The Farmer family in Dallas has made coupon blogging a family affair.
Fifty-year-old mom Dian’s blog, groceryshopforfree.com, has become so successful that two other members of her family are now running spinoffs. Her husband was able to quit his job as manager of a camera shop to run a blog about saving money at Wal-Mart (groceryshopforfreeatthemart.com), while her 29-year-old daughter is in charge of a site focused on deals at Target, (groceryshopforfreeattarget.com).
Dian, a mother of four and grandmother of two, became a coupon blogger about four years ago after noticing that a family friend had a stockpile of frozen pizza and ready-to-eat cereal, most of which she got for free — thanks to coupons.
Farmer was eager to reap the same rewards, but didn’t have a clue how to do it. So she started researching how to obtain and use coupons. A huge source of help came from a New York blogger who runs couponsdealsandmore.com.
She quickly learned how to slash her supermarket bill by up to 70%. Her trick is to stockpile, buying lots of one item on sale. She’ll then use up her stockpile, buying more of the product only when another coupon comes around.
Farmer (left) was so thrilled with the savings that she decided to help others do the same. The result was groceryshopforfree.com, a blog packed with information on the latest deals in food, dollar, drug and mass-market stores.
What’s more, shoppers get her help for free. Farmer does not charge for access to the coupon database or anything else. She makes money from selling ad space to companies ranging from e-coupon providers like savingstar.com to manufacturers like Kellogg and Gevalia.
To be sure, her site is not for extreme couponers. Rather, she teaches people how to realistically slash their store bills.
One of the first lessons learned is that the Sunday newspaper is a goldmine, thanks to its coupon inserts.
“There’s $200 worth of free money in newspaper every week,” she stressed.
People who use her site get access to a database of coupons from food retailers around the country, along with those from newspaper inserts, Internet coupons and savings mailed to the home.
She also shows couponers how to get the most savings by using a coupon “match up,” or when a manufacturer’s coupon is used on top of a retailer’s in-store discount.
Over the last few years, she’s built a huge following. Her website gets up to 200,000 page views a month. And she has about 20,000 Facebook fans and 10,000 Twitter followers.
Consumers aren’t the only ones who are interested. Retailers have approached her about promotional partnerships.
Kroger, Tom Thumb and Wal-Mart have sent her gift cards to give away to her readers and/or invited her to attend and speak at in-store events.
The H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, even asked her to become one of its beauty bloggers. Each month, H-E-B sends her a cosmetic, hair care or other beauty care item for free. In return, she’s asked to review the item on her blog.
While she’s previewed national brands like Garnier Pure Clean shampoo and L’Oreal Youth Code facial cream, she’s also been asked to test Orchid, H-E-B’s new private-label premium line of hand soaps, facial care and nail polish.
Her reviews of Orchid have been nothing but positive.
“Orchid matches the quality of any other brand,” she said. “It’s not inferior in any way.”
Orchid hand soaps are her favorite.
“They’re better than any others on the market,” she said.
H-E-B rewards two of Farmer’s followers with the beauty product of the month. A monthly giveaway is open to all those who provide their email on Farmer’s site. Followers can get additional entries by Tweeting their entry and posting it on their Facebook status.
“I have to say I love H-E-B,” Farmer wrote in a recent blog. “They have treated me and my readers so well over 2011, and I am sure 2012 will be even better.”
Plenty of other bloggers also have alliances with food retailers. Take Lauren Greutman, who writes about Price Chopper and other retailers on her blog www.iamthatlady.com. She uses the blog to announce hot deals, and how coupon match-ups can translate into free items. A recent post, for example, notified shoppers about a Price Chopper in-store discount of Pillsbury dinner rolls at $1 each. By using a Hannaford clip-out coupon (Price Chopper accepts competitor coupons) for $3 off 3 Pillsbury rolls, the rolls were free. Another way to get free items is by shopping stores that double and triple coupons. She wrote about a Price Chopper in-store discount for Barilla pasta at $1 per box. By using a 55-cent manufacturer coupon, which Price Chopper doubled, the pasta was free.
Such deals quickly put Greutman on Price Chopper’s radar. The retailer soon contacted her about a promotional partnership involving writing for the Price Chopper blog and one of its consumer publications.
Greutman has also hosted giveaways for Tops Friendly Markets and Wegmans Food Markets.
Mother to three children under 6, Greutman has been blogging since she started using coupons in 2007, when she was working full time but wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for her young son.
To compensate for the loss of her salary, she needed to cut her grocery bill from $1,000 to $200 a month. She did so by couponing.
Today, Greutman uses coupons to save 50% to 70% on her grocery bill at Price Chopper. She spends just $400 a month on food for a family of five.
While she also blogs about how to save money at Rite Aid, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Target, her posts about supermarkets are the most popular.
“People love finding deals at the supermarket,” she noted.
It makes sense that retailers want to align themselves with her, Greutman said. Retailers see the value in blogging because she helps drive traffic to the store. Even though her followers get many items at a discount and even for free, plenty will buy other merchandise as well.
“It’s good for business,” she said.
Greutman is one of 25 mom, coupon, food and other bloggers who work with Price Chopper. Others include the authors of cutestkidever.org and theangelforever.com. The chain keeps a database of nearly 100 other bloggers.
While partnerships don’t involve pay, Price Chopper rewards bloggers in other ways. They are invited to in-store events and to write guest blogs.
Bloggers are so influential that Price Chopper has launched promotional events just for them. Last November, it invited several dozen bloggers to its main office in Schenectady, N.Y., for a Holiday Entertaining Showcase, where they sampled deli platters, seafood, meats and desserts.
Bloggers were asked to Tweet about the event, using the hashtag #pcholidaycheer. Their Tweets provided strong exposure, generating over 600,000 impressions reaching over 43,400 followers in 24 hours.
“It was our way of giving bloggers information to share,” said Heidi Reale, Price Chopper’s director of marketing and consumer insights. “Our goal is to help them be a resource to their followers.”
The chain has invited bloggers to attend an event at an area hotel on March 15. Bloggers will be taught how to prepare seafood. The topic was chosen based on Price Chopper research showing many customers don’t know how to prepare fish.
“We want to hold events that are meaningful to people,” said Reale.
It’s also planning a barbecue event in the spring or summer. Again, bloggers will be there.
ShopRite, Keasbey, N.J., is another blogger-friendly retailer. About a dozen food and mom bloggers are part of Potluck, ShopRite’s online blog. Located at blog.shoprite.com, Potluck includes recipes, reviews and cooking demonstrations — all featuring store-brand products.
Bloggers are invited to attend exclusive events, such as the ShopRite-sponsored Grand Tasting at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, the ShopRite LPGA Classic, new store openings, and community events hosted by ShopRite.
ShopRite doesn’t pay the bloggers, but sends them free items to sample each month. It uses a blogger in each of its six trading areas: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware.