published Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Two area coupon queens reign over supermarkets


by Brittany Cofer
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Kelly Thomson and Kasey Trenum shop at a Bi-Lo supermarket in Fort Oglethorpe on Friday to demonstrate how to save money by using coupons.

Shaving nearly $100 off a grocery bill of more than $150 may seem like magic to some, but for two local coupon queens, it's just another day on the job. In an economic time when every penny counts, more shoppers are seeking ways to cut costs and stay-at-home moms Kasey Trenum and Kelly Thompson, of Cleveland, Tenn., think couponing could be the way.

"To me, it's almost like introducing somebody to Santa Claus," Mrs. Thompson said. "That light in a kid's eyes, to see that in an adult's eyes ... reminds me of that kid's delight."

The two coupon capitalists teach their "Time 2 Save" couponing workshops across Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia.

Armed with two binders and an envelope packed with coupons, the pair recently dazzled a mother and daughter shopping at Publix in Ooltewah by cutting their weekly grocery bill down to $57.

About two hours later and 20 miles south, the duo purchased more than $80 worth of groceries for just $17 at Bi-Lo in Fort Oglethorpe.

Callie Falls, 25, and her mother, Barbara Ownby, 49, were looking for ways to save at Publix but were unsure of how to do so before being approached by Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson.

"I heard that you could do it, but I didn't know how to do it," said Ms. Falls, a Cleveland, Tenn., resident. "I tried doing it a little bit this past week, but I didn't save that much."

The approach Ms. Falls took was simply to look for items on sale, she said. But sale items are just the beginning.

"That's just half the picture," Mrs. Thompson told Ms. Falls, pointing to the Publix sales paper. "We want to put a coupon on everything that you buy."

Strolling down the store's aisles, the women pointed to deals Ms. Ownby and her daughter had not noticed. A bin filled to the brim with assorted microwaveable meals didn't look like a gold mine, but Mrs. Trenum saw otherwise.

"So many people look at this big pile, and they're going to miss the ones with coupons," she said as she peeled the savings sticker from one of the packages.

Throughout the store, the pair kept a watchful eye for what they refer to as "peelies" and "blinkies" -- coupons that can be peeled from merchandise, or those within a small blinking case on the store's shelves. When combined with a sale, such coupons create savings many shoppers only dream of: toothpaste for 49 cents, salad dressing for 8 cents, tissues for free.

"That's part of the magic, buying it with a coupon while it's on sale," Mrs. Trenum said.

For more than an hour, Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson walked with the mother/daughter pair, teaching them tricks of the trade. Ms. Ownby and Ms. Falls let the other two women take the lead during the shopping excursion, expressing surprise when they heard the savings a coupon could provide.

"I think once you get the hang of it, it will be real smooth," said Ms. Ownby, who said she typically spends $300 a week on groceries to feed her family and stock her husband's workshop. "I'm going to cut all the coupons I can, for sure."

preparation

By putting in two to three hours of effort each week for about two months, it's possible to decrease a grocery bill dramatically while buying more than before, Mrs. Thompson said. After that, the time per week should go down to about an hour, she said.

To slash their grocery costs, the money-saving moms create a stockpile of merchandise they buy, using coupons, for next to nothing. As the stockpile grows, Mrs. Thompson said, the amount of time spent in the grocery store will shorten.

"When you get the bigger picture of making a small investment of your time to get that payback, it's worth it, definitely worth it," Mrs. Thompson said.

While shopping at Bi-Lo, Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson consulted one another about which items to purchase. The women flipped open their massive coupon binders -- stuffed with tiny bits of savings neatly tucked in plastic sleeves normally reserved for the likes of baseball trading cards -- and sifted through loose coupons in a small white envelope, searching for the piece of paper matching the item on sale.

"I like to tell people, you can take my pocketbook, but you touch this" -- holding up the coupon binder -- "and it's over," Mrs. Thompson said. "This is worth thousands of dollars."

While shopping, the two closely examine items many typically would throw into a grocery cart with little thought. The item and the coupon must match exactly, and it should be on sale to get maximum savings, the women said.

Eric Hozouri, Bi-Lo store manager, said it's important that coupon users understand the limitations of the savings certificates. Policies vary store to store, but at the Bi-Lo in Fort Oglethorpe, manufacturers coupons are doubled up to 60 cents, unless the coupon states "do not double," he said.

Customers also must have a Bi-Lo Bonus Card to hit the big savings, he said.

COMING WEDNESDAY

Time 2 Save couponing experts Kelly Thompson and Kasey Trenum answer your questions. In Life (Taste).

LEARN MORE

There are three Time 2 Save couponing classes that make up the five-hour workshop: Couponing 101-Building the Foundation ($10), Couponing 102-The Next Level ($15) and Couponing 103-Wild World of Drug Stores & More ($15).

Upcoming workshops will be held at:

* Ridgeview Church in Ringgold, Ga., on March 20.

* Allen Elementary School in Soddy-Daisy on March 27.

To sign up for a class, visit www.time2saveworkshops.com.

"Our coupons will only double if the consumer uses our Bonus Card," Mr. Hozouri said. "It activates all the discounts in the store, so they have to use that. Coupons also have to be in-date."

Since Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson began their Time 2 Save workshops more than a year ago, area grocery store managers say they've seen an increase in customers using coupons.

Daryl Massey, Bi-Lo district director for North Georgia and half of Chattanooga, said the increased traffic has helped sales and has boosted the store's value image.

"Customers are clearly looking for a better value," Mr. Massey said. "We've really recognized that the economy is struggling, and we have increased our advertised specials. Going along with the double coupons, we feel like we have a much better price."

Though Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson don't ambush shoppers every time they go grocery shopping, they said meeting someone needing to learn how to save is something that always makes them happy.

"Just watching their eyes and watching them come alive ... it just kind of puts a new hope in their heart," Mrs. Trenum said. "They're realizing how much money they can save."

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about Brittany Cofer...

Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
deltenney said...

www.time2saveworkshops.com.

A blogger error comes up at the above address.

March 14, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
marksmilitaria said...

Well, I have followed these two queens for some time, as well as others on the internet, ABC/etc. and am NOT impressed. If you like to shop at the WAY overpriced/ very limited selection of items at Publix and Bi Lo, then go for it. But toilet paper,toothpaste,tissues,wax paper, trash bags, bbq sauce, etc. do not replace meat and potatoes. I can take the same amount of money, and buy groceries to eat. Overpriced name brand Smart Choice Butter? How about showing using coupons for just plain white bread, hamburger, milk, eggs, soft drinks, etc. the stuff 99.9% of Americans eat.

March 14, 2010 at 2:59 p.m.

For previous comment - has "following" included going to a workshop? At the workshop I attended, the ladies showed how to get 2 (12 pks.) of Coke for 21¢. They also had significant savings on bread and I believe there were 2 dozen eggs in the trip shown on the article. They regularly have ways to save on "meat and pototoes" on their website. As far as butter, even the generic brand could easily be $1-$2, but since I started couponing I get name brand for about 25¢. My family eats tons of yogurt, cereal, veggies, milk, bread, pizza, cheese and granola bars. I can now get all of these items for a fraction of what I used to. Not to mention how much I save on household items such as laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.

I also love that these ladies bring so much about giving to others into their classes. I really never thought about it or that I could make a difference. Now my family regularly buys extra items and we love finding people who need them. These ladies have a great ministry and I am very grateful for them.

March 17, 2010 at 9:15 a.m.
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