Going Green With Coupons

couponsIt’s no secret that one of my passions is finding ways for the every day family to Go Green.  But I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to turn my household upside down.  That would have been counterproductive and the effort would have been short-lived.

So I decided to make the journey one small step at a time, allowing my family to more easily make the transition.  Once one particular habit was established, I was able to move onto the next step.

Something that I hear quite often is that people have a desire to Go Green, but they’re concerned about sticking to a budget.  This is especially true in the area of groceries and household needs.

If you purchase your local Sunday paper, you will likely find an entire section devoted to coupons.  Manufacturers spend an enormous amount of money creating colorful, eye catching coupons in hopes that people will clip them and use them.  My mother and mother-in-law have been doing this for years and they swear by the savings.

Recently, I happened to catch an episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC.  The episode featured a woman who takes clipping the newspaper coupons to an entirely new level.

While I was fascinated by her ability to buy hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for less than $20.00, the entire premise made me very uncomfortable for a couple of reasons:

First of all, she had shelves and shelves in her garage filled with pre-packaged food items and various toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.).  While it’s great to be prepared, part of the Going Green concept is only using what you need and minimizing the amount of packaging you purchase.  If her intention was to donate all of these items to a local food bank, I would be her biggest cheerleader.  However, I was left with the impression that her goal was about “beating the system” by acquiring a lot, while spending little.

My second issue was that the majority of the food items were pre-packaged foods filled with preservatives, GMO’s and chemicals.  Part of the green lifestyle is eating foods (as much as possible) that are whole and natural.  I saw rows and rows of yellow cake mix, macaroni and cheese, and canned spaghetti.

My final issue was the amount of paper that was being wasted in this effort.  The lady featured on this episode had the help of both her parents, her husband and a brother.  They were all sitting around the living room surrounded by stacks and stacks of newspapers.

I sat there hoping that all of that paper was going to be recycled.  But judging by some of the other practices I witnessed during the episode, I definitely had my doubts.  I found the whole process very wasteful and sad.

I want to be clear that I am not against coupons or saving money.  I have a family as well and saving green is only second to going green.  But I think there are better ways to go about it.

If you have certain products that you buy on a regular basis, Google the company’s website and see if they list online coupons.  More and more manufacturing companies are trying to cut corners as well and purchasing space in newspapers and magazines is expensive, especially if you consider that not all of the newspapers may be sold and not all of the coupons are going to be clipped.

Use websites like Groupon, or here in the Chicago area, Spealo.  These companies work with merchants who want to offer deals on everything from food, entertainment, travel and more.  Many of these deals would not be offered in print.

Shop online.  More and more people are turning to the Internet for their shopping needs.  They understand the convenience of online shopping and many companies offer deals to the online customers that are not offered in store.

Do a Google search for coupon sites.  One I especially like is Qpon Junkie.  You can find coupon “codes” for products from your favorite stores and no printing is required.

Given the economic downturn of the past several years, most families will need to employ whatever means necessary to save money in their budgets.  That’s a given.  But it is possible to use these methods without a negative impact on the environment.


18 responses to “Going Green With Coupons

  1. I completely agree with you. I really don’t like those coupon shows for all the reasons you stated. It’s just gluttony. They need new ‘hobbies’. Great post and I’ll be sure to share it! Check out my eco blog http://www.greenkick.ca when you have a chance. All the best! Michele.

  2. Thank you! Someone else who feels the same way about the waste! Extreme couponing is the big trend right now. These people drive me crazy! I don’t see the advantage of buying so much to just have sitting around your house. Not to mention the fact that they have ruined it for the regular people like me who are trying hard to keep our family afloat by cutting as much as we can from our groceries every two weeks-stores and manufacturers are changing the rules to keep these people from taking advantage, and hurting us in the process.

    I love to save money, but I have made a lot of compromises this year for my family’s health. So I really don’t use all that many coupons any more. I am buying the Sunday paper less and less, because I just don’t think the coupons are worth it. Most of the foods we buy are whole foods that are not prepackaged (for example, bulk pasta and flour from the co-op), or we buy store brands. I am happy that Method has coupons regularly on the Target website-one of the few natural products that has coupons. I haven’t had much luck with the ones I have tried to find, most of them you have to hope they are in the paper. I think the newspaper industry does that to keep people like me buying a paper every week.

    And going green has been something that I’ve been doing gradually-since we are on an extremely tight budget I do what I can. This next pay period I am going to invest in some mesh produce bags that I saw at Hy-Vee. It’s something that I’ll only have to purchase occasionally, but it will cut down on waste.

    • All very good points. I firmly believe that going green should be a gradual process. Otherwise, it can seem overwhelming and difficult and then you give up. One baby step at a time. And I agree – the excess isn’t good for anyone!!

  3. I definitely agree on your argument on coupons. I have always used coupons, but not ever that extreme as you saw on TV. I used to take the local paper, but I cancelled it and now just print my coupons online and cut them out. So, I not only doing it online, but I am only printing out the ones I know I am going to use. Thanks for the article.

    Angie@ WAH Families Live Green

  4. There is something to think about! I have seen this show a while back on some channel where they were featuring a couponing lady and how she was keen on collecting coupons and saving money while shopping. But when they showed her pantry stacked with tonnes of food items, I couldn’t quite understand the point there- is she really saving money with the coupons on essential stuff or is she buying certain things that she won’t even buy under normal circumstances, just because she has a coupon for that? Ha!

    • I know right? It’s like this whole competitive shopping thing. I hate going in for what I “need”….let alone spending time in there buying a bunch of stuff just because there’s a coupon. These people just got off the bus from Crazy Town!!

  5. You know, I never thought about extreme couponing that way but it is true! There really is so much waste and chemical filled foods that are being purchased. I used to do the coupon thing, but not on that level, and even I found most of the coupons to be of no use to me because I try not to use a lot of convenience foods.

    • My mother-in-law used to give me TONS of coupons every week. I know it was her way of “helping” but these were foods (and that is a questionable term) I would never buy. I had to very gently ask her to stop. It was a waste of her time and a LOT of paper!!

  6. You can find SO many coupons online! I actually prefer online shopping for this reason–and you save more time, money and gas (not to mention sanity when you have kids at home! ;) ). Go green!

  7. While I think those shows are entertaining to watch, I don’t like the motives behind these super coupon-ers. It’s all about having their stash, even of products they don’t even use (like the lady who had stacks of diapers, but had no kids!). It would be one thing to donate what they have, but as you pointed out, it’s all pre-packaged food that isn’t very good for anyone to eat in large quantities. I like to print out coupons online for things that I use like almond milk, cheese, salad & snacks for the kids.

    • I think the “entertainment value” must be why those shows are still on the air. There really is no educational value there whatsoever. And it’s shameful to stock pile items when so many people are in need. I have no issue with the occasional coupon for an item you truly want and need – but whenever possible, I use an online coupon code. The “extreme” couponing just turns me off!

  8. Thanks for the post, I agree with you. We’ve been trying to grow our own fruits and vegetables. Wish us luck!

  9. I wish that I was more coupon savvy! I think the problem is that if it’s not on my list, I won’t buy it…that means even if it’s the best deal ever. I think I need to work on my flexibility, I think. :)

    • There is nothing wrong with that. I am against buying anything that you won’t use. The whole point is that instead of cutting coupons aimlessly, find deals on items you use and, when possible, find them online. You are definitely on the right track.

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