February 2009


After two months of clipping coupons, lessons learned.

Two months ago I wrote about the advantages of planning meals, clipping coupons and other tips for saving on groceries.

Today, I ‘m sharing my story of how’s it been going and lessons learned.

 First:  I still strongly believe in investing the time to organize, plan a menu and clip the coupons from multiple sources. 

ü  Menu   planning has been invaluable.   I can come home and know what I am going to have for dinner!  On days that I know I will be late, I can start the meal in the slower cooker and then whoever is home first can complete the meal with the vegetable or salad.  There have been a couple of times that I have drifted from the menu and I felt the pinch because we would order take -out, costing me more in the end.

ü  Planning out the menu does not have to mean I’m stuck in bind and have to have exactly what‘s planned.  We all have days that we change our minds and feel like something different.  However, the menu does give the basics, with flexibility to change up and do something a little different.  Check out. http://www.recipezaar.com/     This web site lets you type in the ingredients you have and then gives you a variety of recipes, so you can be creative with your meals.

ü  Finally, menu planning reduces waste.  I can have lunches from previous meals or use extra (leftovers sounds so old) in other meals to create a whole new taste.

Clipping coupons – We could talk for days on the pros and cons, but here are a few tips I have found.

ü  One clever strategy for grocery-store coupons from The Simple Dollar: Sit on your coupons for a month, and then spend them. Coupons are often the leading edge of product promotion, which features some savings. By waiting a month, you can apply your coupons to the same product which has now been discounted for even more savings. 

ü  Manufacturers’ coupons, which come in Sunday newspapers, are usually good for a month or two.  Coupons from specific grocery stores are usually weekly specials.  The two types of coupons are compatible. If you match up a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, you can get some great deals.

ü  Check out other resources in addition to the weekend papers.  Go on line and sign up for coupon discounts.  I did open a whole new email account just for the coupons: this way you don’t flood your regular email account with all the advertizing.  Here are a few good websites for coupons that other bloggers have sent in:

http://www.mygrocerydeal.com

www.smartsource.com

ü  Don’t forget to check your receipts for savings.  Often the backs of grocery store and drug store receipts have discounts for savings on your next purchase.

As much as people go back and forth on the value of saving coupons, I found that if you stick with it, they do save you money. 

Here’s my greatest tip I’ve learned.   On the times that it all works well and you see the numbers on the bill drop at the grocery or drug store, BANK the savings.   There have been times I was so excited about the savings that I treated myself  to something ‘special’, such as flowers.  I would usually spend more than I saved from the coupons!  The new strategy I am trying is to go back to keeping a log of my savings, trying to contain my excitement, and looking at the total saved at the end of the month.  That way I can make a better decision about what I want to spend my savings on.

Let me know how you have done with strategies for saving at the grocery store.

 

 

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 A blogger asked the question,

How can you shop and cook for one on a budget? 

Here are some cost effective tips for the single person:

Avoid recipes that have rare ingredients you won’t use often. It is, of course, easy to cut a recipe in half or in quarters to serve just yourself. But if the recipe calls for a bunch of an expensive ingredient that you can’t buy less of, you may waste it. If, for example, a recipe calls for several different fresh herbs, just buy one that you love and use more of it.  Here are some healthy recipes for one or two http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/collections/healthy_cooking_two_recipes.html

 

Shop in bulk bins section. This allows you to buy a tiny scoop of nuts or a little bit of a few different grains. You get fresher ingredients that you can use up on a single meal, and you save money.

 

Consider the egg. Eggs are a good protein source for a single meal. A fried/scrambled egg over some sautéed vegetables such as spinach   on top of whole grain noodles or toast makes a quick dinner.  Boil one or two eggs ahead of time and they make great sandwiches or quick grab and go breakfast item.

Purchase some fresh vegetables or whole fruits but frozen can be cheaper. Purchase them in the bag, rather than the single box.  This way you can take out what you need, retie, put back in the freezer and have no waste.

Buy a little bird such as Cornish hen or a chicken breast.  Try roasting in a pie plate or a small pan with a potato, carrot, turnip, or other vegetable cut up underneath. It’s like a downsized roasted chicken.

Use greens in more than one way. Greens are the first thing to go in the refrigerator, and yet you can’t really buy half a bunch. So if you have a bag of spinach makes a salad and also you can add it to your main dish.  Try laying some in a foil packet add one piece of fish and bake or stir it into soup.

Make soup or pasta. Not a groundbreaking idea. But both are great warmed up (or even cold, in the case of pasta), so no harm in having extra that can be frozen in small portions.   On a day you’re not up for cooking, just defrost and you have quick meal.

For pasta, try to buy the whole grain type –  that way you are getting fiber and more nutrients for your buck.  If adding sauce, purchase the small 4 oz tomato sauce cans so you will have less waste.

If you purchase canned soup, try the low-sodium varieties to keep salt consumption in control.  Soups can be a good base for a  hardy meal.  Add more frozen vegetables, or cut up leftover meat or cooked pasta to the soup. 

Check for the individually frozen fish or meats, which allow you to one and put the others, back in the freezer.  Pair with frozen vegetable and sweet potato and you have a meal that could all be cook in the microwave.

Don’t forget beans, they are a quick no –meat meal packed with protein and fiber.  You can use kidney beans with chili powder and tomato sauce for easy chili to warm you up on cold evenings. Or look for vegetarian chili already in the can. Try lentil soups and rice and bean combination found in the in the instant rice section.

If you open a can of beans and don’t not use them all, try adding the beans to a wrap sandwich.  For example, black beans make a great addition to a grilled chicken wrap.  

Try the whole grain instant rice packets these often come in individual sizes that microwave in a short time, some as quick as 90 seconds.   If you do prepare rice, use the extras in soups, or even make a great dessert, rice pudding. http://www.recipezaar.com/Rice-Pudding-For-One-12687

Plan your menus. Just because you’re eating for one or two, don’t think you shouldn’t plan ahead.   Planning what you will have for meals every three days or weekly (depending on your storage capacity) will save you time and money.  Think of meal combination in which you “cook once and serve twice.”  

 

Sample menu options:  

Monday – Prepare Cornish hen for dinner.  

Tuesday use some leftovers for sandwich for lunch

Wednesday have something different such as vegetarian chili…

…and on Thursday add the remaining chicken to pasta with vegetables or to a can of vegetable soup.  

Friday, try individual homemade pizza (see comment from Gabby)