By Zach Petersen
Don’t be surprised if the line is longer next time at the grocery store – an “extreme couponer” might be on the loose.
TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” is a TV show that highlights grocery shoppers around the county who have taken normal coupon cutting to the next level.
These couponers can save hundreds of dollars in a single trip to the store, according to TLC’s website.
“Extreme Couponing” star, Joni Meyer-Crothers, came upon difficult times and turned to couponing for help.
“My husband lost his job almost three years ago and we needed ways to save money,” Meyer-Crothers said in an email. “About the only thing we could cut was our grocery bill. It started out as couponing, but truly has become a ministry to show others how to save, all while passing the blessing on to others in need.”
One of the biggest concerns people have about using coupons is they will end up buying items they don’t need, said Desari Read, a Syracuse resident and mother of two BYU students.
“If I happen to have coupons with me and I am in a situation to use them, then that’s great,” Read said. “Other than that I don’t have time. I am a good cook and I know how to save money on my grocery budget by cooking meals and spreading food out.”
While coupons can save money, the majority of savings fall under the processed foods category rather than fresh produce.
Josh Read, a BYU student studying Hebrew, said he has little time to search for coupons, although some of them would affect his grocery bill.
“I don’t really have time to search for coupons,” he said. “If I am looking at stuff it’s going to be spent doing homework or other fun activities. At school I normally eat cold cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, frozen pizzas, frozen burritos and maybe once in a while something good, but also fast food. When you get a girlfriend that likes to cook and she’s really good at it then you’re golden.”
Sally Stevens, co-founder of the food co-op Bountiful Baskets, built the non-profit organization on the principal of making fresh fruits and produce more easily accessible for wholesale prices.
“I did couponing, but that is usually your prepackaged food,” Stevens said. “Growing up in an agricultural area, we were very used to having fresh food for our family.”
A volunteer site coordinator for Bountiful Baskets, Alisa Ellingson, chooses the co-op over couponing as well.
“I really think Bountiful Baskets is the best way to get fresh healthy food for your family at low prices without having to jump around from store to store,” Ellingson said. “I felt with couponing you were getting processed foods that weren’t really good for your family. This is a fresh healthy alternative.”
Coupons can be used for a variety of items other than food.
“I think coupons work really well for things like laundry detergent, dishwashing soap and diapers,” Desari Read said. “I use coupons a lot for when we go out. There’s coupons for Arby’s and coupons for pizza and we use those a lot, but not the grocery store ones. I have to have convenience as far as going shopping. I don’t have a lot of time, but if I do know a deal about another place, they will usually match it.”
In other parts of the country, grocery stores double or triple coupons on a regular basis. However, because Utahns are generally known to be more frugal in their spending, local stores rarely multiply coupon values — until recently.
Walmart has been matching prices for several years, but a recent announcement has shocked the nation. Walmart will be doubling coupons on Tuesdays at several locations in Utah County. Those locations include Orem, Springville, Payson, American Fork, Cedar Hills, Lindon and Saratoga Springs.
It seems budgets are tight and grocery lists are still the same. No one wants to be taken advantage of, especially in their local grocery store.
In an effort to help viewers, TLC has provided the top “10 ways grocery stores trick you into spending more” on their website. A few of them include diluting liquids, hiding flawed food and reorganizing the store periodically.
Pay attention at the grocery store and see who’s really winning the battle of shopper versus store.
The finale of “Extreme Couponing” aired Wednesday. Visit tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing to see more information about the show and couponing tips.
“10 ways grocery stores trick you into spending more” from TLC
1. Placing TVs at checkout points
2. Reorganizing the store periodically
3. Setting up a strategic floor plan
4. Placing priciest items at eye level
5. Making riddles of unit pricing
6. Diluting liquids
7. Grouping items that go together
8. Hiding flawed food
9. Water packing meat
10. Mislabeling meats