"Savings Mom" Stephanie Nelson answers questions submitted by readers of her column and by "Good Morning America" viewers.
Question: I once was an avid coupon shopper. Now that my sons and I are eating healthier, I rarely find coupons I can use. Where can I find coupons for healthy foods (for example, salmon, brown rice, and other foods that do not contain hydrogenated oils)? — Gloria Lawson, Linwood, Calif.
Savings Mom Says: You raise a very interesting question, which is why my mantra is, "Saving money on groceries is not about changing the way you eat, but changing the way you buy the food that you like." It sounds like you would like to save money on your groceries without compromising the quality of the food your family prefers. By using Strategic Shopping tips, believe me, you can save money and eat healthy, too.
The three points of Strategic Shopping are: 1) Know prices of your preferred food items; 2) Know your store's savings programs; and 3) Know coupons.
In your family's case, you may not find as many coupons for your groceries as you did in the past. However, you can still reduce your spending by knowing the price ranges for your preferred items so you can recognize their lowest price and stock up when they hit their lowest price.
Identify the top 10 or 20 items your family buys and compare the prices of those items at nearby stores to see which store offers the lowest price on your items, including alternative stores like health food stores or farmer's markets. You may find that buying rice and whole grains in bulk at a local health food store may be less expensive than the grocery store, and you may even find a coupon for the health food store in local coupon flyers. By stocking up on your key items at their lowest prices, you will never have to pay full price and will reduce your spending dramatically over time.
You also want to understand each store's savings programs and learn special offers they may have available to help you save. For example, many mainstream grocery stores have expanded their organic and natural food sections, adding a full line of store brand items that offer high quality at affordable prices. Look for special magazines and flyers in the store that may include coupons for products in their natural and organic section. Ask about the store's guarantee on their store brands. Many stores will offer a full refund if you are not fully satisfied with their product, and some will even give you the comparable brand-name item FREE if you are not satisfied with their store brand item. If you know your stores' policies, you can take advantage of lower-priced store brand items at no risk.
Finally, don't give up on coupons! There are many coupons available for healthy, natural and organic foods. Look for free, printable coupons on Web sites of your favorite food manufacturers (including organic and natural food manufacturers) to save on your preferred items. Get even more coupons by sending an e-mail to the customer service contact on these Web sites requesting coupons for your favorite products. If you include your address in your e-mail, they will most likely mail you valuable coupons.
Check the Virtual Coupon Organizer on www.couponmom.com for your state (or a nearby state) to see if coupons for your preferred items are available in the Sunday newspaper coupon circulars. There are many coupons for healthy items like yogurt, some organic products, diet products, low-sugar products, special varieties of margarines, cheese and snacks with no hydrogenated oils, and more. As consumers' preferences change, food manufacturers' products and coupons tend to follow our trends so we can expect to see more coupons for healthier food items in the future.