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stretch your dollars

Stretch your Dollar: Coupons

Coupons aren’t the best way to affordably purchase whole, organic foods; that is where buying clubs, local farms, and bulk purchases come in.  However coupons can be a great way to supplement healthier eating, especially on a small budget.

Using coupons on healthier foods will be a little different than the scores you can make at Walgreens or Safeway. You won’t be paid to take home your groceries and may have to reform your idea of a good deal.  However, most natural food stores and coops in our area do accept some coupons and occasionally issue their own. These will often be on processed foods (cereal, energy bars, snack items) though sometimes fresh produce, frozen produce and canned items can be purchased with coupons.

I’ve known the thrill of a money making deal but these days I’m happy to pay real money  for truly nourishing food. I don’t however like to pay full price for my husband’s favorite breakfast items so I seek to combine sales and coupons for a good price on somewhat healthy cereal. Last week I was able to combine a manufacturer and store coupon on organic cereal to make it just $1.24 a box.  I also always buy our dish soap and facial tissue with a coupon. Seventh Generation always has coupons available and twice a year (usually May and October) Fred Meyers offers this brand at 50% off. We stock up! While overall this may not be the most sustainable, local way to buy, I think it an excellent way to supplement some of our other local sources, and to preserve our budget!

A few hints:

Check manufacturers’ websites for coupons before you go. Many offer valuable coupons that you can print directly from the site. Examples include Organic Valley, Muir Glen, and  Seventh Generation.

Check out ecometro.com. They have coupon books available in several cities. I request the new Chinook book for Christmas each year and usually receive a few copies as gifts. I also trade some of the coupons I won’t use with people (usually on Craigslist) for ones that I will.

Look at the front of the store for store or manufacturers’ coupons. Whole Foods has a small booklet of coupons they issue each month and New Seasons has a quarterly publication with valuable manufacturer’s coupons. At many New Seasons I’ve also found small baskets full of tearpad coupons near customer service. These have been on everything from fresh spinach to nutritional supplements.

Know your prices. This can be a little trickier when you first start purchasing whole and/or organic foods but it is very helpful to have a reference point on what you should expect to pay. For example, when I started purchasing organic full fat coconut milk, I had to do a little research on what a good price is. I checked at Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer, Azure Standard, New Seasons and Whole Foods.  I found the price range to be $1.75 – $2.50/can. Whole Foods recently had a store coupon that, when combined with a manufacturer’s coupon made the Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk less than $.50/can. (I usually buy Native Forest brand as they are the only brand that uses BPA free cans. Azure carries it for a decent price and New Seasons had it on sale for $1.50/15oz recently.) You can do a lot of this research by just calling the store, which will save you significant amounts of time.

Coupon buys won’t provide your dietary staples but they may give you a little extra to spend at the farm.

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