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Vegan Extreme Couponing 101: Intro and Example
_A few folks have been contacting me to ask more about vegan couponing and exactly how it works. Of course, there is always the common way of simply using a coupon to save a bit of money the next time you go to the grocery store, but there is a better way to use vegan coupons that can save you even more.
It appears that the recent increase in interest regarding couponing is tied to the popularity of the TLC show, Extreme Couponing. So I think it’s important to get a couple of misconceptions out of the way before I talk much about how you can partake in some ethical, vegan-style extreme couponing.
For starters, a lot of long-time couponers hate this show, noting that it gives couponers a bad name and makes us look like a bunch of shelf-clearing hoarders that aren't opposed to a little coupon fraud. On the other hand, there are also plenty of folks who are happy to see a wider audience of consumers becoming aware of the potential for significant savings with couponing done right.
So the first thing I would like to make sure everyone is aware of is that the show has extreme in the title for a reason: Just like most reality television shows, this one is sensationalized to catch the attention of viewers. Most couponers do not spend 60 hours per week planning their shopping trips, and then head to the store to clear all of the shelves and leave nothing for regular shoppers. And most couponers do not show up at the cash register with a dozen carts filled with unhealthy foods and toilet paper for the next 20 years.
Now that we have that cleared up, it’s also important to note that no one should expect to be able to pay a few pennies for hundreds of dollars of food and personal care items on every shopping trip -- or on any shopping trip.
Don’t get me wrong: You can walk out of a store with a bag full of items and a receipt that shows a total of zero, but that is not going to happen all of the time, and with us vegans it is even rarer.
If you have seen the show, then you have likely noticed that the items they are stockpiling are almost all products vegans, vegetarians and health-conscious folks would generally not purchase. And even in the world of an omnivore, no one can live on noodles, cereal and condiments alone.
This brings me to the next misconception I would like to address: Most vegans seem to think that we can’t benefit from couponing because the products that are super cheap or free almost all have animal ingredients or are tested on animals. While this is partially true -- many of the best deals are on products that most vegans (at least folks who are vegan for animal rights or ethical reasons) would not purchase -- it is not entirely true. Ethical, vegan extreme couponing is possible and can help you save thousands of dollars each year.
The basic idea behind extreme couponing is to maximize your savings by matching money-saving coupons with store sales to get the best deals possible. This could include matching manufacturer's coupons with store sales, matching store coupons with store sales, or stacking manufacturer's coupons and stores coupons during a sale to save even more. You can learn more about how to stack coupons here.
Below is just one example of how you can save money by matching vegan coupons to sales at your local grocery store. You can visit the blog for more money-saving tips and additional specifics on what is now being called extreme couponing -- we will just be doing it vegan style.
So here is your first example of how vegan coupon matchups can help you lower your grocery bill...
One quart of Rice Dream rice milk is regularly priced at $2.39 at the Fred Meyer down the street from my house.
I had 20 coupons for $1.00 off any Rice Dream product. We go through a lot of rice milk, almond milk and coconut milk in our house, so this is an item I like to stock up on whenever I can get a good deal. (If you want to find 20 coupons for your fave product, you can start by checking out the Find Vegan Coupons page.)
I could have simply used those coupons each time I needed rice milk, which would have been a nice savings of $1.00 per quart. Over time, it would have resulted in saving a total of $20.00 (since I had 20 $1.00 coupons).
Saving $20.00 is great, but I also know that this brand of rice milk regularly goes on sale at Fred Meyer for three for $5.00. This means that each quart of rice milk is just $1.67 during these sales.
By waiting and using my $1.00 off coupons to stock up on rice milk during this sale, I significantly increased my savings and paid only 67 cents per quart.
(I split my purchases up on different days so that I wouldn’t clear the shelves, but for this example, let’s pretend I bought it all at once to make it easy.)
Retail Price: $47.80 (20 quarts of rice milk at $2.39 each)
Sale Price: $33.40 (cost of 20 quarts when on sale for three for $5.00)
Price After Coupons: $13.40 (sale price for 20 quarts minus 20 $1.00 coupons)
Total Savings: $34.40 (savings of $1.72 per quart)
At some stores, you can even save a few more cents by making sure you bring your own reusable shopping bags. Fred Meyer takes 5 cents off of your total for each reusable shopping bag you use. Fred Meyer also has a rewards program, which allows shoppers to accumulate points. Those points are then converted into a cash value, which is sent to the rewards program member in the mail (it looks like a gift card). If you use this gift card on top of matching coupons to sale prices, you can save even more money -- or even walk out of the store with free groceries. If you do not have a Fred Meyer in your area, check your local grocery stores to see if they have similar rewards programs.
It is also important to note that I live in an area where the stores do not double coupons. If you live in another part of the country where doubling coupons is a regular thing, than you could have purchased these 20 quarts of rice milk for free by combining the sale and coupons.
This is just one example of a vegan coupon matchup I did; it is possible to save an even higher percentage, depending on the product, the vegan, vegetarian or organic coupons you have and the sales going on at stores near you.
Because it can be difficult to find good sales and coupons for purchasing things like organic produce, bulk flours and grains, herb and vegetable plants to grow your own foods, and other items that many of us vegans buy on a regular basis, I like to save money on things like rice milk whenever I can. This is one way to lower grocery costs overall, have more money to put towards your bulk grains, produce and other vegan foods, and have more money to put towards non-grocery necessities or special indulgences.
For more tips on vegan extreme couponing, and vegan coupons in general, check out the blog. You can also look for your grocery store coupon policies on the Store Coupon Policies page or start building your coupon collection by finding out where to find vegan coupons or searching for online coupons now.
I would love to hear from you if have questions about how to save money with coupons or would like to share suggestions from your own vegan couponing experience. You can contact me directly, comment on the blog, connect with me on Facebook or hit me up on Twitter.
Side note: Rice Dream is made by Imagine Foods, which was purchased by Hain Celestial several years ago. I will not always remember to add these notes, but I will try to include this type of info so that vegans of different varieties can decide whether or not a product is right for them.