Couponing, healthy-style

I like the idea of saving money at the grocery store.

I don’t get all excited about stores paying ME to shop, and I know ultra-couponers often have that happen. I also don’t get excited about acquiring stuff we don’t need, just because it’s free. But I hated to think I was paying more for things we eat, just because I wasn’t willing to do a little homework before hitting the store. This has been nagging at the back of my mind for quite a long time.

What if couponing was able to shave big money off our grocery bill each month? What if I was throwing money down the drain?

So finally, I heeded the siren call of couponing and gave it an honest shot just to see if it was a good fit for our family. Here is what I discovered:

  • There ARE coupons for healthy food. I saved money on canned beans, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, hummus, soy milk, bagged spinach and romaine, boxes of clementines, and orange juice.
  • The VAST majority of coupons are for foods we just don’t eat. Scrolling past pages and pages of processed food on couponing sites was mind-dumbing and frustrating, and it actually started to make me think the “less processed” versions of food were more acceptable by comparison.
  • That being said, I liked the ability to get super inexpensive items to donate to charity, like pasta (free with coupon) and canned chili (10 cents a can).
  • We don’t use a lot of toiletries. For diapers, wipes, and toilet paper, we buy at Costco (using their coupons when they come). We seriously only go through a tube of toothpaste a year and a bottle of shampoo twice a year. So couponing for toiletries, except to donate to charity, doesn’t make sense for our family.
  • I found I was investing time (precious!) and effort into printing, cutting, and paperclipping coupons I fully planned on using, only to have the store be out of the item, or to not make it to the store before the sale ended, or to realize the item on sale at the store wasn’t an exact match to the requirements of the coupon.

In conclusion, I hated it. It was nice to save money when the stars aligned, but coupons for healthy food are hard to find and I feel like my time is better spent elsewhere. Also, every time I grocery shop it’s with two patient little girls. By the time I’m done hunting down and matching items, their patience (and mine!) is wearing thin.

I was encouraged to read this post today by a very frugal mother of 10 who decided couponing wasn’t for her either. Her observations about “finding her own” way apply to a lot of areas of my life. I tend to want to look at how others do things, and then I get frustrated that their way doesn’t work for me.

Yet when I look at the things that really work for our family, they usually end up being things I came up with all on my own, or maybe they are based on something I observed in someone else’s family but I adapted them quite a bit. And that’s ok!

As that wise mother puts it: “I’m doing enough. I don’t have to get all angst-y about lifestyle choices that don’t suit me.” 🙂

About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Healthy Eating, I am a mother, Life as we know it. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Couponing, healthy-style

  1. Kathryn says:

    I have been through that very same experience. I would find a coupon for maybe 1 item out of 100 items. I am grateful to live in Seattle where there are so many organic grocery stores and farmer’s markets to shop at. Also I can get organic fruit/veggies delivered to me every week which actually saves me money and makes me get creative with my cooking.


  2. mavis says:

    I’m a heavy couponer… this year our family is only spending $100 a month for all our food & toiletries. I cook dinner every night and pack my kids lunches daily and am amazed at how much food (processed and not) that I can get for free each week. For me… it’s about being able to pay it forward… and to donate all the extra items I get thru food banks and my kids sporting events. It’s true there are not as many coupons for “healthy” foods… after all have you ever seen coupons for carrots & squash? Not likely. Even though I don’t keep everything I pick up for free… it’s a hobby I enjoy… just like running or gardening.


    • beanland says:

      Oh absolutely, if it’s enjoyable for you… more power to you! That’s amazing you can stay under $100 each month. Wow. I spend well over that on produce alone, though, and you’re right: no coupons for squash. 😦


  3. Susana Downer says:


    I am not very good at following blogs but whenever I get a chance to read yours I am always amazed. You are really awesome & I love your ability to put your thoughts into words. I hope one day when I grow up I become a little more like you.


  4. Angie Kelly says:

    I’m catching up on your blog 🙂 I feel the same about coupons. Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to do that.


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