Why I'm Not A Coupon Queen

by Katy on October 14, 2008 · 19 comments


I was given a copy of Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette when I was on maternity leave with my now ten-year-old son.

It changed my life.

This book saved my family countless thousands of dollars through the years.

One thing I disagreed with though, was the author’s stance on coupons. She wrote that:

“Most food coupons are for convenience foods. Often the foods are more processed. Even when these items can be purchased cheaply, it should be considered that your family is acquiring a taste for these more expensive and less healthful items.”

How could she say that?!

I loved using coupons! I snagged extra Sunday circulars at work, and hoarded the Safeway double coupons.

It was pretty normal for my grocery receipt to show a 40% savings most every trip.

But then our income went up, and I let the coupon use dwindle, until it became an occasional endeavor.

I’ve been reading that the current economic crisis had seen a sharp increase in coupon usage. And that sparked an old hobby. Perhaps I should ramp the coupon use back up again. After all, there were no internet coupons ten-years-ago. It might be a way to tighten our belt that much more.

So I pulled out the glossy coupon circulars from the Sunday paper this week and grabbed a nice, sharp pair of scissors. I turned page after page without finding a single coupon for an item I would normally buy.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.


But I figured it out. Ten years ago I bought a lot of prepackaged food. My goal for feeding my family was to spend as little money as possible. Always. These goals have changed. Yes, I want to spend as little as possible, but it’s more important to serve healthy, fresh, local food. 

And frankly, there are no coupons for this type of shopping.

So I put my scissors away, and tossed the coupons into the recycling.

And I no longer need to feel like I’m missing out on potential money savings.

And I now agree with Amy Dacycyzn.

Agree? Disagree? Please share your coupon philosophy in the comments section below. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Shymom October 15, 2008 at 5:07 am

I find that my biggest savings for coupons is for things like pet and health and beauty products.


Mary C October 15, 2008 at 5:51 am

I can’t ever find coupons for ‘food’ items I use either. I make most my own cleaning products so I can’t use those either.
I do use them on toiletries and if I am going to a store or shopping online, I Google the store to see if there are any coupon codes before I buy.


jinger October 15, 2008 at 6:05 am

I agree! There never seem to be coupons for the food items I buy since I make everything from scratch and buy few cleaning products. Where are the coupons for fresh produce, baking supplies, and dairy?


Suellen October 15, 2008 at 7:42 am

I agree. I go through the coupons every Sunday, and sometimes come up with one I can use! I too am trying to get away from all the pre-packaged stuff, and that’s what the coupons are all about!


John October 15, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Well you know I’m prejudiced since I have a coupon site for online shoppers. There are gobs of coupon sites now, but many like to practice the ole shell game. 🙂


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 15, 2008 at 4:07 pm

I swear, you and I are on the same brain-wave sometimes with our blogs. I just mentioned this the other day on my blog, and I’m going to do a few posts on coupons this week. I use them some, but they’re not a pillar of my grocery shopping strategy.


Andy October 15, 2008 at 4:23 pm

If coupons don’t help, you shop at the wrong place. I buy from a co-op that puts out quarterly coupon books, and usually about 5 of the coupons are for things I regularly buy, and about 5 more are for things that I would buy because the coupon made them cheaper than whichever alternative I was buying. I don’t fall for it though and then continue to buy the overpriced good afterwards, which is I believe the game the industry hopes for.


MAM October 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

I buy a lot of store brands. They’re usually cheaper than National Brand+Coupon. For items that I’m picky about the brand, I keep an eye out for the coupon, but the item is just as likely to be on special at the grocery store or Target at some point.



Linda October 15, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I used to use a lot of coupons too. That was back when coupons were doubled & I too bought lots of prepackaged stuff. The last couple of years I’ve started paying more attention to what I’m feeding my family, trying to buy more fresh food & doing more cooking from scratch. I don’t find many coupons I can use anymore and even the coupons for things like flour & sugar don’t save enough to buy the name brand over the store brand.


Meg October 15, 2008 at 10:31 pm

I don’t use coupons much at all, either! I totally agree with Amy Dacyczyn (and on just about everything in her book, too, lol).

I make most of my own cleaners. I buy most food from a locally-owned, and very reasonably priced grocery store where I buy mostly fresh produce, dry food by weight from bins, and locally made foods. And pretty much everything else I’m so specific about that it’s just about impossible to find coupons for things when I need them. So, I figure the few cents I might lose here or there aren’t bad for the time I save, not to mention the temptation of all that extra marketing.

However, I do try to check online for coupon codes when making online purchases more than a certain amount. I love RetailMeNot.com and other sites like that. I only check them after I’ve decided what I’m buying, though, so they don’t tempt me into buying other things (though they still get me to buy more sometimes).

Recently, I used on online code to my advantage in a unaffiliated offline store. When buying a couch in a brick-and-mortar store, I found it online from another company for about the same price, but I also found a coupon for the online store that would have knocked the price down a bit. Even though the nearby store had originally said that the price was the best they could do, I returned with the pricing info, played the poker face, and and got the couch at a lower price : D I’ve also been able to pit online stores against each other. But like couponing, it’s got to be worth my time.


alexis October 15, 2008 at 11:28 pm

You totally read my mind! I was thinking the exact same thing after listening to a bit on NPR the other day about coupons and their potential savings. This is precisely why I’ve never used them. We don’t eat Rice-a-Roni or frozen dinners or much of any of the “inner aisle” products. I’ve yet to see a coupon for fresh produce.

People might be saving hundreds of dollars in their grocery budget, but what were they spending before the coupons? I would be willing to bet that those of us who plan healthy meals and shop according to our lists are likely to be spending on par with what the coupon clippers are spending after their savings. That would be an interesting bit of research. I should call NPR…


Tommie October 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm

We’re about to come into the only weeks of the year when you will find coupons for basics like flour, milk and eggs. Keep an eye out for them.

Like many of you, I used to used coupons a lot too. Gradually I quit they just don’t put them out for the basics very often. Pet foods and toiletries are about the only worthwhile ones that show up with the weekly newspapers.

One the other hand, I had a college professor who was very anti-coupon. She felt it would be better if the manufacture just reduced the price for everyone. Of course the manufacturers are betting on a low rate of coupon usage.


thepennypincher October 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm

I rarely find any useful coupons either. What does help from time to time are the “member rewards” at my local supermarket. Because I have their “rewards” card (free and you get points) I can sometimes save money on what I buy by comparing prices and seeing whether they have any specials for “members.” If it is something I would regularly buy, if it is really cheaper than other brands (based on weight or volume) and if it is comparable quality, then I can usually save a bit of money by keeping an eye out to see what is one the shelves. Easier than clipping coupons and I usually save on goods that I usually buy (unprocessed foods and the basics).


dairyfreemom October 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Hi Katy,

I just stumbled onto your blog by accident, and I really enjoy it.

Anyway, I (like all the other commenters so far) also have a hard time finding useful coupons, but for anyone living in the Southeast and expecting a baby soon, Publix (a local grocery store) has a free baby club that mails out coupons every 3 months or so for things like $1 off any dairy product, produce, meat, or deli item (all the good perimeter stuff). I signed up when I was pregnant with both of my children, so I’ve had 4 years of these coupons! (They send them out for the first 2 years of the kid’s life.) Just thought I would pass that along!


Joy October 18, 2008 at 12:54 pm

I agree! I just had this same thought while flipping through the weekend paper this afternoon. “Hmm, I should see if there are any coupons or sale items this week before I go shopping.” Well, there was nothing in the sale section that I would buy as we are trying to buy as much local/organic food as possible. I’d rather cut corners in other places on our grocery bill–like trying to cook more from scratch and using less packaged foods.


Deborah Kafoury October 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I agree that the coupons in the newspaper are worthless, however, the Chinook Book (Portland & Seattle), BlueSky Guide (Minn./St. Paul) and EcoMetro Guide (East Bay, CA) are books full of coupons for eco-friendly goods and services.


Susan October 22, 2008 at 4:49 pm

I really enjoy your blog. You’ve made me do some serious thinking which is starting to turn into action. Our more frugal lifestyle was prompted by a huge downturn in income, but now has become almost second nature.

I hate coupons! There. I said it. They’re like mini-ads. Try this new thingy! And eat this; it’s like chocolate sawdust, only cheaper! I don’t use them unless it’s for something I’m already buying anyway.

Keep up the good work! I bought some great clothes at Goodwill in Olympia the other day and thought of you. I originally priced the khaki pants at the Gap for around $50. I got them for less than $3. Huzzah!


Rona September 2, 2010 at 10:41 am

Well I for one Love coupons. The trick is to focus on the things you would normally use. Yes it is easy to get caught up in buying things for the sake of a coupon but I dont let the coupons dictate me what my purchases will be. I buy what I would normally buy unless its absolutley free then I give it away or donate it. I also dont cut them every week I simply label them with a date and put them in a pile unless I know it is something I will absolutley use. There are so many couponing sites all you have to do is check them out. We have all these great people that do all the work for you. All you have to do is a quick read for the store of your choice. They will tell you what paper the coupon is in and the date then you can just go back and clip what you need instead of spending days trying to do the match-ups yourself. I do agree every person has there own style of shopping if we all did the same thing the world would be a boring place. =D


Lake Livin' May 28, 2016 at 5:49 am

I recently discovered your blog and am working my way through the archives. I use coupons when I see them for items I use.I also do not buy a lot of packages items, but I always find a few coupons for things I buy like:

Rice (plain brown rice not Rice-a-Roni type items), bags of jasmine rice, eggs (I buy Eggland’s Best organic), almond milk, bread (yes, I buy bread), cereal & granola bars (lots of Kashi & Cascadian Organic coupons out there), dried fruit, canned fruit (supplements the kids’ lunches when I run out of fresh fruit. I only grocery shop every 2-3 weeks and the fresh fruit is usually gone after 1-1.5 weeks), orange juice, cheese, items like big tubs of yogurt /sour cream/cottage cheese/ricotta), lunch meat, bacon, pickles, condiments, and of course things like toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, vitamins, deodorant, etc.

And sometimes I’ll find coupons for $ off milk or produce in conjunction with another product (like cereal).


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