Secrets of a bargain-hunter

LYNNWOOD — It’s a Tuesday night at the Bustanoby household. For dinner, Amber Bustanoby, 31, is preparing chicken, rice and broccoli for herself, husband Collin and their four kids.

The chicken cost $1.91. The rice is free. So is the broccoli.

Throw in a few cents worth of sauce, and

the entire meal comes to about two bucks. For six people.

The thing that makes this possible is also on the dinner table: stacks and stacks of coupons.

The Lynnwood woman has become such a coupon fanatic that she saves hundreds of dollars a month on her family’s grocery bill.

In late May, Bustanoby and her stacks of coupons will appear on the TLC show “Extreme Couponing,” which premiered last month and airs at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays.

The half-hour show will follow Bustanoby as she prepares and shops for her biggest couponing trip yet. And while she can’t reveal how much she saved until the show airs, Bustanoby says she outdid herself.

“I took it as a challenge,” she said. “I like a challenge.”

Staying home

Bustanoby started couponing almost a year and a half ago as her family recovered from a business venture that failed right as the recession hit. As their debts began to grow and money got tighter, she worked as a restaurant hostess to help pay the bills.

Soon after, a friend directed her to a “Today” show segment on couponing, and she decided to give it a try.

“When I first started, it was a huge need to stay on budget,” Bustanoby said. Soon, she was able to save enough to stay at home with her four kids.

“We’ve saved over 50 percent off our grocery bills,” Collin Bustanoby said.

Since then, she’s started a profitable coupon blog — — and has met a growing community of area deal-hunters. She holds regular couponing classes and hosts coupon exchanges. Her “stockpile” — storable groceries bought in bulk at the lowest possible price — has grown large enough that she can cut back on the amount of time she spends shopping.

“It gives her a way to use her gifts and talents without having to go out into the regular workplace,” Collin Bustanoby said.

How it’s done

Couponers save money by stacking store coupons, product coupons and store sales in order to get items at their “rock-bottom price” — which, for Bustanoby, often means free and sometimes means she’ll get money back. And when a deal hits, couponers stock up.

The goal, Bustanoby said, is to beat Costco prices.

Bustanoby shops with a box of organized coupons in her cart and tracks expiration dates and deals in a database on her blog.

After Bustanoby was on another reality show last fall — “Home Made Simple,” in which experts help families redecorate and organize their homes — a friend recommended she look into being on “Extreme Couponing.”

Bustanoby was intrigued. “I know couponing has helped me, and I wanted to be able to share my story.”

She’s already been able to share her story at home.

Joy Forehand, who lives in Shoreline, is just one of Bustanoby’s friends who now coupons. When she first started, Bustanoby would go to the store with the mother of five to find deals.

“I don’t feel like I could ever not coupon now,” Forehand said.

Fuze for free

So how extreme a couponer is Bustanoby?

Recently, she got 180 bottles of Fuze, a health and energy drink, for free. When buying some body wash the other day, she made money.

Eight newspapers get delivered to her home every week. And sometimes, Bustanoby will go Dumpster (well, recycling bin) diving to get more coupon inserts.

She’s that extreme.

Bustanoby admits couponing is a commitment.

“You can’t do it overnight,” she said. “It takes time and effort.”

But it’s been an effort that has changed the Bustanoby family for the better, she said, and something she is eager to share with others who are struggling financially.

“We live a better life,” she said.

Bustanoby hopes to host a viewing party for her friends when her episode airs — that is, if she decides to splurge on cable.

“I’m too frugal for cable,” she said with a laugh.

Watch the show

Amber Bustanoby will appear on “Extreme Couponing” in late May, but no set date has been announced. The show airs at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on TLC.

She also teaches couponing classes. Her next class will be at 11 a.m. May 21 at the Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W. The class is free. Learn more at her blog,

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