Monday, March 17, 2008

How I feed my family of 8 on $300 a month - Part 4

You've put some thought into the value of budgeting and planning a menu, now what? It doesn't really help when you have a menu planned, but it's not affordable. The best savings come by not only planning a menu, but planning one around the sales, and also using any coupons you have to make the sales even better.

[Side note: You can find coupons in your Sunday paper, in the stores, online, or you can buy the really great ones off of ebay. I have some links in my sidebar that will show you lots of different coupons and deals for you to use.]

Every week, either in your Wednesday newspaper or in your mailbox, there are flyers that come out for the grocery stores. I suggest that you look at them. Either on the front or the back page of the ad are that store's really great deals. These great deals are what's called loss leaders, and they are used to draw you in to their store.

Most people will drive to that grocery store for the really great deal, but do not want to drive to more than one store to shop. So, while picking up that great deal, they will buy a few extra things. That's what the store is hoping for anyway.

Your goal is to go and get the loss leaders, if you need them, without buying any extra items. If you've planned your menu and then made a grocery list from that menu, then you shouldn't have to get anything else while there becasue you've already prepared.

If you'd like to make your family steak for one meal, you can do it, but you don't want to pay full price. Wait until the meat goes on sale, or is a manager's special. A manager's special is just meat that is reduced for a fast sale. Most stores mark down meats at certain times. Just ask someone in the meat department when that time is. When you do pick up a reduced meat, just get it in your freezer as soon as you get home and it'll still be good to eat for quite some time.

So, you've looked at the ads and see a great special for something you routinely buy, now what? Let's look at an example of what I am doing this week. In one of my local ads, they have boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $4.97 for 3 pounds. That equals about $1.66 lb. That is a good price here already, but I have a coupon for $.55 off that I will use on top of the sale. That will bring the price down to $1.43 lb. Remember how I told you to save a little out of your budget for sales? Well, I have a little put aside that I will go buy the chicken breasts with.

At another local store of mine they have Fresh Express salads 10/$10. I have $1.00 off coupons that make the salad free, so I will pick up a few on the last day of the sale so that I can use them in our next weeks menu.

So, now I have gotten a bag of chicken breasts and a few bags of salad for under $5.00. On next week's menu I plan to get at least 2 meals out of that bag of chicken and salad mix.

One of our weekend lunches will probably be chicken salad with some kind of fresh bread served on the side. For dinner, I will probably make what we call zesty chicken, using the rest of the chicken breasts, with a side salad and a fresh bread. This recipe also calls for italian, diced tomatoes which I already have on hand because I stocked up when I had a great coupon for them.

Just know that you don't have to buy every loss leader, every week, if you don't need it. The stores always run specials in cycles. Usually every 6-8 weeks. I could have gone crazy and bought up a ton of chicken breasts and salad mixes, but I know that one of the other stores will run a good special on these things soon. One, due to the usual 6-8 week cycle of specials, and two, due to competition. Since i'll still have more salad coupons, next time they're on sale i'll get them free again.

See how it works? I looked for the loss leaders the stores have, used coupons from my stash to make the deals even better, and then planned meals from what I got on sale. You can still get good deals without coupons, but they do help maximize your savings so use them when you have them. I could go on for quite some time on this topic, but I have no desire to write a book.

I know this can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, but it does get easier once you do it yourself rather than just reading it on paper. It's really a fun and challenging game to play.

Next week: Stocking up your pantry with the all those great deals you find


Kate said...

Teresa, I am finding your $300/month series SO encouraging. Please keep up the great work.

I wanted to let you know that you have changed my mind about couponing. I've always had the attitude that since most of the stuff we buy is on the perimeter of the store I could not find many coupons. Plus, I almost always buy store brands, so I could never find coupons for that (except what Kroger mails occasionally). But you have opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes, if I have a coupon and an item is on sale, esp. if it is a loss leader, the name brand could actually be quite a bit less than the store brand. Thank you! Now to start clipping and collecting coupons again. :-)

Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

This is a great series! I just found it tonight through Menu Plan Monday and read through all four parts! Thanks for sharing your plan!

Anonymous said...


I am another who really is enjoying your blog. You do a good job in laying it all out.



Teresa said...

Thanks, i'm glad y'all are enjoying it!