The post where Melanie rambles on and on about whatever’s floating around in her brain. Grab some coffee. You’ll need it.
I’ve been couponing steadily for the last fifteen years or so. It’s so much a part of my life that the tasks surrounding it are much like brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, packing lunches, etc.
Automatic. Routine. Sort of like breathing.
Sunday I head out to the stores on the first day of the sale to shop while the gettin’s good. And on Monday I make my trades so that I can get my coupons in time for local grocery store sales.
Midweek I look ahead to the coupons that are coming out the following weekend. I write a list of the coupons I want and I stick it in my binder.
When I shop, it’s almost never on impulse. I have a list which I stick to. Of course there are unadvertised specials that pop up here and there, but for the most part I get in, out and on my way.
On the days that I have a little more time, I’ll go up and down each aisle to see if there are any new blinkies or peelies. On days like this, the leisurely ones that are few and far between these days, I watch what other shoppers are doing.
Sort of voyeuristic, but I find it fascinating. To see people take things off the shelf and plop it in their cart without glancing at the sale flier, price per unit or the competitor’s offerings. It’s very foreign to my way of life.
Watching people toss into their carts full price bottles of Tide, porterhouse steaks, $4.99 a box cereal, wildly inflated deli foods, $5.99 packages of bacon, well, it all boggles my mind.
The same way I feel when I flip through the television channels and see QVC selling prepackaged meals at some crazy price which people actually purchase. And while I’ve never purchased anything off of the television before, sometimes I like to watch just out of morbid curiosity.
My meal planning, if I could call it that, revolves around the sale fliers. Whole chickens are buy one get one free this week. So tonight it’s forty clove roast chicken and tomorrow chicken enchiladas.
Spinach on special for $1.50 per bag? Then it’s a week that our folic acid count is going to skyrocket after enjoying wilted spinach salads, spinach smoothies, and spinach filled pasta dishes.
I’ve trained my brain to crave the foods that are on sale. This is so much simpler than people realize. If you are only thinking about recipes that feature the sale foods, it’s so much easier to be content with what’s affordable.
My biggest hurdle as a couponer is produce. It’s so unfortunate that the stuff that’s the healthiest for you is so darn expensive. The idea that you have to have money to eat well is very disheartening.
Yes, you can grow your own produce, can it, freeze it, but only if you are able. I am the grim reaper of plants. Try as I may, I kill anything that produces leaves. The only exception to this is herbs. For some reason herbs are impervious to my black thumb.
Therefore, I am at the mercy of what my suburban grocer offers. And I do ok with it for the most part because I know how to make use of most veggies. That kale and collard greens that most people walk by, I can cook it up into something that people will actually want to eat.
But fruit? That’s a different story. Apples, grapes, oranges, are almost a luxury item now. I actually make the kids promise to eat that apple I put in their lunch bags because fruit is quickly becoming a precious commodity.
The idea of an apple or heck, any other food item going into the trash makes me ill. Fruit is hovering around $1.99 to $2.99 a pound, which quickly adds up when you have six mouths to feed.
It’s no wonder that the poor are dealing with serious weight issues. It’s cheaper to eat a candy bar than an apple these days.
Keeping on top of all of this coupon stuff can be exhausting. Because I’ve been doing this for so very long, I expect for the coupon burnout to come. It always does. Right now I’m right in the middle of a raging burnout episode.
Times like this I try to not get too down on myself. What we do requires a lot of work. Constant research and organization, not to mention the actual shopping, it can drain you when you live this lifestyle week after week, and month after month.
Few people can keep up with this way of life. For awhile when Extreme Couponing first came out, it was getting hard to get the deals in my town. The competition was fierce.
Several months of near empty shelves was starting to get to me. But I knew that most newbie couponers, even the ones bit hard by the freebie bug, would not be able to sustain this lifestyle.
Sure enough, as the months have gone by and the show has lost some of its luster, the shelves are not as ravaged anymore.
Free stuff is not as free as people think. Time and energy has value and can be depleted. You need to be truly dedicated to this lifestyle to do it for any sustained period of time.
Couponing is not for the faint of heart.
But for those of us who stick with it, the benefits are clear. We shop smarter. We utilize our resources better. Our dollars stretch further. And hopefully we teach our children to be better stewards as well.
That’s my hope anyway.
How about you? How long have you been couponing? Are you flying high with it or are you in a burnout valley? If you are a newbie, are you allowing yourself to take a break here and there?