Extreme Couponing on TLC & 6 Reasons Why I Don’t Qualify

A few months ago, I got an email from a producer on TLC’s Extreme Couponing, encouraging me to audition for their show.

At first, I was flattered – I mean, seriously? Me? How’d they even know about me?

But then, I got that red-flag feeling and decided to press delete.

You see, while I think it is SO important to show kosher-keepers that they, too, can save a significant amount of money on their grocery bill by using coupons, there is something very “treif” about these so-called extreme couponing methods.

From the snipits I’ve caught of the show online (we don’t have cable) and the various articles and blog posts I’ve read, Extreme Couponing is promoting a very distorted image of those of us who save money with coupons.

1. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot of money, you have to spend hours – and hours… and hours – a day on couponing!

To me, that just sounds like a huge waste of time… and money! I spend about 30-45 minutes getting ready for a coupon trip, which involves checking my meal plan, reviewing circulars, making my list and clipping/printing coupons. My goal is to be in and out of the store in under a half hour. If I’ve got kids with me, I try to do it even faster – because shopping with my toddler is NOT fun.

2. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot of money, you have to have a stockpile of toilet paper that will last until the next century!

To me, that sounds an awful lot like hoarding. Yes, I recommend stocking up on products when they are at rock bottom prices.

But most items are on a 12-week sale cycle, which means that every 3 months or so, they are going to reach their rock bottom price. So stock up – but do so within reason. Another sale is just around the corner.

Of course, if you want to pick up a few extra packages to donate, then more power to you! But clearing the shelves just because you can? That crosses the line.

3. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot of money, we have to use coupons unethically.

To me, that sounds suspiciously like theft. One of this season’s couponers is a woman who less than two years ago was outed on a couponing forum for her unethical useage of coupons. (You can read more about that saga here.)

With so much money to be saved, there is no reason to play games with stores and manufacturers. Just stick to the rules of couponing.

4. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot of money, we have to dumpster dive for coupon inserts.

To me, that sounds gross. Each Sunday, I get one copy of the paper, delivered to my home. If there are a ton of crazy good coupons, I might drop by the Dollar Tree to pick up a second copy. I love printable coupons – and yes, I do sometimes ask my husband to print a second set of coupons for me. Oh, and I have a subscription to All You Magazine.

And yet, despite my rather UNextreme compilation of coupon inserts, I still manage to spend no more than $500 a month for groceries and household items. For a kosher-keeping family of five, I feel pretty good about that.

5. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot of money, we can’t buy anything unless it has a coupon.

To me that sounds limiting and unrealistic. I’d estimate that I use coupons about half the time. My trips to CVS, Target and Hen House (our local grocery store that doubles coupons) are typically coupon-heavy. But Costco and Walmart? Almost never. And in the summer, I’m thrilled to get most of our fresh produce from an organic CSA co-op.

6. TLC seems to be telling us that in order to save a lot money, you have to eat only processed foods – and keeping kosher is probably out of the question, too.

To me that sounds like a major turn-off. If my big money-saving strategy was to feed my family cereal and Ramen Noodles twice a day, I’m guessing we’d “waste” as much on doctor’s bills as we “saved” on grocery bills.

Yes, I do buy my share of foods that come in a box or bag, but I also buy organic produce, kosher meat and dairy, and whole grains. It’s not as sensational to say this, but rest assured, you can still save big AND eat a balanced, healthy, kosher diet. Heck, you can even do it shopping at Whole Foods!

You see, when I put it all that together like this, it makes perfect sense that I wouldn’t be a good candidate for a show called Extreme Couponing.

Now if there was a show called Save hundreds of dollars every month without hoarding, stealing, diving into dumpsters or making yourself sick-Couponing … well, then TLC: I’d be your kosher-keeping, couponing gal.

Now that you know what I think, I’d love to hear from you, too: Have you caught Extreme Couponing on TLC? What did you think of the show?


  1. We watched one episode. Hoarding came to mind for me. The one family had mountains of pop and chips. How do they plan on drinking all that pop before it goes bad. And yes pop does go bad. For these people it seems more of a game/quest than for actually saving on food they are going to eat or products they will use. All I kept thinking was what a waste and how many people could be fed with their stockpile. Ok, I will stop now. LOL.

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this. I can justify having six of something because if you shop at a wholesale club you would get bulk there. But I can’t get justify having 10 + bottles mayloxx or 45 boxes of pasta. I eat alot of fresh items also and some days I wish I saved more. Thank you for thinking the same thoughts I’ve been thinking.

  3. totally looked like hoarding. you can watch in online at http://www.watchseries-online.com/category/extreme-couponing

  4. I think the show is supposed to be entertainment (and, I wasn’t entertained). It seems to be made with the total cooperation of the stores, and so I am positive that the retailers knew exactly what was happening. I think it promotes hoarding of unhealthy foods. What I like about your take on couponing is to do it to create margin to spend on what is important to your family values. I have been couponing for about a month now; yesterday I had the checker at Giant Eagle ask me for tips AND for a copy of my crockpot black beans I now use for our new “meatless Mondays.” I am saving enough to maybe afford organic strawberries (dirty dozen) at least part of the time, and am going to use my new skills to help me pay for ingredients for casseroles, etc. That I am going to prepare for a new drop in center for area homeless.

  5. You give very good reasons- I wonder if that sort of email should be sent back to TLC explaining that you would be happy to go on the show so you could show that it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. In a sense, you’re still “extreme” because of how much you save. But in my opinion, you might be a good candidate for the show so viewers don’t have to watch the same kind of scenarios over and over again!

  6. There are entertainment so they goal is to have them spent nothing. I wonder how many register rewards or similar coupons they are using to get the total down. Otherwise, I agree they seem to be hoarding. I admit to having more than 12 weeks of some stuff (Finish Tabs for example) but I don’t have a stockpile in my room or my kids room.

  7. Grotesque is the word that comes to mind. I watched one episode and that was ENOUGH! It bordered on mental illness. Actually, “bordered” might be too gentle a word.

  8. Orthonomics says

    Here is a healthy video response for the average couponer:

    I like when she is stocking up on Clorox wipes she says “I actually use these.”

  9. I’m so glad you wrote about this topic. I too have been troubled by the messages that the show is sending (so much so that I rambled about it on my blog at http://iamanoverachiever.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/why-extreme-couponing-isnt-for-extremely-busy-people). I am sure that the stories featured on the show have been overdramatized to make for better TV, but at the end of the day their methods are not practical (or healthy) for normal people. Your approach is much more attainable and realistic for those of us with busy, hectic lives.

  10. What you said! The saddest part for me is to think how much “life energy” (I dislike that term but can’t think what else to call it) extreme couponing types expend on money. Saving money, but money all the same.

  11. Mara, I’m glad you wrote about this. I eagerly dvd’d the episodes and watched them with disappointment. I too wished they profiled “normal” people who weren’t stockpiling ridiculous things like mustard (which the husband said he didn’t even really eat) and Maalox. When the woman told her husband to “clear the shelf” of mustard, I just thought that was ridiculous. I do wish you had agreed to be featured on the show and showed a more balanced side to couponing. However, the show isn’t called “balanced couponing” or “couponing for regular people”, it’s called “extreme couponing” for a reason because they think only the extreme forms of things appeal to the “masses.”

  12. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, reading your post sounds strikingly like what I told my wife the other night when we watched the first episode. Like the mustard – I understand its only 39 cents per bottle. But why on Earth do you need 60 of them? And that second family has enough in their house to keep them going for 3 years….uh, then why do you still shop 3 times a week?!!?!?

    • Exactly. At some point, it doesn’t matter if it’s free. if you don’t need it, you.don’t.need.it (unless you are donating it RIGHT AWAY). We have also come up with an arbitrary stockpile number for our home; based on space and sanity, we will not buy/own more than 10 of any item at any time. The only exception is the gefilte fish loaves that go on sale at Rosh Hashanah and Pesach, and even in that case, I can’t imagine buying more than 12-16. I do make these stretch pretty close to the opposite holiday.

      • But y’know what? That’s ONE cheap product, that will last you one year. Its not 3 years worth of toilet paper or 60 bottles of mustard – its a whole different ballgame!

        • I agree 100%. And as I’ve discussed with others in the past, if you have several years’ worth of a product, it doesn’t matter if it’s free — stop “buying” it!!!!! Donate it! Give it away! But if you have enough toilet paper for multiple lifetimes, you don’t.need.any.more. (Also, it’s not fair to those of us who don’t have multiple lifetimes of toilet paper. We’d like to see it on the shelf when we go to the store.)

  13. I always wondered how they found people to agree to be on these shows. I completely agree with your approach to shopping and saving. I’m a big fan of sales and deals; but, you’re right, you can’t take advantage of every one and sometimes you have to pay retail (kosher meat) and that’s that. Except at the Kollel Store in Boro Park where everything is dirt cheap.

    By the way, love your blog and routinely take advantage of deals you post. Thanks.

  14. My husband and I watch the show, and we find it fascinating that people could be so crazy. One guy special ordered 1000 boxes of Total cereal I believe it was, but atleast he donated them… but at the same time, the guys stock pile was ridiculous… he had thousands of dollars worth of merchandise that will go bad if he doesn’t donate that first!

  15. Thanks for writing this! I have been saving about 40% off my grocery shopping bills – unless its time to buy meat or milk (we’re cholov yisroel), but after watching Extreme Couponing I started feeling a little disappointed in myself, thinking I should do more than what I’ve been doing. Reading your post has made me feel more fullfilled. After all, I do have a two year old and a five week old – spending time with them is far more important and necessary than hours and hours couponing for things I don’t need.

    • Absolutely! We can all save 80-90%, but will we be buying food and household items that we can readily use or donate?

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