Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cooking on a budget

Cooking on a budget.

Before Andrew and I were engaged we discussed being a family and having kids. One of Andrew’s main wants was for his future wife to be a stay at home mother, one who nursed, and who raised the children rather than sending them to daycare. Now that we have Selah Mae, I am a stay at home mom. My husband is a police officer, so we have a police officer salary. In order for me to be a stay at home mom like we both wanted, I knew I needed to learn to coupon and budget. Luckily for us, we only have one car payment, a house payment, no credit card debt, and Selah’s hospital bill.
  Step one, cut out frivolous items. I grew up constantly eating out, so I had no idea how to cook unless it came in a box and could be put in the microwave. I even microwaved ramen noodles. So for our first step we cut out going out to eat. Let me just say ,that saved us tons! My husband was going out to eat almost every night while on night shift, and even with his discount, $5+ a meal 5 times a week adds up. Then we decided to stop purchasing soft drinks. For us, soft drinks are now a treat. If we do buy soft drinks, we buy 24 packs because they are much cheaper and I normally can find a coupon or buy them when they are on sale! Imagine buying a soft drink once a day per person everyday. They are around $1.60 So that saves us around $50+ a month. After I stocked my pantry with necessities like spices, flour, and one of each item, then I started my budget of $200-$250 a month for groceries. I want to say that no, Drew does not only give me $50 a week. I decided on the budget after I added up the necessities and ingredients I would need every week. If I take Drew to the grocery store, then we leave with a buggy full of junk and an enormous bill.
Each week I check out what sales are going on and make my lists around them. My shopping day is Thursday mornings. Thursdays because most stores start their sales on Wednesdays, and because Drew gets paid every other Thursday. Also, my local food lion marks their meats down on Wednesdays so I score all my meat on sale! I make sure I go there first. I have a select 10 or so go to recipes, so once I know what meat I will be buying I just pull out the recipes and pick.
When couponing I’ve learned that sometimes it is cheaper to buy the store brand. We have tested out the Walmart brand on every item we use and rarely find where we don’t like it.  I follow couponing blogs so I see what sales are going on and I also see what items businesses are giving away for free. I haven’t bought razors in two years. Between Schick and Gillette giving away free razors on their sites, Drew and I are set.  If you do need to purchase razors, then Walgreens and CVS is the best place. Clip coupons and watch the ads. Normally you can get a Gillette fushion razor for just $0.89. Basically, they have them on sale, plus you have a coupon., then you get register rewards that you can use on your next purchase.  One example of Walgreens love, after Selah was born, they had nursing pads for $2 and you get back $2 in register rewards making them free. I just made several different transactions and was set with nursing pads.
Back to groceries: I have learned that Bells in LC is the best place to buy canned goods. In Savannah I pay roughly $1 a can, but at Bells they put corn, green beans and other stuff for 3/$1. When this happens my mom buys me a case of each and I get that from her when I visit. So when I make my grocery list, I don’t need to add canned goods to it unless it is soups. One of my hubby’s musts is “sketties” or canned spaghettios, ravioli and that sort of stuff. We learned the hard way that the Kroger brand sucks, but he loves the walmart brand. What I did was bought it, heated it up for him, he didn’t complain about the taste, asked if he liked it, then told him the brand. I’ve learned that people will see the brand then put their mind to thinking it taste bad. Drew prefers walmart brand for his “sketties” They are also $0.40 cents cheaper than chef- boy-r-dee. I cook with soups a lot so I have been real excited to see all the coupons for condensed soups. I print them off online and use my computer, Drew’s computer, my moms, and my friends Matt if I want that many coupons. I will buy the store brand if I don’t have coupons, can’t taste a difference when it is used in casseroles and such. So right now my pantry is stocked up with soups. We eat a lot of rice. I hate taking 20 minutes to cook rice, so I buy instant rice, the walmart brand. It would be cheaper if I bought the regular kind, but until I get a rice cooker, I’m no doing it. We also eat a lot of mashed potatoes. Kroger had a deal on mashed potatoes. They were I think 10 for $10 and for every 5 you bought, you would get back $5 towards your next purchase, plus they had coupons online. So after your first transaction, you didn’t pay anything! I went to two krogers and bought them out! They also had mac and cheese for the same scenario. Hamburger helper. . Yuck. Unfortunately, Drew loves it and would eat it everyday if I let him. Kroger had then on the buy 5 get $5, they were on sale, and I had coupons. So, I stocked up! The key is watching the sales and when they have what you want, stock up!! Oh yeah, crest toothpaste and colgate toothbrushes for 10 for $10 and you can always find coupons for those. Good thing about Kroger, they double coupons up to $50. So, if you had 10 $0.50 cents off of crest you would have gotten those all FREE!
When doing my grocery list, I shop for the week. I make a list and stick to it. This way I’m not putting all kinds of junk food in my cart. It is also easier if I have someone with me to help with Selah or eiher I leave her with Drew. Couponing with a toddler can get nerve-racking.
This week I plan on cooking Sheppards Pie, Crockpot Italian Chicken, Crockpot Deer Cubed Steak, Stirfry, and Pork chops. I will post recipes at the end. I don’t have to worry about buying any sides because with couponing, I’m stocked for now. Normally I buy either a whole chicken or rotisserie chicken and make as many meals as I can out of it. $4 for a chicken that makes 4 or so meals. I love making Chicken Divan each time I make one, I make an extra and freeze. When I make Sheppards Pie I also make an extra and freeze. This comes in handy later for if I’m ever sick, out of town, or an emergency came up and we are tight on money. Unfortunately, Drew hasn’t shot a deer yet, but we were given deer meat by his grandpa so I am set. Deer makes great chili, can be used in spaghetti and cubed steak. I season it a lot so it doesn’t have the gamey taste. Just that helped out with my meat. I try to keep my meat purchases under $15 a week. Sometimes I get lucky and Food Lion had Boston Butt on sale. I never pay more than $8 for it, which is 70% off the regular price. I just do like I mentioned above, and go in on the day they mark down the meats. I either freeze it right away or make it that day. If we have boston butt then I freeze half and let Drew take BBQ sandwiches to work everyday that week. If I can’t find hamburger meat for less than $2.48/pound then I buy the packaged ground beef from Walmart. I almost always find the meat I want to get on sale or on markdown. If the sale is great than I buy an extra to freeze.
Some items I keep on my grocery list: Milk $3.40 at Walmart unless they have it on sale at walgreens, Bread (cheap $1 kind bc Drew packs a lunch and after hours in a lunch box it doesn’t matter the type of bread) I wait and get cheese when Foodlion has it buy one get one, then I stock up. You can freeze cheese so no need in worrying that it will go bad. Lunch meat, if I don’t have coupons then I buy the walmart brand so $2.48 for half pound. I am always buying sugar bc we have tea at dinner, yet again I buy the walmart brand $2.88/5pounds. The fruit I buy depends on what is on sale or in season. I buy creamer for my coffee every other week or so, but normally I can find coupons for it so I pay around $1 for it, sometimes they send out free coupons on their face book so I have gotten them free. Cinnamon rolls, Drew loves to have cinnamon rolls when he is off work for breakfast, here lately they have had coupons for so much off 2, and they are always on sale at food lion or Kroger. I just watch the ads and see which store to get them from, so I stock up. When buying dinner rolls I get the kind on sale at walmart, they have a cart with clearance breads. You can always freeze what you can’t eat. You can also freeze regular bread too! I freeze everything and will be investing in a chest freezer after the new year. Not too long ago there was butter coupons available online making it $0.30 for a tub of butter at walmart, so I stocked up. The best place to buy yogurt is Kroger. They almost always have it on sale and you can always find a coupon. Use the $0.40 off 6. It then doubles to $0.80 off. They have them on sale right now for 10 for $3. I buy eggs in bulk by the 3 dozen. Sometimes they have coupons where you buy a gallon of milk and get eggs free. I get them in the mail here in Savannah, great deal! I don’t buy bacon much, it is expensive if you think about it, so when I do buy it, I get it from food lion when it is buy1get1 and I stock up. I also only buy the bag malt-o-meal cereal. It tastes just as good and there are always coupons on their website available. Just recently I got $1 off coupon, so I bought the smaller $3 bags and paid $4 for 2. Even the small bags have more cereal than boxed cereal. Foodlion had pop tarts for 1.70 I think and well I had coupons for $0.70 cents off one, so I paid $1. You can find pop tarts coupons on the boxes sometime and online a lot. I love birdseye voila stirfry. Luckily they have coupons a lot for it. I also buy the box meals that are $3 and makes and entire entrĂ©e they are made by Banquet and normally coupons come in the box or you can find online.  Almost forgot Tostino’s pizzas. You can always find coupons $1/5 and Kroger had them 10 for $10 and buy 5 get $5, unfortunately I didn’t have a chest freezer so I couldn’t stock up. I try to keep at least 2 in the freezer at all times for Drew. I get lucky with Salads because Food lion normally has salad mix buy 1 get 1 and they are only $2. If they aren’t on sale I just buy a head of lettuce. Drew doesn’t like (rabbit food) so I’m mostly the only one that eats salads.
The main meal I worry about everyday is dinner. For breakfast I made Drew cereal, oatmeal, or sometimes if he is real hungry I make French toast. Selah eats oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal everyday, small portions. I don’t really eat breakfast I make myself a coffee and eat toast or yogurt or fruit. For lunch I pack Drew two sandwiches, a walmart brand drink mix, a bottled water, and chips or pretzels or whatever I got on sale that week. I either eat left overs, a sandwich, or pancakes for lunch. Selah eats leftovers, bologna,  bread, and veggies it all depends on what we have, but she loves meat. Today she had bologna, mashed potatoes, and chasse puffs. For dinner I try to make a large enough portion to have leftovers.
Non Groceries:
Shampoos, I always find coupons for what I want and I wait and use them for when they are on sale at either Walgreens or Kroger. Panteen is easy to get for cheap if not free. I haven’t had to buy shampoo or conditioner in about 2 years because of couponing and face book giveaways.  For deodorant I find coupons for the kind we like. Kmart always puts my husbands on sale for buy1get1 and you can use a coupon on each so we never pay more than $1 for his. Tide is always giving away coupons and free pods, so sometimes it is cheaper to buy tide than the cheap brand. We have a frontload washer so we have to use the High Efficiency detergent. The walmart brand is awesome though. I like how it smells more than tide, but between all my free tide pods I got through the mail, and Publix sending store coupons for tide and me having tide coupons, well we have tide pods right now and I paid $5 or more less than they normally cost. Dishwasher detergent you can always find coupons for and for dawn, I never pay more than $0.25. If I can’ find paper towels on sale than I just buy one roll a week, if I find a good sale, then I stock up.  Toothbrushes and toothpastes I get either free or right at free and stock up. I even got my swiffer free. I found a site on pintrest where you can make your own cleaner for your swiffer and it is safer having babies. I want to make my own dishwasher detergent, after I do I will post about it and let you know if it is worth it.

Main key things to do is sign up for coupons. Publix puts out a book quarterly that they mail to you and you can use those coupons with manufacturer coupons. P&G also does the same thing, just sign up on their site. Anytime they do giveaways on face book for samples, they always send coupons with them. I use smart, red, and I use the coupon database at to find coupons for items I will be buying if I don’t have a coupon for it. Oh, and you can buy coupons off eBay. One time they had razor coupons for $3 off and they sold those same razors for $3 at dollar general. I bought 20 coupons for $2 and got 20 packs of razors basically free.
Something that also saves us money, is that we don’t buy junk. If we do, it is a treat. Junk food is expensive and not a necessity. The kids or my case hubby snacks and fills up on junk rather than food at dinner. Selah drinks water not juice. Not only is juice not good for toddlers teeth and stomach, but it gets kids to not want water. She still nurses right now, but we will soon be moving her to regular milk.

Items normally on my grocery list
Stir Fry $3.40 -almost always have a coupon and sometimes food lion has them buy1get1 (I try to keep 2 in freezer at all times)
Milk  $3.40
Bread $1-$2 depending on if Drew is on day or night shift
Sugar $2.88 (every other week)
Drink Mix $1.98 or $1 crysalite if I have a coupon (every other week)
Cereal $3-$5 (If I buy the large bag it lasts over a week)
Meat $15 (sandwich meat and meat for meals)
Pop Tarts $2
Bag veggies $2
Sketties $3 for roughly 5 cans
Soups $3
Fruit $2-$3
Rice $3 once a month
Box Meal $3 if coupon $2 or buy1get1
Cheese $5 a month
$10 for random ingredients
Chicken nuggets $3 once a month
Fish Sticks $3 once a month

I try to keep $10 for the rest of the items I don’t have in my pantry that I need for my ingredients for recipes.  Cream cheese (for crockpot meals I use walmart brand), onion mix(walmart brand or buy1get1 at food lion), broth (which I get the big carton, walmart brand). Anytime I buy these I buy enough for a double recipe, plus one extra. Sometimes I don't need anything because I already have the items from stocking up. If I stay under my budget $50 then I take $10 cash back and put it aside. Putting a little money aside a week is good for when you find sales and want to stock up. Here lately I have slacked and bought Drew beer so I went a little over budget.

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