How to win at H.E.B. monopoly

Sunday, May 15, 2011

*I am coming back in here to say that I AM NOT A COUPON BLOG, and this post is really intended for people who live in Texas and have to deal with the grocery monopoly known as HEB*

For those of you who read my blog and do not live in Texas, H.E.B. is a grocery store. If you live in Texas (or more particularly South Texas) we have two choices of grocery stores - Super Walmart or H.E.B. (we have CVS's and Walgreens, but for major grocery shopping and produce that's it). For ages I have read blogs and watched shows like like Extreme Couponing and have become quite envious of how these people manage to rack up $500.00 grocery bills and pay only dimes. Since this show has come out, I have paid attention to what these people are actually buying. I have no need for 35 boxes of hair dye or 56 packages of hot dogs. I am not willing to go to five different places to buy my groceries, nor am I willing to drag my 3 children at dawn to scour yards of foreclosed homes to steal sunday newspapers. I'll pay my $2.00 and snip like everyone else thankyouverymuch. I am also not wiling to sit for hours and hours scouring websites and papers, but I am willing to get a little organized.
Just a sampling of the plethora of processed pleasures available from the fine shopping establishment of H.E.B. 

But still, the most I had been able to save in the past was $30-$40.00 at a trip. Now most people would say that's pretty darn good considering our limited choices in grocery stores, I have tried to figure out a way to duplicate these results WHILE not wasting huge amounts of time. For the longest time, I was convinced that H.E.B. would not double ANY coupons. Well, I was delighted to discover today that this myth is not ENTIRELY true. Instead of trying to explain it myself... CLICK HERE to view their coupon policy.

Ok...  so anyone who knows H.E.B. knows about these little yellow coupons:


You can find them all over the store.  You can also find them on one big rack somewhere up near the front of the store.  In some stores they are by the entrances, other stores they are by the customer service desk where you would go to pay a bill or buy tickets for something.  It's not a big secret that they have them, cause they are everywhere, and sometimes there are some in the front of the store that are not on the aisles.  Sometimes there are some on the isles that are not on the big rack (like the meal deals).  According to the H.E.B. coupon policy page...  "Combining a manufacturer issued coupon with an H-E-B issued manufacturer coupon (Type M) on the same item is not permitted"  but directly under that it states... "H-E-B will combine store sponsored yellow coupons with manufacturer coupons for the same product."  So being the obsessively compulsive person that I am on a mission to beat H.E.B. at grocery monopoly, I printed the page out and made a plan to take it with me and point out that H.E.B. does infact double coupons for yellow coupon items.  Ha!  Now I started developing a plan.... 

Now remember...  my goal is to save money on things my family needs.  We don't have cats, so I'm not going to EVER waste my time clipping or printing out coupons for cat food, even if it is free cause I don't even know anyone who has cats and as much as I'm into charity and all, I'm more into my free time.

STEP ONE - PREPARING TO ORGANIZE:
I purchased a binder, dividers, and sheet protectors.  I had seen on the crazy coupon shows all the coupon gal's had some nifty way of organizing their coupons.  I've been around the grocery block once or twice, and I knew I needed to start here.  Three kids outnumber one mom, no way I was adding in 89,305 coupons to the mix without a way to keep them from spilling all over the isles.  Plus when I HAVE to take my kids with me, it will give my 12 year old something to hold.  Or to hit his sister with, so maybe scratch that.  He can hold the list.

STEP TWO - GATHER THE COUPONS:
***I will actally make a trip to H.E.B. to pick up some yellow coupons or browse through their online ads (on this page where it says view this week's ad).  They expire pretty quickly, so if you are really wanting to make your couponing dollars count, knowing what the meal deals are and knowing the yellow coupons is essential.

***Then comes the printing and the clipping.  and the clipping and the printing if you prefer it that way.  Ok gals (and guys too, if you're into this kinda thang).  Here's the time consuming part.  I use a variety of coupon gathering methods.  I'm not gonna lie, it does take time, but I have found that after a couple of weeks of buying the Sunday paper and clipping the coupons and sorting them away into my binder, I have used some that I didn't think I would.  Like for these to fix our smoke detector that decided to start beeping once every half second the other night promptly at 3am:

They were on my list and I got free orange juice, which was also on my list.  SCORE!!

There are some things that I have discovered are just a flat better bargain if you just buy the generic.  Laundry detergent for example.  There were 5 coupons for different kinds of laundry detergent in my binder, none of them lead to a lower price than the generic that we usually buy anyway.  And believe you me, I have done a test and it does get our clothes just as clean as the $15.00 box of Tide.  However, sometimes H.E.B. has a yellow coupon for a different kind that I can combine with a manufacturer coupon and it is a little cheaper.  And if one is pretty close to expiring and I know I won't be using it, I like to pretend that I'm the coupon fairy and I'll leave it by the expensive laundry detergent and walk away all happy like.  I know, I'm delusional. 

So here are a list of resources that I use that are free (both monitarilly free and free of malicious spyware crud that your computer will spit out like a baby choking on spinach). 
http://www.coupons.cm/
http://www.redplum.com/
http://www.couponnetwork.com/ (you have to register, but it's free)
http://www.heb.com/weekly-ads/show-coupons.jsp (mostly the same as coupons.com)
http://www.couponmom.com/ (is also good, but really more for kroger cities)
http://www.pgeverydaysolutions.com/pgeds/brandsaver-coupons.jsp (once you register with them, they send you coupons in the mail)
http://www.pillsbury.com/coupons-promotions (you have to register as  member and then you can print coupons)
http://www.kraftrecipes.com/registration/contextualsignuplogin.aspx?redirect=1 (pretty good about emailing coupons)
**You can also search on facebook for products and brands and get a coupon for liking that page...  For example Freschetta pizza has a $2.00 coupon for their pizza on facebook right now.  H.E.B. had a yellow coupon for $1.50 off - The pizza costs $4.00 so I got two pizzas for about $1.00.  SCORE!
 ** I also visit product websites and google around to see if there is a printable coupon out there if something is on my list. 

STEP THREE - ORGANIZE THE COUPONS:
*** Usually on a day when my husband is off or my kids are not too crazy.  I pull out my recently purchased Sunday paper, cut and print the relevant coupons for our family and organize them into my binder:

 That's my grocery list on the left, and the HEB coupon policy on the right.  It's come in handy on more than one occasion. 
 When a clerk tells me that I can't use a manufacture coupon with a yellow coupon, I pull out this bad boy all professional like. 
Then behind are my dividers.  They are categorized into these fun categories which i'm putting in pink cause pink is fun and so is saving money:
1.  Bath & Body
2.  Home Cleaning
3.  Laundry
4.  Dishes (there are usually lots of sunday coupons for these and laundry so they needed their own slot)
5.  Pets
6.  Spices & Condiments
7.  Baking (sometimes there are good coupons for flour or sugar or chocolate chips, etc.)
8.  Snacks (both for kids and grownups)
9.  Desserts
10.  Frozen Food
11.  Lunchmeat & Hot Dogs
12.  Entrees
13.  Sides
14.  School (coupons for stuff like glue, crayons, markers, etc.)
15.  Toys (occasionally)
16.  Misc.

Whew!  So not all slots are filled up, and this is just what works for me...  you may have your own system and I'd love to hear about it!  I put a few page protectors behind each divider and stash my coupons in that.  When I find some baseball card holder page thingies, I might try that, but I haven't been able to find any like the real coupon gals have yet. 

STEP FOUR - LIST MAKING:
I use my calendar when making my grocery list.  Why?  So that I can remember that we have a birthday party to go to and to look in the toy coupon slot.  So that I can remember that I am suppossed to bring snack to bible study, and I can use my crescent roll coupon to make something.  My husband gets paid every two weeks.  So that means I go to the grocery store once every two weeks.  No more... no less.  Well, we do run out of mik pretty frequently, but does that count?  I keep a running list of things that we run out of on a pad on my fridge, and when it's time to go to the store, I make out two lists....  one for dinners that will last us about two weeks, the other is the actual grocery list.  Also using my calendar, I add in the scheduled events like when Gracyn is suppossed to bring snack, etc.  I also review the yellow meal deal coupons from H.E.B. and plan out some meals aroun those.  Then I go to my coupon binder and see if any yellow coupons match up with any manufacturer coupons.

I write my dinner menu on this little black frame with a dry erase marker so I can erase something once we've eaten it.  It helps me to remember what we've got available to cook or eat and keeps me sane when the kids ask "what's for dinner?".

I'm still making my list based on what we need.  I do not buy something just because I have a coupon for it.  But because I have been cutting coupons from the sunday paper for a few weeks now and have some other coupons that were mailed to me, I was able to save a significant amount today by combining yellow coupons and manufacturer coupons.  My biggest score was this:

This is why club sandwhiches are on our dinner menu this week..... I had two manufacture coupons for $2.00 off Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Meat.  (They cost around $3.50.)  I also had two manufacturer coupons for Kraft Cheese for .50 off (they cost about 1.50) I bought one turkey and one ham, which meant that I got two loaves of bread, two corn nuts (which Chris loves to eat in the car on the way to work as he tries to quit dipping), two Mac&Cheeses, and two bottles of mayo for free.  So in total 14 items for $5.00. 

Somewhere about ten coupons into this, she stopped and pulled the ole "HEB doesn't double coupons ma'am."  And I pulled the ole...  "I get that all the time, and that's why I have printed the HEB coupon policy out for you to read."  Believe me, it was not fun standing in line having her go through all of these coupons listening to lady behind me moan at how long it was taking.  I think at one point, my hair actually caught on fire from the flames shooting from her eyes.  Which reminds me that I forgot to get hairspray.  sonfofanutcracker there's always something.  I just kept thinking....  oooohhhh lady.....  you oughta be glad I don't have my three kids with me. 

When she handed me my receipt, and said I had saved $89.00...  I slighty turned back and repeated very loudly...  "I SAVED $89.00 DOLLARS???"  Take that flame throwing eye lady.

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