Penny Pinchers

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FINALLY! A budget-friendly week at the grocery store

By Julie Norman
Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm sure you guys are sick of hearing about me and the grocery store, but's the store I shop at the most!  This weekend I had the first under-budget week at the store that I've had in a while.  Yeah, it's been an expensive few months...we haven't wasted anything, but there have been trips and friends visiting...a camping trip...all of those things require "extras" from the store and those extras add up FAST.  This week though I managed to keep things in check by yes, making a menu. I've heard me before decry the menu as causing extra expenses...but with a little compromising I think it can come in handy.  My method was:

  • Think about ingredients I had on hand (particularly meats and staples).
  • Look through my printed coupons, digital coupons and "just for you" Safeway coupons.
  • Look at the sale paper.
  • Get some new recipe ideas from Pinterest and Cooking Light.  
  • Put ALL of this information together to create a menu for the week.

It didn't really take that long.  I sat at the kitchen table Saturday morning and got everything all planned out. At the same time I scanned the dirty dozen list and made notes of which produce items to buy from the organic section (pears and apples this week). 

So what did I buy and what did I leave out? Well, I bought the meats I needed for a few recipes (some Candian bacon that I had a $1 off coupon for and some on-ale Al Fresco Chicken Sausage). I bought lots of produce: raspberries, apples, pears, broccoli, some mushrooms (buy the loose ones and you'll probably save $$ and know that none of them are slimey)...milk, eggs (I had a coupon for Land O Lakes all-natural), yadda yadda...I don't remember what else. All I know is that I got everything we needed and, in the end the total came to $79!  That included a $9 book of stamps!

What wasn't in the cart were store-bought cookies, bread, crackers, jarred tomato sauce or frozen pizzas. Not that there aren't healthy versions of all those things. There are.  We just don't usually buy them and definitely didn't need them this week.  What are your tips for menu planning?


Organic Penny Pinching

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gah! I really wish I'd had this list I'm about to share with you with ME this weekend when I was grocery shopping.  I've made a decision to buy more organic produce, but man does it put a strain on the wallet...fortunately there's the Dirty Dozen list.  I'm sure you've heard of it and its counterpart, the "clean 15." These lists show the fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides (and therefore best to purchase organic varieties of) and the ones that are least likely to be contaminated (you can buy the less costly version and feel ok).

So what's on the list? 

12 Most Contaminated

Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

12 Least Contaminated

Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit

I really wish I'd thought to look this up at the store.  I could have saved on avocado and broccoli! Still, it's good to know I was smart to get the organic apples and strawberries.  Food prices are constantly on the rise and keeping the food bill down is a chore.  I haven't been as good at it lately as I could have been...and in fact cursed myself for leaving coupons AT HOME! Still, what can we do but say we'll try better next week, right?  Sometimes I have to take the "pay more for the food now and less at the doctor's office later" approach and just suck it up. If we wasted quite a bit of food each week it would be different, but honestly we rarely throw out anything. Occasionally a bit of salad might get too soft, but that's about it.  Serious leftovers on the brink get tossed in the freezer to be used up at a later date. I take stock of what's in the produce bins a few times a week and make sure to use that stuff up.  Tonight, for example, we're having a vegetable lasagna to use up some spinach, peppers and zucchini from the garden. After that the rest of the peppers will probably get chopped and frozen for use later on. The freezer is a penny pincher's best friend it seems!


How soon can you retire?

By Julie Norman
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Well at 36 I'm certainly not retiring YET, but articles like this and the book mentioned it certainly provide a bit of optimism as to when I can!  This article from Yahoo profiles 2 different people (or groups of people) who were able to retire without nearly as much money saved as most of us think we need. Check it out here:


Planning for the Holidays

By Julie Norman
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I've already told the BF that our holiday gift-giving this year will come with a strict budget.  There's nothing that we desperately need and we buy what we want when we can, so is there any point in spending a huge amount of money at Christmas just because we're "supposed" to? No. Still, we can't just tell everyone that there won't be any presents this year because well, we can't.  But I did find this helpful article today on Yahoo that could help us all save a little extra this year during the holidays.

Also, here's a list of presents that don't cost a lot but can mean a lot to those in your life:

Photo calendars or books using Shutterfly, iPhoto, etc.

Small home improvements like adding shelves to a cabinet, organizing the closet, etc.

Baked goods (always a favorite!)

OR shop the clearance areas of your favorite bookstore (yes those do still exist), grocery store (sometimes you can find fun flavored vinegars, etc that people like to get as gifts) or hardware store (as we discovered yesterday Lowe's DOES have a clearance section!)

Really think about the person you're buying for and what will be helpful to them. Then create neat gift baskets or bags for them.  I have a friend that I bike with quite often and I know she loves Lara Bars.  Those are often on sale for $1 each.  I can get 5 Lara Bars, SPF chapstick and dog treats for her 2 dogs who often accompany us on our outings for around $10 total.  That's a great little gift for a friend.  At least, in my opinion it is.

So be creative this year! Make cookies for your coworkers, send photo books to your parents and just spread the love instead of the cash this holiday season :)


Clearance Flowers?

By Julie Norman
Monday, September 15, 2014

Did you know Lowe's had a clearance section? Me either! My best friend, who lives in Georgia, sent me these pics last night of flowers she found in the clearance section at Lowe's.  She said it was way in the back and you sort of have to hunt around for it.  It seems worth it to me though if you're looking for transitional season flowers as she was.  I'm beginning to think we should all be hunting for the clearance sections any time we're in ANY store!

This one was on clearance for $5, down from $15!

These were only .50 cents!

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