You don’t always have to use coupons to save money!

As Michelle has mentioned in the past we are not a coupon blog but we did start our journey as somewhat extreme couponers. I always found it interesting that some people were so curious to hear how I did it, but then would follow up the conversation with reasons why they couldn’t do it. One very valid concern related to food shopping was that many of the coupons are for packaged or processed foods and many families, like my own, try to keep our meals as fresh as possible. This is definitely true but don’t write off saving money on food shopping just yet. Here are a few great ideas to keep in mind when shopping for food. Additionally I’ve shared a recent experience of my own.

  1. Shop the sales – You’ve got to keep your eye on the weekly ad and buy when the food your family loves is on sale (make sure it’s a good sale). An example is whole chickens. The great thing about meat is you can freeze it. I know that the chickens will go on sale for $0.89 per lb. When they’re on sale I buy 2-4 (depending on what my freezer will hold). There are endless possibilities you can make with the chicken. Consider crock pot recipes, roasting whole, cutting up to make multiple meals etc. Be careful of Buy One Get One free sales. You have to watch the price per pound. If it’s $2.69 per lb that’s $1.34 per lb after the BOGO sale.
  2. For produce you have to shop what’s in season and on sale. I very rarely buy anything at regular price but out of season produce can cost you a fortune. One great example is grapes. In the summer they are around $0.99 per lb, this winter and still this spring the sale price on grapes is $2.99 per lb. That is 3 times more than the summer price. Think of it in terms of total cost. 3lb bags in the summer are $2.98, 3lb bags off season are $8.97. This is a huge difference!! Combine this with other inefficient spending throughout the course of a year and it really adds up. 
  3. Look for clearance items that are close to expiration. I always buy steak and fish, chicken or turkey sausage at 50%. They aren’t bad, the store is trying to get rid of them as they are close to expiration. As long as you cook it right away or put it in the freezer this meat is perfectly fine. Dairy is also a good one to get close to expiration. Cheese will almost last forever! Beware of the clearance deals that are not so great deals where they tell you it’s 50% off the retail price but the retail price is ridiculous. I recently saw some boxed pasta that was 50% off of $4.29 but this item goes on sale for $0.99 so it was a terrible deal. Don’t be fooled by Clearance signs but they’re always worth checking out. 
  4. Beware of Pre-chopped or pre-sliced Produce or Meat – So I realize that with as busy as we all are, sometimes it’s worth it to us to pay for convenience. It’s ok! But for the budget conscious, pay attention to prices of pre-chopped and pre-sliced food items. You are paying for someone else to do the work for you. A great example is bagged salad. These salads typically run $2.99 and feed 2 people. Their shelf life is very short as they’ve been handled and routed for a while before they hit the store. You can buy a whole head of lettuce for $1.00 most anytime. This will feed 6-8 people, hence huge savings. Check out Michelle’s article on cutting up your own food. She compares some prices for un chopped items vs chopped, click HERE. There are many times I’ve run into a store on the way to a pot luck or BBQ and purchased a party tray of fruit, veggies or meat and cheese and the convenience was worth it to me. But for your daily consumption just a little prep and cleaning can save big $$$$.
It’s all about conscious shopping, planning ahead and stocking up at the right time. 
Yesterday I went to Safeway, here was my list. I thought it was a great deal for all the items I got. 
2 packs Gum @ 99cents ea and I had a $1.00 coupon 
2 boxes Golden Grain Spaghetti on sale for Buy one at $1.69 get one free. I had a coupon for $1.00 off two. 
2 Foster Farms Whole Fryer Chickens BOGO 5.5lbs ea @ $1.69 per lb = 11lbs of chicken for $9.50
1.75lbs of Beef Loin Tip Steak 50% off = $5.71
1.46lbs Sockeye Salmon Fillet 50% off = $6.09
12 Mangos – Sale Price $5.00
6lbs of Oranges – 3lb bags on sales BOGO = $3.99 or $0.66 per lb. 
Total Cost $32.00
Saved 52% or $34.91
It’s true this isn’t as extreme as what you see on TV but I wasn’t buying 40 Frozen Pizza’s, 96 Gatorades and 60 boxes of Hamburger Helper. The majority of my purchase was fresh meat and veggies. The small things add up to big savings! 
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