Where Have All The Free Item Insert Coupons Gone?

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Where Have All The Free Item Insert Coupons Gone?

Where Have All The Free Item Insert Coupons Gone?

So the other day I was thinking to myself that I had not seen any free item coupons in the Sunday inserts in quite a while. And so the moderators and I were discussing this and the conclusion was “that show ruined it” and “sad“.

And it IS sad…because I remember a time when there were coupons for free stuff pretty darn often in the inserts. Oh sure, those coupons were pretty regional…only certain areas got them. But with any luck you could score a few in a trade in the trade forum from someone who got some extras. But it just really seems that those coupons are really few and far between now and I sort of even wonder will we still see free item coupons in the Sunday paper anymore.

To prove my theory I  decided to dig into the Coupon Database here at HotCouponWorld since we have historical data on thousands of coupons going back as far as 2007 (actually we go back a tad further on some coupons but I only researched back to 2007 for this article). And what I found was pretty spot on. This year, in 2013, we have only seen SIX free item coupons with the last one issued way back in March of 2013! Here it is November, and it has been dry as a bone as far as these types of coupons go…wow.

But how does that compare to previous years? Check out the chart below to see for yourself…

Free Item Coupons - Where Have They Gone?

In 2007 we saw 17 free item coupons for products such as Purina, Freshpet, Tropicana, & Meow Mix. The in 2008, which is the year the economy started to take a turn for the worse in the Summer of 2008, there were quite a few more free item coupons at 31. Products like SoyJoy, Dry Cleaners Secret, Adidas Action 3, Wholly Guacamole & more Purina coupons. Then, in 2009, the recession is in full swing by this time and we see a nice jump in free item coupons at 41 for the year. Couponers were getting Frank’s RedHot sauce, Marcal paper products, Ideal Sweetener and other nice goodies for free with those insert coupons. And then in 2010 we start to see the decline down to only 25 free item coupons. Brands like Fling Chocolate Truffles, Super Poligrip, Fruit2O, MORE Purina and Marcal are still to be had for free.

It should be noted that the first episode of “that show” (Extreme Couponing) aired December 29th, 2010 just as we are heading into 2011 and it is downhill from there with only 18 free item coupons for products like Carefree, Crave cat treats, Idahoan flavored potatoes and a few others. 2012 isn’t any better with only 9 (NINE!) free item coupons although the Good N Natural bars WERE yummy and even better when they are free! And then like I mentioned earlier..a mere 6 lonely free item coupons this year.


So what is the reason why we are seeing so few free item coupons in the paper? When we were in the thick of the recession brands seemed to put out more free item coupons to entice the consumer to try their product on the house. The economy, while not fully recovered, still isn’t that great right now so I don’t that has much to do with it. But the decline in free item coupons started in 2010 and Extreme Couponing didn’t air until the very end of 2010 so there was already a downward trend in free item coupons before “that show” started to air.

But with Extreme Couponing in full swing we started seeing a huge uptick in three areas:

  • New couponers who saw the show and wanted to learn how to do that…get HUGE savings at the grocery store. A very unrealistic expectation!
  • More fraud at the store level…the show portrayed a lot of people breaking store policy and using coupons in violation of the coupon policies and terms of the coupons themselves.
  • More fake and fraudulent coupons. Yes, even at least one “Extreme Couponer” on the show was proven to have used fraudulent coupons and that is also when we started to see the CIC put out a lot more notices about fake coupons saturating the market.

So yes, I think the show Extreme Couponing has something to do with the decline we are seeing in free item coupons in the papers. I think grocery brands are more hesitant to put coupons out there for FREE items (no other purchase necessary) because those coupons are more likely, in my opinion to be reproduced and turned into fake coupons which cost brands millions of dollars each year.

No Free

Sad indeed.

So what can we expect in 2014? Well, if we go by the data presented to us so far I am thinking that we are going to see very few if any free item coupons in the Sunday paper. My gut says less than 3. It’s just my prediction, and I don’t have a crystal ball. But I think the days of sweet coupons for a free can of dog food or a new snack bar are over folks.

What do you think? Have we seen the last of free item coupons in the Sunday paper?


  1. I think it is that show but we also should factor in Facebook. I see a lot of limited free giveaways on Facebook, so that might be a factor as well, esp if it leads to more control


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