Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eating “Real Food” and Using Coupons–Can you do it?

I happened to check facebook while I was sitting in the car waiting for Steve Tuesday afternoon.  It was then that I had a friend of mine (in real life) make this comment in her status update. 

“Extreme couponing only works if you eat chemical laden, processed food. No thanks.”

I tried to reply as quickly as I could -

“Not true. There are coupons for items such as frozen vegetables and fruit on a regular basis. Organic manufacturers such as Stonyfield offer coupons on their website. I also use coupons regularly for toiletry items not just for my family but to also donate items to local shelters.”

There of course was a series of comments and one of them went on to say to me,

“I would like to see you do an experiment. Couponing while eating only real food (with real being defined as fewer than 5 ingredients I can both pronounce and identify).” 

Challenge accepted!

I decided to quickly go through my pantry, fridge, and freezer and look for things that I had on hand that I bought with sale and coupons that met the criteria for “real food”.

This is a sampling of what I had on hand:



There are more items that could have been included in the picture.  Let’s take a look at what I pulled out.

  • Almonds
  • Smart Balance Peanut Butter – this is a natural peanut butter the only ingredients listed are peanuts, evaporated cane juice, natural oil blend (palm fruit & flaxseed oils), salt, molasses
  • Canned Vegetables
    • Corn – Golden Whole Grain Corn, Water, Salt
    • Diced Tomatoes – Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Salt, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride (the citric acid is added to the tomatoes for acidity and to prevent botulism, the calcium chloride is to maintain the firmness of the tomatoes)
  • Canned Beans
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk – just milk and sugar
  • Canned fruit
  • Sour cream
  • Canola oil
  • Olive Oil and Vinegar – lots of uses, but also work as a substitute for salad dressing and marinades.
  • Spices, Herbs, and Extracts – I pulled out my salt, poppy seeds, and vanilla extract
  • Oatmeal – just 100% whole grain oats
  • Frozen vegetables – I don’t buy the ones with sauces, the only ingredient on the bag was green beans.  I actually prefer frozen vegetables to canned because they don’t have any salt added to them.
  • String Cheese
  • Blocks of Cheese –  I try to buy the blocks if I can find the type I want that way.  It is usually less expensive per ounce if you buy the block.  The shredded cheese also has other ingredients added to it to keep it from caking.  I also buy the white cheddar, the orange has food coloring.
  • Butter
  • Whole Grain Pasta
  • Rice
  • Whole Bean Coffee
  • Tea Bags

I could have pulled out other things like flour, sugar, and other baking supplies.  By keeping these items on hand you don’t have to rely on mixes that are filled with other things.  (I do have my share of mixes in my pantry.  I keep them on hand to use in a pinch.)

I actually did not have any commercially frozen fruit in my freezer to grab.  The majority of my frozen fruit is from what we picked and stored while it was at it’s lowest price during the summer.  The same was true about applesauce.  You can buy natural applesauce with coupons.  I have gallons of of applesauce on hand because we make and can our own every fall.

I have purchased fresh fruit and produce with coupons. There is a coupon right now for $0.50/1 Dole Salad Kit (just join the salad circle).  I also got Cutie’s Clementines for less with a sale and coupon this winter. 

I also missed grabbing milk and eggs.  You can find coupons for organic milk from the manufacturers.  I just ran out of eggs or else I would have remembered to grab those – there are coupons available for Eggland’s Best the “regular ones” and the cage free eggs several times a year in the Sunday paper.

The bottom line is that you can shop with coupons for things that aren’t loaded with chemicals and preservatives and that are “real food”.  It is also possible that by purchasing these everyday pantry and fridge items on sale and with a coupon that you allow yourself enough wiggle room in your budget to buy things like organic produce or meat. 

I do want to end with this last thought.  We all have different priorities in what we buy, what we we feed our families (either at home or in a restaurant), and how we spend or save our money.  If you are going to leave a comment please be kind or else it probably won’t be published. 

Thanks for reading.  I know there are other things that are “real foods” and have coupons available that I didn’t include.  I would love to hear what other items you have in your home that would qualify. 



Norah said...

Thank you for sharing this. It frustrates me when people look at me crazy when I suggest they use coupons, because they assume you can only get "junk" with coupons. Somebody's gotta show them the facts! :) Great job and thank you so much for sharing all your hard work!

Stacey said...

Wish they would do a 'reasonable' couponing show rather than the extreme...I do believe most of that stuff is junk. Thanks for educating everyone on 'real' couponing!

Candace said...

Ann- You're the best! I try to tell people all the time that there are coupons out there for just about everything. It's important to remember that if you only shop at WHOLE FOODS, go to customer service and ask for the coupon book. They have them sitting right up front! If you only eat organic, call the number on the back of the box, or carton and ASK for them to mail you coupons...they will! Even if you refuse to coupon, mainly, it's just important to be conscience of prices, sales, etc. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. (Apples in the fall, strawberries in the summer...etc.) Watch the sales. It is quite frustrating when people say, "I don't coupon because there are only coupons for junk". That's a junk comment, and I appreciate you helping to educate people. I just think some people are looking for a reason not save money. That's confusing to me, but that's okay to me too. Smart people finish rich...and healthy.

Ann said...

Thanks to all of you for your positive comments.

I agree with you Candace that even if you don't want to use coupons knowing what a good price is for items that you buy on a regular basis - like chicken or beef and buying produce when it is in season and at its lowest price.

There are lots of coupons for organic products from the manufacturers and also from sites like

SuzyQpon said...

I have faced this same attitude on many occasions. I generally point out that with my HBA budget being GREATLY reduced, I can now afford many healthy options such as organic meats and produce. While the coupons for such things are few and far between, you can get them sometimes too. I've had a couple of coupons for Driscolls berries, Coleman organic meats and Laura's Lean Beef products. As well as Horizon Dairy, Organic Valley and Stonyfield as you pointed out. I think something that a lot of people don't realize is that "couponing" is not solely about using a paper coupon - it's a lifestyle. Buying on sale, stocking up when things are at rock bottom, picking your own fruit, growing your own food, shopping farmer's markets, etc. While we might not be able to always do ALL of those, "couponing" is the process of doing what you can to save where you can! I wish Extreme Couponing had never aired - it has fueled people's misconceptions about couponing. I don't strive to get $1000 worth of items for $5. I am happy when I can get QUALITY merchandise for less. Example: I went to Whole Foods this past week and paid $80.89 for $122.50 worth of merchandise. Is that a TV worthy total? No. That said, I bought organic, natural products at 1/3 off by doing a little bit of due diligence - matching sales w/Whole Foods coupons and manufacturer's coupons. My philosophy is simple "Why pay full price (for anything!) when you don't have to?!?!"

Ann said...

I agree with you SuzyQpon. Thanks for your comment. I have also shared the same motto for years - Why pay more than you have to? :)