So I get it. I have seen the show. I have heard the banter. I have tried to get into it. Like really tried. And I have been found wanting. Perhaps I am missing something. Am I intrigued? Wholeheartedly. Who wouldn't be interested in saving money?
My husband would be the first to accuse me of being a frugalista and on occasion, a hoarder. But I argue that there is a very fine line between frugalista and hoarder! (I've seen that show, too, and it ain't pretty. In my defense, I only save something if I already have a specific purpose in mind for the not-so-distant future, but as I so often do... I digress.)
Here is my take on the hoopla:
Priority number one. It is more important to me for my family to eat freshly prepared, healthy meals than to serve cheap (or even free) food that is processed. According to my hubby (who probably got it from someone else), "you invest in what you believe in." I believe in good health for my family so food quality is not something I take lightly. In light of soaring medical and insurance costs, I choose to do everything I can to prevent future health issues (and expenses!) for my family.
That said, in my quest for coupons, I am finding that many of them are for highly processed foods that I wouldn't normally buy or personal products that I do not like or someone in my family has an allergy to. I have been buying paper after paper, and clipped coupons until I was cuckoo. Extreme savings? Hardly. More like moderate savings and let me further explain why.
I am frugal. I love to save money and I have been doing just that for years. Before extreme couponing. I have already explained that I like to serve freshly prepared food for my family for health reasons, but there's more! Its cheaper!!! Its not difficult to prepare a better-than-restaurant quality meal for pennies. Here are the ways I am saving money:
1. Plan ahead. I never go to the store without a plan of attack. I plan a 2 week menu, taking all meals into account, including breakfast, lunch and snacks. Piggyback meals, if you can (for example, cooking all the ground meat you need on Monday for use throughout the week). I do plan meals based around what is on sale at my local grocery store. I'll be posting more about menu planning next week.
After preparing a menu (which can be reused in the future!), the next logical step is to make your list.
And here is where I start to save money.
I make my coupons work for me, I don't work for them. I NEVER make a list from my coupons. This only tempts me to buy things I don't need or won't use. I am not saving money if I do either of these things. After I know what I need (because of that handy-dandy list I just made), I look to see if I have a coupon for that item. I do keep my coupons in a small organizer. I don't usually buy a paper, but I collect coupons that come to me other ways like through the mail or from the store dispensers. I like to print coupons right from my computer. Sometimes if I know I need salad dressing, I'll opt to buy a different brand because I have a coupon for it.
In other cases, however, there are certain brands that we really like or have to use because of allergies that are more expensive. For those kinds of things, I look online at the manufacturer websites. For example, my insanely picky 2-year-old (I am honestly surprised that she even grows) loves V-8 Fusion juice which I never deny her because I'm just thrilled that she will get servings of vegetables and fruit! Its also quite expensive, but I can usually find a coupon to print from the manufacturer's website.
There are several coupon websites worth perusing for coupons. I love being able to only print the coupons that I will actually use. I am sure there other really great ones (feel free to fill me in!), but here's what I use:
The following sites show match-up deals for coupons and grocery stores, saving you time.
This one doesn't have my favorite store on it, but it does include Target, Whole Foods and Walmart
This one has a 1 month free trial and then the cost is $10 for 2 months. Its far superior to anything else I have found and if you're serious about saving money, this website has a lot to offer for minimal cost.
2. Take a calculator and pay in cash. I tally everything up as I go. Yes, perhaps I am old-fashioned and use my hot-pink calculator, but most phones these days include a calculator. No excuses. :) Paying in cash leaves me no option but to stay on budget!
3. Shop the perimeter of the store. Stores stock most of the processed junk (which is usually more expensive) right in the middle of the store. All the fresh produce, dairy products, eggs, meat, etc are on the perimeter. Most of what you need is right there! I always start with these things when I do my shopping.
4. Buy the basics. Seriously, if I've got flour, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, baking powder, and baking soda, I can whip up any manner of things in no time. Throw some ingredients in the bread machine for fresh bread at dinnertime or whip up piping hot pancakes for breakfast (I have a great recipe for pancake mix you can have ready and stored ahead of time!).
5. Prepare. Go ahead and make all that yummy stuff you planned ahead for! Raw, basic ingredients are so much cheaper (and healthier) than their processed counterparts. We save so much money by making our own granola bars (see breakfast bars on the recipes page), chex mix, bread, rolls, cookies, salad mixes (how hard is it to wash and cut lettuce?)... everything really. There will definitely be more to come on this. I'll be sharing some of my favorite (and easy!) recipes.
This frugalista is just as busy as everybody else... trust me. Scratch cooking and meal planning doesn't have to take a lot of time. I spend 30 minutes max on my list and meal planning. (Once you've got your menus and lists made you can copy and reuse them). More to come on how I make it all work for our family!
Coffee break! Starbucks Espresso Roast... mmmmmm.....