The High Cost Of Savings On Your Health

Clipping coupons might be saving families major cash on food, but what is it doing to their waistlines? The trend to stockpile packaged and processed foods may have costly implications on your health.

Grocery store coupons

The Cost of Savings

Families that spend pennies for piles of food and supplies are the stars of TLC's Extreme Couponing (airing each Wednesday at 10/9c). These families consider couponing a full-time job and designate entire rooms in their homes to their food hoards -- all in the name of a good deal. Times are tough and every penny counts, so who could blame these savvy shoppers? Many extreme couponers even donate much of their loot to charities, but there may be a downside to this practice other than getting stuck in line behind one of them. Could extreme couponing be making you and your family fat?

You are what you eat

Coupons are largely produced by manufacturers of large corporations and the products with the most savings are generally those that are highly processed and not all that expensive to begin with. Families who practice extreme couponing generally have stock piles of soda, fruit snacks and frozen dinners (to name a few). While these foods have their place in moderation, a well-rounded diet gets lost when making room for 100 bottles of ketchup.

Of course you can't hoard perishable items including bread, eggs or milk and you'd be hard pressed to find a coupon for fresh fruits or vegetables. This begs the question -- what's the cost of extreme couponing on your health? Are couponers neglecting healthy options because they might actually have to pay for it? Is there anything else they're missing besides carrots?

Registered Dietician Karen Graham explains the problem with consuming processed foods, even if the nutritional information looks good. She says one key item is missing in all processed foods -- enzymes. "Enzymes are used in almost every system in our bodies including digesting our food, absorption of nutrients, production of hormones and increasing our energy," Graham says. "Every time we eat these 'dead' foods, our bodies have to draw enzymes from a very limited, natural pool of enzymes that we have in order to even digest the food. If these enzymes are not replaced, the enzymes run out. This leads to digestive problems, nutrient deficiencies, low energy and possible hormone imbalances."

Read the label

Sure, there are a few coupons for produce, milk and organic items. However extreme couponers who are known for filling their garages full of items that will still be edible a year from now are the ones making headlines (and the ones inspiring others to do the same). The urge to stockpile items that are not necessarily the healthiest choices simply because they are free or extremely cheap may just be too strong to resist for some.

Graham warns about the potential harm in consuming foods laden with preservatives. "Preservatives in processed foods have been linked with many disorders, and many preservatives are known carcinogens (cancer causing agents)," Graham says. "These disorders include ADHD symptoms, bladder cancer, migraines and joint pain."

She suggests that shoppers read the ingredient list on the foods they are buying and not just look at the nutrition facts. "Try to avoid foods that have more than eight to 10 ingredients in them. You should be able to recognize each ingredient as a food, not a chemical," she says.

Items like frozen taquitos have upwards of 50 ingredients in them with at least 10 percent of those being items you can barely pronounce. A typical meal of coupon-clipped, processed foods includes a soda, a few slices of frozen pizza and a bag of fruit snacks -- which will set you back 600 calories, all of which are nutritionally worthless to your body and your waistline.

Health first

With childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease on the rise, everyone from Rachael Ray to Michelle Obama is examining what we are putting in our mouths. Hoard toothbrushes, toilet paper and panty liners if you must, but do yourself a favor and limit the amount of packaged, processed foods in your pantry. Just because food is free doesn't mean it should be eaten. A good deal is hard to beat, but your health is priceless.

You can find out more health tips from Karen Graham on her website.

More on keeping your family healthy

Healthy eating habits for busy families
Healthy meal planning on a budget
Is coconut water good for you?

Tags: extreme couponing

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Comments on "The downside of extreme couponing"

dakota September 06, 2013 | 11:39 AM

I don't like the show extreme couponing for the same reason I don't like most of the prepper shows. they usually display them a being obsessed hoarders of coupons and crazed potentially violent shoppers. for preppers, they seem to be all ready to snap and kill at any moment, hoarders of automatic weapons and potato chips. this isn't true. I spend only 1 day a week (Friday or saturday) "extreme couponing" and "prepping" some weeks I get nowhere at all, I stay home. here my rules for enjoying these "taboo" social behaviors. -keep a grocery store list.(visit all or some of your grocery stores every week, or month, keep a record of prices on the thing you would buy now (34 item list for me personally). soon you'll be able get massive deals on items you buy, even without a coupon. and you'll know which store to use for specific items. milk is always cheapest at my local overstock store. I never buy it at regular price anywhere else) --only buy on coupon if it gives you 50% off current normal price or more. --I never buy more then what I will use based on expiration. if it expire in a week I don't buy more then what I use in a week. unless I can preserve it, it gives me free food (and is non perishable) or gives me cashback. --never pass up a deal that's gives you free money or food. that includes cashback coupons. do hoard this because you are getting paid to take it away. (see rule below for the exception.) --don't buy the entire shelf. this is just flat greed. leave enough behind to allow yourself a conscience, if there were only a few items in the first place, inform someone "I took the last three, just so you know." the stores do need to share a little bit of the responsibility of keeping shelves stocked. so if you took the last three it's their fault. (with a limited shelf supply, my purchase limit is 10 items or what I can use in a 6 month period. whatever comes first.) --donate what you don't use BEFORE it goes bad. keep a record of the expiration dates on your stock. --buy on coupon things you would use to prep, or would actually use anyway. (white rice on sale for 90% off? buy up, baby! it'll last years) --buy up excellent sales on produce, and preserve everything you can. don't buy more then what you know you can preserve. --be patient and kind to the employees involved. it can be frustrating and even scary to sell off 150 dollars worth of product for 10 dollars, they may feel the need to double check (in case of theft), or ask a superior what to do. --share, donate, offer, and smile. all of this is built up gradually, it took me 6 month to a year to figure out what worked best but after that I only need to spend a few hours once a week. I usually have an average of 3 purchased items a week. and I only do all this one day a week. I do not usually buy things like potato chips, or 40 bottles of Tylenol. I usually buy rice, beans, sugar, fresh produce, toilet paper, bleach etc.

Kiki February 03, 2012 | 4:48 PM

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA-ok, I'm laughing at the notion that all my couponing meals are processed, cheap crap. I often get low fat dairy items, organic items, whole grain pastas, tomatoes and frozen vegetables on coupon. I generally don't buy things that are highly processed. Sure there are coupons for them. It doesn't I have to buy them. My local stores often also have store coupons for fresh produce and meats. I am feeding 3 growing children who don't have behavioral issues or weight problems. Get with the program people and drop the attitude towards couponers. If I can feed my family of 5 and a healthy diet for $100 a month then so can you.

Jenn October 05, 2011 | 11:55 AM

I TOTALLY agree. I wish that show would film the families actually making dinner from a combination of their extreme couponing purchases. It's obvious why they don't -- it would be a terribly unhealthy meal filled with processed crap.

Emily October 04, 2011 | 7:46 PM

Exactly echo my thoughts on that show! They should follow me at the store...we live on one (moderate) income and only eat organic. Yes, if there's a good coupon I'll find it, but we save by buying in bulk (Costco has stated carrying more and more Organics), cooking from scratch and eating seasonally. Growing our own veggies is the best, not only for cost, but also quality!

Allison October 04, 2011 | 3:45 AM

I coupon (though not to the level the Extemem Couponers do). But, I do it mainly to get yogurts, cereals and the whole wheat pasta options (like Hammburger Helper). I managed to save the equivilent of our montly living expenses in 3 months. This made it possible for me to visit our Farmer's Market each weekend to stock up on local & fresh food too.

Meghan @JaMonkey October 03, 2011 | 5:40 PM

Great post this is why I'm so bad at couponing because we don't like buying crap to eat!

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