Wednesday, April 18

[not so] extreme couponers

Happy tax day, y'all!  Did that sound sarcastic when you read it in your head?  It should.  We filed our taxes a few weeks ago, and to my surprise, the refund really shrinks when you go from living the single life to filing jointly.  We've started to stress a little about paying the bills during the summer months when I do not receive a paycheck (teacher's salaries here are split among the months we work rather than spread over 12 months the way they are in some other localities).

I really like our credit union, for several reasons.  First of all, there's a branch within walking distance if I ever have an ATM emergency.  Secondly, my husband set up text alerts so that our balance is sent to our cell phones via text each Friday, and I love the convenience there!  Finally, when we log in to our online account, there's a PIE CHART, and being a former third grade teacher, I love charts and graphs.


The pie chart shows what categories we're spending our money in.  For us, the biggest "chunk" besides rent is groceries, and I think we can save money if we get a little less lazy when it comes to grocery shopping.  It's going to be a challenge, trying to eat as healthy and "real" as possible and still save, but we love a challenge.  I spent some time this week researching ways to save money on groceries.

Weekly ritual, upgraded!

Experts recommend using weekly ads to plan meals for the week.  We've been meal-planning for a while now, but usually it was based on, "what are we in the mood for?" not "what's most affordable?"  We don't have a newspaper subscription, but most of the stores in our area have online weekly ads- Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Food Lion- so we can go online to see which of the items we normally eat are on sale each week.  I know a lot of people refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, and believe me, I'd love to be able to shop only at union-friendly stores, but budget is our priority right now rather than making a political statement.

Look at all that vertical space!

Stocking up is another tip I see over and over online.  My husband is being really proactive about this one- I've complained a few times about not having a pantry; so he moved his bass guitar, sound equipment, and all of our Christmas decorations to some "storage space" at his parents' house and installed a shelving unit in the space under our staircase.

My husband always reminds me to check the unit price when I'm trying to decide whether to get a larger or smaller container at the store.  The unit price is the price per ounce and is usually located on the price tag on the shelf below a product; sometimes it's cheaper to buy the larger container, and sometimes multiple small containers are more cost-effective.

Another trick I need to start implementing is cooking multiple servings of "slow foods" on the weekends when I have the time.  I have a Crock Pot and I need to use it!  This blew my mind:  A bag of dried beans that sells for $.89 yields 7 cups of cooked beans at $.13 per cup; a can of beans that sells for $.99 yields 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked beans at $.66 per cup- what looks like a 10 cent difference for the convenience of having beans more quickly is deceiving because the cooked canned beans are five times more expensive than the cooked dried beans (source). Having several meals already in the fridge will also help me resist the urge to call take-out when I've had a terrible teaching day and want comfort food (for me, Chinese- I blame college).

I need to start bringing a calculator to the store because sometimes I get tricked by basic math!  I am wondering whether we should join Sam's Club to be able to buy things in bulk now that our shelving unit is installed - do any of you belong to warehouse clubs, and is it worth the membership fee?

I'm thinking we should subscribe to or start picking up the Sunday paper - according to an article on, 75% of grocery coupons come from the newspaper.  We are going to buy the Sunday paper this week and test whether we save enough money to "pay for" the paper.  Printable online coupons are also an option, and I am loving that Kroger lets us load coupons right onto our plus card!  We're also going to use a tip I saw on Kiplinger's website - to hold onto one week's grocery receipt and highlight the most expensive items, then find lower-cost alternatives to purchase in the future.

I love you, vegetables.

Experts also recommend buying in-season produce to save money.  Many sustainable living and cooking websites offer lists of recipes based on seasonal produce- Rachael Ray is one of my favorite magazines and websites and she always features a "seasonal superfood."  I have been a little obsessed with buying organic foods since researching e. coli levels in organic vs. conventional produce in high school, but experts recommend buying organic only for produce that is most susceptible to pesticide residue, antibiotics and hormones- the Dirty Dozen list is a good starting place for fruits and vegetables; I saved the most recent version to my phone so I can refer to it while shopping.  Buying frozen produce is also a way to save money, although I just can't stand frozen broccoli- why is it all stems?!

Are there any money-saving methods I've left out?  Have you done anything to save money on groceries?

Sources:, Kiplinger's, BlogHer Family Finance

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