I happened to see my first episode of TLC's Extreme Couponing recently. I was amazed at the amount of money these people actually save on various groceries and paper products. Bills of $300 were zipped down to less that $75. Pretty impressive when you see that many coupons having an impact like that. So impressive that classes on extreme couponing are cropping up all over the place. One of my niece's announced on facebook that she couldn't wait for her first class.
Aside from the obvious cash savings, is couponing really worth the effort? Some of these people on the TV show were clipping and organizing coupons and ads as a full-time job. That's a lot of time with scissors!
I am fine with people buying massive amounts of paper towels, toothpaste, and toilet paper at tremendous savings if they have the storage room. The Extreme Couponing stars I saw had converted bedroom and office space into storage for all their bargains. Not something I'm willing to do, but fine for them.
On the plus side, coupon experts do keep their math skills and brains sharp as they calculate all those savings. It could be that extreme couponing may help diminish risk of dementia, like the brain games Sudoku and crossword puzzles may. I like the Dad on the show who had his son using math to calculate coupon savings as he learned the family couponing craft. Father son time, and bringing math skills to life. Quality time together.
What I question is what effect buying huge volumes of packaged and processed foods has on health. Carts loaded with Ramen noodles, pancake mix, mac & cheese, cake mixes and frosting, a.k.a.,white flour, sodium and sugar, all to be stored ready for use at home. I noticed that all the coupon experts appeared overweight or obese on the episode I watched. Could there be a correlation?
Ideally, 2/3 of your grocery cart should be filled with fruits and vegetables, not Ramen noodles. I wonder just how much grocery money couponers have left for healthy foods? Not many coupons are issued for healthier foods like oranges, low fat milk, fish or broccoli.
I think this may boil down to the concept of a bargain. If you have the paper towels you like to use on sale and a coupon that doubles, that's definitely a bargain. But, buying food is different. You need to consider the nutritional bang for the buck: the nutrient density of a food, or how many vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytonutrients are in the food per calorie. Red bell peppers and carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, fiber and other great nutrients with very few calories; they are high in nutrient density. They should be considered a bargain.
On the other hand, consider Ramen noodles, Oreos, or potato chips. All three are loaded with calories and sodium, with almost no redeeming nutrients; they're very low in nutrient density. Even on sale with coupons that double, these should not be viewed a bargain, especially not one to stockpile in your home. If they are purchased in bulk, do people have a tendency to eat more? Does that lead to an increase in weight and weight related health issues? If so, they are anything but a bargain!
The bottom line on couponing is to look deeper that just the price tag on the food and the coupons you have. Be sure to consider how foods you bring into your home have an impact on what you eat, how much you eat, and your overall health and wellness.