I’ve written many times about my food shopping habits. Although I’m frugal in just about every other area (and rarely shop for much of anything anymore, other than food), I never compromise when it comes to what my family eats. Nearly all the food I buy is organic, and most of my grocery cart is filled with fresh or frozen produce, nuts, seeds, dried legumes and a few boxed/jarred items like whole grain pasta or coconut milk. I rarely buy anything from the center aisles of the grocery store, and I don’t buy things that have non-food ingredients (all those 8-syllable words on ingredient lists). I have long been of the opinion that I’m not interested in coupons for food, because most of what’s available is for stuff that I would never feed my family.
I’ll admit that I don’t put much effort into trying to save money on groceries. I tend to do all of my shopping at one store (either the health food store or the co-op), and although I’ll always pick up things that are on sale when I’m shopping, I will also buy food that’s good for us even if it’s not on sale (but I still haven’t been able to bring myself to pay $10 for a little bag of pine nuts at the health food store – my frugal habits don’t completely disappear when I go grocery shopping…).
Since I’m definitely not a coupon queen, my first reaction when I was asked to review Kathy Spencer’s new book, How To Shop For Free, was to assume that it wouldn’t contain anything useful to me. But the more I thought about it, the more curious I became. I wondered if the book might have some tips for people like me.
I was pleasantly surprised.
How To Shop For Free definitely inspired me to change some of my grocery shopping ways. I’m committing to shopping in more than one store from now on, and paying attention to what’s on sale before I plan my trip. There’s a major supermarket about two blocks from the health food store where I normally shop, and another one a couple miles down the road, in the direction I have to go to get home. Both stores have organic sections, and both run sales and offer coupons. I’m embarrassed to say that I have no idea whether they double coupons or match competitors’ ads, because I’ve never taken the time to ask (but I will as soon as I go shopping again!)
I was also inspired to see if there might indeed be coupons available for things that I already buy. I love coupons – what frugal person doesn’t? – and I always look for restaurant coupons if we’re going out to eat, and for coupon codes anytime I make an online purchase. I just tended to assume that there weren’t coupons for the sort of stuff I buy at the grocery store. How To Shop For Free made me reconsider that idea. I started looking online (including eBay) for manufacturer coupons for products that I buy already, and was thrilled to find plenty. It turns out that there are coupons for some of the pricey organic products that I buy, I just didn’t know to look for them. And I found that the health food store I shop at has a website where they allow customers to write product reviews in exchange for store credit. Coupons are available for all sorts of products, if you just take the time to look before you shop. Anytime you’re going to be making a purchase on a large online retailer like Amazon, make sure you look for an Amazon.com coupon first.
I know that my shopping habits in terms of food are a bit extreme. Same goes for the fact that the only cleaning products I’ll allow in the house are baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. And that my personal care products are limited mostly to baking soda, organic conditioner, coconut oil, and Dr. Bronners soap. And yet even with those strict parameters, I still found Kathy’s book useful and inspiring. For most people, it will be a gold mine.
In addition to tips on reducing your food and personal care budget to nearly zero, Kathy also devotes chapters to shopping for all sorts of other stuff – even clothes – for free or next to nothing. She also has a chapter (one of my favorites) about how you can utilize her methods to stock up on stuff that you can give away to struggling people in your community, or to organizations that will distribute the stuff to people who need it.
The book is 230 pages of really great information for anyone who could use some tips on how to spend a whole lot less on the stuff that they already buy. And you can win a copy for free! Just leave a comment on this post, and I’ll randomly select a winner on Sunday, the 19th. If you want to get inspired right away, check out Kathy’s website and browse around for a while.