Two posts ago, I wrote about my first experience with “real” couponing–post a few revelations about how to use coupons more wisely. In actual time, that was about six weeks ago. I’ll confess that I’ve not been able to save $50 every week, but my average is still about $35-40, not to mention a 30-cents drop in our gasoline prices. This past week, however, was an exceptional week in which I saved approximately $45. I say “exceptional” because I would have saved $68, except that I succumbed to the urge to treat the family to the sushi bar–the equivalent of going out to a restaurant while shopping in. I don’t know about your house, but in our home, $68 is significant. 3 gas bills in summer, 1-2 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of dance tights or , a tank of gasoline, a spring/summer garden–all done with $68 or less. You know what else we can do? This.
These are our blessing bags, an idea that a dear Facebook friend shared with us. The bags, filled with small personal necessities, are kept in the car to give to people who stand on corners a small bit of much-needed assistance. Filling the bags costs us about $10/bag, and saving elsewhere on groceries allows us to buy these items without blowing the grocery budget beyond its already stretched proportions.
The other reason this savings is exceptional is because, as far as I’m concerned, there are still some rather sad realities to coupons. You rarely see coupons for the items you should eat–fruit, veggies, health foods, etc. How does a person who’s trying to eat healthy mire through all the processed foods available at a discount? Thank God for friends who are farther along in their cost-cutting strategies than I am. After I posted the original post on saving $50 each time you shop, my friend Ruthanne wrote a couple of great comments. What struck me in one of her comments was the following statement: ‘I even get the weekly sales ad delivered to my e-mail, create my shopping list on line with the sales, and have my meal plan for the week revolving around those items.’ Having tried her idea in part a few times, I will share her wisdom as if it was my own (lol):
Work with the weekly ad, not against it.
Doing this allows me to save on as many items as I can and then make conscious decisions about where I might want to “splurge.”
My old process when it came to grocery shopping was as follows:
1. Check through the pantry and fridge for ingredients.
2. Plan the grocery shopping list based upon #1.
3. Load our member card with applicable coupons, plus whatever coupons are applicable to additional needs we have (tissue, wraps, etc.)
4. Take advantage of in-store deals as they pertain to the list.
This process still has some merit. Taking advantage of what is already stocked here saves us in that there is less to buy. However, it’s still not a process that maximizes our savings potential. So, this is the new process:
1. Peruse the weekly sales ad for deals.
2. Marry the sales ad with the pantry and fridge to minimize purchases.
3. Sort through clipped coupons/ print online coupons, and again, compare and build upon #2.
4. Load our member card as appropriate, filling in remaining needs.
5. Take note of in-store deals, i.e., “manager’s specials.” However, I am not as thrown off by the specials because many of them I already know, thanks to #s 1 and 3.
The first two steps have made all the difference between leaving the grocery store feeling as if I left a check there (but thank God the family is fed), and leaving feeling as if I triumphed in this area and am doing something that is true ministry to my family.
I’ve printed only a few coupons for fruit in my life, but the sales ad regularly has some fruit that is listed as “produce of the week.” Most of the coupons I see are for parts-of-parts meats (hot dogs, deli meats, etc,.), or pork, but the sales ad generally has poultry or seafood listed at a discount. And though we are blessed to have a produce market and to get some of the freshest seafood around on the coast, it is always a relief to be able to grab fresh fruit and not feel as if you were robbed.
Does planning our meals around the sales ad limit us in our purchases? I suppose the potential is there, but for someone who loves to try new flavors and twists with basic staples, I actually feel “challenged” as I am pulling together the menu. I’m sometimes led to new and fantastic dishes, like these to-die-for snappy joes that I made when both ground sirloin and Texas toast were discounted. This week, ground turkey was on sale, from which I make a good spaghetti and an even better turkey Mexicali burger. Love these with sweet potato fries and/or a basic salad with cilantro. Here’s my doctored recipe (originally printed in Essence magazine, 1995):
1 lb. ground turkey
3/4 cup salsa (I like peach salsa to give a surprisingly sweet spike to an otherwise tangy burger)’
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal (healthier than bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and shape into patties. Cook, preferably, in a non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on a medium setting. Be sure to flip patties as they begin to brown so that the salsa components don’t burn.
Now for the kids’ dessert: when cereal went on sale, I tried my hand at my newest party idea, due to arrive in perfection this summer:
My marshmallow-to-Trix ratio was off on this first trial, but I’ll get there. In the meantime, however you plan to save, Bon appetit!