Monday, July 25, 2011

Can you do 'Extreme Couponing' in NYC?

Posted by The REAL Carrie B. at 1:42 PM
TLC's new show Extreme Couponing is causing a ruckus.  With a second season on the way, grocery stores nationwide are altering coupon policies, people are stealing coupon inserts from inside stores, and women and men have found a new place for their children's playdates:  the recycling dumpsters.  Extreme Couponing is a pupu platter featuring aspects from nearly all of TLC's programming.  Midwestern people with a bizarre habits(My Strange Addiction), tons of children running around(19 Kids.., Kate Plus 8), houses with so much dry pasta that is has to be stored under beds and in dresser drawers(Hoarding: Buried Alive), and I've never seen this show but it sounds like it relates(Kitchen Boss).

With each episode of TLC's Extreme Couponing, my horror slowly turned into excitement.  This was my answer.  I would save thousands of dollars each month, and my savings account would grow.  My Hell's Kitchen apartment cupboards would be bursting with glossy, name brand dry goods.  With a twinkle in my eye, I would laugh off my incredulous friends asking how I do it.  (While reapplying my lip gloss, of which I have 55 more in a shoebox at home.)  The only catch?  Could extreme couponing, or any couponing at all, be possible in New York City?

This is not my apartment.  Yet.  My roommate would love & hate me, with all that TP everywhere..
Grocery shopping is an entirely different expensive beast in NYC.  A box of cereal at a bodega in Harlem:  $6.50.  A package of chicken breasts at a Midtown Manhattan Food Emporium:  $11.  You get the picture.  Although I had to roll my eyes when watching the SATC episode when Carrie Bradshaw mentions using her oven as storage for winter sweaters, she does have a point.  In general eating out in NYC can be cheaper than cooking and grocery shopping.  (Disclaimer: I'm not counting opting for nightly venison and a glass of red.  My version of eating out in NYC includes getting hearty breakfast sandwiches & coffee for 3 bucks, and catching the Thai restaurants 6 buck lunch specials.)

Extreme Couponing turned me into a maniac; I was determined to prove that couponing was possible in Manhattan.  My blood coursed with a yen for things I never knew I so desperately needed: cases of dental floss & Oscar Meyer weiners.  I gleaned everything I could from all the episodes, and then turned to Youtube for even more homemade(and truly unreal) coupon tutorials.  I bought my binder and my baseball card sleeves.  When my boyfriend was away for several days in Michigan and asked what I'd like as a little souvenir, I replied with "coupons" in a sharp, monotonous tone.  It was my mission to call a large stack of dish washing detergent my own.  I don't own a dishwasher.

My "coupon binder".  I probably should have just gone with filing the whole coupon inserts, as I am organizationally challenged.  And coupons expire in the blink of an eye.  Whoops.
I'll save you the blow by blow of my "extreme couponing" week-and-a-half.  There were highs, there were lows, there were paper cuts.  Some aspects were disheartening, BUT I did walk away with a few tips that really are helpful for the New Yorker looking to save some money on the groceries.

  • You can't find huge piles of coupons in NYC like you seemingly can on the TV show locations.  I suppose you can order them online, but fortunately I have yet to reach that level of crazy.  It's okay though, no grocery stores double them here anyway.
  • Food Emporium is the devil.  Most grocery stores in NYC are, and ALL of them do not DOUBLE coupons.  Doubling is the main part of the coupon game plan, so just forget about the stores that don't.  (I think some stores in the boroughs might, and Shop Rite's do as well.)
  • Your best bet is CVS.  Do a search on youtube for CVS'ing, CVS Extra Bucks.  This is an amazing program that can save the diligent shopper 90 percent or more each month.  I planned one trip, utilized coupons & Extra Bucks, and literally spent 4.50 on 7 high end hair & makeup products.  The cashier gave me props.  Garnier Fructis is now my bitch.  Anyhow, head to the youtube tutorials, the gals from the middle of the country do a way better job of explaining this than I do.  
  • Farmer's Market- everyone complains that coupons don't provide savings for healthy foods anyway.  Stiles Farmer's Market behind the Port Authority is absolutely amazing, cheap, and beyond coupon worthy.
  • Trader Joe's- Is also beyond coupon worthy.  Besides being whole and healthy foods, many people don't realize it is cost effective as well. TJ Brand products & name brands alike.  (Luna bars cost .99 cents here a piece.)  And while they don't double, they DO accept coupons.  Just be sure to visit the store early in the day, Monday-Wednesday.  The rush hour lines are unbelievable. 
So to sum up, the time honored advice still holds true:  plan meals ahead for the week, don't shop on an empty stomach, price compare, shop the perimeter, etc. If you have a couple hours a week for your own bizarre shopping rituals, try some "CVS'ing".   Why not.  But try to maintain a sense of normalcy.  If you're boyfriend ever asks what you'd like from a trip away, you should probably just ask for something with an alcohol percentage, not coupons.

xoxo,

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