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Coupon economics

(article, Culinate staff)

No, it didn't publish on Mother's Day, but it might have: a feature on moms who dedicate their lives to couponing. And we're talking serious devotion: these moms, who blog about couponing full-time, are not only saving money on their grocery bills, they've become their families' primary breadwinners through promotional contracts on their websites.

"After declining for nearly a decade, coupon use has increased almost 35 percent since 2008, according to Matthew Tilley, the director of marketing at Inmar, a coupon clearinghouse," reported Amanda Fortini in the New York Times magazine a week ago. "Last year, more than 3.5 billion coupons for consumer packaged goods were redeemed, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2010." 

What Fortini doesn't say is that the vast majority of these coupons were redeemed for mass-market, processed foods — not necessarily the cleanest foods at the store, just the cheapest. The moms she profiles — Cathy Yoder and Monica Knight, of the blog Fabulessly Frugal — get ecstatic about a deal on StarKist chunk light tuna fish: "Tuna fish was an item to stock up on: it contained omega-3 fatty acids; it kept for three years; her family liked it." No mention here of the fact that chunk light tuna is rated "avoid" on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch's list for environmental reasons, nor of the fact that tuna can be high in methylmercury.

Commenters on the Fortini article were also quick to point out that neither the Yoder nor the Knight family seemed proactive about their food in other ways, such as gardening. And Yoder herself lamented that she just doesn't have much time to cook anymore.