I seem to have a particular conversation regularly – and at least twice in the last week, so I feel it's time to address it.
Here's what happens. I share that I save money by using coupons and the person goes, "Oh, all the coupons are for convenience items, and I don't use them. I cook using real ingredients." Um, I don't exactly feed my kids Pop-tarts and Top Ramen, either. I enjoy cooking as much as the next guy and we eat well in my house, too. The truth is if you pay attention, you can save money on ANY diet or lifestyle you choose.
Since this is a growing concern for my readers, I decided to spend some time sharing my very best ideas how to save money on healthy, organic, green, vegetarian, specialty items and the like. I came up with 11, and here they are in no particular order.
1. Mambo sprouts. Have you checked out this website? You can score printable and mailer coupons from them for healthy and organic items. Check it out here.
2. Fred Meyer. If you have this Kroger-affiliate store in your area, check it out for low cost healthy, organic items. You can regularly find sales on the health section items of the store, and they also have a monthly Naturally Preferred Magazine in the health section that features both store and manufacturer's coupons for health items. In recent weeks, I've been able to score Seventh Generation products for cheaper than their generic counterparts and free Kashi cereal! A couple weeks ago, we were also finding organic milk for just $0.69 a half-gallon. If you find rockin' sales like this, remember the rules of the regular couponer apply: stockpile your heart out, baby.
3. Contact your favorite manufacturers. If you're having trouble saving on a particular brand or item, head to that company's website. More and more companies are offering printable coupons directly from their websites. Also look for newsletters and mailing lists to join. Finally, call! You would be surprised how many times companies are happy to send great coupons to customers who simply take the time to call or write in praise of a product and ask for coupons.
4. Amazon. Did you know Amazon offers many organic and healthy items – and frequently for less? In many cases, your order can ship for free when you spend $25 or more, too. It's been awhile since I mentioned Swagbucks, but this is another way that can help drive down your costs. When you join Swagbucks for free, you can start earning 'bucks' for doing your regular online web searches everyday. These 'bucks' can then be redeemed for prizes – one of which is a $5 Amazon gift card. You can use more than one gift card at a time, too. I currently have over $100 racked up on my Amazon account (I'm waiting until my balance tops $500 and then I'm shopping for bedroom furniture…but that's another story).
5. Save on other items. If you can't save on your favorite chutney, try saving on toothpaste. Toilet paper. Fabric softener. Canned beans. Shampoo. Basically, save as much as you can on the products that don't matter to you as much so you can afford the items that DO matter. Please be honest with yourself as to what really matters, and what you can let go.
6. Farmer's Markets. While the season for markets is over, during the summer it can be a fantastic way to enjoy organic, fresh produce and support local farmers. I frequented our Farmer's Market this summer. I would simply take $20 or so of our weekly budget to buy lots of produce. We could easily afford to do this since the other food items I'd bought at a song.
7. Follow organic & healthy money-saving blogs. Did you know there are coupon blogs that almost exclusively focus on healthy lifestyles? A couple include Cheap, Healthy, Good and Organic Deals and Coupons. If any of my readers runs such a blog, by all means leave a comment and self-promote! Speak up!
8. Know your stores. Take the time to consider all the stores in your area. Do you HAVE to buy your fancy supplements at "HIGH END STORE" or can you find the same brand somewhere else? Do some price comparison – you might be surprised to find you'll save a lot of money just by switching where you buy your items. Then, build relationships with the stores you frequent. Get to know the produce people, the meat people, the health section people. Find out if you can negotiate a deal on produce that's just a tad over-ripe, see if you can find out when meat is marked down, and when they'll put that organic soup on clearance (and maybe even set it aside for you). I learned this secret from Money Saving Mom who buys a fair amount of organic and healthy items and still manages to feed her family of 5 for $40 a week.
9. Don't give up on "traditional" coupon sources. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water, folks. While it might initially seem frustrating scouring Sunday inserts, the truth is you CAN find some nuggets in there if you are consistent and don't give up. I believe it was a week or two ago I found a $1/1 coupon for Wolfgang Puck organic broth. And remember the $2/1 Seventh Generation diapers? Or the $2/1 Marcal toilet paper? I've also seen coupons for the organic cosmetic line from Physician's Formula, healthy pet choice options, soy/rice milk, soy-free products, and the like. Just last week I found a sheet of $2/1 Morningstar product coupons at Fred Meyer and found the items on sale at Winco for $2.38! Don't forget printable coupons, either! We've recently seen coupons even for fresh produce such as Del Monte whole pineapples.
10. Don't give up on store sales. Remember the recent mix and match sale at Albertsons? While many of the items were for cake mix and brownie mix, some of the items included 5 lb bags of flour and olive oil. Hunt, folks. Wherever possible, I opt for these pantry/baking staple items over their "quick-fix" counterparts. Not only is it healthy, it makes better sense financially. A $1 box of brownies can only make brownies, but a $1 bag of flour can make cookies, breads, dumplings, and a myriad of other items.
11. Consider freezer meals. I've recently discovered this and it's been awesome. If you find a killer deal on produce, buy a ton and then prepare and freeze it for later. Turn the tomatoes you grow or find for cheap into sauce. Find a steal of a deal on free-range chicken? Why not prep some dinners and have it ready to go? This will save you money and time long-term.
If you're following a special diet or like to buy organic or green items, you can still save big money. It may mean you have to be a little more savvy than the average couponer, but it can be done. But whatever you do, please don't label all us couponers as only buying convenience-items laden with sugar and fat. It's just not true.
Please also understand that more and more people are starting to care about eating what's best and manufacturers and stores are listening. I'm listening too and am always keeping an eye out for saving you money on these items.
Got another great tip I've left out? Share.
Photo credit Christa Richert