Do Coupons Really Save Money?

Menu PlanThe actual savings from coupons may be less than you think, since most are for national brands which typically cost about 25 percent more than store brands. And, coupons are often for higher-priced convenience foods that may still not be good buys even after the discount.

The store-brand coupons issued with register receipts are usually a better deal, but there are additional and more effective ways to trim your food bill while actually improving your diet.

You can usually eat better for less than you do now by using more prepare-from-scratch foods, eating out less and cutting back on less healthy items such as soda, juice drinks, chips, doughnuts, and candy. Let's take a closer look.

Prepare-from-scratch foods are usually healthier than their convenience versions because they're free of added fat, sugar and sodium, and most are at least 50 percent cheaper. For example, compare plain white rice (about 8 cents per cooked cup) and healthier brown rice (12 cents) with instant rice (20 cents) and seasoned rice mixes (30 cents). Plain oats in the 42-ounce container cost three times less per cooked cup than instant, flavored oats. Frozen orange juice concentrate costs about half as much per prepared cup as carton juice.

The average family now spends about half its food budget on restaurant and fast foods. Healthy home-cooked meals can be less than half the cost of eating out and can provide more whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and lean protein with fewer calories and less sodium and heart-risky saturated and trans fat than typical out-of home meals.