More bang for your buck: Whidbey coupon clubs teach recession survival

North Whidbey Coupon Club member Natalie Fishburn sorts through the club’s community file of available coupons during a meeting. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
North Whidbey Coupon Club member Natalie Fishburn sorts through the club’s community file of available coupons during a meeting.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

For many, pay raises and annual bonuses are things of the past. For some, a steady income is impossible to come by. While there may not be a way to see more dollars flow into your bank account, there is a habit that can double, triple or even quadruple the value of the bucks you already have saved up. It’s time to get out your scissors and enter the shameless money-saving world of couponing.

Amy Hannold leads the North Whidbey Coupon Club which meets every Friday at the Oak Harbor Albertsons. Hannold grew up with a grandmother who suffered through the Great Depression and a money-concscious mother. Hannold knows what it’s like to have to stretch a dollar and depend on food assistance.

“I’ve been almost a lifelong frugalista,” she said.

Hannold hosts the Coupon Club and teaches others about the benefits of couponing and how to get organized. At her meetings, she hands out a sheet which lists where to find the best local deals each week and where good coupons can be found and printed online. She helps people plan balanced meals based on coupons and has ads available for club members in boxes divided by brand name and category.

“If you give someone a coupon for a can of food, they’ll eat for a day,” Hannold said. “If you give them the tools and teach them the skills, they’ll eat for a lifetime and do it affordably.”

Coupon Club member Jenn Campbell said she’s excited by the amount of savings she’s noticed on her grocery bills since learning how to effectively use coupons.

“I saved $24.39 at the Commissary this morning with coupons,” she announced at a club meeting on Jan. 7.

In addition to hosting meetings, Hannold also teaches classes for $5 for residents to learn the ins and outs of money-saving tips and tricks. She said she’s very thankful to Albertsons store director Bob Drennen who’s helped her get the club and classes off the ground.

“He’s been an angel,” Hannold said.

But Hannold’s local couponing mentor is South Whidbey resident Ula Lewis. Lewis is a budgeting veteran and said it’s her aim to buy and stock up staple items when they’re on sale so she’ll have them on-hand and not be forced to pay full price when she needs them for a meal later on.

“My goal is to not have to go to the store for a can of tomatoes and pay $1.79 for them when I know I can get them for 50 cents,” she said.

Lewis uses her knowledge of store savings to help Langley’s Good Cheer Food Bank & Thrift stock its shelves and get more for its money. For example, someone donated a $25 Safeway gift card to the food bank, and Lewis used it and coupons to purchase $134 worth of food from the store.

“We try to average 75 percent off retail prices,” Lewis said.

Lewis leads a South Whidbey coupon club at Good Cheer from 10 a.m. to noon every Wednesday. She said she likes to sit down with individuals and help them plan their meals. She asks people to prepare a pantry list or grocery list of desired items, and then she helps them locate the best deals on those products. Additionally, Lewis said she tries to teach residents on food-assistance how double or triple the value of their food stamps.

Both Lewis and Hannold are supporting a “Coupons for our Community” campaign and encourage people to donate their unused coupons or newspaper inserts to local food banks like Good Cheer and the North Whidbey Help House. For more information on the clubs, see the Whidbey Island Coupon Club page on Facebook.

The resources:

  • North Whidbey Coupon Club meetings: 9:30 a.m. every Friday at the Oak Harbor Albertsons; membership is free (some Saturday meetings may be scheduled).

  • How-To Couponing Seminar: 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Oak Harbor Albertsons; $5. Check the Whidbey Island Coupon Club or the Coupons for our Community Facebook pages for future dates and information or e-mail Amy Hannolds at

  • South Whidbey Coupon Club Meetings: 10 a.m. to noon every Wednesday at the Good Cheer Food Bank & Thrift in Langley; membership is free. Call Ula Lewis with questions, 360-544-5725.

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