The cashiers at Fort Erie’s grocery stores are very familiar with Liza Fare.
“When they see me coming to the register, they say, ‘Here comes the coupon queen,’ and she’s going to clean us out again,” chuckled the Ridgeway resident.
The retiree has been an avid couponer for nearly 50 years.
“I use coupons for everything,” she said.
She started after her daughter was born and looked for ways to save some money.
Flashing back to 2022, when food prices will skyrocket due to inflation, Fare said people can trim their grocery bills — but it takes a little time, a little patience and a little courtesy.
“You have to save money these days,” she said. “Everything is so expensive.
“I feel so bad when I see people in the supermarket who just don’t shop properly. As I walk up and down the aisle, I see people just reaching for items, and when they get to the checkout, they’re shocked to find their bill is $200-$300.”
According to Fare, a smart shopper is a savvy shopper, and consumers can save tons of money by focusing on coupons, special offers, and loyalty cards.
While she finds some coupons in the store, most of her coupon collection comes in the mail.
She writes a “polite letter” to companies — either a traditional letter or email — to praise them for their product.
“Chances are they’ll send you a coupon or sample back,” she said. “Businesses want to keep you as a customer, and the way to keep you is through coupons.”
The same applies if you have a problem with a product.
“Contact us if you are not satisfied with a product. But be polite, don’t be rude or obnoxious, just explain the problem.”
She recently sent a letter to a company after a box of liquor she bought contained an empty can.
A short time later, a coupon landed in her mailbox.
Fare founded Coupon Clippers of Canada in 1979 and ran the non-profit coupon exchange organization until 2004. She even organized a coupon convention that was held in Niagara Falls.
She would like to resume coupon exchanges, but said companies don’t seem to be offering as many coupons in-store as they used to.
“Years ago you could find so many coupons on the shelves, but you just don’t see that that often anymore,” she said.
While many companies now offer online coupons, Fare prefers the paper product.
“I’m old school,” she joked.
Caroline Jackson of Niagara Falls started couponing six years ago.
“A friend taught me a bit and then I joined a Facebook group that helped me with a lot of other questions,” she said.
Jackson, whose children call her Coupon Mama, agreed that couponing has changed in recent years.
“I used to be able to print a lot of coupons online, use newspaper inserts like P&G and a few others, and use grocery store tear-off pads. But lately so many others have joined the coupon craze that it’s very difficult to get my hands on tear pad coupons and one of the major online websites, SmartSource, no longer allows online printing.”
Despite the changes, Jackson recommended couponing for anyone looking to save money.
“It has made a big difference how much I have to spend on groceries each month. It took me a while to learn all the rules for reading the coupons and what they mean, but once I learn it, saving thousands of dollars a year is a breeze.”
Fare offered several recommendations to consumers looking to reduce grocery costs:
1. Set a budget and make a list – and stick to it. “Not an impulse buy… period,” she said.
2. Never shop on an empty stomach.
3. Stock up on staples when they’re on sale and compare prices with other stores before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
4. Combine sales with coupons.
5. Use loyalty cards.
Research shows that Canadians are increasingly relying on loyalty programs as the cost of everything increases.
According to a recent report from the Toronto Star, a Drop survey conducted by Dig Insights found that 62 percent of respondents said they redeem loyalty points to manage their spending.
Loyalty programs allow shoppers to earn points that can be redeemed for free groceries, cashback rewards, and other special offers.
Food giant Empire Co. Ltd. recently became co-owner of the Scene Plus program operated by Scotiabank and Cineplex Inc. The program allows cardholders to earn points on grocery purchases at supermarkets such as Sobeys, cinema tickets from Cineplex and meals at restaurants Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s and on banking with Scotiabank.
Another popular loyalty program is PC Optimum, through which cardholders earn points from purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw banner stores like Zehrs, among others.
Airline miles can also be used to earn points at certain grocery stores, gas stations, and other businesses.