My kids have a deep-seated fascination with the show Extreme Couponing. They find it wildly humorous that someone would want to buy four flats of toilet paper that requires a small forklift to load into the car.
I find it wildly humorous that someone would want to buy 52 boxes of "free" kitty litter when they don't even own a cat. I also find it disturbing that someone is willing to dedicate nine hours of their life to a single marketing trip, not including the time spent collecting coupons. I think if I was stuck in the market for nine hours, I might hurt myself ... or someone else.
I love saving money as much as the next guy, but that kind of obsessive deal hunting really requires the time and effort I just don't have. However, I do use coupons from time to time.
I understand that there are always fluctuations in the prices that grocers say they pass on to you, but what I don't understand is how, for example, a box of cereal can be $5.99 one week and then sold for 2/$5 the next. Quite frankly, I would prefer that markets just consistently offer the product for a fair and reasonable price and eliminate all the weekly detective work to find the best price.
That being said, coupons can be a very good deal, provided you are buying products that you really will use and enjoy. They can be especially valuable when you plan your shopping to coincide with the above mentioned sale.
For example, when a box of $5.99 cereal goes on sale at 2/$5 and you have a 75-cent-off coupon, assuming your market doubles the coupon, that $6 box of cereal will cost you a dollar, about an 83 percent saving. Suddenly, clipping coupons seems like a good time investment.
Manufacturers want you to try and, they hope, like a product enough that you will buy it again without a coupon.
Some companies don't even offer coupons, figuring they have a good or unique enough product that people will want, whether or not there is a discount.
A case in point. My family really enjoys "name-brand" sweet potato fries that cost $4.99 for a 20-ounce bag. I have been whining a lot lately about my ever-increasing market bill, and this bag of fries has become the fall guy.
With two teenagers in the house and a husband who is always asking for seconds, we will plow through most of two bags. And there is always excess. One bag isn't enough; two bags is too much. That means I'm spending $10 on something that is only a portion of a meal I've planned. It's enough to send me over the edge.
Lately, I've been pulling a fast one on my unsuspecting brood. I admit it. I'm cheating by making imposter garlic sweet potato fries. And the best part about it is that I actually can make a larger portion for less money. Yesterday I bought a 1 1/2-pound sweet potato that I artfully cut up and baked, for $2.53 (not including the cost of a tablespoon of olive oil and a clove of garlic).
Clipping coupons or making something from scratch: Both are time investments, but one has greater returns.
Oven Baked Garlic Sweet Potato Fries
- 1 large sweet potato (or about 1.5 pounds worth)*
- 1 clove pressed garlic
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is preheating, pour one or two tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl and add one clove pressed garlic (or one cube of the frozen garlic).
Cut a large sweet potato in half (leave the skin on). Take each half and cut into french fry-size wedges and place in a bowl. Pour garlic oil over the wedges and toss to coat evenly.
Place wedges onto a nonstick baking sheet and sprinkle with fresh ground salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and serve immediately.
For an added gourmet touch, you can top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese or fresh parsley flakes.
* If you prefer your potatoes crisper, try using a baking potato instead of a sweet potato.