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Local Mom & Author Shows Secrets Of How To Shop For Free

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News. She...
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Treat Yourself

BOSTON (CBS) – The weekly trip to the grocery store takes a big chunk out of just about any family budget. That is unless you are Kathy Spencer. She spends $4 or less every week for her family of six. It’s all about coupons but Kathy is looking for more than just a discount. She gets dozens of items every week absolutely free.

Kathy shares her secrets in her new book, How To Shop For Free. Her first secret: Go for the BOGO, or buy one get one free. She showed us how it worked with Perdue chicken nuggets. “These are $3.40. They are buy one get one free. So with my two $2-off coupons, they are free,” she explained.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports

Notice she said coupons. That is the second secret to shopping for free. You have to have multiple copies of the same coupon. The Sunday inserts like Smart Source and Red Plum are Kathy’s bread and butter and she collects multiple copies of the inserts every week. Kathy says she sometimes finds copies at recycling centers. She also suggests trying your local convenience store. Some will let you take the coupon inserts from the unsold papers on Monday mornings.

The third secret is to learn the rules and make them work for you. Kathy had a handful coupons for $1 off fresh seafood. In order to make them work out free, she had to ask the clerk to cut small pieces of fish in separate packages, each 1/8th of a pound and each costing less than $1. It took some time, but she walked away with five pieces of fresh haddock and more than a dozen fish cakes all for free.

Kathy keeps a close eye on expiration dates and stockpiles items she knows her family will use. She also has an entire linen closet filled with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. When her family’s needs are met, she goes to work helping others. Her pantry is filled with rows and rows of top quality grocery items, everything from peanut butter to baby formula. She donates to individual families, shelters and food pantries.

At the end of our trip through the Shaw’s supermarket in Newbury the clerk rang up a total of $210.89. Kathy’s loyalty card knocked about $60 off the total. Then it was time for the coupons. People in line behind her were more curious than annoyed as they watched the clerk scan through dozens of coupons. When it was over her total was just $0.68.

Kathy admits it does take some time to get the hang of it, but she believes coupons can change lives. “On paper we’re poor,” she said. “But coupons have basically made us rich.”

Kathy’s website is a great way to get started if you are interested in learning how to shop for free. It includes a database of coupons and there is a great online forum where shoppers let each other know about great deals.

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