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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Lower your grocery bill without clipping coupons

I’ve received numerous emails from people recently asking how you can
lower your grocery bill if you don’t live nearby stores which have good
coupon deals or if you don’t have time to clip coupons. While
I’m a big proponent of coupons, I understand that they don’t work for
everyone in every season of life in every area of the country. Here would be a few of my top recommendations for ways to lower your grocery
bill without clipping coupons:

1) Plan a menu and stick to it. Seriously. If this is the only thing you ever do, you’ll greatly reduce your grocery budget.

2) Shop once per week or less. The less you shop invariably means the less you spend. I recommend you have a grocery budget, plan your menu and list with your grocery budget in mind, use a calculator to tally up your running total as you shop, and only bring the allotted amount of grocery money with you in cash.

3) Stick with simple, inexpensive meals. I’m a big believer in simplicity. There’s an occasional time and place for the elaborate, six-course dinners, but for the everyday, keep it simple. We like to have a main dish, homemade bread of some sort, and then fruit or veggies of some sort to round things out. I plan our main dishes around what we already have on hand and what meats and other mainstay ingredients are on sale.

4) If you live nearby a store which does run sales, plan your menu based upon the store sales. The simple step of taking a few extra minutes each week to browse the store fliers and create your menu based upon what is on sale there will greatly enhance your savings. If you have more than one store which runs weekly sales, check both fliers and decide which store to do your shopping at based upon which store has the best sales. 

5) Shop at Aldi. I know every area doesn’t have Aldi stores, but if you do, you should be shopping there. I don’t recommend buying everything at Aldi, but there are many things there which are very comparable to name brands at the store, but which are routinely quite a bit less. Our Aldi standbys include: fruit (especially bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, and frozen fruit), tortillas, some veggies, frozen veggies, and staple ingredients. You have to be a bit flexible since Aldi doesn’t always have everything in stock and the produce is sometimes hit and miss, but we’ve saved hundreds of dollars each year by buying 25% or so of our groceries at Aldi.

8) Cook from scratch, as much as possible. It’s a no-brainer, but cooking from scratch with simple, inexpensive ingredients is likely one of the greatest ways to save money on your grocery budget while also eating more healthfully. We enjoy some processed foods as a treat, but I attempt to have the bulk of our diet made up of fresh fruits and veggies and homemade items. With some planning ahead and cooking in bulk and freezing, you can eliminate the need for many processed foods without spending a great deal of time and thought.

One of my best tips to help one be more efficient when it comes to cooking from scratch is just to look for ways you can make extra. If you’re making waffles, make a double batch or triple batch and freeze the leftovers for breakfast later in the week. If you’re making cookies, double the recipe, bake what you’ll eat right away, and freeze the rest of the cookie dough in balls and then pull out how many you’ll need and bake them later.

Another thing which has worked well for me is to try and bake for a few hours one day per week or to take 20 minutes everyday and bake up a triple batch of something and freeze most of it. This guarantees I almost always have a few different things on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks or bread to go along with dinner.

What are your best recommendations for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons?

Frugal Friday: Alyssa vlogs her coupon binder

It’s over on my other blog and all of you frugal zealots will want to go check out the money-saving goodness overflowing from the links left there. I shared a new recipe we tried this week for a yummy breakfast.

on her coupon binder takes the cake. In light of our recent discussion on coupon organization methods, I thought many of you would find it especially helpful. Check it out .

And while I’m sharing links, here are a few more:

Did anyone else get a little chuckle out of ? I found it quite hilarious that we are feeding our family for less than half the amount allotted on food stamps! (Food stamps allow you $117/week for a family of four, we get by quite nicely on $40 for a family of 4. We do go out to eat once or twice a week, but we’re still well under that $117 budget.)

did a great series this week on all things related to cloth diapering. If the subject is remotely interesting to you, you’ll definitely want to

Reader Tips: Harvesting and putting up food

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Carrie wrote:

I just thought I’d write and remind your readers to look into picking their own berries. I just paid $0.80/pound for 75 pounds of strawberries. At the store, they would have cost $1.80/pound for frozen berries, so I just saved $75!

You can pick the fresh berries, use what you are able to use in the first few weeks and then freeze the rest to use in fruit smoothies, fruit salads, muffins, and more!  I put up about 500 pounds of fruit each
summer! (We have a family of 9 so it’s not really that much!). When the fruit is expensive all winter, we still can enjoy
an abundance of it!

If you don’t know where to find a local place to pick berries, check out . (Thanks, !)

And, if you are interested in learning more about canning, freezing, drying, and root-cellaring fruits, vegetables and herbs, be sure to check out the new . Maybe someday I’ll actually learn how to can–it’s on my long list of things I want to learn how to do!

Do you harvest fruit and veggies and "put them up" in some way or shape for the Winter? If so, tell us what works for you. How would someone like me who knows nothing about canning get started doing this? I’d love to hear your ideas and advice!

Extreme Frugality: What would you give up?

Over at the wonderful blog, , Jeana is doing an incredible series of posts on Extreme Frugality this week. You must run, not walk, over there and read them , , and . Good stuff.

Jeana recently in order to simplify her life and I applaud her decision. While I doubt I would ever completely give up coupons, I’ve found that I’ve greatly simplified things in the past two years–especially since having two children. I’ve cut back considerably on the deals I’ll do, the time I spend planning and shopping, and I have learned that .

Many people often wonder why, if I’m such a minimalist, do I have a website which encourages people to buy stuff? It might seem like a contradiction on the surface, except you forgot one important point: by and large the deals I post here are for food and household products–stuff that 99% of most Americans buy at least a few times per year.

One of my goals in blogging here is to not only help everyday, average Americans find ways they can save money on items they would already be buying anyway, but I also aim to alter your mindset. (You mean you hadn’t figured that out? Maybe I shouldn’t have told you!)

You see, I would wager that the majority of Americans would never consider buying the bulk of their groceries on sale with a coupon or stocking up on a good deal to last them until the next good deal. Most people might buy a few items on sale, clip a few coupons, and save a few quarters each week, but the thought of buying almost everything on sale with a coupon is very foreign to a large percentage of the population. When people start grasping these sorts of concepts and applying them to shopping at the grocery store, it often not only saves them a few hundred dollars or more each month, it also often begins to completely change the way they think about life in general.

So while I’m glad to share deals and encourage you to save money at the grocery store, my hope is that what you glean here will not stop with the clipping of coupons. Instead, I hope the things shared here will cause you to consider making other much more substantial life changes: beginning to live below your means, getting on a budget, developing self-discipline, putting a financial plan in place, thinking long-term, and be willing to go against the flow to make sacrifices now to benefit you long-term.

Speaking of thinking and planning for the long-term, to kick off her series which I thought we would all do well to consider. She wrote:

Lately I’ve been thinking about how over the past few years we have
found new ways to save money as paycuts and higher costs have squeezed
on our budget. I’ve been asking myself, "What is the next thing I would give up or do differently if I had to lower costs?" and then trying to do that next thing now
to put us one step ahead of the next big squeeze. I’ll be writing about
some of the new things I’ve been trying soon. For now, why don’t you
tell me: What’s the next thing you would do to create some wiggle room
in your budget, if you had to?

What would you give up or do differently if you had to lower costs? Is this something you could go ahead and cut from your budget now in order to give you more wiggle room for later? In addition, I’d love to hear how using coupons at the grocery store may have affected your thinking on other areas of life. Tell us about it in the comments section.

Work-at-home opportunity

Polly emailed me and asked if I could post her income-earning opportunity. Since I am familiar with Polly and know this is a legitimate position and because I know that many of you are looking for ways to work from home, I’m glad to post her email. If you are interested in this position, please email Polly personally.

My husband is a consultant for a company that assists small business
owners who wish to sell their business. We make our own leads through
telemarketing efforts.

We would like to increase the number of leads we can work. If
anyone has telephone experience or would like to learn, we are in need of people to help.

The
position pays a 10% commission on the sales my husband makes. His
average sale is $6-9,000. This is a commission only position.

Some
things that are helpful: having a telephone with unlimited long
distance or a cell phone with a lot of minutes; email (since this will
be our main mode of communication); and a good attitude.

This
position is not for the faint of heart, but is very lucrative. We are
asking for at least 5 hours per week but would like up to 15 or more.
You will be calling businesses on the west coast during business hours
(7:30am-5:30pm PST).

I would very much like to speak to anyone
interested in this as soon as possible. We are in desperate need so I
would like to get started on this ASAP. I have good Dunn &
Bradstreet leads ready to be emailed to you now along with scripts and
forms. I will offer all of the support you may need.

Thanks so much for your consideration!

Polly Stankuviene from Nevada
stankuviene @ yahoo.com 

The Debt Avalanche: What Do You Think?

I read an interesting article by last week (hat-tip to ) on "the Debt Avalanche":

If you have a certain amount of money available to pay off a portion
of your debt each month, even if that certain amount changes, there is
a mathematically correct way of paying off that debt. You can call this
approach the . It is similar to Dave Ramsey’s popular “debt snowball” method, with one small but important detail: With the Debt Avalanche you will pay off your debt faster and pay less total interest to banks and lenders.

The simple calculation for the Debt Avalanche
requires only the interest rates for each debt account. This assumes
that all debt accounts have the same tax liability, but if that’s not
the case, determine your interest rate after taxes for this calculation.

Read .

When my husband and I got married, we purposed to stay out of debt if at all possible while he went through law school. Now that law school is behind us and we’ve avoided debt this long, we’re really determined to completely avoid debt in every way, shape, and form for the rest of our lives.

We’ve sought to debt-proof ourselves through a number of means: living on less than we make; living on a strict budget; building a six-month emergency fund; communicating openly and honestly as a husband and wife about finances; and investing in good life, health, and disability insurance. Only God knows whether we’ll be able to completely avoid debt our entire lives, but we are quite determined to do everything we can to keep from being enslaved to it.

While you all well know that I am a huge fan, since I’ve never been in debt, I personally can’t say what works or doesn’t work with regards to getting out of debt. And I don’t necessarily think the same exact steps will work 100% perfectly for each and every person and situation.

So, what do you think? I know a number of you readers are seeking to get out of debt and I’d love to hear what is working for you. Do you think that Dave Ramsey’s is the method for debt reduction? Or would you agree more with ? What has worked for you?