This post will likely be hated by my fellow personal finance bloggers. In fact, I have a feeling that most people will disagree with what I am about to say. But here it goes: I don’t use coupons, nor do I recommend anyone use them on a regular basis.
That’s right. I’m a personal finance blogger who preaches frugality regularly that does not recommend you utilize a method of saving money that millions of Americans are using each and every day. Let me explain.
First it should be noted that I have never been a big fan of coupons. Maybe it had something to do with the fact my mom once tried to force me to use a coupon for dinner the night of prom. Maybe it’s because I’ve always thought that watching TLC (which has a show called “Extreme Couponing”) was an even more insane waste of time than the rest of the crap on television these days. Whatever it is, coupons have never been my thing.
“But coupons are incredible! I save SO much money using them for things like groceries and home goods!” Sure, you might get good deals on certain products using coupons. But, just like with choosing the cheapest store to shop at, there is a more important question you should be asking: Should you be buying those products in the first place? Let’s take a look.
Say I was going to try and save money at the grocery store by using coupons. I may go to a site like Coupons.com and print some things out. Here is a list of some of the things on their homepage you can currently print out a coupon for.
- Betty Crocker Cookie Mix
- Kellogg’s Pop Tarts
- Angel Soft Toilet Paper
- Honey Nut Cheerios
- Pillsbury Crescent Dinner Rolls
- Planters Nuts
- Hormel Party Trays
- Pampers Wipes
- Del Monte Fruit Cup Snacks
- Campbell’s Microwavable Soup Bowls
- Hormel Canned Chili
- Bob Evans Refrigerated Side Dish
- Hershey’s Holiday Bags
That all sounds like fantastic stuff right? Of course not.
If you want to be healthier and save money, I’ve already discussed why eliminating processed foods as a whole is a smart move. In fact, it may be the smartest move you can make. So, before we consider anything else, let’s look at what the actual foods are. Most of the above foods are sugar filled, gluten based, pre cooked, and coated with chemical preservatives. Now, most of you likely eat gluten based foods. I highly discourage eating a diet based mostly on grains, and while I could rant for days and cite hundreds of studies showing why, it would be rather off topic. But even if you don’t care about being gluten free, this list still contains mostly foods you probably shouldn’t be eating. Let’s look at the list again with all of the reasons to NOT buy those items.
- Betty Crocker Cookie Mix (Pre mixed sugar and gluten)
- Kellogg’s Pop Tarts (Heavily processed and pre cooked, sugar and gluten based)
- Angel Soft Toilet Paper (Can be bought in bulk at warehouse stores much more cost effectively, it’s not like this stuff ever expires)
- Honey Nut Cheerios (Gluten and sugar based, heavily processed and pre cooked)
- Pillsbury Crescent Dinner Rolls (gluten based, processed)
- Planters Nuts (Can be bought significantly cheaper and without additives in bulk)
- Hormel Party Trays (Pre-cooked meat arranged in fancy pants platter, the exact opposite of a cost effective food. Make your own party food, its cheaper and makes for a better party)
- Pampers Wipes (Paper cleaning products are one of the banes of society, more about this in a coming article)
- Del Monte Fruit Cup Snacks (Seriously? Slicing up fruit and packing it with extra sugar and preservatives and putting it in a disposable plastic cup? Come on now)
- Campbell’s Microwavable Soup Bowls (Making soup from scratch is easy and incredibly cheap. If you make it in bulk in a slow cooker you can make several meals worth at once, without throwing away plastic containers and eating preservatives)
- Hormel Canned Chili (Same as above)
- Bob Evans Refrigerated Side Dish (If the only thing you have to do to a food is microwave it before eating, you know it has been much too heavily processed)
- Hershey’s Holiday Bags (Candy, no quality nutrition, comfort food, heavily processed, half a dozen other reasons)
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to avoid all those foods. In fact, I have yet to see very many coupons with foods on them I would ever eat. Just an hour or so I went to Winco, and out of all of the foods I bought, I’ve never seen a coupon that would apply to any of them. Here is what I bought:
- Fresh Fruit (Apples, cantaloupe)
- Fresh Vegetables (Peppers, carrots, celery, etc)
- Beans (Dry lentils, black beans, etc)
- Nuts and other bulk foods (Almonds, peanuts, raisins, coconut, etc)
- Fresh meats (Chicken breast, beef brisket, pork roasts, etc)
So here is my challenge to YOU. If you use coupons, I challenge you to find coupons for any of the above products. Those coupons cannot be for the processed alternatives to these foods (like packaged nuts in a tin container or canned beans). You’ll find that the above foods never have coupons simply because most coupons come from manufacturers. Seeing as there isn’t really a “manufacturer” involved with fresh foods like this, you won’t find any coupons. But if you cook using those foods, you’ll notice that you’ll save a TON of money anyway.
The reason for that savings is that despite the great deals you can find on processed foods, you’re still paying for a company to cook your food for you, put it in fancy packaging with lots of preservative chemicals, and market it to you and every other clueless consumer in the world. If you simply buy whole, unprocessed foods, you don’t have to pay for any of that. Not to mention the fact that the diet will be substantially healthier as a whole. Sure, you have to cook everything from scratch, but I don’t see what’s wrong with that. After all, cooking is really just a giant excuse to play with fire and knives and then eat large amounts of food. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that’s pretty bad ass.
If you need any additional convincing to not take up couponing, just think about the amount of time you would need to spend to make it effective. My mom used to be quite the addicted couponer (as you probably guessed from the above comment), so I’ve seen how much time goes into such a hobby. Sure, she sometimes would get awesome deals. But she also spent hours each week managing her coupon collection, finding new coupons, and making multiple grocery store runs. Thankfully she has backed off on that obsession in recent years.
If you have lots of time on your hands, and are obsessed with getting good deals on things you may or may not need, than couponing may be for you. But there are better ways to save money on food, and it all starts with choosing the right things to eat.