This one post from Heavenly Homemaker pretty much explains what I have been saying and thinking about saving money with coupons. I spent many months frustrating myself because I wasn't seeing the same amazing savings each month as so many of my couponing comrades around me. I was seeing some savings, but I wasn't coming out of stores with less than a $10 balance nearly every shopping trip. I spent hours, sometimes more hours than I would be working if I had a part-time job, trying to get my lists narrowed down so that I was paying as little out-of-pocket as possible.
One day I reached a break through, and I had a nice long stretch of paying very little money for lots of product. We got past the point of having no food in our house and no money with which to buy any more food. Eventually we had shelves stocked with food, and I would still stand back and say I had nothing to feed my family. My shelves were stocked with canned soups, bread crumbs, boxes and boxes of pasta, and numerous other items--the only of which that was getting used on a semi-consistent basis was the pasta. We don't eat canned soups, we rarely use bread crumbs, DH really doesn't like pasta, and many of the other items were things that just seemed useless, but I'd gotten them for free. I refuse to by processed foods for my family (Hamburger Helper type things, freezer dinners, pasta or rice mixes, etc.), and we don't do any unhealthy drinks (under which category I consider Crystal Light because of the artificial sweetener).
I was recently discussing with someone the reasons we seem to see so little savings in comparison to others around us. But it all comes down to what you are willing to eat and what you're willing to feed your family. Really, the only way to come out spending nothing on groceries is to feed your family a bunch of processed foods and beverages loaded with artificial sweetener, artificial coloring, and artificial flavoring. When you're trying to adhere to a special diet, for health reasons or by choice, couponing may not seem as beneficial to you. But be it great or small, I am still saving money.
I believe it is just as important to be good stewards of the bodies God gave us as we are of the money God gave us. We can scrounge for coupons and deals, buy out stock at a store, and hoard a year's supply of product in our homes, but what are we doing to the vessels God gave us to care for? I'm a firm believer that many of the illnesses that surround us today could have been prevented by healthier eating. I am by no means a health-freak. That wouldn't fit within our budget, not mention I don't think the picky eaters in this family could survive such a diet. One way I try to keep my family healthy is that I make nearly everything fresh and/or from scratch. By doing so I may be spending more money on a bag of whole-wheat flour and a block of cheese and some produce than I would on several boxes boxes of frozen pizza, but the flour will go a long way (can't say as much for the cheese--we like a lot on our pizza!), and there aren't any added preservatives in our meal. And with three dozen boxes of pasta on the shelf, why on earth do I need a few dozen boxes of hamburger helper when I could make the mix from scratch without the astronomical amounts of sodium? Fruit may be a bit pricey, but it's definitely much healthier than a package of congealed, fruit flavored, dinosaurs or Doras.
We hear all the time about the rise of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but the American people seem to push these warning to a back shelf as if they are invincible. My jaw hits the floor every time I pick up a box of prepackaged food just to look at the nutritional facts and I see the sodium content. Sodium in prepackaged foods (as well as what is sprinkled on to the food after it has been prepared!) is just as life threatening to our children as sugar. (Here is one report I read regarding sodium in American diets.)
But it's not just a matter of what we are feeding our families now. But consider what habits our children are learning and forming. True, we may be teaching them frugality. We may be teaching them to give to others from the surplus. But what about the eating habits our children are forming? If we start our children at such young ages with the habit of eating such unhealthy foods, what are we teaching our children about caring for our bodies, not just our bank accounts? They have very little hope of making it to their adult years without blood pressure issues--especially if there is already heart disease in their family. And before throwing out the excuse that no one in your family has heart disease or diabetes, realize that of the millions of Americans who now find themselves with one or both of those conditions, prior to diagnosis they could have said the same thing.
By no means am I saying don't be a crazy couponer, but I would like to challenge my couponing comrades to think a little bit about the items you're saving money on. You may be saving money now, but is it costing the life of yourself or someone in your family?