Friending Coupons: Saving Money on Groceries with Facebook’s Ottawa Coupon Swap and Price Matching Group.
About eight months ago I came across a Facebook group called Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching. It came at a time when I was spending close to a thousand dollars a month on groceries for my family of three people and two pets. I was astonished at how much money I was spending and was looking for ways to save. Enter Heather Anderson, a stay at home mom of two children who, in addition to being married for six and a half years and having a love of the outdoors, playing sports, reading and travelling, is also very involved with helping people learn to save money. As one of the co-founders of Facebook’s Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching group, which was created in early 2012, Heather shares couponing and price matching tips on a daily basis to the group’s 1000 plus members.
Heather, what inspired you to start the Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching Facebook Group?
In January 2012, a good friend Marianne Tilton and I decided it would be a great New Year’s resolution to save more money on our monthly grocery/household bills then we already were. We are already both pretty frugal and decided to try incorporating coupons into our weekly grocery shopping to see if we could further reduce the cost. Once we started looking online and ordering coupons we realized we would have too many and what would we do with them all? Throwing them out just seemed wrong if someone else could use them. So, we started the group to trade coupons, but this has quickly become just a small part of what the group is really about.
What are coupon swaps?
Coupon swaps are normally every six to eight weeks and are organized at one central/easy location (usually the Ikea restaurant) where we get together to “trade” coupons. Other than meeting fellow members, the big draw to this event is the thousands of dollars in free coupons on a giveaway table. Anyone belonging to our group is welcome to comb through all the coupons on the table and grab as many or as little as they would like. The coupons that are on the table are usually close to expiry, not highly tradable (around all the time) or something the member may not want.
My favourite feature of the group is the weekly grocery list. It has a lot of great information on what is on sale and what coupons people can use to save even more. How long does it take you to create the grocery list?
The list is usually a corroborated effort, however some weeks Marianne or I may do more than the other, but it usually works out in the end. If I had to guess how long it takes me I would say approximately 2.5 to 3 hours each week. The total time that goes into the list would be approximately 5 to 6 hours a week, however if it is not a great sale week and the list is a bit smaller it would be closer to 4 hours total.
Do you have a favourite store to shop and why?
For sure! The Real Canadian Superstore in Kanata is my ideal place to shop – they are very coupon friendly, allow price matching and love our group. My second favourite is Wal-Mart, but to be honest I only go there if the item cannot be found at the Real Canadian Superstore.
What are some benefits of price matching? Are some stores easier to price match at?
The biggest benefit to price matching is that you save money on every shop! You can start out small and just do one or two items and see a savings of 1 to 10 dollars, or you can go all out and never veer from the list and only shop by price matching and save $100 plus a shop! The savings will surprise you. The stores that price match groceries are (in order based on ease of price matching and couponing when shopping there):
- Real Canadian Superstore (Kanata)
- Giant Tiger (they will beat the price by a penny)
- FreshCo (they put limits on the amount of products you can price match)
Do you have any price matching advice for newbies?
Join Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching on Facebook and read the welcome and how-to document! This will help you prepare for your shop, how to shop and how to cash out. The biggest advice I can give is be organized – the more organized you are the easier it will be. The other big thing that helps a lot of newbies, and I still do it, is to let the person behind you in line know that it might be a bit longer than normal as you are price matching and using coupons. They will either thank you and move on, get excited and try to ask you tons of questions or just watch quietly. There will be an occasional frustrated person, but just remember you are saving a lot of money!
I have seen posts about giving products to local food banks, what ways have either you or the group given back to the community?
Personally, Marianne and I have given back by donating to the local food banks, churches and schools. We ask all the members to give back and remember our community when they shop. The biggest donations we do are after our coupon swaps. We choose a charity before each swap and ask our members to donate any products that they are not going to use, are getting close to expiry or they have received free. We have donated to FAMSAC, Ottawa Food Cupboard, Kanata Food Cupboard, Stittsville Church, The Ottawa Mission, Youville Centre, St. Mary’s Home and many local schools and classrooms.
What is the best deal or lowest grocery bill you have ever had?
Zero dollars! I bought 150 bottles of soft soap refills on sale and used corresponding coupons. Normally I would have paid the tax but it was on a no tax day which meant an additional savings. I then turned around and donated all of them to three different charities. I have many shops like this or where I save 80% of my bill. Between coupons and price couponing I save an average of about 50% each grocery shop.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give on how to save money on groceries?
Watch what price you are buying things for. If it is not on sale ask yourself if you really need it? And best of all start to know your prices, a lot of time a sale is not a sale. An example we suggest that you never buy apples, pears, grapes, peppers etc. over .99$ a pound, never buy meat over $8.80 kg unless it is a special cut… I can go on and on, but just be aware of the prices. There is no need to run to more than one grocery store, save yourself the gas and go to a store that will allow you to price match and do it all there.
If you are like me and loathe spending a lot of money on groceries, there is an upside! Thanks to the hard work of Heather Anderson and Marianne Tilton you don’t have to! In addition to weekly grocery lists, coupon swaps and price matching advice, members of Facebook’s Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching group are constantly keeping the money-saving conversation going with their own questions and advice – saving money is easier than you think.