Monday, February 7, 2011

I saw the woman in line behind me pull a neat stack of coupons from her purse, at least a dozen and all neatly clipped. She studied them with one hand, spreading them out delicately with the other. I also noticed the smirk on her face. I felt a twinge of guilt recognizing why she must be smiling. I never clip coupons and I always feel a little automatic guilt over that fact, because I feel like I am missing this great big opportunity to save money.

But, then I watched as the woman used her one free hand to pick up the groceries left in her cart and place them on the belt next to what was already there. I saw that she was buying an adorable, colorful, toy-sized container of Tide, a new fragrance that I had never heard of but that looked so strong, I could almost smell it through the thick plastic. Next, she laid out a huge box of frozen Stouffer's macaroni and cheese with a mouth watering picture on the cover. After that, she arranged three cans of Campbell's Select Harvest soup with rice and herbs in it. I knew that it had rice and herbs because the picture on the label really emphasized that. Next, she threw up a few heavy bags of frozen pastas with sauce on them already. Even from where I was standing, I could see colorful little peppers and onions mixed in with the pasta on the picture on the front of the bag.

I looked away so as not to be rude, but glanced back again and through all the woman's groceries and noticed that everything she was buying was pre-made... everything. All of her groceries had beautiful pictures on them. I compared them to my groceries and realized that hardly any of what I was buying had pictures on it. And, that made me realize that I hardly ever buy groceries that have pictures on them, in fact. In general, a person wouldn't have a clue what I was making from what I put in my cart. And, most of what I was buying that day were just clear plastic bags of produce: red and green peppers, yellow and red onions, oranges, tangerines, spinach, parsley, bright green apples and a bag stuffed full of ripe avocados.

Now, I am far from a health nut, but it occurred to me that even if I had access to the same coupons as this lady had access to, I wouldn't be drawn to buy any of the products she was buying anyway. Some of them, I wouldn't serve my family even if they were given to me for free. There is just something so unnatural about most of the foods she was choosing, in my opinion.

And, it's true that as often as I have studied coupons in a pursuit to find some way to save money on my groceries, I have never found them for the whole products that I tend to buy, products like the onions or the rice or the bulk container of plain oatmeal or the milk or the fresh chicken... I only ever see coupons for the dried and mixed and boxed and powered and pre-made and frozen... the highly branded, artificial and ultra-convenient type products that I don't even want to buy anyway. The most I ever benefit from are the in store specials that I find in the weekly ads.

So, I paid full price for the things I bought that day and I walked away from that woman guilt-free, with a smirk on my face, realizing something very important about myself, becoming more content and confident about the way I do things than I've ever been before. I know that coupons work for some types of cooks and that's great for those types of cooks. I mean, who wouldn't want to save so much money on expensive brands you buy anyway? But, it looks to me like I'm just not that type of cook to begin.

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