Lazy Budget Chef: Do You Coupon?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do You Coupon?

Husband calls me The Big Game Bargain Huntress because I always comparison shop. I learned early on that I could not be brand loyal and expect to save money at the grocery store.

I used to coupon in my Early Marriage Days. I thought I was saving money.  I doubt I was because I’d often buy something just because I had a coupon. Other times, even with the coupon, the store brand was much cheaper. Of course, I didn’t know about stacking a coupon with an in store sale to get something even cheaper or free. Even when I did try it, the coupon was expired more often than not.

When I left my coupon holder in my cart at the store, I didn’t go back for it. I quit couponing.

I found Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and a host of mom and pop international markets with their much cheaper than conventional grocery store prices. Husband and I started cooking more from scratch. My food bill went down, the quality of food we were eating went up (due to cheaper and more interesting ingredients from the international markets), and our health improved.

I watched Extreme Couponing on TLC last night. On the one hand, I'm impressed by what these folks could get free or nearly free using coupons and deals. Sadly, the show barely mentioned that all of the people featured regularly donate from their stash to local food pantries. I also know from reading blogs and post show interviews that all of the people featured were encouraged to do an unusually large and extreme shopping trip for the show. The show notified the stores in advance what the couponers would be buying so they could stock extra. The shoppers were encouraged to amp up clearing shelves manically by production to make good TV. So while these folks make couponing work for them, the results for every shopping trip aren't always as extreme as they showed on TV.

Still the extreme couponers stockpiles were massive and impressive. It certainly helped one of the families when they went through a spell of unemployment. They could eat off the stockpile for months.

However, I thought it was ironic that TLC kept showing promos for the show Hoarding: Buried Alive during the Extreme Couponing commercial breaks. I wonder what makes a shopping addict an addict, a hoarder, or a smart couponer? I know someone who has a very real shopping addiction. I wonder if channeling her addiction into couponing would be a possible better release for her or not.

I’m not trying to imply that couponers are hoarders or full blown shopping addicts buying or collecting useless junk because they can get it for free or nearly free. I just find it odd that TLC chose to promote the Hoarding show so heavily during the Extreme Couponing show. The people featured in the couponing show had for the most part, neat and organized stockpiles.Although one woman admitted to skipping important events to go shopping and her husband grumbled over her stocking up on a pasta deal when he claimed they already had a bunch of stockpiled pasta. Hmm...

I mentioned couponing to Husband while we watched the show. He said he wasn’t interested because it seems to involve shopping. every. single. day. He’s not such a fan of our bi weekly 2 store shopping trips as it is. I don’t think he’d stand being dragged or me dragging stuff home every other day from multiple stores.

I understand the coupon bargain rush. I got a bunch of coupons from events a while ago and bought a big bag of groceries for seventeen cents (tax)! That trip took a lot of discipline because I went to a store I don’t normally shop at and was tempted by things I can’t get at my regular grocery stores. I also ended up buying items I wouldn't normally buy which was a nice treat. I don't think I could do that all the time though.

I find that I’m dipping a toe back into the coupon waters.  The environmentally friendly products I prefer are a little more expensive and if a coupon is available, I’ll use it. I still do it wrong by not stacking sales and coupons and stocking up on 3 months worth of product at a time. I don’t have a lot of extra storage space in my tiny condo for a huge stockpile. The best deals for free stuff are for products I don’t, won’t, or can’t use. *sigh*

What about you? Do you coupon? Do you have a large stockpile? How do you manage it?

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