Paper Chaser

When Janet Paré hit the checkout line at DeMoula’s Market Basket in Hudson, N.H., on March 9, she was leading a four-cart flotilla loaded with steaks, frozen turkeys, milk, vegetables, plastic bags, cleaning supplies and 20 boxes of Cheerios. “It was solid, stock-up-for-the-month grocery shopping,” says head cashier Michael Weingartner. Exactly $469.07 worth of stuff, as it turned out. But Paré also had more than 200 coupons, and when Weingartner finished adding and subtracting, her bill came to exactly three cents.

“It worked out just the way I wanted,” says Paré, 43, who has spent much of the last eight years clipping, cataloguing and cashing in on those ubiquitous offers of retailer largesse. As her birthday approached in early March, the Nashua, N.H., homemaker and mother of three figured she’d pull together as many dollars-off, two-for-ones and cash-back offers to create the ultimate coupon-clipper’s dream: a (nearly) all-expenses-paid trip to the supermarket. “I thought it’d be a great present to myself,” she says.

But as Paré had first learned as a child cutting coupons at her mother’s side, free doesn’t always mean easy. The eight months it took to plan her “free spree,” as she calls it, required her to pore through her many file cabinets and record books and to consult with an online chat group whose members find and share the best deals. “We cheerlead for each other,” she explains.

On Paré’s big day the cheers were led by DeMoula’s cashier Weingartner, who gave play-by-play reports on the store’s public address system. “It was a spirit-lifter for everyone,” he says. Particularly for Paré’s husband, Mike, a mechanical designer. “I’m not terribly happy about being sent to the store with coupons,” he admits. “But anytime you can get $500 worth of groceries for three cents, I’m all for that.”

Related Articles