While learning how to get the best savings, Durham group members also donate to local charities.

Pat Provost and the other women who meet twice monthly at the Eureka Community Center for Couponing for the Community might share some light moments, but they’re dead serious when it comes to saving money on their shopping bills.

Not only do they share and swap them among themselves, they also make the coupons – and donated food items – available for local charities. The newspapers from which members gather their coupons go to local animal shelters. Even expired coupons can be used for six months by members of the military through Couponing For The Troops.

Couponing for the Community, then, is about receiving and giving.

“We really help out in a number of ways,” Provost said last week from her Durham home. “The food we donate goes to a local school food drive or a local church.”

Provost has amassed an impressive array of mobile apps for discount coupons on her iPhone, and she has hundreds of paper coupons stored in a binder. She doesn’t keep count of the money she saves weekly on groceries and other items because Provost doesn’t shop every week, but she figures it’s more than $200 a month. Provost looks to save at least half on her grocery bill when she shops at Shaw’s.

She started Couponing for the Community three years ago. Membership is down a bit right now, Provost said, and the group would love to see new members. There is a Couponing for the Community Facebook page.

“We’re looking for ways to increase the group again,” she said. “It’s not just for the beginning couponer. It’s teaching something new, or maybe something that a newcomer can share with us.”

Pearl Scribner of Durham attends most of the Couponing for the Community sessions. She likes to combine coupons with store sales to get the most bang for her coupons.

“I just do it with paper, I don’t have a smartphone,” Scribner said. “People bring them in and we share them with the group. Pat usually catches some things for us at the different stores, like Shaw’s and Food City pay double for coupons under 99 cents.”

The couponers benefit from knowing each other’s needs and tastes, Scribner said.

“We bring some in for people who have young kids and need diapers,” she said. “Most people know that I like Arm & Hammer products, so people bring those in for me.”

Provost, who also hosts home jewelry parties, lives with her husband Patrick, who once worked for Bath Iron Works and is now disabled. They have three grown sons.

She had been into couponing for more than a year when she began the group meetings in 2013.

“I was just looking like anybody else for ways to save on my grocery bill,” Provost said. “I started following a couple blogs on Facebook. They’ll show you the sales and they’ll even tell you where to find your coupons. It was the easiest way to learn how to do that.”

Provost was meeting with a group of local women who focused on setting goals, and one of their goals was to save $150 a month through shopping with coupons.

“One of the girls in the group was an avid couponer,” she said. “She would store lots of things and lots of couponing stuff. I really learned a lot from her.”

Provost also had attended local couponing classes. She was determined to set and meet goals for saving money. Then, she began watching the television show, “Extreme Couponing.”

“That really appealed to me,” she said. “You can get deals for pennies or for free.”

Pat Provost stores an impressive collection of shopping coupons in a binder. She brings the coupons and shares information from her mobile apps during Couponing for the Community, held two Wednesdays a month at the Eureka Community Center in Durham. Staff photo by Larry Grard

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