Changes using coupons - Some limits imposed

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – I've been an avid couponer for years…usually saving 50 to 60% on my grocery bills, but in the six months since Extreme Couponing aired; my coupon world has been turned upside down.

One look at this pantry and there's no doubt Joni Meyer Crothers is extreme.

"It's just amazing. And to think- almost all of this stuff here, was free!" Joni said.

Her stash earned her a spot on the TLC show, "Extreme Couponing"--it features people getting hundreds, even thousands of dollars of groceries...and paying just pennies with the use of coupons. There's a definite renewed interest in coupons, but it hasn't all been positive.

There have been reports of newspaper thefts across the country as people try to get as many coupons as possible. Store policies are also changing--with limits on the number you can use. Many stores have stopped accepting internet coupons for free items for fear they're fake.

Manufacturers are paying attention too. There's new language on some coupons that limit your use to four per shopping trip.

"Everything has changed in couponing. Before, I used to go to the store, and use 10 or 12 coupons at a time. Now I'm only, basically limited to 3 coupons a trip at most stores," said Coupon Expert Melanie Kyle.

"Extreme Couponing" has faced criticism for showing people "hoarding products"-- and unrealistic savings.

In a statement, a TLC spokesperson says, "The series is called "extreme" couponing - I think that speaks for itself. It's meant to be entertainment, not instruction - they are many resources available, some by our own cast, about how to start couponing and what is realistic for the "average" shopper. Hopefully, the series is inspirational for our audience."

Extreme saver Joni says her feedback has been mostly positive.

"More people now are aware of how to save money. And the way the economy is right now, we all need to save money," she said.

First and foremost, know your store's coupon policies. If you want to buy something that has these types of limitations, you can break them into multiple transactions, but have some coupon etiquette. Don't do it if there are customers behind you.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.