Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guest Post - Creative and Self-Sufficient ways to save on Groceries



I love these guest posts!
I think that saving money and couponing is process that you 
will never absolutely perfect but you can get darn good at it with some effort.
I also believe that it takes input from several people and sources in your life to 
be the best you can be at it.
I have never claimed to be the end all be all of money saving knowledge
so I have really enjoyed reading these guest posts that have given 
me (and hopefully you) some great ideas and new knowledge about
how to save even more $$$$
Here is a post from someone who I truly admire and has been such a wonderful
blessing in my life during my mommy blogging process.
Thanks Gabe!

Save money on groceries—Get creative and be more self sufficient
When people find out that I’m a couponer, the first question they usually ask me is how to start saving money on groceries.  While couponing definitely saves a lot of money, sometimes the best place to start is by slightly changing the way that you think about your groceries.  Some of the best tips that I have learned about saving money in the kitchen came from my grandparents.  Check out the list below, and you’ll see what I mean.
Do it yourself.  Make the trade off of a little time and start preparing more of your own foods.  While it is true that sometimes you can snag deals with coupons that make packaged products less expensive than preparing for yourself, that is not always the case.  Keep using your coupons, but also use them for whole ingredients that you can turn into home cooked meals.  For example, I can purchase a frozen pasta dinner for the family for around $6, or I can make one from scratch at home with pasta I’ve bought with coupons for less than $2.  The added bonus of preparing more of your own foods is that those foods are more likely to be made with healthier ingredients—less HFCS, less trans fats, less preservatives and food dyes.  Don’t forget that you can also make your own cleaning supplies for pennies with a few inexpensive ingredients!
Where should you start?  Foods like homemade salad dressing only take a minute or two to whip up, while homemade cookies and bread take much more time.  Start with those foods that require little hands on time and expand your repertoire as you have more time in the week.   Foods and other products to try to make for yourself include: salad dressing, beans, rice, cookies, yogurt, pancakes, broths, icing and frosting, laundry soap, cleaning products, bread, crackers, soft cheeses, buttermilk, butter, cakes and brownies, dried fruits, pasta, canned vegetables and fruits, jams and jellies, pickles, sauerkraut, jerky.
Bulk up!  The next tip that I give when trying to lower your grocery budget is to watch for sales on bulk purchase.  Buy spices and dried herbs in bulk at stores like Three Rivers Market for a deep discount. Watch for sales at Amazon for case discounts.  Go in with friends on big purchases made directly from farmers such as beef and lamb to get a lower price per pound than the grocery store.
Where should you start?  Become familiar with the unit price of products (the price per pound or per ounce).  Then compare that price to bulk bins at the grocery.  You might find that it is less expensive to purchase a pound of rice in the bulk bin instead of a bagged package of rice from the store shelves.  Let friends know that you are interested in bulk purchases so that you have more than one person watching sale prices for you.  Set aside a few dollars from your monthly or weekly grocery budget to use on bulk purchases.
Plant a garden this year. If you do not have room for a full sized garden grow in containers. Lettuces, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and onions do very well in containers, and it isn’t too late to get started.  Ask the garden expert at your local garden center for information about what you can plant at your home.  Be sure to let him or her know if you are going to be planting in full sun, partial shade, or full shade and if you have a particularly wet or dry area in which you plan to plant.  When you grow your own, you can save a lot of money.  A package of zucchini seeds, for example, cost around $2-$4.  The package could yield 10 or more plants, with each producing a huge amount of zucchini over the course of the growing season.  Compare that to the grocery store where conventional zucchini are sold on sale for $1 a pound!
Where should you start?  When landscaping, consider planting more edible plants. Passionflower, bachelor’s buttons, nasturtiums, nut and fruit bearing trees, berries, and even vegetables such as Swiss chard and kale are as beautiful as they are useful.
When cooking, opt for less expensive ingredients.  I’m a fan of cooking shows on TV, and I enjoy thumbing through famous chefs’ cookbooks and beautiful magazines with gorgeous food spreads.  Yet, if I cooked like a gourmet chef, our budget would be busted each and every month.  Does that mean that I give up on trying new recipes?  Quite the contrary.  Instead I look at a recipe and ask myself what I could exchange for certain ingredients so that I can prepare it more frugally.  Does that mean that I use less meat than the recipe calls for or less expensive cuts?  Do I substitute pasta or plain rice for a more expensive ingredient like orzo?  Will sour cream work instead of yogurt?
Where should you start?  Start by taking stock of what foods you have on hand to use.  What is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry?  What spices do you have available?  What is fresh and needs picked from the garden?  Use what you have on hand that is perishable before buying something else.  Plan your meals around those foods. When you want to try a new recipe, type the name of a few ingredients that you have available into your search engine with the word “recipe” added.  Chances are you’ll find a number of recipes to choose from for your meals.
Ask yourself how you can get the same item but for less money. When you start trying to save money and use coupons, you’ll probably find that you will no longer like the idea of paying full price for anything.  Make shopping into a fun challenge.  Search for ways that you can get the same thing for less money.  Watch for coupons and sales, use coupon codes online, compare prices at different stores, ask others about possible discounts or ways to get the product for less money—a little research can pay off, especially on bigger ticket items.
Where should you start?  Realize that it never hurts to ask for a discount.  If a product is slightly damaged or near its expiration, store owners are usually happy to offer you a slightly lower price so that they make a sale.  If you are so worried about hearing the word “no” that you don’t ever ask, you will never hear the words “yes”.
I hope that these tips will get you started saving!  Thanks to Knoxville on a Dime for the opportunity to share with her readers!  You can find many more money saving tips on my blog at Couponing in Critical Times.



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