February 23, 2010

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Saving Money in the Kitchen

As I've mentioned before the recipes posted on this blog are ones we use on a regular basis. Occasionally there's a special one thrown in. But for the most part the meals are simple and inexpensive. The Hubster is a part time teacher and part time pastor...very respected professions but with meager incomes. Part of my job as a stay-at-home mom is to save our family as much money as possible.

Are Coupons Worth It?
One of those ways is using coupons and stocking up the pantry. The latter is simple...when I see something on sale and especially if I have coupons I buy enough that will last us until the next sale. For example, the other day Kroger had General Mills cereal, Pillsbury biscuits, and Betty Crocker muffin mix on sale. I had several coupons so I bought what I could with the coupons. They also had a special deal going that was buy 10 get $3 off. I came home with several boxes of cereal, boxes of muffin mix, tubes of biscuits and a few bottles of Soft Soap (they paid me to buy it...they coupon tripled!). My grand total was $34 and change and I bought 33 items. Did I need cereal for that week? No. Did I need biscuits for that week? No. Did I need 6 boxes of muffin mix for that week and soap? No. But...I knew eventually I would and I could not turn away paying on average $1 for each of those things. So we stocked up in the pantry.

We are fortunate to have two freezers, an extra refrigerator, and lots of storage space in the basement, plus extra storage space in the kitchen, hallway, and laundry room. I know some of you might be short on space. But where there's a will, there's a way. Before we moved into this house we used a closet in the spare bathroom to keep extra toiletries, a closet in the family room, and stored other items in the mudroom. Sometimes you have to think unconventionally. Think of space that's not being used to it's maximum benefit to you and rethink it. When stocking up, though, be careful to look at expiration dates. If you won't use it up before the exp. date it's not worth it. I have finally gotten to the point that when I grocery shop the main items on the list are those that I will stock up on, plus enough milk and produce for the week. My goal each week is $150 a week for groceries (including stops at CVS and Walgreens). Last week we were under by $10. I spent $140 and saved $40 in coupons and $50 in store savings. This week so far total's at $30. I have still to stock up on some meat at Meijer that's on sale and I have a stocking up trip planned for the bakery outlet.

Saving money with coupons can be a chore, but like I said...it's part of my job. Would I rather be able to go to the store and just shop away, not concerned about unit prices and not having to file through my coupon box in the cart? Well, sure! But I can't. I can't feed my family on store brand items, and just the sales. I know several people swear by shopping at W*lmart and don't even use coupons, but I don't know how they do it. Let's use mustard for example. W*lmart brand is 99 cents. Name brand is 1. 25. I could either "save" and just buy the store brand or I could use my 35 cent coupon and pay.90. Or, better yet, I can go to Kroger (where they triple coupons) and pay 20 cents. The latter makes the most sense to me. O.K....off my soap box...

Storing Coupons
I use a diaper wipes container (FYI-Huggies) to hold my coupons. There are so many different ways to organize coupons and I've tried several of them, but the diaper wipes box works for me.
I take regular size envelopes (not the legal size) and cup the flap off. Then I take a 3x5 card, cut it in half, turn it and write the name of the items for at the top of it with a sharpie. I tape that in the envelope so that it stays put. Then I file my coupons in it.

Finding Coupons
I find them in the newspaper insert every week, but I don't get very many that way. I print a lot of coupons on coupons.com, and smartsource.com. If you have a Meijer in your area you can print Meijer coupons at meijermealbox.com to stack with manufacturer's coupons. Crystal at moneysavingmom.com is great at posting deals and links to coupons. Usually you can print each coupon twice per computer. We have two computers linked to our printer so I can print 4 of each coupon. I also order coupons on thecouponclippers.com. They charge a clipping fee of 5 cents to 15 cents per coupon. If you have a 50 cent coupon that will double and have to pay 10 cents for it then you'll save 90 cents in the long run. There are order limits on some of the coupons and they charge a small fee of 50 cents per order plus shipping (a stamp or two...depending on how many coupons you order). There's a minimum order of $4. If I see a lot of good coupons in Sunday's paper I'll hop on Sunday evening and place my order. It'll ship Monday and since they're in Florida and I'm in Indiana it takes about 4 days or so, so I'll plan my shopping for a Friday that week. I'll save a ton!!

Doubling and Tripling Coupons
Most stores double or triple up to 50 cents so you'll have to find out what your favorite store policy is. Most will ad match; meaning you show them a current ad from a store and they will give it to you for that price (most will only ad match for 2 per item). Meijer will let you do two transactions at a time, but to my knowledge Kroger won't. I have been known to go through the check out line, do the transactions I'm allowed, take my groceries out to the van, then go back in for a quick trip. Hey...it's a little bit of legwork, but it saves us a lot of money!

Are shopping at drug stores worth it?
Yes! Check out iheartcvs.com and iheartwags.com for some great savings and shopping tips at CVS and Walgreen's. They even post ads that are a few weeks away. That will help you see what sales are coming and if you can save even more money holding onto a coupon for something that they'll have on sale in a few weeks.

A Wonderful Book to Help You!
Bethany over at Penny Pantry expounds more on the idea of building a pantry, using coupons and sales to your advantage. Hop on over and take a look.

I just purchased her e-book. The Penny Pantry Guide and I found a lot of useful information and tips. It's $9.95 but if you use this coupon code "oldhouse" you can save $2 so it will be $7.95 for you! It's over 70 pages of information on building a pantry, using coupons, and how to shop sales. You can download it, print it out and put it in a binder. Add your own notes and keep if for future reference! Just click on the picture of the book above to read more information or order. Let them know Carmen at Old House Kitchen sent you!

What I've covered here is only the tip of the iceberg. Check out Bethany's book and moneysavingmom.com for more in depth details!!


Anonymous said...

I like your money saving tips. I have always been a failure at couponing. I always look through the Sunday circulars, but am lucky to find even one coupon for anything that I would want to purchase. I am a firm believer in not purchasing something just because I have a coupons for it. If I don't need it it or want it, then I have wasted money. I probably could do better at stocking non-perishables. My strategy has always been to shop exclusively at Meijer and buy only Meijer brand items. People who come to my house always laugh at me because we look like a Meijer advertisement (Jillian even wears Meijer diapars)! Most of what I purchase tends to be fresh produce, so generally no coupons there. I am also a big time label reader, and will always choose health over cost (I know I am fortunate to have this option, as many don't). I find most coupons to be for processed foods or less healthy options. I find couponing to be tricky with a smaller family too, as many coupons require you to buy in larger quantities, which I cannot get through before spoilage. Maybe one of these days I'll get it figured out!


Carmen at Old House Homestead said...

I understand Meijer loyalty! I don't know what I'd do without my Meijer! (Although Abby's tushie is a bit sensitive so Walmart diapers and Huggies are the only ones that will work for us.) I love Meijer brand "Naturals" line. You should definitely check out meijermealbox.com. They have Meijer brand coupons sometimes, too.
As far as coupons being for unhealthy items, it depends on where you look. If you subscribe to moneysavingmom.com she'll keep you informed of all the latest coupons, including healthy items! Health and beauty, household items as well as cleaning products are where I save a lot with coupons. Usually at CVS with their Extra Care Bucks program. You can get great coupons for healthy cereal, too!
It's taken me a good year now to get my couponing act together as far as stockpiling and knowing the sales, coupons, etc. I think with some practice you'll be a coupon queen! ; )

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