29 October 2013

How we Save on Groceries~Part III

 ~Buy Smart~

*FIRST.. I use CASH! If I take my debit card there is a
good chance I will not stick to my list as well as I should!*

When I make my grocery list, I arrange it by isle. 1. So I don't waste time.  2.  I don't go down isles where I don't need anything and I am not tempted by anything not on the list. I usually end up with a couple of things that weren't on the list anyway. But it's better to have 1 or 2 than 12-15.

I try to grocery shop only once a month. Then pick up the produce and whatever else (milk, yogurt, etc.), but usually it's only once a week.
Find out when your grocery store does mark downs, our 2 most expensive things are dairy and meat.
We don't usually buy much as far as meat goes. We buy our Chicken and ground beef from Zaycon foods.  I usually buy a couple of pork roast and a couple of beef roast for the entire month.

I try to hold out on roasts until they are on markdown, usually within 2 days of the sell by date. I know I am going to go home and freeze them so I don't care about that date too much. This makes them minimum of 30% off the regular price. If they are on sale, they are still an additional 30%

I buy in bulk, not that I buy a bunch of it, but I buy it from the bulk section. It's usually less per ounce/per pound and I am not buying more than I need. Things like cereal, which we rarely buy, but if we do, they are half the price in the bulk section, and we wouldn't go through a box before it was stale, so we don't need the whole box!

I also try to start out at the discount store. We have Grocery Outlet here, I can get the best deals there! Our kids usually drink almond milk, when it's close to expiration its marked down to .50 a half gallon! I can freeze those, and our kids can usually polish them off before the expiration date anyway. They have lots of Gluten Free and Organic markdowns in their freezer section.

Read the per ounce/pound prices on everything! Sometimes we assume the generic is less expensive, or the bigger package is a better deal. If the store brand is a better deal, try it. I don't buy generic everything but I will usually try everything at least once.

If something is a GREAT deal I stock up, not overboard but enough that I can wait until the next big sale. This grocery trip had tomato sauce on sale (they were getting rid of the old labels) for .18 a can. We use a lot of tomato sauce, I bought the maximum you can to get that rate. It's not going to go bad and it will save us a few dollars in the long wrong.

Apps! Target Cartwheel and similar apps are good, as long as they aren't tempting you to buy stuff you don't REALLY need!

When you check out, watch to make sure things ring up right, especially if you are buying bulk items. I let our kids write on the papers and our daughter insists on adding a random heart in the 4 digit code somewhere. Their tiny kid chicken scratch can easy be read wrong and be a costly mistake.
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25 October 2013

Saving on Groceries~Part II

~Plan Less Expensive Meals~

Talking about HOW I meal plan the other day, didn't really have to do much with WHAT I meal plan. Sharing that today!
We aren't fancy eaters but if we are going to try something new it will be on a weekend!
I try to make 1 or 2 meals a week meatless, or ones that don't use a lot of meat.
Some of my go to meatless/not much meat:
Grilled Cheese and soup
Tortellini and Pesto
Soup and Salads
Baked Potatoes (with toppings, and leftovers)
Grilled PB and Turkey Bacon sandwiches (turkey bacon)
Stir Fry (I can usually get enough veggies to go light on the meat)
Mini Pizzas (good for random leftovers!)

That helps a little, but also making from scratch and skipping easy/convenience foods will really make a dent!

Couple things I make from scratch and save money (and preservatives)
Marinara sauce
Breakfast everything!

I think having the staples for 2 really inexpensive meals a week can make a difference in the budget.
Some people go straight to beans and rice, we would too, if anyone here liked beans!

Some of our Dinner plans for November (not in any order):

* are meatless/close to no meat

Breakfast can get very expensive if you are buying cold cereal, we have a bottomless pit of a 8 year old, I think he could eat a whole box of cereal alone. I try to stick with inexpensive filling foods like

Oatmeal (not instant)
Pancakes/Waffles.. we use PB instead of syrup
Greek Yogurt w/ Granola and Fruit
Breakfast Muffins
Rice w/milk, cinnamon and sugar (and protein powder)

I pretty much stick to 1 protein, 1 starch and some fruit for breakfast!

I haven't really meal planned lunch ever. We always have sandwich stuff and pasta. Our kids will eat any random leftover in the fridge if it's mixed with a little pasta.
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24 October 2013

How we save on groceries~Part 1

Since coupons are out I have to use other ways to make our budget work. The grocery store is probably the 2nd easiest for me to blow money, Target of course being the first.
I am splitting this into a couple posts, because really it can be a long process.
It's not anything too complicated, just a little time consuming, nothing compared to cutting coupons.
I know meal planning is NOT exciting or fun. It's boring and sometimes tedious but it pays off!
~Meal Plan~
I make a plan for the entire month. We don't always stick to it 100% for each day. Some days I forget to take the chicken out to thaw, kids drink the last of the milk and I am not about to make another trip into town. We just make it work and swap days, this isn't a big deal because I am using washi tape and just write dinner on the washi tape, if things change, I just peel and stick it on another day!

Knowing that I need to plan for an entire month I get out my list of dinner ideas. When I start to decide on meals I make a list first, just a list of dates. That way I can highlight ahead of time when Ryan will be out of town, date night, holidays. Those types of days where dinner might already be taken care of or when I can make breakfast for dinner, Ryan isn't a fan so we have that when he is gone! If someone has a request I can usually get that on the list too.
I make a list of the things we have leftover or that are close to expiring, those have to be used in the first part of the month. I also make sure we have all the staples; flours, sugars, non stick spray, spices.
Check the flyer, but since I am shopping for the whole month I can't base it all on that one week flyer. I usually check for staples or the deals to mix with the card and save more.

Once I have a list and basic idea of days we may not need dinner, I start making the real plan!
I plan the quick stuff or crock pot stuff for evenings I know will be rushed. Once I have those days taken care of (with the washi tape) I plan around them for cooking once, eating twice. If I am baking chicken, it is going to be for 2 or 3 meals, not just one. This saves me time, dishes, and I don't have to use the oven extra times.

 Once I have everything decided, I start with the washi tape. Some meals I know we will have pretty much every month, so I just keep those in my mini planner.

That is ALMOST it for the actual planning, just one more thing I do. I make a little note for the day before if I need to take something out to thaw.  That is all the planning I do, if I had a block of 40 minutes with no interruptions I could get it done. Instead I work a little on my break, lunch and whenever I have a few minutes to sneak in.
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23 October 2013

FREE My Memories Suite!!

The online scrap booking/organizing/birthday party fluff software I use to make pretty much everything has a freebie!
They offer different freebies almost every week but this week it is pretty amazing!
 I used it to make this
and these
Along with SO many other things I use all the time!
I am so excited because for the rest of this week, through the 27th, the program is free! It's normally a very reasonable price but y'all get it free this week! Just copy and  past the code below and enter it in the coupon section!
Head to MyMemories.com and take advantage!
I hope you will share some of the projects you make with your freebie!

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21 October 2013

Why I don't coupon

While we are on track to get out of debt sooner than before, I am still looking for ways to get out even faster, saving where we can while enjoying today too. I will share how we meal plan and shop in the next few days! Today I am sharing how we don't.
Couponing is not the answer for us!
First, because of recent snarkiness/mean girl activity, I want to say that I am not bashing those that DO choose to coupon, to each their own, no hate mail necessary :) I am just sharing why it's not for our family.
The main reason I don't coupon is that most of the coupons are for food we wouldn't eat. Processed junk I wouldn't buy without a coupon. $1.25 off a bag of chips, making them $0.25 is still just $0.25 wasted. Or if it is eaten, it certainly isn't good for anyone. I'm not about to tell people how they should eat, we aren't perfect but there is no way I could feed our family on coupon available foods and feel good about it.

The other, and it's a close 2nd,  time is money! When it comes down to it, spending hours looking online, cutting and searching in the circulars it just seems like a total waste. Then adding to the additional trips to different stores. The whole point of getting out of debt is to be able to enjoy our kids, each other and our families, and not be tied to a job for the rest of our lives.

I have seen the couponing shows, and yes those people can get a lot of stuff for next to nothing. However, they are sacrificing something else, time! I recently watched one of the episode's (inspiration for this post actually) and I was so sad for this mom of 2, she worked AND spent 40-60 hours a week preparing to shop and "save" money. Plus the 5-8 hours a week she spent actually shopping. I think she got about $700 worth of groceries for under $20. Even if we skip the horrible aspect of what she actually purchased (Who NEEDS 30 jars of processed pasta sauce?!) and estimate low, at 40 hours for her prep and 5 hours for shopping. She was paid $15.50 an hour to buy her haul.
I think she had a better than average shopping experience, most of us real moms are not going to save that 97% on our trips to the market. I don't think I could be on board with being paid $15.50 an hour to not spend time with my kids AND not have time to make them real food. And that doesn't take into account what she paid for her newspaper subscriptions. We have 2 papers here, each run about $3.50 a week for the Wednesday/Sunday adds. Paying $7 a week minimum, so many of these couponers buy multiples to get multiple coupons.

It just feels so controlling, suddenly it's IN to be told where to shop, what day you have to be there, what brand you can buy, what size and how many to save $1? No, that is absolutely not for us. I have never been one to follow the norm and go with the flow just because it is easier.

Another reason is excess. Yes when it's free I am sure it can be tempting to get as many as you can find coupons for. But then what? You have to store them all! I HATE clutter and unorganized chaos. I am sure there are plenty of ways to organize a stockpile, they all take up room and MORE TIME.
When I look at what coupons are available, I KNOW I could save some money, but not on real food, not enough to make it worth the time. Even if I saved 20% on my grocery bill, it would cost me more in time. I do use the store savings cards for items I am buying anyway, and I consider an alternate brand if one is on special, won't go out of my way to do so though.

I know coupons are different everywhere, each circular is different and stores offer different deals. I have looked online, at ebay and other coupon sites. Rarely are there coupons for real food. Real cheese (not velveeta) fresh fruits or vegetables not in a can, meat that isn't processed or grains that aren't over processed. And when I do find them, they are a with purchase of something else that we wouldn't use. Or they are convenience style, like shredded cheese. I can shred my own and save more than the coupon is worth.

I will occasionally buy a stack of the same coupon on ebay. But only if I know I am going to do a mini stock up trip and use the coupons to make it worth the ebay cost. It also has to be something I would buy even if I didn't have a coupon.
Almond milk, V8 and sandwich bags are the only ones I have looked for lately, other than verifying there are still no fresh fruit or veggie coupons.

I am going to share how we DO save money on our grocery budget in the next few days!
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14 October 2013

Our new Favorite Fall Chili!

We had some leftover to use, and we got some good deals at the outlet so I started thinking how I could make them work together.
I already had chili on the menu for the day, I made our usual with just a few little differences.
I don't do fancy recipes, and I didn't take a picture for every step either. I prefer to just dump it all in the crock pot and call it good! For this one I added all of the below to the crock pot and let it do it's thing for the day.
~2lb Ground Turkey
~1 can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
~1 1/2 C Spicy V8
~Chili Seasoning (homemade or packaged, whichever you prefer)
~We skip the beans, no one here is a fan, but adjust your liquid if you add beans.
The 2 things I added this time that I don't usually were 1C of pureed pumpkin and 2tsp of pumpkin pie spice.
I couldn't taste the pumpkin at all but it for sure changed the texture for the better. And the spice was barely there but good.  I got pumpkin english muffins at the outlet for $1 the other day, and I didn't have to make cornbread. Win/Win for Mama! 
Hubby said this was his favorite Chili so far.. and that was before I told him I snuck the pumpkin in!
I was really hoping this filling easy dinner would give me the energy to work on some Fall Cleaning. Haven't started yet!

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11 October 2013

How I organize life, and a little giveaway!

For right now anyway!
I would be totally lost without these 3 things.
-Planner with Calendar
-Frixion Pen
-Washi Tape

If you are looking for a little Management Binder, this might be a good place to start! It holds the 5.5x8.5" papers! I picked it up at Staples with the calendar inserts too. You can get SO many printables online too. Target has a number of less expensive binders in this size also. It fits in my purse, I take it everywhere. I need it on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

I know the Filofax and MomAgenda are popular, Erin Condren has some super cute ones. I needed something NOW and not a budget buster either, but it had to be cute! So here it is, my little Martha Stewart cuteness. Did it come with anything, NO. Not a thing. I didn't pay for a bunch of stuff I am not going to use though either. I only bought what I needed to start. Then I have also picked up some pages on etsy. Finding this size is a little trickier but there are some great ones out there!

I mostly use the calendar and the list pages.

I make our meal plan for the month and then use the washi tape and just stick the meal on the day, I can move it if something comes up, or I forget to thaw something.
(cause that NEVER happens right?!)

The lists are ongoing, never ending and always half done.

I swear by these pens! They make my list and calendar planning SO much easier. They write super smooth, don't smudge (much) and they are erasable!! The write like a ball point, look like a super fine felt and erase so well!

I love them so much I want to share some!
Colors may vary!

I will give y'all 2 whole weekends to enter! Share with your friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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09 October 2013

Halloween Decorations '13

Keeping it short on words, just sharing our Halloween Decorations for the year :)

Tiny silver mouse

Love my wee buzzard hiding in there

 Little "helpers"

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01 October 2013

We made it through September!

I don't know how we did it though. I barely remember 2 days of September!
Hubby started a new job on the first day of school, that led us to some kid care scrambling.
Thankful for the amazing grandparents our kids have, we really could not do it without them!
And this is how life went for our budget, home stuff and all that. 


One more credit card paid off!
It really feels like this goal is achievable for the first time in a long time!
 It probably sounds like we had 300 credit cards. We did have too many, some were just little things, like Old Navy, that I got suckered into for the perks of the extra 20% off, and I realize now that if you don't pay them off right away they are going to make that 20% back in interested plus some. I was young and silly. I still keep the card for the perks but if I can't pay it off that day I don't use it.
We still have a couple cards left to pay off. Our biggest one we used for some school semesters before we got student loans, and Home Depot. Hello new washer.
 After that it will just be loans. Car and student loans. I don't feel nearly as troubled by those as I do credit cards.
 Slow and steady, and not quite Dave Ramsey snowball method. We didn't stick with the smallest first because one has a way higher interest rate and we could take care of it this month so we took a little detour from our original plan. But are jumping right back on to the smallest goes first!

With both of us getting paid just once a month, and around the same time. Budgeting is even more important, because if I make a mistake it's not a 1 week wait for relief, it's a month!

Grocery shopping with cash, and a list after making a meal plan for the entire month, with 2 optional easy swaps is new, and tricky. I've done the grocery shopping but I know we will need produce and milk before payday. Judging what that will cost and how much we will need is going to be the new unknown for us. I have about $50 left for the month after grocery shopping last weekend, hoping that is enough because I only have a cash grocery budget.

Speaking of groceries....
I have a new appreciation for the Orowheat outlet.
If you have one in your area, check it out! Ours isn't close at all, but we were on that part of town so I went in, expecting to not get much.  I was extremely surprised I was able to score Dave's Killer bread for $2.99 a loaf, and sometimes it's $1.00 a loaf! I doubt I will buy bread at the grocery store again. I can go there and stock our freezer with bread for a third of the price.

There are still a ton of DIY things I want to try but they haven't been on the priority list..
Make your own Mozzarella.. Who's done it? Worth it? Harder than it seems?
DIY cream of chicken soup. I need the no MSG and non sodium overload version! Who has one to share?

~ Halloween decorations are almost up completely! I'll share soon!
~I move furniture when I am stressed about something.. the living room looks just a wee bit different. I guess that is better than stress eating, right?
I moved our couch closer to the fireplace, it makes our living room smaller, but still plenty big, and I actually think it makes the whole area seem bigger.
~Still purging a little every week. I read this post and I love her thinking. I don't know if we can do it that drastic but I can totally see her point and some days I am ready for that leap more than others.
~Finally got some curtains up in our dining area, so much brighter! Thanks IKEA

~I made a huge huge list of about 100 things we need to do around here, most of them don't take long, so I am trying to get 1 or 2 done a day. Slowly but surely this place will be all perfect, and that will be about the time I have Hubby convinced we should sell. I will share some more on that soon!

~On the hunt for a thrifted end table/side table/night stand something for our bedroom. We used to have a big table/desk on the side and it's been moved to the office. So I need a nightstand.

 ~ I don't know why but I have been having the HARDEST time remembering to take my vitamins. I think it has been draining my energy big time.
~I just started my new shift at work and haven't figured out when my gym time will be in all of our schedules.
~Learned some hard lessons, like when people can use something you do or say to their advantage, there is a good chance they will. Sometimes just letting them and the whole situation go is better for you anyway, even if it's not easy.

Kids are midway through flag football season and are enjoying it, we are having a great time watching them too, even in the rain and mud!

Our girly was student of the month, again. This is great for her but it's hard to see our oldest be upset/confused when I know he tries a whole lot harder than she does.

We have some big special dates with these kids in October! Legofest and Disney on Ice.

Halloween costumes done, none are homemade and I am trying not to be too disappointed. Knowing that I could have made the time to do it but something else would have had to give. Right now I am not sure there is anything we would be willing to give up for a homemade costume. Work is taking a lot of time right now, it's our busy season and I know this job is really helping us get where we want to be and all it takes is time. It's not forever but for right now I have to trade some time to meet our goals.

Our kids have been amazing at understand the changes we have been making and how it's what's right for all of us even if it's hard sometimes.  I think they are missing pizza night on Friday's but overall they have been pretty good helpers! Teaching them how to read labels at the grocery store and decide what's a better price. Saving vs. spending their allowance. Just little things I can tell the older 2 are understanding and hopefully they will remember when they are in charge of finances larger than their little allowance.

October is my favorite month. I hope we have lots of pumpkin patch (with a Groupon) trips and some super organizing to share along with Fall Cleaning. Since I really didn't do Spring Cleaning this year, it is ON for Fall!

I also want to share my mini organizer soon! It's one of my best friends right now. I haven't been using my Home Management Binder everyday like I did while I was at home all the time. But I have a handy little planner that is making my daily insanity a wee bit better!


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