I’d like to talk about coupons for a moment.

My friend Amber has posted about the Coupon Mom strategy for coupon savings, which involves things like maximizing your savings with store membership programs and planning your shopping around matching days.  Amber’s tried this approach, and while she was able to save money, she also found that in order to really work the program, you end up buying a lot of processed stuff that she – and I – doesn’t really want to eat.

One of my problems with coupons is that they rarely apply to non-processed foods. Why aren’t there coupons for milk? Apples?  I suppose that’s what the weekly circulars are for – tracking the store that has the best price on these staples.  But you know what? I have neither the time nor the energy to drive all over town to save less than a dollar on a half gallon of milk or a pound of apples.  Perhaps I would feel differently if I were feeding a family of five and going through two gallons of milk each week – but then I would have three other people to keep track of, which would cut into my strategic shopping time!

I digress.

I’ve always been a coupon clipper, but since moving to A2, I’ve been much more vigilant about clipping and printing, planning our shopping, etc.  Our favorite grocery store sends out monthly coupons – usually 2-3 for 10-20% off your total purchase – so we use those along with product-specific coupons and in-store discounts to knock $5-20 off of our weekly grocery bills.  They send additional rewards certificates and discounts based on spending – in fact, I just received an email with a 15% off coupon while writing this post.

Shopping at Plum Market isn’t as cheap as going to Kroger or Aldi, both of which are within a mile of our house.  We could probably save a few dollars extra each week if we shopped at Meijer, or if we went to each store to get the best deals.  Which brings me to a central dilemma about food shopping: cost versus quality.

Plum Market’s product selection is comparable to Whole Foods, but their prices are a bit lower.  Plum is a Michigan owned and operated company, and in every aisle you can find products made in state, if not in town.  My shopping basket this last week included organic celery ($1.49/pound), organic honeycrisp apples grown in Michigan, and half-priced day old bread from Zingerman’s ($3 for a large French round).  The apples were among the best we’ve ever had.  Half of the bread will last us upwards of a week, the other half will go in the freezer for another week’s worth of meals.  I had a $10 rewards certificate, a 15% off coupon, and $5 worth of product coupons.  I could get these things for marginally less money elsewhere, but by shopping at Plum, I’m support local business and industry while also buying high quality products for us.

By not running around to chase sales, we build loyalty points at a single store, resulting in those $10 rewards certificates – and in a small but useful relationship with the store itself.  Our impulse buys are restricted to one store, not two or three.  We know the product selection and price range, which also includes knowing when products are cheaper elsewhere – for example, we stock up on Annie’s macaroni and cheese from Amazon Subscribe and Save and on frozen pizzas at Trader Joe’s – rather than buying those items at a higher price at Plum.  We eat really good food at home without breaking the bank – while making responsible shopping and eating choices.  In the long run, those things are more important than a few extra bucks here and there.

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