UNDERwhelmed in Food Storage Part 2 of 8

Yes, You Can Afford It

Photo c/o chathamjournal.com

Photo c/o chathamjournal.com

Let’s face it.  Watching your bags of groceries get smaller and smaller while the price goes up and up will overwhelm anyone--especially if you have food storage on the brain plus providing food for your family.  I don’t care how wealthy you are, paying more money for less groceries is upsetting, right?  Two nights ago I taught a class specifically to aid individuals in obtaining MORE groceries and other items for less.  To emphasize the message I created several dishes for the group of 40 people with serving sizes plenty for each person to try several tastes of each dish.  I made a dessert and two main dishes all for a total of $4.92.  I often tell people that

it only costs $1 per person per day for a year’s supply of food.  But with the benefit of couponing, I find that price to be quite generous.  Why?  Because I am able to obtain so many items for FREE or even better, for less than free.

Here’s an example of how I get something for “less than free.”  Albertson’s recently had a sale on General Mills cereals.  My husband enjoys Cheerios and I consider them relatively healthy.  I had a coupon for $1 off of a box of Cheerios.  They were on sale for $1.99 a box.  However, Albertson’s also distributed one of their own coupons which allows me to double the value of any coupon presented, up to a $1, on any product purchased.  I had my $1 off, Albertson’s doubled it, which made my box of Cheerios cost me negative 1 cent.  ($1.99 - $1 - $1 = $ -.01)  This kind of scenario happens in the stores I shop over and over.  To be honest, I never shopped at Albertson’s or Walgreens or Rite-Aid before because those stores were “too expensive.”  Now I can’t afford to shop at the warehouse stores!  Who needs to rob a bank anymore?  Taking groceries from a store is much more lucrative, legal, and fun.  And I have not yet been shot at trying to do so. :)

These kinds of discounts aren’t isolated solely to groceries.  I’ve purchased pain relievers, cough medicines, deodorants, toothpastes, feminine needs, razors, paper goods, bandages, and even rat poison at a deep discount.  In fact, I’m no longer impressed with “50% off” sales.  I tend to focus on “free,” “almost free” or “hey, we’ll essentially pay you to take this product out of the store for us.” :)

So here’s a question for you.  How many times would YOU want to get that kind of a deal?  If you could consistently get these kinds of deals on first-aid, medical supplies and groceries do you think you could easily accumulate your necessary food storage and some emergency preparedness supplies?  Of course you could!  The numbers of times you can get such a deal is limited only by your willingness to be aware of what’s going on around you in the form of sales, coupons, specials AND the number of newspapers and online coupons you’re willing to obtain.  I personally subscribe to five Sunday newspapers and regularly check 6 easy coupon websites.  More importantly for you to consider, I look at this as a part-time job.  I make my own hours, determine how much I make per hour (which turns out to be about $50-$100 an hour), work from the comfort of my own home.  Try getting a part-time job under those terms any other way today.

coupon-binderThe biggest question I’m asked when teaching people about couponing is how much time it takes.  Usually this question is asked in an overwhelmed tone by the person, already anticipating that it will be yet one more thing on their massive list of things to do.  I usually spend about 2 hours on a Sunday night hunting and gathering my coupons.  I use a guillotine-style paper cutter to cut them so I can usually cut out 5 to 10 at a time.  Sometimes I have to cut the coupons down a bit more, but I use spring-loaded scissors for the task as not to wear out my hands.  (Of course, I purchased the scissors and the paper cutter on sale.)  Then I organize my coupons in a heavy, zippered, three-ring binder, divided into all of the categories of interest to me.  Then I insert the coupons into heavy duty baseball card holders.  I’ve researched a LOT of other methods for organizing coupons and I assure you that I’ve found this to be THE best way by far. (Please take my word on this matter. You can go off and try to be a pioneer, but you know that they always come back with arrows in their back.) :-) I never have trouble finding or seeing the coupons.  They never fall out as the result of an errant slip, and as a result of my organization, I’m not a nuisance to someone who’s in line behind me.

savvy-shopper-avatarIn addition to my own efforts, I’ve found a great ally who does all of the “watching” and accounting of the coupons for me—Amy at www.savvyshopperdeals.com.  Twice a week, Amy tells gives me a gauge as to what’s a good sale, a great sale, or a kick butt sale on her website.  I can go on her site, tell this amazing software what I’m looking for, what percentage I want to save, what store I want to shop, etc., and create my grocery list right there.  What I end up with is the perfect grocery list that tells me what stores the items are located, what coupons I need to have on hand (plus where they can be located, whether it be a website or a newspaper ad) and she even tells me what AISLE the products are in.  Best of all, this service is completely free.  This way I don’t have to waste time hunting through all of the ads.  I simply spend a little bit of time on her site after I’ve got my coupons organized, and I’m off to stealing…er, I mean buying groceries.  (Note: Right now Amy is local for Utah stores, however, she’s in the process of going NATIONAL very soon.  I’m excited for the rest of you.  Know though that there are similar services and forums online in your area as well.)

Couponing has several benefits.  Not only can you feed your family every day for cheap, but because you ARE feeding your family every day so affordably, it makes you think twice about going out to eat.  With easy recipes you don’t have to feel the need to “escape” to a restaurant for a break.  On those rare occasions when I do go out to eat now it’s only for something that I probably don’t know how to make like those dang biscuits at Texas Roadhouse.  I almost always have a coupon when I go out to eat now.  Even then I’m looking at my food and telling myself, “Do you know how much in groceries I can get for the price of these two meals?!”  Yes, I’m officially “coupon corrupted.”  But seriously.  Couponing really does change your perspective on money.  After you’ve had the experience of ringing up over $100 of groceries only to pay $4.92 for them, you sure think differently about paying for those “extra upgrades” in life.  When I see a quarter on the ground now, yeah, I’ll pick it up—‘cause that could pay for a couple meals if I use it right!

There’s the stigma that couponing isn’t worthwhile and that it only saves you money on junk.  Part of the reason why I made great food for my class the other night was to dispel this stigma.  Here’s two great recipes that I used last night to show them just how yummy “cheap” can be.  (By the way, due to couponing, I got over $30 in free pork for this recipe the other day!)

Easy BBQ Pork (My total cost: $3.49. Serves 10-12)

In a saucepan over medium heat mix 2 jars of chili sauce and 1 regular sized jar of grape jelly.  Warm through.

In a casserole dish, Dutch oven, or the sauce pan, place your cooked pork. (Canned, Hormel, Spam, etc.)  Drizzle the chili/jelly mixture over the meat and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the meat is warmed through.  This tastes better if you are able to have sliced pork simmering in the mixture instead of whole large pork roast, etc. Y ou simply can’t get enough of the bbq sauce flavor.

Serve over cooked rice.

tuna-roll-coupon-cooking-Tuna Roll (My total cost: $1.11. Serves 8 – 10)

2 cans of tuna, drained
½ C Miracle Whip
½ C of Italian shredded cheese mix
½ package of cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 can cream of celery
½ T. granulated onion
1 T. Italian seasoning
2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls or crescent rounds

***

1 can cream of mushroom
1 C of parmesan cheese or 4 cheese Italian cheese mix
1/4 C of milk
Sprinkle of parsley
1 stick of butter
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed

Mix the tuna, mayo, cream cheese, cheese mix and celery soup together in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Roll out the crescent rolls until they are in a flat rectangle.

tuna-roll-first

Spoon the tuna mixture over the bread dough.

tuna-roll-two

Carefully roll the dough like a “jelly roll”.  Place in a “Pam sprayed” casserole dish.  Bake at 350 for 12- 15 minutes.

tuna-roll-finished

In another bowl mix together the cream of mushroom soup, the cheese, and ¼ C of milk.  Stir consistently until nicely thickened.  Then spread over the cooked tuna rolls.

Mix together the crumbled Ritz crackers and the melted butter. Top the dish evenly, then sprinkle a little parsley on top.  Return to the oven for about 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

I have so much more that I’d love to share with you on this topic, but that’s simply not practical on a blog.  So I’ll keep chipping away at different components on couponing and hope that in the meantime you’ll think twice about embracing this way of affordably gathering in your supplies.

I’ve known folks who have been on food stamps who have been able to stand on their own two feet thanks to couponing.  I also personally know of a family of 7 that spends only $100 a month on groceries and HALF of that is for food storage.  Given that the value of our currency is in question and inflation keeps rearing its ugly head, I can’t think of a better way to fight back than to take advantage of couponing.

UNDERwhelmed in Food Storage Series

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Comments

Hi, I love your blog. I've gotten a lot of great tips. However, I am going to say, couponing really doesn't work for everyone. I get 3 subscriptions to the Sunday paper. I plan my meals based on what's on sale. I clip Internet coupons. I look at the websites that match up local deals with coupons. I even found a system that doesn't take a great deal of time. I price match at Walmart, etc., etc., etc. That being said, I haven't even recouped the $15 per month I am charged for my papers. Most weeks there is one, maybe two coupons I would actually use. Most of the foods that have coupons are not products I want or need. I mostly spend money on fresh produce, which is where watching sales and price matching come in handy, but rarely do coupons (I did get a free pineapple a few weeks ago though). In any case, it really depends on the kinds of products you buy whether couponing is worthwhile. I have tried to do it multiple times and have never felt like it's been worth it. Just some food for thought.

Shannon, I now better understand the picture you present when you say coupons may not work. However, if all you did was use coupons for medical supplies as I had listed previously, you would be significantly better off than most that I consult with. For example, I purchased two boxes of Children's Chewable Bayer tonight--total cost including tax= 27 cents. Last week I got the super sized gauze, total cost with tax, 87 cents. As I share in my article, couponing isn't just about the food. You are correct. If you won't eat it, it's useless for the most part...except for trade. However, medical supplies and household cleaners/goods etc are still a significant part of my weekly couponing experience. And given that these items are typically expensive, it makes a huge difference that I can get them for cheap.

For example, in an emergency, you will want to conserve water. So when I get a coupon on paper cups, plates, bowls, etc, I maximize them for all they are worth. That way I don't have to rely on washing dishes.

But this is my point, EVERYONE can benefit from couponing. It may not be for groceries due to dietary standards or health issues, but it is great for stocking up for an emergency on other supplies.

Bottling your goods is yet another way to keep in charge of your grocery budget. It's awesome that you do that!
I can the majority of my meat now. Tonight I got $15 in steak--free. You can guess what I'll be doing tomorrow. :-)

Hey Kris, Just so you know, I've got Rice-A-Roni and some other like items that I sealed in the Food Saver bags and I just had some this past week that were 3 years old. They were still dandy!
As usual, you and I just have to get together. I'd love to help with some of your "frustrations." :-)

Bruce, You are right. I noticed the error with that recipe only tonight. I did about 6 pounds of pork, but I still had plenty of sauce. That BBQ sauce will go a long ways.

Sabrina,
I'm sorry that you have not reaped the rewards of couponing as of yet. I must say that in spite of your personal experience, having consulted with many people in all of the different regions of the U.S. I'm confident that it does indeed work, and work magnificently. I would hate to have your not so great experience be an excuse for others to not even try it.
You say that there is one or two coupons you would actually use. Are you saying that you don't eat any cereals, pain relievers, detergents, toilet paper, condiments, baking supplies, lunch meat, etc? I have all of these items on my grocery list this week and am getting a "wow" of a deal on each one of them. Are you aware also that every grocery store typically has 1,000 items on sale/clearance every week that they don't even advertise--on average. I love playing the Grown Up version of the Easter Egg Hunt and spy a little bit to see what they have on clearance that I do have a coupon for and can get for really cheap or free. There are typically literally thousands of dollars worth of savings a year just in newpaper coupons. Even if you were to only use 10% of them, you would benefit financially.

There are 3 rules I follow to couponing. 1) Never keep a coupon for something that you don't already use and 3) Never keep a coupon for something that you wouldn't use if it were free or cheap. 3) I can't afford to be brand loyal. For example, in an emergency, I'll be happy to have toothpaste or toilet paper. I don't care what brand it is if I'm getting it for free. It's either going to wipe my fanny or clean my chops. I don't have to care which manufacturer I'm supporting in that case. Although this article is primarily about leveraging coupons for your food storage, something that fresh produce is not typically a part of, I will say that I save no less than $2 a week on my fresh produce.

Ultimately I refuse to believe that anyone can't do this. I've proven it even to many skeptical husbands. :-) So if you want to e-mail me directly at kellene at preparednesspro dot com, I can assess where you are and help align you with some ideal options.
Thanks for your comment. I'm sure you're not the only one who may read about couponing and then roll their eyes believing that it doesn't work.

Kellene,

I too love your blog, but I think I also have to chime in on the side of "couponing doesn't actually work for everyone". It really does depend on what you are buying.

My household is a perfect example. Due to health concerns, we eat very little in the way of comercially processed foods, way too much sugar and sodium. And aside from the occasional coupon for toilet paper or meds, they are pretty much useless for us.

The tuna roll recipe that you posted would never work for us. Two cans of condensed soup, cresent rolls, Ritz crackers, Miracle Whip and two kinds of cheese add up to so much salt, fat, and questionable chemicals that we wouldn't be able to eat a bite of it. So it would be a waste of good resources (but I bet it tastes great:)

That's not to say that we have a huge grocery bill. I normally spend $200 a month on food. I buy in bulk from our local butcher and utilize my freezer (make friends with a butcher! None of this wal-mart/supermarket stuff!), I bottle and dry my own fruits and veggies when I catch them on sale, and the clearance isles are my best friend.

I'm not arguing that coupons don't work, they just don't work for everyone. Food that you can not or will not eat is never a bargain, even if it is free. And when it comes to food storage, you have to store what you can and will eat.

Keep up the good work and the good info!

I understand about not using coupons. We have a son on the Feingold diet - no artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners, no MSG. That eliminates most prepackaged food!

But I still coupon. I do get coupons for pasta, rice, spaghetti sauce, and more, and I love working CVS for free stuff (shampoo, razors, toothpaste).

I started a series on my blog about how I organize my coupons, price book, and menu planning all in one system. The series is not complete, but the posts can be found here:
http://www.milehimama.com/2009/06/09/how-to-save-money-on-food-the-magic...

I simply don't cut coupons for Rice A Roni or Campbell's soup - but I still coupon quite avidly!

Be aware that many stores are changing their couponing policy, lately, though.
http://www.milehimama.com/2009/05/30/recession-hits-the-grocery-stores/

I'm going to try your Easy BBQ Pork recipe using our pre-cooked, canned pork ... though you didn't reveal how much pork to use in the recipe.

While our canned meats cost more than Spam, they might be of interest to your well-heeled readers....

Hey MHM,
I'm glad that you've embraced couponing as far as you could take it. I recommend that you try the binder method. It's a lot less "risky" for the reasons I posted in the article.
Also, given that I have 15 years of professional marketing experience, I can tell you unequivocably that stores can't afford to drastically change their coupon policies in this economy. I am aware of some stores increasing sales on "off days" by as much as 36%. That's too much for them to ignore in this economy.

Kellene,

This is a tad off-topic, but might be of use to you or your readers.

It's about your comment on conserving water.

A *lot* of people buy bottled water because they think it's better than tap water. And they're spending $2.00+ per gallon. There's a better alternative.

The AquaRain Water Filter gets rid of more contaminants than bottled water, and your filtered water costs about .03 CENTS per gallon over the life of the (replaceable) filters.

You should look at
http://www.internet-grocer.net/aqua.htm

I coupon seriously and save over 50% on most trips to the store. Many times my % is much higher. I buy 6 papers each week. I agree one key to saving is not to be brand loyal.

I also have reduced my purchases of packaged foods. When I first started couponing I went crazy with free / almost free and got a ton of stuff we shouldn't have been eating. One time I stocked up on a ton of rice/roni and brought weevils into my pantry. Boxed food is much harder to store in a sealed environment. I also reduced purchasing foods high in hydro-oil, even if it is free... like pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

Even without processed foods, I am able to get our household cleaning items, paper goods, medications, cosmetics, spices, sugar, condiments, canned products and other food items at a huge discount.

I do not use the binder method, but what I call the "insert method." I've tried both methods. You can save more money with the binder method, but I determined the extra time it took was not worth the extra savings for our household.

The upside to the insert method is that you only clip the coupons you use when you need them, which is about once a week. I subscribe to a service that matches coupons with the sale item in my area and this service tells me which insert each coupon can be found. I also use this to determine which store I'll shop that week.

I file my inserts by date. I keep a few months and toss a set each week. Benefit is I don't have to clean out expired coupons from my binder, and I don't have to clip & file.

The downside is that I rely on others to tell me the good deals and where to find the coupons. I can't take my binder into CVS and match up coupons with clearance items. If a friend needs a coupon, I can't pull it out without research.

My trick is to use coupons at stores offering double coupon deals, sometimes they will even triple coupon amounts for a limited time. Then, if I use that doubled coupon on something already on sale, it's like hitting a grand slam!

Coupons generally are for processed foods, and if those aren't a part of your family's diet for whatever reason, I can see why serious couponing wouldn't be as rewarding. You might consider going to websites of products you do use and getting coupons that way.

Lisa

Just so you know, I got $4 in free produce last night, $15 in free steak, and two boxes of Children's Bayer Chewable Aspirin for 27 cents last night. (And yes, that was from double coupon usage.)

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