April 15, 2016

Changes to grocery match-ups and posts – QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Target

Store-match-ups

Some of you may have noticed we have made some changes to our grocery match-ups. Specifically we have removed QFC coverage and unadvertised deals for Fred Meyer, Safeway and Target.

I’m going to be completely honest and transparent with you – and explain why this had to happen.

Couponing has changed so much since I started this site in October 2009. . . for a long time couponing was a popular trend and people were saving some serious cash by printing coupons and matching them up with sales. We were all getting multiple Sunday papers and the coupons inside provided REAL VALUE for savings – we were saving so much every time we hit the grocery store.

Then Extreme Couponing came around and excessive abuse of the couponing “system” caused manufacturers to rethink coupons as a marketing tool. Coupon values dropped, the fine print increased, store coupon policies became stricter, store promotions decreased and the couponing community found ourselves really struggling to save with coupons in late 2014 and 2015.

As couponing got harder and less worthwhile people dropped off the couponing bandwagon – the savings didn’t justify all the effort we were putting in. I saw a strong trend in my traffic – with less interest in grocery match-ups and more people wanting online sales – an easy way to save BIG with minimal effort.

I’m so good at finding online deals that I was drawn to posting these more as well – I enjoy them!  Traffic swelled every time I posted an Amazon deal – and people raved about the savings they were getting from shopping online.  But I knew I still had a loyal following of Northwest grocery store couponers who wanted that local coverage – so I continued to provide it.

For a LONG time the commission I earned from the online deals FUNDED the unadvertised grocery deals that I was paying to provide. I had an amazing team of ladies who went into the stores every week at QFC, Target, Fred Meyer and Safeway and I paid them well for finding those deals. I believe we had the BEST unadvertised deals for Northwest stores.

Amazon-logo-small

But then in 2015 I had some MAJOR changes happen. . . .

Amazon dropped my commission rates in February 2015. Like big time. I haven’t talked about this but while most Amazon affiliates make 8.5% on a sale, they dropped my commission rates to 1-3% on an Amazon sale. That means if I post a deal for a $10 item, I was now making 10 cents per sale instead of the previous 85 cents. They did this because they said I wasn’t profitable. I was posting too many “good” deals. If I wanted my commission rates restored back to normal rates, I’d have to post more full-price items (not deals) to offset the savings I was delivering to my readers. I couldn’t in good conscience do this and my rates have stayed at this lower rate for the last 15 months. I still post Amazon deals because I know how much my readers love them, but this drop in commission has been a major game changer for me.

My traffic became more national. Because I was posting so many online deals – my readership went from being very Northwest-based to nationwide. Readers from Florida to New York to California were coming to my site, not for grocery deals, but because I was finding the best online deals. The demand for Northwest grocery content dropped substantially and my traffic on these posts did as well.

People stopped printing coupons. A big part of my revenue used to be from printable coupons. But people seem to be printing fewer and fewer coupons every month. And companies like Coupons.com are paying pennies per print (it used to be more like 10-15 cents!). This also caused a major drop in revenue.

Facebook decreased my reach. The final blow was in November 2015 when Facebook dropped my reach. With 188,000 Facebook “likes” I could post an online deal and reach thousands. So even though I was earning a 1% on the sale, I was still earning enough to cover the costs of the unadvertised grocery deals. But in November when Facebook dropped my reach to 1,000 – 2,000 people . . . my traffic dropped considerably and so did my affiliate sales. . . . which means my INCOME dropped significantly.

I had to make a choice. The income I earn from the blog is our ONLY family income. And the unadvertised Northwest grocery match-ups were costing a lot – money I wasn’t earning from coupon prints or affiliate sales. My ole “business model” of using affiliate sales to cover the cost of grocery deals (which don’t bring in revenue) wasn’t working anymore. Many of the last months I couldn’t even break even, let alone provide a sustainable income for my family. I know I have a small group of loyal readers who LOVE those match-ups and I used money from savings to supplement them, hoping something would change. But it didn’t and I had to make the difficult choice to drop them. 🙁 I hope you understand why I can’t provide them at this time.

I’m not complaining. These trends have happened to nearly ALL “coupon bloggers” nationwide and I’ve been so blessed that I’ve been able to make a living from this blog as long as I have. Other bloggers haven’t been so lucky and have had to completely shut their sites down. But I wanted to be completely transparent with you – so you know there are lots of factors involved in my decision to remove the unadvertised deal coverage.

We still have Northwest grocery store coverage!  Every store but QFC will still be covered with our full coupon and ad match-ups. The VERY BEST deals are starred already for you – so this is essentially the highlights post that we were hand-typing and publishing before. Previously we had physically typed out the BEST deals (which cost money) but they are still there, just look for the starred deals in the match-ups ::

Plus we have weekly match-ups for these stores :

smores-Airstream

I know some of you think I’ve “checked out: since I started traveling. I get comments about how my content isn’t as good now that I’m living in an Airstream and traveling with my family. You are 100% right. Before we made the leap to traveling I used to work 60-80 hours a week and I was a ball of stress. I worried every minute about the status of my site – if it hadn’t been updated in the last hour I seriously would WORRY that I was losing readers and I wasn’t doing my best. I was a workaholic, I really was. While my blog was spot on and over-the-top-awesome for the first 5-6 years that I was blogging, my personal life, family and my well-being suffered. I was pouring my heart and soul into a website instead of my family and my kids. They suffered, I suffered. I needed balance and I needed to work less. That’s why traveling has been such a blessing for me – it has forced me to seek balance and invest more in my family. Although I wish my site could be as awesome as it was before I traveled – I know I can’t do it all – and so my focus right now is to take a balanced approach with both family and work.

Queen Bee Coupons is still a priority for me. I love helping people save money, I love sharing our lives with you, I love finding online deals and I love YOU – the community that we have built here. This website is not only my passion but it’s my livelihood and I am COMMITTED to delivering real deals and content that I believe are truthful, helpful and genuine. That has never changed and even if companies like Amazon cut my commissions because I’m not posting full-priced “deals”  – I’ll always put the needs of my readers first and follow my heart when creating content.

Moving FORWARD I have BIG PLANS for this site, my friends. We are going to be changing things up this summer and I’m working fervently on bringing this to fruition. My goal is still to save you money but it will also focus on a more well-rounded lifestyle. I’m working on a way to better deliver online deals (simplify things) but still also write more about downsizing, meal planning, traveling and things that make me HAPPY. Because life is more than busting our butts to save 10% on your grocery bill – it’s about the big picture of a happy life and I’m seeing that now more than ever.

Please stick with me. The next couple months I’ll be working on creating a platform that I believe serves us all better. We’ve come a long way together and I see great things for this community moving forward.

Thank you for reading this lengthy post. I welcome your feedback and thoughts about site content and what you’d like to see in the future. 

Comments

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  1. Tracey Sondgroth says:

    You are great! I’ll probably read more now. I was never that into coupon clipping- not enough coupons for the stuff I buy (because we hardly ever buy processed stuff). I stick to the loss leaders in the weekly ads and clipping off Just 4 U and cartwheel. But I love the online deals! I appreciate your honesty about striking a balance with family life and work. Sometimes, we get a false sense of a woman who can “do it all.” I am SUPER envious of your travels. So wonderful!

  2. Natalie moncada says:

    Oddly enough ive been visiting your site more now because others dont have fm and safeway, but i do miss the unadvertised deals. Look forward to whats next! Cheers

  3. Thanks for everything that you do You are an inspiration.

  4. Hi,
    Could you recommend any other bloggers that might do Safeway and Fred Meyer deals here in the Northwest?
    Thank you.

  5. I’m so happy to hear about the upcoming “focus on a more well-rounded lifestyle.” I rarely visit QBC since you started travelling because your original content disappeared and it became basically an ad circular. Glad to hear that YOU are coming back in the ways that made me a fan in the first place.

  6. You must have been making a ton if you could blog for a living. I know very little about the inner workings of couponing blogs so thanks for the details. You may be your own boss, but you actually still have bosses, Facebook, Amazon, etc. and they squeeze you to increase their own profitability. Deals get worse over time because the stores want to do the same. It is not the couponers’ fault. I don’t see anything wrong with extreme couponers unless they are photocopying them or intentionally using them on wrong products. Companies are not morally right either when you consider how they rig the game with their marketing science, pricing, shelving, layout.

    You gotta do what you gotta do. QFC and FM are very regional. Safeway and Albertsons have deals that are much worse than them these days. I go to a few sites to learn about the best deals and get a more complete picture for the week. For me, Amazon is very average. I don’t even have Prime because I don’t buy enough and the deals there aren’t good enough for me to justify it. It is funny that they don’t want you to post the good deals. They are crooks, just like some extreme couponers.

  7. Thank you for you do. Love your blog!!!

  8. Christine Clarke says:

    Heather, I will keep following all your blogging. I love reading about the deals and your travels. It has been wonderful to see your success and for you to be open to your followers is who you are. A genuine lady. You have such a great way of sharing your adventures that we feel we are there with you, Jeremy and the kids. I may be a bit biased LOL, but I remember sitting in your home when you first talked about couponing and picking your business logo. We are so proud of all you guys have achieved, and being such loving parents and wonderful people. Love Aunt Chris and Uncle Dan.

  9. Thanks for all you do! I’ll miss the QFC posts, but I’ll survive 🙂 I can’t wait to see what the big changes for the summer are!

  10. Keep up the great work!

  11. I love that you changed your priorities to your family. They really are most important. I still use coupons but not near as much so I understand completely how you needed to change your focus.
    I wish you well in the future.

  12. Sharon@MLT says:

    I appreciate your honesty and wish you the best. I am however the reader who skipped all the amazon posts and went straight for the Fred Meyer info. I still passionately coupon and probably always will.

    Stephanie did some wonderful things in her coverage of Fred Meyer. Many thanks to her.

    I’ll be moving to a blog that still has the big love for the grocery store deals.

    Happy trails Heather.

  13. Good for you Heather! As a grandmother and mother of three, I spent 30 years as a food service manager in the healthcare industry. It has been a very stressful career, so I totally understand where you are. I always believed the job came first as it paid for my kids needs. Now, after couponing for the last few years, I find it fun and I would still do it if I won the lottery. Since couponing, I have been more selective about heathy foods and have been dialing down junk foods in my house. After managing a commercial kitchen for so many years, the tips on “home cooking” facinates me and I have learned from many of your posts “this old dog can still learn new tricks”. Now, pizza in my house means grinding flour from fresh whole grains and using fresh tomatoes for the sauce. I use the Amazon deals through the year for Christmas presents and love the store match ups. I still have kids at home along with a grandchild, so saving money is always a great “Bennie”. I think your blog is a great resource for what, I think, everyone wants, a happy, healthy life.
    One suggestion I would make is mainly for the readers. I don’t see a lot of scenarios after your match ups from your readers. I personally love seeing scenarios different people have come up with.
    Keep up the great work!

  14. Thank you, you have saved us a lot of money for our family. I plan to stick with you. You have made the best decision to spend more time with your family and traveling. I am not going anywhere, sticking with you.

  15. Celia Husmann says:

    I love Queen Bee. 🙂

  16. Stacey L says:

    You will not regret for 1 minute the decision to spend more time with your family by being both physically and emotionally available to the as well as being kind to yourself! Often ine needs to have a taste of what not being anxious feels like in order to measure just how high that tension has grown. Plus a new business takes more hours upfront to start. Often it takes sometime to figure out what is truly profitable. Money, times and quality of life are all important factors. Contracts, markets and families all change over time and adjust menus are made. Sounds like you are making great adjustments in all those areas. Enjoy your adventures, your new ventures and you life lady ! Wishing you all the best !

  17. Jen Houghton says:

    For all your years of dedication to helping us save money…THANK YOU!
    I wish you nothing but the best as you open a new chapter with the website. I think you’re fantastic and will continue to follow your website!

  18. Although I valued your unadvertised savings and will miss them, I understand your need for balance and look forward to your big plans… Hope it might include some tips about saving while RVing. ; )

  19. You are awesome Heather. You inspire me. I am sticking with you!

    This semester for school I have to create a website and I am nervous about not keeping my balance as a mother and wife in check. It is so hard to balance.

  20. Love your site! I had no idea about the business side that went on behind the scenes. I appretiate your honesty and wish you the best of luck! Can’t wait to see what’s in store. And good for you putting family first and taking time to find your peace and sanity. Life can get crazy sometimes!

  21. ANNA PITTIONI says:

    I’m incredibly happy for you and your family! Everything you post is a gift, and I use the deals that are meaningful to me. Turns out my best savings comes from simply not spending, and the best joy comes from making do with what I have.

    I look forward to the next chapter of your work. Enjoy another fabulous weekend!

  22. Teri Hanley says:

    Heather, Thank you very much for your thorough explanation! I will really miss those extra posts, but the totally understand and agree with your reasoning. I am disabled and do all my shopping pretty much exclusively at Fred Meyer, unless I see a deal posted that I just can’t pass up 😉 So I always appreciated being able to get the most out of my trips through those wonderful exta posts. However, FAMILY COMES FIRST! I am so happy for you that you have been able to find a good balance. I also tthoroughly enjoy keeping up with you and your family’s travels each morning on your Rise and Shine posts. Thank you so much for all you and your team does and God bless you and keep you safe in your travels!

  23. Looking forward to what’s next for you and the site! Thanks for sharing! “Because life is more than busting our butts to save 10% on your grocery bill – it’s about the big picture of a happy life”

  24. Karla Boughton says:

    I have followed your blog for years and have loved it and continue to love it. I applaud you seeking a work/life balance, especially while your kids are the age they are. I appreciate you putting your readers first over your revenue. Thank you for your post and I look forward to seeing your new site!

  25. Beth Johnson says:

    Thanks so much for explaining all that. I’ve really missed the store posts, but I have been able to look at the full match-ups like you said, so I guess I can just be a tiny bit less lazy 🙂
    For Amazon, do you get the commission only on the items you blog about? I’ve been making a point of going through your site when I need other things from them, hoping it would benefit your site too. I just click on the link in any post and shop from there. I’d like to do everything possible to support Queen Bee, it’s still the site I look to for deals, savings, and fun!
    Thanks for all you do, and I’m glad you’re regaining the balance in your life.

    • Hi Beth –

      Great question! I make commission on ANYTHING you buy through one of my links. So I appreciate so much that you do this. Every little bit counts. I’m still trying to formulate a way that I can repackage the grocery deals in a way that makes it EASY to review – I honestly HATE the way the grocery match-ups are formatted right now, but they are “free” when we do it this way – so I feel sort of stuck. If you have any ideas for how you’d like the deals grouped – please share!

  26. I found you because you were a “local-northwest” blogger but stayed because I loved ALL of your content. I think a lot of your more personal posts are better because you seem to be passionate about them. Thank you for the update and you are spot on with the coupons – I for one always skim past them. Thanks for all you do!

  27. I love what you’re doing. Your family should be your priority! I enjoy following your families travels and I like your Amazon deals. Online deals are awesome when you have a busy life. I like the grocery deals but I coupon mainly for non food items since that is where I save the most money. I still won’t pass up saving 50 cents on a grocery item I plan to buy anyway. Thanks for all your effort and an A+ for putting your family first.

    • Hi Terry – Thank you for your kind comments and support. I agree the coupon savings seems to be greater on non-food items lately and I too, will always save 50 cents if it’s easy and available (I love iBotta and Cartwheel lately!). Thanks for your continued support. . . .

  28. Life goes on and is a constant transition. I appreciate what you have done to make couponing known to those like me who were aware but didn’t use it like I should. I do not print out the coupons but I do collect coupons from neighbors and local coffee shops/McDonalds on Sundays when people purchase and leave the coupons out for others to take. You are not a charity, you are a working mother and wife who supports her family, that should be your priority and I am glad to know you are drawing a line. It’s a shame how Amazon and other companies have changed their policies so greatly.

    • Hi Pamela – Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am definitely seeing a lot more casual couponing – like you said – and I want to encourage people to still coupon when it makes sense for them. There are many ways to save and I hope to show a more comprehensive side to that! Thanks for your continued support and hopefully I’ll continue to help you save!

  29. Lisa Riley says:

    Heather,
    It takes most people their whole lives to realize these things. Good for you! Do what you need to do, love your kids, husband, work as you need to. As for me, I love to read about your adventures and any deals are secondary, but that’s just me. Blog on, sister!

  30. Michaela Snook says:

    Thanks for sharing and updating! I wanted to let you know why I love your site. In 2013 my husband and I got military orders from WA to Spain. Taking those orders meant following my husbands career to the other side of the world and slashing our annual income by more than 60%. While living here I have had to learn to focus more on my family (your words about that deeply resonated with me) and cut costs drastically. It’s been an amazing experience here in the EU but We couldn’t have survived, financially, without your site. I have been able to find Christmas gifts for my 15 neices and nephews each year, buy my sons’ clothes, shoes, gifts and (most importantly in terms of $$) diapers without breaking the bank. None of these deals are things I could have found with my limited couponing/sale shopping experience. Queenbee has literally saved me thousands of dollars (no joke) over the last three years, as most of my shopping is done on Amazon. Please know that what you do matters so much to those of us who follow you. I value your transparency on this matter and will be even more loyal now that I know all of this. I respect and admire you for taking this “pause” from the norm and enjoying time with your kids and husband. It goes too fast and you can’t get it back once it’s gone. Thank you a million times for all the work you do and for doing it with integrity and honesty.

  31. Honestly, since you’ll still be doing the weekly grocery match-ups, I doubt many of us will even notice the changes. 🙂 I do love the Amazon deals you post, and I am really bummed to hear that they reduced your commission like that.
    I appreciate you sharing all of this. I think it’s important for people to know, and I have so much respect for the fact that you want to pay people who work for you and serve your readers. I know there are many sites that post, “Deals,” that aren’t deals at all, and many others that have contributors they don’t pay. I have so much respect for how you operate.
    I also love your meal planning and travel posts and following your family’s adventures.
    Personally, I’d love posts on decluttering and downsizing-like for absolute beginners-because I feel like we are drowning in our stuff over here.
    I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future!

    • Thank you for your comment, Maegen!

      I appreciate you understanding where I’m coming from and glad that being transparent has been helpful. I really want to do my best with the blog but have to make smart financial choices to keep Queen Bee running as the business it needs to be.

      We have some fun plans in the work to do a better job with meal planning . . .and I want to share more about traveling and downsizing – things I feel like I’m becoming an expert on. 🙂 Thanks for sticking with me as we move forward. . . I love your blog and admire your dedication and amazing content!

      • Angela R says:

        Heather, I actually missed this post and my DH brought it to my attention. I love that he now goes to your blog looking for deals. 😉 I am so happy you are making this decision. I no longer coupon but continue to shop sales and love the online deals. I am so happy to hear that you are making a balanced life choice for your family.

        • Hi Angela! Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I think it’s going to be the right choice for me. We will see what the future holds for Queen Bee! Thank you for always being such a loyal and kind reader!

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