How to Save on Groceries Without Using Coupons

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By Liz

The best ways to save money at the grocery store are probably some of the tried and true nuggets of wisdom you have already heard before, and maybe a few you haven’t.

I have a large family, seven of us to be exact, and that does not include our four rescue dogs. The average American family’s food budget is one of the largest expenditures we have, right behind shelter and my family is no exception to this statistic. My husband works hard at his job and is the current “bread winner” for our large brood, so I look at saving money on our second, highest expense as an important part of my job and my financial contribution to our family.

I will be upfront by telling you, that there are no coupons involved here.  Some others will tell you that shopping with coupons, rebates and money saving apps for your Smartphone are the way to go.  I, too, bought into these methods and at one time or another, had done all of these or used all these money saving methods in the past, but what I found, was that I was purchasing food that was overpriced and unhealthy for me and my family and I found myself buying items that I didn’t use on a regular basis, and/or I was just buying them because I had a coupon for them, thereby, using up my money, time, energy and precious storage space in my home.

I want to share with you some of my money saving strategies when it comes to grocery shopping.

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1. Make it and take it…a list that is. At our house on our refrigerator is a magnetic, lined note pad that we use as a running list of items that we need or we are running low on. For instance, if someone in the family has just opened the last gallon of milk and grocery shopping day is still another two days away, then milk gets added to the list because at that time, we will be out.

2. Re-create your list to match the layout of the store. If you keep a running tally of grocery items needed and you know the general layout of the store(s) you will be shopping, take a few minutes to re write your list.

I do this important step the morning I will be doing my shopping.  While having my morning coffee, I glance over my running list and see if I need to add or subtract from it.  I then take a clean piece of paper and re write my list according to the store layout. I list all of my produce together, bulk items, staples, cleaning products, meat, dairy and then frozen goods. As I shop the items on my list, I cross them out, thereby eliminating any back tracking in the store for any item(s) I have overlooked and making my shopping trip as short as possible.

3. I can’t stress the other half of this tip enough…take your list. If you forget your list you are more apt to wander around the store, walking up and down every aisle trying hard to remember what you came to get and you will have a tendency to pick up items that weren’t even on your list.  Grocery stores have this down to a science; studies have shown that for every 40 minutes you spend in their store, you are more likely to spend at least 50% more of your budget on items you never intended to buy.

smartphone-calculating

And, unless you are a wiz when it comes to toggling the apps on your Smartphone,(I am certainly not) I highly recommend old fashioned paper and pencil for this task, this way as you accumulate the items on your list, you can cross them out one by one, ensuring you got what you came for and you won’t have to back track through the store for forgotten items.

4. If possible, shop only once a week, for the really adventurous, you could try once every two weeks or once a month if you are really confident in your strategy.

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5. Never shop on an empty stomach. You have heard this one many, many times and it is true. Nowadays, with in store deli’s, sandwich and soup stations, bakeries,  and rotisseries, merchants are doing all that they can to get you to spend more of your hard earned money in their shops by appealing to your sense of smell.

6. Take an inventory of what you already have. You will be surprised with how much you already have on hand. Go through your pantry, cabinets, fridge and freezer and make an inventory. Many times I have picked up an item such as sugar, only to come home, put it away and find 2 unopened bags already sitting on my shelf.

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7. Keep your food storage spaces organized. I can’t stress this one enough. Periodically, straighten and organize your pantry space and freezer. Make sure you rotate and use the first in, first out method. This keeps your food inventory freshest for consumption.

8. Make a price book. This does not have to be a gigantic 3 ring binder that you tote around with you from store to store as you peruse every item on every shelf. This can be as small as a pocket journal. I also recommend that you start off by listing staple items or the things you find yourself buying often. Things like pasta, rice, bread, coffee, milk, eggs, cheese. Dedicate one page per item and jot down each store you visited and each store’s price. Do make sure you are comparing apples to apples here.  For instance, make sure that if you are pricing a 1 pound bag of store brand rice at one store, that you are pricing the same 1 pound bag of store brand rice at another store.

9. Make sure you are using the price per ounce information. A lot of stores have now taken to putting the price of the item on a shelf sticker right in front of the item, sometimes the store has done the math for you and the sticker will show the price per ounce. But sometimes, that information is left up to you, the consumer to figure out.  Most of us shop with our Smartphone, so why not use your calculator app to find out what the best price is? If you do not have a Smartphone, I suggest bringing a small, simple to use calculator.  If you don’t know how to calculate the price per ounce, it is very easy.  Simply enter the price of the item, divided by the size of the item.

Example: 

Store A, is selling a bag of their 12 ounce, spaghetti for 85 cents.; .85 cents divided by 12 ounces= .07 per ounce.

Store B, is selling a bag of their 24 ounce, spaghetti for 99 cents.; .99 cents divided by 24 ounces= .04 per ounce

If this is an item you use on a regular basis, then it is a no brainer, which store brand spaghetti you should buy. 

loss-leader

10. Shop loss leaders. If you look at your local store(s) weekly ad, you will generally find some amazing deals right on the front page and at a glance it appears as if the store is practically giving away these items. These are the store’s loss leaders. The store is banking on you coming in to scoop up these great buys, but they are also certain that once in the store you will be picking up a lot of overpriced items as well. Stores have spent a ton of money researching shopping habits of their consumers.  They know that the longer you are in the store, the more money you will most likely spend, therefore, don’t expect to find these loss leading items on a huge display shelf the minute you walk through the door, you will be doing some “hunting” for these deals.

Also, stores have become great at marketing to our busy schedules and count on the fact that we love convenience. They know if they display the loss leader cans of tomato sauce, right next to some overpriced spaghetti and just so happen to have a rack of freshly baked Italian bread very close to the vicinity of this display, then 8 times out of 10, they will have sold you a complete meal, even though you only came in for a can of sauce.

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11. Shop discounts. Have you ever really gotten a good look at your store’s discounted sections? Were you even aware that such a thing existed? There are some consumers that would never dream of buying discounted breads, meats, or produce, for them it is out of their comfort zone, however, you can cash in on their squeamishness. Some more prestigious, expensive chains don’t offer this as an option, but if you are reading this, you probably aren’t shopping at these chains anyhow.

Many stores offer discounted items, these are items that have been marked down due to any number of reasons; they might be nearing their “sell by date”; the store won’t be carrying that item any longer; the label design might be changing; the store ordered too much of the item; the store is updating the plan-o-gram of any particular item, etc.

If your store(s) offers these discounts, try to make friends with the department managers to find out when you can get the best selections. I have found that stores that offer discounted items tend to place these in the store’s perimeters.  My local, big box store offers discounted deli items, baked goods, meat and produce all at 1/3 to 1/2 off the original price. Make sure you check for freshness on these items; never buy any meat or produce that is discolored or baked goods that are rock hard.

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12. Carry cash only. If you were to ask any person of a certain age, they will probably regale you with financial, penny pinching stories of yesteryear and even though you might find yourselves rolling your eyes at these tales, this is something that the older generation got right. Believe it or not, there was a time when people did not have a variety of credit cards spilling out of their wallets and debit cards with access straight to savings and checking accounts did not exist. That generation paid with cold, hard cash and if they did not have enough, they simply did not buy it.

You can very easily do this as well.  Make yourself a grocery budget; let’s say it is $100 for one week. Either withdraw or put aside the cash until grocery day. When you go grocery shopping, take the cash only, do not bring any of your debit or credit cards with you and once you have spent the $100, you are done, no more shopping.

This may take a little practice. Stick to your list and don’t stray from it, you will have to be mindful of what you are putting into your cart. Don’t be afraid to use your calculator to make sure you aren’t going over your budget as you put items into your cart. If you are worried that when you go to checkout you will be over your budget, make sure you have earmarked the items in your cart that you can live without and ask the cashier to take them off of your order. If this happens to you, don’t feel embarrassed, it has happened to all of us, at least once, or twice, or even more.

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13. Shop one or more stores if necessary. There is not one store that has all the best prices and if you have a variety of stores within your area, I suggest you check out the weekly sales at each store for their weekly loss leader, sale items and discount items. I know that many grocers will match prices of their competitors, but sometimes that comes with restrictions on store brand merchandise or buy 1 get 1 type of items.

On a similar note, I don’t know if they still do it, but one of the larger discount box stores used to have a program in which you logged onto their site, put in the required codes and dates from your receipt, and within a certain amount of time, (something like a week) they would credit you if any of the items you bought went on sale at one of the other stores in your local area. I know for a fact that items I had bought items within the box store’s specified time frame and met these qualifications, I was never credited any amounts.

Shopping at more than one location also gives you the opportunity to speak face to face with any department or store managers you meet so you can get the “inside” information you might need for any upcoming sales, mark downs or discounts.

14. Bread outlets and overstock stores. Most larger cities have a bread store outlet within the city and outer limits, even if you have to travel a distance, it really maybe worth your while as most baked products can be frozen.  You might be surprised to learn that outlet stores such as Family Dollar, 99 cent Only Stores, Dollar Tree and Big Lots, just to name a few, all carry bread and bread products.  Items such as bread, rolls, bagels, tortillas, English muffins, Danish and cakes freeze really well (donuts…not so much). If you have room in your freezer, I highly suggest stocking up, at least long enough to tide you over until the next time you can make it to your local bread outlet or overstock store.

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There you have it, my list of strategies to help save you money while food shopping without having to clip a single coupon. Try out these tips, maybe just a few at first, then incorporate more here and there. I think you will be pleasantly surprised on all the savings you will accumulate.

Let me know if you have a favorite strategy for saving money at the grocery store.




Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

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by Liz

I have received a few emails regarding my breakfast sandwiches, so I thought I would share with you my ingredient list and process for this super easy, money saver.

Just by comparing a couple of lower priced store alternatives, compared to making these breakfast sandwiches at home, you can save quite a bit of money and make yourself a hearty, healthy start to any day.

Aldi breakfast sandwich, 4 ct. for $2.99 = 75 cents a sandwich.

Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwich 8 ct for $10.79 =1.35 a sandwich (Wal-Mart)

Homemade sandwich = 39 cents a sandwich

(All prices below are from Aldi)

Eggs .70/12= .06

Bagels $1.00/6= .17

Cheese $2.49/24= .10

Ham $2.99/50= .06

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Ingredients:

1 package of 6 bagels (your choice of flavor)

½ dozen large eggs

Salt and pepper

12 thinly sliced pieces of deli ham

6 processed cheese slices (such as Kraft, Borden or store brand)

Directions:

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1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, open and spread out bagels to ensure even toasting. 

2. Toast bagels in oven 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. (You don’t want a dark toast on these, just a very light toast) Set aside and let cool.

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3. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat, you want to cook your eggs. Lightly salt and pepper your eggs while in the pan and cook to desired consistency. Set aside and let cool.

4. Add 1 slice of deli ham to each piece of bagel until each piece is covered.

5. Add 1 slice of cheese to one ½ of each sandwich and then add 1 egg to other half.

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6. Close sandwich, wrap individually and store in fridge up to a week or freezer for up to 3 months.

7. Reheat in microwave 20 to 30 seconds.

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Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches
Yields 6
Make yourself a hearty and healthy breakfast for on the go at a fraction of the price.
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Print
643 calories
60 g
449 g
26 g
40 g
11 g
294 g
1639 g
1 g
0 g
12 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
294g
Yields
6
Amount Per Serving
Calories 643
Calories from Fat 229
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 26g
40%
Saturated Fat 11g
55%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 449mg
150%
Sodium 1639mg
68%
Total Carbohydrates 60g
20%
Dietary Fiber 3g
13%
Sugars 1g
Protein 40g
Vitamin A
17%
Vitamin C
4%
Calcium
29%
Iron
22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 package of 6 bagels (your choice of flavor)
  2. ½ dozen large eggs
  3. Salt and pepper
  4. 12 thinly sliced pieces of deli ham
  5. 6 processed cheese slices (such as Kraft, Borden or store brand)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, open and spread out bagels to ensure even toasting.
  2. Toast bagels in oven 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. (You don’t want a dark toast on these, just a very light toast) Set aside and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat, you want to cook your eggs. Lightly salt and pepper your eggs while in the pan and cook to desired consistency. Set aside and let cool.
  4. Add 1 slice of deli ham to each piece of bagel until each piece is covered.
  5. Add 1 slice of cheese to one ½ of each sandwich and then add 1 egg to other half.
  6. Close sandwich, wrap individually and store in fridge up to a week or freezer for up to 3 months.
  7. Reheat in microwave 20 to 30 seconds.
Lower calorie option
  1. Swap out regular bagels for thinly sliced bagels or low calorie English muffins.
  2. Use egg whites (make sure you save your yolks in fridge or freezer for future use).
  3. Use only ½ a processed cheese slice per sandwich.
beta
calories
643
fat
26g
protein
40g
carbs
60g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/
** A few notes:

 As for the bread component for these sandwiches, you can use whatever you like, bagels, English muffins, rolls, sandwich buns, Texas toast, etc… I don’t recommend thinly sliced sandwich bread as it tends to break easily and just makes a mess.

This goes for your meat option as well, ham slices are the cheapest, however, you can easily swap it out for bacon or sausage.

When it comes to cooking the eggs; personally, when eating fried eggs, I enjoy a runny yolk, but that really tends to get messy when eating this sandwich so I recommend breaking your yolks during the cooking process or cooking them to over hard. 

When choosing cheese slices for your sandwiches; I would not generally recommend processed cheese slices for many recipes, unlike real cheese, but the processed stuff seems to melt the best giving you a nice creamy flavor and texture.

Finally, if you choose to freeze your breakfast sandwiches, I highly recommend that a night or two before eating, you thaw what you need in the fridge. I have tried to reheat these sandwiches straight from the freezer and it takes almost 2 minutes, thereby; re-cooking some of the components and it makes the flavor and texture of the sandwich less than desirable.

***EXTRA NOTE:

If you are watching your calories, like me, simply swap out regular bagels for thinly sliced bagels or low calorie English muffins.

Use egg whites (make sure you save your yolks in fridge or freezer for future use).

Use only ½ a processed cheese slice per sandwich.

Summer Vacation and our Contest Winner

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by Liz

Summer is just about over, many schools are back in and the weather isn’t quite as hot…well, I assume that is the case in the majority of the country.  Here in Texas, the weather will continue to be summer-like until Halloween.

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The majority of us have taken their summer vacations, I know we finally did and MAN was it great! Although we tried our best to schedule and plan appropriately, unfortunately, due to work schedules, the entire family did not get to come. We spent a week at Pensacola Beach, Florida.  I would love to be able to write a post about all the ways we saved money on the trip, but we hadn’t taken a vacation in over 2 years and we budgeted and saved for the last 2 years for some extravagances, like enjoying many meals out that included “grown-up” drinks. And we enjoyed renting a pontoon boat for the entire day to enjoy over at Crab Island, Florida and of course the souvenirs, let’s not forget those. 

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We did manage to save some money; it wasn’t a total “open wallet” experience.  For instance, we drove from Fort Worth to Pensacola with a fully stocked cooler of sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  We rented a condo on the beach that included amenities that allowed us to cook and prepare some of our meals; (we ate all of our breakfasts and at least 3 dinners here) and the ability to do laundry (what a God send!). We went to the Naval Aviation Museum that does not charge admission hoping to catch the Blue Angels practicing, but alas, they were not practicing that day; and of course we spent lots of time in the ocean, playing like kids, jumping waves and getting sandy and many long walks along the seashore collecting seashells.

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Now that our Pensacola vacation is behind us, we will start saving for our next vacation, not sure where that will be yet, but nonetheless, we will start our savings.  In addition to that, it is time to get back to work, and as promised, we have chosen a winner of our first ever Fort Worth Homemaker give-a-way.

Congratulations to Sergio N. of Austin, Texas.  He is the winner of the August, Fort Worth Homemaker give-away!

We reached out to Sergio N. to ask him which of the items he would like to receive for his prize, either our elegant coffee cup or our decorative journal to help organize his days.  Sergio N. responded in kind:

“I love my coffee, especially on early morning weekends when I get time to sketch, draw or research for future artworks. With that being said and the colors of the beautifully styled Fort Worth Homemaker coffee cup noted, I’m more than sure it will make people do a double-take when they see me sipping my coffee from it, or sitting on my drawing table next to my current work in progress art.”

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Thanks so much for the compliment Sergio N. of Austin, your coffee mug is on its way! (Sorry Sergio, breakfast scones, not included).

Be sure to check out my blog page, and feel free to share with your family and friends as we will continue to bring you money saving tips, easy and delicious recipes and words of wisdom from this experienced homemaker!




It’s Almost Give-A-Way Time

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Don’t worry…there is still time left for the first The Fort Worth Homemaker give-a-way! Summer may almost be over, and you may have spent your time this season taking care of your home and family, but now it’s time for a little “you” time and reward yourself for all that hard work you put in this summer.

Since recently launching my site, I thought I would invite you to come and visit. And so, to say thanks, on August 18th, 2017 I will be giving away some of my custom merchandise.

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How can you be a part of this?  All you have to do is subscribe to my FREE mailing list to be entered.  Don’t worry, The Fort Worth Homemaker will never use your email information for spam, nor will we share your information with any third party companies.  One winner will be chosen at random on August 18th, 2017 and announced on both my website and Facebook page , https://www.facebook.com/Lizthefortworthhomemaker/ on or about August 18th, 2017.

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If you have not checked out my site as of yet, feel free to browse around, there are tips, recipes, money saving advice and my real life experiences when it comes to managing a family of 7.  Don’t forget to check out some of my archived posts as well, I think you will find them informative as well as entertaining.

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So if you haven’t already done so…subscribe for FREE to the Fort Worth Homemaker to be eligible to win one of my Fort Worth Homemaker pieces of merchandise, either a cool coffee mug to enjoy your favorite beverage or a blank, 80 page, lined journal to help with all your organizational needs. Please feel free to share with all of your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well and GOOD LUCK!!!




Five Frugal for Friday

piggy-bankBy Liz

It has been a long and hectic summer and it has been awhile since I have posted some of our small frugal victories, so here are 5 money savers that I accomplished this week alone.

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1. Magazines and movies.  We are about to embark on a long overdue, summer vacation to the beach and what does one need when going to the beach… plenty of reading material.  I stopped in at my nearest Half Price Books store and scored magazines for everyone for a dollar each or less, and then, just because it was there, picked up the classic 80’s movie “Wall Street” for a whopping $2.00! I spent a total of $10.83 for all this; not bad considering just one of the cheapest of these magazines would have run me $4.99.




2. Cheap chicken.  Unfortunately, I did not take any pics of the chicken or the receipt showing my victory, but my local Aldi’s was having an unadvertised sale on their family packs of chicken drumsticks for $1.00 a package! (yup the whole package…not by the pound). Each package contained about 12 drumsticks. Unfortunately or fortunately, I only had room in my freezer for about 3 packages; otherwise I would have bought about 10 packages in total.

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3. I baked a loaf of bread.  I love the smell of fresh baked bread in the house. Is there a candle fragrance of this yet?  Sunday dinner was a down home, “meat and potatoes” meal of meatloaf and my rosemary potatoes with a side of lemon green beans, so this “blue plate” classic was just screaming for a loaf of fresh baked bread to accompany the meal.

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4. Cold and flu season. While everyone else is cashing in on those great back to school stock up items at rock bottom prices (yes…picked up a couple of things myself) the really great bargains I found was some discounted, over the counter cold and flu remedies.  Like everyone else, the common cold and flu hit us out of nowhere, and the last thing I want to do when I feel and look miserable, is to run out to the store to pick up some relief. So I try to be proactive, by at least having a handful of basic, over the counter help.

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5. Quiche and quick bread.  Here in Fort Worth, it was hot this week.  How hot?…over 100 degrees hot and for several days.  I was trying to clean out my fridge of leftovers and realized I had all the key ingredients to whip up a fast quiche.  I chose to do this early Tuesday morning before it became “oven hot” in the house for the day and since I was going to be using my oven anyway, I decided to institute double duty and baked an apple, cinnamon quick bread while the quiche was cooking.

So there are my 5 frugal for this Friday.  Do you have any you would like to share?