Welcome, to Supper for a Steal. I'm Lane the face behind the blog. I hope you enjoy my shopping lists and recipes. Click here for more.
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Ten months ago I first wrote a post on my couponing process and how I coupon. I used to clip coupons every Sunday and file them away by type/product, but I have since changed my ways. I still wouldn’t call myself an extreme couponer by any means. I mostly stick to the produce, meats, and dairy sections of the store which we all know coupons are few and far between on those items, but we all need staples. I buy canned tomatoes when they are on sale along with rice, beans, snacks and frozen foods. These are always best to buy with coupons and on sale. I try to anticipate my needs, but since I cook such a wide variety of foods there are always items that I’m going to be buying without coupons or sales. I figure if I get about 75% of the items in a recipe on sale then I’m doing pretty well.
When making my grocery list every week I check the meat sales first. This is the most expensive part of the meal so I always consult both the store ad and my freezer stock to see what type of recipes I should be looking for. Once I have narrowed down what types of meats we are going to eat that week I start to look at recipes while surveying my pantry, fridge, and freezer for what ingredients I have that match up to recipes I want to make. Most coupon and deal websites will distinguish what they think are the best deals in the ad with a star, check mark, or some other symbol. I rely on the experts to know if it is a good price and I also look for recipes that use these super sale ingredients. I make all my lists in Google Drive so I am able to access them on any of my devices. I put them together on my computer and pull my list up on my phone when I get to the store. I always try to put my ingredients in the order I would get them in the store to make it easy on myself, but occasionally I will stop at a different store and get all kinds of confused.
Since starting this blog I have stopped clipping coupons. Instead I keep a large file folder and have about 15-20 sub folders inside. Each Sunday I take all the ads without even looking through them and stick them in a new folder labeled with that day’s date. It isn’t until the end of the week that I clip my coupons. While going through and making my list for the week I will make a note next to items that will be in my coupon folder. For example (SS 9/19/12) tells me I will find the coupon for that item in the September 19th Smart Source. After about 5-6 months all coupons should be expired from your inserts and you can begin to recycle them.
A typical shopping week in my house looks like this
- File coupon inserts in a folder labeled with the date
- Come up with meals based on sales
- Make list while consulting ad and make note of coupon match up
- Print any coupons that are online
- Check the unadvertised deals and add any to my list that I may want/need
Thursday or Friday:
- Before going to the store grab my coupon file and clip the coupons that match my list
- I also go into coupon database and check to see if there are any coupons for items not on sale (i.e. if I need 2 cans of tomato sauce I will search for coupons and clip those) Once I get to the store I will check to see if it is cheaper to buy the name brand with the coupon or just buy generic.
My two favorite couponing and deal sites are Southern Savers and Addicted to Saving, but there are tons more out there. Use whichever one works best for you. Both of the ones I suggested come out with the Publix ad in advance. A typical ad will start on Wednesday or Thursday depending on your area (FL is Thurs). These ladies both will have the ad up by Tuesday which is when I make my list for the upcoming ad. They will then post an unadvertised deals post on Wednesday were I update my list if necessary. Usually I do my grocery shopping on Friday.
Although it sounds like quite the process it is really the quickest method that I have tried. What methods have you tried? What works best for you?
While I have a down day I wanted to answer some questions about substituting ingredients. I like to think of recipes as a guide. Unless I am baking bread, a cake, or similar I can guarantee I do not follow recipes item for item. When I first started cooking meals at home I would buy all the groceries I needed for the recipes I picked out and walk away from the store spending over $100, for two people for about 4-5 dinners. I would think to myself how we could definitely take advantage of dining specials and eat out for less than this. Was I wasting my time cooking all these meals? It wasn’t until I better learned to plan my meals with the sales and coupons that I saw a change in our grocery bills.
For my recipes I try to use as many sale ingredients as possible and use them for more than one recipe that week or the week after. For a recipe if I list a certain type of cheese, but you already have 5 other types of cheese in your refrigerator. I’m sure you can find a substitute among those rather than adding more expense to your grocery bill. Unless it is crucial to the recipe I will make the substitution. I can’t guarantee that the flavor might not change a little, but I’m sure it will not end up being inedible.
If you are out of fresh garlic 1 clove=1/8 of a tsp. Make the substitution. If you aren’t sure, Google it. I think I have said it previously, but I like to keep mojo marinade in the fridge. If a recipe calls for lemon, lime, another citrus juice and I forgot to pick one up at the store. I will just toss in a splash of mojo. It is more orange/garlic flavor, but it will do.
The only time I run into an issue when substituting is when a recipe calls for half and half or heavy cream and all I have is skim milk. In my experience this is not a good substitute. The recipe generally needs the extra fat and thickness from the cream.
If you have any questions regarding substitutions in my recipes email me, leave a comment, or tweet me. I might not have done that exact substitution, but I can give you some feedback on whether I think it will work.
If you have noticed by now most of my recipes use fresh ingredients, which are often hard to find coupons for. When I plan out my grocery trips I only have 2-6 coupons to use. Some weeks I don’t use any. I save money by buying with the sales. On a recent trip butter was on sale buy on get one and I had a coupon for $1 off two. It will take me a while to use two tubs of butter, but I stuck the extra one in the freezer and now when I am running low I know I have a backup in my freezer and don’t have to pay full price when it is not on sale.
I most often use coupons for frozen vegetables, coffee creamer, boxed potatoes, rice, canned tomatoes, cheese, and breakfast products. I always like to have frozen vegetable and boxed potatoes or rice on hand to make easy side dishes. They aren’t necessarily the healthiest, but sometime convenience wins out.
For fresh fruits and vegetables I shop around. I have a produce stand nearby that often beats the prices of Publix. Sometimes on a good sale I can find better prices at Publix though. I encourage you to find a local market and walk around to get a feel for the prices. They usually don’t fluctuate too much week to week, only seasonally. I have found that I can always purchase tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs for cheaper prices at the produce stand, but others such as berries, lettuce, even zucchini and asparagus can sometimes be a better buy at Publix. I try to use the produce that I think is the best buy at Publix in most of my recipes, but for a vegetable side get creative and find some fresh local veggies.
If a meat we like and eat a lot of is a great price I stock up. At Publix $1.99/lb for boneless chicken breast is a good price. This sale only happens every 6-8 weeks or more. When boneless chicken breasts are on sale again I will probably buy 7-10 lbs so I don’t have to pay $2.99 or $3.99/lb. When I get home from the store I break the packages down and individually freeze each breast. A meal for the two of us is one breast, split. I also freeze a few two to a bag incase I will be making a bigger casserole.
For our family of 2 I try to keep our grocery budget in the $25-$40 range each week, trying to stay towards the lower end of the budget. I make a trip to the produce stand about every other week where I spend $5 or less.
I have never had a trip to the store where I save 80 or 90%, but we also don’t eat boxed macaroni and cheese every night. Buying with the sales is a great way to begin saving money and adding in coupons for pantry staples is helpful. Begin by buying items your family eats a lot of and only purchasing them on sale. Buy enough each trip to last 6-8 weeks, until it comes back on sale again. When I see meat at a great price I will point it out. Following these tips and buying with the sales should help lower your grocery bills and feed your family a healthy meal.