Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Fall of Stocking Up In Preparation - by A.

I've been thinking a lot about what I need to do this fall to stock our cupboards and freezer. We are expecting our second daughter, due this December! Of course, the frugal streak in me immediately thought, "Sweet! Those girls' clothing deals snagged at Children's Place Outlet at Ralph Lauren Factory Outlet will get another round of wear!" :)

While we didn't exactly plan the pregnancy around the couponing hot streak of the year, it so conveniently happens that the months leading up to the holidays offer some of the most fertile deal-snagging ground on the couponing calendar. With the kickoff of the school year and the triple-whammy that is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, the deals on nonperishables and convenience foods are sure to be plentiful. I'm going to be like a crazed little squirrel, stockpiling for the winter (not to mention the weeks and weeks of fuzzy newborn days sure to accompany). It's amazing how a little time in the couponing zone can transform your outlook to strategizing months, even (occasionally) years ahead.

Example of the "years" bit: Even last winter, when I was still a few months into couponing, I did a crazy run at CVS right after Christmas, and netted over $40 worth of decorations and gift-wrap supplies for around $6, using coupons, post-Christmas clearance prices, etc. Now, even though it's August, I'm eyeing the tall pile of gift bows, wrapping paper, bendable evergreen boughs, and garland in the "Christmas corner" of our basement storage area, and I'm admittedly getting a little irrationally excited about decorating most of my downstairs this time around for $6 in change. The less money spent on the fun fluff, the more resources are available for more important priorities, like close family's gifts and giving more to your local food bank, church, and charities.

If you're new to couponing, this is a great time to enter what I so affectionately call "the fray", because September through December are sure to yield an abundance of deals:
  • More special double and triple coupon deals at various grocery stores, since the stores are trying to get you in to also buy your "hosting company" and "holiday celebration" hauls while you're there.
  • More convenience food coupons, sales, and resulting matchups for school lunches - prepackaged/classic lunch items like applesauce cups, juice boxes, Lunchables, soups, lunchmeats, string cheese, etc.
  • A huge glut of coupons, sales, and resulting coupon matchups for baking supplies - not only baking mixes for cookies, cakes, pies, and muffins, but also from-scratch nonperishables like flour, sugar, seasonings, cookie decoration supplies, canned pumpkin, raisins, etc.!
  • Also coupons, sales, and resulting matchups for nonperishable holiday classics. Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, French's onions ringing a bell for anybody? Also, cranberry sauce, stuffing mixes, mashed potatos (dry mix or frozen), etc.
  • In-store freebies, especially at the drugstores like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. This is usually in the vein of stocking-stuffers, candy, decorations, and so on.
  • Post-holiday markdowns, like:
    --Just-clearanced Halloween candy bought with still-unexpired candy coupons (think creatively...you can crumble/chop Halloween chocolate for Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert recipes)
    --Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations, clearanced by up to 90% (I bought photo Christmas cards at Target last year at ~$0.90/10 ct. box last year doing this...$0.09/card!)
  • Holiday Hallmark deals at various locations. Shop smart with the offer terms and you can often snag cards (and animated stuffed animals) inexpensively.

Hee hee - are you getting a little excited yet? Let's hope the grocers and retailers deliver on our sugarplum visions of deals! :)

For more details on the seasonal grocery deals available year-round, see our commentary on what sales and deals and holiday loss leaders to expect month-to-month.

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