Showing posts with label Couponing 101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Couponing 101. Show all posts

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Living on a $200 a Month Grocery Budget

Photo Source: http://pittsboronc.gov
Recently, I've talked with a few friends and strangers and shared with them that our budget for groceries is $200 a month for our family of five.  It never fails, the reaction I get is amazement that we are able to live so frugally.  I then share my secret:  that's what we have -- we have to.

So I thought I'd share a few tips and tricks on how we do this. :)

First, let me clarify.  That $200 a month is for everything that is not a bill, an emergency, or gas for our vehicles.  If one of my sons needs a new pair of shoes, if I need a new ink cartridge for my printer, if we need diapers or cat food, it comes out of that $200.   An emergency for us is if something unexpectedly breaks and that's about it. :) Any money I receive from a rebate check, ibotta or Checkout 51 get put back in the budget.

One of the main things I've learned with our budget being so low these past couple years is that IT IS OKAY TO GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT.  Food pantries, Food Stamps and WIC all have a negative stigma associated with them in our culture.  But if my choices are putting food on the table or not, I'll do what I need to so that my kids can eat that night.

If your kids are ages 4 and under, see if you qualify for WIC.  It doesn't pay for everything, but it does help.  For a family of four in Alabama, that means if you make around $44,000 a year, you may qualify.  If your family of four makes around $31,000 a year, see if you qualify for food stamps.  If you are on food stamps, be aware of the difference when you use coupons too.

A few couponing principles have greatly helped us stick to our $200 budget:  use cash, meal plan based on your stockpile and have a set budget and stick to it.  I take out our grocery money for the month and when it's gone, it's gone.  I don't run to the store to pick up a few extra ingredients for dinner -- I use what's already in my stockpile.  Finally, work toward being in agreement with your spouse in regards to finances. My husband and I are on the same page with money which I am very thankful for!  We pared down our bills to the very basic necessities, our cars are both 12 years old+ but they are paid for, we don't have cable, pedicures are a luxury, we chose cell phones over a home phone and we are working to reduce what debt we do have.  This is what works for us -- your family may have different priorities.

If you can, shop at more than one store a week.  When I only had one child I would go to 4-5 stores at a time.  Now that we have three that's not possible :)  I do try to go to at least two, sometimes three depending on what's on sale.  If you can only go to two, go to Publix and price match everyone else's deals at Wal-Mart.  Pick only one drugstore instead of all three.

Another huge savings for us: limit how often you go out to eat.  Our dining out budget is part of our food budget and it is much more expensive than purchasing groceries.  Take advantage of dollar menus, kids eat free nights, coupons and daily deals to save when you do have to eat out.  T-ball is about to start back up for us -- sandwiches on the way to the ballpark are perfectly acceptable for dinner instead of stopping a picking up a cheeseburger on the way. :)

In the past two years or so, I've found myself making more and more foods from scratch.  I'm not at the point where I make everything, but I would like to get there.  Purchasing the staple ingredients is much cheaper per unit than buying the finished product.  Freezer and crock pot cooking is also helpful for when I am time crunched! This is definitely a priority thing -- while I am a stay at home mom to three boys 5 and under, I also have three part time jobs so I completely understand not having the time to do everything.  But do what you can. :)  

In the summer we have a small garden in our backyard.  Most summer evenings after dinner will find us outside weeding.  You don't have to have a large garden to notice a big dent in your produce budget.  We eat most of it while it is fresh and then freeze what's left for later.  I need to learn how to can :)

For non-grocery purchases like clothing I still use coupons! I purchase most of our clothing on clearance (50%+) and use a coupon too.  I purchase clothing at the end of the season in a size up for my boys.  This doesn't apply just to clothing either: our dishwasher died so we had to buy a new one last week.  By using a coupon, purchasing clearance and buying the floor model I was able to get a $900 dishwasher for half price.

If you know you have a large purchase coming up, save for it!  We knew we were going to have to purchase a new dishwasher for a while and were prepared for the day it finally died.  This is true for things like birthdays and Christmas too.

Your groceries, dining out, clothing, etc. is the only wiggle room you have in your budget.  You can't change your bills, you can't change the price of gas, but you can change how much you spend at retail stores!

When all else fails, you can probably do without it. :)  Now that doesn't hold true for diapers, but it does for that extra box of fruit snacks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Couponing 101: Why I Post Local Grocery Store Deals

It's been a while since I wrote a Couponing 101 post, but I thought I'd share with you why I post the ads for local grocery stores each week.

Yes, Publix and Target and Wal-Mart and Kroger have great (well, except for Kroger) coupon policies and, for the most part, low prices. I personally shop with coupons at Publix once a week, Target at least every other and Kroger and Wal-Mart about once a month or so.  I don't really go to local stores all that often.  So why do I bother typing up coupon matchups for them each week?

When I first started this blog (almost four years ago now) it was because I found myself searching the local ads each week for better meat and produce prices than the large chains could offer.  Especially meat prices.  And I thought other people might be interested in the same info since I was doing the work already :)

For example, this week Publix is offering Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast on sale for $4.49/lb.  Star Market in their upcoming Super Saturday sale has bscb for $1.99/lb.  Publix has Pork Tenderloin on sale for $4.99/lb; Hometown Market has it for $2.99/lb.  Kroger has ground beef for $2.49/lb. but Foodland has it for $1.98/lb.

Now, those aren't the greatest prices ever and I won't run down and stock up my freezer this week.  But if I were out of ground beef and I'm over by Foodland, I'd much rather save $0.50/lb. (especially since these are both family packs -- which ads up quickly).  We're on a very strict food budget and I like to make my pennies stretch as much as I can.

The other secret is to keep watching the local sales -- for example, for the past three years, once a year Star Market has offered boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.49/lb. or less -- that's when I stock up (:

And since I'm already making a trip for meat, it's nice to know what else is on sale that might be worth grabbing (:

 I personally like shopping at DG Market and Hometown -- they both consistently offer deals that rival even Publix deals most weeks!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Staples Rewards Ink Recycling Program Changes

Did you know you can take your empty printer ink cartridges to Staples and receive $2.00 each in Staples Rewards for them?  I've been doing this for years -- I wait until I have 10 empty ones (the max each month) and then have $20 to spend on whatever I need the next month (usually I purchase another ink cartridge).

However, Staples changed their program back in March and I just found out about it today -- you now have to spend $30 on ink in the previous 180 days in order to receive the rewards.  And that $30 is AFTER coupons.  So, if you use your $20 to purchase an ink cartridge, it doesn't count.

I'm debating where to take my cartridges now -- I am debating if purchasing two cartridges for a higher price at Staples is worth it (my ink is $15.99 at Staples, $15.19 at Target).

I've used Cartridge World before but my printer doesn't like recycled cartridges -- it tells me it's not an "original" HP cartridge and refuses to work.

What do you do with your empty printer cartridges?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Five Ways We Pay for Christmas (in June)

Photo source: http://www.imgion.com/
Yes, I know it's the start of Summer Vacation and Christmas is still six months away.  But if you're like us you need a bit of help to make your money stretch further in December to pay for the extra expense of Christmas (we also have four birthdays in the six weeks after Christmas!).

While tips like limiting the number of gifts you give, setting up a small savings account just for Christmas and giving homemade can help, there are other things you can be doing now to be ready for Christmas.

1. Credit Card Rewards

If we purchase anything online, anything that costs more than $100 or anything we may need to return, we use our credit card.  With the credit card we currently have, we earn 1 point per $1.00 spent (I know there are some other cards that are even better). We save up the points we receive for using our credit card all year long and cash them out in early November for gift cards.  We then use the gift cards to purchase our presents.  Some debit cards may still offer rewards (most banks have done away with this though).  You have to be disciplined to save your points and your gift cards until you need them!

Please only use this option if you are disciplined enough to pay off your credit card balance each month!  Paying interest on a credit card negates any perks you receive from using it.

2. Rewards Programs

A few companies offer rewards programs and I save up my points and redeem them in early November for gift cards or presents. Many of these companies offer bonus codes or points for surveys, so even if you don't buy the product regularly, you can still accrue quite a few points in a year.

For example, we have redeemed points for a skateboard from Disney Movie Rewards, a puzzle from Pampers Gifts to Grow and a piano toy from Huggies Enjoy the Ride.

A few I use:  My Coke Rewards, RecycleBank, Disney Movie Rewards, Pampers Gifts to Grow, Huggies Enjoy the Ride, Old Orchard, Stouffer's Dinner Club, and Kellogg's Family Rewards.

Any rewards programs I've missed?

3. Swagbucks

I don't use Swagbucks exclusively as my search engine, but I set it as my home page to encourage myself to use it a couple times a day.  Whenever I reach 450 points I cash them out for a $5.00 Amazon gift card.  Since there is a limit of how many gift cards you can redeem each month, this is the one program I redeem my points as I go instead of all at once in early November.

4. Surveys

I participate in a few survey programs and cash out my points for gift cards.  Taking surveys is a personal preference and time management decision though -- some surveys can take 45 minutes each.  Once or twice a month I sit down in the evening after the boys are in bed and take all the surveys in my inbox while my hubby and I watch tv.  For me, it's not worth my time to do more than that.  Just working one or two nights a month is enough for a few gift cards a year.

A few I've used:  My Points, Ipsos I-Say and eRewards.

There are tons of survey sites...make sure it's a legitimate site and worth your time before you join!

5.  Shop Clearance All Year Long

Twice a year Target clearances about half of their toy department:  once in January and once in October.  We use the Target gift cards we've saved up and wait until the toys are 70% off and stock up.  This past January we went to all three Huntsville area Targets on the day the toys were marked down to 70%.  Again, you have to be disciplined to hold onto them for a few months and find a good hiding place so your kids don't dig into them in April (:

What suggestions do you have for saving money at Christmas?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Couponing 101: How to Save on Paper and Ink


I don't know about you, but I tend to go through quite a bit of printer paper and ink printing coupons each week (:

Here are a couple ways that I save on both:

Free Paper at Staples:
Every couple of weeks or so Staples releases a coupon good for a free ream of paper after Staples Rewards.  There is usually a 1 or 2 limit so I purchase the maximum.  While I do have to pay $6-$7 out of pocket, I receive the money back in the form of a check I can deposit at the bank (or cash and put back into my cash envelope).

Recycle Ink Cartridges at Staples:
As a member of Staples Rewards, you get $2.00 in rewards dollars to spend at Staples for every ink cartridge you recycle, up to 10 cartridges a month. You receive the rewards the  month after you recycle the cartridges.  I then take that $20 in Staples Rewards and purchase another ink cartridge (:  The only catch is you must spend $30 in ink at Staples in the previous 180 days to receive your rewards.  So as long as you purchase 1-2 of your cartridges there, you can still do this deal.

$5.00 gift card deals at Target:
Every couple of months Target does a promo where you receive a $5.00-$10.00 gift card for either buying an ink twin pack or two ink cartridges.  I always hold onto my gift card from the previous time they offered this deal and use it to lower my out of pocket cost even more.

Print in Black & White:
Whenever possible, I print my coupons in black & white.  The only place I know of in North Alabama that requires printable coupons to be in color is Fred's.

Use both sides of the paper:
This sometimes backfires on me and I wind up printing two coupons on top of each other, but I always try and print as many coupons on one page as a I can including turning the page over and printing on the other side whenever possible.

Print in draft:
As long as your printer prints in draft clearly this works to save on ink.  However, some stores like Kroger won't take your printable coupon if it won't scan, so make sure your printer can print in draft and still scan.

How do you save on paper and ink?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Couponing 101: Mail In Rebates


Mail In Rebates (MIR) are one of my favorite ways to make money using coupons.  A Mail In Rebate is where you receive money (or a gift card or a coupon or a product, etc.) back in the mail for purchasing a product.  You must pay something up front, but you receive something back.
Since I use the cash envelope system, how this works for me is whatever I pay comes out of my budget for the week, but when I get the money back it goes back into my weekly budget (usually giving me some surplus for that week).  Whatever surplus I have at the end of the month goes towards one of our savings goals (or a treat depending on the month).  Even though I’m getting money back, if I don’t have the money up front to purchase the item it’s not a good deal.
A MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE IS NOT A MAIL IN REBATE!  If you are truly unsatisfied with a product that offers a money back guarantee, by all means get your money back.  However, you should not purchase a money back guarantee product simply to get your money back.
Some things I’ve learned from my experiences with Mail In Rebates:
Make sure to read the fine print on the rebate form.  Every rebate has different rules governing the submission like how many rebates per household can be submitted, what must be purchased, what must be mailed in, etc.  Don’t miss out on a rebate because you didn’t complete all the requirements!
Double check when the rebate period is over.  I’ve purchased items and missed getting the rebate because I didn’t get it postmarked on time.  I now keep a running list in my binder of what rebate forms I have, what is required (original or copy of receipt, UPCs, etc.) as well as when the buy period is over and when it must be postmarked so I won’t miss a deadline.
Make copies of everything you mail:  form, UPCs and receipt.  If there is an issue with your rebate being denied you can refer to your copies since you have to mail in the originals.  I had a $150 mail in rebate denied, but was able to get my money because I had copies of everything.
If you are purchasing more than one item that has a Mail in Rebate in the same transaction, make sure to get a duplicate receipt (or do two separate transactions).  Most MIRs require an original receipt.
Always print the rebate form when it becomes available.  Sometimes the form will be taken down before the rebate period is over. This also helps me keep track of what rebates are available.  I keep all my rebate forms in my coupon binder.
Keep your receipts for a couple weeks.  Sometimes a rebate form will pop up for items you’ve already purchased (two-three weeks is usually long enough).
What are your tips for using Mail in Rebates?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Couponing 101: How to plan your meals based on sales and your stockpile


One of the hurdles to couponing is changing your mindset about meal planning.  Does this sound familiar?:  you decide what you want to eat while at work, stop by the closest grocery store on the way home (paying whatever and picking up a bunch of food you don't need because it looks good and you're hungry) and then bemoan your grocery bill every pay period.

One of the secrets to decreasing the amount you spend at the grocery store is basing your meals around what you have on hand already (your stockpile) and with what's on sale that week.

While this specific system may not work for everyone, this is what I do:

First, I check my stockpile.  Right now I have an abundance of boneless skinless chicken breast, pasta, brown rice, frozen veggies and hamburger buns (leftover from this weekend's cookout).

Then, I see what's on sale.  This week Star Market and Foodland both have ground turkey for $1.99/lb. (my buy price) and chicken on sale for $1.99/lb. (my buy price).  Starting Wednesday Publix has Taco Bell Dinner kits for $0.85, pasta sauce for $0.93, more free pasta and free noodles.

So, based on what I have on hand and what's on sale I can pick up cheaply I might make spaghetti one night, asian stir fry with the free noodles another night, chicken and rice a third, mexican a fourth and turkey burgers with frozen veggies on the side a fifth.  We eat leftovers for lunch and on Sundays after church.

Over time, this process will become much faster (most days I honestly don't decide what we'll eat until about 4:00 before I start cooking dinner at 5:00). (:  Having used coupons for over two years now I just cook something based on what I have on hand and pick up the foods that are at their best sale each week that I know we'll use.  I rarely (if ever) go to the store to buy something for that evening's meal.

What are your tips for meal planning using your stockpile and sales?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Couponing 101: Overage


This is my receipt from my Publix shopping trip this week.  I spent $4.41 ($0.18 before tax) and saved $106.47.   This purchase included 2 packs of pull ups, a pack of diapers and two Sunday newspapers.
I was talking with a friend of mine earlier this week who is interested in learning how to use coupons.  I shared with her that I spent $0.18 this week at Publix.  She asked how?  I shared:  with overage.

"Overage" means the value of the coupon(s) you are using are worth more than the item cost.  Some stores adjust the value of the coupon down and just give you the item free, others (like Publix) apply that extra to the rest of your purchase.  Why?  Because they are reimbursed the full value of the coupon so they choose to give that money to you.  (Wal-Mart will even give you cash back!)

I've decided to keep a running list here on my blog of all the current items at Publix that will give you overage.  My definition of overage includes calculating sales tax.  For example, if an item is $0.99 and you have a $1/1 coupon, yes that item is "free."  However, you are actually paying $1.07 for that item because of 8% sales tax.  So, in reality, it's not "free."  It's $0.08.  While it's great that you got a freebie, it won't help pay for the rest of your purchases.

If anyone comes across a coupon(s) that gives overage please let me know!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Couponing 101: Set a Budget + Goals


In my opinion, setting a budget and having goals is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of couponing.  What's the point of saving money if you're going to waste your savings?

I can't tell you how much you should spend on groceries, etc. each month.  But I can offer you two pieces of advice that has helped us dramatically and increased my savings percentage.

Make an honest budget.  When I first started using coupons regularly we didn't have a budget--I just bought what was a good deal.  I wound up spending more money chasing deals than I did before I used coupons.  While I was getting three times more stuff than I was before, it was still more than we needed to spend.  My hubby and I sat down and made a budget based on what we were actually spending each month combined with our financial goals and the reality of our income.  We had to make some difficult decisions and be brutally honest with ourselves about our spending habits and commit to changing them.

For our family of four I try to spend less than $50/week on everything:  food, diapers, toilet paper as well as any incidental expenses that come up like a new water filter for our fridge or the oil for an oil change in our cars.  I really do mean everything.  This is not a reasonable goal for everyone and for many you may be able to afford more (and that's okay!).  The more important point is whatever your budget is:  stick to it!  When the money is gone, it's gone.  This really helped me to plan my shopping trips better and made my savings percentages increase.

Switch to cash only.  By switching to cash for everything except bills and gas for our cars and being faithful to only use cash we cut our spending by another 25% each month.  Again, when the money is gone it's gone.  This has encouraged me to plan my shopping trips better and decide what deals are necessary this week and what I can skip.  It has also cut down on impulse and unnecessary purchases.

What should you do with your savings?  Ideally, I'd like to take what's written on the bottom of my receipt where it says "this is what you saved" and use that money for some of our financial goals.  For example, if I saved $75 I would take $75 out of my checking account and put it in a savings account designated for whatever:  kids college, retirement, vacation, etc.  I know others who budget a set amount each week for groceries etc. and then whatever is left over at the end of the week goes into their fund.

However you'd like to do it is up to you, but there really is no point in saving money on groceries if you just use that money wastefully on something else.

Couponing 101: Swagbucks (free Amazon gift cards = free diapers!)

At MOPS today I was discussing the great deals Amazon has been having lately on baby products with some of my fellow Moms.  I mentioned that I've been paying for the diapers I purchase with gift cards I earn through Swagbucks!  I realized I've never posted about Swagbucks or how to use it effectively (although I do have a link to their site on the right side of my blog).

Swagbucks is a search engine like Google, but you get points (usually twice a day--once in the morning, once at night) for using them.  You can then trade in your points for rewards.  My personal favorite is 450 points for a $5.00 Amazon gift card (it's actually a better value than the higher value gift cards).  I earn at least one $5.00 gift card a month and all I do is use their search engine a few times a day.

There are numerous other ways to earn including codes on their blog, taking surveys, browsing special offers, playing their game on Facebook, answering the daily poll, referring friends, using their toolbar, codes on Facebook and Twitter and I'm sure I've missed a couple.  If you want to utilize all of these ways of obtaining codes feel free to do so!  I personally do not use all of these everyday (I'll sometimes answer a poll if I remember) and I still earn my gift cards. :)  On Fridays they offer higher point values when you search.

There is a limit of two $5.00 Amazon gift card rewards a day, and a 5 a month limit (of any like reward).  Again, they have other rewards available including higher value gift cards.  I then use my gift cards to purchase my discounted diapers on Amazon for free!

Updated 2.19.14:  I miss the Amazon diaper deals! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Couponing 101: Get Paid to Shop Online!


Using coupons and saving money is not just for the grocery store.  The two main ways I save money while shopping online are Retail Me Not and Ebates.  I NEVER make a purchase online without checking these two sites first.

Retail Me Not is a database of online coupon codes.  Not every business has codes posted--some specifically request that they not be posted.  However, most stores do have codes available so use them to your advantage!

I also use Ebates, a cash back site.  For almost every online purchase you can earn a percentage of your cash back!

Here is how it works:
1. Sign up for an Ebates account and $5.00 will automatically be credited in your account!
2. Make online purchases by first visiting Ebates and click through their link.  It takes about 48 hours for your cash back to show up in your account
3. Every quarter you will be mailed a rebate check. If the amount is $5.00 or less they will hold the check until the next quarter

While I don't purchase things online very often, when I do it's nice to get a bit of that money back!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Couponing 101: Pampers Gifts To Grow and Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards (not just for babies!)


I personally love rewards programs :)  It's an added bonus for things I'm purchasing anyways.  Two of my favorites are Pampers Gifts to Grow and Huggies Enjoy the Ride.

Before you skip over this because you don't have kids in diapers, each company has numerous promo codes they offer all the time and they have rewards that are non-baby related!

Both companies print codes on stickers and place them inside their products' packaging.  All you do is sign up for an account, enter the code, and you're done!  Huggies asks you where you purchased your product and sometimes gives bonus points based on the location.

Pampers Gifts to Grow rewards include Shutterfly prints, coupon booklets, toys, gift cards, coupons for free PG products, magazine subscriptions and baby gear!  I've personally redeemed points for free Shutterfly prints and a toy for my 2 year old.  Right now new members get a 100 point bonus!

Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards rewards change all the time but include coupons for free products, magazine subscriptions, toys, baby gear, gift cards and even cash!  I've personally redeemed points for a lullaby cd and free pull ups.

I do not personally post promo codes on this blog because everyone else does :)  Here's a link to a current list of Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards codes and Pamper's Gifts to Grow codes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Coupon Class Notes




Thanks to everyone who came to the coupon class this evening!  

Here are the links to the websites I talked about:


National coupons websites I follow: (just pick a couple)
Publix coupon matchups:
Kroger coupon matchups:
Target coupon matchups:
Printable Manufacturer Coupon Websites:

ecoupons:
Rewards Programs:
Free product coupons and samples:
Check if coupon is counterfeit:  www.cents-off.com

Sending expired coupons overseas:  www.ocpnet.org

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reminder: Check your Newspapers for Coupon Inserts BEFORE You Buy Them


I don't have a subscription to the newspaper...I pick up my copies at the store each week.  This is a quick reminder for those, who like me, buy their paper at a store:  CHECK YOUR NEWSPAPER TO MAKE SURE IT HAS THE COUPON INSERTS IN IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!!!

I tried buying my papers this week at CVS and the cashier told me that someone stole all of the coupon inserts out of their stack of papers before the store opened Sunday morning :(

I then tried to get my papers at Publix, but out of the four papers left, all had their inserts taken out.

First, you should never take a coupon insert out of a paper you didn't buy!  (I hope I don't really have to tell you that).  But, because other people do, check your papers before you buy them!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Couponing on Food Stamps

Tonight was my first adventure trying to use coupons and food stamps at one time. :)

As many of you may know, my husband lost his job in May and has been unable to find a job (even Burger King wouldn't hire him).  He received severance through July, so we shopped pretty much like normal (about $50 a week for our family of three for everything--food, household items, personal care items, diapers, etc.  Most weeks I didn't spend that much).  In August with no more money coming in we started to live off of our savings (thank you Dave Ramsey!).  I cut my spending way back, quit stockpiling, and just bought what we needed from week to week.  About a month ago now I quit shopping period.  We got on WIC (our son is one and our second boy is due in February) which paid for our perishables and that's all we bought.

Two weeks ago, with our savings almost depleted (gotta love emergencies and large expenses while you're unemployed--stupid computer and tuition), we decided to apply for food stamps.  We figure our taxes pay for us to have access to them when we need them, and right now we need them.  Our application was approved and we received our card in the mail on Friday.

We were on food stamps in Texas for about three months while we were unemployed last time but it was right at the beginning of when I was learning how to use coupons properly and Texas doesn't have sales tax on groceries, so I wasn't sure how using food stamps and coupons together would work here in Alabama.  Here's what I learned. :)

I planned to purchase five non-food items along with my food this evening at Publix:  Tums (free + $0.01 overage after coupons), 2 Sundown Vitamins (free + $0.42 overage after coupons) and 2 Tide Stain Release ($1.99 each after coupons).  Everything else was food.  After scanning all of my items and all of my coupons, my total left to pay was about $10.00.  I entered my pin number and my card was declined--according to the computer I had no food left to pay for.

What the computer was doing was seeing that my food total minus coupons was taken care of--no matter that $18 of my coupons were for non-food items.

What we had to do was delete all of the non-food items and corresponding coupons and ring them up separately from the food (which messed with my overage).  We also deleted the $5/$25 Save A Lot coupon since we weren't sure how it would affect the total.

This means I had to pay $1.45 more for my food than if I were able to purchase everything in one transaction.  It also messed with the sales tax:  I wound up owing about $0.40 in sales tax on my food transaction which shouldn't have happened--you don't pay sales tax when using food stamps.  I have since learned that in Alabama, you must pay the sales tax on the item if you use a manufacturer coupon for it.  If you don't use a mf coupon you don't have to pay the sales tax.

So, note to self--when shopping at Publix using food stamps I need to separate the food and non food items.  This will require a bit more planning on my part to keep my OOP low since you can always get freebies + overage with some of the advantage buy items.  This isn't as big a deal at Kroger or Target, but I still sometimes have issues combining food and non-food items there too.

Next time I'll try using a $5/$25 coupon on the food items and see what happens.  Since it's considered a Publix coupon there's no problem :)

Has anyone else had a good/bad experience using large numbers of coupons and food stamps?