Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 5b of 5

FL was a success!  I spent more than I planned, but they had cat litter on sale - unadvertised - but since the Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent was on sale, I figured they might have the litter on sale too, so I brought my coupons along, just in case.  Saved $1.50/each off of 2 from the WM price.  Score! 

OK, Now I'm going to take you along while I plan my Kroger trip.  This is going to be fun, I promise...AND, it will be the last post in this series.  Whew!

First thing I do is gather my grocery list.  Mmmmm, not much this week - tuna, powdered milk, yogurt, milk, Popsicles.

Second, log in to coupon mom . com and select "Grocery Deals by State," from the scroll down list I select "VA-Kroger-Central"
Here is the screen that results from that selection:

(You can see that my BSecure Internet Filter is filtering out unwanted ads :)

Look down at the bottom right hand corner - I know, its tiny, but you'll see "% Saved" and two arrows.  Click on the arrow pointing "down".  What this does is give you the items that are on sale with the highest % off first, like so:

(I do it this way because I'm probably not interested in the items toward the bottom of the list that are listed as being on sale but are really only 0%-25% off)

See those words in red?  Those are FREE items!  Woo-hooo!!  See why I love this stuff?

OK, here's what you do next.  On the far left hand side of the screen there is a tiny box.  Scroll through the Kroger sale list and check off the items you want to add to your grocery list.  If you're looking for a specific item, like TUNA, you can put it in the box on the upper left hand corner (above) to pull up that deal.

After you've made your selections, hit, "Display Selected Deals" at the bottom of the screen and you'll get a list like this:

Now, you can either email this list to yourself to print later, or print it directly.

The next step is to gather your coupons. 

OK, on the left are some codes:  N/A (no coupon available); PG = Proctor & Gamble, RP = Red Plum, S=SmartSource.  These are all names of the coupon inserts in which you will find your coupons.  So....go to your coupon organizer, look at the dates on your hanging files and pull the coupon inserts out of them, where you've been saving them for at least two weeks!  Look in those magic flyers and find the aforementioned coupons. 

Clip those coupons to the list that you printed out and shop away! 

As you can see from my list above, if I had all those coupons (I don't*) I would be able to purchase 14 items for a total price of $5.94 (not really**)!!

*I know I've already used a couple of those coupons, and I know that I don't have the 6/6 coupon files because I threw them away by mistake (horrors!).

**See how after some of the items it says, "promo item"?  That means, in this case, you have to buy a certain number of an item to get the discount.  With Kroger, its usually mix-and-match, and there are a dozen or more items that count toward the number you have to purchase.  Usually its something like by 10, get 30% off each item.  And usually, you'll have a few coupons for those items in your coupon box.  But, if you don't, and you still want the deal, just purchase the lowest cost item in the promotion to fill in the gap.

Now what?

Go shopping!  Stick to the list, don't be afraid to miss a sale (stay in your budget), have fun!

Oh, and about those items in RED....we just won't use some of them, but I'll probably pick them up anyways.  Donate them!  Your church undoubtedly has a food pantry, or else you can collect a bunch of stuff and surprise a college kid with 'em.  You can also stockpile them so that when you run out of shampoo or whatever you're not making a "quick trip" to the store which we all know will only result in buying extra stuff you don't really need.

One more thing:  You'll notice that my personal "needs" grocery list and the Kroger list don't really match up, except for that tuna and yogurt.  Does this justify my driving 20+ miles one way?  Notsomuch.  But, I'll be close to the Clifton Forge Kroger anyways and I need powdered milk, and their price is better than anywhere else for it.  So, unless I had to be over there anyways, this wouldn't be a good stockup week for me.  I have plenty of soap and toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo in my stockpile.  But since I'll be there anyways and some of the stuff is free....well, you get the idea.

Well, that about wraps it up.  Any questions?  Comments?  Does this work for you?  Lemme know and keep saving your coupon inserts - they'll save you $$!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 5a of 5

I'm going shopping today.....

This week I'll be shopping at 3 stores for groceries - it seems like a lot, but one of them is Bartley's Meat Market which doesn't really count because I only by -!- meat and misc. there and I don't use coupons.  In fact, I've already been, and I spent $28 and got: beef short ribs, a roast, a poundish of smoked bacon, a poundish of ground beef, 3/4lb. of block Parmesan, h'burg buns (Hiner's, which I buy only because they are called "sunny buns," of course....)a chuck steak...and I think that's all.  Her prices are really fair, and I trust her ground beef, which she grinds herself.

Next on the list is Food Lion.  I scanned the circular on Wednesday and double-checked it online.  I didn't really see anything great as far as stocking up, but there were a few items there....
  • Holly Farms Whole Fryers @ .57/lb
  • Red Grapes @ .99/lb
  • Nature's Own Butterbread 1.50
  • Arm & Hammer Liquid Laundry Detergent BOGO @ 2/$5
  • FL Raw Shrimp 16 oz. $4, BOGO
I'm out of chicken in the freezer, so I'll pick up a couple hens....

Red Grapes keep the girls happy, and are higher in anti-oxidants than green grapes (on sale at Kroger for the same price)

N.O. Butterbread is Andy's favorite, and is usually priced around $2.19 at WM, so I'll buy a couple loaves at this price and put 'e in the freezer.

And the A&H is great for a stain remover (Remember, I make my own laundry detergent) and I have a good coupon:  here's that scenario:
  • buy 2 A&H Laundry Detergent @ 1/$4.99, Buy one Get one Free
  • use 2 $1/off coupons
  • out of pocket: $3 for 2 (or $1.50 each), which, in my opinion is a great deal. 
I "never" buy shrimp, but lately I've been craving seafood.  FL's policy is if you don't "buy one get one free," you can get just the one item at half price.  So, that means one pound of shrimp for $2. It will be a nice side dish to supper one night. 

Tomorrow, I'll be in Clifton Forge, so I'll go to Kroger....more on that later!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review

I just finished a most satisfying read: Romancing Miss Bronte, by Juliet Gael.  Though it was published this year, it was as fulfilling as one of the Bronte sisters' books themselves, which were penned in the mid-1800's.  If you're a fan of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or even Jane Austen, you will appreciate this work of historical fiction.

Nowadays, my reading selections lean toward the more pressing themes in my life.  The subject matter tends to vacillate from "Ohmygosh We're Homeschooling, What-Have-We-Done?" to "Dear Lord I've Messed Up Again On The Same Stuff I Prayed About Last Week..." to "What Are We, CRAZY Living on One Income In This Economy?" and the occasional "Hop on One Fish Goodnight Clifford."  "Romancing" was a welcome reprieve.

One of our local libraries lent me this book and I was able to read through it fairly quickly, in spite of it being over 400 pages.  I might even return it before incurring a fine!  I've been sick this weekend and have "oft taken to my bed" allowing longer reading sessions.  It seems that whenever I read this style of novel - Victorian? Romantic? Gothic, even? - that I am sick and have more time than usual to read.  Being ill myself, I am able to identify well with one or more of the characters, who iinvariably are dying of consumption.  Not that I have TB or anything, but these are the type of books that are well suited to immersion and not a few stolen minutes here or there.

I wish I could speak with more scholarly authority on Romantic Fiction, the Victorians or even Gothic Fiction.  Unfortunately, during my undergraduate years as an English major, I had other interests:  Flingin' spaghetti and doling out Chianti* in a quaint Italian restaurant....discovering Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and the Grateful Dead....  I didn't come to appreciate really good literature** until much later.

You should pick up this book once I return it, or order it online somewhere.  As a work of historical fiction, if you appreciate any of the Victorian authors or themes, you will enjoy looking at the lives of the famous sisters.  And then, if you're like me, you can return to your regular ("Quick-There's-A-Penny-On-The-Ground-Get-It-And-Squeeze-It") subject matter.

*Often ordered thus:  "Oh, and gimme some of that "SHY-ANN-TEE waine..."
**This is neither the time nor the place to discuss whether On The Road or Dharma Bums qualifies as good literature.  Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.  It depends on the mooooood.  And the Beat.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 4 of 5

In no particular order, here's some more savings/couponing tips. Remember, this is to punch up your grocery savings by a modest, but significant amount. It is not black-belt couponing. You can do that of course, and I'll be doing it this fall (and will share my results), but, if you're like me, its not practical right now, and maybe not for the the long-term.  This solution is ideal for the organized-ly challenged and for a method that can be used quickly and easily.

1. As you receive your coupon inserts (from the companies, "Red Plum," "SmartSource" and "P&G Brandsaver,") put them in the hanging files according to the date received. You'll be referring back to them later.

2. As you scour magazines, find coupons on products, get coupons in the mail for promotions you've signed up for, etc., put them in your "loose coupons" folder to review before your shopping trip.

3. Consider signing up for The Grocery Game ($1 for 3 month trial). TGG will match coupons with sales for you and will also let you know if an item is at a good, rock-bottom price - giving you a jump on your price book. At any rate, go to The Grocery Game website and read about what they do.

4. Sign up for The Coupon Mom (free) for a list of current online (printable) coupons as well as coupon matching for sales for stores in your area. They won't tell you if items are at the rock-bottom price, but you can get the feel of it as you go along. It does tell you a % off of each item, so you can judge if it is a good sale.

Truly - I am not impressed with any website's WalMart coupon/sale matchups. I wonder if our local Wal-Mart is a week or so off, because whenever I try to go by what I find online the sales don't match up in real life. Just a word of caution so you don’t get in the checkout line and the cashier looks at you like you're nuts….

5. Sign up for A Full Cup and read around that website for awhile.  Its free. There are black-belt coupon ideas and how-tos galore.

6.  Shop at Home is another good website to peruse.

7. By all means, sign up for Grocio if it is available in your area. Unfortunately, here in rural Virginia, notsomuch. Grocio compares sales among stores , ensuring that you get the lowest price on your grocery list items. Ah, now that is a great idea. But if you don't have access to Grocio, you have to do that part yourself!

8. Read couponing blogs and learn how others do it. Some of my favorite money-saving/homemaking/couponing blogs are:

and there are many, many more out there. Sign up to get updates delivered to your email. Follow their links and the links of their readers via the comment section. Some of the blogs I subscribe to are specific to stores here in our area. Mythical stores like Albertson's, Frys, Aldi - they sound delightful, but they're just not available for us.....but we do have PLENTY of mountains and sunshine, right??!

9. Use your store's loyalty card. You can load coupons on some of them from the websites. For example, go to, sign in and look for "coupons." You can use these coupons IN ADDITION to paper coupons.

10. Find and use online coupons. A couple links are and other links on and

Don't sweat it. If you can save a few dollars here and there, gradually you'll get the hang of it and start saving more and more. You might even want to venture into ordering coupons in bulk for items you frequently use - to build up your stockpile. You also don't have to go to every sale or use every coupon. The sales will roll around again on about 12-week cycles or so. Do what you can . Save where you can.

Next: Your Shopping Trip!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Kroger Shopping Trip Today

Skip over this if you find this topic boring....please!  But I wanted you to see a real-life example of how I saved money couponing and putting these "rules" in play.....

Sure, there are better 'scenarios,' but I'm satisfied with this.

Here's what I bought:

2 Cheerio's 18oz. boxes @ 2.09 (clearance bin, marked down from $4.29)
1 Charmin 12 pk.
4 kroger mac & chz
6 2lt. Pepsi
1 suave deo
6 spaghettios
48pk Lipton Tea
2pk Lever 2000 bar soap
3 pkgs salad dressing mix
2 boxes Kroger saltines
2 jars "sprinkles" <<---- IMPULSE BUY TO BRIBE KIDS, cost: 2 @  .88
1 Kroger vanilla ice cream
6 pkgs American sliced Kraft Cheese
8 pkgs 8 oz. Kraft Cheddar
34 oz. (regular size) Maxwell House coffee
1 seedless watermelon
2 Nature Valley Granola Bars boxes

TOTAL:  $113.37

Pretty good, right? 

Less Coupons, bonus coupons (doubled coupons), Kroger plus savings: $53.97......

TOTAL: $ 59.40
That's better.

For the record, I compared the Cheerios with the store brand.  With my coupon, it was about $.25 less per box.  Also, as for the tea, the price of the store brand was within .15 with the coupons I had.

Now, yes, we should not be drinking Pepsi (ahem) or eating Spaghettios (ahem).  BUT, as I mentioned before, everyone's line in the sand is different.  We have picky eaters here, and if I can keep them happy within the budget, then it works for us. 

ALSO, remember I told you that Kroger - the only store locally that doubles coupons - is over 25 miles away?  I combined the trip with storytime at the Clifton Forge :Library and a quick visit with Daddy-o :)

You'll notice I didn't buy bread, milk or lunch meat.  I still have to go to Wal-Mart.... :-/

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 3 of 5

I'm not talking Y2K style - remember that? Scary times. And you should have enough food on hand for emergencies, anything from power outages to weather emergencies to economic problems. I'm not going into the politics of all that; I just want to show you how to save the most money on your grocery shopping. but for the most bang for your buck, stockpiling is a must.

Simply put, you buy the most of an item at its lowest price so that you have plenty of that item on hand (in your pantry, under your bed, in your basement storage, in your garage) to last you until it goes on sale again at its lowest price. Got it?

OK, here's an example. Not a great example, but a good real-life example. We only use Ragu Traditional Pasta sauce. I know that a good sale that comes around quite regularly is to purchase it at 3/$5 or $1.67 each. If I am low, I might purchase 2 or 3 at this price. A few weeks ago, though, I found it at $1.19 a jar after coupons. So I bought 10 jars of it.  (Don't argue that we could make the sauce for cheaper - it ruins the example!)  The expiration date on the sauce is over two years out, and this should last us about 3-4 months, long enough for another sales cycle.

Another example: I found several boxes of 1lb. Heartland whole-wheat spaghetti on sale for $.50 a box. I bought them all.  I know that a good price for pasta is $.90 or less a pound, with whole wheat being more - the regular price is almost double more. Since I am familiar with the price of pasta, I knew this was a good deal. So now I have pasta (which never goes bad) that last us for months and months.

I do this with perishable things, too. We'll often find milk (at Kroger) marked down because it is close to the sell-by date. It is not going to go bad, but grocers can't sell it past the sell-by date. So I scoop it up (usually at $1.79/gallon, down from $2.70/gallon which I normally spend on full price milk at WM) and pop it in the freezer. I've had as many as 8 gallons of this milk in the freezer before. I don't do anything special - the containers expand due to freezing without bursting the plastic. I simply thaw them on the counter in a bowl to catch the condensation for a couple hours, or thaw them for 2-3 days in the fridge, also in a bowl. One time only did a container crack, and that was near the middle, so I lost about 1/3 a gallon. 

Milk is also an exception.  If the price goes up over $2.75/gallon, it is usually less expensive for us to buy powdered milk, which I can make for about $2.50/gallon.  But plain powdered milk is a tough sell, so I buy half and half or cream to top it off (thank you Nancy for that tip!).  I'd rather find it on sale, though.

Cheese is another item that I find at low prices. I don't buy it unless it is less than $3/pound. After I save out enough to keep in the fridge (cheese lasts a very long time unopened), I put the rest in the freezer. when I want to use it, I let it thaw for an hour or so on the counter and then shred it. We eat most of our cheese shredded anyways. Oh, and cheese you shred yourself melts and tastes better than pre-shredded cheese, which is coated with a silicone powder.... Just sayin.

Finally, my favorite stockpile item is butter. I buy the store brand when it goes on sale at less than $1.75 a pound, although I prefer $1.50 a pound. (Off sale, it's around $2.38/pound). I'll buy 20 or so pounds at a time at this price. I put it in the chest freezer, and pull it out as needed. It doesn't pick up flavors of other foods - but if you're worried it does, pack it in freezer bags.

So, why does stockpiling save so much money? Well, consider the examples above. I've got butter, cheese, pasta and sauce waiting in the pantry. Those are items that will stay off my grocery list for weeks - or months, leaving room (and therefore grocery money) for other items. If -and it does happen - I have enough things stockpiled, my weekly grocery run can come in well under budget, and I can bank that money for the next trip to stock up on another item that I find on sale.

But there's more!

Here's the last way to really punch up your stockpile savings. I've only done this once, because I am so disorganized, but I'll be doing it more as I aim toward our goal of becoming debt-free. Here it is: use multiple coupons on stockpile purchases. What, buy 10 newspapers? No. There are several reputable and legal coupon-clipping services from which you can purchase bulk coupons for certain items. For example: Right now, Kroger has Hunt's ketchup on sale for $1 a bottle. Coupons by dede has clipped Hunt's coupons for $.20/1 - purchase 10 of these and pay $1.20 for a clipping fee. Kroger doubles coupons up to and including $.50. So, if I bought 10 $.20-off coupons at $1.20, I'd save $3.80 ($.20x10=$2, double coupons = $4, less $1.20 handling fee=$3.80). Thus, the ketchup would cost something like $.65 a bottle. Get it? OR, you can save the coupon clipping service fees entirely and use just one coupon from your own newspaper to get it at $.60.

Truly, I am not organized that much to do a scenario like the one above. But I hope to be.....

**Thanks, Annie for the preview!  What can you add?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Conversation with a 3 year old

3 y.o.:  Who was dat on the phone, mama?

Me:  It was my friend T--.  She lives far, far away from us in a place called Dallas, Texas.

3:  Is that where the lions are?

Me:  No, its a state in our country.  We need to pray for her today because she is having trouble with someone....

3:  Are the lions going to eat her?

Me:  No, there are no lions, why do you think there are lions in Dallas? Texas is just like Virginia, only bigger. [?!] Its in our country and there are no lions there.  We need to pray that.....

3:  She's going in the lion's mouth?

Me:  Abigail, just pray for my friend today, OK?

Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me."  Matthew 9:14

Monday, July 12, 2010

Local travels

A quick break from grocery shopping posts....

Do you ever visit state parks?  They're a great, free resource for family fun.  This weekend we visited Beartown State Park in Hillsboro, West Virginia. 
I left the perspective in this picture to show that most of the place is boardwalks.  Its at about 3000' elevation, in the trees, and very damp and cool.  What a nice change from the weather we've had lately!  There was no danger in letting the girls take the lead - except for the slippery wood in places - they couldn't get off the path!
Now, this is probably the most beautiful place we've been in weeks and weeks, and for the life of me, I couldn't get a decent picture of us or of the surroundings. There was so much moss, so many ferns and so much texture. I couldn't capture it all with the camera as I was too busy soaking it all in myself!

(Andy, do you want me to delete this picture?

Ignore the man in the picture...he's not pickin' anything - he's on the first day of a cold Abbo shared with us.  Perspective, again - they're looking down between the rocks - Hannah is telling us that this where Indians live....

Anyways, as we were leaving Beartown, a real live bear sauntered across the road heading into the woods!  As is the case with every other bear I've seen, it just melted into the woods so that by the time we made it to where he entered, he was nowhere to be found. 

A short drive up the road brought us to Droop Mountain State Park.  As a Virginian, I often forget that West Virginia was on the Union side during the Civil War, and that there were many battles fought in this area.  Droop Mountain was the site of the last major Civil War battle in West Virginia. 
We drove through the park, climbed the observation tower and let the girls get out some energy at the playground before the ride home.  Many thanks to that kid who seesawed with Hannah - there's rarely anyone around her size to play with her on the seesaw and she really appreciated it!

I just have to remind her, though, that she needs to give warning before getting off.  The boy got off, too, rubbing his back end.  No hard feelings, though - we'd seen him and his family at Beartown and told them about the bear.  He thought it was pretty cool and I heard him ask his parents if they'd take him back over there.....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 2 of 5

Let's get Wal-Mart out of the way. (Oh, that we could!)

There are two types of people: those who loathe Wal-Mart and those who tolerate it. Oh, and those who love it. Three types.

If you are the type of person who wouldn't darken the doorstop of your local Wally World, that's OK with me. More power to ya. But I have 2 grocery stores within 12 miles of my house: a Food Lion and a Wal-Mart. Kroger -my local favorite - is 26 miles away. So, my choices are limited.

Wal-Mart saves me money. And in my quest to remain a stay-at-home-mom, I will take advantage of many means to save money…also, hey, at this stage in my life, it provides many of our household needs from clothing to water softener salt to OTC medication….all at prices that I can afford.

As much as I can make it convenient with two little beasties with me 24/7, I make it a point to shop locally with small businesses. In fact, we purchase all of our meat - except, occasionally, chicken - at a small independent grocery - Bartley's Meat Market. I buy all of my spices and extracts at A&B Bakery, a local bakery. Both of these markets have fair prices, are conveniently on my access routes to and from town and stock the items I need at great prices. But recently I ran out of baking soda and, being in the middle of a recipe and rather than run all the way into town (7 miles), I purchased the baking soda at one of these two stores. It was $.79 for a 4 oz. box. Jeepers! I generally pay $.50 for a 1 lb box at WalMart. I was glad to patronize this store, but I'd go broke on BS if I didn't shop where the deals were (pun intended).

Another reason to shop Wal-Mart is that they match published competitor's sale prices. The full policy is on their website here. But the basics are if you find a lower advertised price on the same product - that is, same size, same brand - they will price match. They will NOT price match BOGOs (buy one, get one free) or % off when multiples of the same item are purchased (i.e., buy 10 of select items, get 30% off each item). It is important to note that they will match store brands. For example, if Kroger's brand of cheese is on sale, say, 16 oz. for $2.50, you can get the Great Value brand cheese for 16 oz. @ $2.50. This could potentially save a trip to another store if there are only a couple of these type deals in the sale circular ad and will add up to big savings.

Now that Wal-Mart is out of the way, here are some sensible things you can do on your very next shopping trip to begin saving money - no coupons needed:

1. Make a grocery budget and stick to it. For our family of four, ours is....oh, who am I fooling?....we're aiming for $125 a week. That is high - really high for us. We can do a $100/week budget, but I have to concentrate. Like I said, blogging about this is motivation.  Your budget might be higher based on who you're buying for, your income, what you are purchasing at the time (buying diapers? that takes up a huge part of a grocery budget.).  But if you want to save money, you definitely can, no matter what your budget looks like.  Oh, I should note that our "grocery budget" includes pretty much anything you can purchase from the outer two-thirds of Wal-Mart - food, OTC pharmacy and toiletry items.  Not t-shirts, underwear or automotive.  Or fabric.  (Sorry, K, you're not in our budget :)

2. Try the store brand. I know! You are still going to buy the Kraft Mayo or the Hellman's because you LOVE it and you can tell the difference at a bit if someone tries to slide a knock-off brand into your ham & cheese sandwich.
You have choices, though:  keep buying the brand name with a coupon and on sale, or condition yourself to tolerate the lower cost product. Your third choice would be to eliminate this product from your pantry shelf all together. You just have to find out what works for you. For things like Mayo or even ketchup, we go for specific brands that we enjoy and crave. For things like saltine crackers, mustard, milk, bread the store brand works for us.  Try it - you might like it and just don't think you would.

Another exception: When the sale price of a national brand or a national brand + a coupon is lower than the store brand price. Always - EVERY TIME - compare prices and don't just assume that the store brand is lower. I see this a lot at Wal-Mart and with loss-leader items at other stores.  They also change their prices on common items and move them up and down week to week or so.

3. Shop with a list. This will help curb impulse buys, but if you must shop with kids, you can say, "but it's not on the list!" and save yourself a hassle right there. Hek, forget the kids.  Them you can tell "NO."  It's ME and my husband who are the weakest links on this one! ! The exception to shopping "off list" is when you see an item on clearance at an unbeatable price or for which you have a coupon.

I keep my running list stuck to the side of the fridge. Whenever I run out of an item - or better yet, am low on something in my stock, I write it on the list. I have a general idea how long it takes us to run out of something like, say, pork-n-beans, and when I am down to two on the shelf, I write, "porknbeans SU" which lets me know that if I see a good price, I should buy several to replenish. If not, then I buy one or two cans to tide me over until a sale.

4. Try to do without some things - or make them yourself. We don't purchase floor cleaner. If you've been to my house, you know what I mean! (Just kidding.) (Kinda.). Instead, we use a mix of ammonia and water to clean the floors and countertops. We use vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean windows and mirrors, and we make our own laundry detergent. I make our own biscuits, pizza crust, breadsticks, breadcrumbs, dill pickles and jelly. The savings are well worth it, and - I don't run out of them because I can make them fairly quickly.
When we had our kitchen floor installed I asked the installers what to use to clean it.  They said, "ammonia and water."  No kidding!  So right there I saved, what, $3 off Mr. Clean or whatever the new floor cleaner brand is?

5. Know your prices. You'll have to write them down. Amy Daczyn, author of the Tightwad Gazette and (WHOA!  I just linked that to and that is a GREAT price!  Get it!  Its the 3-part book that I have, well-read!) others suggest a price book. I just have a random list that I keep with my coupons.

But the point is you have to know if a sale is really a sale, and if it is really a sale, is it the BEST price you can get on an item. For example: CVS regularly has Dawn dish soap as a loss-leader for $.99 for a 19 oz. bottle. I know that I just have to wait a week or two for it to go on sale and go buy a few of them to keep myself in stock. Just last week, Target advertised the same soap for $2.25 as being on sale. Really? What about Lays potato chips - Target had them 2 for $5 in that same sale ad, and a week later, Food Lion had them 2 for $6. Which would you buy? (NEITHER! Buy the store brand and you won't know the difference.). These might not be the best examples, but you get the idea.

6. Read the signs. And the fine print. Most grocery stores put a unit price on their shelf price labels. It pays to read this! For example, I buy Kroger brand powdered milk*. It costs less than the Wal-Mart or Food Lion brands, often by several dollars. HOWEVER, I don't buy the large box. You'd think the large box is a better value, right? Nope! In this case, the smaller package with the individual serving packets is the better buy - by less than a dollar, but I buy about 10-12 boxes of powdered milk a year. Not much of a savings on its own, but when you add it all in, it really ads up. Take a look at cheese, too. 8oz. + 8oz. = 16 oz. But often the 8oz. cheeses will be priced less (per ounce) than the larger blocks or bags. Just buy more of them to get to the amount you need to stock your shelves.

*My kids love powdered milk. I know, they're crazy.  But I really don't mind it, myself, either. Generally I use it in recipes like hot chocolate and to stretch regular milk. Really, you can't tell the difference if you mix it with 2% milk, unless you're a milk connoisseur. 

7. Read more signs and know what they mean. Just because it says, "$10 for $10," you don't have to buy 10. Or another favorite, "3/$5". Do you need 3 or just one? Do you have two coupons for the product? Then use two coupons and leave the other one on the shelf. Check the store's policy, too. Food Lion often has "BOGO" (buy one get one free) items. You don't have to pay full price for the one - you can just get one of the item and get it for half price. Say, you want the Edy's Frozen yogurt, but you only have 1 coupon. It is buy one get one free, so right away you've saved 50%. Add in your $1.00 off coupon and your savings rate is high. Kroger often has 10 for $10 mix or match-type sales. Love 'em. I buy things I wouldn't normally buy -because these are brand name items that have published coupons - like cookie dough - but I use a coupon - usually $.40 off - and since Kroger doubles their coupons up to $.50, it makes the coupon value shoot up and the price shoot down.

8.  Use Coupons to your best advantage.  That's next week's post.  I'm just trying to psych you up to it.  You're dreading using coupons and I'm going to help you see that its e-a-s-y.....

9. Plan your menu.  We have about 10 meals we rotate through pretty regularly, and when I think about it I throw in something different. I usually have the ingredients to these meals on hand. We have picky eaters in this house, so your situation might require more creativity. But to be a great shopper, plan your meals around what is on sale. Don't serve rump roasts when they're at their highest prices. If I'm doing it right, I loosely plan a menu of about 10 meals when I'm scanning the sale ads. But, I also stockpile, making menu planning more flexible…..

10. Stockpile. This is where you are going to realize the most savings. Since it's so important, I'm going to give it its own blog entry…..

Questions so far? Leave them in the comments section below and I'll answer right away.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping ! Part 1 of 5

This is the first in a several part series of how you are going to start saving noticeably on your grocery bill. I'm not an expert or a Coupon Queen, but I have learned a lot about saving money at the grocery store, and I learn more all the time. I just want to share some of that knowledge with you so that you can put a dent into your own food bill.

(The bad kitty could care less about all this....he only wants to camoflage with the bedspread....)

There are a few things to keep in mind - rules, if you will - that will make this whole process work. Now, I live in a rural area, so my rules will be slightly different than yours, but once I share them with you, you can apply them to your own situation.

You know I like to write/talk, so this will be quite lengthy, but my hope is that I am being thorough so it can work for you. We are the stewards of our grocery budgets (Uh, yeh. I'm not good at this part, and I fail, fail, fail, but it is an ideal toward which I strive.), and this is an area in which we should be able to carve out an extra $20/$30 or more a week to spend in other ways - your choice what those other ways are, but at least you'll have that choice.

Another disclaimer. I get tired of the preparation of shopping, tired of using coupons, tired of looking for sales and tired of limiting my trips to the store. So I go way over my budget and spend way too much and blow our budget to where Andy gets very red in the face at me. Writing all this out is my way of bringing myself back on track, so it’s a means of accountability for me for now.  "Do as I say, not as I do..."

That said, let's begin:

1. Subscribe to the largest Sunday paper in your area. The one with the sale ads. You will make your money back on this investment after just one grocery run using the coupons and/or sale ads therein. Now, you could skip this step and plan to purchase the paper faithfully, week after week, but there are a few problems with this approach:

a. You won't go out every Sunday due to snow/sickness/laziness, etc.

b. Newsstand papers cost more than delivered papers - $1.50 a pop vs. $.50-.75 delivered.

c. When you go to buy a paper, you will buy coffee/candy/chips/something you don't need, and thus you will defeat the purpose of getting the sale ads!

d. If you find a great batch of ads in there you can always go buy another paper at the newsstand.

While you're waiting for your first paper to arrive, continue your preparation:

2. Buy or repurpose a hanging file folder holder. This can be a milk crate-style, a sturdy cardboard box, or, as I have, a plastic box specifically designed for the purpose. WalMart has these for around $9. You will also need some hanging files to go in it.

 3. Label the hanging file folders with the dates of the next 3 months of Sundays. Label four additional file folders as: coupon books, receipts, rebates, loose coupons*. I use a label maker that I got for an outrageously cheap price, but you can use masking tape for the labels. This is much easier than filling out those little inserts and trying to slide them in their sleeves. You'll never do it, you'll get discouraged and quit. I know. Write the date on the label in marker and as you rotate your dates you can just put another piece of tape over the old one or peel it off.

You can see here how the older file dates are waiting to be recycled and moved to the back to hold newer coupon flyers....and lurking in the back is an old coupon binder (shudder).  We won't be clipping coupons and tediously filing them under categories....yay!!!

4. Gather your supplies to keep in the file box: Scissors, blank envelopes (repurpose bill envelopes; you only need one "clean" side for writing your list), a pen and paper clips.

5. Put a blank pad of paper (or envelope or whatever) and a writing implement near the refrigerator or pantry, and keep an ongoing grocery list. There are two things you'll need to be keeping track of:

a. Things of which you have run out;

b. Things which are running low in your inventory (more later on that) should you find them on sale. For me, I write "SU" (stock up) or "IOS" (if on sale) on my list.

Got all that? Good. Now you're ready to get ready to shop. It's not as complicated as it sounds. Once you have all of the above in place, things will run rather smoothly.

We'll come back to the coupon box in part 4 of the series. This is the easy part. Besides, there are a few things you need to attend to that will get you saving money right away.

*or, for your "loose coupons" file, you can have it stacked in an easy access place like on your desk along with your other miscellaneous folders for which you can't seem to find a place....

The dreaded coupon binder....lovely to look at, cumbersome and nigh unto impossible for me to use!!

You know where to click below!

PS:  As I reviewed this article, I noticed the verse of the day:
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV)
None of this comes before Christ.  Don't let it become an idol.  If its too much trouble, chuck it.  But I think that this is a way that we can honor God with our finances. :)