How To Eat Healthier by NOT Clipping Coupons

After the recent economic crash in 2009 and the rise in frugal/self sufficient lifestyles, it has become increasingly popular to coupon. Some of my readers may not realize that when the American economy crashed, the world economy crashed. I’m not saying that it was a cause and effect relationship, but the whole world went into a recession at the same time. So, by my best guess, I would imagine my readers in Australia, England and Europe might have thought about couponing.

I’m here to tell you to quit couponing for one very simple reason:

Junk Food
Image © PrecisionNutrition

Junk food, processed food, not real food. Coupons, 90% of the time, are only for processed, name brand foods. There are exceptions of course, but I’ll get to those in a minute.

I recently tried to start couponing and I was appalled by what I found. Pages upon pages of free, printable coupons for nothing but junk. I take great pride in cooking from scratch and feeding Justin and I good food. All the food I cook with started raw and needed to be processed by me. There is a big difference between me chopping up some chicken and buying it with a coupon where it’s been chopped, breaded, flash fried and frozen.

There are two arguments that are bound to come up, and I’ll address them here:

Fresh food is too expensive.
This argument has no basis in fact whatsoever. Fresh food is actually cheaper than processed food, the USDA did a ton of studies on it, you can google it if you like. What people see is a meal in a box for $1. What they don’t realize is that the amount of food in that box is almost nothing compared to what you would get if you made it fresh. I’ll cite Pasta Roni. These boxes are 2 servings of a pasta mix. They are extremely tasty and the cheapest I’ve ever seen them is Wal-Mart for $1. There is about 2oz. of angel hair pasta (or shells) in the box with a sauce packet, you have to provide the milk, butter and water. So let’s break it down.

Pasta Roni (2 servings)- $1

Homemade (2 servings)-55¢
2oz Angel Hair-13¢
1 tsp. Corn Starch-3¢
1 Tbs. Powdered Milk-25¢
Misc Seasonings-15¢

Something as cheap as $1 is overcharging you by almost 50%, just because it’s convenient and in a colorful box. It takes the same amount of time to make the boxed version as it does the homemade version. Even with a coupon, you have to buy 3 boxes to save 50¢, you are still being way overcharged.

“But that’s not FRESH food” you say. Well, take a look at this.

Applesauce (packaged)- $3-$8 a pint, depending on what you buy.

Homemade Applesauce-$1.38 a pint or less, depending on what you buy.

I made 6 pints of applesauce for less than $12. Since I hate cheap applesauce, I would have bought a higher quality if I didn’t make it myself, I probably just saved myself close to $25 and I have applesauce in my pantry when I want it. I also know what’s in it exactly and because I learned to can, I don’t have to worry about filling the jar with preservatives to keep it fresh in Wal-Mart.

I don’t have time to cook.
There are two really simple ways to fix this problem. 1) Get over it and MAKE time to cook, not that it takes any longer. 2) When you do have time to cook (on weekends), make too much food and package it and freeze it. That’s easy warm-up meals or meals on the go!

We live in a very fast paced world. I can confidently say that this is the first time people in my generation who are 24 years old have absolutely NOTHING in common with people 3 years younger than us. That is insane. I have more common knowledge with my parents than I do my sister who is almost 20. That’s not a maturity thing, she grew up in a transformed world. I grew up as the transformation was taking place.

Because of this, it is more crucial than ever for people to slow down and relax. If you’re like me, cooking will relax you and give you a moment to yourself. You stay busy, but you’re not in a rush and you can think. Pork chops don’t cook any faster and you can’t force them to or you’ll burn the snot out of them (and they’ll be raw inside). So slow down and take some times to cook.

Things you should do:

1) Coupon for produce or fresh meat. Some places offer them, but most times they will just be on sale.
2) Shop Sales. Buy more than you need when chicken is 88¢ a pound and freeze it. Same thing with freezable produce.
3) Start a garden. You can easily supplement your groceries no matter where you live. Pots were made for a reason and grass is totally useless. If you eat grass however, please keep growing it.
4) Shop smart. Now I can shop at Wal-Mart and get cheap food OR I can go to grocery stores that are not franchises and get an even better deal. We found a store near us that has meat for $1 less per pound than anywhere else and it’s better quality and cut/packaged in the store.
5) Coupon for special things. I really love tater tots and oreos, I just can’t help it. So I continue to coupon for those things, but I also make sure to eat them consciously and in small amount.

Even with coupons, processed food is still more expensive than fresh and it’s full of stuff that you really don’t want to eat. Save yourself the time and printer ink and start reading those sales papers that come with the newspaper. Or find a better place to shop. Or learn to can or freeze. Even with the initial startup costs (jars, lids, canner) you’ll still be saving money AND eating healthier.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. Kelly says:

    Absolutely love this! We live in a town with very limited, lousy grocery store options (hooray for our imminent move!) so we grow as much of our own food as possible. Of course, we still spend a great deal of money at the store with the best organic produce selection. In return for begin part of their lame penny-per-dollar return club, they send us coupons. I don’t think we’ve managed to make use of a single one of the coupons, ever. Oh, we spent $1200 this quarter on organic produce? And you’re giving us free Oreos? Hey, thanks.

    1. Lol, isn’t that the way it goes? We have a Kroger here that is pretty much only good for the 3¢ off gas at their station every time. Other than that, their regular and organic produce sucks, their meat prices are so high I can’t even look at them and the coupons are only for name brand, over priced, processed junk. I want coupons for produce or for money back, not junk!

      1. Just so you know, Kroger’s also was caught some time ago packaging Perdue or Tyson chicken as their organic Simplywhatever. I’m not comfortable with organic food in mainstream grocery stores, I prefer stores that have been organic from the beginning. And my extreme couponing friends just don’t understand the savings isn’t worth the sacrifice to their health. oh well.

      2. I avoid Kroger meat now, it’s just too expensive. We buy from a smaller market now.

  2. We don’t have the same level of coupons in the UK – at most you may get 3 or 4 in a magazine but then the magazine costs between £2 – £5! And they are mainly for cosmetics or household cleansing products. I believe some people over her have taken it up but you almost have to make it a full time job!
    But we do have some websites that sell just ‘on date’ items which are very popular because of the downturn, and I find the same problem with them… Everything is junk! I find just buying fresh from local shops and own brand stuff from the supermarkets just as cheap and a lot healthier.

    1. I literally get between 50-200 coupons in my mailbox a week for free. It’s a whole bunch of advertising with coupons included for the products. About 50% is beauty and cosmetic products, then 20% is usually things like toothpaste and vitamin supplements. The rest are usually food, but you have to buy 4 boxes at a specific store to get $1 off….it’s not even worth cutting it out of the booklet.

      1. This is one of the amazing things about blogging – you get to know the little differences between cultures as well as the big. We don’t have anything like that – yet.

      2. It’s more annoying than it is helpful. I feel bad, no matter what I do, all the paper is wasted. I’m trying to re-use it all the time, but I’m running out of ideas.

      3. Maybe you could use then for ‘ironic decoupage’ to sell to the hipsters? 😉

      4. lol, I do live in a big hipster city…maybe I should.

  3. Monika says:

    Thank you for your really awesome blog, I enjoy it very much. Your last post echoes my very own thoughts when talking to my american coworkers. I’ve grown up in Italy and Germany being taught cooking from scratch by my nonna (that’s granny in italian) and even on my busiest days after a 14 hour shift I cook my meals, it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to prepare something healthy, no take out or delivery is quicker.
    I’m lucky to have multiple options for organic produce near and I’m always baffled that the costs for organically produced foods are only 3 to 5% higher than for ordinary ones. The quality is way better and let’s face it we all tend to waste money on less important things.

    1. I’m in an eternal fight with myself. My dad always cooked, but mom always wanted to eat out. I love to cook, but I like to eat out as well, it’s getting easier, but it’s been hard to fight those urges.
      Organic is much better! We have some problems in the U.S. with labeling, so a lot of people don’t really know what they are getting. You have to sift through 14 labels to find the correct one. Hopefully it will get easier in the future. But I try to buy the best produce I can.

  4. permiechick says:

    This is great Ben. I agree, the items often promoted with coupons are crap. We save much more by being part of a CSA that also offers fruit, pork, lamb, beef and honey. We supplement that with bulk purchases from an organic wholesaler. Freezing and canning the excess and cooking double batches when we have the time helps us stay away from restaurants.

    I can sympathize with wanting to eat out however. Sometimes I just want to head out to support one of our great local, organic restaurants. The atmosphere is so great, but those nights become pricey and since the farm I buy from supplies many of the organic restaurants with their produce, I might as well just make it at home 🙂

    1. I’ve gotten to the point recently where I’m so unimpressed with restaurant food that I don’t even want to go out….there are only 2 places I really like now and one’s a coney island (they make the best philly cheese steak). The other is a great chinese place back home that I’m hoping to visit more often. I’ve tried chinese cooking and I can do it, but it’s almost easier and cheaper to eat out for chinese (ingredient lists can be up to 35 items!)

      Thanks for the comment and the support!

  5. hmalapanis says:

    I agree with a lot of this – except, I find coupons super useful! Both Fred Meyer (a Kroger company) and Target have apps that allow you to select coupons you want. I choose anything that looks even remotely attractive. Then I let the cashier scan the code, and any coupons that correlate with purchases are applied. No clipping, no saving up paper scraps. Usually they’re for cleaning supplies, baby products, cereal, etc. But it’s definitely cheaper to make your own, once you get set up. It’s the getting started that’s pricey. A canner for $50-100, jars for $8-10 per flat, canning supplies, a good crock pot…And the time can be prohibitive if you’re working multiple jobs and managing a family. For me, staying home right now with my kids, cooking and canning food from scratch saves money.

    1. Oh, I agree. I use coupons for any purchases that aren’t food. I use coupons for some food purchases, but I find the majority of them to be for junk I don’t like to eat or buy. I definitely recommend shopping sales and couponing if you are buying non-food items.

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