Dear Jill: How I can save lots of money on fresh food such as lean meat, produce, milk, eggs and fruit? All I ever see are shoppers getting things like 1,500 deodorant sticks for free. I never see coupons for fresh food — the main products on my grocery list. — Cindy B.
Dear Cindy: Coupons for meat, produce and dairy may be rare, but they exist. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you look for coupons for healthier, whole foods.
• Focus on brands. If the product doesn't have a supplier or brand name, it will be harder to find a coupon for it. I regularly find $1 and $2 coupons on major brands of meats, such as Perdue, Hormel, Butterball, Jennie-O, Oscar Mayer and Hillshire Farm. These are great coupons that reduce prices on fresh whole chicken, pork tenderloin, deli meats and sausage. The same is true for the distributors of fresh fruit and vegetables. I've enjoyed $1 coupons for a Del Monte pineapple or 50-cent coupons for Driscoll's strawberries by going to the companies' websites and printing them.
• Think growers and farmers. If there's a council or growers' association for the item you seek, watch for seasonal coupon promotions. In the past, I've found $1 coupons for two avocados from the California Avocado Commission during Super Bowl season. The National Dairy Council has offered coupons for free gallons of milk as part of the "Got Milk?" campaign (an offer I found on Twitter). I've also enjoyed peelies, the peel-off sticker coupons found on packages, on bags of fresh grapes.
• Seek go-withs. Look for "Buy This, Get That" coupons on foods that you frequently serve together. I've seen coupons on boxes for vanilla wafers that read: "Buy this box of wafers and get $2 worth of bananas free." When the wafers went on sale for $1.99, I paid that price for both the wafers and the bananas. The same was true for a box of puffed rice cereal that offered a pound of free strawberries with purchase. Make sure the price you pay for both items is a good one.
• Watch your favorite stores. Keep an eye out for your store's discounts on meat, dairy and produce. One supermarket in my area offers weekly e-coupons that shoppers can load on their loyalty cards at the store website. It's worth the time, since the prices are usually excellent: $1.77 for a gallon of milk, 18 eggs for 99 cents, ground beef for $1.49 a pound. You'll never know these coupons existed if you don't visit the website!
I was in a store recently and heard a woman complain about the price of milk. I pointed out the great price the store offers on milk every week to shoppers who load e-coupons onto their loyalty card. But the shopper waved her hand and said she didn't have time to load coupons to her card. I suppose it goes back to the question of time vs. money. Some people won't spend time to seek out discounts. Since I do, I'm able to purchase the same items at a better price.
Luckily, stores are happy to promote healthy savings. One supermarket in my area hands out reusable coupons for free bananas to children. Every time we go to the store, my children show their coupons and receive a free banana. What a great way to teach kids that there are coupons for healthy foods!Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.