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$4/week on groceries? No thanks.

The following video has been circulating around the internet for a while now, and every time I see it, I keep thinking that I really ought to write a blog post with my thoughts on it. I have another post on coupons in the works, but for now, I just want to share my perspective on the type of shopping shown here.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it right here. Email subscribers, you’ll either have to watch it on YouTube or click on the blue post title above. That will take you directly to my blog, where you can play the video.

For those of you who can’t watch the video, it’s about a mom who, by using coupons and rebates, feeds her family of 6 for $4/week.

On one hand, I can appreciate what this mom is doing. I don’t know the details of her life situation…maybe she hasn’t got much money to spend on groceries, and so this really is the best thing for her family. And it is great that she can give food from her stockpile to people who are hungry.

But on another, larger hand, I really don’t think this is a great way to feed a family.


Back when I had only 2 kids and my grocery stores were doubling $1 coupons, I used my fair share of them, and it is true that you can get a lot of items for free or for pennies by shopping sales and using doubled coupons.

The problem is that you can rarely get nutritious food for free or for pennies, and so relying solely on coupons to feed your family means that you will rarely eat fresh, unpackaged, unprocessed food.

Yes, you can get free toilet paper, free hair products, and free cleaning products. And food-wise, you can get free cereal, free crackers, free rice mixes, free canned meat, free pepperoni, and any number of other packaged food items.

However, you will rarely, if ever, get free fresh meat, dairy, or produce. I’ve been in the couponing world, and I know that pretty much the only coupons for these items are wine tag coupons (they’ll be for say, $1 off of any meat). These are the coupons that the $4/week shopper used to buy her scallops (in $1 increments, which would be enough to drive me crazy!).

You can get wine tag coupons without actually buying wine by participating in coupon trading/exchanging organizations, but it would be nigh onto impossible to get enough of these to provide sufficient real, fresh food for my family of 6.

Take just produce as an example.

Coupons are sometimes available for frozen vegetables, but they’re most often for the sort that come packaged with sauces. And there are coupons for canned vegetables and fruits, but most canned vegetables and fruits are kind of lacking in nutrition. Some frozen fruit coupons are available, but they’re rarely high enough in value to make the fruit free…it definitely couldn’t fit into a $4/week budget.

To put it simply, if you rely solely on coupons, you will not be eating produce unless it’s frozen, canned, or comes prepared in a package (like bagged lettuce or pre-sliced apple pieces). There simply is no way to obtain a raw tomato or a fresh mushroom for free at a grocery store by using coupons.

Then there’s the fact that the only coupons for meat are for processed, highly packaged meats.

And the fact that it’s nigh onto impossible to get eggs for free.

And the fact that milk coupons for anything but chocolate milk and half and half are exceedingly hard to come by.

I just can’t see any possible way to eat a balanced diet of real food on $4/week.

And we haven’t even taken into consideration the ridiculous amount of trash this type of coupon shopping produces. Coupons are primarily available for packaged foods, and the more packaged the food, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to get it for free.

There are few, if any coupons for large packages of raw nuts. But if you want to buy small packages of flavored nuts, you can do that for free.

The coupons for large containers of yogurt are few and far between (and you’d be hard pressed to get a free gallon of milk to make homemade yogurt), but you can get tiny containers of yogurt for free with nary a problem.

Want to eat pizza? You can’t get ingredients for free (except the tomato sauce and maybe the cheese), but you can get a plastic wrapped, cardboard encased frozen pizza for $0.00.

I’m a big fan of saving money, yes, but this is NOT the direction I want to go. I want to be in a place where we eat more fresh food, more local food, and more unpackaged food.

And coupons are not going to take me there.

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Brenda Hardin

Wednesday 4th of March 2020

Shopping at Kroger you CAN get FREE EGGS ,they send coupon in the mail IF you use your Kroger CARD ,n its FREE to get at Kroger at customer service counter ,fill out n it goes by what you buy there,it may take a month to start receiving coupons in the mail,I get FREE peanut butter , FREE Kroger Instant flavored Oatmeal,sometimes also .40 off at times ,Free Granola bars ,too many to mention.Watch yourail for envelope of coupons !!Will exchange coupons if you are interested.bhardin5678@ .


Wednesday 25th of July 2012

High five! I totally give props to moms who have the mental capacity to plan and execute this or a similar type of shopping trip on a regular basis, and let's face it - we're all just trying to do the best we can with what we have by stretching resources. But I sort of have a "rule" that if it comes in a package, it probably causes more harm than good. Sometimes to our bodies, sometimes to our environment. Not saying I don't buy things like cereal, or the occasional frozen pizza, etc. But I try to be aware that I want this to be kept at an absolute minimum. It's just a rule of thumb that I go by. :)


Sunday 20th of June 2010

Gotta disagree with you on a couple of things. First, by "extreme" couponing, I save enough on my shopping on non-food items (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, trashbags, cleaning supplies, etc.) that I have the majority of my budget available to buy very healthy, very fresh food. I don't feel any remorse buying a $2 bunch of fresh romaine (instead of a 99 cent head of iceburg or a bag of salad with who-knows-what sprayed on it) when I know my toothpaste was not $4 for a single tube...

Second, by using coupons to purchase the basics - soap, etc., I often have "overage" available to purchase other items. For example, today I bought my contact lens solution at Walgreens. Regularly $9.50 a bottle, it was on sale for $7.50 and I had a $2 off coupon that I printed easily enough off the internet. Took me about 1 minute, cost me maybe 5 cents in ink and paper, and a little sales tax. I also got a $7.50 "register reward" back for that purchase (this week's "freebie" item) so I'm $2 to the good, less the cost of ink, paper, tax and my time. A minute gone from my life isn't a big deal to me - but I'm not one to spend hours chatting on my cell phone, driving my kids around all day to soccer and dance and what have I had that minute to spare.

I got 3 full cases of cases of printer paper free a few months ago from Office Max, so really, that sheet of paper was free. Yes, I did use a little printer ink and I paid sales tax, so I don't have the full $2 in overage, but it's pretty darn close to that. So that $2 can be used to buy 4 rolls of toilet paper, a gallon of milk, 6 cans of tomato paste, 4 boxes of Jello, a box of granola bars, a carton of ice cream, a pound of coffee, a box of crackers or a multitude of other (semi-) healthy food items at Walgreens. Just because you think "drug store" when you see Walgreens doesn't mean they don't have a whole host of nutritious foods to choose from when spending that nearly $2 bonus. Today, I used it to get 2 cartons of Daisy sour cream for 99 cents a container. Baked potatoes with fresh butter and sour cream for dinner, anyone?

And, if you are keeping track, I also got the contact lens solution pretty much free. I did pay sales tax. I use a bottle just about every two months so if I repeat this deal six times over the next week (which I will do, quite easily) I will have contact lens solution free for the next year along with about $12 worth of free - HEALTHY - groceries. I may spend some of the other $2 "bonus" dollars on eggs, bacon, cheese, bread... see where I'm going with this???

I could just as easily spend the overage on Ho Ho's and Reece's Pieces, but I'm on Weight Watchers so I'm gonna resist that urge. :-)

Do you still think that printing a few coupons off the net or clipping from Sunday's paper is extreme? I don't.

Now, let's go one step further. Supposed I manage to snag 12 bottles of contact solution over the next week. That's pretty doable, I think. Twelve trips to Walgreens, of which there are four just on my trip to work in the morning. I don't hang around one store, wiping the shelves clean of all the contact lens solution - that would be rude. But if I stop at just two of them on my way home each night I've already netted ten bottles, and lets say I grab two on Saturday.

Hmm, what to do with six extra bottles of solution? Well, I can donate them to my church's food pantry. That's pretty nice of me, I think. Even people receiving help from food pantries wear contacts. Or, I can trade a bottle of it along with a bottle of shampoo and conditioner (that I got free last week) to my neighbor for six tomatoes and a bag of sweet corn. Or a dozen green peppers. Or, I can put it out in my garage sale, which I'm having to rid myself of clutter, for $2 a bottle and make another $12!!! Which, of course, I'll be spending at the u-pick strawberry farm just down the order to make myself a couple dozen pints of jam, which will last me all year...

Seriously, couponing not worthwhile? I beg to differ.


Monday 2nd of December 2013

What a great post!! In Canada and Australia (where we live) coupons are rare.Our stores are just starting to offer enticements. Yay :) From what I've read and watched, in USA couponing has become quite the art. It seems many "cheats" are actually allowed by the stores, because they of course get a handling fee, from the manufacturer, so they dont mind. As long as a portion of the coupon bar code matches up, and the register allows it, it is permitted. The couponer then buys the cheaper product, which gives them the overages. Other stores will continue to take expired coupons for 3 months, because they are still within their redemption terms with the coupon clearing house. Other stores permit expired coupons to entice shoppers. I haven't watched this video, but just relying on the info provided from this blog. As mentioned, she is probably selling or bartering these products for other products. Good on her ! The frozen/canned vs fresh debate is similar to organic vs non-organic. It's personal preference. Maybe she has a garden and fruit trees available to her.Maybe she gleans. I'd rather have kids eat fresh/frozen/canned fruit and vegetables any day, than fast food. How many times have you heard people state, I can't live on $25 pp a week? My husband and I do consistantly, and eat a variety of meals.(with meat 6-7 times a week) Some people say NO WAY. Just because they find it difficult, doesn't change the fact, others can. Anyways, I'll jump off my soapbox now.


Sunday 20th of June 2010

I didn't say couponing wasn't fact, I mentioned that I use coupons myself. :)

I just think that spending only $4/week on groceries would make it nigh onto impossible to eat enough real produce and real meat to make up a healthy diet, that's all.

brenda z

Tuesday 8th of June 2010

I just stumbled across this post when i was actually googling this video :-) ha. I didn't read all the other posts but just wanted to mention that I think that it is completely possible to buy fresh fruits/veggies/meat with using coupons. Example being- last week there was a great deal on kraft dressings and solo cups. For 8 kraft dressings I paid $0 and received $6 back. For 6 packs of solo cups I paid $3 and received $6 back. So with my $9 profit I bought a bunch of blueberries, good cheese- and other stuff that I needed on sale w/ coupons. I walked out paying $.87 and half of the food I bought was fresh/no coupons- but using store coupons- I paid nothing for it. I also have received plenty of coupons for $3 off my next chicken or beef purchase received after using coupons on free items. A few weeks ago I bought a whole organic roaster chicken for free. It def IS possible to use coupons and get free fresh produce and meat. I guess I just felt the need to weigh in cuz I hear this argument all the time and it really bugs me b/c it's really just a way to judge people. People judge this woman and it's just sad.


Wednesday 9th of June 2010

Two things:

1. I totally get that situations like that do sometimes happen, but to say that you could routinely spend $4 or less on groceries each week and get good foods is still misleading, I think. And clearly that's an arguable point. However, out of all the people saying, "it's possible" I would love to see how many people ACTUALLY consistently spend only around $10-$15 a month on groceries for their family, and how much time they actually spend on it and getting good quality foods for their family as well.

2. People get so defensive in these situations. I think it's sad to jump to conclusions. Saying "it's not for me" and saying, "no one should ever do this." are 2 different things. Kristen wasn't judging her she was just giving the reasons why SHE (Kristen) wouldn't want to do it.


Thursday 27th of May 2010

Just found your site and this caught my interest since I do use coupons. Yes, I would agree that there is a plethora of coupons out there for processed, pre-packaged foods and yes, I do use some of those. But there are also a lot of healthier coupons to use too: cheese (brie & feta), hummus, peanut butter, Earthbound Farms, organic stuff, etc. I also use coupons for cleaning and health & beauty items. So, coupon use is not bad if used correctly. It does take time and that might be the one negative about using coupons consistently. I think meal planning is a must whether using coupons or not (I'm lacking in the meal-planning area!) Oh, and I love Aldi too (even without the coupons!) :)

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