Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Awesome Kraft Cheese Deal At Harris Teeter

I'm kicking myself for buying my cheese at Safeway this week - I thought $1.25 a bag was a good deal until I saw the deal at Harris Teeter!

This week Kraft Cheese is on sale buy 1 get 1 free. By using the $5.00/5 coupon from HERE the cheese is just $0.64 each! I have already stocked up on cheese for November :) That will have to come out of my sale budget - so worth it. I also got some sliced cheese for $1.00.

Cheese was by far my best deal - other items I purchased were on my needs list. I was able to get cereal which we have been low on for a good week - 9 boxes for $11.03 - just over $1.00 a box.

For this week I spent: $60.25
And saved: $82.45

Still have a few more needs to pick up but as much as I can I plan to spread those out over the rest of the month. I think I've seen enough stores for one week :)

For more coupon match-ups check out: Southern Savers

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: Week One

I know, technically it's Tuesday but that's only because I am up WAAAY too late. I meant to have this up before midnight but it just didn't happen.

Last week I had my meal plan all the way into this week but like I said yesterday I didn't have all the ingredients so I'm kind of, sort of starting over :)

Here's the new list from today on - the easiest part is that all I have to do is check my master calendar and then drop in the links here in case anyone wants to try out a recipe.

Monday: Chicken Taco Bake

Tuesday: Weeknight Lasagna Toss

Wednesday: Tater Tot Casserole

Thursday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Friday: Mac 'N Cheese Pie

Saturday: Cheesy Chicken & Salsa Skillet

Sunday: 30-Minute Mini-Meatloaves

You may notice a number of meals we've had before - I didn't plan it that way - that's just kind of where they all fell in the month. Lots of new recipes coming though I don't mind starting the month out with familiar food.

I wanted to add I love Donna's idea about doing a 3-month rotation. I have a feeling that is most likely what I will end up doing. I love variety and can NOT have the same thing every week and often every month is too much but every three months I could handle with a few tweaks here and there. Thanks Donna for the suggestion!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A New Month: A New Plan

I have been committed to a $400/month budget since January but as I look back over the year I realize I haven't hit that mark in a single month. In February I was $50 under only to go $50 over in March.

Since my overall goal is to spend even less than $400 spending more than $400 is frustrating. In September I tried Angel Food and while it did help some the meals were small and not that great and I felt like the price was right but the rest was not. Beyond that I feel like I might be able to do even better on the price.

For October (and the remaining week of September) I have a new plan. It's not new per se but it is new to me. I am doing a month menu plan rather than week by week.

I found 2 things in my shopping that I think are the reason I am overspending:

1. I focus way too much on the "deals" and overbuy without thinking about what I need.

2. I often begin my week not having an idea of what we will eat at the end and go to the grocery store again for necessities after having shopped the sales.

To date for the month of September:

I have spent: $403.50
And saved: $497.29 (55%)
And earned: $20 back in ECB's, +Up Rewards from Rite Aid and Catalinas

I would be happy with that if today were the end of the month but it's not. We have 4 more days to go and in those 4 days we need to eat. I didn't have the ingredients to make meals - I had the meat from Angel Food but not the rest of the ingredients. I didn't have milk, I didn't have produce - meaning I would be way over budget before this week was over.

Enough is enough. I'm frustrated and intending to fix it.

I can do 1 of 2 things:

1. Increase my monthly budget to meet what we seem to be spending.

2. Try again with a new plan to rein in my budget and spend less.

Before I concede to option 1 I must try option 2 :)

So, the month plan.

It's not my ideal because I like to make new things and try new ideas as they come to me rather than having this huge master plan but I have to do something drastic to fix my budget issue so I'll try it.

To get started I chose one place to get all my recipes from: the internet. Sounds endless but I kept my searches narrow. I subscribe to quite a number of food websites: Betty Crocker/Dinner Made Easy; Kraft Foods; Campbells Kitchen to name a few. Each one of these places e-mails me newsletters on a regular basis with brand new meal ideas. Sometimes I try a recipe but usually I just transfer it from my inbox to my "recipe" box for later.

In order to get a variety of meals I just went over to my "recipe box" and scanned the e-mails. I quickly found a number of meals that looked interesting and added them to my list.

Using my monthly calendar I got an idea of how many meals I would need between now and October 31st. I was aiming for 30 but only found 29 meals that sounded good enough to make so I settled for that.

As I looked through recipes for this month I chose, for the most part recipes that used ground beef, chopped or diced chicken or no meat at all because I know these recipes will use slightly less meat and cost me less over all. That means a lot of casseroles, chilis and soups and for October that sounds just perfect.

After narrowing down my meat I also narrowed down the number of ingredients. Four-cheese fettucine sounded great but buying all those cheeses did not so I opted against that.

Once I saved all of my recipes I went through each one and wrote down what I needed to buy to make them all - I came up with 15 pounds of ground beef and about 12 pounds of chicken. One recipe needed ham and 2 will use pre-made meatballs but I'm okay with that :)

I then made a 2-page shopping list taking note of how much meat, how much cheese, canned goods, produce and frozen foods along with "other" items that I would need.

I also made a list of my meals in a Word document, printed it out and cut out each dinner so that I could place the desired meal on my calendar. Some of you may not need to be so visual but it helps me a lot to actually see it laid out. I moved meals around based on what we have going on each week and tried to avoid having 2 chilis in one week or too much ground beef in any particular area. We have a wedding in October so our meal will be taken care of. I also have 3 consignment sales and won't be home to cook a few times so those will be take-out nights. My parents are coming into town and I had to figure out which meals they would eat and which they wouldn't.

Maybe I didn't choose the best month to start this :) Or maybe I did. Now rather then hitting these nights were I'm tired or have family in town trying to figure out what the heck to make and then going out I now have a plan.

I have been to Wegman's and Harris Teeter over the past 2 days and already spent $100 of my October budget (and the month hasn't even started I know!) but for the first time it's going towards our dinners and not towards more crackers or cereal in my pantry.

My hope is that I will get all my needs items for the meals for about $200 or half my budget leaving the other $200 to be split up over the next 4 weeks and devoted to milk, eggs and produce as well as the sales that I love to pick up.

Rather then grabbing all the sales I plan to focus on only the best sales with the hopes of keeping my pantry well stocked (it currently is VERY well stocked for kids snacks) as we move in to November.

I know I will have to be strict on myself to stay within budget each week and keep myself from overbuying the sales but dinners are important to us and so is my budget.

We will see how my new plan works out come the end of October :) You know I'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: Angel Food

One of the biggest struggles I have is dinner. It's easy for me to get cheap/free breakfast food and cheap/free snacks for lunches but dinner can often be a challenge. I like to make meals that have a large number of ingredents to be sure we are eating a well-balanced meal. So this month I tried something different: ordering from Angel Food Ministries.

Angel Food is a ministry that provides boxes of food at discounted prices - most boxes are supposed to feed a family of 4 for a week. Obviously we are a family of 7 but for meals they seem to feed us sufficiently but we have no leftovers. However, if anyone has a decent appetite you'd need twice as much food - for us the girls don't eat much dinner

Sunday: Meatloaf and green beans from Angel Food with homemade mashed potatoes

Monday: Shepherd's Pie - using ground beef from Angel Food and mashed potatoes from Monday

Tuesday: Pot Roast from Angel Food (complete meal)

Wednesday: Pork Chops from Angel Food with Applesauce and Cheesy Potatoes

Thursday: Chicken Taco Bake using chicken from Angel Food

Friday: Hamburgers from Angel Food with mac n cheese and corn

Saturday: Women's event at church - dad to feed kids - dad will probably eat beef and bean burritos from Angel Food

Sunday: Broccoli, Chicken, Cheese dish (Angel Food)

Monday: Wahoo! Chili from Tastefully Simple using Angel Food ground beef

Tuesday: Creamy Chicken and Rigatoni - chicken from Angel Food

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Chow Mein - chicken from Angel Food - slightly modified - we don't eat mushrooms :)

Thursday: Finally September is over! We'll eat leftovers to give me and the budget a break

For just $64 I got 2 boxes of food that included all this:

We've had some of the food already and I wouldn't say it's the greatest - you do get what you pay for so it is discount food but it hasn't been bad and it will really help my budget for this month as I have all of $40 left in my September grocery budget!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Super Double Trip #2

I don't intend to bore you with each and every purchase I make but I wanted to show you the large variety of items that you can buy with coupons. Before I started couponing I wondered if when I started I would have a pantry full of random, obscure food that was free but we wouldn't eat. Even today, the biggest objection I get to couponing is that they never find coupons for what their kids eat or what their family eats. In rare cases I know that's true - if your family only eats veggies and meats then it's a possibility (though even then I've seen coupons for both things) but for the most part if you coupon you will find a large enough variety for just about any diet.

Here's what I picked up today:

I spent: $34.19
And saved: $82.47
And earned: $1.00 back in Catalinas

As you can see I got a number of different items than I did yesterday. Today I stocked up on yogurt and cat food (yes, the fun stuff!)

For a 2nd time I did the General Mills promotion - mixing coupons with $0.30 off each item when I bought 20. I don't think anything was free this time but things like the kids yogurt was cheap enough to stock up on ($0.95/each after coupons and discounts).

Once again I encourage you when you don't think couponing is for you is to give it a try - you never know what deals you may find!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Super Doubles Are Back At Harris Teeter!!!

It's that time again - Harris Teeter is doubling coupons up to $1.98 with a limit of 20 a day. I expected triples before dollar doubler again but that's not the case. Either way is fine - I am still able to get plenty at free to very low prices :)

In fact, this is what I picked up:

I spent: $19.40
And saved: $84.82!!
And earned: $4.00 back in Catalinas

My best deals were pretty much everything :)

For starters there's a great General Mills promotion when you buy 20 items you get $6.00 off your total as well as Catalinas (coupons that print from the register after you make your purchase) for Pillsbury and Green Giant.

My GM purchases were:

Betty Crocker Potatoes:
- regular price: $1.79/each
- sale price: $1.00/each (10/$10.00)
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: FREE plus $0.60 overage with GM promotion

Green Giant Frozen Boxed Vegetables
- regular price: $1.79/each
- sale price: $0.99/each
- used $1.00/3 coupon (no longer available) and 2 $0.60/3 coupons from S 9/12
- final price: $0.03 to $0.29/each with GM promotion

Pillsbury Grand Biscuits
- regular price: $1.99
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 2 $1.00/2 coupons from HERE which doubled
- final price: FREE plus $0.60 overage with GM promotion

Pillsbury Toaster Strudel
- regular price: $2.19
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: $0.70/each with GM promotion

Yoplait Frozen Smoothies
- regular price: $3.75/each
- sale price: $2.50
- used 4 $1.00/1 coupons from HERE and S 8/8 which doubled
- final price: $1.20/each with GM promotion

Other deals:

Quaker Oats (instant is no longer on sale - bummer)
- regular price: $2.85
- sale price: $1.50
- used $1.00/1 coupon from RP 9/12
- final price: FREE

Dannon Danimals Smoothies
- regular price: $2.69
- sale price: $1.99
- used $1.00/1 coupon from S 9/12
- final price: FREE

Pop Secret Popcorn
- regular price: $2.99
- sale price: buy 2 get 3 free
- used $1.00/2 coupon from HERE which doubled
- final price: $0.80/each

Kool-Aid Fizz Fun
- regular price: $2.79
- sale price: $1.99
- used 2 $1.00/1 coupons from S 8/29
- final price: FREE

Herbal Essence Shampoo
- regular price: $2.99
- sale price: $2.49
- used $1.00/1 from S 9/12
- final price: $0.49/each

This is what I bought to get the best deals today - I'll be heading back tomorrow to do the GM promotion again - not sure if I will do as well since I plan to pick up a few different things but we will see.

For other match-ups check out Southern Savers

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This Week At Harris Teeter

Of course I only went for a few things but ended up with a cartful :) Not that I spent a fortune but still more than I had hoped for it only being September 8th.

Here's what I got:

I spent: $49.36
And saved: $68.62

My best deals:

Yocrunch Yogurt
- regular price: $3.19
- sale price: 2/$4.00
- used 3 $0.75/1 coupons from S 8/1
- final price: $0.50/each

New York Garlic Texas Toast
- regular price: $3.65
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used 3 $0.50/1 coupons from S 7/25
- final price: $0.83/each

Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
- regular price: $1.50
- sale price: 10/$10.00
- used 2 $0.50/2 coupons from HERE
- final price: $0.50/each

Breakstone's Sour Cream
- regular price: $2.35
- sale price: $1.50
- used $5.00/5 coupon from HERE
- final price: $0.50/each
(I did buy one pack of sliced cheese instead of 5 things of sour cream so that was $1.79 after the coupon and not $0.50)

Quaker Instant Oatmeal
- regular price: $3.79
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 3 $1.00/1 coupons from RP 8/29
- final price: $1.50/each

I had coupons for a few other things like the Danimals yogurt and Lunchables but they weren't great deals I just wanted the Lunchables and didn't want the Danimals coupon to expire.

For more coupon match-ups check out Southern Savers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Expiration Dates

I swear the articles on Yahoo! get me a lot. I know they're designed to get me to read them and well, they work. I see the title and I just have to know who rejected the show Dancing With The Stars. I have no idea why - I don't even watch the show - but I see the title and I need to know. Maybe it's just me.

But today I came across an article that I thought would be helpful for those of us trying to save money. Since a lot of us buy in bulk there's always that chance that some of the items we buy may expire.

I buy as much kid's yogurt as I can when it's on sale because we go through it so fast. It's rare that we reach the expiration date but on occasion we come close. And then I hold it up and stare at it and wonder if I should still feed it to my kids and then wonder if I'm a horrible mother for giving them food past the expiration day.

Turns out I'm not a horrible mother. At least where food is concerned - the rest will be decided by my kids when they're older :)

According to the author, Ann Pietrangelo yogurt can be eaten for up to 7 to 10 days past the expiration date. Yea! That buys me another week and in my financial notebook that's a big deal.

So, before you throw food in the garbage or down the drain check out this ARTICLE and maybe you'll save yourself a few bucks!

And as we already know, every buck counts :)