But I was much less impressed when I looked at what they had in their carts – lots of sugar, fat, salt, and artificial flavors and colors. I saw one couple, who seemed pretty out of shape, getting 50 candy bars for free. In the scenes of the couponers’ food stockpiles, I saw sugary cereals, candy, cookies, crackers, cake mix, canned soups, and all kinds of pre-prepared foods. Sure, there was some good stuff on those shelves too, such as dry oatmeal, and non-edibles like toilet cleaner and toothpaste. However, most of it was not the kind of stuff I would want to feed a family. If you’re stockpiling for the zombie apocalypse, then by all means fill your shelves with canned goods. But if you’re not worried about the undead, maybe there are better alternatives.
So how much money are you really saving when the food you feed your family can cause health problems down the road? What if those problems mean they have to spend more on their health care? All you have done is pushed the expense down the road, and put your family in harm’s way. Practicing healthy eating habits is one of the most important ways of caring for your family, and sacrificing that for bargains isn’t worth it in my opinion.
In addition, how much time does it take to prepare for one of those marathon shopping trips with a cart full of junk? Could that time be better used planning and preparing wholesome, healthy meals for your family? When you have budget and time constraints, it can be very difficult, but there are tons of resources online for doing exactly that. Money Saving Mom occasionally posts great articles on this topic. There are tons of great ideas for cooking healthy meals on the Plat to Eat website. I also recommend checking out 100 Days of Real Food, Raise Healthy Eaters, and Wholesome Mommy. If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments.
Unfortunately, coupons don’t generally offer deals on fresh, unprocessed foods. If you want fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and whole grains, you generally have to spend a little more. Since I don’t use coupons, I look for other ways to find good deals on fresh, healthy foods. We primarily shop at places that regularly have low prices on real food such as Costco, Trader Joe’s and ethnic markets. I review the weekly grocery circulars for sales on items I regularly buy. Items I look for deals on include eggs, milk, broccoli, lettuce, and spinach.
Anything that we can consume before it goes bad, I buy in bulk. I go to stores with bulk bins to buy things like grains and dried beans. I also visit large ethnic markets, which generally have better deals on fresh fruits and vegetables. Tiny ethnic stores tend to have higher prices, so you’ll want to seek out larger ones in your area if possible. You can also sometimes find great deals on legumes and grains, as well as spices. Depending on where you live, farmer’s markets can be a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables. They may cost a little more, but you’re also supporting locally grown food.
In our area, we’ve found that Wednesday is a great day to go to Costco. It seems like there are a lot of items with prices lower than normal. They tend to be close to their expiry dates, and we suspect they are trying to clear them out before the trucks come in with new shipments of food for weekend shoppers. These are not marked as being on sale, so you just have to look at the items you like to see if the price has been reduced. We’ve gotten some products at less than half the normal price.
You may also want to try Amazon’s subscription service. You can have a standing order for certain items at a lower price. I haven’t tried it, but a lot of people say they have gotten some great deals using the service.
I also recommend checking out the Dirty Dozen list, which identifies foods that you should buy organic, and which ones are safe to buy non-organic. Although organic foods cost more, when safety is an issue, I will pay a little extra. But for something like bananas, with a thick peel, it is totally unnecessary to buy organic.
In my opinion, it’s not an accomplishment to fill your cart with free groceries when the bulk of what you’re getting is junk. Ditch the coupons and look for ways to feed your family healthy, fresh foods on a budget.