Many of you have been waiting for this follow up post.
This is a long one, so just pretend it’s two separate posts, and then I won’t feel guilty for my long windedness. It’s like your back in school….for home economics.
If you are new and haven’t read my last post, The Grocery Guru saves $125, then start here.
I have loved reading everyone’s comments. It just made me want to start belting out High School Musical’s “We’re all in this together.”
Whether we are single, married with kids/no kids or an empty nester, saving money in the meal department is something that we want to master since it’s easy to let the Grocery Grumps get you down.
I spent today with my home school group and got into an impromptu “class” on how to take advantage of couponing/BOGO and the CVS/Walgreen’s thing. I spent an hour poorly explaining things, and then I realized…am I really going to do this by blog post?
Can you not all come over for coffee…I’ll brew Starbucks? 🙂 I truly am more fun in real life.
For you experienced coupon cutters, I am going back to the very beginning…so sorry. I will get more detailed as I go on.
I think I need to Address some of the core issues. I realize that food budgets vary immensely. I think the three main variables within a food budget are the amount of meat that you eat, how much you make from scratch, and if you cook from a meal plan. Now, don’t worry…I am so completely laid back, that the fact I am giving “organizational” advice on a coupon binder and meal plans are a miracle in itself. If I can do it, anyone can.
Many people commented that they don’t buy name brand items, and stick to off-brands to save money. That is a great way to save, and I wholeheartedly agree….if I don’t have coupons for name brand things that I can get for pennies on the dollar. The stipulation is that quite often the brand name will be cheaper once I double or triple my coupons (but only if they are on sale or Buy One, Get one free…from now on referred to as BOGO).
Meat is one of those things that can get you every time. There just isn’t a great coupon for a good ole T-bone steak, is there?
How do I get around that on a budget? Well, we don’t eat meat with every meal. And when we do, I use recipes that make it stretch (yes, I love “creative cooking”). But most importantly, I only buy chicken or meat when it goes on an incredibly great sale. Then I stock pile and load up.
This is one thing I NEVER vary from….ok, my husband can’t stand it when I use absolutes. I can’t help it, I am a passionate person, passionate people use absolutes. So, I’ll clarify. Never, in the last oh, seven years have I EVER bought meat when it wasn’t an incredible sale. Changing your mind set about how you shop is KEY!
I hear your minds turning saying, I don’t have enough room for a second freezer. We don’t either, so I got creative. We bought a chest freezer and put it in our outside shed…yes, very far away from our house. We actually have a industrial size extension cord that runs from the side of our house to the shed. Doesn’t that seem red necky? I agree, but don’t worry – the grass has grown up around the cord so you can’t even see it…anything is possible if you want it bad enough. (There really needs to be a picture here, but I can’t upload them…BUMMER!) Are you visualizing “red neck” for me? Whew, I feel much better for the lack of pictures then.
Back from my tangent.
We eat meat probably 3-4 times a week, but I constantly have the C.O.S.T. (Cook once, serve twice…or three times in my case) cooking method in my brain. For instance, if I am going to cook chicken, I will fill my oven/crockpot as full as I can get it and then sprinkle the chicken with a multipurpose seasoning (Homemade Gourmet taco soup seasoning is one of my favs). For quantity sake, I estimate 6 pounds which will give me 2 pounds per meal. I actually put more in my oven/crockpot at one time, but for smaller families, use the same concept but substitute your rationing. This will give me three meals, but only “cooking” once.
The first meal, I serve the chicken right out of the crockpot over rice. The leftovers, I divide up into ziplock bags.
Do you know how wonderful it is to have slicked chicken ready to grab at a minute’s notice? The “what’s for dinner” question is what gets most of us, and we are typically asking ourselves that at 5:00 o’clock, aren’t we?
Now, you have all sorts of options for easy, family dinners options in minutes. (Oh, I am feeling a 4 meals in 4 minutes give away here in the next couple days. 🙂
I may serve a Chicken salad the next night, and then make white taco soup with the last baggy of chicken.
PRETEND END TO POST ONE! Get a sip of water, and then come back.
Let’s brainstorm with ground beef. For those of you near a Harris Teeter, it is on sale right now for $1.58 a pound. Stock up or go to Sam’s Club and buy the 10 pound tube. Have you seen that thing…it looks gross. Yep, I still buy it.
I am hearing a cute, cozy newlywed (Kristin 🙂 whispering in my ear, “I would never eat this much meat.” I hear you, but use this technique to get your freezer ready for the month – maybe with five pounds.
Rock scientist question…..Does it take any longer to brown one pound of hamburger vs. ten pounds? Maybe a few moments, but it’s virtually non existence. It’s the clean up that is a pain…can I hear an “amen?”
Go buy some ziplock freezer bags.
*****Make sure that you get them cheap….they need to be BOGO, and then you should have 2 coupons on top of that. Let’s tangent and think about that for one second. If the ziplocks are $3.00 each, but on sale for BOGO, they average $1.50/piece. If you have been cutting coupons for a few weeks (seriously, ask neighbors and family to give you there Sunday section…cheesey, but you’ll love me for it), then you should have at least 2 – 50 cent coupons for Ziplocks. Sometimes, they will have a 75 cent one. Coupons up to 99 cents will be doubled, so the two- 50 cent coupons will each become $1.00. Are you following me? Yep, your Ziplock brand will end up being 50 cents each….or FREEEEE if we’re fortunate enough to have the .75 cent coupon (which has been doubled to give you $1.50 off….HELLO, they are only $1.50…I LOVE FREE! Only in AMERICA!
Back to marvelous meat….you now have your free ziplocks, and they are set aside as the future home for your beef.
If I am going to have a messy, greasy kitchen, I want the mess done and over with, so I brown all ten pounds of hamburger at one time.
Believe it or not, if you have a large steamer or turkey fryer , large quantities can be done in there. That is an awesome alternative because all the grease drains out of the steamer, and you are left with virtually no grease in your meat. Just fork it every few minutes to turn it in the steamer.
If you like to multi-task well, the other burner should have noodles boiling for that homemade spaghetti sauce that will lovingly be served for dinner (or, a 50 cent can of Hunts sauce, mixed with the ground beef, extra Italian seasoning and garlic powder with Parm/Motzerella sprinkled on top and you’re good to go….that’s Homemade…made in your home. 🙂 .
Once all the meat is done, divide it into your portion size – one pound baggies for just the two of you, 2 pounds for families.
What do you want to eat over the next few weeks?
Lasagna? Then mix into your cooked hamburger some italian seasoning, garlic, and salt right away…just do it in your baggy, and then label it.
Taco’s – mix in some taco seasoning.
A southwest casserole…I have an amazing southwest seasoning that I add.
If you had the noodles boiling, then hopefully you doubled those as well, and can stick half in a bag right now with some meat, sauce, etc for a freezer meal …or arrange it in a 9×13 layering it with cottage cheese mixed with eggs,Parm, etc and you have a spaghetti casserole all set in less time than you can go change the baby’s diaper.
Do you see where this is going?
You are doing battle with the dreaded, “what’s for dinner” question and conquering it courageously.
When we forget to thaw a hard hunk of raw hamburger, it ruins all dinner plans, doesn’t it? It takes WAY too long to defrost.
But once hamburger has been cooked, it can be taken out of the freezer and de-frosted in minutes. That allows dinner to be ready in moments – Healthy, homemade and cheap.
Go give yourself a Grocery Guru tiara – step one is done!
Oops, I forgot the same works with chicken like I briefly mentioned.
When I was doing one of my meal making classes for friends, I put my teen age son to task and had him grill up 20 pounds of chicken at one sitting…well, standing, but I wasn’t doing it, that’s all that counts.
Before he grilled the chicken, I seasoned it with a variety of flavors – southwest, taco, garlic basil etc. Do you know how easy that was to then bag up various boneless chicken breasts to be ready for dicing, slicing and any multitudes of meals? It didn’t take any additional time to cook 20 pounds as it would be to cook 3 pounds, but now I had a plan…but even if I didn’t, I knew I could just reach in the freezer and grab cooked chicken. Now, enchilada chicken, chicken stuffed peppers, Quick chicken and chips casserole, white chicken chili casserole could be a reality…in minutes.
Do you buy the bags of pre-cooked chicken to make life easier?
Spend ten minutes at the grill this weekend, and you will probably save $100 just like that. Make sure you buy it when it’s ON-SALE, and then stock up!!
Wow – I didn’t plan on spending time on the meat issue, nor getting this long….I am TRYING to have shorted posts..sigh, but the post evolved as I was typing. If you’re new, please know I type as I go….no editing or forthought allowed (or I would never push publish). Thanks for the grace.
Plus, you all should be getting those coupons binders ready, and stealing some coupons from the neighbor’s garbage, so you weren’t ready for that post anyhow? hee hee
Climbing out of the grocery grumps is definitely more than just cutting coupons. I am going to slowly address having a stocked pantry so you aren’t caught with your pants down, maybe a bit more about freezer meals, and definitely all the couponing things.
Just what I needed!
I’m headed to the grocery today … armed and ready!
Great ideas, Jen!
Jen, those are great ideas! I really need to start looking at the coupons more closely. I used to do it faithfully, but gave it up for some reason. And since it's just hubby & me, I don't tend to cook in HUGE quantities for the freezer. But, you made some great points on cooking ahead.
I do ALWAYS buy my meats on sale too!
Thanks! Keep them coming!
I have learned how to do this but I have “forgotten” how to put it into practice…thanks for the refresher! I need to get a binder!
Where Oh Where Oh Where do they double coupons? My grocery choices are: Haggen and QFC- the most expensive in the state and they are the only ones in my town- Albertsons and Fred Meyer if I go a lot farther- but close enough to consider- and Winco, which I have abandoned based on bad customer service.
As far as I know, none of these stores double coupons. Anyone in northwestern Washington, can you give me a heads up?
Again, thanks for sharing your tips, my husband will be SOOO glad to see this budget category reduced!
Thanks also for the menu ideas with ways to “COST” as you said, LOVE IT!!
I LOVE my crockpot and use it a TON!
What great ideas! Can’t wait to read what else you have coming!
Ok, I know this may not be an issue but I shop at WalMart, do they do the double and triple coupon thing. Our little local piggly wiggly is outrageous on pricing.
Thank you for doing this!!!
I am loving this series! I know how to do most of this stuff but this is just the motivation and encouragement I need to get into the swing of things. Like everyone else, our household budget is taking a beating between gas and food. And, oh yeah, we just moved into a new house.
All of that adds up to one stressed out hubby who works so hard to earn a living for our family. I am really going to try looking at the process of getting a better handle on our grocery financing as a gift to him.
UGH…I should probably do this stuff…it would save a bunch of dollars. But oh I am so very lazy. Hopefully you’ve inspired some part of my slugdom to get off my duff and make an effort to SAVE!
Great advice! I’m all over the cook it once thing!
This is amazing. I really need to subscribe to the Sunday paper. And, yes, I would be one of those newlyweds thinking I don’t need that much meat. Thanks for clearing all that up for me! Can’t wait to try these ideas!
I didn’t miss it. I saw it and hoped that it was me, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions and end up feeling silly…heehee. Thanks! Your mission was accomplished!
You are amazing with this! I need a day-long tutorial, and some added patience, since I tend to be way too impetuous with my dinner selection. I should think ahead, because it definitely sounds like it works for you! 🙂
You have inspired me with the coupons…I am going to get the binder…it is amazing what you save and the family eats so much more healthier when you plan!
-Thanks…I love your long postings…full of info!
I recently found your site and am loving it! I do coupons with the grocery game – now I need to meal plan better!! Am looking forward to more ‘wordy’ tutorials!
Hi, I’m from Australia where we don’t have these coupons that you talk of. I think I’ve seen them in movies and such…you know, main character is in a rush and gets stuck behind old lady who’s buying everything with coupons. I think I’m glad we don’t, it sounds complicated. I have a menu planner for the month (it’s the same every month, lets face it, I don’t have over 30 recipes and often I double up eg every second Sunday is hamburgers for dinner)so I do the grocery shopping once a month (it’s great), buy my meat for the fortnight (we only have a small freezer) from the local butcher where it is cheaper than the grocery stores, buy my fruit and veges from the weekend market,and stock up on milk and bread as I need it. Although often if I go to the shop 30 mins before closing, all the bread is drastically reduced, so I’ll buy 2 or 3 loaves and freeze what I don’t use. I need another freezer.
Hi Jen! Can you click on my profile and send me a quick email. Thanks!
Thanks so much for all the good reminders. I told my husband last night I was going to start couponing. He looked at me like I just said I’m going out for synchonized swimming. I’ll show him. Anxiously looking forward to more great tips.
Thanks for the great ideas! I never thought about seasoning the meat ahead of time! I need to try it all soon. What kind of meatless recipes does your family enjoy? We have meat every day in our house.
Hooray!! I’ve been “cooking once, eating twice” for a long time. I just need to get into the coupon groove.
I went scrounging last night and came up with a binder (from my husbands college days) but no pocket dividers, and I talked to my neighbor about getting her Sunday coupon sections since she doesn’t use them. I’m on my way!
You are a gem! I have asked so many friends/woman how they do the coupon thing and all I’ve gotten is the “it takes too much time to explain” look. Thank you so much for taking the time to be so long winded! I’m on it, I will take all your advice this week. Since I’m too shy to ask neighbors for their newspapers, is it OK to pay for a Sunday only subscription? I’ve heard of people who sign up for 2 or 3. Oh and as for the bulk cooking, I am so excited to start this, as a new home school mom this will save my life! THANK YOU 🙂
cvs doubles coupons???
and is that any day in particular, or just all the time???
(ok, that was 2 questions!)
Never heard of the COST method before, well not by name anyway 🙂 We do a lot of leftovers in the FITPH household, much to my husband’s dismay (he didn’t grow up eating leftovers…lol). So I try to dress it up as something different the second time around.
Jen, I read your COST posts awhile back but have been reading them again. It’s a new year and I’m trying really hard to cook at home instead of eating out. Groceries are just unreal these days!! Thanks for the great and simple ideas.