Extreme Couponing Trends Wellness Wow!

Extreme Couponing & Healthy Eating: Incompatable?

I have to admit that I am intrigued by this extreme couponing phenomenon. For the uninitiated, Extreme Couponing is a new hit show on TLC. It is amazing to see someone buy $1,000 worth of groceries for $8.28. Wow. If you haven’t seen it, here’s how TLC promotes the show:

“Enter the world of bargain shoppers who have mastered the art of saving! In Extreme Couponing, meet the everyday people who save hundreds of dollars in a single trip to the store. Tune in to TLC to see the savings!”

I’ve seen the show a couple of times and it is amazing to see these women (I have yet to see a man featured) organize their lives around making huge grocery purchases while only actually paying for a very small percentage. They have definitely learned how to work the system and seem to derive a ton of psychological satisfaction by stockpiling their purchases. They are providing for their families in a measurable and significant manner.

One thing I’ve noticed is that most of the food they purchase using their coupons (they also buy paper products, deodorant, etc) is extremely unhealthy. It made me wonder whether or not an extreme couponer could use the same strategy to purchase healthy, organic and sustainably raised options. At first blush, it seems to me that majority of coupons are for canned soup, boxed meals, cereal, soda, and other packaged goods. Here’s a link to a blog post where a couponing expert talks about healthy foods you can buy with coupons, but her definition of healthy and nutritious options isn’t the same as mine. She includes foods like Ragu Pasta Sauce in her list. However, she does list a few healthy choices. My concern is that this extreme couponing fad encourages the purchase and eventual consumption of unhealthy choices in bulk. I’m raising the question and welcome your input.

In April 2011, George Van Antwerp wrote an interesting blog post titled “Health, Wealth, and Extreme Couponing.” In his post he points out that these extreme couponers have the potential to make a huge impact on charities and food banks by donating portions of their stockpiles (I’ve read that many do this already). Of course, it would be ideal if these could be healthy foods. Here’s a quote from George’s blog post:

“Well, it go me thinking about how charities and food banks really need these people (extreme couponers). If they can buy thousands of dollars of goods for $50, imagine the impact that could have in a community. A single resource could activate a network of people to provide coupons and go pick up goods at no cost. Those goods could be shared with those that need them thereby reducing their out of pocket costs and improving their access to healthy foods.”

Here are some video clips from YouTube that show Extreme Couponers with their stockpiles of groceries that they have procured using coupons.

For more information, here’s the link to Extreme Couponing’s Facebok page:


Below are a few links to articles and blog posts about this phenomenon and its relevance to healthy eating:





Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

13 comments on “Extreme Couponing & Healthy Eating: Incompatable?

  1. Totally agree and appreciate the link back to my post! We only seem to coupon for those needed household items, baby things, pet goods and health and beauty products. The items you see on these shows (that everyone can get for basically free) is just junk I’d rather not bring in to my home.

    It is true that you get what you pay for I guess.

  2. I think that couponing for unhealthy food is a choice. Honestly, even if these couponers didn’t coupon, I’m not sure their choices wouldn’t be any different.

    I know that couponing is helping me save money on things things like laundry soap, toothpaste, batteries, etc. and on some canned and frozen food items. The saved money allows me to spend more on produce and other fresh food items.

    Another note, cooking your own food from scratch is not only always a healthier option than pre-packaged food, but it’s also cheaper šŸ˜€

    Anyway, with shows like this, we have to remember that TV goes for shock value…

  3. Lauren Maziarz

    I actually just wrote an email to TLC regarding this exact issue. I am very disconcerned about their potrayal of extreme couponer. The normalization of junk food by showing participants only stocking up on Gatorade, cookies, or chips is only promoting our sky-rocketing obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, many people fail to understand that savings at the grocery store on processed, unhealthy food only quadruples the cost of doctors bills and healthcare costs in the long run from chronic diseases and morbidity.

  4. Thanks for the mention in your post. It’s a good point about couponing for healthy goods. I’m sure that it’s less frequent. I guess the question is whether there are healthier options and/or whether this frees up money to spend on fresh food or healthier options. Since 1/6th of the US goes hungry for at least one meal a day which impacts kids ability to learn and productivity, I think there are basics to be addressed even if not the best (healthiest) choices.

  5. 10,000 Drinks

    Extreme couponing portrays an unrealistic goal for the average shopper/coupon user trying to save big bucks…I clip coupons, follow sale ads, and check a few sites on the net that offer coupon matchups…there are ALWAYS things to be had every week for free or better than free, depending on your store’s coupon policies. These people cherry-pick the freebies and usually buy HUNDREDS of extra coupons on the net from sites of questionable integrity that find loopholes in the system in order to “sell” their coupons (I believe there is a motion underway to make these “coupon selling” sites illegal, even though you are only paying a “coupon cutting fee” through a technicality that allows these sites to be legal in the first place). Anyway, just don’t want the average shopper to get discouraged when they can’t replicate the results of the show…after all, most of us need eggs, milk, bread and meat….not 100 bottles of Powerade and 200 candy bars. Realize that “real” shopping logistics are a lot different than the “reality” that is portrayed on the show. These people spend weeks preparing for their shopping trip in order to produce a BANG!! on television, not to provide a cart of nutritionally sound food to their families. You CAN save money with coupons, just don’t try to live up to these unrealistic expectations! I personally never spend a dime on any toiletries/beauty products, and I averagely save 60 to 70 percent on my food shopping as a result of coupons combined with sales/catalina deals. It CAN be done, just not in the EXTREME way it is portrayed on the show!!

  6. Pingback: Press Hits, Presentations, Writing YTD | Enabling Healthy Decisions

  7. Thanks for the mention!
    Something else you should note is that I am in Canada. We get maybe 1/4 of the coupons that US people do. I’m not sure if you have coupons for fresh produce in the US but we sure don’t here. The only produce coupon I have ever used was for Dole salad and I had to contact Dole directly to get it.

    As any parent will tell you sometimes you need a quick meal. Since I cook 95% of what my family eats from scratch the odd meal of Ragu (full of cancer fighting lycopene) whole wheat pasta and meatballs that I made and froze from local organic beef is a superior option to fast food which my family does not eat.

    Even if I had coupons for 100 free candy bars or 50 free bottles of sport drink I would make the choice not to get it since it’s not a part of my family’s diet. It’s all about choices. A lot of the extreme couponers are very obese and have obviously made the wrong choices and eat junk because it was free.

    As I listed in the post mentioned above, some healthier options for items you can purchase with coupons in Canada are evaporated milk to add to a homemade cream soup instead of 18% cream, tuna in water, canned tomatoes, low sodium soups, low fat cheese, brown rice, whole grain cereal and whole wheat pasta.

    This is Canada and we rely heavily on frozen fruits and veg. Aside from May-September fresh produce in Canada is usually very expensive and sub par. Grow your own veggies or visit a local farm and freeze/can produce to save money, no coupon required.


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  9. I would like to argue as well that couponing can be EXTREMELY healthy! My business partner and I run a blog and teach classes in Southern California to incorporate healthy meal planning with extreme couponing! This show has definitely given couponing a bad rap! I am able to save almost $400 a month and still buy mostly organic and natural foods with couponing! We run into people all the time that say they are not able to coupon because they don’t feed their family processed junk food….we’re trying to dispell the rumor!!

  10. Interesting to come upon this site as last nights TLC’s episodes of Extreme Couponing was all about doing it for healthier choices. One couponer was given the task of stocking the pantry for 2 weeks with healthy products, for a group of teen boys, for under $50.00 and she did it!! The other couponer had hired a personal trainer to help get her healthier. He came over and threw out all her unhealthy stockpiled food and then went shopping with her for her healthy stockpile. He had her doing lundges down the isles and if she made a poor shoice she had to run throughout the store pushing a heavy cart. It certainly got me thinking of how to make better choices while still couponing.

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  12. Reblogged this on hawaiianviolet and commented:
    I found this blog because I, too, believe that extreme couponing leads to buying unhealthy foods. Because I am disabled and living on a fixed income, I struggle with my choices every time I go shopping. People ask me why I don’t coupon. This is why. Most of the items available are unhealthy. If there were deals for produce and other fresh foods, I might.

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