Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I went couponing and all I got was this lousy bottle of Old Spice

Have you ever read an article or seen a news broadcast on women who do extreme couponing - you know, the ones who take $300 worth of groceries through the checkout and it ends up costing only $3? I realize that for some people coupons are the only way they make ends meet, but I have a fantasy about the uber couponer. She files her coupons by category and expiration date, buys multiple copies of the newspaper for the coupon inserts, always matches manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales, and often buys additional coupons off eBay or similar sites. She spends any number of hours a week working on her coupons; meanwhile she is homeschooling her kids, growing an organic garden with ladybugs to control pests, upcyling castoffs into ingenious crafts, refinishing that $2 chest of drawers she found at a garage sale, sewing curtains, scrapbooking, running a profitable blog, and cleaning and decluttering her house by zone while still maintaining a stock of gallon milk jugs and empty shoe boxes for craft projects.

My first thought when seeing these jubilant women waltzing out of the grocery store paying no more than I would for a cup of coffee is that they cannot possibly be buying produce. How often do you see coupons and deep discounts for produce? They must have a cart full of tater tots, Velveeta and canned green beans. But then I think, of course they aren’t buying produce; they have an organic garden. They’re digging up potatoes from their garden, canning tomatoes and crock potting their way to financial victory.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But I’m lucky to get out of a grocery store paying less than $165 a week, WITH coupons. Gluten free products cost a fortune rarely mitigated by coupon offers ($6 for 4 bagels or a small loaf of bread; up to $9 for a packaged mix). I recently put together the items for a flour blend, a not particularly complex one, and I believe the ingredients totaled around $25. I imagine in weight it was nowhere near equal to a 5lb bag of regular flour. And that was economical, because I was making the blend myself instead of buying a mix. No wonder some GF folks grind their own grains. I’m surprised they don’t have a rice paddy in their backyard.

Anyway, we keep our consumption of prepared gluten free stuff to a minimum, but there is still the expensive assortment of in-season fruit and veg, the free-range chicken and grass fed beef (I mean, have you seen what happens on Food Inc? the regular meats are incubators for salmonella and e-coli). And then we get to the sticking point - I so rarely see coupons for any product that I use. Most of the coupons are for foods I can’t or wouldn't eat (Sunny-D? Seriously? I might as well give them soda). And my word, the number of coupons for toothpaste, air freshener and makeup just astounds me. I go to various couponing sites, and they just make me tired. I’m particularly flummoxed by Walgreens;, which requires an elaborate system of purchases in order to get register coupons (I've seen sites that go through this in detail). It’s so complex that I've never even bothered to try it. And there’s nothing more dangerous than the Kroger “But 10 and get $5 off.” You will go insane tracking the stupid items, trying to make sure that your group of 10 has more lower-priced items than higher priced items, but not getting more than the 10, because then you’re just a pawn in their game, but you won’t be taken in, oh no, you will beat this! You will emerge waving your $5 gift card in victory! Cue maniacal laughter.

And I will still end up paying at least $165 worth of groceries.


  1. I agree. Coupons are great if you are willing AND able to eat the food the coupons are for....but, most often I'd rather go without than eat that stuff...and, when I stick to the foods I like and the few coupons I can, I'm probably better off than othereise!

  2. Terri, I know. There's only so many bags of M&Ms and pounds of Jimmy Dean sausage a girl can want.

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