Tag Archives: budget

Grocery Series Part III: How to save money

1 Jul

In the past year my shopping habits have changed drastically. I used to shop in order to save money. I was still eating “healthy” but I mainly focused on couponing and getting the most food for my  money. Now I’ve changed priorities and realized that if I am going to look for ways to save money, compromising on what I put in my body is probably not the best way to start. According to Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), Americans spend the LEAST percentage amount of their income on food compared to other nations. Coincidentally we are the most unhealthy…..

I’ve already talked about ways to prioritize what to buy organic and how to eat local, but I will admit these foods are still more expensive than conventional and industrial raised products. But are you willing to sacrifice quality over quantity? Here are some things I’ve cut out to save money to put into ethically raised animals and local produce:

1) Dairy

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{Moo Cows better to look at then to drink from}

I know, I know…dairy is supposed to be good for you (calcium and stuff). If you eat Paleo dairy is out- but that’s not the main reason I nixed it. Industrial dairy has been processed to the point where it’s doing more harm than good in my opinion. And organic dairy is expensive. I buy Austin organic milk and that’s it. I’ve given up cheese, yogurt and milk myself.  I know we all love our Chobani, but that $4-5 a week adds up! And don’t even ask me where I’m getting calcium. There are plenty of other sources! Google it.

2) Cereals and processed snack products

Cereal

(source)

I read in Omnivore’s Dilemma that a $4 box of cereal takes 4 cents of commodity corn to make. Cereal is ROBBERY IN A BOX. And can we just take a minute to think about what nutritionally cereal does for you? Oh that’s right, nothing. When health claims start appearing on boxes of Lucky Charms, we’ve really gone off the deep end as a society.

I know it is delicious (and you can get it cheaper using coupons). For me, it’s a food with no brakes, so I simply can’t afford to have it around at all.

Same goes with all those snack bars, protein bars, granola bars infused with fiber. I know! I used to buy them! But it makes more sense to use that money for more nutritionally sound and un-processed food.

3) Frozen Meals/Canned Soup

I used to buy lean cuisines or smart ones, or canned soup for lunch all the time. They are pricey as well. Now I make enough dinner every night to bring leftovers the next day.  Now that I really think about it…….

4) Anything processed or packaged at all.

If you’re buying processed food, don’t tell me you can’t afford organic. Don’t even get me started on soda.

 

Other ways you could assess if changing the way you eat and shop for food would work….can you cancel cable? Why is watching your favorite sitcoms more important than what you put in your body? (*To be fair, I’ve suggested this multiple times to my fiancé, but still get a resounding NO. He’s not on board. If it was just me there’s now way I would have TV).

What about spending habits elsewhere? It’s important to look at your budget and where your money goes before deciding it’s “not worth it” to care about what goes into your body. I know for me, I really need to stop getting sucked into “blog food fads”. LOL Almond flour, Larabars and fancy nut butters also are a money suck. But there sooooo gooooooood :(  If I can cut back on some of this I would have more money to buy local organic produce (I still buy a lot from the grocery store- hey at least it’s not soda).

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{yummy but big money suck}

How do you feel about prioritizing what you put in your body over other life expenses?

Is eating organic realistic? Why or why not?

How to save on health and beauty products at CVS

28 Jan

I have been dabbling in couponing for about a year now. I’m no expert by any means, but I feel like I represent the average couponer. I don’t spend countless hours clipping, printing and gathering deals just so I can stock up on useless items I’ll never use (i.e. TLC). I try to use couponing realistically to save on things I would use anyways. I already shared with you how I use couponing to save on groceries, and today I had a great CVS trip I wanted to share.

cat

CVS is a health and beauty store…if you’re not familiar with it it’s similar to Rite Aid. First off, you have to sign up for the Extra Bucks Card. Many stores like this one have a membership card (Rite Aid has the Wellness card). Extra Bucks allows you to receive rewards (actual coupons for dollars off) for buying certain products to use on future purchases. The thing I like about CVS is you can use the Extra Bucks the SAME DAY by doing multiple transactions and see your savings right then. Rite Aid caught on to us couponers and is now making us wait until 6 am the next business day to redeem rewards. Yeah, I can always go back the next day, but it’s annoying and I need INSTANT SAVINGS!!!!

You can always use websites like I am THAT Lady to find CVS coupon match ups……however her match ups and transaction ideas usually feature tons of products that

a) I would never use

b) I didn’t bother to cut the coupon for because I would never spend money on it

Yea, it’s cool to get stuff for free just because, but I really have no interest in spending countless hours matching up deals and cutting out coupons for stuff I would never use just so I can get free Depends, stool softener and Pepto Bismol.

Instead, I use the match ups and Extra Bucks rewards more conservatively and realistically. I might not get that 65 packets of heartburn medicine for 2 dollars….but I’m pretty pleased with the deals I do get. Here are some steps to use these deals realistically:

1) Cut coupons for things that you regularly use, not just brands you like. For example; cut all coupons for things like toothbrushes, toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and body wash even if it’s for a brand you don’t usually use. You can’t be a brand snob while couponing!

2) Start looking for deals BEFORE you are out of the items. The more desperate you are, the more you will spend on an item. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re out of toothpaste and running down to the corner store and spending $4. Or just getting the cheapest toilet paper at Wal-Mart because you’re out. I start looking for items when I know I’m down to 1-2 of them in my storage. 

3) For each CVS trip, pick 1 –2 items that you need, have a coupon for that also give you Extra Bucks Rewards. For example, this time I picked toothpaste. It was on sale for 2.99 (regularly 4.49) and I had two coupons for $1 of one. So I got two toothpastes and used my coupons AND the deal was get $1 extra bucks for each.

4) Pick 1-2 more things that you need, that are on sale that you have a coupon for that don’t have Extra Bucks rewards. Use the Extra Bucks Rewards PLUS the coupons in a second transaction. Just tell the cashier you want to pay for the Extra Bucks items first (in my case the toothpastes), cash out, then pay for the rest of your stuff.

You could obviously pick way more than just 1-2 items for each transaction. I am THAT Lady has huge lists of detailed transactions that make my head hurt. I do it this way because it’s simple, I’m not wasting money on stuff I don’t need, and I don’t make the cashier and everyone in line too mad at me. Two transactions with a couple of items is fine with me!

Today, I got all this stuff for $12! It doesn’t look like much, but each of those mascaras retails for $9! And the toothpastes were 4.49 at first!

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So once you have your coupons, open up the CVS circular and see what you can get! Let me know how you do!

How to grocery shop on a budget using coupons

2 Dec

coupons

It’s Sunday, so for me that means weekly coupon organizing, grocery shopping and weekly meal planning. I was excited about how much I brought home today at Tops for under my budget, so I decided to write a post about it because this is something that I’m sure many people struggle with.

I’ve been using coupons for more than a year now, but it wasn’t until recently that I started really becoming more serious about it and learned to budget my shopping so couponing actually was worth it. A couple of my friends turned me on to the website I am THAT Lady, a coupon blogger from Syracuse who posts weekly deals and coupon match ups. Ever since, I have been following her blog and have learned to do my own coupon match ups with local stores. Her blog is a great place to start if you are wondering the basics of couponing.

Today I was able to get all this stuff at TOPS for $26 bucks!

groceries

(Missing Austin’s whole milk which was in the fridge and cost $3.47)

I’m no extreme couponer, but not too shabby. I was able to get some great deals. The original total was about $50 bucks. I paid $26.

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Before you become too coupon happy, here are some guidelines that I generally like to  follow:

1. Set a budget. When I first started couponing, I literally wanted to go get everything that was on sale with every single coupon I had at every single store. This resulted in unneeded food and items that I wouldn’t really eat/use otherwise. Just because you have a coupon for it doesn’t meant you HAVE to have it. I set a budget of $200 a month for Austin and I. This includes toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, etc. This doesn’t include when we go out to dinner (which we try to limit, obviously). Before buying something, I really ask myself if I NEED it. If I don’t and it’s not in the budget, I don’t get it.

2. Shop the sales. I literally do not buy an item if it is not on sale or if I don’t  have a coupon for it. The ideal situation is that the item is on sale AND I have a coupon for it. This allows you to stock up on things at a very low price. For instance, I didn’t really NEED cans of corn and beans this week, but it was on sale and I had a coupon that allowed me to get it at .25 a can. So I stocked up. This way when I do NEED it, I’m not paying $1-2 a can (gasp). The only reason I would buy something that does not have a coupon or is not on sale is because it is a basic staple we need like milk, bread or meat.

corn

I also got some ground chicken on sale. If you look in the meat dept sometimes they mark down meat that needs to be sold that day. I’ll freeze this asap and use next week. Got two of these. Score!

chicken

Sometimes, if you are able to combine a coupon and a sale item AND your local grocery store doubles coupons (TOPS does), you can even get items for FREE! Case in point: free turkey bacon today! It was on sale for 2 for $3 and I had a .75 coupon which doubled.

bacon

I love free food.

3. Plan your week. This is the most time consuming part. I spend about an hour every Sunday looking at the ads, planning out meals and cutting and printing coupons. I look forward to it…which is kind of sad lol. I’ve learned to plan my meals around what is on sale/what I already have in the cupboard. For instance, I know that I already have chicken in the freezer, and Ken’s blue cheese dressing and wing sauce was on sale at a local grocery store. I also had a coupon for the dressing. So tomorrow we’re having buffalo chicken wraps. Sometimes it stinks if you like printing up fancy and elaborate dinners with lots of ingredients, but over time I have learned to incorporate my love of cooking and reading food blogs with my love of …um..money?

4. Go to many stores to get the best sales. Be aware that you will probably be going to more than one store if you want the best deals. I usually go to 2-3 different stores including Rite Aid each Sunday. I am THAT Lady has a great blog section for how to shop at each store if you are interested. Some people say it’s worth going to Wal-Mart and just getting the cheap generic stuff without coupons, but I definitely prefer this way of shopping. Even though I go to more than one store, I don’t have to deal with all the hooligans, terrible lines, crappy service, broken carts (can you tell I hate it?) in Wal-Mart and I get name brands for the same price or even cheaper. If I’m desperate and don’t have a lot coupons for the stuff I need or there aren’t good sales, I’ll begrudgingly go to Wal-Mart. I’m lucky in that my town is relatively small and it’s really not a big deal to go to different stores since they are all right near each other.

kitties

A day of couponing makes Frank very tired!

If you want to get into couponing don’t be scared! It can be very overwhelming, but just remember to stick to a budget, buy things on sale and make sure you plan. Start by using a coupon blog that does match ups and sooner or later you will be able to do your own match ups.

Question: Have you tried couponing? What are your tips and tricks? Or do you think Wal-Mart is the best bet? Comments people!

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