Mondays With Mavis…

This year I went to a few extremes to reach my goal of spending an average of $100 a month for groceries.  I did a little dumpster diving, a little bartering and a whole lot of coupon shopping.  When I originally set my goal back on January 1st, 2011 I’m not sure if I actually believed I could do it.  I liked the idea of saving a ton of money on groceries, but I felt putting my plan into action and following through with it was going to be a little tricky. And it was at first, but after the first month or so saving money became rather routine.  It was more a test of willpower than anything else.

At the beginning of the year I was going to Rite Aid every Sunday for free toiletries.  Back then you could print $5/25 Rite Aid coupons pretty easily online through Redplum.com.  But times have changed and sometime around April I stopped shopping at Rite Aid pretty much altogether.  My cupboard was full with enough free toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues, band aids, ointments and cough medicine that I was set for the year.

As for the rest of my shopping?  I primarily shopped at Albertsons when they offered doublers.  Each week I would first go through the ad and find items I could get for free.  Then I would go back over the ad with a fine tooth comb and see what I could pick up for mere pennies with my coupons. I had a system.  And it worked.  I know my system is not normal, nor would the vast majority of people chose to do it.  But it worked for me.  It still works for me.  It is how I have grown accustomed to shopping: free, almost free, and then full price.

Anyway, here is what I picked up this past week:

 

In Early December I was able to pick up a ham for Christmas dinner thanks to the Albertsons gift card promo they were running at the time. I knew I wanted to make split pea soup with the leftovers, so I bought a 1lb bag of peas & a gallon of milk at Fred Meyer last Monday for $3.57.

By Thursday we needed milk. But I knew my funds were limited so instead I resorted to whipping up a batch of powdered milk I had in the back of the pantry and decided to pick up a 15 pound sack of potatoes, 8 oz of provolone cheese (for panini sandwiches) and 5 tomatoes instead (yep, it came down to powdered milk. But there was no way I wasn’t making my goal!). My total came to $7.64. I quickly handed over my $5 off coupon and then scrounged around my purse for the remaining $2.64. If I would have been able to use the $5 off coupon towards liquid dairy products, I would have.

By then I was down to $1.36 for the rest of the year and there was no way on earth I was going to blow my budget at that point.

I told myself I was not going to walk into another grocery store until January 1st.  And I didn’t.  Wait.  I take that back. The Coupon Fairy did go to Albertsons to take photos of doubler ideas, but Mavis did not. 😉

Overall the experience has been great on so many levels. It taught me frugality of course, but it also made me very aware of how frivolously I could spend my money. I would recommend it to anyone looking to cut back on expenses. Even if you don’t have a garden, can’t barter with your neighbors or think dumpster diving is just plain gross, you can do what I did on a smaller scale. The idea is to set a goal and stick to it. It might not be easy and you might hate me for planting the idea in your head, but 12 months later I can tell you with absolute certainty, IT WAS WORTH IT!

Check out how adopting a frugal lifestyle and clipping coupon has changed our families budget over the years:

In 2008 I spent $9,768 on groceries.  An average of $814 a month.

In 2009 I spent $7,584 on groceries.  An average of $632 a month.

In 2010 I spent $5,004 on groceries.  An average of $417 a month.

In 2011 I spent $1,198.64 on groceries.  An average of $99.89 a month!!

What are my plans for next year?  Will I try and do it all over again? Should I try and do it again? Should I attempt a new goal?  What do YOU think?

Comments

  • Patty

    I like your goal. I have set one for myself a bit similar. I plan on saving $15,000 this year on groceries, birthday’s, presents, and specialty dinners. In The years past we would spend $800-$1000 a month on groceries alone, and then not to mention bday presents, Christmas Presents, Anniversary Gifts….Oh My Gosh!! I started couponing in the middle of Sept. and have already saved during this 3 month period close to $3500. So that is my goal for next year.

  • Sherri

    I have really enjoyed reading about your week every Monday! One thing I kept finding myself interested in was what types of meals you were making with your groceries. I struggle with couponing because we don’t eat a whole lot of processed foods etc. I would love to see someone show us how to coupon for those types of things.

    • Christy B

      I agree with Sherri! I rarely use processed foods and have the added challenge of trying to go as organic as possible. With a picky 15 month old I’m scrounging for ideas on how to lower the food budget and eat the way my family likes.

    • Helen in Meridian

      Mavis, I knew you could do it. I also appreciate that you hardly ever used processed foods, and make most of your meals from scratch. I also appreciate your gourmet type recipes that are easy to follow. You do pack your kids lunches also, don’t you. What all do you pack in dh and your teens lunches?

  • Liz

    You go girl! 🙂

  • Amanda

    I would LOVE to cut back on groceries bills, but with 6 people in my family, and my for year old having just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it’s difficult. She has to get a certain number of carbs down within 30 minutes and she’s a typical picky 4 year old. I’m going to try my best with whatever coupons come in the paper. Congratulations on meeting your goal! I’ve read every week and get so excited to see what you come back with! I think you should try it again:)

  • MaryAnne

    Way to go Mavis!! I have been a silent rooter out here since spring. I’d say keep on keeping on what you do (well, maybe curb the dumpster stuff–I did that at one point in my couponing/refunding life 30 years ago and it totally turned my daughter off of coupons; that badly troubled her sensibilities). I would also be interested in how you meal plan. That would be cool. But congrats to you on a fab year!!!! I have looked forward to Monday’s with Mavis since I discovered your web site. You provide a great service showing how it can actually be done, real life. Take yourself out to dinner. Ok, maybe take the hubs and kiddies too! 🙂 🙂

  • Monica

    You should totally do this again. I’ve learned to think more outside the box when it comes to groceries from following your posts this past year.

    I do have some questions for you too.
    What did your stockpile look like when you started in Jan. 2011?
    Did your stockpile get smaller as the year went on or were you able to keep replenishing it?
    How did you come to a $100 a month? Was it just a random number or did you do some careful calculating?
    Did your family notice a difference or were they on board with your goal from the beginning?
    When did you plant your garden and what kind of investment was that?
    We know you spent very little $$ on groceries this year but how much time each week did you invest?

    I’m trying to determine if I can successfully achieve a similar goal this year =)

    • kendra

      Ditto what Monica asked. I was wondering some of those same questions. I’m especially stuck on meal planning!!

      • Heidi

        Great questions Monica. I’d like to hear a few more details as well.

        I have a large garden but wasn’t very successful this past year. Moles!!!! I’m planning on putting in some raised beds to help with the problem. Hopefully chicken wire will do the trick 🙂

        Meal planning is a huge issue with us as well. My time in the evenings is limited and planning ahead helps tremendously. I’d like to hear how many hours Mavis spends planning, planting/harvesting/caring for her garden, etc.

        Mavis is my hero. Do they have a Mavis Hero costume?

        I’m truly going to miss Mavis’ $100 a month challenge.

  • Susie

    DO IT!!! Do it again! This is my favorite part about this website!

  • Kindy

    Congratulations on achieving such a challenging goal. It must feel really good! I have to say that I am also interested in the menu planning aspect. Maybe you can still do Mondays with Mavis and add Menu planning to that as well!?!

  • Lindsay Letzelter

    Amazing job! I say double it so you can get milk and grow your stock pile. I would love to hear more details on your meal plan and what you started with.

  • chelle

    I LOVED this post this past year probably the most!! It gave me some inspiration that I can spend very little on food and still feed my family some good stuff!!!! I hope you bring it back this year (and if Mavis didn’t want to do it, maybe someone else could and maybe incooperate some other stuff besides just food like toiletries..). GREAT JOB MAVIS!!! those savings when you list what you used to spend is pretty darn amazing!!!

  • Jaime

    Thank You so much for all the time and effort you have put into this! I am a gardener too, so I have really enjoyed your garden posts. Also canning. I have been couponing for a year now, and I am so so so so so glad you showed your spending from the last few years, because my goal is to save 500/mth, but from your history, it looks like you got better and better at the ‘game’. I have been getting discouraged because I thought I have been doing this wrong or missing something.I am saving $ but want to save much more. So, this year, I am determined to be more strict with my budget and try to stick to it!
    Thank You Mavis!

  • Laura

    Congrats on achieving your goal! I’m not as ambitious as dumpster diving but you have given me the thought that maybe I can do it too. My stockpile has started to take shape after 6 months and I think I am ready to try your challenge on a slightly larger monthly budget.

    For those struggling with your meals, this site has always helped me because I can enter what I have on hand and it will give me some things I can make. http://www.supercook.com/

    Mavis, I’d love to see you do this again!

  • Jamie

    I agree with others that it would be great to increase the dollar amount a bit and cut out most or all processed foods–no hamburger helper, no store bought cookies, etc. Most of what you bought was good and healthy, but there were a few cheats! A list of the meals you were able to make from what you bought (or had stockpiled) would also help us make the connections of using what you do buy most efficiently.

    Mostly I was impressed that you had such a productive garden! I also live in the Pacific NW and it was a tough year to be a gardener last summer!!

  • Stacie

    I respectfully must tell you I believe this is extreme behavior, and I am not sure of your motives for setting this “goal”. I have watched you, week after week, bring home volumes of processed “food”, displaying your boxes of junky pasta and cookie mixes. I understand you have a garden, but unless you are an extremely productive and successful Northwest gardener, how do you provide your family with a consistent variety of fresh produce?

    My goal as a Mom and a couponer is to provide my family a wide variety of high-quality, healthy foods. I buy organic when I can afford it. I coupon sensibly and ethically. I use coupons the way they were intended. HOARDING NOT ONLY INCLUDES BUYING UNREASONABLY LARGE AMOUNTS OF FOOD, BUT IT ALSO INCLUDES HOARDING THE COUPONS THEMSELVES. For example, accumulating 60 or more coupons for razors, like you shared in a previous post, is hoarding.

    People may be interested in this Extreme lifestyle, but I think it is a disservice to those of us who are trying to coupon reasonably. If you reconsider your position, maybe you could write your posts and share your gardening tips, your meal planning, your bartering, etc. I am sure that would help alot of people.

    • Anne

      Hey Stacie, I was taught and have taught my children, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all”! I assume that if you could get large amounts of free or close to free items you would not? I have a great stockpile that I use to feed my large immediate family , extended family, and friends. If I can get lots of great deals on items, I DONATE them. We also use my stockpile to FEED THE HOMELESS in Seattle. Really, I highly doubt that Mavis is a HOARDER!!!!!!!! Razors are a much needed item at the shelters, as are deoderants, shampoos, and other personal care items. Try giving to your less fortunate people in your area, it feels great and makes a big difference in others lives. Happy Couponing!!!

      • Stacie

        Thats whats great, Its funny you call me “judgemental” and “sad”…. Hmmmmm what does that make you?

        • Tali

          Stacie, what you said really saddened me. Mavis did not hoard those razor coupons. It is not as if she went to the store and bought all the papers with the doublers. She got the doulbers and coupons from a recycling bins with permission from the owner of those bins. When she purchased large number of items she always pre-ordered. If anything she would tell the manager of the Albertsons she go to what is going to sell fast and he was able to pre order enough for all shoppers/couponers.
          I saw week after week all the produce she brought from her garden and how she worked hard to freeze and can it.
          Mavis, what an inspiration you have been to me!
          I started couponing this last March: I was working 100-120 every 2 weeks, full time in distance college (just finished), and I home school my teens. I was getting up at 4am checking the ‘Mondays with Mavis’ and run to the store when it opened. I would shop from 5am until 6:30 and then go and work 12 or 16 hrs as a nurse. If I worked only a 12 hr shift I would shop on my way home. I never cleared a shelf and shopped at 3 different Albertsons. I have been able to save so much money and therefore I can easily afford to not just give tons of food away but I can afford to buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies that my family loves.
          I hope you continue to educate us on Mondays!!

          • Chelsea

            I love you Mavis and all your posts! This year I set a goal for $200 or less each month on groceries. In 2010 I spent about $8,500 and in the end of May 2011 I started couponing. By the end of May, I had already spent close to $4700 on groceries! We really needed the money because we were having a rough year with our health (two surgeries, and lots and lots of dr visits). Anyhow I lost track of the total amount we spent in 2011 because of all the health issues, but I know we saved money and now I have a small stockpile that eases my fears when months are tight. I loved your posts on Mondays. It was very inspiring and I really hope that you continue it through this upcoming year.

        • Elisabeth

          Stacie, why are you even on this website? Isn’t stockpiling the only way to make best use of a beautiful sale (with coupons). Isn’t 10 free items better than one free item? You could use it for your own family or give it away, AS IN CHARITY. Why is this such a horrible thing? Sounds like you have lost your Coupon Happy Dance 🙂 Please go find it…

    • Miriam

      If she can use all 60 to stockpile or whatever and orders ahead with the store, what is the problem?

    • Cassandra

      Stacie, I really hope you are not as judgmental as you come across. It is just plain sad.

    • Kate

      Haha, that makes me laugh. No worriese, there’s always that one weirdo out there who had nothing better to do than point out people s faults. Way to go mavis and way to go anyone trying to live a more frugal lifestyle!

      • Stacie

        Kate I guess you think its a better use of time to call people names? Way to express your opinion in a respectful and articulate way.

    • Jennifer

      I am confused on why you are coming to the site if it is below your standards? Mavis is amazing and has taught so many of us SO MUCH. I think the majority of us are ethical, and do try to feed our families healthy. Your definition of hoarding is not necessarily right on. But you are entitled to your opinion. But why both to come down on someone who has helped so many people?

    • danielle

      WOW Stacie… If you dont have anything nice to say DONT say it all all..if you dont like what Mavis is doing why are you reading it?

    • Jennifer

      I once heard the saying on the show Extreme Couponing that the difference between hoarding and stockpiling is dust . . . . and her stockpile has no dust on it.

      I don’t know any of the Fab Frugals personally – have never even seen any of them in person that I know of – but one thing I’ve learned from them is “re-purposing”. For example, if I’m making turkey noodle soup from the left over turkey from Christmas but I don’t have any noodles, I know I can open a few boxes of my free fettucine alfredo chicken helper and just use the noodle from those packages. Why not?

      I’m not sure if anybody actually took the time to explain why Mavis got 80 razor coupons off of e-bay or from the dumpster (that were being thrown away anyway) but I read the post as well. Each razor purchase MADE her 41 cents. With 80 coupons, she had an overage of about $32 that she spent on fresh produce and meat for her family. Plus, she was a courteous shopper and placed an order and didn’t clear the shelves.

      Stacie – I’m getting the impression you haven’t been reading this site long. Every Monday during gardening season Mavis posted and shared how her garden was doing, how she bartered and produce she was given from neighbors. All of the FruGals have posted homemade meals that they make for their families with the stockpile of items that they are able to get for free or pennies on the dollar.

      Everybody has different lifestyles and it sounds as if you try to live yours very healthy which is wonderful. You might want to see if you have Bountiful Basket in your area. You can check and see at http://www.bountifulbaskets.org . You can generally get a full large laundry basket of produce every week for $15. Check it out – it might be the answer to getting fresh produce at very reasonable cost.

  • Leanna

    Mavis I too have loved your Mondays with Mavis. I know you could do it again. As has been stated above I would love to see what you are cooking/serving weekly. (I know that would be hard and VERY time consuming.) Maybe you could do it once a quarter – show what you served for the week and reference your stock pile and/or date you bought with price paid. (Like I said a LOT of time.) Did you include all of your toiletries in this too? I only ask because you mentioned it at the top of the post with your Rite Aid shopping. (No Rite Aid here) 🙁

    Thanks so much for your hard work. Wish I could garden like you do I know that saved you bunches.

  • samantha

    you are awesome mavis. i was going to try something similar to this for a psychology behavior project but wasn’t ready. read ya every monday and love it. shooot for $50 a month this year.

  • Susan

    I love this column. Like several other people, I’d love to read more about your garden and bartering. Does your garden still produce in the winter months? I’d love some pictures. I planted chard for the first time this year, and we’re still harvesting it! Seems amazing to me, but perhaps this is routine to you. I’d love to know.

  • karen

    Congrats! Didn’t know it could be done until you did it!

    Loved seeing the details of your purchases each week as I feel I learned much about how you planned and thought what was critical to buy. I echo others on the desire to know more about your meal planning and what you actually served the family for meals…. e.g. I remember the post about strawberry shortcake for dinner and thought it was inspired. What a great idea to do once or twice a year as a treat for yourself and the family. But, what were some of the other great and probably more healthful ideas you’ve had?

    Thanks for this year, I checked each Monday on this blog just to read about ‘Mondays with Mavis’. Looking forward to another exciting year with Mavis.

  • Linda

    Mavis, I enjoy your column and am inspired by your achievements. I’m hoping to keep my family’s grocery bill to $250 a month this year. I garden as well and would like to know if you include the costs of gardening (seeds, soil amendements, etc.) in your grocery bill.

  • Michele

    I think you are amazing, inspiring, and we are SO lucky to learn from you!

    I too would love to hear more about your gardening plans/goals. For example, which plants to you start from seed and which plants from starts?

    I hope to see you set a similar goal of $100/mo on groceries. Boring I know…but so many of us can relate to that goal.

    Thanks for inspiring all of us!

  • Amy D :-)

    Congratulations on a budget well done. There are difficult measures that must be taken in order to save money and makes ends meet for a family. Times are not what they used to be and money never grew on trees for my family. Thus we coupon. It’s all an adventure and I say Mavis, you taught us all how to do it on pennies. In many of your articles you pointed out that the items being purchased in bulk were pre-ordered, no hoarding there, and all items that were being purchased for others were indeed going to a good cause.

    In 2012 I would love to continue to see your finds at Albertson’s (from the coupon fairy’s) I meant. In addition I would love to see or read what your family thought of your grocery goals and meal plans for the year. How old are your children and are they good eaters or picky? Plus did you budget for a meal out a week but didn’t post about it? Or is going out to eat a separate budget expense? Do you budget for meals out? Did you budget for an emergency pizza for a sick friend’s family? These are the types of “overage” or “extras” that I seem to struggle with and knock my budget off course.

    Congrats again. Job well done!!

  • heather

    I, too, am a huge Mavis fan! I found this blog in July and have used it faithfully each week to save on groceries for our family. Without changing our eating habits at all, I’ve cut 60% AND grown a sensible stockpile. Mavis has inspired me to go even further, so I bravely told my husband to cut an additional $50 from our food budget each month. Starting this month, we’ll be feeding our family of 4 on a $200/month budget that will include gardening, mostly organic fruits and vegetables, and free range beef and chicken whenever possible. So not quite as ambitious as Mavis, but ambitious for us. I’m excited to see what Mavis comes up with next! (Our grocery budget includes all toiletries, cleaning supplies, and usually birthday gifts)

  • Amy

    Stacie- it’s interesting that you responded with saying Mavis buys a ton of processed foods. I have been watching her every week and never thought that at all. There was always produce, meat and milk. If you are going to criticize what she is doing, then why follow her every week. That seems odd.
    Mavis- Please please set another goal this year! I look forward to it so much every week. You are truly talented.
    As a mom (and doing the paleo diet which let’s you have zero processed foods), I coupon to save money and this site has been my guide. I keep canned and boxed food in my pantry. Cake mixes are awesome for a family gathering. Canned foods are great to have around. Besides, if a huge natural disaster happened, the responsible thing to do is to have a nice supply of food your family can live on for awhile. I personally have stuff that’s processed and good for years in my stockpile. It’s nice to know if something happened, my family could be self sufficient for a long time.
    Again, Mavis is amazing! I love your blog 🙂

    • Stacie

      Amy, Feedback was requested and I gave my honest opinion. I read Fab Frugal because it does offer alot of great info..I read through Mavis’ posts like I did with all the others!

  • Jeanna

    Hey Mavis, Thank you so much! I look forward to your monday posts and they have kept me on my budget of $100-130 a month for my family of 5, that includes everything from groceries to toiletries to haircuts. You have taken a hard task of living on a modest budget and making it fun. :0)
    I LOVE your coupon fairy posts and your gardening posts as well, I hope you continue to inspire us again this year. Happy New Year Mavis!
    Your my Superhero!

  • Angela E

    hello…..great job Mavis…..having 6 kids, I inspire to grow a garden that large and plenitful. I HATE gardening, but my hubby LOVES it and my 6 kids dont mind it so I got lucky that I get a garden and the benefits…I do all the canning and freezing though.. In response to questions, for those that live in the area of a bountiful basket, that is a great place to get your fruits and veggies for pretty thrifty deal.

    Cant wait to see what mavis has in store for us this year, I look forward to it 🙂

  • Elisabeth

    Mavis, You have done an amazing job with your budget! I know that dairy is a hard thing to work out on the cheap. I sure wish you could find a better way than full price to really tame this area. That would loosen up some wiggle room in your budget to make it a little less painful for ya. There are not many options to employ in this area but I do wish you luck. And yes, I would love to see you repeat this goal again this year! I always get a little jealous when you show your garden because I have no dedication to be able to do my own. 🙁 Also, I can’t grow anything except for a cactus, lol. But I really enjoyed the other areas of your posts. Thank you so much and keep it up!

  • kim

    Great job Mavis!!! I knew you would make your goal!!! Thank you for all the hard work and time you put into helping us and entertaining us weekly! I really look forward to Mondays with Mavis! I have learned quite a bit reading this blog! Please keep doing MWM in whatever goal you set this year!!! Happy New year! Thanks again!!!!!

  • Jennifer L.

    I had already decided to take up your challenge with a slight variation. My goal is 25$ per week (before tax) which is $1300 per year. I have 3 kids at home and 1 in college with no garden so I’m hoping to keep to this budget. The reason I decided the amount was not going to include tax is because that is something I can’t control. The manufactuer’s coupons and store coupons adjust tax differently at different stores. I don’t know why, but they do. I could travel 30 minutes to Oregon and have no sales tax but at what cost for my time and gas? I’m going to see if I can do it – it might be tough but I have a friend that is taking the challenge with me so we’re hoping that the support from each other will be helpful.

  • kim

    Mavis – thanks for all you do for us that follow and love you.

    I am interested in knowing how much $$ you spend on newspapers to get the coupons and all of the Alb’s doublers each month. Do you get the All You Magazine too? If so, what is the $$ monthly budget for that?

  • justa

    In fairness, you should probably also mention that you were able to reach this goal because you won some free food and a $100 gift card from Albertson’s. You were also in a position to somehow earn a lot of freakin Swagbucks and spend them on food (that is spending, even if you don’t count it, because you spent time and/or money to earn them in the first place, and then you chose to put them toward food instead of something else that you then presumably spent money on). You were also in a position to transfer pretty large sums of money at least twice this year from somewhere else in your budget to support your grocery shopping (by buying gift cards to Amazon and so forth in order to get free groceries). You also live, apparently, in an area where a lot of people throw out coupons. You also seem to be willing to eat a lot of Hamburger Helper. In other words, while these posts were always interesting and fun to read, I don’t think this is necessarily repeatable and it’s probably not something most people could do. Anything that is dependent on you winning a gift card and also on buying $500 worth of Amazon gift cards at one time probably isn’t repeatable.

    • Tracy

      I’ve always felt that the “free” giftcards that were from large purchased Amazon cards were a bit of a cheat. But overall I think the Mondays with Mavis post was wonderful. It was my favorite post. I only wish I lived closer to an Albertson’s!
      I totally agree with those that would love meal plans to go along with the food purchases to help educate us on the way you use your groceries for actual meals.

      • Tali

        WOW! You sure like to find something to complain about.

        Well, let me tell you something. I am a nurse and really do not ‘need’ to coupon but I work hard for my money and like Mavis I think it is ‘fun’ to be creative.

        If you are planning to spend money at Home Depot because you have a house project and someone offers to pay you extra 20% to do it what’s wrong with that? Mavis didn’t take it from ‘elsewhere’ she didn’t steal it.

        She also doesn’t make the rules but sure follows them. I found UP2U gum on clearance at the store yesterday for $0.74 and with the $1/1 Q + dblr I had an overage of $4.50 for each transaction of 3! I ended up with 5 packages of gum, 6lb of hamburger meat and 2 big packages of bacon ends all for free…no do not judge what we eat…it is simply none of your business…..:)

    • Sue

      In all fairness…………..let me just rain on your parade.

    • Linda

      Wow! In fairness,
      If give you a nice big straw will you go suck the fun out of someone else’s day?

      Mavis, You rock!! I love to read your post and blog. Keep up the great work!!!

  • I wish we had an Albertson. Albertson left Utah. I would love to follow your blog, but, it doesn’t do me any good with ALbertsons gone.

  • LK

    I agree with Stacie. If I had to describe Mavis in one word it would be cunning. For example the razors that people have brought up here, making $32 off the manufacturer of the razor coupons was a very nice perk for her family obviously, her cunning way of thinking and beating the system to get $32 worth of free good food, but how it will affect us all as couponers? Think that razor company will ever put out a high value coupon again when they can read right here that they just paid $32 to buy buy Mavis’ family groceries and those of her many followers that tried to replicate her strategy, obviously they lost a ton of money on that coupon and paid for a LOT of groceries so I’d say they probably won’t be putting out any more high value coupons ever again. I am the only person who has noticed that coupon values have gone way down? I’d blame the stupid tv show but mavis showcasing her coupon abuse doesn’t help either. For the new year I would love to see Mavis’ column be about ethical couponing, be realistic and be honest. Love the gardening advice, love the recipes and the humor but how about being a good, ethical person who helps others by passing along ethical advice and how to coupon the RIGHT way so that it continutes to help people out and doesn’t get stamped out with the rampant coupon abuse that mavis showcases. Mavis has totally differnt circumstances than the average couponer. For example how many couponers do you know that have hundreds of dollars to play with to buy all the gift cards to get free groceries? How many of us get unlimited coupons and doublers for free? Mavis has tons of energy and is bright and I’d just like to see her put these qualties to some good rather than highlighting coupon abuse and a way that is impossible for most that read this site. As others brought up, you mean to tell me that her well off family never gets a pizza night, rarely goes out to eat, her husband and kids only eat hamburger helper and her other free stockpile food and garden stuff only? Yeah right! I believe none of this that she tries to pass off as truth to show that $100 month can be done. She took way too many unethical shortcuts this year (stealing tearpads of coupons, taking peelies off products that were shown when she took pics of the pages of her binder )and did too much wrong to deserve all the praise that everyone is throwing her way right now. How can she feel good about meeting her goal when she got her thanksgiving turkey for free by doing the test drive thing, making a salesman buy her turkey and abuses coupons to have manufactures actually buying her food. She is basically glorifiying one step above theft. She don’t care who she steps on to get her freebies. How about being a good person in 2012 and showing people how to ethically coupon? Now that would be a goal!

    • Angie D.

      Wow, I’m stunned by the hostility here. I think Mavis is very creative and I don’t see anything unethical about the razor deal. If a coupon doesn’t list a size restriction and your store allows overages, why isn’t it okay to use the overage to purchase your groceries?

      • Tracy

        I don’t think there was any coupon abuse showcased by Mavis. When a coupon value is greater than the cost of the item purchased, a store can either reduce the value of the coupon or pass it on to the customer. I choose to shop at stores where they pay the overage on to me.

        When a store reduces the value of the coupon to match the actual price, the store gets the overage from the manufacturer. The manufacturers know when they print a coupon for a value higher then the selling price of the item, that they are encouraging people to try their product, even if it is free. This is especially common when a new product debuts.

        Mavis has shown us creative ways to use coupons to our advantage. If she has access to lots of coupons, then why not use them? Some of her strategies may not work for everyone. I don’t have it in my budget to purchase lots of giftcards to get free grocery cards. But it shows a creative way to think about things. I never thought about buying giftcards to use for a purchase I was going to make anyways, because of the periodic giftcard incentives. I will now know that is a great option to save money.

        I would suggest that if you don’t approve of her posts, simply don’t read them. There is no need for such negativity. Mavis is simply showing us what works for her, and I for one have learned a great deal.

    • Lola

      @ LK: I think you must smoke crack or something. LOL.

    • Amy

      LK- your too much. You sound like you could use a big huge or a good cup of coffee 😉

      • Amy

        I meant hug……not huge……..I’m typing this on an iPad so I’m not used to the keyboard. Actually, its an iPad I bought my son for Xmas with the money I saved from couponing. 😉

    • Helen in Meridian

      LK are you sure you are not related to Myassssss who used to criticize Mavis? She doesn’t steal tearpads of coupons. In fact she doesn’t take a whole binder when she runs to the grocery store. She always said this wasn’t for everyone and that she was spending $100 actual cash, not counting her coupons and earnings of cards and catalinas and games she may ot may not win. SHE MADE IT. She lives in the Seattle area which is one of the highest costs of living in the nation AND SHE MADE IT. YOU GO Mavis, we love you.

    • Miriam

      Wow, girl. Slow down. Breathe. Make paragraphs (much, much easier to read).

      There is nothing unethical about having a coupon pay for a product or getting inserts from others (as long as you are not stealing them). Just because someone can pay for $100’s worth of gift cards doesn’t mean others cannot as well. I routinely buy $100 worth of CPK giftcards for $80 in order to get 20% off of my date night where my husband and I share a pizza. Is that considered unethical to you? I go to Costco, they offer something and I take advantage of it?

      If the companies offering the coupons want to reduce the amount on it, it is their choice. I believe people are smart enough to figure out the ‘money maker’ deals and share them with friends without Mavis being the big, bad money saver.

      If Mavis wants to use her brain to save her family money, power to her. Not all people are even going to spend the time an effort it takes to live on $100 in groceries a month, so yes, she is an outlier. There is nothing wrong with that.

      About taking an entire tear pad or purposely removing peelies on products you didn’t buy, I don’t know. I didn’t read those posts, so I cannot comment. If you have a peelie from a product you did buy, however, that is not unethical to keep it.

    • MaryAnne

      Wow. Why are you here? The turkey? That is ad budget. Maybe someone actually ended up buying a car. Or will some other year. Or not. Remember insur companies giving away calculators for getting rate quotes? Most folks just go for the freebie. As for the rest, wow. I do not agree.

    • Jessica B

      LK, I have peelies in my binder too. They came from the products I purchased that I already had a coupon for prior to entering the store. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to use the peelie off the product when you already have the same dollar value of coupon in your hand that expires before the peelie does.

  • Patti

    Hey Mavis, you are at the top of my list of posts to read. You are creative, resourceful and I think a hoot!! Also, I believe you are ethical and honest.

    You give some very good pointers and tips on how to think about saving outside of the box. And I know this is hard work. I want to say a huge THANK YOU for doing this.

    For 2012………………….hmmmm……………………I don’t know what to suggest, but I bet you have something up your sleeve and I will be there rootin’ for you all the way!!

  • renee

    You rock Mavis! I loved following your goal this year! Thanks so much for helping us all so much!

  • Becca S.

    Mavis you are an insperation and i LOVE this blog, have followed it every week for months! Congrats on making your goals and i hope you have something awesome up your sleeve for this year! 🙂

  • Trudi

    That’s awesome Mavis! I wish we had the same kind of stores around here. We have one grocery store that has a few great deals a month, but otherwise is a little pricey. The only other place is Walmart or Meijer. We have no doubling and there are no recycling bins to look for coupons either. I do what I can, but I wish I could do more. 🙁

  • Alissa H

    I read here that Mavis lives in the Seattle area. Does anyone know if the $100 goal INCLUDED her news paper subscription price… or did she get her coupons from dumpsters, friends and neighbors? Which newspaper? I have heard certain ones only have certain inserts.

    For the record: I am totally for dumpster diving. I am just hours away from bundling up my kids and knocking on doors to ask which neighbors in our new area will allow me to remove those pesky coupons from their sunday morning paper… you know, at 5am, before they take it in. 😀

    • Brenda

      If I recall correctly, Mavis does not subscribe to a newspaper and that is why it’s not in her budget. Good luck with your door to door idea, it sounds easier than dumpster diving!

  • OMG! So totally worth all of the work. You should definitely do it again!

  • Laura

    I think some people have lost sight as to the GOAL here – there were no rules. A HUGE KUDOS to Mavis for achieving the impossible for most people! I’m in complete awe of what she did, no matter how she had to achieve it. It’s similar to losing weight. You set a goal and do anything and everything you can to get there. One of the comments earlier said something about this being extreme…duh…we live in extreme times. I hope you do this or something similar again! While I can never duplicate your efforts I most certainly can learn!

  • Jane

    I am right there with you Mavis, whatever you decide to do in the way of grocery budget goals I will follow. You are an inspiration to me every week I read this blog:-)

  • Laura

    While I loved reading Mondays with Mavis and think she totally rocks….I have been entertained by all of the points of views in the comment section for the past 30 minutes. Wow. It takes all kinds.

  • Melodie

    I say do it again! I learned a lot by reading about Mavis’s skills. Do it again, if you want to.

  • Joanna

    I’m a big Mavis fan. I have a tatoo.

  • Donaca

    With all the coupon changes that we’ve had this last year, do you think that $100/month is still a reasonable goal for your family?

  • Ellen

    Mavis: please don’t listen to the nay sayers. You did a wonderful job taking care of your family and budget.
    I would love to see photos of your stockpile before and after the year.

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