A Mom's Guide to Saving on Groceries

 
 

Hey, guys, I know I mentioned that I am NOT a coupon clipper. This is not because I don't like coupons. You know I looooooove to save. No, it is because I lack some sort of coupon radar. I miss the good ones regularly. Or can't figure out how to tie them in with sales, or they expire... it's some sort of... coupon impairment.


Here is a great resource for people like me! Check this out- this is a site run by a pastor's wife, and a few other ladies who clip coupons for a living.  You can't buy a coupon, but you can pay them to clip.  They find the best deals, but also are tied into a network of other coupon aficionados who give them hot tips, like, which stores are doubling or tripling, and when.  

I spent $5 (a little less) for $36 in savings, which will be $72 when doubled at Bi-Lo.  Only get things you buy all the time...    http://www.thecouponclippers.com




I have the feeling this is the tip of the iceberg. Spread the word, and let's keep these ladies in business!



 
 

This blog began as a book, which has remained as a project, and will be completed soon. Shortly, recipes will be available to you in a more easily printable format, regardless. They will be under a new tab at the top, labeled, surprisingly, “recipes.” In the meantime, you can copy and paste them into your own word processing software, if you’d like a printed copy!

Also, there is a source of mail order foods that I think you should know about: The San Francisco Herb Company. Here you will find bulk spices, teas, nuts, baking ingredients, and food items. Heaven on earth for foodies who like to save a lot! They even have powdered cheese!

This was an exciting find for me, because I can use it to pump up my macaroni and cheese just a bit. They have two kinds, Kraft, and Just Cheese, which is the simpler of the two, containing mainly, cheese. Regular cheese is full of saturated fat, and very expensive right now. While I do not intend to do away with real cheese (also full of vitamins and calcium!), I will be able to make my mac and cheese healthier and less expensive by incorporating this. I’ll just add a sprinkling of cheese powder to make it pop- maybe a ¼ cup.

Also, and this is KEY: The cheese powder will make the mac and cheese more orange. For some reason, in a kid’s mind (and this seems to be universal), mac and cheese is only good if it is florescent orange. You can also use annato, or pureed carrots in small amounts. If the kids detect the carrots, you are toast.

This company also has some remarkable products: honey powder, coconut milk powder, and bee pollen to name only a few. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Minimum order is $30, and shipping is extremely reasonable. In short, there’s no reason not to order. You’ll find things there you won’t find anywhere else, and what you do order will be shipped for less than you’d spend on gas. Cool.

 

 

 

 
 

I’m always interested in what other moms have to say about how they save money on their food bill. So, when I saw an article in MSN Money about how to save, I was intrigued. They asked for feedback, and so I gave mine- along with a whole bunch of other people. Their responses were so good, I knew you’d like to see them, too. Here they are:

MSN Money Message Board: How do YOU save on your food bill?





 
 

Milk prices are going through the roof, just like everything else. This is a short post, directed to mothers everywhere. There is a way to save money on milk, and it requires NO COUPON CLIPPING (though that doesn't hurt!). The information is elsewhere in this blog, but I do not want you to miss it. It's important enough to have its own post:

Nido Powdered Whole Milk.

You won't find this in the powdered milk section. Oh, no, that would be too easy and logical! No, you find this in the Hispanic, or International section. Walmart has it. I'm not sure about other stores, but I predict it will be on the rise. Nestle produces this milk, believe it or not, and has never told us about it. They have been marketing it in Mexico for years.

We all have my sweet little mama to thank for this. She enjoys shopping, and peruses the aisles at the grocery store like the jewelry counter at Saks, reading labels, and finding new things. Nido milk is one of those discoveries she insisted (thereby insuring my reluctance) that I try. Finally, I did... Now, it saves my behind every month! Learning to listen to your mother is, apparently, a skill that is developed with age... not that I’m that old, mind you.

I always buy 3 cans at least, but I think I will start buying more because once my secret is out, I have a feeling it may become hard to find.

One added plus for those that have to schlep their groceries on foot or by bus: it's lightweight!

Use this little treasure to replace milk in cooking, and for everything but drinking. Kids can tell the difference if you try to serve it up by the glass (but it's light years better than that nonfat dry milk goo). It's great for emergencies, though, and if you run out of milk, just add a little chocolate syrup or powder, and they will scarf it up. You have to be wiley, when you are a mother. :)

**NOTE: This is NOT infant formula, and should not be used as such. If you are having trouble with buying infant formula for your baby, go to your local WIC office, which can cover the cost. They help with other staples as well, and your local food stamp program may be able to help too.


Don't let pride stand in your way- everyone hits a bump in the road at one point or another.  If life was easy all the time, I don't think we'd appreciate it as much...


 
 

There are few things that have changed the way we cook as a nation more than mixes.  By mixes, I mean those packets in boxes that we as a nation buy to make dinner most nights.  Add to the list of innovations the refrigerator, the microwave, and hydrogenation, and you've got a good start on the list.  What the heck is hydrogenation?  Well, it’s one of the things that you will find in nearly every mix, for starters, and in most prepared foods.


Food chemists found that by adding an extra hydrogen molecule to a fat, it became hard, like butter and lard, and virtually immortal.  Hydrogenated oils lasts just about forever.  This translates to profits for food companies, because the shelf life of products is extended.  Margarine replaced butter: more profits.  When margarine emerged, so did a smear campaign against butter.  The public by and large switched to margarine for health reasons.  It must be said here that Southern cooks were never fooled into giving up their butter.  This is one of the things I love about the South.


You now know this tricky stuff as trans fats (look for hydrogenated oils of any kind), and probably are aware that it is not good to eat.  It has been replaced or eliminated in many processed foods due to public outcry.  However, many manufacturers have simply replaced it with interesterified fat, which studies show is even worse.  So watch out for that.  Manufacturers are in business to make money, not to keep you healthy.  That’s your job.

Look, I know that mixes are convenient and fast.  They became  really popular in the 1970’s, when a great number of mothers joined the workforce and had less time to prepare meals.   Today with all our modern conveniences, whether a caregiver works outside the home or not, we are just as short on time, if not more so.   Worse, America seems to be under the impression that food needs to come from a box.

But what if I told you there isn’t a mix in my cupboard, and I can make a healthy dinner in 30 minutes or less?  And we are talking family-friendly foods, here.  Rachel Ray has made a career out of doing this, and you don’t have to be a chef to do it (she isn’t!), either.   I highly recommend her show, “30 Minute Meals,” on Food Network .

For this blog, I’m going to stick with home-cooking, and comfort foods.  I’ll show you how to make your own “mixes” on the fly, based on simple kitchen chemistry.  Once you know this chemistry, you will be able to invent your own recipes. 



Because the factors that contribute to heart disease begin to accumulate in the body in childhood (yes, you read that correctly), and to stretch that dollar, we are eliminating packaged mixes for the most part.  The focus here is on inexpensive, fast, and mostly healthy.  I want you to be able to save a cartload of money in the stores, and still be able to eat great food. 



My hope is that you will use these recipes creatively and put your own spin on them. 
Some of the things I make all the time, quickly and easily without a mix:

·  pancakes and biscuits

·  macaroni and cheese

·  beefy mac

·  spaghetti

·  tacos

·  bread and bagels

·  pizza (I average 20 minutes start to finish, believe it or not)

·  stroganoff

·  cookies, cakes, baked goods

·  lasagna

·  bagels











 
 

Temperature:

Have you ever noticed that no matter the season, the grocery stores are very chilly places? I always have to take a jacket for my two year old when I go shopping. You’d think with energy prices being what they are, stores would lay off on the air conditioning. But there is a reason for this! First, keeping the store cool keeps bacteria counts down. Think about it: hundreds of people walking through the store every day, touching everything, coughing, sneezing, whatever. So it makes sense (when I think of it that way, wrapped produce suddenly holds more appeal!).

But here is the sneaky bit: Cold temperatures also make you hungry. Ever notice that in winter you crave comfort foods, and eat more? Your body is trying to stay warm by adding extra calories it can burn. So a cold grocery store triggers this physiological reaction in your body, no matter what season it is.

Don’t think grocery stores aren’t aware of this! The temperature of a store is calculated to cause you to want to buy more. But don’t blame them. You and the store just happen to be on opposite sides of an equation: Their job is to get your money, while your job is to hang on to some. Both sides need each other- grocery stores typically have profit margin of 1-2%- that’s a nano-profit! So even the score by eating before you shop. And always take a list.  And maybe a sweater?

Did I mention the list???

ALWAYS have a list with you, and stick to it. When I was going through some very tough times financially, I even went so far as to create a spreadsheet for my nearby superstore... dare I say it? I'm gonna... I shop at Walmart, among other stores.  I used my receipts from previous visits, and estimated where I didn't have information.  I knew what I was going to spend, +/- $10, before I ever walked into the store.  I'm working out how to make this function available to you- if you know of an online list that has local prices based on store location, let me know. Ahem... Walmart, are you listening?

End caps and checkout stands:

The end cap is the end of every aisle. This is where you find new items, “specials,” and sale items. This is where, in short, the store manager puts items he or she wants you to buy. These items, more often than not, spell profit for the store, and loss for you. Stick to your list. If you see an item for sale on an end cap, take the time to look in the section where the item is usually kept. Odds are, you will find it cheaper. And did I mention the list?

Toddler Treats:

We’ve all done it at least once if we have a toddler: Opened a box of crackers or cookies right in the store and handed one to our screaming child. I think this is one of those gray areas in life and as long as it gets paid for the stores usually look past it. However, if you bring along your own treat, you can be sure it is something you approve of, not an impulse item to save your sanity. Keep a juice cup handy, and some toys if you can. See if you can find a hook or lanyard you can clip on the toy and the cart to avoid losing them.  You can use a Cinchi, a wonder-gadget that turns anything into a bib, to attach things too.  They are great little multi-taskers!

Buying in Bulk:

This is a tricky area. I do buy some things in bulk, but very few. This is because even if the end result is that I'm saving money, if I'm buying more than I'm going to use in 1-3 months, I don't do it. Why? Because even if I'm saving in the end, the money's still gone, and I might need it (like, for gas?). So I reserve bulk purchases for things that get used up quickly. And I pay attention to the unit price. It doesn't matter what the brand name is as long as it's a quality product, and it's the least expensive. Just ask yourself this question: Are you really going to use up 9 pounds of oatmeal in a month? If not, would you rather see a movie, or get the tapenade? It all depends on what's important to you.

Frozen Vegetables and Canned Goods:

Well, I prefer fresh, but I always have lots of frozen and canned products. They are cheaper, if it's the off-season (more about this later), because they have a longer shelf-life.  Spoiled food is an expense that stores have to plan for by increasing the price of perishable foods.

Also, frozen vegetables and canned goods are ready when you need them, and already cut up for you. When you are in a hurry, they are perfect. Personally, I prefer frozen vegetables to canned, with the exception of tomato products and some root vegetables like carrots. And I really think it's all in the way you cook them.   All the same, I love to can my own vegetables, because they look beautiful, and they will last without refrigeration, and because I can make custom blends.

Farmer's Markets and Buying in Season:
Always buy produce that's in season and locally grown if at all possible. One exception is bananas, which are an import with low to no pesticide residue that is a great staple to have.
I love supporting local farmers, and like to buy crates of vegetables and can them. If you do this, you may not have to buy vegetables at all in the winter, and you'll know what's in those beautiful Ball jars lined up on your shelves. Even better: Grow your own!

I'm sure there's more, and welcome posts with other ways to shop successfully in the supermarket.