Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Couponing-Keeping America fat???

From previous posts on my blog, it's obvious that I used to enjoy practice couponing. Eventually times got hard for my family and I nixed the newspaper subscription, thereby eliminating the source from which I got most of my coupons. Now I'm not going to lie or mislead, I did save money while I was couponing, but the cost savings are not that great when you consider what I was actually feeding my family. 

I'm not some crazy health nut now or anything...I mean, it's not the end of the world if I, God forbid, make brownies from a box! However, seeing what some people pick up while couponing has opened my eyes to something-It's ALL JUNK. 

For this example, I look to someone I know personally. This person is rather proud of their accomplishment, walking away saving $XX by using coupons. That's *awesome*, but they scored chips, oil, chocolate, sugary cereal, ice cream, bread with zero nutritional value, cookies, and crackers on ONE shopping trip. I understand they're super proud of their purchase, but enjoy your heart attack, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and higher risk for obesity. 

I may sound critical right now, but I'm MEANING to sound critical right now. The USDA estimates that a healthier diet could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs and the Centers for Disease Control claim that the government spends 1,000 times more treating disease than preventing it (National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, 2010). Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, which most but not all of us Americans are involved in right now, can lead directly to chronic disease later in life. Chronic disease means more healthcare dollars spent, more stress, and a decreased quality of life when we're older (or even NOW). 

It's not fair for me to give the impression that all coupons are bad or evil, but coupons are a marketing strategy...manufacturers put them out in the hopes that offering a small amount of savings will encourage people to buy their products. Guess works! The latest NCH study shows that coupon use has indeed increased sales on products where coupons are offered, not only successfully creating new customers, but increasing brand loyalty and brand awareness. Additionally, coupons allow manufacturers to create so-called "tie-ins" and motivate purchases that don't involve the use of a coupon (NCH, n.d.).

Just a quick search of coupons available reveal mainly processed foods like chips, cookies, instant oatmeal, and cereal. There are also coupons for paper products, diapers, and personal hygiene products. Yes, both types of coupons get used, and no I don't see an issue with using coupons to get discounts on things like laundry detergent. My concern is that with couponing being SO unbelievably popular right now, we are beginning to eat increasingly unhealthy food. Not only are we eating more unhealthy foods, but we're generally eating MORE of them. There are a lot of couponers out there that stockpile goods like cake/cookie/brownie mixes, frosting, packaged mashed potato mixes, and cereals. Either these things will expire, or people will eat it up. 

Okay, it's not bad to save money and the reality is that people buy products like this anyway. My real bone to pick is with manufacturers...why won't they offer coupons on healthy food? Although I have seen some deals for things like salad mix, bulk fruit, and semi-healthy yogurts, it feels like coupons for really healthy products are just few and far between. I still stand by my opinion that coupons are making us fatter. We are buying unhealthy food in massive quantities, more than likely related to the fact that we can get such great deals with sales and coupons. But is it really saving us any money in the long-run? What about doctor's visits, costs of prescriptions for preventable diseases or ailments, and a deteriorating quality of life? Either way, most coupons issued are for unhealthy products. I suppose it's buyer beware, right?!

National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity. (2010). National health priorities briefing book. Retrieved June 13, 2012 from 

NCH Marketing. (n.d.). NCH annual coupon facts. Retrieved June 13, 2012, from