Last year, 305 billion coupons were issued by manufacturers. You've seen the extreme coupon reality shows where people get all their groceries for free or even get money back. And while you may not have the time or energy to go to such measures, a local coupon queen can help you save a least a few hundred dollars on your grocery bill each month.
When Melanie Zeman makes a trip to the grocery store, she goes in prepared. Zeman knows what's on sale and organizes her coupons in a binder by category.
"I use baseball-card holders in the tabs," Zeman said. "I kind of consider it a little bit of a part-time job because I save our family $400 to $600 a month; so if you're saving that much money, it's worth the time you put into it."
Zeman says that time is about five hours a week and she makes trips to multiple grocery stores. At Sunshine Foods, which doubles coupons, she can get a free can of pasta sauce today.
"One thing, you have to be a little flexible on when you are couponing is name brands. I love Ragu, but Hunts is a popular one that goes on sale and you can use a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon to get the best deal," Zeman said.
Zeman only buys what her family can use or what she can donate and rarely stockpiles, but sometimes makes an exception.
"Cereal is one of those things when they have a good sale, it's important to stock up on," Zeman said.
Zeman figures she'll pay about 80 cents a box. But even when a deal seems good, it's not always good enough for her.
"I don't buy a lot of frozen pizzas, but if I do, I usually get them for about $1.25 each. So it's really hard for me to pay $4.44. I think I'm going to pass," Zeman said.
Zeman also gets her milk for free today by shopping on Milk Monday and using a coupon off a cereal box. She says there are some things she never pays for.
"No, never paid for toothpaste. $3 or $4 a tube; I haven't paid for toothpaste in two years and I've got stockpiles of it," Zeman said.
And at the end of this trip, Zeman cuts her bill by more than half getting $46.46 worth of groceries for just $20.39.
"It's kind of an adrenaline rush when I go home and say, 'Look at the groceries I got for $20!'" Zeman said.
Zeman wants to help you save money too. That's why she teaches a class called Crazy About Coupons for Sioux Falls Community Education. She's offering two upcoming classes, one in March and another in April.