Coupon Me

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  I’ve been looking at our actual food spending and discovered that I was sorely mistaken on how much we were spending each month on food.  We are spending way to much and I want to learn how to save money through meal planning, couponing and canning/preserving in-season vegetables. 
 
I was wondering if anyone had ever attended one of the coupon workshops.  I want to learn how to use coupons to purchase products that I would actually use in my house.  Whenever I find coupons in the newspaper, a lot of times they are for products that I would never use in my household.  I don’t really want my family to eat a lot of processed foods, and that is what I seem to find coupons for.  For me, just because a product is almost free, doesn’t mean I want to use it.  I’ve spoken with my husband and I think that we both need to go to a coupon workshop because we both purchase food.  I made a comment to my friend Kristen yesterday when she told me how much she had in her food budget.  I responded in surprise, thinking that I spend way less than that.  Uhh, nope, I get to stick my foot way in my mouth.  Discovered we’ve been averaging more than them and I truthfully only want to spend between $350-$400 a month in groceries and toiletries. I had a huge laugh at myself moment when I thought that I was so good with money, saving a ton but in truth, I hadn’t been comparing what I had written down in the budget to what we were actually spending.  Stupid smart person!
 
Here are the things that I want to save money on in our food budget. 
 
We try to use natural cleaning products, so really I would only want to find sales on vinegar and baking soda. 
Cleaning products:
Vinegar
Baking Soda
Borax
Lemon Juice
Laundry Detergent (or a cheap way of making our own and sourcing the ingredients)
Toothpaste
Shampoo (I stopped doing the no ‘poo thing. I hated my hair and decided to find some that were safer on the cosmetic database website)
Conditioner
Soap
Dishwashing Liquid 
Toilet Paper
 
We are planning a big garden and I want to freeze or preserve a lot of it, but in the mean time, I want to find sales on these types of products. The farmers markets are starting to gear up, but the only one that I know of right now is on Wednesday afternoon’s and I ride in a vanpool and most of this stuff really isn’t in season yet. On anything remotely processed, I’m always concerned about the ingredients.  I’m not okay with HFCS, extra sugar, partially hydrogenated oils, cottonseed oils, GMO (if it is possible), monosodium glutamate (MSG) or any ingredient masking itself by another name.  Fortunately when you move towards more whole foods, there is less label reading.
 
Produce:
I would prefer fresh, then frozen, then canned.
 
Organic:
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Dates
Conventional:
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Green Beans
Dairy:
 
Milk-Raw/ Non-Ultra-pasturized
Whipping Cream (for whipped topping or butter)
Yogurt (I’m considering making our own, but I still need milk sources)
Cheese (String, Cheddar, mozzarella)
Kefir
 
Dairy Alternatives:
Coconut Milk
Almond Milk
 
Eggs:
I want to find local, but if I can’t, I want coupons for them
 
Baking/Cooking Supplies:
Baking Powder
Non-GMO Corn Starch
Whole Wheat Flour
Other types of flour
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Date Sugar
Flax Seed
Flax Seed Meal
 
Other:
Bread (if I don’t make our own.  I’m working on making it)
Tortillas (I could also make them, just don’t always want to)
 
Meat:
Pastured Chicken (I have a good source here locally, but sometimes I buy the Greenwise brand of chicken at Publix)
Fish
Ham/Bacon/Sausage
Deli Meats
 
Side Dishes:
Pasta
Rice
Dryed Beans
Tomato Sauce
Couscous
Quinoa
 
Breakfast:
Rice Chex
Cereal-Greenwise Brand, Kashi, etc.
Larabars
Tea
Coffee
Snacks:
Pretzels
Crackers
Almonds
Cashews
Walnuts
Pistachios
Breyer’s Ice Cream (We tend to buy it on BOGO, we do make our own, but then once again, need milk)
 
Luckily my friend Leah over on The Frugal Twosome has been doing some calculating lately and is helping me see whether things are more economical to purchase or make homemade.  I loved your post today on tomato sauce because that has been one I’ve been thinking about. 
 
I want some help.  I know I need to go to one of these live workshops and see how it works.  If you haven’t been to one of these workshops but are interested and local, let me know.  Maybe we can get them to do one for us.  For those of you that live out-of-state.  Help!  Sophia, you are the coupon queen.  I need you in TN to help me figure this stuff out. 
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7 thoughts on “Coupon Me

    leahkathlyn said:
    March 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Yay! Glad I helped. Re: pasta sauces, I went to the store yesterday and read the labels on like 20 jars. The organic sauces had more funky ingredients and added sugar than a lot of the non-organic, so after far too long spent agonizing, I decided the shorter, purer ingredient lists that Barilla and Classico brands use met our needs better than organic with sugar as the third ingredient. Also, apparently farmers sell “cull” tomatoes at awesome prices at the end of the season. And that is all my additional information. Have an excellent day. 🙂

      lahancock responded:
      March 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

      Thanks Leah. Good to know on the non-organic vs. organic tomato sauce. I always am checking ingredients, the simpler the better.

    thevfamily said:
    March 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I would say do not go to a couponing class. I feel like you could just read the sites/blogs that promote coupining and learn what you need to know, being that you are pretty innovative and smart.

    I use coupons and save money each month. I only get the Sunday paper delivered to my house and use those inserts, plus what I find on-line and get from the cash register (aka-catalinas) to coupon. I recycle 90% of the coupons because I do not use those products, but do not be deceived into thinking that only junk coupons come in the mail. I get Seventh Generation, Kashi, greek yogurt, Horizon, Keifer (Lifeway), Sargentos (great for real cheese purchases, string and sliced), Toms, OJ, and lots of other natural products with coupons, many of which are straight from the newspaper.

    I do NOT go through all the effort of making 7 transactions to get things that I do not want my family to eat (or that we do not use). Sometimes due to a coupon I will get something for free because it is simple to do and I will donate it because we do not use it. You will not often find coupons for eggs (and rarely for milk too). Occasionally the egg people of the world put out a 55 cents off coupon off any egg purchase but that is rare. I just watch for egg sales on my brown, grain fed, free range, blah blah blah eggs at my local Krogers, if I do not have a local person to gift me some.

    Sites like Mambo Sprouts: http://www.mambosprouts.com/ offer coupons all the time that are organic and safe. What you need to learn is how to watch the sales and learn that a coupon is out there. (that may not make sense since you are new to coupons). For instance, I follow Money Saving Mom: http://moneysavingmom.com/ You can sign up for just deals to certain stores that you shop and you can add her feed into your Google reader. I do not do 85% of the deals that she posts but when I find a deal, it saves me big. She will tell you that Target is having a sale on Kraft cheese blocks and then she will link you to a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon, which can be used together, to make for free or nearly free cheese. Also make sure you are on mailing lists for stores, so that they will send you coupons for free as well. I generally get some for Kroger once a month, which I put in my small coupon book, and just bust them out when I find a sale that works with them (or it makes buying at a non-sale price less painful). Example: I get coupons from Kroger for their salad for $1 off. I will use it on a “Manager’s Special” organic spring mix big box of salad that is marked down to $3.25. Being that we will eat through that salad fast enough, it is fine for me to purchase. When I know my whole grain bread is BOGO, I buy more and stock them in the freezer, which allows me to have enough until the next sale comes around.

    I find that since I buy more fresh items, it helps to go more regularly to the store, which I am sure you do already due to buying fresh. When you go, however, just be on the lookout for fresh items near expatriation that you know your family will consume quickly (or that you can freeze), for you will save on the clearance prices. That saves me the most. When organic free range chicken is randomly on Manager’s Special, I stock up and freeze it, which does tap more into the budget of groceries that month but being that the next 2 months I will not be buying any, I save in the end, all the while keeping it in budget.

    Money Saving Mom also does a post about every two weeks that posts only organic deals, so you can snag those coupons and sales, since those interest you (and me) more. She also helps with meal planning and freezer meals with whole foods that can help you to save money.

    We spend $300 a month and generally always stay within that budget. You and I have the same size family but my Wesley eats real food while Nick is not. (The price above includes toiletries too). We have enough wiggle room in the budget so that if I find a great deal on things that we use that can be frozen or stockpiled (such as our toilet paper) I will sometimes go over but not by much.

    Geeze—I said too much. I just get excited about this! I hate, too, when people think that since you coupon you eat poorly (not that you think that, just making a statement). That is the case with many, but certainly not everyone. I like to try and debunk that! Guess I should write a blog post on it!

      lahancock responded:
      March 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      Thank you Summer. I loved your response and as I’ve thought about it, I won’t do a class, because I think I have enough resources, i.e. friends and websites to get me through. I do like the Mambo sprouts coupons and I’ve been signed up for http://www.organicdeals.com which is a blog that reminds you about printing coupons for certain products taht I do purchase. $300 a month is what I want to spend, so that makes me happy that you guys afford that and live in TN. Nick actually does eat real food, ;), since he was around six months old. He just eats what we are eating. Lately though, he hasn’t been eating much food, more mama milk. Half the food he does eat ends up feeding the dog since he drops a lot. I didn’t know about moneysavingmom site, so I will have to check it out. Also, you can freeze eggs? I had no idea. I also like the idea of buying fruit that is close to going bad and freezing it. I love making smoothies, so I prefer the fruit to be frozen anyway. I need to start getting a Sunday paper it sounds like though. Too many good coupons to pass up. Thanks for the advice. It makes me hopeful that we can meet a more reasonable food budget and do some couponing.

        thevfamily said:
        March 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm

        How old is Nick? Geeze. I totally did not think he was on table food. Seems like just the other day I read your blog post about how Damon delivered him 🙂

        No, I do not think you can freeze eggs. If you can, I have never done it. I think I just meant to say I freeze my bread and fruit and fresh veggies (I like to cut them up for soups and such, keeping them frozen until the months I like to make soups). We have an upright freezer in our garage that allows me to store so much, so I have lots of room to freeze things!

        On the egg note, I know that the soonest you eat them from when they were laid the freshest and most nutritious you have but do they really ever go bad? I mean, I know *everything* has to have a sell by date but is that critical with eggs? Hmmmmm.

        lahancock responded:
        March 24, 2011 at 6:23 am

        Nick is 11 months old now. 🙂 Eggs will go bad. Haven’t you ever smelled a rotten egg?

    thevfamily said:
    March 24, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I’ve smelled a rotten egg once it was busted out of its shell and all but never have I cracked open a shell and had it smell bad, for I figured the shell protected it of sorts, for a decent amount of time. I guess I have a lot to learn about eggs!

    and wow—Happy almost Birthday Nick! You better get planning that first celebration!

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