Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Saving Money Grocery Shopping

Food is expensive, especially good food.  I want to feed my family well with healthy and as much organic as I can afford.  In order to do this I have learned a few tricks.  I thought I would share:

1.  Coupon shopping:  I didn't used to coupon shop because I was a snob who thought, "well, I don't buy Hamburger Helper, and there aren't coupons for real foods".  There actually are coupons for real foods.  And even if I don't think of myself as someone who buys a lot of prepared foods, I buy more than I think with breakfast cereal, granola bars, pasta, canned beans, frozen vegetables, etc.  Plus non-food items like deodorant and detergent can eat a big hole in a budget and always have coupons.
Noah needs to stick to a budget

What all those "Extreme Coupon" ladies are doing is combining a sale price with a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon to get the best deal.  Many grocery stores and Target offer their own store coupons that they will allow you to use with a manufacturer's coupon.  For example, say Tide detergent is on sale at Target.   You use a manufacturer's coupon plus a Target store coupon plus the sale price and your Tide detergent is now cheaper than generic. 

Where do you get coupons?  Sunday paper is the most reliable source for manufacturer's coupons.  Also you can "Like" different products on Facebook or visit their websites and they will often offer coupons that you can print or they will mail.  Many grocery stores will allow you to "load" coupons onto your club/rewards card.  Target allows you to print store coupons from their website, receive them as text offers, or they have a new mobile coupon app called Cartwheel.  Different apps like Ibotta allow you to electronically submit recipes for a rebate check.

How to organize?  I like a binder with baseball card sleeves to organize (yes, I am THAT lady at the grocery store).  This allows me to take advantage of any sort of deal I might come across.  Some people prefer to just bring the coupons they need for their pre-planned deal which can help you keep your budget.  

Many sites post "deals" at different stores.  They will research the ads for the week and tell you what is a spectacular bargain and what coupons you need.  A Portland area one I love is frugallivingnw.com, my national favorites are moneysavingmom.com, thekrazycouponlady.com or couponingtodisney.com.  Some stores vary their prices regionally (like my beloved Target) so a local website is the best place for those deals. 

2.  Less meat:  Quality meat is one of the more expensive items you put in your grocery cart.  My husband is a meat lover and I have mentioned before that Owen considers himself a "meatatrian" and I can still pull this off without anyone complaining.  I stretch the meat with other, often healthier, items.  For example if we are having tacos I will use only 1/2 pound of ground beef and throw in a can of black beans.  My fajitas are heavy on the vegetables, light on the meat.  Pasta dishes only requires one big chicken breast between everyone's plates.  Vegetables, beans, grains, pasta are all tasty and healthy substitutes for some of the meat.  

3.  Strive to never throw food away:  Of course no one plans on throwing out the groceries they purchased, but then you open the vegetable crisper and the lettuce is slim.  I utilize my freezer to save items that I don't think we are going to finish before they go bad.   I prep them, like steam the spinach, roast the tomatoes, wash the berries, so they are recipe ready when I need them.  I will freeze canned goods when I only need a little and have a lot left in the can.  I do this with chipotles in adobe because no recipe ever seems to need more than 1 or 2 chiles.  I will also freeze tomato paste in 1 tablespoon increments so I can just throw them into sauce straight from the freezer when I need them. 

4.  Make your own convenience food:  Again the freezer comes into play here.  Owen won't eat cereal (seriously, what did I do wrong with that child!?) so he eats waffles or pancakes every morning.  Instead of buying Eggo or Vans, I make my own on the weekend, freeze them and just throw them into the toaster in the morning.  Pancakes microwave in 30 seconds for a super quick breakfast.  Breakfast burritos, or biscuit sandwiches freeze and reheat really well for busy weekday mornings.

I also like to keep a couple dinners frozen.  Using disposable aluminum pans, I freeze pastas, enchiladas, soups and other meals for a later date.  If I am out of town, too sick to cook or otherwise just don't feel like making dinner, we don't have to go out.  And if you are saying to yourself, "wait, I thought she was married, can't her husband help?"  Let me explain, my husband is talented at many things but he is a disaster in the kitchen.  Not only will he ruin the dinner, he will ruin the pan he cooked it in.  No, just no.

5.  For the love of God, pack a lunch: There was a financial planning book that was out a few years ago, the author talked what he called the "latte factor". (The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach). When you go about your day and get a latte, then lunch, then a drink on the way home, each one of those purchases may have only been a few bucks but when you add them up for just one day they may be close to $20.Factor that by 5 days a week, 52 weeks in a year, and this becomes a serious outlay of cash on nothing.At the grocery store think about the grown up lunches, not just dinners and kid lunches.  Even spending another $20 on stuff you want for lunch is far cheaper than buying everyday.
I try to pack lunches or at least snacks on the weekends too. Not that we don't eat out occasionally, but I want that to be planned. We can't get into the car without my boys all of a sudden deciding they are starved. Having snacks on hand prevents the McDonald's run just to end the complaining.   

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