March 14, 2012
This week we thought we might do something a little different. We’ve been answering questions for Ask I Heart Publix for almost two years now, and we’ve definitely found that some questions keep popping up as new couponers write in. So this week we’re going to start a “Best Of” Ask I Heart Publix, where we post some of our favorite questions and answers from past weeks.
Don’t worry….we’ll still be answering the new questions you guys send in, too, so keep sending in those questions! Just remember if we didn’t get to your question this week…we will do our best to cover it another week!! As always a big thanks to my buddy Christy over at Winn Dixie on a Dime who gives me so much help to get the questions answered.
Don’t forget that there is a tab at the top of the site called “Q & A” where you can find the questions and answers from past weeks!
Here are this week’s “Best of” questions:
- Is it okay for me to take peelie or hangtag coupons off of a product even if I’m not buying that product?
- Can you use a Publix coupon, a Target (or other store) coupon and a MQ on just one item?
- I’ve been looking at everyone’s totals for the week with their list of groceries and I have a question. How can you plan a weeks worth of meals and still save 50% or more?
- What are some items that do well being stockpiled?
- When you started couponing and stockpiling, did you find that you were spending a little more than normal at first?
And here are the answers!
1.guenthers@ wants to know: I am curious as to whether or not it is okay for me to take peelie or hangtag coupons off of a product even when I am not buying that product? I never take more than four, and I do it in hopes of a sale. I only take them because I have seen people in my store take ALL of the coupons off the products before. That I think is rude, but am I being hypocritical because I take the coupons when I can?? Is it just a judgement call?
Michelle: This question gets sent in at least once a week. I always say go with your gut. There are no written rules to couponing and any answer that I give will be based on MY opinion. So, you are best doing what makes you comfortable. I will tell you everyone has an opinion on this one and I would guess if we did a poll, we would probably have half the readers saying peel away and the other half say not to peel that it is stealing!!
Christy: Like Michelle says this is DEFINITELY a hot-button issue and people can get really upset over it. Over the years I’ve come to see it the way that Michelle does – everyone is going to have their own opinion and I think “live and let live” is the best policy!
2. Casey I know that this is probably a question that has been asked before but I am new to couponing, and with the policy change, I am sort of confused with one thing….. Can you use a Publix coupon, a Target (or other store) coupon and a MQ on just one item? I have been told yes to both and would really like a answer to make it clear!
Christy: Publix will only accept either a Publix coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on a single item OR a competitor’s coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on a single item – never all three.
Michelle: Publix policy states the following: We (Publix) will accept a manufacturer’s coupon and either a Publix or a competitor coupon on the same item. The key word in that sentence is OR….you can choose to use Publix OR a competitor coupon!
3. Cristi wants to know: I’m a new couponer so I need all the help I can get. I’ve been looking at everyone’s totals for the week with their list of groceries and I have a question. How can you plan a weeks worth of meals and still save 50% or more? I could buy 8 bags of frozen veggies and 12 cartons of drink mix and 6 bags of cheese for next to nothing, too, but that doesn’t make 5 meals for a family of 3. I must be missing a step between cashing in on all the coupon deals and being able to put those deals together to make complete meals for the week.
Christy: The key to really saving money through couponing is stockpiling. When I first started out about a two and a half years ago, I saved (at best) maybe 25% because I was still buying all our ‘staples’ – meat, produce, paper goods, personal items, dry goods like rice and pasta, dairy like milk and butter products, etc – every week in addition to the great sale items. Over time, though, I was able to stock up on those types of items every time a great sale came along and now at any one time I have about 3 months worth of those items on hand, which is generally enough to last until the next time there’s a really good sale/coupon deal. (The one exception here is produce, which we still buy every week because it won’t keep.) So what you’re seeing on people’s weekly totals is often just what they buy to keep their stockpile full….they already have everything else they need on hand before they go shopping, which is why they can save as much as they do.
Don’t think that all couponers have huge houses to store this stuff in, either – my husband and I rent a small house and I’ve had to be pretty clever in finding places to store my stockpile. I was lucky enough to be able to pick up a small used deep freezer on Craigslist for about $75 so that I can freeze meat, dairy (milk, cheese and butter freeze well for up to 6 months), etc. Frankly, I’m so grateful to couponing because without it I really don’t know how we’d be able to afford the things we need for our small family!
Michelle:Tee hee…I am sure the lists do look funny! But, Christy is right. One of the tricks to couponing is to use a coupon when it is worth the most–when the item is on sale!! So, we hang on to our coupons until just the right time. I may buy 6 containers of peanut butter one week and then not need to buy it for another 4 months. That is the case for many items. Each week, I typically only buy what I need to round out my meal plan for the week plus any super deals that might be available. I think many non-couponers are not smart shoppers and over buy each week.
I find that meal planning & using coupons is less wasteful! Before I shop, I can determine what I have on hand then create my meals so that the ingredients work together and I only buy exactly what I need! An even further step is planning meals based on what I have and what is on sale! Doing all of this may not make for a pretty shopping list but it certainly makes for some smart shopping and nice savings!!
4. Elizabeth wants to know: I have a question regarding stockpiling. There are just two people in my family and I am concerned that I’ll buy too much or not enough of something when an item is on sale. For example, we go through those bagel/bread thins like crazy! They are 2/$4 this week but we already have 2 unopened packs in the fridge. Publix had that in store coupon so it would be a great deal, but I didn’t know how they freeze/keep? What are some items that do well being stockpiled? (Obviously TP, Paper Towels, etc). What about cereal and other food items?
Michelle: I have found it to be a little bit of trial and error. It will really just depend on your consumption rate. I try to get about what we will use in 8 weeks. There are really so many options with all the great deals that if you vary your menu you really don’t need a ton of one thing. When meat and dairy items are on sale, I will grab what I can store as we use these products on a daily basis…so there really is no way to be fully stocked.
Most things freeze with no problem. There are a few things that I don’t freeze…cream cheese, sour cream and leafy veggies just don’t hold up. Use the web to see what veggies you can freeze.
Christy: Same here…I pretty much had to learn by making mistakes. For a while there I thought we might be buried under an avalanche of cereal…so I learned that 10 boxes is about the max that my family of 2 should have at any one time . You might want to try to keep a basic (dated) inventory of items for a few months – mark how many you have at your starting date and keep track of how many you add or subtract over that period of time. That should give you a good sense of what you need to have on hand at any one time.
I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping track of expiration dates, too…my rule is “if we can’t use it before two weeks of its’ use-by date, it goes in the donate bag.”
5. Melanie wants to know: When you first started couponing and stockpiling, did you find that you were spending a little more than normal at first? I am still saving at least 50% on my grocery bills each week and have started a nice little stockpile of a few items but I find that I am still spending a little over $100.00 each week. Maybe I am missing something – any advice?
Christy: My totals definitely went down (and my percentages went up!) over time, and the stockpile is key! Once you have a good 2-3 month supply of your ‘everyday use’ items, you’ll be able to save the most because you’ll only be need to shop for the absolute best deals. (I know some people keep more than 2-3 months worth, but this is about as much as I can reasonably stuff into my relatively small kitchen and storage areas.) I usually tell people that they should expect to see about 50% savings for the first 4 to 6 months, and after that their savings should go up and their overall spending should go down. One thing that may help is shopping the drugstores for your health & beauty and household items as you can generally find WAY better deals on those types of items there….my monthly totals went way down after I stopped having to buy our toiletries at near-full price every month!
Michelle: Yes, I was spending more money when I first started couponing. I dedicated a specific amount just to build my stockpile. Once I was at the point where I found I was barely touching those funds I got rid of it! I think it was a combination of the fact that I was becoming a better couponer. As a new couponer, I bought too much!! After about a year I was able to understand what my family would use. I also was able to determine what a good deal was for me. By that time I had a good stockpile and knew my price point for everything based on our consumption! My first year’s spending was about double what I spend now. I gradually reduced the amount to what worked best for me. I always encourage people who want to reduce their spending to do it gradually. If you reduce it slowly you will never even realize the impact…if you cut it drastically you will likely be overwhelmed and you might give up!! Slow and steady is best!!
I hope our answers to these questions were helpful! Make sure you ‘tune in’ next week for even more Q&A with I Heart Publix. If you have a question you’d like to see answered, email me at email@example.com.