Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Produce

If you missed the last few weeks of Saving Money on Food Series, check out how to save money on meat and how to save money on dairy.

It’s important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day, but sometimes it can cost more to eat healthy. Here are some tips to stretch your food budget while keeping a nutritious diet without spending too much on fresh produce.

1. Buy in Season
Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables in their off season costs more. Make sure to buy produce that’s in during the season. For instance, purchase apples and pears in the fall and strawberries and grapefruits in the spring. When there is a limited selection of produce in the winter, that’s when frozen and canned stockpiles come in handy.

2. Watch for Sales
Check store sales fliers to see what produce is on sale that week, and incorporate those items into your dinner menu that week.

3. Shop the Discount Produce Rack
Most grocery stores have some sort of discount produce rack that is filled daily with near-expired produce. If you know you’ll cook or eat it within a day or two, then pick up the discounted produce. Don’t pick it up just because it’s a good deal. Make sure to have a plan for it.

4. Freeze It
Watch for fresh produce to go on sale that you can freeze, then purchase it in bulk. Also, watch for frozen vegetables to go on sale for less than $1, then purchase a bunch of them to keep in your freezer. Since purchasing frozen fruit is more expensive, purchase it when it’s on sale during the summer months and freeze it to use the rest of the year.

5. Grow and Preserve It
This can be a lot of work, but you’ll save money by growing your own produce and canning it to eat year round. Plus, it tastes better than canned food from the store. Also, check out this post about tips to store and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables.

What are other ways you save on produce?

Here are more ways to save money on food:
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Meat
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Dairy
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Produce
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Grains

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Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Dairy

If you missed last week’s Saving Money on Food Series, check out how to save money on meat. Below are tips on how to save money on dairy products:

1. Watch for Sales
Shop at the store that has the least expensive price on milk and eggs. You’ll see that the savings can really add up over time. To save on running around to different stores, consider going to a store that will price matching those dairy sales. Make sure to also check local convenience and drugstores because milk and eggs can sometimes be lower prices than other stores.

2. Find and Use Coupons
Every so often you’ll find dairy coupons. Watch for Catalina promotions that offer a free gallon of milk with the purchase of cereal or cookies. Look for peelies on sliced and shredded cheeses, as well as on cereal boxes for discounts on milk. If you live in Utah or Idaho, Coupons.com has a $0.25 off any brand cheese and $0.25 off any brand milk coupons that is regularly available to print. If you pair coupons with a sale, you’ll get a great deal on dairy products.

3. Watch for Mark Downs
When dairy products near their expiration date, stores often mark them down 50% or more. Ask your local store when mark-downs occur and plan to shop there around that time. 

4. Use Powdered Milk
Try powdered milk for baking and cooking to help reduce your food bill. It’s also a good idea to have some in your stockpile in case of an emergency.

5. Freeze It
When there is a great sale on milk, butter, cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, or sour cream, then stock up on them and freeze the extra. Before freezing milk, pour a little out of each gallon to leave room for expansion. Consider shredding cheese before freezing it because sometimes the cheese is crumbly after it thaws. Butter, yogurt, and cream cheese can be placed straight into the freezer. 

6. Make Your Own
Try making your own yogurt, butter, cheese, or sour cream if you have the time.

 

What are other ways you save money on dairy?

Here are more ways to save money on food:
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Meat
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Dairy
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Produce
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Grains

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Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Meat

It’s important to provide healthy meals for our families, yet the grocery bill each month can really add up. Besides the mortgage bill, groceries are one of the highest expenses in a household. If you watch, you can find good sales, as well as coupons, on produce, dairy, grains, and meat–items used to make healthy meals for your family. Over the next month, I’ll be outlining specific ways to save money on meat, dairy, produce, and grains.

Ways to Save Money on Meat

Meat is usually the most expensive part of any meal, and it really can add up on your grocery budget. Here are some tips to save money on meat without having to go completely meatless.

1. Plan Your Meals Based on Meat Sales
Look through your grocery store circulars before you plan your meals. If chicken is on sale, then plan a few chicken dishes. It’s not the week to make a pot roast unless you already have one in the freezer.

And most grocery stores mark down meat that is coming close to its “sell by” date. Check with the meat department to see if there is a specific day or time of day that the meat is marked down. You can purchase and freeze the meat or use it before it goes bad.

2. Buy in Bulk
Family-sized packages of meat usually cost less per pound than smaller packages, so buy one big package and divide it into the portions that you need and freeze it.

3. Use Less Meat
Many times you can cut the amount of meat used in a recipe. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1 lb. of meat, just cut it in down and use 3/4 lb. meat. You probably won’t even notice it’s missing. Now this obviously won’t work for recipes like meat loaf and sloppy joes, but you can cut down the meat for soups and casseroles.

4. View Meat as a Side Dish
Instead of serving meat as your main dish, try making a meal where a salad, cooked vegetables, or a potato are the main dish. You’ll be able to feed your family on less meat and save money.

5. Have Meatless Nights
You don’t need to completely go meatless, but take one or two nights a week and make it a meatless night.

6. Buy Less Expensive Cuts of Meat
Choose more affordably priced choice cuts of meat, then marinade, tenderize, or slow cook them. You’ll often get the same great flavor as a more expensive cut of meat at a fraction of the cost.

7. Separate the Tenderloin
Boneless pork chops, pork loin, and chicken breasts come with a small piece of meat hanging off the side. Cut off the tenderloin, trim off all the visible fat, put it in a freezer bag, and place it in the freezer. Add to the bag each time you prepare your meat. Eventually, you’ll collect enough to create a dish that calls for small pieces of chicken breast or pork.

8. Replace Meat with Beans
This won’t work for everything, but you can replace meat by adding extra beans in your meals, such as mashing black beans in burgers, adding extra beans to chili, or mixing refried beans into taco meat.

9. Use Leftovers in a Different Way
If you have roast beef left over after dinner, don’t eat it for lunch the next day. Instead, use it to make a vegetable beef soup, which will serve the entire family for dinner, plus it will create more leftovers.

10. Check Butcher Shops or Farms
Check out local butcher shops or farms for great deals on fresh meat. Sometimes their prices can be lower than bargain grocery stores.

What are other ways you save money on meat?

Here are more ways to save money on food:
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Meat
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Dairy
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Produce
Saving Money on Food Series: How to Save on Grains

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How to Stay Motivated with Couponing and Finding Deals

I enjoy couponing and finding deals, but sometimes even I get burned out. Here are some ideas to reduce coupon and deal hunting burn out. 

1)  Don’t Try To Find Every Deal
If you are trying to go to five or six stores every single week, you are going to get burned out. Cut back and try to keep it simple by only going to one or two stores a week. Remember that you don’t need to hit every deal. You can still save a lot of money and keep your grocery budget low by getting a few good deals a week.

2) Implement Time-Saving Tips
Make sure to consider what your schedule is like when it comes to couponing.  If you only have a few hours a week to devote to couponing and grocery shopping, then try this clipless coupon method. You might also want to implement some of these “Valuable tips to prepare for the shopping trip” ideas that I’ve posted. Make sure to only focus on the ones that will help you save time and be more efficient.

3) Remember Where You Are In Your Life
Find out what works best for your family situation right now and stick to it. Don’t focus on the potential deals you are missing. Be grateful for the bargains you are able to do with the time and energy you have. At this time in my life, I have a baby and a 3-year-old. If I can get out and shop once a week, I’m happy with that. And right now, that works for us. 

4) Set Couponing Aside
If simplifying your system isn’t enough because maybe you are completely burned out from couponing or you are going through a difficult or stressful time in your life, then it really is okay to take a break. By taking a few weeks or month off from couponing, then you’ll be able to come back refreshed and excited about finding deals again. You can still save money at the grocery store by looking at the store sale fliers and by using the items you have on hand in your pantry or stockpile. 

What do you do when you get burned out from couponing or finding deals? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Tips to Save Money on Printing Coupons

With the number of coupons that are available to print from the Internet now, it uses up ink cartridges more quickly. Here are a few tips to maximize your ink usage and lower your out-of-pocket costs for printing supplies, as well as some coupon-printing tips.

1. Print coupons in black and white.
Set your printer default to only print in black and white to save money on ink, since it’s more expensive to print in color. Stores will still accept the coupons even though they are printed in black and white. Also, change the print quality on your computer to fast draft or quick printing (Your printer may have different wording depending on the model and brand). To do this go to “Control Panel” and click “Printers”, then choose “Printing Preferences.”

2. Print 2-3 coupons per page.
After you print one coupon, turn the page around to print a coupon on the bottom or back of the paper.

3. Print multiple coupons.
You can print 2 coupons per 1 computer by hitting the back browser button and refreshing the page. If you have more than one computer in your house, you can print coupons from those computers as well.

4. Print on scrap paper.
Print on the back of scrap paper that you might normally throw out. This could include junk mail, fliers, and old homework assignments. Just make sure there’s no personal information on the other side.

5. Watch your coupon print.
Once the coupon is finished printing, push the “Cancel” button so the rest of the paper comes out. You won’t waste ink on advertisements that print following the coupon.

6. Buy cartridges online.
There are several online retailers that sell ink cartridges for less money than picking them up at a store, such as Amazon.com and DataBazaar.com.

7. Refill ink cartridges.
It’s less expensive to refill an ink cartridge than buying a new one. Walgreens has a 1-hour ink cartridge refill service at the photo counter, which also includes a complete cleaning of the cartridge and a print test after the refill to make sure everything is in order.

8. Recycle old cartridges.
Many Staples stores offer a recycle drop for used cartridges with a $2.00 coupon towards purchasing a new cartridge.

9. Don’t replace the ink cartridge until the ink is gone.
Many printers give a warning when the ink cartridge needs to be replaced. However, wait for the ink to be completely out before replacing it. When the prints start to look terrible, then replace the cartridge.

10. Don’t print photos from your printer.
The photo quality is much better when you use an online photo service such as Shutterfly for printing. And many times, you cand find photo printing deals to save you money.

11. Never pay full price for paper.
Office retailers have huge sales on back-to-school supplies. Many times you can pick up reams of paper for FREE after rebate! Even if you don’t have kids in school, pay attention to the sales and stock up now.

12. Only print coupons you will use.
It’s tempting to print any coupon that you have a remote chance of using, but you have to remember that you are also wasting ink and paper when you print it. Stick with printing coupons that you know you will use.

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Tips on How to Price Match at Walmart


I frequently shop at Walmart to price match deals because it saves our family around $500 a year. Here are some tips on how to price match at Walmart and have a smooth experience.

1. Prepare before the Shopping Trip
Take a few extra minutes to put together a list of price matching items, coupons, and ads. Make sure all of the coupons you will be using are legible, have an expiration date, a valid remit address for the manufacturer, and a scannable bar code. Do NOT photocopy or duplicate coupons. Having these items organized beforehand will help the shopping trip and checkout experience go smoothly.

2. Bring Competitor Ads with You to the Store
Walmart no longer requires that you show the ad you are price matching. However, to make some transactions run more smoothly, it’s good to have the ad on hand. If there is a question about what you are price matching, it’s much easier to show them the ad rather than waiting for the cashier to find it.

Make sure the ads are the correct date and valid for that week. If the competitor has a three-day sale, you’ll need to price match at Walmart during those three days.

3. Purchase the Right Brand and Size
Walmart will price match the exact advertised item in the competitor’s ad. Make sure it’s the same brand and size. If Walmart has the product in a larger size, which they usually do at my store, then you won’t be able to price match that item. With fresh produce and meat, the price needs to be in the same unit type such as pound-for-pound and each-for-each.

You can also price match electronics, home goods, and more, as long as they are the same brand and variety as Walmart carries and are advertised in a competitor’s ad. This typically includes Black Friday too.

4. Buy the Correct Quantity
If a sale is advertised as “$1 each when you buy 10” then you may need to purchase ten items at Walmart to get that price. If the advertised deal says “10 items for $10” then that means each item is $1. Be prepared to purchase the total number of products when you are price matching a sale that states, “. . .when you buy # participating items.”

5. Be Selective of Your Cashier
Before choosing a checkout line, look for a cashier that looks good-nature and coupon friendly. Try to choose a cashier that is knowledgeable about coupons and Walmart’s policy. Make sure to smile, be polite, and build a relationship with him or her.

6. Group Price Matching Items Together at Checkout
To have a less frustrating experience, group your price matching items together when checking out and make sure to tell your cashier before he or she starts ringing up the items. With the items I’m not price matching, I place those on the belt first followed by a divider to separate the items I will be price matching.

7. Shop at the Right Time of Day
It takes longer to checkout when price matching, so choose a day and time when the checkout lines are likely to be shorter. Both you and the cashier will both feel less rushed if there isn’t a huge line of people waiting behind you. Mornings are usually less busy, plus the shelves are stocked.

8. Take Walmart’s Price Matching and Coupon Policy with You
Print off Walmart’s price matching and coupon policy here so you have it handy if you need it. Remember that Walmart’s policy allows for overage. If the coupon value exceeds the price of the item you are purchasing, the excess may be applied to the other purchases or given to you in cash.

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Simple Ways to Cut Down Your Grocery Bill

If you are looking to cut down your grocery bill, here is a list of simple ways you can do it.

1. Only Buy Items on Sale
Stock up on extra items by only buying the items when they are on sale. If you can’t afford to buy a lot, then at least pick up 2-3 extra items every time.

2. Shop Seasonally
Learn when all of your favorite foods are in season, and then buy them when they are cheapest. With certain types of fruits and vegetables, I’ll buy extra, and then freeze them so I can use them later in smoothies or soups.

3. Buy Ingredients Instead of Prepared Meals
Frozen dinners and boxed mixes may be convenient, but they are more costly. Buy ingredients that you need to prepare the foods you eat.

4. Purchase Reduced-Price Items
Look through the aisles of stores to find reduced prices on groceries that are near the end of its “best when used by” date or look for discounts on ultra ripe produce.

5. Switch to Generic
Most of the time generic brands are less expensive than name brands. You’ll easily save 25% or more off your grocery bill.

6. Plan Your Menu Around Sales
Look at the weekly sales fliers to see what’s on sale, and then add meals to your menu using those ingredients.

7. Be Willing to Substitute
If you have a recipe that needs a certain ingredient you don’t have, then see if you can substitute it for an ingredient you do have. For instance, I regularly substitute 1 cup of buttermilk by combining 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 cup of milk.

8. Stack Discounts
Look for every opportunity to combine a coupon with a sale and a rebate so you can pick up items very inexpensively.

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How Dollar Stores Drain You Dry

You walk into a dollar store to pick up one item, and you come out with a lot more items than you intended to buy. Does this sound familiar? I’ll admit, I’ve done this before. It’s really easy to overbuy at these stores because the products are inexpensive. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping at dollar stores:

  • Remember that a dollar here and a dollar there adds up fast.
  • Don’t believe that everything is a steal. Some items such as candy and snacks are more expensive per serving than what the supermarket offers.
  • Make a list and stick to it. You don’t want to blow your monthly shopping budget in one trip.
  • If the dollar store where you shop accepts coupons, use them to pick up items for free or inexpensively. And make sure to mark on your list which items you’ll be using with the coupons.

I’ve just listed a few tips. For additional tips, read the article, “How Dollar Stores Drain You Dry”, from Daily Worth. If you have additional tips, please feel free to share them with everyone.

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Couponing Tips That Will Save You Time

Some people think that it takes a lot of time to coupon and find deals. It can, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. We all have a lot of responsibilities each day and don’t always have time to coupon or find deals. Below are some tips that will save you time and will still help you be an efficient couponer and deal finder.

1. Clipless Couponing – When you receive coupons in the mail or the Sunday newspaper, take a few minutes and only clip out the coupons you think you would use. With the packet of unclipped coupons, write the date on the front, then file it away in case you need to pull it out again to grab a coupon.

2. Weekly Grocery AdsIf you are hard pressed for time, use this technique as a time saver. When your weekly grocery ads come in the mail, take a few minutes to circle the sale items on the front and back of the ad that you need to buy or that are a really good deal that week. Almost all of the sale items are on the front and back of ads. This will save you time by not browsing through the entire ad. Then take the ad to the store and mark off your circled items as you place them in your grocery basket.

3. Couponing and Deal Sites – Take a few minutes a couple times a week to look at 2 or 3 couponing and deal sites (like Saving Cent by Cent). You can easily scan through and print off the good, high-value coupons you would use. These couponing and deal sites do most of the work for you and keep you informed about great coupons and good deals.

4. Stay Organized – I know this can be difficult, but stay as organized as possible. Every couple of days take the coupons you’ve clipped or printed and organize them in your binder. If you have a pile of coupons all over your house, you won’t be able to utilize them, let alone know what you have. Keeping it in organized in one location will help you to save time because you can quickly locate the coupon you’ll need to use with a sale.

I actually only spend a few hours each week to coupon, and and I only print or clip coupons I would need or use. To be totally honest, I don’t use half of the coupons that come in the weekly inserts; however, it’s worth it when there are good, high-value coupons. And it’s even better when you can pair the high-value coupons with a sale and pick up a product inexpensively.

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Freezing Food Tips to Save You Money

 

As I’ve tried to save money for the past few years, I’ve learned some tips about which foods freeze well. When you find sales on the items below, buy more than you normally would and then freeze some. This not only makes it convenient so you don’t have to go to the store when you run out of something, but it also saves money.

  • Milk – Before freezing, remove a ½ cup milk to allow for expansion and so the container doesn’t break. Thaw in fridge and shake before using. (I haven’t tried this yet, but plan to in the near future.)
  • Cheese – This works best if you shred it first then freeze. The blocks of cheese can be frozen, but when thawing, leave it on the counter until it reaches room temperature, then place in the fridge. This will help it to not crumble. However, I’ve learned that it still sometimes does crumble.
  • Tortillas – Place the entire bag in the freezer.
  • Bananas – You can freeze bananas with the peel on or mash and freeze them. Use them for banana bread or smoothies.
  • Marshmallows – Freeze them in an airtight container or a freezer storage bag. They thaw quickly and won’t stick together or go stale. If they are already stuck together, add a little powdered sugar to the bag and shake until they fall apart.
  • Bell peppers, Onions, Carrots, Celery – Chop the vegetables first, and then flash freeze them on a baking sheet and transfer to freezer bags. Add to soups, stews, sauces and casseroles.
  • Squash and zucchini – During the summer months when these are growing in the garden faster than we can eat them, I’ll shred and then freeze them. Use them in soups, casseroles or to make zucchini bread.
These are just a few foods that you can freeze. What food items do you freeze?
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