Couponing seems to be the "next new thing" that moms are getting into. I see advertisements regularly for couponing seminars and it seems to always find its way as one of the topics of conversation when moms get together. I often hear "we are saving 50-75% off of our grocery budget...isn't that amazing?!"
Now to all you mamas who looooove your couponing, just know that I am not condemning you or sayin' that you shouldn't or whatever. I am just sharing my own experience and observations here. And yes, I do enjoy a good deal and yes, we do have 7 people in our family, and yes, we do live on one-income! So I know the pressure to provide well for my family and to use my money wisely...but I just don't think couponing fits that bill for us.
I have always been a fan of my grocery store Publix. It is very family-friendly, clean, offers high-quality foods, and is environmentally conscious. Years ago I committed to shopping there and never looked back.
But it's changed.
Shelves are regularly cleared out when items are "buy one get one free". My grocery list usually ends up having about 5 items that I am unable to purchase because they have been completely cleared out by those who want the deal along with stacking their coupons on it. Shoppers who never entered Publix doors because of their higher prices now flock there to use their coupons. The store used to have an atmosphere like their slogan: "where shopping is a pleasure". Now the environment feels like one of competition and greed. The other day I watched five women race down aisles with their grocery store list print-out with stacks of coupons paper-clipped to them. It was exhausting to watch. A feeding frenzy, I tell you.
And I wonder if the preparation that it takes to get all of these deals at different grocery stores and pharmacies depletes gas and time and emotional energy? Does it feel addictive and as if you could never go back to simply buying the product at regular price because that would somehow be wrong? Or irresponsible? Or heaven forbid, a poor steward? Yikes.
Does it take time away from the mental energy we need for creative pursuits? Painting, gardening, sewing, writing, photography, scrap-booking, cooking? Does it tempt us to focus our lives on money or on "winning" or "beating the system"? These are just questions I am asking and pondering.
Another problem that I see with it is that the consumer is allowing the grocery stores/companies that produce the coupons to dictate and control what you are buying. Most coupons are for processed foods that are very unhealthy and addictive. I know that some moms only use the couponing method for items that they would normally buy, but you can't tell me that the temptation is not there to scoop up "the deal" when you are looking at a pack of cookies for mere cents. These companies are pushing you towards their products by offering you coupons and making it hard-to-resist. I want to make my own choices as to what we eat and not be financially manipulated towards sub-par products.
Most foods that are truly healthy don't have all those gimmicks attached...fresh fruits and veggies, clean meats, whole grains, organic dairy products...sometimes, but rarely. It costs money to support local and organic. Good things typically don't come cheaply. There IS a price-tag to ethical and conscious consumption, but isn't it worth it?
I had a talk with the Assistant Manager at Publix about it all. He said that in his 25 years of being in the grocery business this is the biggest challenge he has ever faced. He says in that many ways it is as if they are now a wholesale purchasing club and the couponing/swap-meet phenomenon is only beginning to really pick up steam. Oh how I miss the simplicity of Muzak, slow shopping, and well-stocked shelves!
May we all enjoy a good deal...but not with a price-tag that may appear low, but in the end is actually very high because it robs us of our health, our time, and our mental/emotional energy.
And now I am off to make my farmers' market plan...