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Prairie Fare: Use Coupons Wisely

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Yes, you can save money, but be sure that you are able to use the food within a reasonable period of time to ensure you enjoy foods at their safest and highest quality.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I found my coupon box!” I exclaimed. I began looking through the coupons in the recipe box. I noted that most expired in 1998 or 1999, although I found a few gems marked “no expiration date.”

I noted lots of diaper coupons. Back in 1998, we had an infant daughter and toddler son, and I must have fallen off the coupon bandwagon because my coupon-clipping time was shortened by family responsibilities. Instead of name brands, I saved money by using store brands more often.

In some cases, store-brand food is exactly the same as name-brand food. It’s just packed in different bags or boxes by a food company.

As I sorted through the old coupons, I noted that many of the products no longer exist. Other people must not have used their coupons, either.

If we had purchased all those foods, we still would have a pantry full of cereal, canned food and enough cleaning supplies to sanitize our entire city. Unfortunately, the food products no longer would be of high quality a decade later and the cleaning supplies may have lost their function.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the recommended storage life for acidic canned goods, such as tomatoes and fruit, is 18 months. Low-acid canned foods, such as green beans and peas, can be stored two to five years.

“Do you remember the time my mom sent my dad to the grocery store with a bunch of coupons?” my husband said with a laugh when he entered the kitchen.

“Yes, I do. All the coupons had expired, and there was a ‘tiff’ in the kitchen when he returned from the store,” I added with a chuckle.

Inspired by all the deals I had missed, I grabbed the store ad my husband had picked up the previous day. I began clipping the coupons and making my grocery list.

Later that afternoon as I pushed a grocery cart around the grocery store, I began to wonder if I was in the right store. I couldn’t find 10 cans of tomatoes for $10 and the “buy one get one free” deals were nowhere to be found.

Then I looked more closely at the coupons. Yes, they were all expired. I gave a crumpled handful of coupons to my husband, who was strolling nearby. I’m sure I had a smirk on my face.

“What can I say? I guess giving your spouse expired coupons is genetic,” he responded a little sheepishly.

“I guess I need to check the dates more closely next time,” I added.

Lately, clipping coupons and saving money has become the subject of TV shows. Yes, you can save money, but be sure that you are able to use the food within a reasonable period of time to ensure you enjoy foods at their safest and highest quality. Consider these tips:

  • Organize your coupons in categories for easy shopping, and place your coupons in a place that’s easily accessible. If you leave your coupons at home, you won’t save any money.
  • Check the policies of your grocery store to see whether they offer double- or triple-value coupon days or if they honor coupons printed from couponing websites.
  • Read the sales ads and pair a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon for added savings.
  • Shop for good nutrition and value. Be cautious about the temptation to buy high-sodium, high-fat foods even if you are saving money in the process.
  • Be sure to use coupons for items that you normally would eat. Resist the urge to buy a food just because you have a coupon.
  • Look at the back of your grocery receipt. Some stores offer coupons on the back of receipts.
  • Read the “best if used by” and “sell by” dates on foods, and select foods with the longest shelf life for best quality.
  • When you return home, label the foods with the date of purchase. Organize your pantry in “first in first out” order so you rotate your food supply for best quality.

Here’s a healthy spin on a frequent sale-priced item: ramen noodles. By adding vegetables, you are enhancing the nutritional value and diluting the amount of sodium.

Ramen Noodle Side Dish

2 c. fresh or frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, onion, celery, broccoli, green beans, spinach)

1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

1 package ramen noodles, any flavor

1/2 c. water

Saute the vegetables in oil until tender-crisp (about five to 10 minutes). Crush ramen noodles and add to the vegetables along with the seasoning packet and water. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and noodles are tender. Notes: You also can add cooked chicken for a complete meal. Try using only part of the seasoning packet to reduce the sodium content more.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 120 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 18 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 370 milligrams of sodium. (Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication – Feb. 2, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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