Q Iím tired of finding mostly coupons and discounts in the papers for womenís beauty products, toys and junk food. In this economy, we need food coupons! Where are the meat and produce coupons? Just to buy some vegetables and fruit, let alone any fresh meat or chicken, can break the budget. How does the consumer get the attention of the producers/distributors and sellers to offer more coupons on ďrealĒ food?

A: Itís important to think about why companies issue coupons. While many shoppers believe coupons exist to help them reduce their grocery bills (and thatís true), the manufacturersí goal is to influence you to buy a product ó period. The coupon is a financial incentive to try something new, continue buying something we like or to choose one brand of a product over another.

You probably know that manufacturers reimburse stores for the coupons shoppers use. If I use a 75-cent coupon for cereal, the cerealís manufacturer reimburses the store. The manufacturer has an interest in getting me to choose its brand of cereal over a competing brand and may offer a stream of coupons to encourage me to continue buying that cereal. For any coupon to exist, there must be a company behind the product willing to put money forward.

This is why we donít see as many coupons for meat or produce. If a coupon exists for fresh green beans, who reimburses the store? Someone trying to influence people to buy fresh green beans must back that coupon financially. Unless the green beans are being distributed by a specific brand, vs. being supplied to the store by local growers, itís not likely that youíll see coupons for them.

The same is true for most meats. If my storeís in-house butcher shop wraps up a package of ground beef, in whose interest is it to provide a coupon for that meat? Unless the meat bears a specific brand, youíre not likely to find a coupon for it.

The exceptions, of course, are when a farm, grower or council offers cou-pons for fresh produce and meat.

Now, frozen and canned vegetables are easier to save on. Many manufacturers regularly offer coupons for these products. Note that both types of products usually bear a specific brand name (Del Monte, Green Giant) and competing brands in the same category vie for your business.

During specific times of year, you may see coupons for general meat purchases. And I look for coupons on popular brands of meats (Hormel, Perdue, Jennie-O) to reduce costs. As always, I pay attention to the per-pound price for the best deal.

Jill Cataldo has a website at www.jillcataldo.com.