Running a household these days costs significantly more than it did a generation ago and as Yesha Callahan so eloquently wrote in a recent article on Clutch magazine: “Being poor in 2012 is almost a death sentence.” With the reality of rising unemployment and budget cuts to public assistance programs lingering like a dark cloud over the struggling American public, there’s a reason why housewives have become a little more desperate and the sport of clipping coupons has turned into an all-out challenge where only the strong can survive and thrive.
If you’ve borne witness to the popular show TLC’s Extreme Couponing, a reality series that follows a collective group of shoppers on a mission to drive their grocery bill down to zero with coupons, you’re probably already aware exactly how others are being impacted financially by the current market. This exhilarating and fast-paced show showcases the “shopping skills” of these men and women who go to extreme measures in pursuit of getting extraordinary deals on their groceries. It’s truly incredible to watch these carts filled to the brim with merchandise amount to pennies on the dollar after the patient cashier has scanned in each of the shopper’s pile of coupons.
While I give my hats off to couponers who have adopted the discount culture all in the name of slashing their grocery bills and providing more than enough for their families, I’m not sure if I can completely condone this behavior that compromises on healthy values. According to Yahoo! Finance, coupons helped shoppers save $4.6 billion last year. However, most of these discount deals favored unhealthy foods like sugary cereals and juices. Rarely do I find coupons for discounts on lettuce or a bag of organic Fuji apples.
In my first economics class in college we were told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The cost of those deeply discounted or free products we’ve come to cherish come with a price that may not be worth the nostalgic “free” feeling in the end. For many, this addiction to couponing has become an addictive sport that has prostituted our initial desire to fight hard times with good old fashioned frugality and bootstrapping in exchange for consumerism, capitalism and gluttony.
What exactly are we achieving in retrospect after our coupons are clipped, our pantry’s are stocked and our families and neighbors are fed? What I’m discerning is A praised new behavior that compromises the quality of our health. These stockpiles of processed foods and sugary boxes of diabetes-waiting-to-happen are a matter of marketing genius that continues to grow our waistlines and deteriorate our health. Blindly, we’ve fallen face first into this plan without as much as a blink of the eye. Junk-food brands make more money as we clip away our souls and in the process continue to feed on a fallen system.
As an alternative to developing a dependency on cheap processed foods, let’s not ignore the small yet powerful burgeoning coupon culture of healthy foods. Small brands are often amiss in this space unable to maintain the big budgets to advertise in grocery store circulars and eat the costs associated with subsidizing in-store savings. Popular coupon websites like MamboSprouts, HealtheSavers.com and Ecobunga are dedicated to providing savings on healthy and natural foods which can be printed for in-store use or purchased directly from their website.
Couponing for savings should be reflective of a personal desire to eat better, save money and take advantage of opportunities to try new products. Always read labels for nutritional value and stick to what you normally buy. Before you strike out on your personal mission to save money on your grocery bill by way of coupon clipping, maintain a standard for selecting healthy food options that are worth the discount.