Coupons and Health – Reader Question

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on January 27, 2011

Angela has a great question, one that I’ve heard time and time again…

I know that I need to coupon and be wise with the money God has entrusted to us, but what about health? I am very heath conscious and aware of the chemicals and poor nutritional content in so many grocery store products. How can I find a balance of saving and putting healthy food in my family’s bodies?

Thank you for asking such a wonderful question Angela!  I, too, ask myself this question all the time!

First, I advise people to use coupons for toiletries and household items, leaving more room in their grocery budget for fresh produce, fresh meats and any organic products that you can afford. I don’t spend much on dishwashing detergent (see my year’s supply here), or household cleaners, and I don’t pay for toothpaste or deodorant.  Paying as little as possible for these kinds of products on your grocery list will allow you to spend your grocery dollars on the best and greatest food ingredients.

Second, settle in on an amount for your grocery budget that is a challenge, but still allows you to purchase the healthy foods and ingredients that your family needs. For our family, it ranges between $60-$75/week, depending on our latest situation.  For example, we are dealing with having to fatten up Tyler (quick update…he has gained 1/2 lb since November.  It’s not much, but it’s something!) as well as figuring out his food intolerances.  Although he hasn’t been officially tested, we have discovered that he is allergic/intolerant to both dairy and soy products.

Third, be on the lookout for coupons for organic products, for fresh produce and for fresh meats. While these coupons are not as common as coupons for more processed foods, they are out there.  I do my best to share them here on the site.  You can also search for coupons in my coupon database. And you can write to the manufacturer asking them for coupons for a specific product.  Most companies will respond favorably.

Last, you have to find that balance that works for your family. Do what’s best for you, for your budget, and for your family’s specific health needs.

Your turn!  What are your thoughts?!  How do you balance couponing, your health and your budget?!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly January 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

I actually do not use a whole lot of coupons, but I am able to keep my groceries within my budget of $375 for 6 of us. We no longer eat processed foods, except on a very rare occasion. The key that I have found is really watching sales and stocking up on fresh meats when they are on sale. This is something that Erin promotes here on the website. If you want to stay within budget and stay healthy, you have to stock up on healthy items when they are on sale and plan your meals around what you have on hand and what is on sale. Making things from scratch helps, especially convenience items, and of course meal planning! Meal planning is key! Erin has great printables available and great menu items on her website and her cookbooks. All that has helped me stay within budget. It can take some practice and time to workout what is best for your family, but it is soooo worth it in the end to know you are staying in budget and eating healthy! :)

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Jennifer January 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

We also use coupons primarily to buy toiletries, hygiene products and home care goods. There are also coupons that come out for things that we buy on a regular basis that are also healthy for our family – yogurt, cheese, cereal, milk, eggs. When there are amazing deals, I also use coupons to purchase things that my family doesn’t eat or use and then we donate them to the local food bank. Just because we don’t use them doesn’t mean other families couldn’t or wouldn’t.

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Tabitha (A Penny Saved) January 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I think the temptation is to stock up on the products which come available for free (with coupons) but if you notice, most of these are the convenience “no-no” foods. No matter what bargain you find on processed foods, they are not a deal if you end up losing your health. We shop the perimeter of the store as much as possible to avoid these items.

I did an entire series on clean eating because I feel it is so important. Yes, you end up making everything (or almost everything) from scratch but it is worth it to me.

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Alison January 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I do all the couponing to get the stuff that is free or makes money for the transaction whether for household items or food. It often helps to get toothpaste, lightbulbs and other things for free but I believe that it really helps with the groceries too. I feel that it has really helped me to try new things for my family because you have to be more creative when you get saffron rice instead of normal rice that you are used to using. I follow Weight Watchers (most of the time) and get lots of great stuff to cook from scratch and still get healthy meals. I guess everyone has their different definition of health for their family but I like making things from scratch. I don’t mind if my family is eating cookies, as long as they are made by my hands. I do use some prepared foods to cut corners on busy days sometimes so that I don’t have to splurge and eat out which is always less healthy. Not everyone is fit for couponing but it has helped me be able to quit my job and stay home with my son so I will stay with it :)

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Dawn January 27, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I actually get coupons in the mail from Target for produce. Although it may be $1 off, it’s $1 keep in my pocket. :) By only buying what is on sale and couponing, we have slashed our grocery bill almost in half! Even hubby is getting into it! :)
Thanks Erin for the great website that has inspired us.

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LisaE January 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

Skip all the boxed foods from noodles with chemical packets….opps, I mean seasoning packets, to boxed cake/brownie mixes…..all those “convenience” foods are loaded with chemicals and preservatives that, IMO, are not fit for human consumption. This also includes those nasty cans of cream of junk soup and cool whip. It is much healthier to make mixes and such from scratch and the added bonus of knowing what is in your food.

Stock up on whole grains-invest in a water/bug proof bin, if needed. Buy meats on sale and freeze. Remember, when stockpiling at first your grocery bill will be higher but stockpile slowly so you do not use all disposable income on this.

I use coupons almost every week but not for any Hamburger helper stuff or pillsbury biscuit stuff. Like others, I mostly use coupons for H&B products but there are coupons for canned tomatoes, olive oil, pasta, ect….be choosy on what coupons you use on what products.

Good luck!

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Brandis @ Stir Crazy January 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I agree with everything everyone else has said. I don’t use my health and beauty, either, though, and I still do use some coupons. I am as diligent about the chemicals in my home and beauty items as I am about the chemicals in my food, so unless there are coupons for products I am okay with (like last weekend’s seventh generation coupons!) HB coupons aren’t much help for me. But I save money in that area anyway buy using vinegar to clean pretty much everything:)

I use coupons for canned tomatoes, rice, whole wheat pasta, produce, baking items, spices, meats, oatmeal, cereal (which we don’t eat much, and always healthy cereal), dried fruit… those kinds of things. Any time there is a coupon for one of those items I buy at least 4 papers (as long as the savings is higher than the cost of the papers…) so I can stock up when prices are at their lowest. Then I shop the sales, and spend a good portion of my budget stocking up on meats and healthy foods that are on sale. The rest I spend on produce and baking items. I agree about the cream soups and those kinds of things- it’s so easy to get the same affect of cream soup from a little butter, flour, and milk (and seasonings of choice). So many things can easily be made from scratch and are healthier and SO much cheaper- biscuits, for example. Yes, I could buy canned biscuits, but I can also mix up from scratch ones easily in the amount of time it takes the oven to preheat.

I also consider myself a steward of my time, though. I try to make homemade stuff from scratch in big batches and freeze extra so I can save myself time. And I keep my coupon clipping to those that I KNOW I will use and that are worthwhile (is anyone else annoyed by the $.25 Folgers coupons? I never even clip them…). That way I don’t spend three or four hours clipping and filing coupons each week when I would rather be spending time with my family.

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Julia January 31, 2011 at 11:41 am

Hey Erin, I just came across your blog when googling “how to fatten up a baby” and coincidentally it is our youngest (also named Tyler) who we are trying to fattening up.

I am needing all the help we can get. We have been having to force feed Ty for almost 2 months now. His weight was at 75% @ 4 months, 50% @ 6 months, and at his 9 month check he was barely @ 25%. We have to go in again to do a weigh-in next week and I’m not looking forward to it because he has only gained 2 oz in a month, putting him at the 10th percentile. URGH!

Could you email me so we can exchange notes? I’ve searched your blog for updates and any/everything you have done but found much. Thanks.

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