Since returning to full-time teaching a few years ago, I am not the couponer that I used to be. I enjoy using coupons and saving money, but I don’t have much time to match up coupons and sales. I am still saving a lot of money though and I’m definitely getting my groceries for less money than I would if I shopped primarily at a discount store such as Wal-Mart.
Today’s shopping trip is a perfect example of such grocery savings. My grocery bill before deductions was $251.86. After the sales and savings my bill was $121.43. That’s way more than I normally spend, but I did stock up on some great deals including fish, six bags of Carribou coffee, four jars of peanut butter, and lunch meat. The coffee alone would have cost over $60.
We could all use some help in cutting our grocery bill so here are some ways to save without coupons:
1. Use the buy ahead principle. I am a firm believer in the stockpile shopping method. When things that I regularly use go to rock bottom prices, I buy extra and save it to use for later when the prices are not as low. Many food items are at their best prices during specific times of the year. For instance, I know that in November and December, I need to stock up on cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and chicken broth. In January, I usually stock up on soup supplies and canned beans.
Each week, I scan over the sales flyer for Harris Teeter and I plan to only purchase the sales. Of course, I have to buy a few items each week that are not on sale, but those items are few and far between.
2. Get rainchecks for out of stock sale items. As I mentioned above, my grocery bill today before savings was $251.86. After sales and rainchecks, my total was only $121.43. Rainchecks were a big contributor of the savings. Most rainchecks don’t expire and they allow you to purchase sale items when you need them. This saves room in your cabinets. Rainchecks also give you some extra time to plan ahead and look for a coupon.
3. Compare prices. Sometimes the generic isn’t cheaper. Pay attention and take a few extra seconds to compare prices on name brands and generics.
4. Compare price per unit. The larger quantity may not be the best deal. It’s best to compare price per unit.
5. Make a plan. Look through the sales flyer and begin to make a plan of the things you need and the things you want to purchase while they are on sale. Making meal plans saves time and money. I’m guilty of not making meal plans. My pantry and freezer are usually pretty well stocked though, so meal planning does get easier as you build a stockpile.
6. Use what you have. Take a look in your cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator. Make a plan to use the things that are going out of date. If you have a lot of beans and tomatoes, consider putting chili on the menu. If you have hamburger and noodles, put spaghetti on the menu. Then you will just need to pick up a few extra things to complete the meal.
7. Use your leftovers. My hubby and I are known for getting creative with leftovers. One night I made a tenderloin and we had some meat leftover. We took the leftover tenderloin and added it to some scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast burritos. We froze the breakfast burritos to make mornings easier with the kids. I also like to freeze lunch size portions of spaghetti, chili, and soups to use for my lunches at work.
8. Look for food mark downs. I always check for produce and meat mark downs. About a month ago, I scored a $15 fruit, veggie, and cheese tray for only $1! I was so excited! The tray was going out of date that day but trust me, it was good for several more days. Today we bought some lunch meat that was marked down half price and also got a few packs that had store coupons attached. Sandwiches and homemade lunchables are definitely on this week’s lunch menu.
9. Buy in bulk. This tip may not apply for everyone, but for families this tip is usually a great idea. My pantry and fridge are running low on lunch items so it is definitely time for a trip to Sam’s Club. When I see kids at school purchasing chips for 75 cents per bag, I want to say, “That costs 25 cents at Sam’s.” I’ve had more than one conversation with my children about why they aren’t buying snacks at school.
10. Cook in bulk. It’s almost as easy to prepare two lasagnas as it is one. Just make an extra, don’t bake it, and freeze it for later. I also do this with chicken pot pie. Another favorite is to cook some Mexican style pork or chicken in the crock pot, shred it, and freeze dinner portions to use later for burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. I wait to do this when I find meat at a stockpile price.
11. Avoid convenience foods. It might be nice to save some time, but those prepackaged and pre-cut foods can really add up. Take a few minutes to bag up a bunch of snacks for the week and you can save big.
12. Don’t be brand loyal. I have tried many different brands over the years and I can say that there are very few that I am loyal to. You can find savings in trying other brands that are on sale.
13. Eat before you shop. If you are super hungry when you shop then you might find yourself spending too much money. Thankfully, Harris Teeter has a few samples in the store so it keeps me from feeling so hungry when I’m shopping. ;)
14. Skip a week of shopping. If you have been using the stockpile shopping method, your cabinets are probably looking great. As difficult as it is to pass up a good sale, sometimes I skip a week of shopping to save money. We use what we have at home and avoid the grocery store.
15. Give foods more than one purpose. If you are going to have cole slaw with your barbeque sandwiches, plan to have cole slaw the same week with another meal. That way you aren’t wasting ingredients. It also saves prep time in the kitchen.
16. Keep a list of target prices. You can keep this on your phone or in a small notebook in your purse. Keep a list of items that you regularly purchase and the target price for stockpiling. In an old post about grocery shopping, I wrote about keeping mental notes of these things. Someone teased about it and said there was no way to remember target prices. I honestly don’t keep a notebook of prices. I know that $2 per lb is my target price for boneless chicken breasts. I know that 50 cents per can is my target price for canned beans. If you need to write it down then do so. Knowing your target prices will help you to know when to buy extra.
17. Check your receipt before you leave the store. We get overcharged so many times and most people don’t even notice. I was overcharged today. Thankfully I checked my receipt before leaving the store and I was refunded $2.
18. Avoid sodas, juices, and boxed drinks. We drink a lot of water at our house. We have a water softener and a water filter so we drink it straight from the tap. I have seen people spend half of my grocery budget on drinks. Those drinks add up very quickly. If you don’t want to cut out pricey drinks, budget how much you will spend on them and look for sales. I did buy one 12 pack of sodas today but they were on sale and the 12 pack will last me a few weeks.
19. Sign up for store sales and emails. Many stores have some sort of extra savings available for customers that hold a special card or for those that sign up for their store emails. I have signed up for Harris Teeter’s eVIC and each week they send me an email with sales that are loaded to my card. Many times (but not always) these are items that I regularly purchase that are offered at discounted prices. Sometimes it might be a sale on milk or bread. Other times it might be yogurt, ice cream, or cat food.
20. Look over your cart before checking out. Did you make too many impulse purchases? Do you have too many snack items? Sometimes it’s easy to put something in the cart but we don’t realize how many unnecessary items we have.
I know that there are many other tips for saving money on groceries such as gardening, canning foods, eating simpler, etc. Please leave your money saving tips in the comments.
Image by Karen Weideman. The image shown above is not from today’s shopping trip.
February 23, 2014
The other day, a friend of mine was so excited. She was smiling from ear to ear and had announced that she just purchased a new car. I could see the new car outside. It was bright and shiny and of course, new. I overhead someone say, “Congratulations! You deserve it!”
You deserve it. We hear that so much today. You deserve a new car. You deserve to go on a big vacation. You work hard. You deserve some new living room furniture. You deserve to go out to eat. You deserve that candy bar.
Do you deserve it? Do you deserve to experience a great depreciation in your car as soon as you take it off the car lot? Do you deserve five to eight years of car payments? Do you deserve to be so wrapped up in debt that you can’t afford an emergency? Do you deserve the bondage of debt?
We are quick to rationalize our indulgences. Rationalizing bad behaviors leads to regret and sometimes worse behaviors.
Instead of telling ourselves that we deserve it, we should ask ourselves if we have earned it.
It wasn’t long ago that I was driving a $1,000 mini van. I drove it for about a year. My husband piddled with it here and there to keep it working ok. The slider door didn’t work well, it was a little rusty, and it wasn’t very attractive. I saw people driving around with new vans and cars. It would have been nice to have a new mini van — one that had that new car smell, that didn’t have rust, didn’t make a squeaking noise, and one that the slider door worked properly. Sometimes I would feel a little embarrassed about my van, but then I had to remind myself that I didn’t have a payment. It is really financially freeing not to have a car payment. While driving our old mini van we were able to save up a little and now we have a $4,000 mini van. It’s not new and I’m ok with that. I don’t deserve a new mini van until I have earned the cash to pay for it. Honestly, if I had that kind of cash, I probably wouldn’t spend it on a car anyway.
I find peace in being content. There is not a constant drive to keep up with someone else. There is no guilt or regret from purchasing something I can’t afford.
Of course, I have made my own financial mistakes along the way. But they are mistakes — mistakes I have learned from. If you are currently living with financial mistakes, I hope that you will take baby steps to correcting those mistakes. Let’s change our entitlement attitude of “I deserve it” to one of “I have earned it”.
image credit: seanandlauren
December 28, 2013
Save 40% off photo books, calendars, and cards 5×5 or larger. Use the code to help preserve all the memories from the recent holiday season. Also, new customers will receive 50 free prints.
I ordered my Christmas cards and prints from Shutterfly and received several compliments on the quality and color.
Disclaimer: This post contains my referral links.
December 7, 2013
Each year, I enjoy making ornaments with my students. I try to find ornaments that aren’t too expensive or time consuming. Here is a video that shows how to make handprint Santa ornaments. I made this video a few years ago with my children. We made several of these to give away to aunts and grandparents. Enjoy!
Here is a picture of one I made a few years ago. I was teaching pre-k so I laminated these so that they would last longer.
You might also like these Snowmen Ornaments.
November 10, 2013
This is the time of year to try new recipes of chilis, soups, and beans. I love to throw something in the crockpot and not have to spend hours in the kitchen. Fall brings about a desire to try something new. Yesterday while I was perusing the shelves at Harris Teeter I saw bags of beans. The one labeled “15 Bean Soup” caught my eye. I decided to pick up the bag and bring it home, but upon reading the suggested recipe I knew I needed to make things a little more interesting.
On a side note, I’m blogging this recipe not just for your benefit, but for mine as well. I can’t tell you how many times I browse my blog and go ‘Oh yeah, I haven’t made that in a while!’
If you like your food very flavorful, you might want to use twice as many seasoning than listed below. I tend not to measure so these are probably conservative measurements.
Check out my new soup bowls. I have been wanting a set of new soup bowls for a long time but haven’t been able to find what I wanted (and was willing to pay). Hubby and I were in Sam’s Club a few weeks ago and I saw these bowls. They were $15 for 4 bowls. They weren’t terribly expensive but since we had so much other stuff to purchase that day, I just couldn’t bring myself to put them in the cart. While I was in line, hubby left and came back with the bowls. I’m glad he did.
- 1 lb bag of 15 bean soup
- 1 onion diced
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 3 large cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp. lime or lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 cube chicken bouillon
- 1 28 oz can tomato purree or petite diced tomatoes
- 1/2 lb sliced ham or smoked sausage
Soak beans in water overnight. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Saute diced onions in oil for 5-7 minutes until onions are soft.
In a crockpot, add all of the ingredients listed above, including the soaked beans and cooked onions. I also added the seasoning packet that came with the beans. Cover beans with water (I think I used two of the tomato sized cans full of water). Cook in the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with corn bread.
Whenever I have ham for supper I freeze the leftovers and use it in soaps and casseroles. The leftover ham made this a very inexpensive recipe. The bag of beans was about $1.60. The tomatoes were buy 2 get 3 free. I ended up making a big pot of 15 bean soup for about $2.50. There is also enough left to use for tomorrow’s lunch. Yummy!
November 5, 2013
For years we have heard the expression, “follow your heart”. Whom do you date? Whom do you love? Whom do you marry? The decision is usually based upon following your heart. Roxette sang a famous catchy song that says, “listen to your heart”. Following your heart seems to be the popular answer. When faced with a decision, people will quickly tell you to follow your heart. They’re not giving you an answer or some type of guidance — they’re basically telling you to do whatever feels right or whatever it is that you want to do.
The problem is, my heart is deceitful. It can’t be trusted. Jeremiah 17:29 says that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick.
Our hearts tell us to be rude to someone that upsets us. The truth is they are having a bad day and need grace.
Our hearts tell us to talk about a friend that annoys us. The truth is that we should be loyal and discuss the issue and work it out.
Our hearts tell us to leave our spouse and to seek comfort in another mate. The truth is our mate is our gift. No one else knows us like they do.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:19
Those are pretty strong accusations. Solomon is considered to be one of the wisest men that ever lived. He warned us to “guard our heart above all else”. God’s idea is not that we would follow our heart, but that we would guard it.
The problem is, our emotions lie to us. They tell us we’re not pretty enough, not thin enough, not good at our job, that people don’t like us, that our spouses are lousy, that we could do better, and that we need things we can’t afford.
Emotions aren’t bad things. It’s important to realize that they are emotions; they are not dictators.
Feelings are indicators, not dictators. ~Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministries
Feelings can indicate where your heart is in the moment but that doesn’t mean they have the right to boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings!
photo from kidultchia
October 15, 2013
Download or order your free cookbook from Sun-Maid. The cookbook is packed with 30 kid-friendly recipes using the whole ingredients moms love. It is available as a FREE PDF download or you can order the printed book while supplies last!
Here is a sample recipe to try.
2 c. biscuit baking mix
1/2 c. Sun-Maid Natural Raisins
1/2 c. sour cream
3 T. milk
2 T. butter, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. nuts, finely chopped
1/2 t. cinnamon
Garnish: raisins, sliced almonds
In a bowl, stir together baking mix, raisins, sour cream and milk until just combined. Gently gather dough into a ball on a floured tea towel.
Knead 10 times. Roll out dough into a 12” x 10” rectangle. Spread dough with butter. Mix together brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.
Starting at a long end, roll up dough tightly. Cut roll into 12 slices. Place 6 slices, cut-side down, on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
Unroll remaining 6 rolls and place on cookie sheet touching one of the rolled cinnamon rolls; fold ends under and shape into bunny ears.
Pinch dough to secure. Arrange raisins and almonds to look like eyes, noses and teeth. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden. Makes 6.
September 29, 2013
This morning I decided to stay home from church. Anyone that knows me, knows that I normally don’t do this. I started feeling a little yucky yesterday from what I’m sure is seasonal allergies. I LOVE fall but am not particularly thrilled with the allergy issues that come with each season change. I took two Benadryl last night and I think I had a little bit of a Benadryl hangover this morning. I was grouchy and sensitive to noise. When I got up in the middle of the night to potty (yes, I am a teacher so I use the word potty), I ran into the wall in my bedroom. Ahem . . . Stop laughing! Ok, go ahead. haha. My nose is still a little sore.
After my family left I decided to enjoy some quiet time on the couch. I’m all snug with my afghan and sole custody of the remote. :) As I was lying here and trying to enjoy the thought of nothing to do except nap, I had the dreaded feeling that I needed to have a meal ready for my family when they returned home this afternoon.
What could I cook that is fast and most importantly EASY so that I can get back to the couch? I suddenly remembered that I have precooked hamburger in the freezer. When ground beef goes on sale, I like to buy some extra and precook it to freeze. It comes in very handy for chili, spaghetti, Manwich, and other meals. It sure helps speed up the cooking process on weeknights.
Below are pictures of what I used. There are two pictures since I forgot a few things in the first picture.
To make things as low cost as possible, I use the stockpile method. This is where I stock up on things my family uses when they are at rock bottom prices. If I remember correctly, the beans were 2/$1 at Harris Teeter and the corn was 2/$1 at Piggly Wiggly. I usually buy a large container of minced garlic from Sams Club or Walmart. The large container of taco seasoning was purchased at Sams. The frozen green chilis were a close out clearance item from Harris Teeter. I was excited to get these. Green chilis are normally $1-1.40 per can. I got this large container for only $1. I purchased two of them for my freezer. I used about 2 tbsp. of green chilis and a quart jar of my canned tomatoes in place of using Rotel tomatoes. As mentioned above, the ground beef was purchased on sale, cooked, and frozen. Years ago when I was staying at home, I might already have precooked beans in the freezer. This is definitely a money saver, but as Sweet Brown says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”.
I don’t remember the exact cost of everything pictured, but I would estimate it to be around $6-7 for a large crockpot full of taco chili. This will probably be enough for two meals or one meal and some lunches this week. Of course, we’ll top it with sour cream and cheese and serve it with tortilla chips. This will put our cost right around $5 per meal, which is a nice target price. This chili also freezes well.
For more instructions on making this chili, click on the recipe for taco soup/taco chili. I call it whichever comes to mind first. This is not an exact recipe. I use different kinds of beans sometimes. Feel free to modify it to your liking.
September 28, 2013
A few years ago I posted about this issue in an article, Have You Set Up Boundaries in Your Life? Today I needed to elaborate a bit.
It seems every family has them — these “adults” that never seem to grow up. They end up staying with relatives, eating their food, and not contributing a fair share of the bills. I am so puzzled by this. Why in the world would someone pay for an adult’s monthly expenses? I mean, if you go to work and work hard each day to earn a paycheck to pay your bills, why would you enable someone else not to do the same?
Eventually these families grow very irritated with these moochers and yet for some reason they lack the nerve to do anything about it. I honestly think they feel trapped. When they ask the person for money, the person usually says they can’t afford it. It is strangely interesting though that many of these live-ins can afford a new car, going out for frequent lunch dates, new clothes, a cell phone with data package, and a whole list of other necessities that I don’t have.
As you might imagine from this post, this is a very touchy subject for me. Many times I have seen my loved ones at the receiving end of these adolescent adults. Perhaps they are poor managers of money but usually, they are just not forced to grow up. I mean why foot the bill when someone else will do it for you? I honestly can’t imagine treating someone this way. My parents raised me to show respect for others and sucking someone dry is not showing respect.
Sometimes these adolescent adults might even give a little money each month and they usually feel very good about it . . . as if they are somehow helping out or doing someone a favor. Let me tell you something — the $150 contribution is only a drop in the bucket for the electric, water, internet, phone, mortgage, and food. Don’t let it ease your conscience.
Please understand that I am not talking about college students or adult children with health problems. There are exceptions but these are few and far between.
These adult leeches are something I still see on a regular basis. It upsets me for many reasons – I think the major reason being that it is disrespectful to the people I love.
Personally, I think there are a few ways to handle this situation.
1. You could give the person a reasonable timeline to move out. That would enable them enough time to save up some deposits. Honestly, I think they should already have some money set aside since they have been mooching off of others. They probably don’t though, since they are poor money managers.
2. You could give them a reasonable amount to pay. Take into consideration the things they are using and if they are eating your food. Come up with a fair amount. If they are eating your food and stay there every day, you might decide they should pay $500 per month. If you live in an expensive area or have a mortgage payment, it might be more. Tell them that you can’t foot the bill for them and that they shouldn’t expect it. Let them know that you expect that amount next month and every month after that or they can find another place to live. This enables them to continue to live with you and have responsibilities at a fair and shared rate or they can decide to move out and pay a higher rate.
It’s time to quit enabling people and make them grow up!
A few other articles that might interest you:
Adolescence: A modern plague, but there is a cure by Matt Walsh
image by suitee
September 15, 2013
The beginning of school is exhausting! It is the busiest time of the year for me. Even experienced teachers that have been teaching the same grade level for many years are at school late each night. This is my second consecutive year in first grade. Although it is a bit easier this year, there is still lots to do!
Last week I came home from work and had a prepattied meatloaf waiting for me in the refrigerator. This was something I had made during the summer when I had a little more time on my hands. I only had to prepare mashed potatoes and green beans while the meatloaf cooked in the oven.
I have been on the lookout for some easy weeknight meals that are also inexpensive. While at Sam’s Club I noticed that they had a 2 lb. roll of Jimmy Dean sausage for only $5. I decided to pick some up so that I could premake sausage balls for the freezer.
I simply mixed 2 lbs. of sausage with 2 cups of baking mix such a Bisquick, and 1 pound of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix the sausage and baking mix together first until well mixed and then add the cheese and mix together. If you are only using 1 pound of sausage, use 1 cup of baking mix and 8 oz of cheese. Some recipes call for 3 cups of baking mix per pound of sausage. I found this to be way too bready for our family’s taste. Make these however you choose; the recipe is very adaptable.
After mixing up the ingredients, I rolled up the mixture in small balls. Normally I would put them on a cookie sheet and bake them. Since I was freezing them, I put them on parchment paper. I popped them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so and then put them in a Ziploc freezer bag and into the freezer for later use.
Quick freezing the sausage balls is not necessary. Some people simply put them into Ziploc bags. I chose to freeze them first so that they wouldn’t stick together.
When you’re ready for the sausage balls, put as many as you need into the refrigerator to thaw. You could probably cook them from frozen. I’ve never done it though.
Spray your pan with cooking span and bake them at 350F for 20 minutes or so, or until brown. I like mine a little crispy.
Sausage balls can be eaten hot or cold. I have taken them out on a boat ride for an easy on-the-go lunch. You can serve them as appetizers, at a baby or bridal shower, or as part of a meal. I also put them in my children’s lunches to give them some variety. They are very versatile.
What is your favorite freezer friendly meal?