Our Healthy Eating Journey, Pt. 4


Catch up on Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of our healthy eating journey.

It was 1998. We had just moved to Colorado Springs where the climate was mild, the mountains were beautiful and there were all kinds of fun and wonderful things to do.  Naturally then, upon moving to this great new city, what do I get excited about? The grocery stores there doubled coupons!!!!  

Just before moving, I had started to try out a little bit of couponing.  I had begun to realize how using coupons in the grocery store could really save money. But DOUBLE coupons? Be still my heart. (By the way…let’s all be reassured that each time I am typing the word coupon, I am expecting you to pronounce it KYOOPON. You are, aren’t you?)

Our boxes weren’t even unpacked yet when I clipped the few coupons I had and headed out to see what kinds of good deals I could get. I quickly discovered that if I watched the sales very carefully and asked everyone at church to give me the coupons they didn’t use…I could get all kinds of groceries for free or practically free.

I became quite an expert at spending almost nothingat the grocery store.  People started calling me The Coupon Queen.    I would come home with bag after bag after bag of groceries for $15…total! During the time we lived in Colorado, our family size grew from a family of three to a family of five. I was feeding all of us (plus a constant flow of guests) for only $100 per month. That number included the purchase all of our toiletries and paper products too.

I was awfully proud of this accomplishment. Matt was awfully proud of this accomplishment too, not to mention grateful for how much money I was saving our family.

I remember taking my friend Heather grocery shopping with me one night (because she wanted to see how I did that coupon thing I did). She was amazed at how I used coupons to save money…and also incredibly relieved to see so many processed foods go into my cart. She said to me, “Since you are a stay at home mom, I thought you were one of those people who grinds their own flour or something.”  I believe my exact response was, “No way!   People actually grind their own flour?!”  (Yes Laura, people actually grind their own flour.)

So, what were we eating for $100/month?

Well, since my main focus was spending as little as possible  and using as many coupons as I could, I tended to avoid the produce section. I hardly ever had coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables and those items seemed expensive to me. I watched for meat to go on sale, then used it very sparingly. When a recipe called for a pound of ground beef, I often just used 1/4 to a 1/2 pound instead to make the meat stretch farther.

I did believe in feeding us all fruits and vegetables at each meal, but the fruits and vegetables we ate were almost always from a can since I often had a coupon for those, or waited for them to go on sale 4/$1.00. 

Therefore…my pantry was filled with boxes of Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, boxed potatoes, spaghettios, mac and cheese boxes, pop tarts, fruit snacks, cereal, canned soup…whatever I could get for free or cheap.

That became my focus. Free or cheap.

I did still make quite a bit of food from scratch (although making food from scratch has a new meaning to me now). 

I was just trying to do the best I could with our small income. By spending so little on food, we were able to put a little money into savings. I was helping my family save, I was feeding others, I was having a BLAST! Using coupons was a really fun hobby!

In 2002…we moved back to Nebraska…the land of NO double coupons. NOW what would I do? What about my fun hobby? How would I afford groceries now?

To be continued…

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.


  1. Meghan says

    To be fair there are soo many more things you can get couponing than Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, boxed potatoes, spaghettios, mac and cheese boxes, pop tarts, fruit snacks, cereal, canned soup. Although, I have a desire to eat healthy and not coupon at all. It has been the biggest blessing as we try to live a more peaceful financial life. I cont. to do it as I try out new recipes and learn more about eating healthy :)


    Laura@HeavenlyHomemakers Reply:

    Oh yeah…I did learn that later. Just not on this leg of my journey! All coupons are not bad, for sure!


  2. Meghan says

    Actually, maybe I was defensive…I just checked me pantry. Prego, quaker, and pillsbury. Boo. I just like to coupon. I relate to you saying its your hobby. It gives me purpose to my weeks and is a way I can say I contribute financially to our family. I like it, its fun to get a deal. You are actually pretty right. Although there are a few healthy couponing items, ie: V8, Cascade fresh, Kashi (although I don’t know if they are really healthy or just claim to be) and Muir glen and some others..Most of it is what you say. Boo, boo.


  3. Missy says

    I went through a couponing phase several years back. I was into it to, visited blogs, ordered coupons from couponing websites, and made it into a game of how inexpensively I could feed my family. I was never able to get it down as inexpensive as some people, but I was able to bring it down to about half of what we spend now. I am not a health nut (although I do try to prepare mostly healthy meals), but I had a huge problem with the processed and convenience foods we were stocking up on. I would never normally buy fruit snacks or really anything that comes individually packaged. While couponing, I was lured by getting something for nearly free and willing to compromise. I did end up coming to the conclusion that for me, couponing just wasn’t worth it, I was buying all foods we wouldn’t normally eat. If there is a way to coupon and still eat healthy, I haven’t personally seen it aside from the very occasional coupon for soy milk or frozen veggies. Now I just chose to budget, our grocery bill is as much a part of our month expenses as the electric bill.


    christine M (France) Reply:

    So do I. I cook from scratch as much as possible, I double quantities to freeze and buy “in bulk” to I did “coupon”. Since I suffer from Crohn desease, processed foods are now forbidden (bec. of additives,taste enhancers, etc..). My family prefer my homemade cooking, and with a little practice (menu plan and grocery list, and a monthly budget, it is really easy and destressing : no more struggle when the evening comes : I always know what to put on the dinner table : this brings a lot of peace !


  4. says

    Enjoyed this post, Laura. I’ve found that as we’ve moved toward eating a healthier diet with more raw veggies, whole foods, and less(or no) prepared foods, I use less KYOOPONS (I say it that way too) than I used to. I still coupon every time I go grocery shopping, but I have to search longer and harder to find the coupons. A lot of times, I contact a health company I like directly and ask (beg!) them for coupons for their product. It usually works– I’ve gotten lots of coupons this way! Looking forward to reading more about your “journey”. :) ~Kristy @ Homemaker’s Cottage


  5. Jen says

    I relate to this part of your journey. I’ve always loved to cook, and challenge myself to make things from scratch that other people wouldn’t dream of trying. I especially love cooking for others, watching them enjoy the fruits of my labor, and I admit… the compliments. :)

    Then I stumbled across the concept of “couponing” online. I threw myself into it like I do everything, and I was good at it. However, when I would look in my pantry, there was almost nothing that I wanted to use. I never bought a lot of that stuff before, what would I do with it now?

    Then I stumbled across the WAPF website, and that was the end of my couponing. I donated/gave all the processed stuff away. My local farms and organic delivery service don’t offer coupons, and I’m ok with that. The health of my family is worth spending money on quality food. I still get the compliments, and the reward of seeing my husband and son thrive on real food.


  6. says

    Yes its true most of the coupon sales are for processed stuff. But that’s why the food bank/pantrys are THRILLED to get that stuff. Especially in this economy.

    This month I have bought for my family with coupons, organic yogurt, canned tomatoes, no high fructose jam, pasta, cheese, coffee and hot sauce.

    I do cook from scratch for most things (although organic bread from the bread store on dollar Mondays is nice), you can do it for cheap. I loved the Tightwad Gazette (building a price book was the best idea) . Learning to make casseroles and quiches w/leftovers. We make bread (soaked wheat) and pizza from scratch. The only thing I don’t make from scratch is tortillas (thats a little too much work for the price .89 cents vs an hour).

    I would shop more at Costco because they have more organics flour etc.But make do wSams who is just around the corner. Organic spinach is 3.89 for 16oz,

    We buy our grassfed cow in quantity from the farm for under 3 bucks a pound (for all cuts).
    We buy free range eggs from a man for 2 bucks a dozen.
    Get our organic coconut oil from the Farmers Market 64oz for 10.99!
    I think we might start buying raw cheese shipped at 5 bucks a pound after I have learned some more about store brand cheeses.

    God willing we will finally FINALLY grow a vegetable plot this year. I want to can… after reading about canned foods (bpa even in the steel cans).

    I love the traditional foods website run by Kerry. She is starting a new program called Baby Steps to traditional foods (non processed foods). http://www.tfrecipes.com/forum/index.php

    I pray to buy even less as time goes on, but couponing still works fabulously for health and beauty. Free vitamins, cheap toilet paper, cheap detergent, free shampoo and toothpaste and brushes.. Its a game really. And remember you can donate any extra toiletries to your shelter. check out the legacy project at the united way.


    Kathleen Reply:

    Sounds like you are making good progress in the food area. However, do be very aware that toxins are ever present and even more unregulated in personal care items than food. What you slather on your skin, hair, teeth, and nails is highly likely toxic. In the same way we are all learning how to nourish ourselves better with “real” food, we need to learn about the other products we use as well. Environmental Working Group has an amazing website, http://www.ewg.org that details what is in most of the personal care products we use. Go to the link on the right side of the page for the cosmetic data base (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) and start researching by category (toothpaste, baby wipes) or brand of what you are using. Chances are you won’t use it anymore, even with a coupon deal! This site revolutionized the way I look at anything I put on/in my body or that of my children. Beware of even natural or organic products too. You have to learn to read labels very well to know what is or is not toxic. Just because the bottle says natural or organic doesn’t mean everything in it is safe. It’s taken me years to find safe products for my family that actually work and don’t break the bank, but the journey is more than worth taking. Happy searching!


  7. Serenity says

    Colorado Springs is where I started couponing as well :) Although, we don’t care for many processed foods so I mainly used them for toiletries, diapers, wipes, paper products etc… I loved going to Safeway and having the friendly clerks ask me “would you like help out to your car Mrs. Summers?” For some reason they don’t do that at Wal-Mart, LOL! I miss Safeway!


    Serenity Reply:

    Wow! There’s another Serenity out there! Just had to say hi!


  8. Lois says

    I so agree with your couponing experience! The time spent clipping, filing, organizing and remembering them(!) was just not worth it to get packaged, processed food. Then I noticed that the expiration dates were much closer than they used to be, the fine print on what size you got, and what you had to buy to get a free something also made it a colossal waste of time. Even on health and beauty products, usually I could find something cheaper without the coupon.

    It is also true that you can’t find coupons for healthy products. Fresh fruits and vegetables, dried beans (which are much cheaper than canned), never have coupons, and yet I am usually spending less on groceries that so-called coupon queens. I read about one lady who claimed to save $350 a month by clipping coupons. It made me wonder how much she was spending on groceries, since her alleged savings was greater than my grocery budget.

    My BEST savings ever was in a military commissary. They had 40 pounds of bananas in a box, considered overripe, that they were selling for $2.00!!!!!!! I spent the next week dehydrating bananas, peeling and freezing those silly things. Every one who came to the house exclaimed, “I smell bananas!”


    Heather Reply:

    That is GREAT to know!! I am a brand new Air Force wife & I get to make my first trip to the commissary this weekend!!
    YAY :)


  9. Bethany says

    I agree that most of the KYOOPONS these days are for processed, boxed, overly-sweetened foods. There aren’t many KYOOPNS for healthier foods unless you really look for them. Like someone else said, you might have to go to a company’s website and ask for coupons. I’ve gotten some mailed to me from organic/natural food companies and I really appreciate them. But I find that those and coupons for toiletries/household items are about all I use. I’ve started cooking and baking more of our foods myself. I think I also, like someone else mentioned, thrive off the feeling that I made something my family loved and it wasn’t very expensive. And the compliments help, too :)


  10. Tia says

    How do you find out of the grocery stores in your area double coupons, other than walk in and ask if they do? :-)


    Laura Reply:

    Sometimes there’s a big sign on the front of the store saying, “DOUBLE COUPONS!” but yeah, you can just ask someone in the store. Most of the workers probably know.


  11. Mona says

    This so weird. I think we are living the same life journey. I used to be a coupon queen too. I prided myself on getting things dirt cheap or free. I even bought bulk sets of coupons off of ebay. I would go to my double couple grocery store and come out with 10 free toothbrushes. It was so cool but like you, I bought unhealthy food. I justified it because it was so cheap or FREE! I think my local grocery store got rid of the double coupon thing because of me. Anyway, I am having a great time reading my story through your life. On to Part 5! :o)


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