Why I don’t do “extreme couponing”

A commenter on my recent “grocery shopping on a budget” post asked me why my way of shopping was better than using the “extreme couponing” method of shopping. Well, I love watching the Extreme Couponing show. Love it! I approve of just about any (legal) way people have found to feed their families without breaking the bank. And I do get caught up in the excitement of wondering if they figured everything out correctly. Did they remember all their coupons? Did they find all the correct brands and flavors and sizes that their coupons were for? Did the store change their coupon policy since this person set up their saving system? I cheer when the bill for hundreds of dollars of groceries ends up being just pennies.

But. (You knew their was a “but”, didn’t you?) But I don’t shop that way.

You remember the old mantra “You are what you eat?” Well, I still believe that. I also believe that the types of foods we choose to eat can (and do) have particular effects on our bodies. Diabetics are told to eat certain amounts of carbs and proteins to keep their blood sugars even. People with vitamin deficiencies are told to eat more of certain kinds of foods to get their levels to balance out. Some research has been done that shows the human body reacts differently to different types of sugars and fats.

Well, I am not diabetic, but I don’t like the “sugar crash” feeling that I can get if I eat too much dessert at the buffet. So maybe I should watch my protein and carb ratios even though I’m not diabetic. And maybe one can avoid a vitamin deficiency by eating a variety of foods to begin with, rather than waiting until after there is a problem to do so. And maybe I should not be eating “new” kinds of sugars and fats until a few generations of research has been done on them to see how the human body truly reacts to them over time.

I also believe that excessive soy consumption can affect your testosterone and estrogen balances. Of course, nobody seems to be able to define “excessive”. So I choose to eat only miniscule amounts of soy. Same with hormones in beef and milk.

Personal story here – my body doesn’t like it when I drink milk. I stopped drinking it about 10 years ago and lost ten pounds in a week. I had been drinking plain skim milk, 8-12 ounces a day, so calories isn’t at fault here. My body reacted badly to the milk. Even now, if I eat too much cheese (like pizza three days in a row) I get really bad body odor. The kind that showering and deodorant doesn’t solve. (Baking soda helps, though.) I wear two types of deodorant and reapply every 12 hours after a few days of cheese.

But that said, I can drink raw milk, and eat raw milk cheese, without those complications. Huh. Gotta be something in the factory farmed, pasteurized and homogenized, stored-in-plastic milk that is affecting me. Not the milk as it comes from the grass-fed cow.

It’s taking me a long time to get to the point. My point is – I don’t eat food I don’t recognize. At least I try not to. If it’s plain food, like an apple or a fish, it’s fine. If it’s processed a little, like lunch meat or pasta, I read the ingredients and decide whether to eat it and it’s OK about half the time. But if there are ingredients I don’t recognize, or ones I do recognize but don’t choose to eat – well, that’s the end of me purchasing that item.

And unfortunately, all those coupons on the extreme couponing shows … they tend to be for those processed, boxed, shelf-stable items with ingredients I can’t recognize or ingredients I won’t put in my body.

Hydrolyzed soy protein? Nope. No soy at all when it can be avoided.
Hydrogenated oils? Nope.
Corn syrup? Not when I can avoid it with an alternative that uses regular sugar from beets or sugarcane.
GMOs? Nope. definitely not. Too bad we don’t require them to be labeled so I could tell. Until we do, I do my best to choose brands I believe are safe, or meat from organically raised animals.
Meat that was fed antibiotics and hormones? Nope. I’m glad some uses of them are prohibited in animals. (No objection to an animal fed antibiotics to help it recover from illness, I just object to routine use and off label use.
Wheat protein isolate? Really? What is wrong with the rest of the wheat kernel? Seriously, just leave it be.

That does mean my life is slightly more complicated. I make my own pancake batter. Not difficult at all, just an extra step for the mornings we want pancakes. But have you tried finding a boxed mix that doesn’t use hydrogenated oils in it? And I’ve stopped making my favorite boxed mix of brownies for the same reason. I don’t get to stock any breakfast bars in my cabinet anymore, because I can’t find any without soy in them. So breakfast takes longer and can’t be eaten in the car while I drive anymore.

Some things I haven’t given up yet. Like Coke. Yummy Coke. I know it’s awful for me. I take comfort in the fact that I drink Coke from Mexico when I can get it – real sugar instead of the fake stuff. I think it tastes better too. And I avoid the diet stuff with its aspartame. I do what I can.

I typed out a long list of food items in that recent blog post of mine. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve seen coupons for only three of them – the egg noodles, the pasta sauce, and the Ranch dressing. (And I may not have seen one for the noodles, since I buy the store brand and not the national brand.) I don’t ever see coupons for fresh vegetables, or fresh meats, or tuna fish. Or milk or bricks of cheese. Or bags of potatoes. Or spices from the bulk bins.

Instead, the coupons are for boxed cereal, canned pastas, heat-and-serve meals, desserts, chips, gummy worms, energy drinks, artificial marinades, cheaply made breads, shredded cheese, laundry detergent, diapers… things like that. Things I just don’t buy. I would have no problem switching to shredded cheese instead of bricked cheese if I could get it cheaper, but I don’t want to give up my homemade meals for ones full of sodium and preservatives, even if they were cheaper or even free.

It’s important to note that this does NOT mean we spend a lot of money on food. Quite the opposite. Whole, natural foods that you prepare and cook yourself are often quite inexpensive. You can read my Grocery shopping on a budget post for details about that.

And so I don’t do extreme couponing. My mother coupons, so she’ll occasionally send me a coupon she finds for sugar, or a natural type of bread, or butcher paper. But that’s pretty much it for coupons for me. They’re a great cost-saving device, IF you eat the items they send out coupons for, which we do not.

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