In this video a reporter follows a mother of six who uses coupons to cut her weekly food budget to one dollar.
The video shows her picking out three items:
- Fish. She buys 7 packages of 1/4 pound each, using 7 coupons to take a dollar off of each package, bringing her total to zero.
- Some kind of processed dinner in a box, like macaroni and cheese (YouTube keeps stopping after 1:28 and I was only able to watch the rest once so I’m not 100% sure).
- A free candle from the drugstore.
The view of her pantry nearly gave me a heart attack. It was full of toilet paper, paper towels, and shelf upon shelf of processed food. She says she got it all for free. But at what cost to her family’s health? If she looked at the ingredients, she might see all of the “extras” she is getting in preservatives, starches, fats and low-quality grains along with her free groceries.
The fish looks like a good choice but I wanted to see the rest of the items in her cart. Did she have coupons for eggs, legumes, produce dairy products or whole grains? Generally, only items with an identifiable brand have coupons and they tend to be the ones with a big markup. They also tend to be for new products, not staples.
I also wondered how much of that food will expire before she uses it up.
Maybe it’s sour grapes, because I don’t have access to such good coupons. But many items sold with coupons are things I wouldn’t bring into my house. Coupons can be an important way of stretching a budget, as long as you use them for things you would buy anyway and that contribute to a balanced diet for your family. But you can take coupon-shopping too far.
Michael Pollan has suggested that Americans spend too little on food, settling for lower quality in order to have more money for consumer goods. I don’t know this family’s income, but based on this video (which may give an inaccurate picture) I suggest she look to cut expenses elsewhere.
Hat tip: Lion of Zion
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