When it comes to using extreme couponing to provide for your family, give back to your local community, and change your way of life, Joni Meyer-Crothers is an expert. The Toledo-based blogger began couponing more than 5 years ago, when her husband lost his job, and they needed a way to save money for their family. Since then, she has been featured in popular media, written a book, and started a blog to share her passion.
“I had a friend show me a couple of things I could get for free through couponing, and I was an overachiever.” Joni said. “I was like, there’s got to be a lot more than the two!”
She dove into couponing and quickly reached a turning point. “Within weeks, we had figured out how to get a couple thousand dollars worth of groceries items and only pay around $100!” Joni said. “That’s when I realized this isn’t just couponing, this could be a ministry.”
Not long after that, Joni and her husband opened a food pantry in their garage where people from church and the community could shop for free from their couponing bounty stock. Joni said couponing allowed her to carry out her passion for helping people, and she began teaching couponing classes at church. Little did she know that friends from church would nominate her for TLC’s Extreme Couponing show and that she would be selected. She was featured on five episodes of the show.
After her success on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, Joni decided to write a step-by-step book about couponing, called Extreme Couponing: Learn How to Be a Savvy Shopper and Save Money One Coupon at a Time, and start blogging. She launched www.freetastesgood.com to share resources for coupon newbies, deals by store, deals online, printable coupons, recipes, and ways to give back to the community and nationwide.
“I love it, but there are days where it’s stressful [running my blog], because there are so many deals to post,” Joni said. “There’s a lot of time that goes into it. So now, I try to focus on the free-to-cheap deals that are more doable for everybody and not just people with money.”
Joni said that with frugal and deal bloggers, posting every day is a must, but that it’s worth finding a healthy balance. “It’s a seven-days-a-week kind of job if you want people to follow you,” she said. “But one neat thing is we have someone, each day of the week, praying over the blog, praying for me, and we know that sometimes we’re going to miss those deals. Family has to come first.”
Joni’s book, blog, and social media presence continues to garner attention from popular media sources, like The FAB Show, TLC, 20/20, Rachael Ray, and more. Joni said she knows it is about more than the couponing. She thanks God for these opportunities to share her faith, help others, and form friendships.
“We have really formed a lot of friendships along the way,” Joni said. “and we’ve been able to give back through it all, from donating what we got through the show with TLC, to hosting free laundry days for the homeless and less fortunate, feeding the homeless once a month, offering free oil changes, and more.
“It was just a couponing blog and now, it has expanded to be so much more. There are people who surround us, not just from our city or community, but from states across the nation,” Joni added.
Joni said she looks forward to continuing to seek what God has planned for Free Tastes Good.
Her favorite plugin
One WordPress plugin that Joni can’t live without and recommends is Broken Link Checker. It is a plugin that monitors your site for broken links and provides alerts when it find broken links.
“I get alerts if something isn’t linking anymore, and I can go in and change it before getting error messages,” she said. That has been a saving grace for me.”
Her advice to other bloggers
“Don’t have outrageous expectations,” Joni offered. “It takes a long time to build a blog and gain a following. Network with other bloggers, go to conferences, do a lot of research about SEO, keywords, and affiliates.”
When Joni began monetizing her site, she reached out to companies she felt were aligned with what her blog was about, and recommends doing the same.
“Reach out to affiliates you like, like department stores, or coupons you use, stuff like that, and get linked with those people. These should be things you believe in,” she said. “Don’t put things on your blog that you don’t believe just because they’ll make you a few dollars.”
She added that being active on social media is important. “People want the conversation back and forth, and they want to build a relationship, and I definitely think that is a very important part of blogging.”