TLC’s Extreme Couponing: Extreme Buying vs. Extreme Saving

Extreme Buying vs. Extreme Saving

Reader Question: You repeatedly remind readers not to clear shelves but you also talk extensively about building a large stockpile and shopping from our pantry. How can I create a large stockpile without buying mass quantities when the price is a stock up price?

Excellent question! To understand the answer you must first understand the difference between extreme buying and extreme saving.  Saving money on an extreme level doesn’t necessarily mean you have to purchase on an extreme level. If you only buy 1 box of brownies and 1 box of pasta and get both items free, you have saved money on an extreme level! And you have not purchased anywhere near what one would consider an extreme amount.

So how will that 1 box of pasta and 1 box of brownies fill your pantry? It won’t! But let’s say you buy 2 or 3 of each item during one shopping trip and 2 or 3 of each item the next shopping trip. I bake brownies once a month. I now have a 6 month supply in my pantry after 2 shopping trips!

Suddenly your measly shopping trip full of extreme savings but not extreme buying is making more sense and seeming more doable!  A few small shopping trips like the one mentioned above and you will slowly see your pantry shelves filled. Not overnight. Building a stockpile takes time and patience.

It is hard to see the shopping trips on Extreme Couponing and not want to go duplicate them to fill your pantry to the brim in one trip to the store. But like we’ve said and like the actual couponers on the show will attest to, that’s not reality. Most of the stockpiles you see featured on Extreme Couponing took a lot of time to build. Years even.

I’ve been couponing for years and my pantry looks nothing like the ones shown. But I also have no need for a pantry like that. I have 2 small children and a husband to feed. For those who have many more mouths to feed, the way I shop might not be realistic. For instance, if you bake 2 pans of brownies a week you would need to place an order to have enough brownie mix in your pantry to last you a year. For my family, that is not necessary.

My stockpile is small, but sufficient for us. I know what we will use and I know what I like having on hand. I also know that if I miss a sale, we’ll most likely see another in a few months. I shop small and consistently. And that is enough for me. I am an extreme saver, which makes me an extreme couponer. But I am not an extreme buyer.  And my pantry is still full! You know what they say: slow and steady wins the race!!


Still haven’t watched Extreme Couponing and not sure what we’re talking about? You can catch up on missed episodes for $1.99 on Amazon Demand!

Need help getting started on your journey to Extreme Couponing (done right!).

Our 90-minute coupon class on DVD will teach you step by step the correct and ethical way to implement extreme couponing. Use code EXTREME for a 55% discount at check out.


  • Becky

    I have only been shopping with coupons for a little over a month and am trying to follow this philosophy. I had this same discussion at work with a few co workers. I don’t need to clear the shelves I just need 2 or 3 to get me through till the next sale. I can say that I love this way of shopping and saving money but it can get very frustrating when I get to the store an hour after they open and more than 3/4 of the items I wanted are already sold out.

    Thank you for posting this and I hope after some time all the panic buying will end when we realize it will be on sale again and again LOL

  • Anne

    Please remember that the deals these FabGals post are not the only deals available. When I shop I brouse. Recently I picked up bags of rold gold pretzles for. 75 each because I noticed an unadvertised sale. Persistance and patience. I appreciate all the great posts and deals I read here but you can stray from the herd!

  • Tracy

    I also hope that these shelf clearers will eventually have enough of a stockpile and will slow down their purchasing. There is a lot of hype right now in the couponing world, but I think things will slow down, some people will realize they don’t want to put in the time, people will have enough, and it will go back to the way it was before TLC’s Extreme Couponing came around.

  • Cheryl

    Well said Amber!

  • Kristan

    The thing that irritates me about their stockpiles on this show is they wil NEVER use all of it before it expires. If it is something that has a long shelf life…great! Stock up the right way (by putting in an order at the store). If you can’t use it all, it is a complete waste of space, time, and food. When I first started couponing I stocked up on a few things like Kraft dressing and barbeque sauce but found I was not using it fast enough (and I only bought a handful….nothing like the girls on the show). Now I know what I will actually use and how much I actually NEED. It still takes me a while to go through things like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and deoderant so I don’t need massive amounts….especially because I don’t have the space and it is not necessary. I guess you just have to figure out what works for you and your family.

  • Todd

    I think we all coupon because we have had the rush of getting a deal. We do not have to get every single deal we want in order to make it all worth our while. You cannot get every single one. Just the way it is. Shelf clearing by one person does hurt the integrity of couponing, I agree. I think you have to go into it knowing you simply will not get every deal you plan for but be greatful for the ones you do get.

  • Vanessa C

    I am also tired of getting to the store and finding the shelves empty. I am NOT a morning person and would rather go on a Monday or Tuesday to get my stuff. It is frustrating to the new couponers, like me, who are learning and getting started. I just want enough to have a variety in my pantry…NOT filling up the garage or basement. Thanks for this article! So glad you agree with those of us who are just wanting enough till the next sale.

  • Kerry

    I called one of my local stores today and talked with the manager. I asked if it would help him to know the things that we will be getting great deals on and that they will need to stock more of. He said it would help a lot. I emailed over the list. This store manager has been working hard to keep the shelves stocked. This was one way I could help to counteract the people who clear the shelves. I was tired of not being able to get the 1 or 2 of the items I was wanting. And I didn’t want to just complain about the shelf clearers and not do something to change it.

  • heather

    I score big every week when there are doublers and maybe a small trip inbetween on the other weekends….. we have a very large family and are also helping two other families ( that we adopted) both were in pretty desperate situations and we provide all of their household items and then once a month a few boxes of food to each of them, I almost never shop the posted deals!!! I know shoker:-o……i will shop the deals if it is a catalina deal or a buy this get this type deal from albertsons because they order massive stock and I can special order for those and there is usually always plenty to go around with those deals, I make my own deals I go to walmart and leave with a full cart or albertsons with a full cart and because Im not after the “hot” listed deals usually what i want is there, rain checks are awesome I almost hope for things to be out because then I can order coupons and get more than what I would have gotten the first time, people need to use these blogs as a guide line and realize that if all you want is free stuff be prepared to battle for it!! I average 75-80% savings and often go higher but paying 200.00 a month for groceries and helpping other families on what i used to pay 800.00 a month for is fab~u~less to me:-)

    people seem to forget that rite aid and walgreens only hold 1 case to the shelf 6-12 of an item walmart holds 2 cases but also sometimes only one and albertsons is also the same except they keep backstock and have sale areas for big deals and try to order more, if bandaides are free at walmart the shelf only holds 12 boxes…..if two people get 6 ( a reasonable amount specialy cuz they are only 20 ct) they are gone, its not like big evel shelf clearing coupon ladies came in a cleared everything 2 people got a good deal!! I actually got the nexcare deal the day before it was posted because I figure out my own deals based on the coupons and make price lists and do recon and then go match up things and go with a plan……we all can’t count on the fab frugals to do everythign for us, I have many times seen couponers in a panic because on item in their scenario is out and they can’t figure out how to make it still work:-)

  • Tommi

    I so agree! I’m new to this but that is my philosophy. Buy what you need and one or two extra. I have a huge empty pantry, but eventually it’ll start to fill up without going overboard and clearing the shelves. I can’t believe how many times I’ve gone into the Greenhurst Walmart and the shelves are just empty! Ridiculous! I’m more concerned right now with making sure I’m getting the best price on the things I actually use – not 100 shampoos and conditioners, just 2 of each per trip until I have 5 or 6 of each at home.

  • Tracy

    Oh man. I just watched tonights episode. It should be called “Extreme Sickness”. The amount of products these people buy is sick! Amber says she has only been couponing for 3 months and saved $8,000, but her stock pile is worth $30,000. That means she spent $22,000? 100 bottles of hand soap for 6 people. I have 3 bottles for my family of 4 and that will last us 3 months. Also how much is she paying in utility bills to run 6 freezers? Amanda was buying 200 boxes of pasta? Didn’t she start with a few hundred on the very first episode she was in and her husband complained that she bought 125 more? How much pasta can 2 people eat? Also she is really mean to her husband. She needs to stop shopping for a while and do something nice for the poor guy. This episode was just awful.

    • Todd

      She was very rude to her husband! I could say more but I will bite my lip!

    • heather

      I was sad to see her on the show again, I feel she is rude inconsiderate to her husband and others the way she acts is disgusting and I fear there is some serious mental issues going on here, I don’t know hat its like to be on meth or crack what a weird way of saying her comment and she like cried twice in this episode and in the previous episode….for gods sake theres no drying in couponing:-)

      • Ang

        Seems a bit overwhelming in her life so maybe she should take the couponing down a notch and try to take a little stress off her back. The whole drug reference was stupid and should have never been on the show. She was rude and that was a sad way to portray herself to everyone watching it. I kept hoping that the show would show a more down to earth version but it appears they are going for bigger each week. Not sure if I will watch it anymore.

    • Leah

      All I know is that if I ever treated my husband like that I’d be looking at divorce papers. For the sake of her marriage I hope she sees her attitude on the show and has a wake-up call.

  • bargainmomma

    Thanks for making sense of why I use coupons. I slowly build up my stockpile with much pride. Yes, it takes time, energy, and work, but it is also so rewarding to have enough food in your pantry for the month.
    I am not one to go overboard with stocking up;I do have 5 children and it does take some creativeness to feed them. We all need to look out for ourselves and be aware of others that are trying to feed their families too.
    What EXTREME couponing is what it is-Extreme!!!

  • michele

    I understand the need to feed a family during tough economic times, of having a well stocked pantry and how couponing can help. What I don’t understand is how the extreme stockpiling of soda, chips, frozen pizza, flavored water, candy and those darn yakisoba noodles is considered “feeding a family”.

    • Tracy

      I agree. I don’t want to buy 600 hundred candy bars or 400 yakisoba. But now that I have an adequate supply of toiletries, cleaners, and laundry supplies, I am concentrating on more food items. Healthy fresh food is not often free, but having the other things purchased frees up my budget to buy produce, dairy, and meat. Of course, I watch the ads to buy these things at the best sale prices I can.

      • Ang

        Agree!! I cant even imagine buying that much of those things. I too am using the items I can get very reduced/free 🙂 to free up money to put it towards the things that I cant find coupons for.

      • Heidi

        I am pretty frustrated with all the hype this show has caused! I have been couponing for a little over a year now and I have always been looked at with curiosity, and latley I have gotten nasty looks from other couponers, and laughed at by other shoppers with some reference to TLC’s new show, just because I have the binder, and was stocking up on pasta. Did I clear the shelf I sure did, but only because 95% of it was gone. The attitudes lately have really gone south with couponing, but I will hold fast, with a good attitude, laugh with those who laugh, and be patient with others who are frustrated because I happened to get the last 10 boxes of pasta for my 7 boys to feed (the last few times I tried to special order “hot” items in my manager told me he wasn’t doing any orders). I don’t have a huge stock pile I certainly don’t have the room, and with 7 bottomless pits around here nothing lasts…. I think good attitude’s about it all is so important. Thanks Frugals for your awareness!! and deals you find for us all!! 😉

  • Christina

    I feel a little silly about this… I saw this post and got excited because I thought Amber from this blog was going to be on Extreme Couponing. A minute into the show tonight I noticed my goof and stopped watching.

  • LiseG

    Comcast customers can also watch Extreme Couponing episodes on Xfinity On Demand and it’s FREE.

  • Julie Ross

    I totally agree with smart shopping to save vs. buying to fill a garage. I love this site for all the do diligence that is done for me, but I am frustrated beyond belief that I can not print coupons from anyone but, due to the computer and operating system I use. It would be so sweet to follow the links you give and just print them. To apply the kid in a candy store analogy, I am the kid who has chosen the candy, unwrapped it and am only allowed to smell it’s sweetness 🙂 I am begging (down on knees with hands clasps) for help from other couponers on how to solve this problem. Anyone else able to print coupons on a MAC running Snow Leapard? Help!

    • Jen

      I got a Mac at the beginning of this year and I had the same problem… I first tried hooking up my old printer (which was an epson) and it wouldn’t print any coupons but would print everything else fine so I took it to my REALLY smart computer friend and he couldn’t even figure it out! His best guess was that the problem was not the Mac but instead the printer. I actually got the printer that came with the free rebate when you buy a new Mac (its an HP) and it works perfect. Coupons print just fine with the HP printer. I’m not sure what printer you have but the HP I have is relatively inexpensive so it might actually be worth it for $60 to print coupons. Sorry couldn’t be more help.

  • C

    I just with the show would point out the ethical way to build a stockpile is a few at at time, not 100. I also wish there was a disclaimer stating that the stores are making exceptions in their policies for the purposes of the show…Albertsons I’m looking at you. I was thrilled last week when the store enforced the limit per household policy…made the trip more real for me. I’ve also realized that if a deal has hit this site its most likely too late to get it. I just add to my collection or rain checks, price match at Walmart, or check another store. Its taken me most of the month but I finally was able to pick up one of the Tylenol Precise creams, I just kept checking.

  • Brittany

    I just started browsing this blog and love it. I have one question about extreme couponing (or couponing in general, for that matter). . .

    On the Extreme Couponing show everyone’s stockpiles (which I think is a hilarious term) seem to have tons of toilet paper and paper towels that they all claimed to get for free. Now I know how to get pasta, toothpaste and other random food items for free but I have yet to figure out how to get toilet paper and paper towels for free.

    Can someone please explain that to me? Thanks!

    • Tracy

      I’ve never been able to get free paper products either. I usually can save about 50% at most. I’m thinking this must be at a store that has unlimited doubles. No such thing here is So. CA. My last deal was at Rite Aid for Scott TP. I bought it on sale, used coupons, and got $10 RR on a $30 purchase. It was still $4 for a 12 pack. Still better than regular price of $7.99!

  • jolene

    There are some things that I don’t buy a lot of at one time. Like soap/body wash. There is usually one brand on sale each month. I buy 2 per week (sometimes per month) until my shelf is full then I wait until I’ve used the one in the shower up and moved a full one in. Then I replenish the stockpile. Same with toothpaste. There are some things that I pre order in large quantities. Like Quaker Oats. I just follow the sales cycle. It took me about a year to get a hang of. When I did I realized I could sit a sale out here or there and be Ok. I think the hardest part is figuring out how fast we go though things. It changes as my boys grow. And it’s something that no blogger can figure out for me.

  • Juli

    Amber, thanks for the great article and others in the past regarding the Extreme Couponing shows. I had a non-couponing friend recently express her concern about what she had seen on the show and I was so happy to explain to her that what was on TV isn’t how we do couponing in reality! You have a great way of explaining it. Thanks for all you do!

  • Eileen

    I agree with you 100%! I only subscription to one Sunday paper so I only get one set of coupons every week. Within the 3 weeks of coupon shopping, I have stocked up on 6 bottles of shampoo/conditioner, 6 bottles of shower gels, 48 rolls of toilet paper, 2 bottles of laundry detergents, and many many more household/personal items. I don’t buy in large quantity, just 1 or 2 at a time. But for a family of two (just husband and I), we already stocked up for at least 3+ months supply of things. I mean, who need 80 bottles of mustard? What if someone is having a BBQ and just need a bottle of mustard, come in to the store, and find some coupon lady clearing the shelf and bought 80 bottles of mustard and left nothing for anyone else to buy? I probably would be mad, too. So I agree with you, and hope all the coupon users will feel the same way!

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