Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coupon or not to coupon?

I've read articles about Coupon Queens; I've heard about TV shows that showcase extreme couponers. You probably have, too. So - do I use coupons? Should you?

The short answers are: occasionally, and maybe.

The thing about coupons is that they're trying to sell you something by making that something a little less expensive. The hope of the marketer is that once you've tried their product, you'll either like it well enough to buy it again (full price) or you'll recognize it and buy it out of habit. They probably don't care which.

I have a few problems with coupons. For example, I might find a coupon for, say, Cascade dishwashing powder. Swell, right? I mean, I use my dishwasher. According to my mother, I come darn near to violating the laws of physics or the universe or something with the kinds of things I run through my dishwasher. However, the store brand of detergent works just fine for me, and is less expensive than Cascade, even with the coupon. It's always tempting to use the coupon for the rush of getting something less expensively, so ALWAYS do the math!

As another example, let's say I want to serve potatoes for dinner. I might find a coupon for Betty Crocker Potatoes au Gratin, but I seriously doubt I'll find a coupon for a 10-pound bag of spuds. I can't even say that I "prefer" spuds... it would never enter my direst nightmares to use a simulated food-like substance like boxed potatoes. I shudder at the very thought. There's another coupon that's useless to me.

A corollary to the boxed potato example is that if the item is not something you'd buy and USE anyway, getting it with a coupon is no savings at all.

However, very rarely, I blunder across a coupon for something I actually want. Sometimes it's for an ingredient (chocolate chips, say) and other times it's for something like Milano cookies or Pepperidge Farm cheddar goldfish. Oh, how I love those fish! Then I'll dance for joy and use the coupon.

Best of all is when you can use a coupon for something that's on special at your local store - if I have a coupon for $1 off two packages of Milanos, and my store has them buy one, get one free... I'm golden! Also, some stores in certain places double the value of coupons. Around here, coupons under $1 are routinely doubled, and periodically the stores will have a few "double your $1 coupon" coupons in their weekly flyers. Those are really nice if you have a coupon for your favorite... whatever - toothpaste, cookie, other brand name treasure.

My final thought on this is this: it's almost ALWAYS less expensive to buy ingredients than to buy whatever products are offered on coupons. I'd rather buy chicken, broccoli, and cheese, and make my own chicken/broccoli alfredo than buy a frozen dinner with those ingredients. I'd rather buy flour, butter, and sugar, and make my own cookies than buy Keebler's cookies. The added benefit there is that I know that there is no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated fats in what my family and I are eating. Yes, actual cooking does require a modicum of planning, some time, and a very little bit of skill. It's so worth it! My mother always says that if you can read, you can cook. I'm inclined to believe her - but I'm understandably biased. But honestly, friends - it just ain't that hard to chuck a few things into my crock pot! Cooking is a life skill, and I encourage everyone to learn it and practice it.

Is anyone interested in recipes? I don't think of anything I make as especially fancy, but as I always tell guests, nobody starves in my house.

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