If you eat, you can save -- that's the mantra of two Cleveland, Tenn., stay-at-home moms who have made a business out of couponing.
After more than two years of clipping coupons and relentlessly seeking out the best deals in town, Kasey Trenum and Kelly Thompson began sharing their knowledge a year ago by teaching day-long workshops that reveal the magic behind cutting a grocery bill in half.
"I'm never paying full price again," Mrs. Trenum said.
The two women think nobody else should have to, either.
The Time 2 Save workshops teach the concept of creating a pantry stockpile by buying enough of an item while it is at its lowest price, then waiting until the item goes on sale again 10 to 12 weeks later to replenish the stock.
"Right now, when you need to go to the grocery store, you make a list then you go, but you're tied to your list," Mrs. Trenum explained. "Now whether salad dressing is $3 or whether it's $1.99, if you need it, you buy it.
"I buy it when it's 19 cents and I don't buy it again until it goes on sale, and that's the way our bill is like $30."
The appeal of saving money led Flintstone, Ga., resident Tammy Thompson -- who isn't related to Kelly Thompson -- to attend a workshop in early February. The 42-year-old said she knew she was about to lose her job and she needed to find a way to save money.
Since taking the course, Tammy Thompson said she has saved "a tremendous amount of money" and has a new perspective on the grocery store. Before the class, she didn't keep many groceries inside her home and would instead eat out with her husband for almost every meal.
When stay-at-home mom Kasey Trenum's husband lost his job, she knew she had to trim household expenses so she could to continue to stay at home with her two children. She and friend Kelly Thompson began using coupons to save money.
It took some trial and error, but eventually Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson started to learn the sales cycle at local grocery stores and, in about two month's time, had saved a significant amount of money. As their coupon binders grew and they learned more ways to cut costs, they said people began asking them questions in the grocery stores.
"People would follow us out of the store," Mrs. Trenum said.
About a year ago, the women were asked to teach a class in Cleveland, Tenn. Since then, the pair launched a Web site and created a couponing workshop business called Time 2 Save. They teach day-long workshops in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia about how to get the most bang for your buck in grocery and drug stores.
LEARN THE LINGO
Couponers have a language that might sound foreign to some. Here are some of the common terms used by Mrs. Trenum and Mrs. Thompson:
* B1G1 or BOGO -- Buy one get one free.
* Blinkie -- In-store coupon typically in a small box with a red flashing light near the product that the coupon is for.
* CAT or Catalina -- Coupon that prints at the register after your purchase is complete.
* DND -- Do not double; a coupon that cannot be combined with another coupon.
* IP -- Internet printable coupon that can be printed from a Web site. Each has its own bar code so they cannot be copied.
* MIR -- Mail-in rebate.
* MQ or Manny Q -- Manufacturer coupon.
* Peelie -- Coupon sticker on a product; must be peeled off to redeem.
* Wine tag/ring tag/hangtag -- Coupon found hanging from the "neck" of a bottle, such as ketchup, syrup or salad dressing.
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 Saturday.
* Allen Elementary School in Soddy-Daisy on March 27.
To sign up for a class, visit www.time2saveworkshops.com.
When she did buy groceries, it was a haphazard process. She dreaded spending money on food that would go bad before it could all be eaten, she said. Now, her cabinets are stocked and she has gone out to eat just once since attending the class.
"Our whole deal around here was we never had two things that went together," Tammy Thompson said. "We would have peanut butter, but no jelly. We would have cereal, but no milk."
She said her husband was skeptical at first, but after seeing their grocery bill cut in half and the abundance of food now in the house, he's just as excited as she is.
She said she has gone shopping twice since the class, and both times her bill was about $75 to $80 for two weeks' worth of food, plus stockpile items.
How it works
The savings secret is to combine coupons with in-store sales, Kelly Thompson said. Another trick of the trade is doubling coupons, an in-store deal in which the face value of the coupon is increased.
Coupon policies vary from store-to-store, with some doubling up to 50 or 60 cents, and some not doubling at all. The women advise new couponers to ask a cashier or store manager for the coupon policy at the store where you shop to ensure you follow the stated policy.
Mrs. Trenum and Kelly Thompson said changing shopping habits takes time, but they think the way they present the information in their workshops teaches people how to become organized, making the process as simple as possible.
Still, the first time Tammy Thompson's 24-year-old daughter went shopping after attending the class, she said it was hard to break old habits.
"The first time I went in Bi-Lo I had a panic attack. I had to leave, I couldn't breathe," Jessica Ross said. "I told my mom, I said, 'I can't do this.'"
Mrs. Ross went back with her husband later and spent $20 on groceries that normally would cost $50. She said since the first failed trip, she's gone back to the store several times and has cut her monthly bill of $300 down by about $100.
More than saving money
A key part of the Time 2 Save message is that of giving, Mrs. Trenum and Kelly Thompson said. They teach people to use their ability to buy more while spending less to help families without the means to buy groceries.
"Some people think, 'I can barely feed my family, how can I afford to give?'" Kelly Thompson said. "With this, you can."
Spending about $5 to $10 each week can go a long way toward providing items to a shelter or family in need, Mrs. Trenum said. People can do this by purchasing items on sale with a coupon, even if they are things you wouldn't normally use, then donating those items.
"There's nothing that feels better," Mrs. Trenum said. "It blows me away to know that I can help somebody by buying their groceries for them, and what a load that can take off."
Tammy Thompson said that, even though she's only been couponing for a month, she's already experienced that feeling. On a recent shopping trip, she bought an item she knew she probably wouldn't use, but since it went from $4.99 to 10 cents, she figured it couldn't hurt to get it.
"I was like, 'I know I will never use this,'" she said. "But somebody else did, and they needed it, so I could just give it to them."
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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 ...