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The Coupon Lady: You won't have coupons for everything

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I got an e-mail from a lady asking me: “I just got into couponing and I heard you know how to coupon like those shows on TV. My question is that I get the newspapers on Sunday, but I don’t have coupons for everything I need. How do you get coupons on everything you need?”

Even though it looks good on television, an extreme couponer does not purchase everything with coupons. The truth is that you can’t live on toilet paper and mustard alone.

You can’t get everything free, either. It’s an easy misconception to have, and she is not the only one who has had it.

It’s really easy to get a misconception about what an extreme couponer does. Not only is there a TV show about it, now we are seeing extreme couponing on episodes of other shows. On April 9, an episode of the Fox television show Bones had a storyline that involved the murder of an extreme couponer. The episode portrayed a group of extreme couponers as aggressive, rude, unhealthy and generally unpleasant people.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo star Mama June is also an extreme couponer. If you’ve watched even two minutes of the show, you’re bound to notice the hundreds of rolls of toilet paper in the dining room. Watch a few more, and you will see large stockpiles of bath products, personal care items, laundry detergent, candles, cereals and condiments.

Even though the family might not have the best of diets, Mama June makes a pretty good point regarding couponing. In an online segment on the TLC Web site titled Couponing Tips With Mama June, she said: “There’s not a lot of meat product coupons out there nowadays, so if you can find these, like, staple items, then you use that to provide the money that you save to buy meat.”

I might not agree with everything she does, but I applaud her efforts to help her family and the good things they do for their community.

I usually do not have coupons on milk, meat and vegetables.

In the summer, I’ve been known to spend nearly a third of our weekly budget at farmer’s markets. I’ve been known to travel to Wrens or North Augusta to pick strawberries when they are in season and make my own jam. I grew up next to my grandparents’ farm, and in the summer, nothing is better than freshly picked acidic garden tomatoes sliced between fresh bread, mayo, salt and pepper.

But like Mama June, I go to drugstores and grocery stores when they have good sales on medicines, hair care or personal care items and add those items to a small stockpile.

When I recently found a sale on Boca Burgers, I bought 10 packages for just 50 cents each to put into my deep freezer. My new pastime is trying to hide the meat substitute in our foods without my “meat and potatoes” family realizing it. Sometimes the substitutions are a success; others, not so much. But still, my family is trying new foods and recipes and keeping a varied diet.

One night we ate baked white BBQ chicken, au gratin potatoes and baked zucchini for dinner. The chicken was bought at Aldi, the mayonnaise and sugar used in the white BBQ sauce recipe were bought with coupons, the au gratin potatoes were bought with coupons and the zucchini was bought at Publix.

Once you understand that you will not always have coupons on everything, the trick is to find coupons on all your staples and household items.

Newspaper inserts are responsible for approximately 85 percent of redeemed coupons in the United States. The other 15 percent comes from magazines, Internet, Facebook, company Web sites, specially marked product packaging, direct mailings and in-store coupon booklets. It is easy to find coupons on your favorite staple products.

For example, if you love Jif peanut butter, call Jif and complain that you are disappointed that you never get Jif coupons in your local coupon inserts. My husband did that last year, and he received coupons from Jif by mail.


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