Eating Well On $1 A Day FAQs


There are a lot of questions about this challenge that I have mostly answered over the entire period in my posts, but these questions keep coming up for the first time readers. I decided it would be worthwhile to put this list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions up to try and help those just dropping by for a few minutes. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it:

Why is the 2 computer rule (for the first month) important?

When printing Internet coupons, most are limited to two prints per computer. I’m not sure exactly how it is done, but you must download a small client to your computer to be able to print coupons and this (along with some other sophisticated methods) ensures you have a limited number of coupon prints. There really is no way around this so the the more computers you have access to, the more printable coupons you can use. I actually had one computer hard-drive completely crash on me where I had to erase the hard-drive and reinstall everything and it still wouldn’t let me reprint coupons I had printed the day before. So before you tell everyone to simply change IP addresses or clear their cache of cookies (or any other method you think will work), try it yourself first 😉

How many hours did you have to spend clipping, sorting and filing the coupons?

There are people out there that love to clip, sort, organize their coupons and have a huge binder full of them that they can take to the grocery store so they are prepared for every deal that they come across. I am definitely not one of those people. I hate couponing and, quite frankly, simply don’t have the time to spend hours getting it all organized.

I do not clip, sort or organize my coupons. If you were to ask me what coupons I currently have, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I have no idea what is all there and since I have no idea, I spend a lot less time on them. I view this as a hugely positive thing.

When I get my Sunday newspaper coupon inserts, I don’t even look at what coupons are inside. I take out a Sharpie pen and place the date it arrived on the front cover. I then put it on a shelf where I can easily find it if I happen to need it in the future. That is the extent of my Sunday newspaper coupon organization.

I also have coupons that I find that aren’t from the newspaper inserts. I simply place these into a drawer in my desk. I only put coupons in the drawer that I think that I have the possibility of using at some point (this was difficult to know when I first started, but it has become a lot easier after a few months of couponing), so I have a general idea of what is in there, but not exactly.

There are a lot of online coupons that can be printed ahead of time. I don’t do this. The only time I print an online coupon is when I am actually going to use it, so there is no organization process with these as well.

There you have it. That is my coupon organization. Nothing fancy. It takes virtually no time (just the way I like it). Now, this does mean that I miss savings opportunities, but the time saved and not having to deal with all the organization is well worth missing a few deals.

It’s a great idea, but all you can eat is processed food…

In the beginning, this was true to some extent because I had to eat since I started with absolutely nothing. I was basically at the mercy of whatever deals were available since I had no stockpile of food. That being said, there are a lot of opportunities to buy whatever food you want with overages that coupons create and you wouldn’t have to choose processed foods.

How much time do you spend running from store to store?

In the beginning, a lot because I started with absolutely nothing so I had to go wherever the best deals were. That being said, I limited my shopping to the three closest stores in my area (I did shop at another one two times when I happened to be in that area and at other stores when traveling): Safeway, Lucky and CVS.

Most people are not in this situation. As time has gone by and I have slowly built a base of food, I have been going far less often (sometimes only once a week). If you have any amount of food in your pantry and refrigerator, then you would not have to spend much more time than you currently do shopping in my opinion (in fact, you might even cut down on the amount since you will be better organized and limited in what you will buy so you will only go when you need to)

How much more time do you spend shopping

This is the one area where I do believe I have had to spend more time than the average shopper. This is because I sometimes have to make several trips through the line to make the deals work. I also spend time looking for coupons (some of the best coupons are found in the stores) when I go shopping. Even with all of this, I probably only spend an hour or so more than the average shopper would inside the store and I continue to get quicker and quicker as I get better at it.

How many years did it take to learn this?

I just started couponing this year (less than 6 months ago) and still consider myself a newbie to couponing. It does take some time to learn the systems and rules of each of the stores (they are similar, but usually have a few major differences) and to learn how to use coupons to your advantage. This is counter-intuitive at times and what I think throws a lot of people off, but once you know, any average person can do it. Seriously, if someone that hates couponing and grocery shopping as much as I do can do it, anyone can.

You must be able to do this because of where you live

Yes and no. I would consider where I have been doing this to be about average when it comes to couponing. There are no stores that double coupons in my area and grocery stores do not accept competing stores’ coupons. Stores will not pay money back on overages.

Where was this done?

It has been done south of San Francisco in Silicon Valley.

How do cashiers react to this type of couponing?

There are typically 3 types of reactions: 1. The cashier cheers you on and congratulates you on getting a great deal. 2. The cashier thinks he/she has done something wrong. 3. The cashier thinks you are trying to cheat in some way.

The cashiers that cheer you on (or have no reaction, but efficiently get you through the line with all the coupons) know how coupons work and I’ve learned quickly who those cashiers are at the stores i frequent. Cashiers that think they have done something wrong tend to be newer and simply don’t want to make a mistake that they will get in trouble for. Cashiers that think you are trying to cheat can be a real pain and I simply ask to go to the customer service desk and talk with the manager as soon as I get one of them so that I don’t delay the entire line (never worth arguing with them). managers are usually (but not always) more familiar with couponing policy and realize that the store gets fully reimbursed for the purchase, so it is good for their numbers. I haven’t come across many of the third type, but they definitely do exist.

What’s up with your sister?

We actually get along really well and I take all her attempts to put restrictions on this challenge with a smile on my face. I think that amethysts at metafilter summed it up best

To everyone criticizing the sister, it is ALWAYS a sibling’s job to change or narrow clarify the rules when ridiculous bets are being attempted by another sibling. This is part of the Sibling Agreement on Records, Bets, Stunts and Streaks (SARBSS).

Why is your name and the name on the receipts different?

When I first started couponing, I went to the grocery store so infrequently that I didn’t even have my own grocery store card. When I told friends and family what I planned to do, my brother-in-law said he had a card that he never used and gave it to me. I have used it ever since and that is why the names do not match.

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21 Responses to Eating Well On $1 A Day FAQs

  1. cecilia says:

    Sorry if you’ve answered this before, but I’ve been wondering how the supermarket staff reacts. Surely you’re well-known at your local stores. Do they perceive you as a sort of Robin Hood? Sounds like you haven’t met with much if any objection, but I wonder if couponers frequently have to fight with managers who try to deny them their deals, no matter how legitimately they are compiled.

  2. T says:

    Okay, as one of the relatively frequent sister criticizers, I have to admit that I laughed at reading that quote.

    It’s definitely a sibling’s job to make insane bets harder, but it’s also that sibling’s job to suck it up when they lose.

    My sister would make my life a living hell (in a fun way, like yours seems to for you) if I tried something like this. Then, when I won, she’d throw a party.

    Unrelated, would you please consider a post on the verdicts of all your polls thus far? I’m curious as to what happened with each of them.

  3. Linda S. says:

    Yeah, I completely understand the whole sister dynamic. If I were your sister I’d be totally proud of you, whilst still giving you shit 🙂

  4. Dean says:

    With regards to the two coupons per computer. If you are computer savvy, you can install a virtual machine, print your two coupons, wipe the vm you just created and re-install a new one (takes about 15 to wipe and re-install)

    Again, more computer savvy people might want to try this

  5. dave says:

    i have been able to just use diffrent internet programs. I have Internet explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome on my computer. For whatever reason the cookie that is placed on your machine is not shared between the programs and have been able to print three times the coupons.

  6. jeffrey says:

    @dave

    Not sure why that is working for you, but I’m surprised – have talked with many people that have tried that and you are the first person I have heard where that works. It doesn’t for me on any of my computers. Just wanted to get that out there so if other reading this see your post and try it, they aren’t surprised if it doesn’t work.

  7. dave says:

    I’m not a heavy coupon shopper so maybe i’ve just been lucky. Can you point out to me one of the places you need to change computers?

  8. jeffrey says:

    @Dave,

    Coupons.com is the probably the most popular printable coupon company out there and most coupons are limited to two prints.

  9. James says:

    I’m another brought here by the wondrous Metafilter, puzzled by the two computer thing. I bet virtual machines would work. Or print to pdf instead and reprint endlessly. Or scan and reprint at absolute worst!

    Anyway, loved it, very interesting. I admire your determination, even if the diet is a little lacking (a big bottle of hot sauce would have been my #1 purchase).

  10. jeffrey says:

    @James

    Print to pdf and scanning is illegal and would not work – each coupon has a unique serial number so that after the first one scanned, all others would beep and not work at the cash register.

  11. dave says:

    I did check into the coupons.com page, and they want you to install a program, and that is why you can only print so many coupons. that’s how it is keeping track of what you printed.

  12. John Doe says:

    I don’t know if it’ll work, but you may want to try a liveCD, like Knoppix (Knoppix.de).

    With a liveCD, you boot from the CD, not your hard drive. Installing the coupon software will install it into the version you are running and your hard drive should remain unaffected.

    The next time you reboot w/ your liveCD, its a clean system and you will need to reinstall the coupon software.

    That said, I don’t even know if their software will work on Linux. But, if it does, you should be able to print as many coupons as you ilke.

  13. Matt says:

    I like what you’re doing here, Jeffrey.

    I would like to throw a tip out there for getting around the 2 prints per computer. Install VirtualBox (virtualbox dot org) and setup as many virtual computers as you’d like. Use your windows disc or a linux distro (ubuntu dot com) for the operating system.

    This is all free and fairly simple and fast to setup.

  14. booch221 says:

    You say: “When I get my Sunday newspaper coupon inserts, I don’t even look at what coupons are inside. I take out a Sharpie pen and place the date it arrived on the front cover. I then put it on a shelf where I can easily find it if I happen to need it in the future. That is the extent of my Sunday newspaper coupon organization.”

    I don’t get this. How do you know if you need it without looking at it?

  15. jeffrey says:

    @booch221

    You simply wait for others to match up the best deals for you like here and then know exactly what coupons you need and where to find them. If you need to buy something, you can also alway check a coupon data base to match and know where to find the coupon.

  16. beth says:

    While I concede you’re spending $1/day for food, I wouldn’t call it “eating well.” Your strategies are worthwhile for times when cash is tight. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Kate says:

    I’ve just decided to jump into the world of couponing and am grateful I found your posts for a slew of information! I’m wondering, however, once you file away your weekly inserts without knowing what deals are in them, how do you then know where to find the coupons you want for certain stores/items. Also, do you buy only sale items, with coupons?

  18. jeffrey says:

    @Kate

    how do you then know where to find the coupons you want for certain stores/items?

    http://www.savingadvice.com/tools/coupons/

    do you buy only sale items, with coupons?

    Yes, most of the time.

  19. Annie says:

    I’ve just finished reading the first 31 days of your challenge. I know you did a lot of shopping for local food banks with funds outside of your $1 a day money. How much were you actually able to donate and what was the reaction of store clerks to those trips? I assume that you had to go through the lines a lot more to get the deals than for the food you bought for yourself.

  20. jeffrey says:

    @Annie — I have donated over $17,000 worth of food over the last year. yes, there are times when i have to go through the lines multiple times. Most clerks are fine with it, but there are always exceptions…

  21. alaina says:

    hi i am wanting to start couponing and want to know wat is it that u have to download for the coupons to work, wat r good websites to get coupons and how to protect my computer from crashing or messin up when i coupon thanx

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