The Couponer’s Diet: A Cautionary Tale
Two years ago I became a Stay At Home Mom. My husband got a new job that paid well enough (if he worked a million hours a week) for me to be home with our 4 kids. It wasn’t going to be luxurious, but we would be able to get by. Creating a budget (and sticking to it), ditching steep daycare costs, and couponing, among other frugal endeavors seemed to be good ideas to help us maintain our lifestyle. So far, so good.
I had never couponed before. Occasionally, I would see a printed coupon generously left by a couponing samaritan on the shelf and would snag the savings. Other than that, I was a couponing virgin. I never clipped or printed coupons. I never perused the weekly sales fliers, never visited couponing sites or blogs. I had no concept of the savings available. I didn’t understand how coupons worked. I’d heard some stores in my area doubled coupons but with quantity and transaction restrictions? How did people keep all these coupon rules straight? I’d never had the time to invest in trying to save money before between working outside the home and playing Mom.
After a few weeks of being home I had completely embraced couponing. I was amazed by all the savings available on brand websites, Facebook pages, and couponing sites. I was buying multiple Sunday newspapers and asking family and friends for their unwanted inserts. I quickly figured out the details of how couponing worked, the jargon, the best way to get the most for my husband’s hard earned dollar.
After almost a year of serious couponing, I had a nice little stockpile going and was proudly sharing my “saving” trips with friends. I even conquered the drug stores. After my first trip to Walgreens with coupons, I came home with over $40.00 worth of Right Guard for Men bodywash and deodorant for free. It was my “Ah Ha” moment. That trip led to the beginning of this very blog.
Using coupons has saved us a ton of money. Our food costs could be astronomical with 6 family members (including one teenage boy), but because of coupons we are able to save that money for other necessities and even a few luxuries like DirecTv.
That being said, about 6 months ago something came to light. My 3 girls (ages 10, 7, and 3) had their annual physicals. I usually try to schedule them all together, right in a row…to avoid multiple trips to the doctor’s office. At the end of the appointment, I was stunned to learn that all 3 of the girls had a more than slight bump in their weight chart. It was substantial enough for their pediatrican to ask if there had been any big changes in their diets. It seemed crazy to me that all 3 of them had gained weight? I agreed to be more aware of the menu plan at home and to encourage a little more physical activity and also made a follow up “weigh-in” appointment in 6 months to see if there were any weight changes.
The next week I was making my grocery shopping list with my coupons at hand and focused a little more on what I was buying. I had some great coupons that week that would double making for extraordinary savings. Boxed meals for just $.25, bottled juice for $.75, and cereal for $1.00 a box, were just a few of the items on my list. While a serving here or there of these type of processed foods isn’t a big deal, I wondered. I was pretty sure my couponing habit was making our family fat.
I had gotten a little bit carried away with savings. I was so excited to be buying brand name chips for 1/3 of the price, 6 packs of soda for $1.50, and frozen pies for under $2.00, I didn’t realize how much processed, artificial, and preservative ridden food I was bringing home. The kids (and my own) weight gain was the proof. So we made some changes. Less processed foods, more fresh options. less boxed goodies, more natural products…and a little more physical activity.
I’m happy to report that at our follow up appointment, all three of my girls had actually lost a few pounds (they had also had some kind of crazy height growth spurt) so their charts evened out nicely. It was really gratifying to see those results. Couponing really can affect the kind of foods you stock your cupboards with and ultimately what kind of diet you feed your family. What I learned? I still coupon, I still save money. But, I do it a lot smarter now with a different priority. It’s not just about saving money. It’s about getting the best foods for your family for less.
The fact is: If I buy it, we eat it. If there is fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, and other healthy options, that’s what we eat. If the cupboards are stacked with boxed meals, bags of chips, and sugary snacks, guess what? We eat that. With my new awareness of coupons, I am making big changes and instead of buying 4 boxes of that one dish meal maker at $.25 a box, I skip it. Just because it’s a great deal, doesn’t mean we need it. So, the lesson here? Take a second to think about not just the money you are saving while clipping coupons, but also what you are getting for your savings.