AUGUSTA – Amanda Fontaine swung open the cupboard doors above her washer and dryer to reveal shelves packed full of deodorant, shampoo and body wash.

“If I need deodorant, I don’t go to the store, I come down here,” Fontaine said.

The Augusta woman and her friend Jen Barrows of Manchester call themselves the Coupon Chicks of Maine. They got hooked on couponing after watching “Extreme Couponing” on the Learning Channel.

They said couponing is a way of life, and it saves money. Fontaine said her grocery bill went from $125 a week to $30 using coupons.

Stored in her garage is a freezer full of food she bought with coupons, and stacks and stacks of dry goods on a metal shelf, including boxes of cereal, crackers, paper towels, beverages, cake mixes and frosting.

“All my cupboards in the house are full. The linen closet is full of salad dressing and barbecue sauce. But this is where I keep the bulk of my food,” she said, patting boxes of toothpaste piled on top of each other.

“This is my toothpaste stash,” she said. “They’re 80 percent free. I’ll never need to pay for toothpaste again.”

They decided to teach a class in how to search for the best deals and find “awesome” freebies. When 26 people showed up at their first class, they decided to hold a class monthly.

Barrows said 50 couponers signed up for Thursday night’s class at the Manchester Fire Station. The next class is from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 29, at the station.

Their Facebook page offers links to other couponing sites and blogs.

On a recent Thursday, Fontaine showed off a binder stuffed with coupons clipped from newspapers and magazines and printed off the Internet.

“We use baseball card holders, and there’s nine in each sheet,” she said. “With all the sections it holds well over 1,000 easily.”

Fontaine spends five hours each week clipping coupons and running from store to store.

Fontaine said they post the best deals at local stores on Facebook. To be successful, she said, people need to pick up a few more Sunday newspapers each week.

“A lot of people say the way to succeed is to buy two to four papers a week, you get two to four coupons (for one item) every week,” she said. “That’s how you get free coupons. Some are ‘buy one, get one free’ while others are 50 cents off.”

One of their goals with the classes is to help others, which includes collecting donations for food banks and shelters.

“In this economy, I like helping my family and friends out,” Barrows said. “We make donations to the animal shelter. I’ll go in and get huge amounts of cat food and bring them to the shelter.”

“It’s a good way to give back,” Fontaine said. “I save almost $100 a week on groceries, so to be able to give back a little from what I have is important.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]