A fresh start
Sarah Roe made a name for herself as a local queen of couponing. In October, she acquired a produce co-op called The Produce Gathering to help families afford healthy food.
Sarah Roe became well known by showing people how to save money through clever couponing. However, she had to go through some tough times to discover a real bargain.
In late 2013, the “Money Saving Queen” not only found herself at a professional crossroads, but also in the midst of a personal health crisis.
Roe became gluten-intolerant, and the effects of her condition sent her to the emergency room multiple times. The experience also placed her on a path to embracing a produce-rich diet instead of promoting the processed foods often featured in coupons.
“It was a life-altering experience,” Roe says. “I’m not going back.”
In October, Roe acquired The Produce Gathering, a co-op designed to provide families with fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. Members can purchase baskets of produce — worth $30 elsewhere — for $15.
“The idea is to help people save money on foods that are actually good for you,” Roe says.
Saving people money is nothing new for Roe. However, her diverse career is not the result of some shrewd marketing strategy. Instead, it started as a way to survive.
Roe’s eldest son was born with 22 food allergies, which meant a lot of money was spent on hospital trips, medicine and acceptable foods.
“The ER trips cost a fortune,” Roe recalls of those days in the mid-2000s.
She remembers executing a well-crafted plan in which she says she was able to purchase $180 worth of groceries for $18.
Friends encouraged her to share her secrets with others. Initially, she declined because she says she was “terrified to speak in front of people.”
However, the money-saving classes she began teaching in Jenks became wildly popular.
This was the age of “extreme couponing,” when some stores’ double and triple coupon values could cheaply pack a shopping cart for those who knew what they were doing.
Roe’s tips were especially well-received during the financial crisis of 2008. She soon found herself on television and the Internet giving practical, money-saving advice.
“It was really good timing,” Roe recalls. “It was real information and not fluffy. It was helpful and needed by a lot of people.”
After Griffin Communications bought Roe’s company in 2009, she appeared exclusively on its Tulsa and Oklahoma City networks. However, as the brand grew, Roe began syndicating segments to other news stations across the country.
Meanwhile, she maintained her popular website, though Griffin owned it, as well.
Roe took her job seriously — perhaps too seriously.
“I had placed work too high on the totem pole,” she says. “It was a constant competition. Working all the time will make you sick.”
She felt the need to respond to her social media followers immediately, even the “haters” who nearly always spouted their negative observations at night.
Such an environment could not last forever. In 2012, Roe and Griffin parted ways. That transition and her gluten-related health crisis led to a fresh start.
Roe says local and national networks still request her for TV appearances, but she has enough on her plate. In addition to The Produce Gathering venture, she makes speaking appearances and serves as a media consultant and online strategist for small businesses looking to promote themselves on the Internet.
In May, she started doing occasional inspirational segments with the national network GEB America. She blogs at www.foodallergyeats.com and www.peaceloveandsarah.com.
She also is reviving the online presence of www.moneysavingqueen.com. Between September 2013 and February 2014, the website was taken over by investors, but Roe bought back the site and has controlled it since.
On a personal level, Roe recently remarried and now looks after five boys, including two sons from her previous marriage. Although she has not given up the art of couponing, she has shifted her emphasis to online bargains and espousing the virtues of a healthy, affordable diet.
The past 10 years have been something of a whirlwind for Roe. She has gone from a mother struggling to feed her family to a media figure whose advice on money, diet, commerce and lifestyle is sought by many.
Roe is not sure exactly what the future will hold but seems eager to find out.
“It’s all going in the right direction,” she says.