It was a rough couponing day. Sometimes no matter how well you think you have things figured out, they just don't work like you expect them to work. That is exactly what happened and it cost me more than I expected, and my lack of preparation in foreseeing the possible issue made it so that I won't be able to remedy the mistake. It isn't the end of the world, but money that could have gone toward some of the essentials that people have been suggesting instead went toward some stuff that I really didn't need which hurts. It will also mean that I will need to be a bit more careful with what I do have to make sure that I don't needlessly waste any more money.


This is part of a month long challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here


Safeway currently has a buy 8 products, get $4 off campaign (essentially $0.50 off each product) going on for two weeks with over 3000 products participating. I had been looking through them and matching up the deals and I thought I had put together a pretty good scenario. This is what was supposed to happen:

Buy 1 Honey Nut Cheerios ($1.99 when 8 participating products purchased)
** I had $1 off 1 coupon that I found left on the shelf in the store a few weeks ago (so not sure where it came from), but knew it would make for a good deal down the road
** I had a $0.55 off 1 eCoupon from ShortCuts
Final Price: $0.49

Buy 1 Nature Valley Nut Cluster ($1.99 when 8 participating products purchased)
** I had $1 off 1 online coupon from
** I had a $1.00 off 1 eCoupon from CellFire
Final Price: Free

Buy 1 Hamburger Helper ($1.00 when 8 participating products purchased):
** I had a $1 off 1 coupon from Que Rica Vida coupon booklet (Sign up here for future coupons)
Final Price: Free

Buy 1 Cheerios and 1 Trix cereal ($2.98 when 8 participating products purchased):
** I had $1 off 2 online coupon from for General Mills cereal (or from Shrektacular coupon booklet)
** I had a $0.55 off 1 Trix eCoupon from CellFire
** I had a $0.55 off 1 Trix eCoupon from ShortCuts
** I had a $0.55 off 1 Cheerios eCoupon from CellFire
Final Price: $0.33

Buy 4 Kraft Salad Dressing ($7.96 [$1.99 each] when 8 participating products purchased):
** I had 4 $0.55 off 1 Kraft Dressing from 5/2 SmartSource Sunday coupon insert
** I had 2 $1 off produce when you buy 2 Kraft Dressings coupons found on a tearpad in the produce section
** There is a current Catalina Coupon for $3 off your next purchase when you buy 4 Kraft Dressings
Final Price: $2.76 (when catalina coupon counted) + $2 off produce

Buy 2 Padrinos Tortila Chips: ($3.98 club price – not participating in the promo)
** I had $1 off 1 peelie coupon found on chips
** I had $1.5 off produce when you buy 2 Padrinos tortilla chips coupons found on a tearpad below the chips
Final Price: $1.98 + $1.50 off produce

The way I had it envisioned it was that I would get all of the above and $3.50 worth of produce for $7.51 and get $3 catalina coupon back. Unfortunately, the register wouldn't accept the two produce coupons and the manager refused to override the register. I should have just not purchased the Kraft Dressing and Padrinos tortilla chips as their real worth was the free produce I was going to get, but I hadn't thought through what would happen if they were not accepted (a similar deal had gone through at the same store before) and I ended up getting everything. The problem was that I paid for the unanticipated overage with other catalina coupons I had so that I can't take them back now for a refund (I suppose I could take back and trade them for stuff of the same amount, but think I will just chalk this up as a lesson of being more prepared of possible issues and what I want to do if they happen).

Instead of using $7 in catalina coupons I already had to cover the expected cost and getting $3 catalina coupon back, I ended up using $10 in catalina coupons and only getting $2 back. That $4 difference may not seem like a lot, but that is 4 days worth of food that I blundered away. With that in mind, the $0.58 I paid is a bit deceiving…

day 35 purchase

day 35 receipt

day 35 receipt total

This included all the food mentioned above and 3 bananas, 1 onion, 1 broccoli crown and 1 lb of carrots. The only positive of the coupon blunder was that the Kraft dressing put me over $30 purchased in Kraft food making me eligible for a $10 rebate which will definitely come in handy when it eventually arrives:

Kraft rebate


I should have learned by now that on travel days, my meals are going to suffer unless I plan ahead. I had batter left over from the banana pancakes I had made and decided to use that up in the morning. There were a lot of excellent suggestions on how I can make them a bit sweeter, but didn't have all the ingredients I needed (although I plan to try them during this challenge), so I decided to improvise by stirring some cream cheese into them. They looked fine (sorry, I accidentally deleted the photo), but they didn't taste nearly as good as I hoped. The sweetness I hoped for was still missing and it was a bit richer than I anticipated. I think they would be good, but something was definitely missing and I have no idea what that was? A bit of sugar?


I need to eat the Deli Creation packages I bought for free before they go bad, so I am concentrating on eating those now. I took the the one with the deli style chicken that was supposed to go on crackers and made it into a sandwich on whole wheat toast adding a bit of the Dijon potato salad dressing, lettuce and half a tomato:

day 35 lunch

I then just had cream cheese on the crackers and I did get a small of piece of chocolate as well:

day 35 lunch plated


I didn't have a proper dinner. I had a bunch of errands to run plus do the grocery shopping so that I was running back and forth for the rest of the evening. I ended up having a couple of peanut butter sandwiches, some of the Wheat Thins toasted chips and a CapriSun drink that I ate when I had a few minutes to spare before going off to do something else.

What I think I need to do is make a few prepared meals that I can freeze so that I can just grab and reheat them for a dinner when things go crazy like today. Of course, that requires that I can actually prepare something in quantity that is worth eating later on. I'm just hoping that tomorrow is a better day in regard to food than it was today…

This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $32.64
Money left to spend: $28.36 ($2 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $720.83


The Beginning ::: Day 36: Free Beer


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  1. I read alot about people downloading eCoupons and then they don’t come off. I like going in knowing what I will pay. I feel like I am losing out not using them but I dislike the hit or miss of them. How do they work out for you?

  2. I have had issues a couple of times when they haven’t worked like I thought they would, but they have 99% of the time. If you don’t trust them, I would sign up anyway and load everything and then shop normally — the worst that can happen is that you get a nice surprise every now and again when they do appear on your receipt.

  3. Just a real quick comment about something that popped into my mind:

    Have you heard of You sign up with them and you get coupons through your cell. I’ve had a hit and miss experience with them, haven’t gotten all the coupons I picked. However, I’ve never had them spam my phone or call me,so you might want to check them out.

  4. Yes, CellFire is one of the ones that I use. I also use ShortCuts and load coupons onto my Safeway card as well through — it is worthwhile doing in my opinion as it is extra savings beyond the manufacturer’s coupons that can be stacked for great savings.

  5. I suppose you are right. Safeway will give you money back for overage. Other stores I shop don’t allow money back and have taken away other discounts costing me money. Not alot as things go but I value every penny as I know what I can do with it for purchases for the food pantry.

  6. Since milk costs so much and rarely has coupons have you ever considered rice milk? my kids like rice milk w banana mixed in. you take your brown rice and put it in the blender w water and your banana until its the consistancy and taste that you like. then strain through a cloth and enjoy.

  7. I have been following along and am amazed at what you have been able to do with couponing and sales. But I do have a question that I hope you can answer….. I’m not sure I understoond a previous entry about Safeway….If I download a manufactures coupon to my safeway card, can I stack a printed manufactures coupon on top of that? Then of course add the sale price or store coupon to that? Thanks.

  8. @Nicole Yes! eCoupons are a great “secret” way to get things for nearly free. Currently, all eCoupons will stack with regular manufacturer coupons at Safeway. So if you have an eCoupon on your Safeway card, the same coupon on CellFire and another same coupon on ShortCuts and a physical coupon you hand to the cashier, they will all work together after getting the club price. Just make sure that you load the coupon to your Safeway card before you print it. If you print it first, it will disappear and you won’t be able to load it.

  9. Our store was having a get them out of here sale on Suddenly Salads (two varieties) as they had come to the end of their sell by date. I had a coupon for $1 off two and they were selling for 3/$1 but the cashier would only give me the 67 cent credit. What I thought was really funny is why weren’t those boxes flying off the shelf at that price. It is a box of noodles/pasta for goodness sake and that stuff stays good for a very long time no matter what the sale by date says. I wonder how many people walked by them wondering how they were going to feed their family that week, when all they had to do was grab some of them and have a pretty chep pasta meal. A whole carton of the stuff was selling for $2.99! Am I weird or don’t people look at things that way? If Jeffrey had seen this sale and had the coupons he would have bought a bunch I would think.

  10. I’ve been following your journey with some fascination, but I still don’t feel like I have a good handle on your couponing process. You’ve written several times that you don’t clip and don’t organize, that you just save Sunday inserts. Yet, when I see the fantastic calculus you go through to figure out how to get stuff for almost nothing (or less), I can’t connect the dots.

    Not that you need more work to do, but since this seems to be a labor of love for you and you seem to enjoy writing/helping/creating on this site, is there any chance you could do a post – or better yet, a video – that shows in some detail exactly what the process is, from pulling the Sunday inserts off the shelf, to figuring out what goes with what, to actually creating the grocery list?

    Thanks in advance for even considering this!

  11. @Mike Dunham

    Yes – in fact, that is what I have been doing the last couple of days:

    Coupon Organization

    Where I Find Inserts

    I hope to be able to answer all the frequent questions I have been getting over the next couple of weeks and then combine them all together for reference for anyone that wants to give this a try (hopefully a little less extreme than what I am doing)

  12. @Mike Dunham

    Like anything, it takes practice and the more you practice, the better you will get. 29% is fantastic — think about it this way — what other investment could you make where you can get an instantaneous 29% return on your money?

  13. Good point – just have to fight the jealousy at watching you get over 2200% return on your money (as of this post – you’ve done even better since)!

  14. Several stores around here have signs posted that say, “We do NOT accept internet coupons.”

    Yet another reason why this town sucks…

  15. I realize this is coming rather late but I know you are still doing the challenge and i am trying to catch up. Chili would be a possibility fo a frozen meal though and all that is really required is some sort of meat, tomatoes (either canned or fresh) and chili powder/some other sort of seasoning.

    Also, have you ever tried to eat your oatmeal with milk or vanilla soy milk when cooking instead of water? I have it with vanilla soy milk every morning and love it. Just a suggestion.

  16. Sounds like you need to invest a little in a jar of ground cinnamon. I see McCormicks coupons frequently. A little bit of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice goes a long way to spice up anything from your oatmeal,cereal,fruit, pancakes, toast. Would be great mixed in with plain cream cheese or on your broiled apples. For potatoes, I frequently cook them without oil, but add a few drops of hot sauce or sprinkle in some smoked paprika to give them some zip.

  17. You should dice a banana and put it on your pancake mix (if you’re feeling in a raisin-y mood, add those, too), then cook them and while they’re still hot, add peanut butter like you do to toast. I haven’t had those in so long (I must watch my figure), but I used to love those when I wasn’t dieting.

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