Money Saving Monday – Knowing a good deal when you see it

Money Saving Monday-Keeping a good deal book

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

I was in a store (which shall remain un-named) last week picking up a few sale items. As I was walking down the aisles my eyes were drawn to the bright red signs advertising this major grocery stores sales for the week. One such sign read: Butter 2/$6. My initial thought was, “butter I need butter I’m so glad it’s on sale”. As the red sign drew my hand toward the product it suddenly occurred to me that $2.50 was not a good deal for butter. I had almost fallen prey to the pretty red tag. This week saw an add for the same butter 3/$5 or $1.66 each a much better deal.

There is a simple way to avoid these marketing schemes if you are strategic. I recommend being intentional about keeping a “bargain book” for the items you usually buy. Grocery stores pay entire marketing departments to research and implement the best ways to get you to buy their products even when they are overpriced so a strategic plan is needed to counter this.  My recommendation is carrying in your wallet a small list of “good deals” so you will know a good deal when you see it.

Where do I start?: Make a list of items you buy on a regular basis (that aren’t seasonal).

My personal list is as follows, it is a bit small as I started tracking good deals and found that WINCO carried all the bulk items for cheaper then I had ever seen elsewhere so I no longer “track” the sales on those. Winco is just cheaper period:

Chicken-whole

Chicken-boneless, skinless

Beef

Milk

Cheese

Butter

Cereal

Keep track of prices for about a month: Stores tend to cycle through their sales about once a month. So for one month just jot down on those items what prices you see for the month. Be sure and use the price / unit not the total cost. For example for cheese do the cost / lb. so you can figure out if those smaller blocks really are a good deal. Use your store ads that come to your home or your favorite store that you shop at.

An example would be:

Cheese (price/lb): $3.82, $2.49, $2.84, $3.22, $2.32, $2.84

Determine what a good “sale price” is for each item. Beside each item decide on what a good sale price is for each item. If your store was running a big promotion during your tracking and is not likely to run it again you won’t want to use that price but most store prices get cycled through at least monthly. Each persons list will vary by region and store. What a good deal is for me may be a terrible deal for you or vise versa. The important thing is being able to pull that list out of your pocket so you know if you are looking at a good or bad deal. My list is below Please remember though this is for my region based on the stores I choose to frequent yours could look quite different!

Chicken-whole: (just started tracking this don’t have reliable numbers yet 🙂

Chicken-boneless, skinless: $1.99/lb buy it —- less then $1.99/lb stock up

Beef (we always buy the cheap stuff):  $1.99/lb buy it —– less then $1.99/lb stock up)

Milk: $2/gallon buy it — less then $2/gallon stock up

Cheese: $2.49/lb buy it —- less then $2.49/lb stock up

Butter:  $1.66/lb buy it  —– less then $1.66/lb stock up

Cereal:    .75/box buy it      —     less then .75/box stock up.

Only buy your item if it is at the sales price (or really close): Like I said each item should go on sale at least once a month (milk usually every other week) so you can just stock up when the item goes on sale. All the items I listed can be stored up to a month (milk can be frozen as can cheese and butter and meat), Cereal lasts so long we just organize it by exp. date. If I see a sale where I can get something for cheaper then my normal “good deal” I “stock up” or buy as many as my budget allows because it saves money in the long run.

Store marketing departments are using your “club cards” and even sensors on carts (in some stores) to determine your buying patterns and discover the best way to get you to spend more money in their store. By simply knowing a good deal when you see one you can save yourself hundreds in your grocery budget without ever clipping a coupon or even going to lots of stores to get your deal.

Your turn, let me know what you do to keep from overpaying for your groceries

Money Saving Monday: Go to Museums for free!

Money Saving Monday-Fun Free Family Outings

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

Just because you are living frugally does not mean you have to give up fun outings or dates with your spouse or kids. Often times locations offer cheap or free admission on certain days. Check the museums in your local area by calling the information or checking online to see which days you can get in for a special price and plan your excursions or dates around these freebies.

For the greater Seattle area here are some of my favorite outings:

The Tacoma Art Museum offers free admission the 3rd Thursday of every month

The Tacoma Museum of Glass offers free admission on the 3rd Thursday of every month

The Museum of flight is free from 5-9p on the 1st Thursday of each month.

Shoreline History Museum offers hands on days the 4th Saturday of each month where kids 4-12 can create free projects.

The Museum of history and industry in Seattle offers free admission the 1st Thursday of each month

The Burke Museum of natural history in Seattle offers free admission the 1st Thursday of each month

The Washington State History Museum offers free admission on Thursday evenings

Pierce County Library allows you to check out a art or play pass good for admission to four to the Tacoma Childrens museum or the Tacoma art museum.

If you have toddlers:

The Tacoma Childrens Museum offers free admission the first Friday of every month

Kidquest in Bellevue offers free admission on Fridays from 5-8pm

Call to set up a fire station or police station tour. Free and oh so fun with coloring books and of course up close views of awesome trucks and cars

And of course if you have somewhere that you just love look into buying, or asking for a Christmas or birthday gift a season pass. We’ve loved our Christmas passes of season passes to the zoo and children’s museum!

Your turn, what ideas do you have?

Money Saving Monday: Eat out for less

Money Saving Monday-Meal planning saves you money

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

Get dessert at home: Getting dessert at a restaurant can be fun but consider swinging by the grocery store on your way home instead. You can get a whole half  gallon of ice cream for what a small bowl will cost you eating out and then you’ll be able to enjoy it for the next few nights 🙂

Have the kids eat for free: When trying to decide where to eat out if you have a family visit this site first. They have a listing of restaurants where your kids can eat for free. That saves sometimes as much as $10 for our family on the bill!

Skip the appetizers: Appetizers are fun but usually end up costing more then just dinner. Don’t show up overly hungry and skip the appetizers 🙂

Share a meal: Getting your own meal is fun but at some restaurants they are so over portioned that you can be quite satisfied just sharing. This will cut your bill in half (provided you both like the same food). We do this for kids meals for our girls quite often. One kids meal split in half (they will often bring it to us on two plates) and then we load their plates with  goodies from our portions to fill out the rest.

Use restaurants.com: This program offers you huge discounts on your meals. Here is how it works you have to spend a certain amount (see each restaurant for details) but then they offer huge discounts (up to 75% off) once you’ve hit the minimum purchase amount. This deal is even sweeter because you can print of the certificates right from your computer so you can print them out the night you decide to eat out! Here’s an example at a restaurant in our are if you order at least $35 you can “buy” a $25 off coupon for $10. That means you just reduced your bill by $15. Click here for more details.

Use your entertainment book: See what deals there are and use them. The coupons can save you lots of Monday if you are going out to eat anyway. Click here to find out how to get a book for just over $2

What money saving ideas do you have for eating out?

Money Saving Monday- MEAL PLANNING 101

Money Saving Monday-Meal planning saves you money

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

Now don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to plan out your meals for a whole year, month or even week. But coming up with some type of meal plan will save you lots of money I promise. I started meal planning several months after we were married, and even though we were not eating out meal planning just 3 days in advance saved us an average of $20/ month in grocery’s. That is $240 a year!

I have found that the farther out I meal plan the more money I save. It also relieves alot of stress to not always be thinking, what’s for dinner?

Here are my top 5 reasons for meal planning

1-cutting down shopping trips saves gas, time and money (less likely to make last minute purchases

2-relieves day to day stress

3- less likely to go out or get take out if you know what’s for dinner at home

4- you eat healthier when you can plan in advance

5-can save up to $80 + dollars a month!

Here are some great tips for meal planning:

1- Start keeping your favorite recipes on your computer.

You can keep them just in a WORD document, or you can download recipe software (I have been very pleased with this free software). The advantage to having your recipes on your computer is you can easily print out a shopping list. With Recipe Center 5.0 (the free software I use) I can load as many recipes as I want and it will print me out a shopping list. This makes shopping very easy and I don’t have to sit down and think, what should we have? I just pull from our favorite recipes, and then try a few new ones. If I like a new recipe I add it to our database. You can do the same thing with a WORD document, just cut and paste the ingredients from your favorite recipes for an instant shopping list. I have found it to be very helpful.

2. Be flexible

Meal planning is great because it means you have on hand what you need to create a certain number of recipes, but if you don’t feel like Spagetti on Monday, no problem, take something else from further down the week and eat that instead. It gives you more freedom, not less.

3. Start Small

If you have never meal planned before start small. Try planning just one week at a time. You want to be successful! If that is going well and you feel like a challenge try planning two weeks at a time (I have found on average for every week I plan in advance I save about $20…plus added time…this means if I plan 2 weeks in advance I save on average $40/month on groceries, 3 week $60 and I save almost $80/ month if I plan the whole month in advance)

4. Get organized

On your calender don’t just write what you are eating that day, write any prep that needs to be done the day before (for example defrost this meet, or pre-soak beans, or if you know it will be a busy day, pre-cook ground beef) then you can antipate the time you will need to complete the recipe

If you want to try monthly meal planning…

Create a calender in a word document (email me if you want my copy, or leave a comment below)

On the calender for each day write down what you are having and what you need to do for the next day. Be sure and have a few “leftover days” to challenge your creativity! If you cannot fill in the whole calender because you run out of ideas don’t worry, start small and as you think of things add them in. I find it helpful to fill it out throughout the month. If we eat something I really like I add it to next months calender, or if I hear of a good recipe I want to try etc..

Create a shopping list

I find it helpful to create a list of non-perishable items that I need, and then seperate lists for each week for produce (things that won’t save). This allows me to do one big grocery run at the beginning of the month to our cheapest grocery store (WINCO) for bulk and perishable items I don’t have stockpiled or on hand. Then each weak I run to the local produce store which has amazing deals to get my fresh produce and perishables. I find it helpful to do it this way because I can literally on the whim re-arrange the entire month if I need to because I basically have everything on hand all month to cook 30 meals.

Inventory your kitchen / pantries

Before your run to the store go through and make sure you don’t already have the items. If you do, just cross them off the list (good stockpiling!)

Below you can see a very small version of my meal plan for february (click to see it larger) , if you need to see a bigger version just email me. Happy planning and please share your tips below!

If you can freeze some meals

Making double of a meal takes only about 10 minutes longer (on average) and then you have an “instant meal” for later on, if you have the freezer space!

february-meal-planning

Money Saving Monday-staying on budget

Money Saving Monday: Staying on Budget

Be sure and check back every Monday for money saving tips for your family

This Monday’s money saving tip is to help you stick with your new years budget.

If you have struggled with creating budgets, and then forgetting or overspending try the “cash only system”. This is where you take out in cash the money you have set aside for each category (dining, grocery, gas etc…). You normally exclude monthly bills that you pay online. Then when the cash is gone you stop spending. Simple and intuitive but can do wonders for reigning in budgets that don’t want to be met. I find it helpful with grocery money especially as it is the hardest to keep track of.

If you spend more in one category then you had budgeted you are more then welcome to dip into another categories envelope to meet expenses (be careful though) but when the money is gone you stop spending. Leave your credit/debit cards at home for the month if you feel you might be tempted 🙂 A great deal ceases to be a great deal if you go over budget for it always.

Some people find it helpful to do this for a few months and then go back to debit/credit cards others do it all the time. Either way it helps us do what we all ought to be doing anyway, spending what we have and not spending what we want.

There is also something about counting out the money to a cashier that makes me think twice about a purchase, thank God for the blessings he’s given us and model to my children you spend only what you have.

Your turn to chime in. What are ways or things you do to help you and your family not go over budget (especially if there are multiple people “spending” in one category)?