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By Mary Perez

RISMEDIA, Oct. 23, 2008-(MCT)-Connie Hendry says people call her crazy for always clipping coupons to save money at the grocery and drug stores.

“A lot of people laugh at me, but I don’t care,” said Hendry, who lives in the Orange Grove area of Gulfport, Miss. She’s having the last laugh, saving hundreds of dollars a year on food and other products she buys.

Promotion Marketing Association’s Coupon Council said 89% of shoppers say they use coupons and save about 7% on their grocery bills.

“I know it works,” said Hendry. One year she put the money she earned from redeeming coupons into a jar when she returned from the grocery store and found she saved more than $600.

Meagan Broome, who operates Broome’s Grocery in Ocean Springs, Miss., with her brother, Curmis Broome III, said coupon use is up a little in the last few months. She is surprised more people don’t use coupons to stretch their dollars. “We have our usual customers that do coupons,” she said, especially older shoppers and young families.

Coupon use “is not as strong as it used to be,” said Robert Scarborough, district manager for the Food Giant store on Porter Avenue and throughout Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Stores have found other ways to reward frequent shoppers and Scarborough said Food Giant customers fill the Smart Shopper savings cards to get special prices on staples such as bread and sugar, or save them for a free Thanksgiving turkey.

Those who do use coupons find the savings addictive. Hendry said she gets mad when she sees something on sale and realizes she has a coupon for it at home. Jean Hebert, a cashier at the Food Giant, eyed a brand of laundry detergent at the checkout. “That’s a good buy,” she said, “and I’ve got a coupon.”

For the $1.25 newsstand price of a Sunday Sun Herald newspaper, readers can save more than $120 a week if they use all the coupons in the glossy coupon inserts plus the coupon savings in the Rite Aid, Kmart and Walgreens sales circulars. The coupon sections arrive pre-printed at the Sun Herald about 10 days before they are inserted into the paper for subscribers and those who buy the newspaper on the newsstand.

Shoppers will find savings on the products they need for the season, such as cold medicine, or the Magic Eraser that erases love bugs from cars, plus money off on food and household products they use regularly and coupons to introduce new products.

Hendry said she takes her coupons to the Food Giant, which still doubles coupons with a face value of up to 60 cents. “That’s $1.20 in my pocket,” she said. “Yes, I’m a coupon shopper!”

Pearlina Evans, who works as a scan coordinator at Food Giant, said people call her “the coupon woman” because she cuts coupons out of the paper and goes to online coupon sites and prints more. She carries them in a file with similar coupons together so she can easily save on the price of cereal or toothpaste.

Evans helps other shoppers save, too. She was working in the aisle where a box of tea was sale priced at 98 cents last week, and she pointed out the 25-cent coupon attached to the box.

Store sales are often coordinated with the coupons being released. Scarborough said occasionally food sales representatives will alert the stores that a coupon is about to come out and they need to stock up on certain products. The coupons do increase sales, he said.

Hendry said she clips the coupons in the Sunday paper, then checks the grocery sales circulars in Wednesdays Sun Herald. “It saves a lot,” said Hendry. “It’s a little bit of work, but it’s worth it.”

© 2008, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.