja by necessity. “My kids go through a box and a half of Pop-Tarts each time they eat them for breakfast,” she writes by way of explanation. Here’s how, in exhaustive detail, she bought 51 items at the supermarket this week using coupons, super double coupons, and catalinas, for only $45.56, saving $99.48. Her haul is pictured.

She writes,

This week, one of our local grocery chains, Harris Teeter (HT), is running a “Super Doubles” (SDs) event – they are doubling the face value of coupons up to $1.99 instead of $.99, which is their normal doubling policy. HT allows you to double a max of 20 coupons per day, and this limit is tied into your store loyalty card, call the VIC card. They tie it into the card so as to prevent people from cheating the system and doubling more than 20 coupons per day. Some folks cheat by borrowing cards from friends or family members who won’t be shopping at HT during the event, but for the most part, couponers tend not to break these rules.

Today was the first day of the sale. In addition to the SDs, there are a number of catalina deals running (a catalina is the coupon you get at the time of purchase from the catalina machine at the register), as well as a $6 instant savings when you buy 20 General Mills products. I pulled my coupons over the weekend after I found out SDs were this week, then spent last night doing matchups (matching coupons to catalinas and sale items to maximize savings). Here’s what I was able to get today:

6 boxes Pop-Tarts
2 canisters Quaker Oats
2 packages Keebler cookies
2 boxes Snickers ice cream bars
2 gallons Turkey Hill Iced Tea
3 boxes Dannon Coolision yogurt
6 cans Spaghettios
6 boxes Tuna Helper
4 cans Progresso soup
2 packages Pillsbury ready-to-bake cookie dough
2 bags Pillsbury frozen biscuits
6 boxes Green Giant frozen veggies
3 packages Old El Paso taco seasoning
1 package Old El Paso tortillas
1 Old El Paso taco kit
1 package Kool-Aid Fun Fizz
3 lbs. 93/7 ground beef
1 package Good Nites sleep pants

Based on my purchases, I received the following during my first transaction:

$6.00 immediately off my total
$3.00 off On Your Next Order (OYNO) for buying 6 boxes of Hamburger Helper
$2.00 off OYNO for buying 6 boxes of Green Giant veggies
$1.00 off the purchase of beef or chicken for buying 3 Old El Paso taco seasoning mixes

My total Out of Pocket (OOP): $45.46
Amount saved using my VIC card for sales, coupons, and catalinas: $99.48
Number of items purchased: 53
Average price per item: $1.17

I achieved this by doing two transactions. In the first transaction, I purchased 20 General Mills items to get the instant $6 savings. I bought the Hamburger Helper and Green Giant veggies to get the two OYNO catalinas, and the Old El Paso seasoning to get the discount on meat. Note: I did make a mistake with my Old El Paso purchases and the catalina, which I’ll explain in a sec.

Once my first transaction was complete and I was sure all of my discounts had been applied and my catalinas were printed, I started my second transaction. I took my $6 in catalinas and applied that to the total for my second transaction. This is generally referred to as “rolling”, meaning you roll the savings or discounts from one transaction into a second transaction.

Now, that mistake I made…yep, it’s true – even coupon ninjas sometimes make mistakes. I can only plead that it was 7 AM and I hadn’t had my coffee yet after staying up until 1 AM the night before.🙂 That being said, I made a noob mistake: I didn’t follow the rules of the Old El Paso deal the way I should have because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what the deal was. I expected to get a $3 catalina for the ground beef I purchased but only received a $1 catalina because I didn’t buy the right Old El Paso items OR the right number of items (double noob mistake). I’d purchased three taco seasoning packets, one package tortillas, and one dinner kit. The rules of the catalina say:

Buy any Old El Paso Taco Shells, Dinner Kits, Seasoning, Refried Beans or Heat & Serve Side Dishes Between 9/6 – 10/2

Save $1 OYNO Beef or Chicken Purchase When You Buy (WYB) 3 packages

Save $3 OYN) Beef or Chicken Purchase WYB 6 packages

Unfortunately, I thought the tortillas were included in the products for this catalina deal, and that I had grabbed four – not three – packages of taco seasoning. So, I missed out on the $3 catalina and got the $1 catalina instead. It’s a rookie mistake, bleh. As a result, my OOP total was $6 than it should’ve been because of the ground beef. I knew I’d made a mistake as soon as she handed me my catalinas but I had to get home by 8:30 AM this morning and was too tired and lazy to fix the mistake (fixing it would’ve required returning all the items, getting all my coupons back, then getting the correct items and quantities). Also, HT tends to be very busy during SDs and it’s inconsiderate to hold up the lines.

This sale goes on until next Wednesday and I’ll likely be there each day this week to stockpile items that we use frequently.

While not bad, my trip today could’ve been better if I hadn’t made that stupid $6 goof and there are other couponers out there who are doing better than I am, based on what they’re buying. I made a point of buying my most critical items today (i.e. – stuff we really, REALLY needed – those stinkin’ Good Nites pants were $6.99 even with a $1.50/1 coupon doubled – and only a few stockpile items) instead of stuff that would’ve gotten me a lower OOP. If you really want an eye-opener, go check out this thread over at Hot Coupon World.

You’ll see that at least one shopper MADE money today. I’ll be going back tomorrow in the hopes of scoring some better deals than I did today. I also picked up a new coupon booklet at the store put out by General Mills – with SDs running, the new coupons will be getting me a number of free or nearly-free items.🙂