thoughts on groceries: using coupons

I still haven’t totally worked out my opinion about using coupons at the grocery store, but I am greatly inclined to agree with Trent at The Simple Dollar: using coupons often ends up costing you more money. If you base your grocery shopping around your coupons, you end up buying name-brand stuff that you didn’t really want that’s not on sale just to get $1 off, when really you could have bought the generic brand, a brand on sale, or something healthier for the same price.

I would absolutely love to be proven wrong on this, but thus far I have not been able to see a huge value in using a lot of grocery coupons. I followed one blog for about a year in which the author chronicled her weekly grocery shopping trips and how much she saved at the store. The reason I have not been inspired to follow suit is that the foods she ended up with were things like soda, chips, hot dogs, and lots of other stuff that really lacks in nutrition. She saves a ton of money every month, probably spending less than $50 total on groceries, and yet I can’t bring myself to feed my family that way. Like I’ve said before, we try to eat primarily organic foods, and our meals are usually based around fruits and vegetables. I find it more useful to buy cheap organic produce from Fred Meyer, cheap healthy chicken from Costco, cheap organic beef from independent farmers, and cheap organic grain foods (pasta, bread, rice) from Costco than to hunt down coupons for the less-healthy, higher-priced equivalents of these items at other stores.

That said, I do use coupons whenever they are applicable to me. Costco doesn’t accept manufacturer’s coupons, but they do have coupon books that come out every few months and I make it a point to use those. Parents magazine has coupons now and then for 20% off diaper orders on Amazon, so I am able to stack the subscribe-and-save with the 20% off to get Seventh Generation diapers for cheap. Fred Meyer often has in-store coupons as well as stackable brand coupons for things like organic cereals and pasta sauce, so I use those when available. Usually though, I just buy according to the sales, and I think that is working out pretty well for the kinds of foods we want to eat.

The one area in which I need to start seeking out printable online grocery coupons is dairy. I would really like to begin getting raw milk, but I have been meaning to do that for a while and for now we are still just buying expensive organic grocery store milk. I know there are $1 off coupons for that if only I could remember to find them. I get cheap healthy-ish yogurt and cheese from Costco, and pasture butter from Pilgrim’s or Azure Standard, but we haven’t been eating other dairy because I haven’t been able to find good prices for it yet. Maybe I should get going on that.

To differentiate grocery coupons from all other coupons, though, I should add that I absolutely love to use coupons in other areas. We use an Entertainment book or Restaurant.com coupons whenever we go out. I have begun using Groupon – carefully, though, to make sure that I don’t buy something I wasn’t already planning to buy. I click on eBates before buying things at most online sites; so far that has given us $49.90 in cash back rewards. I click on His Place Church before buying on Amazon, as a small fraction of what I spend then goes back to the church.

But back to the subject. That’s where I am at with grocery coupons. What about you? Have you found that using grocery coupons has saved you money without compromising your nutrition?

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Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 11:37 am  Comments (4)  

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  1. I actually have found that using coupons saves us money without compromising on nutrition. BUT we eat a little differently than you, in that we aim for whole, healthy ingredients without a lot of additives, more than organic. So, for example, for cold cereal we will buy Shredded Wheat (contains only about 4 ingredients, all whole-food). We’ve been able to get it for .50-$1.00 per box by using coupons PAIRED WITH A SALE. That’s the key for us. We know the rock bottom price for items we regularly use, then save our coupons till the item hits rock bottom, then stock up. So we may buy 15 boxes of cereal at the same time, and spend $10-$15 just on that. Your budget has to flexible enough that you can stock up when the time is right. If you do this, you will always be able to get name brand for far less than the generic. Items we’ve got for free or almost free using coupons are things like razors, floss, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. I’ve also been able to score organic milk at Safeway for around $1 per 1/2 gallon at by pairing a coupon with a “reduced price” sticker because it was going to expire within the next 7 days. Same thing with a lot of the dairy products at Safeway. I haven’t found as many coupons for organic foods, though. So coupons may not be worth the time and effort (and it does take a significant amount of time to do it right) for you. But that’s been my experience.

  2. Thanks, Josie! That’s exactly what I was asking about. Where do you find coupons for Shredded Wheat?

  3. The main place I have found high-value coupons for shredded wheat are printed inside the boxes of the original (big huge rectangle) shredded wheat. Lower value coupons can almost always be printed out online at smartsource.com or redplum.com. (The coupons are for “Post” brand cereals). Also, from the coupon inserts of the sunday paper if I can get one from someone. Every so often the Post website will have printable coupons, too. Every so often high value coupons can be found from those places, but they are usually low. Also, you can print multiple times for those websites. Just hit ‘print’ then use the back button, and hit ‘print’ again. It usually allows you to print 3 times before you’ve maxed out the coupon.

  4. Great post – captures my concerns really well. And, Josie, your comments are right on the money. However, I have been really successful using The Grocery Game website – with one teenager and two nearly teens in my house, just saving money on all the laundry detergent, and health and beauty supplies is well worth it. The Grocery Game website also has a message board with a thread for folks who prefer to buy organic products – and they have lots of helpful tips. I agree with going to websites as a great strategy for getting the coupons you need – I get coupons from Earthbound Organic for their products, for example.

    Just found your blog – I’m looking forward to checking in regularly.


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