I read a lot about couponing, and how to do it efficiently, and how, with effective use of coupons, a family of 10 can dine well for $6 a week, etc. One of my favorite bloggers went hardcore with coupons in the early winter, and I admire very greatly the amount of stuff she’s able to get for a relatively small total bill. I love browsing the coupon websites that promise totals in the pennies, rather than the hundreds.
I’m just not convinced it’s workable for us.
The instant Coupon Devotee response is, “Of course it’s workable! Look how you can get all this free stuff, and save big bucks!”
I may have to sit down with one and have her review what we need. I may actually be an impossible coupon challenge.
We buy ingredients, not processed foods.
Our food budget goes mainly for unprocessed foods: raw veg and fruit, single-ingredient bulk purchases, bulk packages of regional meats, regional cheese and dairy. How often do plain, un-sauced frozen veggies get a coupon? Or regular old flour? Or in-season fruits and veg? I read ingredients labels; we buy things my kids can easily spell and pronounce, and that’s it. (Aside from peanut butter, and if I were not such a Slacker Mom with a thing for Jif PB, we could get the real, fresh-ground stuff in the bulk section, but I am a Slacker Mom, and I like the extra salt and chemicals in Jif.) When we do buy canned or frozen veggies, they’re regional and store brand, which, on the things we like best, are about half the cost of name-brand, so already below coupon prices, and less if there’s a good case-goods sale on. We do take advantage of sales cycles, and buy when our needed ingredients are at a low point, but the things we eat don’t come with incentives or coupons or rebates, typically.
We’ve found one (inexpensive, non-name-brand) laundry soap my delicate-skinned girls can tolerate (and I’m considering making our own soap, which will cut that $5 a month total in half, no coupons needed, and no extra chemicals involved.) I get Ajax for the tub in huge canisters at the dollar store already, and we get some really nice Yardley’s soap there, too (English Lavender and Lemon Verbena… yum!) I don’t buy other cleaning supplies; bulk baking soda handles most things, and a bit of vinegar takes care of the rest. We smell nice, and are quite sanitary, I promise.
Scanning those coupon circulars, I’m seeing a lot of name-brand and a lot of processed, packaged things. Things I don’t want to have, even if they’re free. Things we don’t like to eat. Things I can’t spray around my house, not if I enjoy breathing. Things I could prepare at home, with better flavor and texture and quality and nutrition. And I don’t have to clip anything, or plan differently, to do it. Getting things I don’t want and can’t use, even if they’re free, doesn’t strike me as a beneficial thing.
Taking a look at my most recent trip through the grocery store, we spent $150. This provides food and other necessities for between two and three weeks at our house; usually, I’m working with a budget of $80 to $100 a week for the six of us, and that does need to include cleaning supplies, toiletries, and hygiene products.
The only items for which I could potentially find coupons (but for which I have not been able to locate coupons in the last few shopping trips) include:
- Vlassic pickles… but a half-gallon of pickles for $2.98 is a pretty good deal, even without a coupon.
- Jif peanut butter. $4 for the big jars is very normal, so getting a dollar off of those would be lovely.
- Our favorite toilet tissue (with mid-20th century pipes and a toilet-training 3-year-old… well, the septic-safe tissue just works best!)
- Toothpaste (though I already find it for under $1 a tube… can we get it lower if we’re willing to go name-brand?)
- Girly Supplies… I’d dearly love to save money on those Most Dreadful Supplies, but I’m fiercely brand-loyal, and my brand doesn’t “do” coupons. Which bites. I have fifteen more years to endure, based on family history, and the thought of shelling out another $1500 between now and menopause just makes me annoyed. So maybe I’ll search harder for coupons. Would it be weird to buy a life-time supply if I could do it wholesale?
Any dollars and cents I can shave off the totals can be put toward building the back-up pantry (food storage!)… or that bulk purchase of Girly Supplies. They’re small. They’ll fit under my bed, I’m sure.
I know clipping and using coupons is one of the big strategies for living within a budget… I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get down to “The Store Owes ME Money!” point, however.
Still, if a bit of effort will save me $10 a month, which can be funneled toward storage and stocking up, that’s a nice thing. Ten dollars is the equivalent of two dinners, or a month’s supply of toilet paper, or an entire bucket of flour in storage, or one of those nifty fat-catching spouted cups that would be really hand for making gravy. Couponing could be worth it!
I just kind of… doubt it.