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.