SALLY SANTORA/County News file photo
Melissa Zambito and her husband Brad review the register receipt of their most recent shopping spree. The York native returns to the TLC show “Extreme Couponing All Stars” Tuesday.
York woman returns as ‘Extreme Couponing’ All Star
Her name is Melissa Zambito and coupons are her game. Actually, coupons are a way of life for the York wife and mother of two young children who says about 75 percent of her grocery shopping bill is paid for by coupons.
Zambito returns to the cable network TLC as one of 12 finalists who will compete in “Extreme Couponing All Stars,” which airs Jan. 17 at 10 p.m.
She was featured on the show in October 2011 and afterward selected to shop for the All Star Edition, which is a competition to see which couponer can save the most.
The show’s producers directed Zambito and her husband to Adams Center near Watertown to shop at Rod’s Big M, the local grocery store.
“My sister went with me for the first episode but she’s expecting and couldn’t go. My husband went with me and he was my cheerleader,” Zambito said.
The couple had the opportunity to scout the store aisles the day before the actual competition. Admittedly, Zambito says the disadvantage was in not being familiar with the store.
The couple took detailed notes as they perused the aisles and upon returning to the hotel where they were staying, Zambito put all of the information into several spread sheets.
The contest allowed the shoppers just 30 minutes to get their groceries. Zambito checked out six carts of groceries in the allotted time.
“It was so crazy but fun. The store was open for business while I was shopping. My husband got an empty cart ready for me each time I returned with a full one.”
There are several rules to the all-star competition, one of them being that you can’t pay full price for anything in your cart and you must spend at least $700 before using a bonus card or any coupons. Even for an experienced couponer like Zambito, it was a challenge.
“I was pretty happy with my shopping.” she commented.
She cannot reveal how much she spent or how much she redeemed in coupons or by using a bonus card. You’ll find out when you tune in to the episode. Zambito donated all of the items she purchased for the competition to the local food pantry in Adams Center.
“It was a great experience. We shot all day in the supermarket from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., even though the actual shopping time was only 30 minutes. Afterward they make you go back through the store and re-record much of your shopping using the opposite hand and using different angles,” she explained.
Zambito is always asked for couponing tips, which she is happy to share. She has taught classes where she shares her knowledge of how couponing can help making ends meet a little easier.
“Don’t begin couponing gung ho. Take baby steps, learn each store’s coupon policy,” she suggests.
Zambito says the consumer has to want to save money. She is asked all the time if couponing is time consuming and she says for her it is not because she has been doing it so long. She says companies are making it easier than ever before to use coupons on their products.
One can always find coupons in the newspaper but, she says, the real savings are in online coupons, often found by liking a product’s Facebook page.
Some stores, such as Walmart, have very generous coupon policies that allow customers to apply coupon overages to other products they purchase, Zambito explained.
For example, if you redeem a $3 coupon for an item that only costs $2, some stores will allow you to apply the remaining dollar to your checkout total. Zambito says this means you really are able to apply coupon savings to items such as milk, produce, etc. that do not offer coupons.
The basement of her York home looks somewhat like a supermarket with the shelves lined with products.
“My younger brother and sister sometimes do their shopping from my stock pile,” the Extreme Couponer said.