Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting the family involved...

Being frugal is much easier if it is a family affair. Children and spouses can wreck havoc on your budget if they don't realize what it is you are trying to accomplish! Another reason to involve them is that truly, you are setting the standard for your children when it comes to financial dealings. I learned my frugality from my mother... and my kids will learn my habits too. It is a chain which can either be valuable, or detrimental!

So how can you get the family involved?

When my kids were very little, something they found quite amusing was to sit with me at home and look at the grocery store sale brochures and watch me cut coupons. They would point out items they liked, and I would tell them whether it was a good sale or not and we would talk ahead of time about whether we would be picking some of that item up on our shopping trip. This way they already knew what we were going to the store for, and it became more of a fun game rather than a chore.

In each store that we visited, I showed them the sale tags and pointed out what color they were. It was a rule that they were never to ask for anything that wasn't on sale. :) This took me all of two minutes to do, but eliminated a lot of pleading. Sometimes they would point out something with a tag and I would say, "hmmmm... that's not a very good sale", but now and then I would surprise them with a "you know what? That IS a good sale, we can get one of those."

There is nothing more deadly to your budget than buying items that your kids are whining for. It completely defeats the purpose when you end up buying full price, expensive items.

As your kids get older, so does their comprehension of what you are doing. One idea that I heard once was to have the kids help with finding sales and cutting coupons, then after you had done your shopping, you add up your savings and put that money aside for something your family wants. Maybe it is a vacation somewhere! Maybe it is a new game system. Whatever gets them motivated. You can choose whether you put aside the full value of the saved money, or just the value of the coupons... the second option means you are saving on your budget, but also saving for something fun. Most store receipts will give you both totals.

Kids aren't the only ones who can destroy a budget at the drop of a hat. Spouses can be even worse! To get my husband involved and informed, occasionally I would send him to the store with a VERY short list and a couple of coupons so that he could personally see how much it saves to shop wisely.

I also ALWAYS used to show him my receipts from my shopping trips showing the original amount of the groceries, the amount saved, and how much I paid. (Rarely was the amount saved less than the amount paid.) Can I tell you that you will be surprised how excited your husband can become when you are saving your families hard earned money! :)

Spouses pick up very quickly on what is a good sale and there have been many times through our marriage that he has noticed something excellent that I didn't know about.

After sixteen years of marriage, I can honestly say that Mike & I have never once fought over money. We have joked with each other and contemplated that the reason for that might be that we have never had much to argue over, :) but we both know that it is because of our respect for our earnings and a joint desire to live the best we can with what we have. It eliminates a lot of selfishness when you live frugally.

Beginning grocery basics...

If there is one thing that every human being in the world has in common, it is the fact that every one of us has to eat in order to survive. That means countless trips to the grocery store, and LOTS of money.

Hundreds of food items are reduced 25-60% each week by grocery stores to try and get you to come to their store instead of the competitions. There is no need to every pay regular prices for food items. If you do, you are spending at least 2-3 times more on groceries than a savvy shopper.

Lets go over a few good old common sense rules for frugal grocery store shopping:
  1. Never put bargains on a credit card. Credit is NEVER a bargain.
  2. Don't shop "on the fly". Take a few minutes to look at the sales brochures and plan your menu's for the week around what is on sale BEFORE you leave for the grocery store.
  3. Everything that goes on sale will come on sale again within about 8-10 weeks. It is a rotation process, so if you stock up on enough of the item to last that long, you will be able to re-stock at sale prices. Once you get into this you will find that you almost always have everything you use on hand, and you rarely have to pay full price for anything. (This is a great way to start a food storage.)
  4. Learn to read the price sticker near each item. It shows the name of the item, the size, the retail price, and cost per unit (by pound, ounce, liter, gallon or quart.) This makes it easier to compare the costs of different size containers. BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS A BETTER BUY! (In fact, when you are coupon shopping, the smaller item that has been put on special for the week is going to win over the larger bulk size every time.) For example, if a one liter bottle of soda is 60 cents, but a two liter is $1.50, it ends up saving you to buy two one liter bottles.
  5. When you are comparing costs, look at the high and low shelves as well as those in the middle. The more expensive brands are often displayed at eye level, with the cheaper or sale items placed where you have to bend or stretch.
  6. Be on the look out for end of the isle "bargains" which are anything BUT that! Sometimes a store will pile something that they are over stocked on at the end of an aisle, and put the price in big numbers hoping that you will mistake it for a bargain and buy a few of them.
  7. If you have limited space for value pack specials, shop with a relative or a friend and share. I used to shop at Costco with my mom or sister and we would split large packages of vegetables, meat or yeast for example. This would save us DOLLARS over the amount it would have cost us to buy the same items at the grocery store, and we wouldn't end up having so much that it would get wasted.
  8. Enjoy the free samples at the store and collect the coupons, but DON'T buy the items until they come on sale.
  9. Always, Always, Always check the scanner prices as the cashier scans everything. Often the computer makes an error which can cost you. If you don't think it is worth bringing it up for some cents, think again. Some stores have scanner guarantee's which promise you correct prices or you get an incentive. The little amounts that you let pass can add up to quite a bit in the course of a year. I always have my kids or hubby empty the cart while I watch the scanner so that I can have them correct the price immediately if it comes up wrong. This avoids lengthy waits at the customer service desk.
  10. Be flexible. If the price of the vegetable or other item you wanted is up, don't have your heart set on it so badly that you are not ready and willing to choose something else.
  11. Don't feel obligated to make every side dish from scratch. SOME convenience foods may actually cost less, and there is no waste. Canned beets, frozen squash, pearl onions and other sauced frozen veggies are examples of this... they have longer shelf life and there is little to no preparation.
Start implementing these beginning habits and you are well on your way to saving money and living more frugally. Feel free to share YOUR grocery basics tips in the comments section of this post!
Next up... helpful information about specific grocery items such as Cereals and Meats. :)


The best way to use coupons is to apply them to sale items. I have said already that hundreds of items are marked down each week up to 60% off the shelf price. When you apply your coupons to those items, you can pay almost nothing for some things. Here are a few pointers:

  • Coupons are available in your local Sunday Papers. You can also find coupons on the inside of food labels, inside cereal boxes or online. You can also email companies and request them to send some to you.
  • Clip coupons weekly to save time and get a coupon wallet to put them in that has dividers. Put all the coupons for items that you use in there, including brands that you think you can't afford. If that brand comes on sale at half price and you apply a coupon to it, it is more than likely going to be less than even the store bought brand. I have frequently brought home items that the store has ended up paying me to take home because of applying coupons to sale prices.
  • Make sure you remove coupons that have expired weekly.
  • Some grocery stores double coupons up to a certain amount. Check with your local grocery stores to find out their policies with coupons.
  • Make sure you get the RIGHT ITEM in the RIGHT SIZE for the coupon. A good practice is to check the item with the coupon before you put it in the cart.
  • Always check that you are paying less than you would for a store brand. If you aren't, put the coupon back in your organizer, put the item back and get the store brand.
  • NEVER use coupons for things that your family (or you) won't use unless it is ABSOLUTELY FREE. Otherwise, you are not saving money! (I have to say here that there isn't too much that my family couldn't use. I have slowly but surely taught them not to be so picky. After all, we aren't always gonna LOVE what someone else in our family may like, but we can eat it for one night and not suffer incredibly!)
  • Coupons that require multiple purchases are generally not a bargain.

About fruits & veggies...

Do you ever feel like it costs more to eat healthier? I do. Here are a couple of tips on fruits and veggies that might help you save a little:
  • If the price on a fresh veggie is high, check it's frozen counterpart.
  • If fruit or veggies are priced by the pound, pick smaller pieces to get more servings. If it is priced by the piece, pick larger pieces for more value.
  • Buy bulk bags of frozen fruit at club warehouses for much less per pound than frozen fruit in the grocery store. (Especially good if you make a lot of smoothies.)
  • Canned fruit (packed in juice, not syrup) can be used for toppings or treats, come on sale frequently, and have good shelf life.
One fruit that freezes surprisingly well is grapes. If you wash them, (I prefer the green ones for this), roll them in a light sprinkling of sugar and put them in the freezer, they are a really yummy treat for a hot day. Make sure to eat them still frozen. (I realize that adding sugar makes them a little less nutritional... but this blog is about saving money, not eating healthy.)

Thoughts on buying Meat...

Here are a couple of tips on buying meat for you to think about.
  1. Never buy step savers. Prices can double or even triple! Marinate the meat yourself. After all, how much time and effort does it really take to threw a bottle of marinade or salad dressing in a bag with the meat in the morning?
  2. Boneless is often a better buy averaging 4 servings to the pound. With bone -in, you get only an average of 2 servings to the pound. Take that in to consideration when you are figuring the cost.
  3. Boneless chicken is my families favorite. You can do so many different things with it and it comes on sale every couple of weeks. Stock your freezer up when it is on sale, and you will never have to fuss with bone-in chicken again!
My favorite (quick) chicken recipe: (Warning... I dont' really write down recipes, so often I estimate... you may have to adjust to taste.)
  • One to one and a half pounds of boneless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces.
  • Lemon-Pepper seasoning
  • Two large heaped spoonfuls of frozen orange juice concentrate.
  • Half to three fourths a cup of sugar (you can adjust this to taste.)
  • One to two tablespoons of butter (or marg)
Just spray down your saute pan with oil, and toss in the chicken with some lemon pepper seasoning. Cook till browned... just a few minutes. Spoon in your orange juice concentrate and sugar and stir. Allow the chicken to cook through in the sauce, then stir in the butter just at the end.
Serve over rice with the following toppings available for the family to choose from: manderin oranges, chunked pineapple, coconut, la choy chow mein noodles (the cooked light and crunchy kind that you can serve over salads).
You could also use lettuce, tomatoes, anything you like... be creative. It is all good. Serve with a side of peas, and I'll be in heaven!

Preparing for shopping...

You wouldn't go on a date without spending a little time to get ready. Grocery shopping deserves no less! Everyone needs to come up with their own shopping preparation plan that fits in with their lifestyle, but here are some suggestions to get you started:
  • Don't just go blindly to the store. Always look through the ads first to see which stores have the best sales that week.
  • When looking at ads and trying to decide what to buy, consider what you will be eating for the week and try and plan your meals around what is on sale and what you have in your storage. (This means that coming up with a menu BEFORE going to the store would be a very good idea!)
  • Look through the ads and write down the items that are on good sale so you don't forget.
  • Check your pantry and food storage before you leave to see what items you are short on to minimize trips to the store. (This saves on time and gas!)
  • Go through your coupons and pull the coupons for any items that are on sale. Place these together in the front pocket of your coupon organizer.
  • Pick a night each week that you will cut coupons and get rid of the expired ones. (I usually do this while watching my favorite TV show, that way I feel less guilty about watching TV :) )
  • Budget each week to buy multiples of at least one item that is on INCREDIBLE sale... (most grocery stores have at least one item that they reduce drastically to get you to come to their store... this is how you can build your food storage).
  • Some items are just cheaper regular price at one store than they are at sale price at another. Super Walmart is a good example of this. There are many basic items that I pick up here because they generally don't go on sale (or at least they don't go on sale for less than Walmart charges for them.)

Quick Tips

Click HERE to see all the Quick Tip Posts from this blog. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thank You & Goodnight...

Over the next week I will be moving the informational posts and money saving tips from this blog here on to the front page as I have made the decision to retire from Frugalityville.  Over the past 2 years I have posted just about every money saving tip I can think of.  Lately I have found myself mainly posting coupons for you guys and while I am sure there are a couple of people out there that may have used them, there are so many coupon sites out there that I don't feel there is a need for this one too. :) 

I have a personal blog... Donuts2Crumpets at which I am thinking of doing a "Frugal Friday" post each week where I can share any tips & coupons I get/find with you, so if you are interested, come on over and follow me there.

I will be leaving all the informational posts up here in hopes that people who need it will still find it and learn from it.  I thank everyone for your visits and kind comments and hope that you learned something new from the information posted here.

Thank you and Goodnight! :)