Coupons and Junk Food

Crystal at MoneySavingMom.com recently penned an article that summed up perfectly what I have been meaning to talk about for quite some time: keeping to your budget while eating healthily in a market swamped with coupons for highly-processed food!

Crystal was asked an excellent question on one of her blogs, and then wrote her response below:

I’ve been using coupons for a while, but I’ve just newly done research on getting the most bang for each coupon. The thing that I notice though is that much of the food you get at really great prices is not really so healthy… chips, candy, cookies, and lots of processed stuff which could definitely be left out of the grocery budget totally. I have a terrible sweet-tooth and really love all that stuff, but if I got that much I know it would not be so good for my waistline. Are there ways to coupon and get healthy stuff, or does the couponing really only work for the junk food? I don’t seem to find a lot of coupons for fresh foods, and healthy meal/baking supplies. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place? Any suggestions? -Melissa

Melissa, what a great question! There is a widely-held myth that using coupons means you only feed your family junk food. From a cursory vantage point, it can seem like us couponers buy a lot of processed food. And yes, it might appear like my family must only eat MSG and high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden foods. However, that is very far from the truth.

I definitely do buy some processed foods and my grocery shopping trips are evidence of this. I know that bothers some people and I often receive hate mail about it. I understand that some people want to avoid every ounce of processed foods–and that’s okay with me! But that’s not where our family is right now. We strive to eat a balanced diet and do the best we can with the time and money we have.

We don’t eat all organic, we do eat processed foods probably at least once or twice a day, and I don’t always bake and cook every single thing from scratch. But if you look at examples of our weekly menus here, you’ll see that according to most people’s standards, we do try to eat fairly healthfully. There are definitely areas we can improve in and I’m always seeking to work on those. It’s a learning process!

Crystal’s article goes on to include many helpful tips and ideas on how to save money off your grocery and cleaning bill without bringing any processed food into your house, if you should aspire to do so. It also offers the idea of saving money without using coupons, and other ways for your family to eat healthy while still saving money. You can read the rest of her wonderful article here.

My personal goals are similar to Crystal’s: I try to provide as many homemade meals as possible, and use the processed food we acquire as a treat, not as a staple of our diet. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Four Goals, I’m currently learning how to cook and my focus is entirely on healthy dishes. I’m adding to my cooking repertoire one meal at a time, and I hope that, eventually, dinner every night will include freshly-picked vegetables from my garden.

How to Score Free Stuff- Freebie Websites

Freebie websites are a great resource for helping you save money. Every day a few goodies arrive in my mailbox. In addition to making every trip to the mailbox exciting, freebies can aid you in scoring a plethora of goods without spending a dime!

I’ve been taking advantage of freebie websites for a few months now and I can honestly say that free samples have helped introduce me to some great products. Free samples are wonderful for both the consumer and the company. They allow the company to increase brand recognition, introduce customers to new products, and, often, receive valuable feedback regarding their merchandise. They benefit consumers by allowing them to sample new products for free and, if they’re serious about seeking them out, build a stockpile of goods for very little investment.

There are a couple of items that I haven’t purchased in a few months because I’ve used freebie sites to build a stockpile. These readily available items are: feminine wipes, tampons, small pads of paper (I make grocery shopping lists on these frequently), and drink mixes. These are the items that I’ve found to present themselves most often on freebie web sites. In addition to these items, I’ve also received free food samples, magazines (currently have a six month free subscription to Oprah and Seventeen), cleaning supplies, dog treats, deodorant, makeup, and many other items through the mail.

Here are links to the freebie websites that I most frequently visit:
Free-Stuff-Finder.com
FreeMania.net
TotallyFreeCrap.com

And here’s a great list of the top things that you should stop buying right now.

Do you know of any great freebie websites? If so, please leave them in the comments!

Where to Find Coupons

A few of you curious readers have asked me where I find my coupons. The answer is anywhere and everywhere!

Sources for my coupons include:

Newspapers- Every weekend I purchase one copy of the Sunday paper. In addition to buying this copy, I receive one copy from my mom who is nice enough to save her coupon inserts for me. If you’d rather not spend any money on your newspaper, try taking a walk through your neighborhood the night before recycling comes. I know many couponers have great success with this trick!

Online- The Internet is a great source of coupons! Some of the sites I use to print coupons are:
     Coupons.com
     RedPlum.com

     SmartSource.com
     The website of the brand you’re planning on buying.

***Please keep in mind that some grocery stores do not accept “printable coupons.” It’s always a good idea to keep a copy of your store’s coupon policy on hand.***

Grocery Stores- I get a lot of my coupons from item packages (normally found on the front of a product and able to be peeled off, often referred to as “peelies”), “blinkies” (the blinking dispensers on super market shelves), and advertisement racks (often found near the front of the store). I try to pick up a few of each coupon, even if it’s not on sale. Often, the item that you snagged the coupon for will go on sale before your coupon expires and you’ll be able to get a fantastic deal.

It’s not hard to build a large stockpile of coupons. Trust me, it won’t be long before you’re buried in coupons, and you’ll need some sort of organization system for your coupon collection. I plan on discussing this topic in a future post.

My Introduction to Couponing

At nineteen I learned the power of a coupon. Since I was a little girl, my goals had always involved being a homemaker and a mother. When my husband offered me the opportunity to stay at home, it made sense for me to take him up on his offer. It’s always been my belief that a homemaker should contribute to her household in as many ways as possible. In addition to doing all of the cleaning, cooking, and shopping that is required, I wanted to contribute financially as much as I could.

I always knew that it was possible to save a lot of money with couponing. I’d occasionally see a woman on The Today Show who could walk out of the grocery store with a basket full of food for an incidental expense.  While I never couponed, I tried to take advantage of BOGO (buy one get one free) sales and store-brand items. But, after I tied the knot, I decided to step up my game.

I used the Internet to search for blogs about couponing. It didn’t take long for me to find a plethora of information about coupons organized by other frugal women. Their savings were spectacular!

My first week of couponing went fairly well. Instead of taking advantage of coupon matchups at the supermarket (which I’ll talk about later), I started slow by making use of CVS’s Extra Care Buck deals. The first purchase I ever made with a coupon went as follows:

     Three Scotch Mailers
     Four Candy Bars
     One Starbucks Drink

I remember the total for my shopping trip came to a whopping $0.08. I was floored! Now, these savings look normal (if not paltry), but at the time I was shocked! That small transaction had a strong effect on me. Since that day, every grocery shopping trip I’ve set out on has involved a large stack of coupons.

To show you how far I’ve come, here are some numbers:
Prior to couponing, I had a grocery budget of $300/month for two people. Now, my budget is $80/month for two people and I routinely come in well under my goal. In fact, my grocery shopping is done for the week (9/13- 9/19) and I’ve only spent $14 this month! I anticipate lowering my monthly allowance as I learn more about couponing and have time to figure out what numbers work best for my family.

I plan on making a large Publix shopping trip next week. I’ll make sure to take pictures of my bounty and link to the sites that help me come up with my ideas.

Four Goals

In my last post, I mentioned having four goals that I’d like to accomplish this year. They are, as follows:

  1. Plant and maintain a vegetable garden.
  2. Set aggressive budget goals and stick to them by taking advantage of sales and coupons. I am already significantly accomplished at this goal and I will be writing about this in the upcoming weeks.
  3. Learn how to cook.
  4. Learn how to sew my own clothes.

If you think that you might be able to help me accomplish any of these goals, please e-mail me at CaitlinNMaddox@gmail.com or post a comment on this blog.

An Introduction

The household in which I grew up wasn’t particularly traditional. I remember the excitement that could be felt in our house when my mother would pop a Stouffer’s frozen lasagna in the oven. This, to my brother and to me, was cooking! A meal that wasn’t prepared in a microwave or brought home in a takeout box was a real treat.

My mother is a wonderful woman. She is a self-confident, single woman with an air about her that hints at poise and elegance. Growing up, she worked hard to make sure every Christmas was special and every birthday was memorable. Her dedication to providing her children with happy childhood memories was noble, and she was extremely successful at her goal.

That being said, she is not the most frugal person, nor is she an enthusiastic cook. She never taught me how to bake a loaf of bread or plant a garden or sew a dress or clip a coupon. And now, at nineteen, I find myself married and wishing for a simpler life than the one around me. My goals do not involve a fancy luxury car or the newest designer purse. Instead, my greatest want right now is for a vegetable garden to harvest zucchini and squash.

I realize that I am a fairly uncommon individual. At nineteen, I am married, I have a mortgage, and my husband and I have a significant amount of money saved up for retirement. I can tell that most of my friends find these facts entertaining, but I can’t help by feel out-of-place during our weekly dinners out. While they talk about clubbing, or their college exams, my mind is drifting to the gutters that need to be cleaned and the HOA fees that need to be paid.

And, you know what? I’m okay with being different. I think there is a certain charm to living below your means so that, one day, you will have more than enough to indulge yourself or help out a family member. I am happy to abandon the desire to always have the newest phone or follow the latest fashion. I like the clothes that I buy on the clearance rack and I love the effect my lifestyle has on my bank account!

This blog will document my progress in accomplishing four large goal (blog listing these goals to follow) . It will track my failures and successes and it will showcase information helpful to a person trying to enjoy a simpler life.

 

 

 

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
— Laura Ingalls Wilder