Clipping coupons, sipping coffee
Published: November 3, 2010
On her blog, Ann Marie Detavernier describes herself as an “Army wife, busy mom, balance seeker.” In conversation, she added “frugal, garage sale shopper.” After talking to her, I’d have to include “go getter.”
Besides blogging, photography and being active in her Family Resource Group, this mother of three small children has initiated and leads a “Coffee and Coupons” program through Army Community Services at USAG Baumholder, Germany.
Married less than six years, Ann Marie said she is always looking for ways to make the most of her family’s budget.
“When we were first married I knew nothing about coupons or meal planning or even how to cook,” she said. “I knew coupons saved money, but I didn’t know anything more than that.”
“I’d clip all the coupons, file all the coupons and spend hours in the commissary trying to find the best deal,” but the results were disappointing.
Coupons alone did not save money on groceries, she said, because they sometimes led to purchases of items that were not practical.
Last year, Ann Marie reviewed her grocery spending and decided she needed a plan, a meal plan, to be precise. She said she took a purposeful look at what her family needed each week and began shopping according to that, instead of choosing items based on coupons.
“I’d say, ‘This week we’re going to eat X, Y and Z, then we’ll have leftovers one night and pizza on Friday,’” she explained. “I started buying only the foods we were going to eat.”
Another strategy, she said, was “shopping” first in her own pantry, planning some meals around what she already had on hand.
She took a coupon organizer and rearranged the categories to match the order of the aisles in her local commissary.
“I made a meal plan. I shopped in my pantry. I made my list, and then I would go through my coupons. I rewrote my list in order of the commissary aisles, put my coupons in an envelope and went to the commissary.”
“I could be in and out of the commissary with three small children in less than an hour,” she said.
Time was not the only thing she saved.
“I was saving fifteen or eighteen dollars a week, sometimes twenty bucks,” she said.
“I added it up at the end of the month … and I told my husband, I saved 48 dollars this month, I’m taking us out to dinner,” she laughed.
“It gave me such a sense of pride, because I’m at home, but I did this.”
The next logical step for Ann Marie was passing along what she learned.
She contacted ACS, talked to the financial readiness liaison, and a monthly “Coffee and Coupons” group was born, meeting on the second Wednesday of each month.
“At the first meeting we had more than 31 moms, plus children. It was chaos. It was wonderful,” she enthused.
“I saw lots of young moms, some veterans who brought their coupon books with them,” she said. “I told them about my system and asked, ‘What are you interested in?’”
The group shares shopping strategies, money-saving ideas and online coupon sites.
Overseas commissaries accept coupons six months past expiration, so group members have also asked stateside families and friends to send old coupons.
Ann Marie has written a brief ebook outlining her money-saving ideas. It is available through Baumholder’s ACS website and on Ann Marie’s blog.
She said she hopes to encourage spouses at other installations to start similar groups.
“I’m not an expert,” said Ann Marie. “I just know this works.”