Sunday, July 30, 2006

Crash Course #4 On the Home Stretch...

Hello again!

We finally made it! We're on to the last installment of Attila's Crash Course on Sticking it to the Man.

Click here for Part One, Two and Three.

How do you save money on groceries between promotions and on fresh stuff?

The trick is really simply about planning ahead and having a good idea what/how much stuff that you use on a weekly basis. And then think larger.

How many gallons of milk do you go through each week? Loaves of bread? Salad?

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that stores do know what coupons are being offered, and in most cases, there will be a sale of that item some time during the life of the coupon. That will give you time to get together multiple coupons of things you use most often.

There really aren't that many coupons for things like fresh meat or fresh fruit and veggies. Sometimes you'll find them in your Wednesday newspaper or sales circular. In our part of the country, we get coupons for things like Foster Farms or Tyson Chicken from time to time.

So I go with store brands and the sales. This is also where belonging to a club that offers bulk goods or places like SuperWalmart might come in handy.

A gallon of store-brand milk runs 3.99 here. My guys drink about a gallon and a half to two gallons a week (it's 1% so it's all good! LOL).

About once a month, our store has a 2 for $5.00 sale on milk. The "sell by" date is usually around 10 days ahead (and products are generally good for 7 days after that).

So I buy 4 gallons.

Sales on fruits and vegetables rotate pretty frequently, depending on the season. If stored properly in your refrigerator, they can actually last for a few weeks. One exception is pre-bagged salads. They turn into slime pretty quickly. Another exception is bananas.

If there are items that you use regularly, like mayo or salad dressing, why wait until it's gone to buy one more bottle which may or may not be on sale at the time? If there's a good sale and you've got coupons, stock up. Unopened they will last for months in your pantry.

The same goes for blocks of cheese or wrapped American singles. Unopened, their expiration date is months ahead. Don't be afraid to stock up in advance. Unfortunately, the same doesn't really apply to shredded cheese. I've had some go moldy on me before ever opening them.

If you find a really great meat sale, think ahead. Once in awhile, our store will offer a 10 for $10 sale on bulk 1 lb rolls of ground pork, turkey, breakfast sausage, Italian sausage and hamburger. When this happens, I buy as much as my budget and space allow.

Does your family eat turkey at times other than Thanksgiving or Christmas? Usually around these holidays our store offers turkeys for around $6.99 with a 20 dollar purchase. Limit one per visit. I always go back and get another. I do this both at Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's also a good time to stock up on pantry purchases of Stove Top or dry mashed potatoes because this is when the great coupons and sales are. They last for months.

Right before and after St. Paddy's day, there are usually really great deals on corned beef. If I can get them for 79 cents a pound, I'll buy 3 or 4 of them to eat throughout the year.

Fresh meat/seafood sales also rotate frequently. One week they may have chicken on sale. If you were feeling like eating a steak, hopefully you've already got some in your freezer from when they were 50% off! If it's a great sale, buy as much chicken as you can fit in your budget.

By buying only on the rotating sale schedule, we've got a freezer full of a variety of meat and seafood at 50% or more off.

Be sure and rewrap the tray-packed items in foil and label/date them. Too many times I've pulled out a roast that has been freezer-burned because somehow a hole got poked in the wrapper. :-(

This week, our store is having a big sale on eggplant. This doesn't happen in the winter very often. The guys love eggplant parmigiana, so I'm going to make 2. One to eat, and one to freeze.

And all I need to buy is the eggplant. I've already got the sauce, the Italian sausage, the Shake 'n' Bake and the cheese.

Between promotions, I usually shop on Monday or Tuesday before the new sales week on Wednesday.


Because sometimes the store is out of stuff. Yes, that's right. They're out.

Then I can get a rain check.

When I get the rain check/s and the clerk asks me how many I want, I always say "10". I might not buy 10, but it's nice to know I can if need be. Rain checks are usually good for 2 weeks to a month.

Why do I want one?

In the terms of fresh meat items---unless you are there bright and early the day of a great sale or right after they restock, by the time you get there, everything will be pretty well picked over. I just don't have time to do that. If you can get these items in the next week, you'll be able to get the size/cuts you want.

It will also give you time to get additional coupons together for the other rain-checked items.

Other Stuff

When the guys were little, I usually shopped at Walmart or thrift stores for clothes. They were growing so fast, and my budget was tight.

Alas, as they got older, they got pickier and more brand-conscious.

And yes, I admit, Hubby and I like nice things too.

But you can't buy a BMW on a Pinto budget, unless you want to overload your credit.

So some years ago, I tried to figure out how to get "stuff" for almost wholesale, or at least for an incredibly fabulous price.

Hubby and I have a very large extended family. Not only do we have our own children to buy yearly things/gifts for, but siblings, nieces and nephews, parents, etc.

It really puts a hit on the wallet.

I still shop at places like Walmart and Target for socks and underwear. It's hard to beat their prices. Unfortunately, I have to drive down into the city to do that, and I don't always have the time.

A couple of the great bargains I've found online in the past few years include:

Brand new Gap Khakis and Jeans with the tags on for $7.50 a pop (plus shipping). Got some for my sons, hubby and brothers.

6 brand new Eddie Bauer sleeping bags for 15 bucks a holler to give to all the men in my life for Christmas.

Buying all of our friends and family George Foreman grills for 11 bucks each.

Calphalon Saute pans for $7.99.

Anybody can do it. All you need is a little organization and the willingness to Christmas/birthday shop all year round (an added benefit for me is no more rushing around at the last minute during the holidays which are stressful enough)!

Start with your trusty notebook. Who do you have to buy for during the next year? Holidays? Birthdays? Anniversaries? Baby gifts?

What are their sizes? If you're buying for kids, it's usually best to go up a size or two because they grow so fast. Likes and dislikes?

Find an online coupon site. My favorite is
Clevermoms, but there are others out there.

These sites have comprehensive lists of companies that are running coupon promotions. They provide you with a coupon code for things like "20% off" or "$25.00 off a purchase of $100.00", etc. Copy the code and use it at check-out.

If you don't see a coupon code for a favorite store listed on one of the sites, just google the store you're interested in, with "coupon code" or "promotional code" or even just "code" and see what pops up.

Here's how it works.

I got a coupon code for the Gap for an offer of $25.00 off a purchase of $100.00. Then I went to their sales page.

At that time, they were listing Flat Front and Pleated Khakis at a clearance of $9.99. They had several pairs of jeans at a clearance of $9.99 as well. Regular price was around $39-49 bucks.

Armed with my list of everyone's sizes (sons, hubby, brothers), I bought 10 pairs of jeans and khakis, plus a pair of boxers that were on sale for 3.50 to push it over 100.00. And I had a 25.00 coupon.

So everybody got 2 pairs of really nice jeans and/or khakis for their birthday, and I spent less than 20 bucks on each person. They felt special and my wallet wasn't screaming.

I have a list of favorite stores that I go to every couple of weeks to check out their pages. You never know what fabulous find is going to hit the clearance aisle or when, so you have to check regularly. They include:

Eddie Bauer
Bargain Outfitters
Pacific Sunwear (for all those skater clothes---LOL)
Smart Bargains
Coldwater Creek

If I see anything interesting, I'll look for coupons.

It really takes very little time if you have your preferred stores already saved in your favorite places.

A few months ago, Hubby's nephew became the proud new daddy of the family's first great-grandchild.

I had a 20% off coupon for Macy's and went to their babies clearance page.

Found a gorgeous 3-piece Ralph Lauren suit that was originally $79.00.

Paid $13.00 for it.

If I can do it, anybody can do it! Get saving!

P.S. If you've got kids and plan for college in their future, I highly recommend checking out UPromise. If you shop through their link, you can get 1-10% back of what you spend in addition to all of the other savings for a college account.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their money-saving tips!

Quinn sent in a link for Freecycle. Check it out!

The Blair Bitch sent in the advice for finding free coupons on the internet and gave us the link to Cool Savings, Coupon Surfer and .

Jodi emails companies and tells them what she likes or dislikes about their products. They send her coupons!

She also sent links to a couple of interesting sites---The Grocery Game and CNN Money/Grocery Bills. They're a great read!

Many thanks to all of you for stopping by and checking out the crash course. Special thanks to Mr. Fab for getting the ball rolling.

Talk atcha later!


Mary said...

You are a woman after my own heart. I read The Tightwad Gazette series of books and had already been doing a lot of the things in them, but many of them stood out, including your recommendation to shop sales, stock up, and be aware of what prices were good and where the best sales are.

I have a rule of thumb for certain things, such as not paying more than 15cents an ounce for breakfast cereal, not paying more than $1.90/lb for whole pork loin, not paying more than $2.75/lb for cheese, etc. I get peanut butter for $1/jar at the store once a year, so I buy 24 jars and it lasts us a year (we have a three year old, so it's a major food group).

I try the coupon thing, but around here, none of the stores do double coupons, which is a shame. I get the Wednesday paper and shop the sales, though, and the deep freeze is our greatest friend.

Since I work about 60 hours a week, I also do investment cooking, preparing meals ahead and thawing 4-5 dishes on Sunday for the upcoming week. This helps us avoid impulse buying fast food for dinner when I'm exhausted and don't feel like cooking.

Finally, we cut up all our credit cards except the Sears card, reasoning that we could use it for tires, auto repairs, paint, or a furnace if need be in an emergency. Everything else is cash or do without. Much of my work is commission-based and therefore our income fluxuates.

Our cars are old but paid for. We splurge on hubby's golfing or fishing or on my book habit. Otherwise, freecycle, ebay for kids' clothes, consignment stores for my office attire, and so on.

People may find our lifestyle to be a little on the dull side for them, but we're happy to avoid credit card debt and car payments. We've been down that road and it sucks.

Brenda said...

Ok, I'm armed and ready. Only I'll have to wait until I can get to a bigger town cause we're down to 1 grocery and a Wal Mart here.

Michelle Flaherty said...

I went food shopping over the weekend and only saved $18. Feh. But there's a reason I can't save that much, I just can't buy as much as you, either! If I buy something I don't need, it usually ends up going bad. So,the way I see it, if I go shopping 2-3 times/week and save approx. $20 each time, I'm not doing so bad!

Calphalon for $8? Damn, girl. You do rock!!

Jod{i} said...

And thanks for the nod!...
I went grocery hunting yesterday..even though I saved 100 was only 22% EEKS

shadow said...

these are great ideas. gonna make a notebook of our own i'm thinkin' happy minday. shadow.

Kim Ayres said...

Sorry Atilla, I'm still not reading 100,000 words about coupons. So, I don't know whether you've included in your course about the "Reduced to Clear" sections in the supermarkets which if you visit in the evening can often get you massive savings.

After 7 or 8pm they know anything past the sell by date is going in the bin so will make massive reductions, but a lot of the stuff is still perfectly ok for shoving in the freezer.

Apologies if this has been mentioned elsewhere.

RC said...

i loved these post...

and i love rain checks for the same reasons you do.

--RC of

Nikki said...

Attila - thank you so much. My wallet thanks you too.

Sven said...

Boy, it seems you and I have more in common every day. We are very similar grocery shoppers to be sure. Especially with the freezing the meat thing. The trick with produce is to buy in season, eat a ton of it and then don't buy again until the next season. Only an idiot would buy asparagus in December when its $4.99/lb.

I'll have to go back and read the other three posts now too.

Mr. Fabulous said...

This series should be nominated for a Novel Prize. Or something.

Special K said...

I've really enjoyed this series. You seriously rock, woman!

ninjapoodles said...

I just wanted to mention one tiny thing about milk and cheese--they freeze beautifully, so when they're on sale, go ahead and stock up. The milk, being liquid, will expand a bit, but there is enough room in the carton that it's just fine. You just have to remember to transfer it from freezer to fridge a couple days before you will need it, because it takes a while to thaw.

Hard cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, monterey jack, etc., freeze great. If you want to stretch the value even more, you can buy big blocks of cheese on sale, and run it through your food-processor to shred it yourself in just a couple of minutes, and then bag and freeze it. Then you can pretty much just take out what you need when you need it.

owlhaven said...

To extend the life of grated cheese, I routinely freeze it. If it gets a little clumpy, thump it on the counter and enough will break off to use. Try it-- works great!

Mary mom to many

Pieces said...

This is a great series and I just thought I'd let you know that people are still enjoying it. I am here via Ninja Poodles via Mir. I hope that you are still saving!