Friending Coupons: Saving Money on Groceries with Facebook’s Ottawa Coupon Swap and Price Matching Group.

| February 26, 2013 | 14 Comments

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 costco3and 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.

coupons

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):

  1. Real Canadian Superstore (Kanata)
  2. Wal-Mart
  3. Giant Tiger (they will beat the price by a penny)
  4. 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 flyersthe 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.

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Category: Finance, Living, Shopping, Tips

About the Author ()

In addition to being a freelance writer and blogger, Tracy is a virtual assistant specializing in marketing and communication at VirtualOfficeResources.ca. She is also a devoted mother to an imaginative daughter and wife to her best friend of more than fifteen years. In her spare time she enjoys baking, kayaking, snowshoeing, walking her energetic Australian Shepherd, and cuddling with her perpetually grumpy cat. Depending on the time of day, Tracy's downtime is spent with a good book and hot cup of fair trade coffee or a glass of Canadian red wine.

Comments (14)

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  1. Gina says:

    This is all great info! I do this, or should I say did this when I lived in Ottawa, now we live in Manhattan and it’s much harder to accomplish. I often have to walk to multiple small grocery and drug stores, can only buy what I can carry, no big box stores here… miss those 🙁 But I am managing surprisingly well now that I’ve found my “flow”… can’t wait to return to Ottawa and pick up where I left off and use your great facebook resource!
    I have one question about price matching… will they price match on meats? I never did this, just assumed they couldn’t do it at the cash because prices are per kg. Looking forward to your comment on this!
    Keep up the great work 🙂

  2. Ashley says:

    I have been a part of this group since early spring last year! Love all the info they provide

  3. jacqueline Brandwood says:

    I wish I lived near the Great Canadian Superstore, I like your idea of knowing the prices of things before hand and not spending over 99 cents a lb for fruit when you don’t need to. You made me realize there really much better ways of saving money on your grocery bill, as food prices rise,yet packaging is getting smaller all the time.

    Jackie

  4. While I agree that consumers need to pay attention to coupons, prices, etc., the Great Canadian Superstore (and the like, Loblaws, Independent) are by far the most expensive stores for fresh produce around. Many in-store items are promoted as sale items but are still more expensive than other grocers. Even if they do price match, the burden is on the consumer to keep track of the prices. I have done this comparison of prices many times between the different grocery stores (I’m a little bit compulsive about it):) and I would say that if I shop at a Loblaws-type store during a regular grocery week, I will spend AT A MINIMUM $50 more than if I shop at Produce Depot (for example) for the same items. At 52 weeks per year, that’s $2,600 more in groceries, nothing to sneeze at.

    In general, the bigger the store, the more items available, the more people will purchase regardless of whether they truly need that item or not.

  5. Marianne Mitchell Tilton says:

    Katina, you are absolutely correct in principle that Superstore and some others are generally more expensive for produce and other products than the discount grocery stores. Before I began price matching and routinely using coupons, I did most of my grocery shopping at a discount grocery store, even though it was a further drive from my home, and shopped about once every four weeks at the Real Canadian Superstore in order to buy products I liked but which weren’t available at the discount store. I’d also often make a stop at another grocery store during the week to buy something that was a good sale price there too. Altogether, it was eating up time and gas money, and the more stops I made the more likely I was to throw a few other things into the cart that I didn’t really need.

    I now do my routine shopping at RCSS. I first buy whatever produce, bread, meat, etc, is on sale for a great price at RCSS. Then I round out my weekly shop by choosing items that are on sale at other stores in the wider Ottawa area and price matching them so I get the lowest price possible. When I can, I add a coupon to those savings. All conveniently at the grocery store that’s actually closest to my home.

    Now, if you have to go through all of the are flyers to find the best deals each week then it does cost you some time. But that’s where Heather and I come in, because we comb the available sales each week and compile the best deals for you, so all you have to do is make a copy of the spreadsheet, delete the items you have no interest in buying, print the list and head to the store with your flyers!

  6. Marianne Mitchell Tilton says:

    Gina, yes you can price match on meats as well. At RCSS (Real Canadian Superstore), you take the meat and your flyer to the butcher’s counter and they will re-weigh it with the new price and print a new price sticker for you there so the sale price will automatically scan at the checkout at the front of the store. If you are shopping at a Walmart Supercentre, you bring the meat to the checkout cash with you and they will price match it there.

  7. Rhita says:

    Great group! I love seeing it getting the exposure it deserves!

  8. Veronica says:

    Would like to join but not on facebook, is there any other way.

  9. Marianne says:

    Hi Veronica,

    Heather and I offer our Ottawa based coupon and price matching advice and weekly shopping list only through the Facebook group. Since we do it purely on our own time for no profit just to help others, we have not sought to move to a blog or website format that would have a cost to host and maintain the site.
    I know that some people prefer not to maintain a Facebook account. We do have some members who have a couponing pseudonym type account they use only to access the coupon group and online coupons released through Facebook promotions.
    If that approach isn’t for you, there are also a number of regional and National Canadian coupon bloggers who maintain blogs and websites dedicated to explaining how to coupon and price match and which publish coupon match-ups for the major national grocery chains.
    Two websites to begin with would be http://www.mrsjanuary.com and http://www.savealoonie.com .

  10. Alex Thompson says:

    I will be moving to Ottawa this summer and wanted to join the Ottawa Coupon Swap & Price Matching group on Facebook, but it is not available right now. Anyone know anything about contacting this group?

  11. kathy downey says:

    I pride myself in being a smart shopper

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