Anyone who’s ever perused coupon inserts in the weekly newspaper knows that there are coupons for everything from baking products to snacks to serve-at-once meals. But what if you eat a special diet or prefer products made with organic ingredients? Can you still be a successful coupon shopper?
Here are some tips to help you on your journey to cutting your household budget with coupons, even if your diet targets select food items:
Seek coupons for specialty foods
If you like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or organic products, you’ve probably noticed that coupons for these items don’t often end up in newspaper inserts. Many of these items are from smaller suppliers that cater to special audiences. It’s not always economically viable for them to advertise to the masses in newspaper inserts.
The good news is that some of these manufacturers make coupons available online, or through mailers and newsletters. Here are some of my favorite natural and organic manufacturers that regularly offer coupons for their products:
• Mambo Sprouts: www.mambosprouts.com
• Earthbound Farm: www.ebfarm.com
• Horizon Organics: www.horizondairy.com
• Organic Valley: www.organicvalley.coop
• Stonyfield Farm: www.stonyfield.com
It’s a good rule of thumb to write or email manufacturers of any specialty products that you like. Not only does this help get you on the company’s mailing list if they maintain one, but the manufacturer may also send coupons directly to your inbox.
Stock up on staples at the right time
If you home-cook most of your meals and bake regularly, you may have noticed that pantry staples such as flour, sugar, chopped nuts, cooking oil and spices are typically on sale in the fall. Around September and October, watch for sales and coupons for items in this category.
March and October are months when major supermarkets offer specials on frozen foods. I’ve bought frozen vegetables for as little as 20 cents for a one-pound bag. That per-pound price is cheaper than buying fresh, and many studies have shown that frozen produce provides the same nutritional value as fresh.
Watch for special sales on organic food during April and September. Earth Day falls in April, and September is National Organic Month.
Don’t forget non-grocery
Even if you completely avoid pre-packaged foods, it’s likely that you still purchase toilet paper, household cleaners and personal care items such as razors, shampoo and toothpaste. Some of the best coupon deals you’ll find are on these non-food items. Here’s an email from a reader who attests to the power of couponing on her household’s non-groceries:
“My husband and I thoroughly enjoy your column! We are probably a little different from your usual audience in that we’re both vegetarians who cook nearly all of our food from scratch. We coupon on foods when we can, but we’ve accepted that our dietary choices mean we’re spending more on groceries than most people. But I’ve been amazed since I started couponing at how much we have saved on the non-groceries! Our stockpile takes up a closet in our home. I estimate 90 percent of what’s in there is non-food items: spray cleaners, trash bags and dishwasher and laundry detergent. We have at least a year’s supply of deodorant, dental floss, toothpaste, mouthwash, razors, hair color, bars of soap, you name it, and nearly all of it was free! We just love our stockpile of these things. Running out of lotion doesn’t mean a trip to the drugstore; it means a trip down the hall to grab another free bottle.
“Our circle of friends includes many vegetarians and vegans, and they will often discuss how they can’t be bothered to coupon because there are no coupons for healthy food. That’s not true, but they forget about everything else that there are coupons for. If you’re not couponing at least the non-grocery items, you are throwing money away.”