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This is part two in a two-part series.  If you missed part one, check it out here!

6.  Eat Real Foods!

Ok, so this is a tip that can cause your budget to shrink or grow.  If you are not worried about consuming organic foods then this doesn’t necessary cause your budget to grow.  Real foods are simple foods in the more natural state.  Potatoes instead of potato chips…boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than chicken nuggets…quick cooking oats rather than prepackaged sweetened oatmeal…

The basic idea here is that if you are buying processed or highly packaged foods, you are not only paying for the food, but the packaging, the workers at the factories, the physical building where the item is processed and the taxes the corporation must pay!  It all adds up and you end up paying way more than what the food is actually valued at! 

This tip also includes cutting out (or at least cutting back) things like soda and drink mixes.  Mark and I have stopped drinking soda (although he still gets one at work now and again) and this has definitely helped cut back our budget.

7.  Skip the meat!

We love meat and it is good for you too, but it can help your budget if you commit to just one or two meatless meals a week.  Typically, the meat in a dish is the most expensive item. 

We try to eat something like pasta with marinara sauce  or beans and rice at least once a week….it is simple and filling and you won’t even miss the meat if you use some yummy cheese or delicious vegetables!

 There are plenty of yummy vegetarian dishes out there!  I have a few on my recipes page like Black and White Bean ChiliSpinach, Brown Rice and Cheese CasseroleTortilla Casserole, and even my Beef and Veggie Soup with Lentils (just cut the beef)!  Have fun going vegetarian every once in a while!

8.  Stock up!

This is a really big budget saver!  There are so many things that can be easily frozen and stored for later that you really must take advantage of great deals!  Things like meat, tortillas and berries are things that I always stock up on and freeze when I see a great sale!  Thinks like canned goods and bottled beverages can always be stored in the garage or pantry for later use too!

I will use the example of seasonal berries…here in Oregon, you can pick no-spray blueberries for a buck a pound during the late summer months.  So last year, we picked close to 40 pounds of blueberries for a mere $40.  We use them in breads and, of course, Green Smoothies.  If I had bought the equivalent in blueberries at Costco (the best on-going price for frozen blueberries around here), I would have paid $10 for a 5 pound bag…that means I would have paid $80 for my blueberries rather than $40…that’s a savings of $40 just on blueberries for a year!

Also, when meat goes on sale, I clear out a shelf on the freezer and stock up big.  Recently New Seasons was having a sale on meat…they had Boneless Skinless Chicken for $4/pound, Ground Lean Sirloin for $3/lb and Ground Turkey for $3/lb.  I know that those sound like outrageous prices to pay for meat, but since switching to free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic free meats we normally pay $6-$7/lb for chicken and $5/lb for beef and turkey.  Anyway, since meat was so cheap (relatively speaking), I bought up about 40 pounds of chicken breasts and 10 pounds each of sirloin and turkey.  In order to have everything stay nice and fresh, I called the meat department and had them wrap it all in meal sized portions (1.5 lbs of chicken breasts/package and 1 pound of ground meat/package)!  If you aren’t particular about your meat, this might mean stocking up when chicken breasts are on sale at $1.90/pound or ground beef is at $1/pound (my old “stock up” prices).

When things like tomatoes are on sale, you can buy them up and make marinara sauce or salsa and can it to keep for the rest of the year!  If you don’t can (one of my goals for the year is to learn how to), you can easily freeze marinara sauce too (and someone once told me it is easy to freeze tomatoes whole!)!  Or make up a few lasagnas and freeze the whole lasagna for a hassle free meal on night!

9.  Make it Homemade!

You would be amazed at how much money you can save if you make your foods yourself!  Things like bread, tortillas, rolls, muffins, and waffles are SO easy to make yourself (and most freeze beautifully)!  If you want to challenge yourself, try making your own kefir, yogurt, or even cheese.

We make our own pizza dough for pizza night as well as our own “chicken tenders” from bread crumbs and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

If you are the type of person who buys lots of frozen meals (lasagna, enchiladas, macaroni and cheese, etc.), try making those dishes homemade and freezing them for later use.  I tend to make a double batch of anything freezable.  Before cooking, I put anything that will not be eating that night into the freezer with instructions for how to cook and leave it for another night.  This allows me to save money by buying bulk ingredients when on sale as well as using homemade ingredients AND it saves me time later on!

Check out my Soaked Granola Recipe as well as my Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe for a few homemade recipes to help cut your budget!

10.  Never throw it out!

Ok…if it is rotten you can go ahead and thow it out…

However, if you have a jar of spaghetti sauce sitting in the fridge with a mere 1/4 of sauce left, don’t trash it-dump it into a container and stick it in the freezer.  Everytime you have some leftover tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or tomato paste-add those to the container.  Next time you are making up some yummy marinara sauce (or a lasagna), just thaw your tomato “extras” and dump them into the pan with the rest of the sauce. 

If you have just a tiny amount of meat or beans left after dinner, save them and make up a quesadilla the next day!…Leftover cooked veggies??  Save them and add to your morning eggs!…You get the idea here right?

If you try a new product and don’t like it, first find out if your store will take it back…stores like Costco and Trader Joes (and I believe New Seasons) will gladly take a product back and let you find something different!  If your store doesn’t accept returns, try repurposing the product!  For example….I bought some BBQ sauce awhile back that wasn’t my cup of tea for baking chicken in, so I mixed it with a little tomato sauce and added a few spices and herbs and used it as my sauce on a BBQ chicken pizza….once there was some pineapple, chicken, and pepper on the pizza, the sauce was hardly noticed and the flavor was enjoyable!

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to return OR repurpose a product.  In this case, I encourage you to see if any close friends or family would like it…if you can’t cut your budget back, might as well help a friends!

 *******

Aside from couponing (which can help ANY budget) and growing your own produce/raising your own meat & eggs, these are some simple steps to shrink your grocery budget!  I hope that they were helpful!

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This is Part One of a Two Part series.  Come back next Friday for Part Two!

Lately, I have been thinking about all of the ways that we have started saving money and cutting corners with regard to our food budget.  I thought I would share a few with you…keep in mind that some are really basic and might not be new news to you!

1.  Menu Plan!

This has been HUGE for me!  I can’t tell you how much easier it is to spend money when you are buying foods with no concrete idea of what you are going to do with them.  This is especially true with produce!  I can’t tell you how many peppers, bags of broccoli, or heads of lettuce were tossed after perishing because I thought that they sounded good, but never had a meal in mind for them! 

Menu planning also helps because it allows you to combine needs and shop once.  For example, if you are making three recipes that need slightly less than one onion each you might just buy three onions, BUT you could have bought two and used slightly less onion in each recipe (and even supplemented with dried onion or onion powder).

If you don’t menu plan- I encourage you to give it a try….just try for a few weeks (a month is best)!  For me, it has taken the stress off of “what’s for dinner” and allowed me no room for excuses to eat out or stop at Burgerville! 

2.  Limit Grocery Shopping to once (at most twice) a week

I wanted to leave the “at most twice” part off of this, but lately I have been doing a mid-week trip to get any great deals before stock runs out AND many people find it easier to split their week into two.  Who am I to judge!  The point here is to watch the everyday “I just need to pick up a few things for dinner” routine….it is dangerous….and a slippery slope!  Often that “quick stop” is after work and on the way home…which tends to be a time when you are HUNGRY!  Shopping while hungry is a BIG NO NO-watch yourself….before you know if your cart is full of snacks galore and three times what you planned to spend.  Even the very disciplined tend to pick up a candy bar or a soda pop from the cooler…..it adds up!

This also helps me when it comes to cravings!  There have been times when I watched Giada De Laurentiis make some heavenly pasta dish and JUST HAD TO HAVE IT…..so I made a trip to the store, bought all the special ingredients, grabbed a loaf of bread (who eats pasta without bread, really?), oops….don’t for get a bottle of wine and some veggies…we need a bag of salad and just the right dressing too…!  Bottom line-it gets out of hand quickly and it might just be better to make a note of the recipe for next week and hold off until the next shopping trip….

3.  Follow the sales!

This is a little trickier if you like to try lots of specific new recipes all the time, but for those who are flexible with what you are going to eat, try to plan your meals around the sales.  If chicken is on sale this week, make up three or four chicken dishes and just eat beef or fish once or twice.  If potatoes are on sale, try making twice baked potatoes or homemade fries to supplement a meal.  When freezable items are on sale, buy them and freeze them (more on this in Part Two).  I have general guidelines for grocery prices…If a particular item is much higher than my “good price”, then I will skip it that week and try again later.  This is true for things like apples, oranges, and avocados.  If organic apples are more than $1.50/pound, I will skip them that week and stick with another fruit…if avacados are more than approximately $1.50 each (depending on size)I will probably skip them and try again another week!

4.  Get creative with your pantry!

Leave the cookbook on the shelf for a week!  See what you can make without going to the store for a week.  Ok, you might need to pick up some milk, yogurt, fruits and veggies….but just that and nothing else!  We have had several “eat from the pantry” weeks…trust me, we didn’t starve and the world didn’t end!  Almost everyone has a few boxes of pasta, some rice, a few bags of frozen veggies, some frozen meat, and a few cans of soup or sauce.  It may not be a week full of the most exciting meals one could find, but they will be meals nonetheless! 

If this seems like a big undertaking to you OR you have a super small pantry and don’t really have much stocked up, maybe try just 2 or 3 days of “pantry eating”…it can be challenging at first, but really isn’t too tough once you get some ideas going! 

This is also a GREAT way to clear out your freezer or pantry…every once in a while, you should really get rid of all the random bags of veggies and cans of beans…this is a good way to make that happen!

Also, try to use up your partial bottles of sauces, dressings, marinades by getting creative!   For example, I made something that needed chili sauce awhile back, but chili sauce isn’t really something I use that often.  I used it for my recipe, then went onto allrecipes.com and used the ingredient search to find some more recipes to use it in.  When I still had about 3/4 C. left (after using it in three recipes), I decided to use it as the sauce for our pizza just to use it up and try something new-it was DELICIOUS! 

5.  Keep it simple!

I admit that it can be really fun to cooks a super special meal from a recipe that needs 20 specialty items….it just doesn’t have to happen everyday!  Try to make substitutions to use what you have OR try to find recipes that need some of the same items.  Keep the majority of your meals (75% or so) pretty simple…say less than 10 ingredients (preferably only 1-2 ingredients that you don’t use on a regular basis).

Also, try keeping your fridge cleared out of all the zillions of varieties of dressings…pick two or three that you like and only keep those.  Don’t go out and buy a new marinade every time you are grilling steak, instead pick a good one and supplement it with seasonings and spices from the spice cabinet!

Well, that’s all for now, but come back next week for the second part in the post!

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You can find all the great coupon match-ups and deals at Safeway for the week here.  The deals are good from Wednesday 11/4 through Tuesday 11/10.

The deals for this week at Albertsons are here and here.  The deals are good from Wednesday 11/4 through Tuesday 11/10.

This week, Fred Meyer also has some pretty good deals going on.  Check them out here.  These deals are good from 11/1 through 11/7.

Thanks to Frugal Living NW  and The Krazy Coupon Lady  for all their work compiling these deals.

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FREE CRACKERS!

I ran out to Safeway late Sunday night to pick up some Nabisco crackers on sale that work with a great Nabisco rebate I heard about!  Here is my loot:

October 27 006

In order to maximize the use of doublers, I did two transactions…

Transaction 1: $4.26 OOP

  • 3 boxes Wheat Thins Flatbreads: $1.47 ea. – (3) $1/1 cpns – (3) $.47/1 dbls = FREE
  • 2 boxes Wheat Thins: $1.47 ea – $1/2 cpn – $.50/1 dbl = 1.44
  • 3ish pounds apples: $2.82

Transaction #2: $1.44 OOP

  • 3 boxes Wheat Thins Flatbreads: $1.47 ea. – (3) $1/1 cpns – (3) $.47/1 dbls = FREE
  • 2 boxes Wheat Thins: $1.47 ea – $1/2 cpn – $.50/1 dbl = 1.44

So my total OOP for all of this was $5.70 and I used bottle returns and some of my remaining safeway gift card balance to pay for it, so I didn’t even have to dip into my grocery money to stock back up on crackers! 

As far as the Nabisco rebate goes, I spent $2.88 on ten boxes of Nabisco crackers so I will recieve a $10 rebate in the mail.  So after my rebate, I made a profit of $7.12 !! I really like getting FREE food, but I LOVE getting PAID TO TAKE IT!

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Coupon Shopping!

Today I was able to get to the store and do a little couponing….Yesterday, I was able to get to WinCo and Costco to pick up my produce and recipe needs for the week, so my goal was to keep my couponing purchases to as little as possible (less than $5 or so).  Well, I had forgotten about a Safeway giftcard that had a few dollars on it, so by using that, I was able to keep my OOP cost at $1.50! 

Albertsons Trip: $1.50

October 13 001

  • 1 Nivea Lip Balm: $2.00- $1/1 cpn = $1
  • 2 Ronzoni Whole Wheat Pasta: $2.00- $1/2 cpn = $1
  • 4 Pop Secret Popcorn: $4.00 – (2) $1/2 cpns = $2
  • 1 Hartz Cat Treats: $2.00- $1/1 cpn= $1
  • Plant: $2.50 ( – $1 overage from sales, coupons, and doubles)
  • – $3 instant savings (for spending $10 on select items)
  • – $3 doublers

OK so I could have used my $1 overage for some fruit or veggies, but the plants just looked so nice and summery and it was such a cold day….I figured that it is a rare thing to buy a plant for $1.50 and I would feel to guilty to do it otherwise, so I just decided to go for it!

Safeway: $4.00 (all on a forgotten gift card!)

October 13 005

I actually did two transactions at Safeway, because the special was “buy two Classico sauces (at $2 each) and get two boxes of Barilla pasta free” and I have heard rumors that Safeway will only let you get their “special promos” once per club card so just to be safe I used my card then went back in a used my parents phone number.  Each transaction was the same cost wise, but I did end up getting 4 different sauecs and 4 different pastas.

  • 2 Classico Sauces: $4
  • 2 Barilla Pasta: FREE – (2) $.50/1 cpns – (2) $.50 dbls = $2 Money Maker

So by using the coupons on the “free” pasta, I was able to get $2 off my sauces, making my total for each transaction just $2 for good quality sauce and pasta!  I was actually starting to get low on pasta sauces and I like the higher quality ones so I was pretty excited about this deal!

So if I have pasta on my menu plans a lot for the next few weeks, you know why, right!?!?!

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So I headed over to Safeway yesterday evening to do the Kleenex promo that was going on, but of course the store was completely out of the size box needed to make the deal work, so I decided to check out the Glade Money Maker Deal  I had seen on Frugallivingnw.  I found the glade candle tins in disarray and figured that it would be a long shot to find 9 tins with the coupons still in side, but decided to give it a try anyway! 

Well, I lucked out and found exactly 9 tins with the coupons still inside and I headed over the first check out to try out my transaction (I wasn’t sure if they would let me use more than one of my “FREE REFILL” coupons in a transaction.  My checker was really nice and there didn’t seem to be any problem with getting three free refill packs with my three candle tins, so I was super excited!  Since each transaction needed a new doubler (upto four cpns/transaction, one double transaction/family), I went through three different lines with three different checkers 🙂  The whole trip took 1 hour inculding drive time (and some deliberation and browsing after the kleenex was a bust) and here is what I came home with:

October 3 006

My three transactions yeilded 9 glade scented oil candle tins and 5 refill packs (I only had five coupons and there didn’t appear to be any blinkies at my safeway). 

Each transaction included:

3 Glade Tins (on sale w/ purchase of three or more): $2.49 ea.-$1.50/1 (cpn inside tin) – $.50 (dbl) = $.49 each or $1.47/three

0-3 refill packs (varied by transaction): $2.49 ea- FREE w/ purchase of tin cpn= FREE

I used three dollars from my October grocery money envelope and dug for the rest of the change in my purse (I also lucked out because on one transaction the checker credited me 4 doubles ($2) instead of the 3 I should have received ($1.50).  I told her that it was incorrect and that I owed another $.50 but she said she had already rung it through and couldn’t change it so not to worry about it!  Considering the number of times my coupons have been rung up wrong at my expense I didn’t fight her about it.

The BEST part of this deal is that it is actually a money maker!  I spent $3.91 out of pocket on this deal and each of the three transactions qualifies for the SC Johnson Rebate of $5.00, so I am actually making $11.09 on all these candles!  Yay for Christmas presents and FREE money!  This is where couponing really pays off!!!

What is so awesome is that anyone can do this transaction (minus the refills) without any coupon stash (since the coupons for the candles were inside the tins)!  Check the link above for details from Frugallivingnw.com!  Also, this is an even better deal if your target has the candles with coupons inside!  In my experience, target usually runs out of everything as soon as a sale starts AND there are almost never peelie coupons on the items (some people tend to go through and take the coupons and stash them for later), but if you are in target anyways, you might as well try!  Good luck!!

Even if you don’t want to try this exact transaction, make sure to read up about the deal here and remember next time you need any of the items included in the deal that if you buy three in one transaction, you just mail away your receipt and the form (on which you need to write the UPC numbers) and you will receive a $5 MIR (mail in rebate).  It doesn’t have to be a moneymaker to be a great deal!

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I just got back from Albertsons and man oh man was it a good deal!  Here is all my loot….I ended up paying $5.11 OOP, and should receive a $10 rebate, making this purchase a $4.89 money maker!

September 25 002

Here’s the Breakdown:

  • 6 Frosted Mini Wheats (assorted varieties): $15-$6 cpns (3 x $2/2)=$9
  • 2 Keebler Cookies: $5 – $1/2 cpn -$1 dbl = $3
  • 2 Special K Crackers: $5 – $2 cpns (2 x $1/1) – $2 dbls = $1
  • 2 Snickers Bars:$1.00 – 2 “Free Mars Bar” cpns from “Free Chocolate Fridays” (I had two that we about to expire so I went ahead and used them up so that they wouldn’t go to waste)= FREE!
  • 1 Doz eggs= $1.49
  • 3 2-Liters Coke Zero (not pictured) = $2.52

= $17.01- $1.90 Bottle Returns – $10 (instant savings for purchasing 10 kelloggs/keebler products) = $5.11 OOP

Although it takes a long time to receive a rebate with these kinds of things, it is really worth it!  Since I couponed, this deal is already GREAT without a rebate and now when I receive my check in a couple of months, I will have $10 extra to include in my food budget….considering that it will fall right around the holidays, I am sure I will be able to put it to good use!

Also, I know that frosted mini wheats and keebler cookies aren’t exactly the most healthful of snacks, but Mark loves the cookies and I have portioned them out and put many of them in the freezer so that he can’t OD on them!  And there are WAY WORSE cereals than frosted mini wheats and while looking at the boxes I learned that Kelloggs has gone whole grain with many of their products and most have added fiber now!  It looks like everyone is paying more attention to health these days!

Yes, couponing takes some time and energy…..I don’t deny that….and it is definitely not for everyone, but it is working for us!  I don’t know what I will do once we have kids, because it kills me to pay more than a quarter for crackers and cereal anymore!  I don’t think I will find deals like that without my dear dear coupons!

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