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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keepin' My Money Tuesday

If you are just tuning in... on Tuesday I post about ways I am keeping my money. You can find out innovative ways Marin and I are Making Money on Monday! So far I have posted a few ways I am "Keepin' My Money" including, WRITING down a budget, saving a rainy day fund (aka: Emergency Fund) in my ING account, and setting my priorities for spending.

By the way, several of you have emailed or left comments asking if I can still send you a referral for ING (you get $25 and I get $10 for referring you). The answer is yes, there is no time limit on me sending you a referral. Just email me and give me your first and last name and your email address and I will be happy to send you one!

Okay, so now on to TODAY'S Keepin' My Money Tip:

Couponing and Scoring Deals to Lower My Grocery and Household Budget

About a ZILLION BILLION bloggers have written on this topic. But, I thought I would just share with you the way I am Keepin' My Money in a step by step fashion.

Step One: Make a List

Before I look at any ads, I make a list of items I need (that we regularly use and are out of or low on). That way I know what to keep my eyes out for when I am checking the ads and comparing prices. These things would be like bread, milk, produce, meat, sugar, and other odds and ends that you regularly use up.

Step Two: Look at Store Ads

Then, on Sunday (that is the day I get the paper with all the Sunday coupons and about a zillion store ads. I check the local grocery store ads and of course Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS ads too. (I actually get a head start on CVS on Thursday to type up Saturday's post but I still look at the actual ad briefly because I am a visual person!)

Step Three: Make Specific Store List and Match Coupons

For me, Sunday afternoon consist of looking at the ads, making notes of things that are cheap, checking my coupon box for coupon matches and then putting the coupons all in the store envelop together along with the little list I made. If there aren't enough good buys I just skip it - the stores aren't close enough to me to make a run for only a few things (they are about 45 minutes away!). I do this with each store: Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens, and occasionally Rite Aid.

In addition I get online and check Bi-Lo's ad (You can see all the grocery store links on my left side bar). All of the grocery stores have their ads online. I check Bi-Lo's ad online because I don't actually get a paper copy in my local paper. I use the same process though -but it is actually faster because Bi-Lo allows you to click on the items you want thus making you a printable list (I don't have to make my own that way). I also check my coupon box while sitting at the computer to see if there are any great coupon matches.

You might be surprised to know, after scanning the ads (before I really hunker down to make a list and match coupons) I decide if I am going shopping this week or skipping it. Some weeks seem better than others and I only venture out for a big shoppin' haul about every two to three weeks. I keep enough food around here that I really don't have to go shopping each week - saving gas and money. If I am not going shopping I do go to CVS and score some free items along with milk (CVS is the closest store to home!).

Finally, I gather up the coupons I will need to score really cheap and FREE items at Wal-Mart using the list I type up each Saturday (see I even use this blog! HA!)

Step Four: Go Shoppin'

I usually make one day of it. I bring a cooler along if I have several stops to make (since my home is so far away from the store).

Step Five: Make a Meal Plan

Last, after coming home and putting everything away I get out my trusty recipe binder and take a look at what is in the freezer and pantry and make a weekly meal plan (sometimes I go crazy and do a few weeks or even an entire month). Mostly my meal plans are rough sketches with main dishes only - occasionally I will pencil in side dishes if there is something in particular I really want to make.

On a side note: you might like to know that I have a list of items that we regulary (and not so regularly) cook that we like to eat on the front and back of my recipe binder. If the recipe isn't in the binder it has a note beside it with the book and page # where it can be found. This makes quick work of meal planning. I update the list about once every 6 months to a year to add any newly found recipes that we have tried and like. I also keep a list of inventory of what is in the freezers that I try to keep updated (by marking things off and penciling things in.

That way it makes planning meals and making shopping lists faster. This might sound time consuming to you - but actually having the list makes week-night dinners fast and planning a weekly or even monthly meal plan a snap. The actually list making only takes about an hour or less of your time - time well spent!

The nice thing about making a big ol' meal plan is that if things come up unexpected I can do the switch-o change-o and not have to eat out. For example, if I planned a more difficult dinner today and we needed to go somewhere that evening, I would cook what was planned for Wednesday - a quick easy dinner and just cook what was planned for today on Wednesday. The meal plan lets me know what all meals are available to cook - so I don't necessarily cook them on that particular day - you have to be flexible if you are going to save money!!

The exception to my running out only every few weeks is if Food Lion or Bi-Lo have a few great items on sale (think stock-pile) I will swing by there on my way home from work (however - this isn't happening this summer since I am at home and not working - the perk to being a teacher!)

One More DEEP DARK Secret!

Here's one more of my deep dark secrets: I don't use cash. AHHH!! Okay, here's the REAL scoop. I keep a running tab of the money I am spending each month at the grocery store and drugstores. I use my debit card. I know how much is left in the monthly buddet before I go and I try to stay under that amount by using a calculator. Right now we spend about $300 a month - but I am trying to beat that this month. This includes all household and grocery spending.

So now you know the neurotic way that an obsessive compulsive frugal shopper steps I take to keep my money by lowering my food and household budget. =)

In what way is your shopping/couponing/meal planning different or the same? I will enjoy reading your comments as I am always looking for new ideas! :)

Last, leave a comment if you have questions or comments about posts you would like to see on "Keepin' My Money Tuesday." - Be it ideas for the next posts like "How do you... " or "What have you found that...." etc. If you have a great idea for how we can "Keep our Money" email me and maybe you could do a guest post! Finally, I will be happy to answer any questions. If I don't know the answer I will point you to someone who does! :)


Tasha Via said...

I cut the coupons and play "The Grocery Game" since it's so cheap and it does all the work for me. It lists ALL the store coupons, even the ones not in the sale paper=) Playing "the game" also allows me to add up how much I'll be spending, which coupons to use, and if I need to cut anything because I've gone over budget. All this before I get to the store. I've whittled my grocery budget down from about $130 a week to between $50 and $60 a week for 3 adults and 2 toddlers. I love your site too because it's free and I only do 1 grocery store with "the game" and your site allows me to see the CVS and Walmart deals! Thanks for all your hard work.

annieck said...

I am AMAZED at your organization! My organization is pretty limited to my coupon notebook.
Your meal plan astounds me. Wow!
Thanks for the tips!

Queen of the Urban Jungle said...

i do the meal planning thing too! in the reverse order though....i write down a few things i want for dinner, ask DH for a couple things he would like for dinner, and i fill in the rest with a some meals that make A LOT and a few meals that are very fast (total time to the table = 20min or less); then i go shopping. i try to make enough at every dinner so that we have leftovers for each of us to take to work the next day for lunch to save money there as well. the list of what i can make gets stuck up on the fridge. DH *always* wants to go out to dinner, but not as much now that we have a "menu" at home!

Blogversary said...

I am like you; I use the debit card. I keep an excel spreadsheet with weekly entries so I can compare weeks and how much I spend at each store easily.

My next task is to compile a list of what similar items cost at each store that I use a lot.

What are your thoughts about online shopping like through for diapers etc.

Lacy said...

I would love to hear some more on how you menu plan! I have tried this and failed multiple times! It is just something I haven't been able to even comprehend quite yet....Im kinda a fly by the seat of my pants girl, and never know what I will be in the mood My question....How do you start this thing called MENU PLANNING?

MrsAdams06 said...

I also don't use cash. I am a waitress a couple nights a week on the side, so I could always pay with cash. But its not as easy to track. So we use our credit card. (We pay it off each month, and we earn air miles.)

I don't meal plan in the same way though. I love how organized you are! Basically, I just have a stockpile at home now, and then I shop the sales at primarily one grocery store. Then I come up with meals from what I have on hand after my shopping.

Great post!

Southerner said...

I pretty much do the same thing. One thing that I do is to take a few minutes at the end of the month and take all the coupons for the next month out of my files and place in a large envelope. I can then stick that in my purse to keep on hand to look for those items at the stores that I go to and see if it is worth going ahead and buying it. On the outside I make a list of the item and coupon amount for only those items that we use or are high value coupons. At the end of the month I throw the envelope and unused envelopes out. I know, send them to military, need to do that. But, my system keeps my filed coupons weeded through.

Nikki said...

Thanks for all of this info. I am VERY new to couponing and the meal planning is something I have always done to some extent, but I'm getter better at it too. Thanks for all of your hard work, I love your blog!