Menu Week 4/22/12

This week at Dominicks I can’t make a menu!  So glad that I was able to write about stocking up a few weeks ago on meat/pasta and red sauce.  This week it is b2g2f of coke products and a free bag of cookies and bogof potatoes.  Not the best menu going.  The bogof bags of potatoes will come in handy with the ham that I recently bought–my Mom’s scalloped potatoes and ham–I can taste it now.

I did however go to Target for one item and ended up buying lots of frozen fish that were 50% off and then another 5% off because I used my Target red card.  Of course Target had plenty of things that were 50% off but I only bought 1) food, 2) food I knew we would eat, 3) food I would never of had a coupon for.

Some weeks are better than others for saving money at the grocery store!

Thank you God for all the opportunities that you put in my life to work in kitchens.  A kitchen is truly a place of service and offers a learning experience like no other, help me to make my own kitchen a welcoming place for all kinds of nourishment to all who enter.

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Week 2/8 Getting $tarted $aving w/Coupons

Welcome Back!
Did you have time to write down your dinners on your menu plan?  I ran out of steam a couple of days and did not follow the menu and we went out to dinner once (a surprise from my husband).  I few months ago Once A Month Mom had a facebook page where you could share your weekly menus.  I was amazed at how varied our diets are and enjoyed a sense of foodie fellowship knowing that there are lots of women out there who start out with good intentions and by Tuesday are off the wagon, myself included.  I find that I can save money, time and loads of frustration by having a meal plan.  I also know that it won’t always go as planned.
Let’s get started on Assignment 2:
1.  Explore some coupon websites.  The mashupmom.com has a lot of great ideas for not only saving money but some ideas for making it.  I had never heard of some of these options–there is a entire world out there . . . The Mashup Mom is also a book available at the library.  Also at the library is Jill Cataldo’s DVD series about couponing and she also has a website.  If you have a particular food that you love but have never ever seen a coupon for–try going to the website and seeing if they offer coupons.  Organic milk is very expensive but Horizon and Stoneyfield have online coupons and with a sale or double coupons at Mariano’s and it becomes manageable.  Our family typically only drinks a gallon of milk a week and that is affordable.
I belong to a CSA, Tomato Mountain Farms, and they also have a website that is full of information.  Our CSA is coming in now so I am getting a huge amount of early greens that are forcing me to eat more healthy and be aware of my food choices.  Our family is slowly moving to a more whole foods diet.  I find it very time consuming to keep up with my Mom responsibilities and make huge changes to how we eat–because it isn’t just about the food is it?  It is finding a CSA, covering the cost upfront, figuring out what to do with some of the wonderfully organic produce they send me and use it before it goes to waste.  If I can take it slow and change a few things at a time it will become easier.
One of the biggest things we spend money on is meat.  The meat that I would love to buy rarely goes on sale but when it does I stockpile.  There is so much information about how animals are raised, fed and then end up in the grocery store, I feel like I need to do tons of research to be able to objectively make a decision about what my family eats.  I’m exploring buying a 1/2 of cow that is grass fed and free of–“whatever is bad”, like I said I need to do more research–but if I buy a cow I need a freezer . . . life is a process isn’t it.
I mention these two ideas because they there are very economical ways to save money on food that has had the least amount of processing or have the least amount of impact on our environment.
2.  Please save your receipts or sales flyers so that you can begin to see the how prices fluctuate between “good” and “best”.  Most grocery stores are on a 12 week cycle.  That means that the lowest price will be once during that time frame.  This is approximate and not a true science but a general guideline.  An example would be pop/soda, the best price is buy 2 get 3 free.  Other pop deals are buy 2 get 2 free or buy 2 get 2 free and a free bag of chips.  I let the kids have soda at Sunday dinner–the little kids split one can so when I bought buy 2 get 3 free I bought 60 cans of soda and with only 52 weeks in a year–I’m covered.
A buy one get one free is an automatic 50% savings and then add a coupon that can be even better but on some items this will be the best deal that you will get.  I am seeing more and more buy 2 get 2 free which is more money up front but still 50% off.  When deals like this happen I have to ask myself if they will come on sale again before I “need” them again.  Ziploc bags are a great example–they always have coupons and often go on sale buy 1 get 1 free–so I will plan ahead for school supplies or Christmas cookie exchanges or vacation.  Those seem to be the time where I use the most Ziploc bags.
The kids love granola bars and those are really expensive!  So I wait for them to go on sale for $2.50 a box and then use a $1 off coupon or 50 cents and that makes it a manageable price for our budget.  4 kids x 1 granola bar/day x 5 days=20 bars or 4 boxes a week!  So when it works out with a sale and a handful of coupons I buy as many as I can!
3.  This next idea seems so simple but it isn’t, make a grocery list and stick to it.  I find this challenging–see my Target story below.
This list might include items to stockpile or items to cook for dinner over the next couple of weeks.  If you have a better idea of your menu and taco fixings go on sale and sour cream in is the dairy clearance case then you might want to move tacos up a week.  Try and find sales or buy one get one free for the items that you need.
If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.  Unless, like today for instance, you go to Target and they have a ton of stuff for 50% off.  Do I need 4 gigantic bottles of seventh generation laundry soap?  not exactly but it rarely goes on sale and the coupons aren’t for the big size and I love the smell of eucalyptus and lavender.  I also bought blocks of cheese (that will freeze but I think the kids will gobble it up pretty quickly) fresh ravioli and frozen wild caught fish!  With this week’s shopping I will no doubt only buy milk next week.
I have had several people tell me what great savings they are getting by just being “sort of” mindful about their shopping.  I’m loving hearing about that.  To balance that out I have had a few folks share with me how it really doesn’t work.  Bummer.
Until next week–keep $aving!

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Week 1/8 Getting Started Saving w/Coupons

People as me lots of questions when they see me using coupons–most come from the people behind me in line.

I’ve been saving money using coupons since 1994.  As life would change so would my “need” or “desire” to use coupons.  Until recently, I did not have a system in place and it was very hit or miss.  I saw the Coupon Mom on Oprah and that is when I started think about how I would make this work in my own life.
I had 4 kids under 5 and life sort of exploded on me.  I made small changes.  Very small changes.  I wanted to save more money by spending less, try being more green, and I lowered my expectations in the dining department.  I used my culinary training to run an extremely efficient kitchen and try and not waste a thing.  All of the changes that I have made have been part of a slow process because life is busy and I have allowed myself to be happy with the small accomplishments, over time all the small things have turned into a more organized approach to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Fast forward to now.  My meals are extremely simple.  I have increased my “green-ness”, increased my awareness on where my food comes from, strive for a whole foods approach to eating and still find joy in feeding 6 hungry people every night.
Week 1 Assignment:
I will be using Dominicks as my example for the next 8 weeks.  It is the store nearest my home and most convenient for me.  If you don’t shop at Dominicks than you can easily transfer the “concept/ideas” to your own store.   I will share three managable ideas a week to help you get started with saving 45% and more each week.
1.  If you do not have a Dominicks card–please get one and register it online.  When you register it online you can then load coupons right onto your card!  When you shop regularly at the store they will offer you “personalized prices” which can include free items.
2.  Develop a budget.  You will need to know how much money you can spend on what you “need” and what you can “stockpile”.
3.  Develop a Menu Plan.  If you don’t know what you want to eat how can you shop the sales?
If you create a month of menu ideas it makes it much easier to compare what you will eat to the items on sale.  I use Google Calendar to plan my meals–the advantages for me is that I can see what days I’m super busy and plan accordingly.  If my kids are in speech therapy, soccer, chess club and have a project due the next day . . . it will be a very simple dinner.  We do not eat out–if we do that is planned into the budget and the menu.
I found that the easiest way to do this is make it a month long assignment.  I will add it to Week 2/8 of Getting Started Saving w/Coupons assignments.
This week at Dominicks if you spend $75 you will get a $10 coupon to use on your next order.  Please check the fine print–that does not include milk, juice and a few other things.  Your will need to use your Dominicks card, so go back to #1 if you need to.
This is post 1/8 and I’m also writing a weekly menu list based on the sale items each week.  At the end of this post you can subscribe by email if you would like to have them sent to you.

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