“What am I putting in my grocery bag?
This is the question that I left you with in Part 1 (sorry for leaving you hanging…), the question that started dancing around my head a few months ago when I came out of the fog of “coupon world” mania.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love coupons and deals- they can save a ton of money (just today I bought $30+ worth of items at Rite Aid for $4 after coupons and rebates, a savings of 87%!). I can’t imagine not using them now that I know how to maximize the savings. Sometimes I can’t believe I use to think $1.50 was a good price for toothpaste.
And I think I was fooling myself a bit, because even when I started couponing last year, I would never buy canned frostings or rice side dishes or even glucose meters, no matter how enticing they sounded: “hey- you can make money! What? You don’t need them- donate them!”
And speaking of the donating issue, I don’t know about you, but if I were in a tough place and needed food from a pantry, I would be pretty disappointed to get muffin mixes, fruit snacks, and canned frostings. To me, this ranks right up there with sending used tea bags to missionaries- if I wouldn’t eat or use them, why would I want others to eat/use them? What does that say about me? Am I holding others up before myself? Better to donate items these people NEED (just like me!) like beans, dairy, and vegetables.
OK, down from the soapbox…
It took awhile for me to realize the things I was letting into our house that I had never bought before (or not for many years) because I was looking at the whole deal and the end product: how much I could save. So, no matter how embarrassing, here’s a list of the things that I’ve purchased that I wish I hadn’t (what I can remember anyway…):
- Fruit snacks. OK, just one box, one time, but hello? we’re trying to stay away from corn syrup and dyes and this is about their only ingredients! But I just needed one more $1.50 item that had a good coupon to finish the “buy $25, get $10 catalina” deal…
- Nutrigrain bars. Boy they sound healthy, don’t they? I’m sorry to say I didn’t even look at the ingredients in the store (another catalina deal fogging the brain) and bought two boxes of these. I did look when I got home- the FIRST ingredient is high fructose corn syrup…
- Fiber One toaster pastries. I know, I know, I succumbed…what can I say? That I thought the fiber would outweigh the pastry part? Again, it was to round out one of those catalina deals. Seems to be a little pattern here…
- All Bran Crackers (there was another brand, but I’ve forgotten now). These had some incredible $1.50/1 Internet coupons a couple months ago, making for some cheap crackers. However, they are laden with preservatives and a long list of ingredients, so never again. (Thank goodness for Triscuits, just wheat, oil and salt, although the oil is soy…)
- Cereals with BHT added to the packaging. I hadn’t bought these for a long time (why do some do this when others use vitamin E?), but they are always part of deals and I was able to get cereals for pennies. My kids really appreciated this.
What was I thinking? Well, I did get my food bill down lower than I ever thought. But I’m out of the “fog” now and don’t want to do the deals anymore that rely on buying these items I don’t want.
So if that’s the answer to what I’ve been putting in my bag, I have to ask myself a new question, Can I put the things I want in my grocery bag and STILL keep my food bill lower than I ever thought?
That’s my challenge to myself for the new year. I’m going to look into bulk buying, raising more ourselves, and finding some consistent places I can go to for good-quality, reasonably priced food. We’ll also be making choices (or rather I will be making the choices- my family would be happy to eat Doritos regularly), on the variety of things we eat. I’ll look for more things I can make easily. I think it can be done.
What do you think?