I enjoy reading financial blogs as well as deal blogs.
What I find is that while financial blogs tend to argue that raising your income through your job and creating a side income is the best way to get ahead financially, many deal blogs argue that saving money, in part by using coupons, is the best way to get ahead financially.
Extreme Couponing Isn’t All It Is Cracked Up to Be
Several years ago, I was impressed to see a blogger share how she bought groceries with a retail value of $53 for only $3.67, but the cynic in me has taken over, especially after I watched an episode or two of TLC’s Extreme Couponing and watched how stressed out and uptight the couponers could get about finding the right deal, not to mention the time they were investing. I also looked closely at what they were buying—pop, chips, frozen meals, boxed food, and bags and bags of candy.
If you can get it for free, that doesn’t mean you should be eating it.
The Dangers of Eating Food Extreme Couponers Buy
Many of the foods that extreme couponers stock up on will cause health problems later in life such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What they may be saving on food now may end up costing them just as much, if not more, on health care later.
Processed, packaged foods have almost completely taken over the diet of Americans. Unfortunately, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory-created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives. But the trouble is not just what’s been added, but what’s been taken away. Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and ‘good’ fats. Combine that with additives, and you have a recipe for disaster.
There Is a Place for Processed Foods
For the critics among you who say coupons are a great deal and help people who otherwise may not be able to afford to eat, I agree, extreme couponing CAN help people who are unemployed or on a very tight budget.
Still, I would only recommend eating so much processed food if you would truly go hungry if you couldn’t coupon. This is not the case for most couponers.
Years ago our mothers and grandmothers were eager to use processed foods because it freed them from endless days in the kitchen where they used to have to cook every meal from scratch. I had a good friend growing up whose mother used to grow an extensive garden, can all of her family’s vegetables for the year, and cook every meal from scratch. Every Friday night she served frozen pot pies because that was her night to take a break.
Now, people eat frozen meals every night of the week.
You Can Eat Healthy Food on a Budget
We as a culture need to change our approach to food.
Eating healthy foods on a budget IS possible. Will you get the groceries for 99% off as some extreme couponers do? No, but you can still have a thrifty grocery budget and buy healthy foods.
Money Saving Mom recently shared how it would be possible for one person to survive on a grocery budget of just $25 a week. The meals she shares are more nutritionally dense than most foods you could buy for pennies with coupons. Even more interesting than her post is that there were 350 comments to the post, and many of those commenting shared how they too feed their family healthy meals for a low cost.
Don’t be fooled into believing that the only way you can reduce your grocery shopping is by using coupons and buying processed foods.
Instead, focus on the basics—fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meals that you make at home. If you don’t have time to make homemade meals every night, consider freezer cooking so you have meals ready to pull from the freezer or using your slow cooker. Just put the food in the slow cooker in the morning, and a fresh meal is waiting for you when you come home at night.
You’ll find that by focusing on the basics, you will save money AND feel better physically.
Sure, processed foods are handy to have sometimes, but don’t make those the staples of your diet, no matter how cheaply you may be able to buy them.
Common sense – Bravo!!!! Real food for real families is not so expensive when you consider the downside of a highly processed diet. Sometimes the short-sighted answer is not the best on is it?
Glen Craig says
I agree, there is a cost to that processed food – your health. You get what you pay for.
I used to coupon (nothing too extreme though). I could never really find food that I would be willing to eat. A lot of it was too processed or it was still too expensive with the coupon.
Couldn’t agree more. Couponers may find themselves buying things they don’t want or need! Furthermore in the long run couponing (in my experience) makes very little difference to ones overall budget. I know this will upset many people but it’s true.
Coupons for the most part are for foods we do not eat. My wife shops at stores that offer great food at low prices. I supplement our purchases by getting additional items at Costco.
Glen Craig says
We usually shop at Trader Joe’s which already has great food at low prices, and they don’t take coupons either.
We use Costco as well. Their Kirkland brand stuff is awesome.
“Don’t be fooled into believing that the only way you can reduce your grocery shopping is by using coupons and buying processed foods.
Instead, focus on the basics—fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meals that you make at home.”
This is so very true. We have been living this for the past few weeks. We make a short stop by the store 2-3 times a week for fresh veggies and fruits. Often times, you can find salads and other prepackaged veggies nearing their expiration date marked down as a “manager’s specials.” We’ve found that we can still eat very healthy for only about $35/week.
Glen Craig says
Great tip! Thanks.
20's Finances says
I couldn’t agree more. I do probably eat processed food more than I should, but it’s minimal compared to many of people my age. I guess there’s always room for improvement.
I coupon. But not so extremely. I only clip for what I’d buy anyways. Yes, sometimes that’s processed, but my whole cart isn’t loaded up with it. And every once in a while I am able to find a coupon for the healthy stuff I buy every trip anyways. It saves time while clipping and stress at the store. Free does not always equal good.
Glen Craig says
I think if you find some great coupons for stuff you already buy then that’s fine. It’s when you start trying anything to stack up on cheap stuff that gets me.
I don’t really coupon since they are usually for things I don’t eat, or even when I use the coupon the generic brand is still cheaper. At most I”ll have 2 coupons with me. My favorite coupons are the ones that Krogers mail out since they cater to your spending habits based on your Kroger plus card purchases.
Andrea @ Smart Step Personal Finance says
Great post! I have always thought the same thing – in fact I think it is cheaper to cook whole foods! I made homemade fries last night – cost was just $2.31 and much healthier than any bag out there!
Glen Craig says
That reminds me, I’ve been wanting to make my own potato chips!
Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife says
If you can cook, you can serve healthy food on a budget! Where e live (Canada), the couponing deals just aren’t as available as those advertised for the US, so I was never big into using them. Now, if I can get a few coupons for shampoo or laundry soap, great. But food? I want fresh fruits, veggies and meats, and I can’t find coupons for those.
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland says
Great minds! I just wrote about this — cheap food is only cheap in the short term.
Karen S. says
Food Matters is an 80 minute documentary that really opens up eyes as to the dangers to health when eating anything from a box, jar or can. The “health care” system is not true health care – it is a “sick care” system. Health care starts by what food choices we eat. Those on limited budgets can easily eat very healthy if they learn what wild plants are edible… and there are MANY. Many of these are actually much healthier than produce found in a regular grocery store. The best part of all – they are FREE.
I’m not going to say that their are not a ton of coupons for unhealthy food, there are, but there are coupons for healthy food as well as for health/beauty products. Cut spending on the health/beauty products and you will have more for the healthy food. But if we just want to focus on food, I have gotten free pasta (including whole wheat) before, this week with coupons and sale, I will be paying .25/box. Given that my weekly budget is $50-$55/week, saving $5/week (my average) using coupons is useful. And most of the stuff I buy with coupons is healthy.
Realy great article about eating healthy, especially the part on how healthy eating really can save your life. Have you seen this similar websitePaleo Dinner Recipes its really really good and very informative.
Important points in this post that we should know about the argument for healthy and simple eating. This article would be a huge help. Thanks for sharing this one out.