Grocery shopping, couponing and becoming a millionaire.

For some reason, I’ve stumbled onto two completely different articles in the last two days about how to become a millionaire. I like to think someone is trying to give me a sign. Hmmm. Maybe I will be millionaire some day. All I need to do is follow the steps. Which, according to one article, means socking away something crazy like $2,400 a month. Riiiiight.

At any rate, about once every six months, something triggers me to re-examine my budget, bills, spending, etc, to see if I can come up with any more spending money. I love spending money. This is why I’ll actually probably never be a millionaire.

Anyway, these millionaire aspirations of mine, combined with TLC’s new show Extreme Couponing, have got me thinking about grocery shopping. Oh, by the way… I. LOVE. THAT. SHOW.

Here’s a secret: I love grocery shopping.

There. I said it. I really do. It’s like a game. Try to get out of the store with the most stuff for the least amount of money. That,  and the fact that I just I love food. I love shopping for it, and I especially love eating it. I know exactly how those people feel when they say they get a rush from grocery shopping with coupons. I do, too. Although, my couponing habit is no where near Extreme Couponing.

One thing that struck me about the show (and I have noticed over the past couple years) is that generally, coupons are for processed foods. There is rarely a coupon for fresh produce. But there are a blue million coupons out there for Gogurt. (Yuck. Who eats that stuff, anyway???) And, on the show, I noticed one lady had A WHOLE GROCERY CART OF TEXAS TOAST. She was getting it all free or something crazy like that, but I can count on one hand the times I’ve eaten Texas Toast in the past two years.

The point is, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in couponing and the promos at the grocery store. And, I get discouraged when only have $20 worth of coupons for a $100 grocery order, especially when I see these people on tv get $800 worth of groceries for $4 or something. And one lady paid off her house and bought a new Jeep with money she saved on groceries with coupons. Those are the things that really get my attention.

Is couponing the path to prosperity?

If it is, and it’s paved with processed food, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

I thought I’d snap a picture of my grocery cart the last time I went shopping.

I’m not proud of the pepperoni (for pasta salad for a cookout I’m going to) or the frozen pizza (I fell victim to a store promo–buy 10 selected items get $5 off), but the 4 bags of salad and produce score me points, right? I did have coupons for the bags of salad (and I can’t believe I bought bagged salad when my garden is overflowing with fresh lettuce, but they were less than $1 with the coupons and on sale) but the rest of the produce? No coupons and not even on sale. But I buy it because it’s healthy and I like to cook with and eat fresh food.

Even though they don’t print coupons around here for fresh bananas or mushrooms, there are ways to reduce the amount of money you spend on healthy food.

First, frozen fruits and veggies are a decent alternative to fresh versions. They are about the same nutritionally. And you might actually find coupons for frozen veggies. Just make sure you’re buying plain frozen veggies. Birds Eye and Green Giant have some frozen veggie products that come with sauce on them that is astoundingly high in sodium. You can make your own with a little effort that has a fraction of the sodium.

Second, buy fresh produce in season locally. Pound for pound, the fresh produce sold at the farmer’s market is generlly cheaper than in the grocery store. This is a no brainer. The produce is fresher, since it hasn’t been picked unripe and shipped hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles. And, you’re supporting your local economy.

The third thing you can do, which probably involves the most work, is to grow your own. I’ve found it’s ridiculously easy to grow lettuce. Seriously, you sprinkle the seeds on top of the dirt and about two weeks later, you come back and pick it. That is all. Even if you didn’t have a lot of space you can grow a tomato plant in a pot on a porch easily. The next logical step is to put up what you grow (or if someone “gifts” you a pile of squash/tomatoes/peppers). Canning is easy once you get the hang of it, or if you don’t have the equipment, freezing is even easier. I didn’t have to buy tomatoes until a month or so ago because I was using what I canned last year. Now, I just have to try to can more next year, so I don’t have to buy any at all…

So, maybe I’ll never make it to being a millionaire through couponing, but I still am really proud of myself when I don’t spend that much on food, AND I’m eating healthy and delicious. I just need hope for a winning lottery ticket, I guess.

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