To ConAgra or Not to ConAgra: A Coupon Mom's Dilemma



This weekend I broke down and brought home two packs of Lunchables, free after coupon at Jewel-Osco. Unlike one of my favorite bloggers, I can no longer brag now that I have raised my kids without ever feeding them these nasty little trays of fat and sodium -- I had a good run at six years, but that Lunchables is in Nutmeg's lunch kit today. Much to her joy.

That little drama is an ongoing conflict for me. I love freebies but I also love to feed my family healthy food. The more I learn about the industrial food system and the health hazards posed by eating processed foods, the more I want to opt out and provide my kids with healthier and less guilt-laden foodstuffs bought directly from farms.

But I still love freebies, and I do allow that acquiring food for free is good for my family too. Every time I feed them something I didn't pay for, this leaves money in our grocery budget that actually makes the purchase of those pricier "good foods" possible.

Saving for real food by eating free junk food? Sounds ridiculous, I know. Personally, I look at it this way: We haven't fully given up junk food and processed foods. Maybe someday we will, but at this point I'm focused on reducing the amount of processed food and improving the sources of our meals.

For the processed food portion of our diet, why not grab what I can for free or at greatly reduced prices? So far, this strategy has allowed me to switch to half or more organic produce. My switch to hormone-free, humanely raised meats is an ongoing experiment -- since I haven't yet saved enough money out of my budget to pay for the meat in my freezer, I can't yet say that this technique allowed me to purchase that. The day may come when we increase our $80 weekly grocery budget to allow for these meats, or just switch to buying smaller loads of meat so we spend less.

Does my "save on junk food, spend on good food" system sound like a cop-out to you, or just an honest way at looking at what most of us health-conscious couponers do?

All this came to a head this week with the "spend $25, get $10 back" ConAgra Catalina offer. I looked at the offerings this time around and realized there was nothing I really wanted to buy. Partly that's because I already have things stockpiled -- we have plenty of popcorn in the pantry. But partly it's because I don't really want to buy any more conventional canned tomatoes or fat-laden frozen dinners. And after seeing the documentary Food, Inc., the name ConAgra doesn't exactly stimulate my appetite.

On the other hand, on the other hand ... It is awfully handy to bring a frozen meal along when I take the little ones to the drop-in preschool place. And that Marie Callender stuff is good. And I haven't yet found an affordable source of organic tomatoes in a jar instead of a can, if such a source even exists. So maybe I'll backslide before this deal ends Wednesday.

Also, I'm a still a frugal shopping blogger whether I buy the stuff or not, so I'm going to post later today about some of the top deals people are getting with this ConAgra Catalina.

Your thoughts?

Photo by Samantha Celera, used via Creative Commons license.



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rebecca said:


you know, it IS really hard when you have to make the justification. I can see your point of "save here so you can spend there" type of thing. My one caveat? I would start reading those labels like crazy, and set yourself a point where you know it's TOO processed. (does that make sense?) For me, I have a pretty high tolerance for sugar... but low for sodium and even lower for things like over-processed yogurt. I'll spend the crazy high price on organic, no artificial ingredient greek yogurt any day over getting the artificially thickened and sweetened new greek versions from Yoplait and Dannon. But that's me and my limits - to each their own. So I would say figure out what you're willing to still accept as OK, and stick to that sort of limit. I never thought much about sodium at all until I started looking at Daily Values - and dang, on some of those boxed items, it's a whole day's worth in one serving.

dgmarie said:


My kids don't even like the Lunchables (I tried the sub yesterday and it was ok, but no, nothing I'd want to eat every day). I do like the Healthy Choice lunches for myself. They have high sodium, but the rest of my meals are decidedly low sodium, so I don't think it matters in the end. There are trade offs with everything. I mean, just using the electricity to have this blog is causing an environmental impact somewhere, right?

Jen said:

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It sounds like we are in the same place lol. I also saw food inc and have been trying to be as organic as possible. An idea on cheap jarred tomatos... as a kid my mom grew here own and canned them. Or go to a farmers market to buy in bulk and can. Good luck

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