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Are Coupons a Rip-Off?

There's been quite a few articles in magazines, websites, and interviews recently about people that got almost all their groceries for free with coupons.  This is nice to think about, but is it fact? 

Probably not for most people.  For the average person trying to feed their family a good diet, coupons can be a trap, if not used intelligently.  Used with care, they can save a bit of cash, and the old saying, "Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves" while not exactly true, has certain validity.

Why do manufacturers offer coupons?  To get you to try their products, of course, leading to suspicions that you wouldn't buy the item unless tempted into it.  Why?  Sometimes it's not real live food, but highly processed over-salted or sugary items.  This is where a manufacturer makes big bucks, and where you can save cash and eat healthier by doing the processing yourself.

For an example, a .25˘ for Pringles; you find Pringles on sale at $ 1.50.  Less the coupon, that's $ 1.25 for the package.  Theoretically, after removing the salt and fat, one is paying well over $4.00 a pound for potatoes!  For $1.25 at most grocery stores, one can buy three to five pounds of potatoes.  Potatoes were recently on sale at our local Winn Dixie for .20˘ a pound.  To compare, even with the coupons, the Pringles will cost over 20 times as much as plain potatoes.

Think what one can do with a raw potato:  microwave, bake, scallop, boil, mash, make soup...    It takes about 8 minutes or so to microwave a scrubbed potato with skin on, then smash with a little butter, salt and pepper.  Or sneak green stuff into your family's diet with Broccoli Stuffed Baked Potatoes.  I'd rather have this than Pringles any time.  

Another example; a coupon for frozen diced onion.  Pound for pound, thisn costs a whole bunch more that raw, whole onions.  I keep small zip lock freezer bags in the door of my freezer; if I have a part of an onion or pepper, instead of leaving it to possibly go to waste in the fridge, I dice it and throw it into the bag.  When I need a small amount in a hurry, or make soup, there's some already diced.  Savings?  Quite a bit.

Many coupons are for fast food, prepared pockets or wraps to microwave, toaster foods, snacks, pre-cooked heatables, or boilable bags.  Many of these are loaded with salt and sugar, chemical preservatives and fat.  If looking to save money and eat MUCH healthier, here's the place to start.  Fix it yourself and portion pack.  Find shortcuts to making your own food.   

So, are all coupons a rip-off?  Definitely not.  Canned or bottled goods you normally buy, coupons on a box or in a package for something you buy anyway, anything you would gladly pay full price for.  Any coupons on an item that you purchase frequently is valuable.  Otherwise you may be better off buying real food - fresh produce, or bulk frozen food you cook yourself. 

Note that one thing the interviews and articles never go into, is exactly what is in that shopping cart of nearly free items.  There's a good reason why.  Conclusion:  use all the coupons you can, but only if it's for something you would get anyway, for something you are really enthusiastic about trying, for healthy food, or offer a really substantial savings.

Do you use coupons?  What's your opinion?  Let's see it!

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