Susan Samtur was armed with so many coupons Thursday morning that the Publix cashier had to keep hitting a button to make sure she got credit for it all.
To be exact, she racked up $143.66 in coupon savings.
Samtur, dubbed the Coupon Queen more than 30 years ago, was touring South Florida to share her savings secrets. On Thursday
The original price of Thursday's shopping trip was $168.52. Samtur paid just $11.77 after combining dozens of coupons with sale prices.
Samtur's combination of experience, eyes that never miss a deal and organization has helped millions of people shave their food bills. She has shared her coupon techniques during countless television appearances and is a contributing editor for Family Circle magazine.
She knows her extreme savings may not be possible for every family, but especially now, she said even saving a fraction of what she does on shopping can really add up.
"People say 'What's 50 cents?' You know, if you have 10 50-cent coupons, that's $5. If you have 10 $1 coupons, that's $10. That's $500 a year,'' she said.
She watches for simple savings, such as coupons attached to products at the store, larger-sized products offered at the same price as a smaller-sized item, and store coupons that can be combined with manufacturers' coupons -- on top of sale prices. She also cruises food company websites for coupons for free new products and rebates on products she already buys, netting her $200 in cash a month -- but that's something she knows isn't for everyone because it can be time consuming.
Americans have become more comfortable with and in greater need of coupons, according to a survey by the Promotion Marketing Association Coupon Council. Its survey from last summer showed that 94 percent of people said they were using coupons for grocery, household and healthcare products compared to 89 percent the year before.
Samtur, 64, said that with more coupons in circulation than ever, there's no reason to not use them at least occasionally. When she started clipping coupons in the early '70s, she said there were about 23 million coupons offered each year. Now, there are are 300 billion, she said, while reaching for a cup of Dannon yogurt.
The yogurt was priced at 70 cents a cup. Samtur had two coupons that made the items free and two more coupons for 50 cents off. She paid a total of 40 cents for four cups of yogurt -- less than the cost of just one at the regular price.
Kendall mom Suzy Casanueva's husband's hours were cut sharply back in November, so the family had to find a way to save money.
NO MORE LITTER BOXES
"I actually look at the circulars now. I used to line my kitty litter boxes with them,'' said Casanueva, who has been dubbed the Coupon Girl by the manager at the Winn-Dixie where she shops.
Casanueva, who has a 6-year-old son, now spends about a half-hour planning her shopping, looking at the sales and printing and clipping coupons before she goes to the store. She has reduced a typical grocery bill of $120 to $40.
A recent coup: Kraft Barbecue Sauce was on sale -- buy one, get one free. The sauce cost 89 cents. Casanueva had a coupon for $1. The store actually gave her the 11-cent difference.
"For as easy as it is,'' she said, "a lot of people should be doing it.''