Posts Tagged ‘groceries’

Do Warehouse Clubs Save You Money?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

warehouse-clubsDo warehouse clubs save you money? The answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Thankfully one of the perks of my husband’s job is that he gets a free membership to Costco, our local warehouse club. It would normally cost $40 or $50 a year, so unless you save more money than that, you are probably better off without a membership. Often items cost more at a warehouse club than at your local supermarket, and who wants to store a huge amount of something that just ends up rotting? Things that need to be refrigerated are especially horrible to store, because large containers jam all your space in your refrigerator door, making you wish you hadn’t bought such large containers.

I remember, though, back when many of my children were in diapers. There was a specific diaper that didn’t ever leak for my boys, so I wanted that name brand. A large box of those diapers were $10 less at Costco than at any other store at the time. This may no longer be the case, but other name brand items like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese used to be only 50 cents at Costco but a whole dollar at the grocery stores. So you basically need to know your prices if you actually expect to save money.

warehouse-clubs-2Gasoline is substantially lower if you are a member of Costco, and this alone could save you enough money to make the membership worthwhile. But do you actually buy your gasoline at Costco, or do you buy it at a gas station whenever you are running out? In other words, you might be saving money in your imagination because you only bought gas at Costco 4 or 5 times last year instead of every time. Don’t multiply your savings in your head unless you are actually buying it at Costco.

Some people say not to go on the weekends because there are samples, and you end up buying more. Other people are freeloaders that say you should take your whole family and gorge yourself on samples for lunch, thereby avoiding having to spend any money or effort making lunch for your family.

warehouse-clubs-3Meats are nicer at Costco, I have to admit. I think the prices are about the same as grocery stores (grocery stores are definitely cheaper during sales, and you can freeze the meat), but the meat has less fat in it and tastes better when cooked, when it comes from Costco. If you have a large family or are having people over for a barbeque, buying nice meat in bulk might be just fine. I remember, though, back to when my husband and I had only babies and toddlers. We had to buy freezer bags and freeze the meat in one-meal portions. Then the meat might get freezer burn, and you might as well have just bought it on sale at a grocery store for a cheaper price.

Kirkland Signature is the generic brand for Costco, and it’s actually really high quality, unlike grocery store generic brands, which taste like cardboard. So you could save money by buying the warehouse brand of salad dressing, grape juice, or whatever, and it will usually taste great.

warehouse-clubs-4Costco coupons are wonderful. They offer $3 off the toilet paper we love, and other great discounts on real food that you probably already are buying. They also sell tickets to amusement parks, hotels, and movies at a considerable discount, if you have the budget to have fun with your family in this way.

I got my eyes checked at Costco by an optometrist, and I bought my glasses there. It’s supposedly cheaper than other places, although the reason I did it was because I was already there. (Gasoline costs a lot, and if you are already at one location, you save money by not having to drive to another location.)

So do warehouse clubs help you save money? Maybe. If you have trouble feeding your family, or if you have any credit card debt, I would definitely cancel my membership. You can buy food at grocery stores called “loss leaders,” stocking up on the food that is on sale, and spend way less on groceries. But if you are a middle class family with no debt, and you go to Costco twice a month and buy your gas there, then it’s probably worth it.

Are Coupons Worth the Hassle?

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

I’ve heard people say thare-coupons-worth-the-hassleat by clipping coupons, you can save up to $100 a month on your grocery bill. Back when I had no money at all and couldn’t use my time to earn any income, I learned how to do coupons just to survive. And what people say is true, but it is also tedious. Right now in my life, if I can spend an hour recording a workshop instead of clipping coupons, that hour will yield me money for the rest of my life instead of a few measly dollars for just one week.

When you’re desperate to feed your kids, you’re not as irritated by having to clip coupons. Ideally, you want the item to go on sale before you use the coupon. This way you can sometimes get the item for free. Strangely, sometimes I even came out ahead, with the grocery store paying me to get the item. I know it seems weird, but the manufacturer pays some of it, so the grocery store still gets money even when you didn’t pay a penny.

are-coupons-worth-the-hassle-2Coupons expire. And if you’re not a die-hard coupon person, if you’ve already spent money on gasoline to get to the store, you might as well use all your coupons on the spot and be done with it. To wait for every single thing to be on sale would take forever, and who wants to do that? Not me.

Instead of using coupons now, I just follow the major sales in grocery stores, called loss leaders. For example, a local grocery store has a cereal sale where Cheerios and other well-known cereals sell for $1.69 a box. I buy 70 boxes. Yes, you heard me right. If you find the rock bottom price, stock up. Your grocery bill will be lower for the next few months because you are buying no cereal. You’re saving a ton of money.

Despite the fact that I don’t do heavy couponing any more, I still use coupons to my advantage with virtually no work on my part:

1. I use Costco coupons. While my husband drives to Costco, I flip through the booklet of coupons we’re sent in the mail, and I tear them out. These are coupons for toilet paper and other things we buy all the time, and it’s always several dollars off, not just 25 cents. And since I’m sitting in the car doing nothing anyway, it doesn’t take up time.

2. Resale shop coupons are fun. There are five resale shops in my neighborhood that are quite good. (I realize that Goodwill-type stores in some towns are nasty, icky, and musty, but other cities have awesome, expensive name-brand stuff for a dollar or two.) Whenever I have a coupon for a resale store, I use it. The item I’m buying, like a new-looking jacket for my son for $4, ends up costing only $2 with a 50% off coupon. If a whole stack of clothes are 50% off, you can get a fresh wardrobe for your children for the new school year for just pennies to the dollar.

3. Coupons for going to an expensive place are also worth using. Places with roller coasters, for example, often have coupons for $10 off. Sometimes it’s buy one, get one free, and if the ticket to get in is $38, you’ve just had fun for a lot less money if you wanted to go there anyway.

These three types of coupons (Costco, resale shops, and expensive places) are the only coupons I do now. So to answer the initial question, “Are coupons worth the hassle?”, when I had babies and toddlers and was in a mental fog and had no money; yes, it was. But now that I’m not in that situation, my answer is no, they’re not worth the bother.

 

Saving Money on Groceries

Friday, October 29th, 2010

saving-money-on-groceries

Saving money on groceries is something that everyone is trying to do in our economy. First off, I would stock up on “loss leaders.” Those are the promotions that the grocery store loses money on (or barely breaks even) to get you into the store to buy all your other groceries. What I did when money was really tight was this: I would spread out all the front pages of the grocery fliers (the ones you get for free that are delivered to your house). The front page of each flier had the best deals, and I would circle anything that we liked to eat. Then I would go to each store and buy only loss leaders, and maybe one or two simple things like eggs that I needed. I came home with $200 worth of groceries for less than $100. I did this regularly for years until the gas prices went up and two of my kids were lactose intolerant.

cutting-the-cost-of-groceries

Then I had to change my plan. Driving all over town cost more than what I was saving on some of the groceries. Lactaid milk cost a dollar less per half gallon at Walmart than at any other store. It saved me $30 a month. I also noticed that generic Saltines were 99 cents regularly at Walmart, and normal grocery stores charged almost $4. We ate Saltines with soup all the time at our house; maybe 4 or 5 boxes a month, besides the home-made cheese and crackers and peanut butter and crackers that I made whenever my husband wanted to go out with the family any time around meal time. If I brought a cracker snack with us (and recycled bottles of water), we could make it home without fainting and without buying fast food, which we couldn’t afford back then.

This is not an ad for Walmart. They are not the cheapest for everything (especially meat), but if you combine coupons with Walmart’s low prices and buy meat at other stores during big sales, you can pretty much buy your food for much less. I ended up going to Walmart once every two weeks, which was my normal schedule for buying food. We would have fresh fruits and vegetables the first week, then canned or frozen the second week. If you go to the store fewer times, you save money. It’s a fact. Milk now lasts at least two weeks, so there is no reason to go to the store between times. Staples like eggs and bread, you should know how much your family normally eats. It was only once or twice a year that I had to send my husband to get one thing at the store. Otherwise I already had everything.

veggies

Another way I’ve saved money is by finding hunters. The hunters’ wives usually have extra freezers full of deer meat, and they are so sick of it, they often want to throw away perfectly good meat. I’ve often gotten 50 pounds of free meat this way. It was a life saver back when we had no money whatsoever. If you can’t stand the taste of deer meat, mix it with regular meat, and it’s not so bad. And recipes like chili are so strong that it wouldn’t matter what kind of ground beef was in it.

grocery3

Make recipes with what you already have. So many months we had no money in the bank or in our wallets, and we had to make it two more weeks before paycheck. I would write down everything in the freezer, cupboard, and fridge. Then I would ration out the meat, fruit, and vegetables. I always made sure to give my children protein, milk products (for calcium), fruits, and vegetables each day. Then I filled up the rest of their belly with cheap carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, bread, or whatever. The children were always full, even though I was rationing the foods that were more expensive. Junk food was absolutely out of the question, since we barely had enough money for the core foods. I would sometimes get the coin jar, grab all the quarters, and go to the store for fruits and vegetables, because we ran out of these the fastest. My children were healthy.

I’ve never been able to grow my own food without a monetary loss. The soil and seeds cost more than the real food when it’s on sale. (This is purely from a monetary point of view. Of course, the food tastes way better from your own garden, if you can actually get the stuff to grow.) Sometimes people from church would give us excess garden produce. There was no way I wanted to waste any of it. One time we had an enormous amount of broccoli. This was back when broccoli wasn’t a favorite with my kids. I waited to serve lunch an hour late, so that the kids would be ravenously hungry. I made a heaping plate of steamed broccoli, and I put it in the center of a small table. I squeezed lemon juice on it, and I told them that the rest of their food for lunch would not come until the plate was empty. Then I distracted them as they ate by teaching them something, since I normally homeschool during lunch. They mindlessly ate it all. Now broccoli is one of their favorite vegetables. (I washed, chopped, and froze the rest of it so they wouldn’t totally get sick of it.)

In general, if you combine coupons with an item that is already on sale, you can get the food almost for free. But the number one thing I always did was to pray for the groceries I needed. God always supplied, and He is faithful.

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