How to do extreme couponing in France

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If you read my writing in French Property News, some of you will already know a little about “offer optimisation” from my December 2020 column – a practice made famous by the US show “Extreme Couponing” – and how I and many French residents use a number of helpful tools and websites to make the most of the deals available. Mostly this is on food and household necessities, and our efforts allow us all to stretch our income a little further.

Couponing in France

I think it’s fair to say that food costs more in France than in the UK. I can’t speak for other countries as these are the only two places in which I have been a long term resident, however, I have heard anecdotally from my Instagram and Facebook communities that things here are not considered cheap by comparison. I would caveat that observation, however, with my opinion that the quality of food here in France is great. Even the basics range of items in shops are decent, for example, “Eco+” in e L’eclerc, “Prix malin” in Grand Frais. I’m yet to come across an item which I didn’t think was great value or delicious, whereas I could not necessarily say that of the equivalent UK ranges in Asda or Tesco.

So in this house, we are appreciative of the food which we buy even if it comes at a higher price. But, being who I am and my inherent avoidance of spending money where I needn’t, I have put my much improved French to the test by taking up the challenge of optimising whatever offers there are to be had.

Couponing in France

Using voucher and offer-optimisation, the six items in the picture above cost me the grand total of 4,77€ instead of 15,82€. Want to know how I do it? Read on…

The Shopping List

Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€
Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€
Domestos gel = 2,24€
Domestos gel = 2,24€
Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€
Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€

This selection should have totalled 15,82€ however with a little research I have been able to stack offers as follows:

Liebig velouté 5 legumes -68% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -1,95€ then Shopmium 100% reimbursement of 1 product -2,87€ (check out my tips at the bottom of the page for 3€ free when you sign up using my code)
So total for 2 Liebig velouté 5 legumes = 2,87€ + 2,87€ – (2,87€ x 0.68) – 2,87€ = 0,92 -> 0,46€ each

Domestos gel -80% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -1,79€, then voucher on purchase of 2 products from Ma Vie en Couleurs -> -1,20€
So total for 2 Domestos gel = 2,24€ + 2,24€ – (2,24€ x 0.80) – 1,20€ = 1,49€ -> 0,75€ each

Cif spray 5 en 1 -80% on the second purchase (in-store offer) -> -2,24€, then voucher on purchase of 2 products from Ma Vie en Couleurs -> -1,00€ So total for 2 Cif spray 5 en 1 = 2,80€ + 2,80€ – (2,80 x 0.80) – 1,00€ = 2,36€ -> 1,18€ each

I realise these calculations look pretty daunting – so I’ll go through a how-to guide for one of these items from start to finish:

Step One – Do your research

It is possible to find your own offers and work out possible reductions for yourself… or you can do what I do, and allow the website Anti-crise to do the hard work for you. On Anti-crise all of the latest “pub” are collated for you to browse – which is useful in enough itself. However the next level of help available here is how they calculate optimised versions of the various in-store offers – stacking vouchers where possible.

Couponing in France - Anticrise
Anti-crise – where you can view “pub” and also optimisations

I should warn you, there are lots of products on offer, and it might be tempting to try to optimise it all from the start – I would encourage you not to do this, but to instead choose to optimise just a few things which you need so as to avoid unnecessary spending and get used to the process.

It’s easy to get carried away when things are as cheap as they sometimes work out here (in fact, sometimes the shop pays you to take the item – a so-called “bénéfice”), but if we don’t need something then it’s not really a bargain. The process can also be quite involved and complicated, so to start with, less is more. Now, back to our offer in question…

How to optimise using vouchers in France

Click on Catalogues -> Catalogues Optimisés and choose the shop which you are interested in visiting. Here I choose Casino.

The Anticrise website
Select Catalogues -> Catalogues Optimisés to view the optimised list
Optimised pub on Anticrise
Find the relevant shop that you’re visiting and be sure to check dates for validity

Here, I’m looking for the offer on Domestos gel – I can see it in the list and expand the section to allow me to click the first link which will navigate to the relevant page in the offer leaflet in question.

Selecting your promotion
This is the Casino leaflet. Here you click on the green + next to Domestos (3rd line down)
Couponing in France
Here, you click on “Gel wc” next to Domestos, to bring up the correct page in the leaflet

I highly recommend doing this, as sometimes an offer will be flavour or type-specific, and it’s imperative to select the correct item.

Couponing in France

Here I note on a post-it, the in-store offer, the number of items needed and whether the item is of a special type. This one is “100% puissant”. I also note here, that the advertised price is slightly different from the one in my local store. I’m rural and this store is expensive for us, so it’s a little bit higher – but the offer still stands. At this point, if I go into my store and buy 2 of these products, I’ll get the in-store offer of 80% off the second purchase.

Living frugally in France

Now we know what the in-store offer is, we need to know what the stacked optimisation is that we are carrying out. Going back to the item info (above) in the optimisation list, we can see that we need to click on the voucher website Ma Vie en Couleurs for our optimisation. You can sign up for free using my code D21022 or clicking this link and you will be given the chance to win one of a hundred activities centred in nature, sport, culture, outings and well-being ideas.

Success is all in the preparation

Clicking on the link in Anticrise will bring up an instruction page, as below:

Ma Vie en Couleurs - how to print a voucher

This page tells us that we need to print the voucher, the date it’s valid until and how many products the voucher works on. If you don’t have an account with Ma Vie en Couleurs you can create one freely and easily using my link. Once you’re logged in, navigate through the available vouchers until you find the relevant Domestos offer.

Printing your vouchers

Print a voucher on Ma Vie en Couleurs
Once logged in, find the Domestos offer
Ma Vie en Couleurs printing
Add this to your basket and follow the instructions to print to PDF
Ma Vie en Couleurs print
Here’s the voucher in my basket
Printed voucher from Ma Vie en Couleurs
My downloaded voucher

Now, print your voucher. I recommend printing to a pdf and saving this on your desktop for later physical printing. This is because each voucher can only be printed once, so if there’s a problem with your printer, you run out of ink or paper etc, then that’s you’re one chance gone. For safety, print to PDF and print on paper later.

Now the fun part, shopping!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organised before heading out – having your printed, prepared voucher, followed by whatever information you might need to ensure you get the right product is imperative.

One of the ways I keep organised with my various vouchers and receipts is to use a pocket folder below. I take it with me to the shop and it contains all the information I need for successful optimisation. It’s also a great place to store receipts for later when I need to upload them to an app or site for reimbursement, and I can keep any vouchers which I pick up along the way (or are sent to me) for later use.

Organising my printed vouchers
Organisation is key

I find that taking a post-it with information on the product I’m expecting to find attached to the voucher in question helps me to be accurate, and I can also challenge any errors at the till if something goes awry.

Being organised when Couponing in France
Notes help me to pick up the right item in-store
How to organise Couponing in France
How to do Couponing in France

Paying for your items

When paying for my items I tend to choose to do a limited number of optimisations at a time.

I do this because it is more likely that that cashier will be able to work through them without finding the process offputting, that it is less hassle for both of us, and that if I don’t push my luck, the cashier may be less likely to question the almost universal rule of not allowing customers to stack optimisations (it is usual that shops do not permit the use of vouchers when an item is on special offer).

So, I go into the process with good humour, and if the item isn’t available at the optimised price then I can decide to take it or leave it. Please don’t allow yourself to become frustrated with the cashier if they refuse your voucher – they are only doing their job.

I will generally group my items together at the till, and lay the relevant voucher on top of the item so that the cashier doesn’t miss it, but can quickly confirm that I have bought the corresponding product. This tends to make the process easier for everyone, and I would avoid just handing a bunch of printed vouchers to the cashier with your payment, they need to know that you have picked up the right item so as to process it. Also, it’s sensible to have an idea of what the total should be in your head so that you can query your shopping bill if needs be, and if anything goes wrong do go to customer services to resolve it.

You can get started on your Coupon Network and Shopmium accounts with my referral codes

My essentials for success

  • Don’t forget to choose the correct catalogue for the date of your visit, offers change frequently
  • Remember – shops are not obligated to honour the voucher if there is another offer in place – many shops have a policy that a voucher cannot be accumulated with an item that is also part of an in-store promotion – if the cashier refuses then they are just doing their job. You can choose to buy it at the original price, or leave the item there and then.
  • Make sure you select the correct flavour/scent/version.
  • Voucher optimisation generally only works in-store. Drive and online shopping rarely accept vouchers, however, you can use sites like Shopmium and Coupon Network to claim cashback on your purchases (as I did on the Liebig soups in my first picture). I’ll be creating a new blog about this process soon. In the meantime, you can use my referral links to get started with your account on both of these apps:
  • For Coupon Network get 1€ free when you create an account using my code MX1VKW or clicking here to download the app for free:
  • For Shopmium get 3€ free when you create an account using my code W4C5KU or clicking here to download the app for free:
  • Print sparingly (only the vouchers that you plan to use) to save on ink costs.
  • Have fun and save money!

10 Frugal ways to food shop in France

Shopping for food in France can be expensive. Here are my top 10 frugal ways to food shop in France.

10 Frugal ways to food shop in France
10 Ways to food shop frugally in France

1 – Bring your own shopping bags – a basic, but essential for the frugal food shopper, the environment and your pocket. Even basic carrier bags also cost money in France.

2 – Make sure you’re paying in euros, not your old/home currency – the conversion on UK sterling debit cards, for example, is eyewatering. Make sure you have a euro card to pay for your shopping with.

3 – If you receive the “pub” or advert leaflets to your home or holiday home in France, be sure to check it out for any offers which you would like to take advantage of. The “foire aux vins” in early summer can be great value.

10 Frugal ways to food shop in France
Love Marmite, hate the overinflated price in France

4 – Bring the “pub” leaflet with you if it’s an important purchase! Sometimes the offer doesn’t show up at the till, or the store hasn’t yet updated their signage to reflect the reduction. If you’re in the right, it will be easier to explain with evidence.

5 – Try out new French foods and avoid only buying the things which you used to buy before. Yes, I know Heinz baked beans taste nice, but they’re going to be MUCH more expensive than the shop’s own brand of “haricots blancs à la tomate”. And don’t even get me started on the cost of Marmite!

fresh fruit shopping in France
Compare the cost per kilo for both bagged and loose produce

6 – Buy in bulk! If you have the storage, there are often offers on buying larger quantities on things which you know you will use and have a long shelf life – for example, washing powder or dishwasher tablets.

7 – Buying in bulk means you won’t need to make so many trips to the shops, which also saves fuel, which saves the planet, and your wallet – an underrated way to tick off one of my 10 Frugal ways to food shop in France.

8 – Check the weight per kilo of loose fruit and veg vs bagged. There’s no hard and fast rule for which will be more economical. Be sure to check both before putting an item in your basket.

10 Ways to food shop frugally in France
Check for reduced items that you can freeze right away, or cook and freeze for later

9 – Check for antigaspi! Aka the reduced-to-clear items with short best-before dates. But do only buy what you need, it’s not a bargain if you waste it!

10 – Think of your freezer – can’t eat your 24 reduced to clear pain-au-raisin in the next three days? No, nor can I, hard as I am willing to try. So freeze them and pop them back in the oven before you need them for a tasty stasis-conserved treat.

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

I think many of us can relate to the sense of fun or enjoyment that comes from buying something nice. Something which we’ve wanted for a while, or even an impulse purchase. We feel pleased, we have treated ourselves. But being mindful of how to avoid spending money in times of stress is an important skill that feels particularly relevant right now as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Resisting that urge was an important part of adapting to my life in France. Stopping treating all of my time here like I was on holiday was an important element of integrating and teaching myself how to be in this country.

But in times of stress, times of panic and sadness, some of the old tools which we have perhaps used in the past to manage our feelings, can feel closer to the surface. This is the focus of this week’s blog post where I reflect on not spending money while transitioning to life in a new country, followed by how transferable that might be to surviving financially in the COVID-19 dominated landscape which we all now live.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

If I don my psychotherapy hat for a moment – spending money can be a tool which people use to change their emotional state. Whether we are buying a house or a baguette, the transaction moves us from one place to another. House-less, to with-house. Bread-less to with-bread. I’m simplifying this but if you want to read more on the psychology of state change I’ll save that for my counselling blog…

So when bad things happen to us, or we feel stressed or anxious, it becomes very easy – alluring even – to believe that buying something is going to make us happier. It has maybe done so in the past and we are hoping that it will do so again. This may be all fine and good if we can afford to do so. But what if we can’t?

Stress as a risk to our finances

I found myself thinking about those who were just about scraping by before COVID-19 took hold a few weeks ago (is that all?). I wondered how with the restrictions on movement in place, our ability to shop or refill fuel at the most affordable businesses may have been taken away. For those on a reduced income – as so many of we immigrants – pensioners, those living frugally and self-employed here are – this change could put some families in a distinctly tricky place when it comes to balancing our bank accounts.

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

To my mind, knowing how to avoid spending money in times of stress has never been more important. Resisting the urge to change our emotional state using a tool which isn’t good for us can be really hard when we feel uncomfortable. I’m not suggesting that we close our purses completely, we do need to support businesses and independents in this time where we can do so safely – for example, I have just started online French lessons with a teacher in La Reunion. She is a micro-entrepreneur and so am I. I’m proud to support her business and improve my language skills at the same time. But I am not doing so to distract myself from feeling uneasy about COVID-19.

What can we do about it?

If we do spend money – let us simply interrogate why we are doing so. What does this purchase do for me? Am I buying something which will improve my life or happiness, or am I buying something because I need to distract myself from feeling fearful?

Perhaps coming back to Martin Lewis’ Money Mantra is appropriate here:

“Do I need it? Can I afford it? Will I use it? Is it worth it?

How to avoid spending money in times of stress
Credit: Martin Lewis @

If we can answer all of those questions in a way that satisfies us that the purchase is sound, then we should go ahead. But if we are buying things because we are responding to our emotions rather than our needs, then perhaps we should talk it through with someone else, or delay the purchase by a day to see if we still need the thing that feels so essential right now.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

Just a few thoughts that occurred to me this week. I hope that you’re all keeping well. Stay safe, L

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