ROSWELL, GA (WTOC) - Ever gone grocery shopping with every intention of only picking up a few items and you spend far more than you planned?
It happens all the time, but it doesn't have to always be that way. Many times, food cost us far more than we expect and that can really blow our budgets.
In these difficult financial times, we found one woman who has some tips that can save you big bucks the next time you go shopping.
Stephanie Nelson takes her shopping very seriously. "The key for me is to plan ahead. With your list laid out, you are much less likely to do impulse shopping," explains Nelson who is also known as the coupon mom.
Nelson knows what she's talking about and is hailed as an expert in her community and around the country. She is known for finding great deals using coupons and other discounts that most of us overlook.
While this coupon mom has made it her life's mission to help families get good deals and save money, it started as a much more noble effort.
The food bank where she lives was nearly empty and she did what she does best to help. Armed with coupons, she went shopping.
"So just as an experiment, I went to the grocery store the next day to buy as much food as they needed as I could with my coupons and I ended up getting $60 of groceries for only $16 and I thought wait a minute maybe there's something to this," recalls Nelson.
Every week she bought more food to donate and eventually met with the director to come up with a way to encourage others to follow her lead.
Her minister suggested that she start a website. At first, she called herself and the website the, "Cut Out Hunger Mom", but eventually it became known as "The Coupon Mom" and grew from a few church members to 1.6 million members who subscribe to her site today.
Her bargain hunting has become a way of life. Before she ever steps into a store, she does her homework on the computer, looking for deals through her website www.couponmom.com and scouring newspapers for coupons.
"You would plan your meals around the featured sales. So most people would decide what they want to eat that week and make their shopping list around that, but you will cut your shopping bill dramatically if you keep that change," says Nelson.
Her system works and she's teaching it to anyone who'll listen. And Nelson is in demand, even making an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show teaching millions what seems to come naturally to her.
She says you also need to ask questions. "You want to understand your store's markdown policy. Most stores will markdown perishable items some time during the day. You should talk to the butcher, the produce manager and the overall store manager to find out what time of day," shares Nelson.
Nelson believes she saves thousands of dollars a year on just about everything her family uses and since she became the coupon mom eight years ago, she has many fans who follow her lead online.
Especially during these tough economic times, she's proud to help as many people as possible make ends meet.
She also says to remember that 90 percent of all of the coupons come from the Sunday sales circular. The coupons you get from the paper are called manufacturer's coupons. There are also printed coupons that you can get from her site or other places online.
She suggests that you keep them together on the page you print so the cashier can see that they are from a legitimate website.
The newest coupon is called an electronic coupon. So far only a few stores are offering them. You can find a detailed list on her website, but for example, you can just go to www.kroger.com and look for the coupons they offer. Then instead of printing the coupons, you can click on what you like and the discounts will be loaded on to your Kroger card.
To learn more about saving and using coupons and other discounts, visit www.couponmom.com