Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Winning the grocery store game part 3

In case you missed them........



In part 1 I covered how to navigate the store to avoid getting caught by impulse buys, Part 2 covered how to navigate the ads to find the best deals. Part 3 is all about finding the markdowns and unadvertised/less advertised deals. In other words, know where your store hides the best deals.

1. Know your store. Some very important information to know is......

a. Where are the discount bins found?
b. When does your store mark down things like produce, dairy, and meat items?
c. How do they label the marked down items?

Nearly every store has a place that they put discounted items (scratch and dented, or close to expiring foods). Oftentimes it is found in a corner. Sometimes it is a shopping cart that they have placed with a sign. Being aware of, looking for, and finding these items can lead to huge savings.  I save quite a bit by buying foods that are near their expiration dates and freezing or otherwise storing them. Check out my thoughts on nearly expired foods. Just be aware and buy only those things that you will use.

Knowing when they mark down food can lead to the best choices.  I know that one of my favorite stores makes mark downs in the afternoon, so if I go to that store in the late afternoon I get the best choice. By evening, everything is pretty well picked over and the best of the bargains are gone.

Knowing how to spot the markdowns is useful information.  My favorite store uses a yellow tag on the shelf to show a markdown. I keep my eyes open for them. These can be great deals, but the killer deals (in this particular store) comes when the food has been marked down already and they want it gone. When this happens, they will add an additional savings with a bright yellow store coupon which I also love.  My heart jumps for joy when I find a yellow price tag on the shelf and a yellow coupon sticker too (Double whammy).

I have had several friends ask if I could come shopping with them because I have a habit of being able to sniff out those great deals from across the store. It takes a little practice, but well worth the efforts.  

2. Does your store have a rewards program/ shoppers card?  

Using your shopping card is a great way to save at the grocery store. I frequent Smiths food and Drug. They have the shoppers card/rewards program. I can save on groceries with the card, but more than that, I save up points to use to save on fuel. Another bonus is they send coupons tailored to me and my shopping habits. The send me paper coupons was well offering e-coupons which are loaded right to my card. It is nice because the coupons savings comes off automatically.

3. Sign up for e-mail or text alerts/ become a Facebook or Twitter fan.

This can be a great way to find extra savings, sometimes stores will send out an e-alert about  a special one time buy.  Remember to use the skills learned in the other lessons and not get caught up in impulse buying just because you got a special invite by text or e-mail.  With the information age there are many more ways to find a bargain. There are websites and apps that can alert you to special clearance items that may be lurking in your store, just beware that in the large chain stores, clearance items can vary from store to store, so just because someone in a neighboring city found a great deal, does not mean that you will have the same luck in your store. Keep your eyes and ears out and deals will begin to find you. 

I hope that you have found some useful information in this series, and that it has blessed your life. Come back soon for more frugal adventures here at life less hurried.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Love those leftovers

Does your family enjoy leftovers? We love leftovers because at our house we give leftovers new life. We love to make new things out of leftovers.

Here are a few excerpts from some previous posts that show how leftovers can become new.

Leftovers with purpose

Meal 1 We made a large London broil. It turned out fabulous. We ate our fill for dinner along with some side salads.

Meal 2  We used the sliced beef to make a wonderful sandwich. We sliced a loaf of French bread in half and filled it with the meat, and piled on the toppings (avocado. peppers, onion, lettuce, tomato, olives)

Meal 3 Fajitas. Grilled meat with spicy peppers and onions wrapped up in a warm tortilla, what could be better than that.

My  husband loves homemade pudding. Whenever we cook rice he wants to be sure that we have leftovers so that we can make rice pudding.  He  makes sure to remind me that we need to cook enough to make pudding. He has been known to request rice for dinner just so we can have rice pudding afterwards.

Check out our recipe:

Life less hurried rice pudding recipe

Whenever we cook ground beef we always cook a little extra to make Mexican "pizza" for lunch the next day.

These are so quick and easy. They are great for lunch or snack time.

You will need

flour tortillas
sour cream
toppings of your choice

 Heat a large skillet or griddle to a medium high heat
Spread the tortilla with a small amount of sour cream and salsa as the "Pizza sauce"
Top with cheese and whatever else you have on hand;
We have topped these with ground beef, shredded chicken, onions,  mushrooms, olives, green chilies, bell peppers, tomato just to name a few things.
Cook until cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy and brown on the bottom (about 4 minutes)
slice into "pizza wedges"  and serve.

Making three meals from a couple of steaks

Meal 1.   Steak dinner.  We had a really nice steak dinner with some friends.  I seasoned up the steaks and grilled them outside. I cooked more steak than we really needed. It made it look and feel like we had an abundance of food, and everyone was able to have their fill. I have an abundance of good things in life, and I want others to feel of that. We were able to sit out back and enjoy the nice weather at the picnic table that my husband built out of scrap wood.  It was enjoyable.

 Meal  2.  Beef Stroganoff.  From those leftover steaks I was able to create a beef stroganoff dinner.  It was a good way to use up the mushrooms and sour cream in my fridge. My kids and husband ate it up.  We made a big pot so that there was enough leftover for meal #3

Meal  3. Beef noodle soup. The leftover stroganoff noodles became the base for a nice lunch of beef noodle soup.  My kids love my soups. Soups are so easy to make with many kinds of leftovers. My son is learning to cook with me.  He likes to create soups. We talk about what would go good together.  He will ask "should we put this in?" we will look at it, smell it, sometimes taste it; then decide if the item will go in the soup.  It is a fun learning experience with him.

We create soups quite often, my children love them and they are a frugal way to feed a family.  You can take a few items and stretch them to fill hungry tummies. My biggest problem is that when I make soup I serve it hot. The kids hate waiting for soup to cool. We have started putting frozen vegetables in the kids soup to cool it down. They love it!  My kids now think that every bowl of soup should have an extra serving of vegetables added from the freezer.

This is how we do and who we are.  It is something that we have found that works for us.

I hope this sparks some new ideas for you and your family! 
Leave a comment below about what your family does and what your favorite leftover meal is.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

winning the grocery store game part 2

Feeding a family on a budget is not an easy task. In part 1 avoiding the impulse buy we covered the added expense that can happen when you get caught up in impulse shopping. Part 2 is all about shopping the sales and planning menus around sale items.

What's for dinner? The answer usually lies in what's on sale this week.

Combine the sale items with a well stocked pantry and you have the ability to feed a family well on a small amount of money.

It is hard for me to create a meal using ingredients bought at full price. The bargain hunter inside of me comes out screaming and kicking.  A big portion of feeding my family on a budget is not paying full price. These are some of the tricks I use to keep the family happily fed.     

1. Know the sale cycles and buy multiple items to last until the next sale. It is typically 2 months between good stock up sales for most items. For example, my local store gets pasta on sale with those deals that go something like this... Buy 6 save $3 with your card.  It can lead to substantial savings. This last sale the pasta ended up being 49 cents a piece. I bought 24 of them. It cost me $11.76. The everyday price for this particular pasta was $1.39, I saved 90 cents a package which made a total of $21.60 saved. With pasta on hand I can make casseroles, pasta dishes, soups, salads etc.  I also use pasta from the pantry to make our Homemade mac and cheese for a quick lunch.

If you notice, the pasta is rarely on sale at the same time as the pasta sauce. They do this on purpose. Most of the time you will pick up the pasta on sale and then buy the sauce at full price to go with it. You can outsmart them. Buy the pasta when it is on sale, and few weeks later when the sauce is on sale stock up on it. I have learned to pick up each of the individual pieces for a meal when they are on sale. Very rarely (if ever) do I pick up all the things for a complete meal in one shopping trip. This little trick alone saves me tons of money.

It takes some time to build up a pantry, but the results are worth it. You can begin by setting aside a small portion of the grocery budget every week to add to your "Stockpile fund" When the deals come along you will have some money set aside to take advantage of them.

2. Get to know your grocery ads.  Grocery stores often plaster a good deal on the front page of the ad trying to get you into the store, once they lure you in, they snag you with an impulse buy which we have already covered in part 1. So, now you know how to avoid being caught by their snares, be sure to check out those front page deals and use them to your advantage.

Let me tell you a little secret.... I have come to find out that the best deals are not always so easy to see. I have been surprised as I have looked at the ads and found gems hidden in small print in the middle pages of the grocery ads. Be sure to check out the entire ad not just those deals that are being "sold" to you on the front page in large print.  I used to just glance over the ads and often would miss those hidden gems. It is worth my time to check out the entire ad. Once I have seen the ad and gone over it, I make a list highlighting the deals. Once I have compiled a list of the good deals, I put a star by those things that I may want to stock up on if the budget allows.

3. Combining sales with coupons can lead to great savings. This is the only way to coupon. This is the way the great couponers have made their mark. Couponing can turn everyday sales into super sales.  I always check the ads, then I check to see if coupons are available for the items on my list. With coupons that you can print at home, and companies that allow you to load coupons right to your shoppers card, there is no reason to not take advantage of coupon savings. There are also coupon apps that you can use on your smart phones. You do not need to be a total coupon freak, but having a few couponing skills can really pay off for you.

A full cup is a great online resource for knowing if there is a coupon available for products that you want to buy.  You can use their advanced coupon search to see if there is a coupon available.  I also use grocery smarts as a couponing source. Many of my local stores are listed and they make it easy to find the coupons that go with the ads. Knowing what is on sale and what coupons are available to match can really save you money. The time spent is well worth it.

So, spend a little time, get out and learn some new skills. Make the advertised sales work to your advantage. With a little time and effort you will be putting money back in your pockets. 

What are your best tips for stockpiling and finding sale items?
Leave a comment below so we can all learn.   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Crab salad for a crowd

I made this salad for my sister in-law and she loved it. She said it was one of the best she has ever eaten.

Quick crab salad for a crowd

1 pound package of noodles, cooked according to package directions (I like the large shells)
1 pound imitation crab meat broken into small bite size pieces
4 large celery ribs, finely chopped
6 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 of a large red bell pepper, diced small
Optional: 1 package of frozen peas, thawed


1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 good shake of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (sounds crazy in this dish, but it gives it that little something that you can't quite put your finger on)

In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients. Chill well. Stir once again before service as the dressing tends to settle in the bottom of the bowl.

This post shared as part of  real food wednesdays

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

winning the grocery store game part 1

It seems like feeding a family is getting to be more of a challenge everyday. With soaring food prices and shrinking budgets how can you win?

This is part 1 in a series of how to win at the grocery store game, be on the lookout for more posts coming up soon.



Grocery stores do what they do very well!  They have a way of enticing you buy more stuff than you came in for. How many times have you made a run to the store for basics like bread and milk only to come out with six bags of groceries in hand?  It can be a real challenge to get in and out of the store without getting caught by impulse purchasing. After all, you usually have to go clear to the back corner of the store to buy milk, So grocery stores try to distract you with cookies and other things to go with your milk. The grocery store is designed that way to entice you to impulse buy, but I  have some tricks that can really help see the traps before being caught in them.

1. Do NOT go to the store hungry.

You may have heard this before, but I will tell you again. Do not go to the store hungry it spells disaster. It is plain and simple, the grocery stores are set up to trap hungry customers. They count on many of us being hungry when we walk into the store. When you go in hungry you are more likely to make the impulse purchases. From the time you walk in the store, they are enticing you and playing off of your hunger.  Everywhere you turn there are foods ready to be opened and eaten nearly before you get out of the store.  To the hungry, the smell coming from the bakery almost picks you up and carries you away to a dream land of soft sugary clouds. The deli smells wafting through the air entice you to buy. When you are not plagued by hunger pangs, it makes it so much easier to pass up the temptations and stick to buying only what you came for. You are less likely to toss in a package of cookies to go with the milk.

2. Know your prices

Grocery stores have a way of enticing us with sale prices that are not very much of a sale. It seems like if they have a big banner that says SALE in big letters people will buy it. The stores have a habit of lowering the price of a product by only a few cents and putting it out in a prominent place. Doing this leads people think that they are getting a real bargain. It is not always so.  I have actually seen where they have raised the price on a product and put in a prominent place with a "SALE" sign and people are piling up their carts. 

Watch out for the sales that advertise 3 for $5 or 4 for $10 or other such things.  These can be real traps. They entice us to buy more than we need. We see something on sale 3 for $5 and how many do we put into our cart? You guessed it, three. Do you really need three?  Then this poses another question, do you have to buy all three to get the deal? The answer is usually no, but check your stores. It will usually tell you right on the sale tag.

10 for $10 is really popular in my area right now.  My Father got caught in that trap. He ended up buying seven items more than he really needed in order to make up his ten items. He ended up buying things that he didn't even want and justified it by saying that the grandkids would enjoy it.  A word of caution here: Drugstores and convenience stores usually do make you buy in the quantities advertised. (The tag will usually indicate that singles are at full price)  Read the fine print.

This stuff really works!  Let me tell you a true story about my brother. He had a store he frequented. They had some candy that they kept near the register (a place that traps many) This candy sold for a dime a piece. He would often pick up a few pieces and enjoy them as he went out the door. One day he noticed they had changed the prices on the candy, it was now labeled as 8 for $1. He inquired of his friend who worked the cash register about the change and why they had raised the prices. His friend looked perplexed, " They did, they raised the price!" he exclaimed. He hadn't really noticed the price being higher, in fact he though they must have lowered the price by the way people had been acting. He had noticed that more people had been purchasing them, in fact they had been flying off the shelves. As they continued talking the cashier had noticed that people were also buying in groups of four and eight.  A lesson was learned by both of them that day. (Amazing isn't it.) 

3. Watch out for big displays  

End cap displays (the end of the isles) can be detrimental to a budget. It is those prominent places where an item that is not really on sale can take off and sell like crazy. When I find myself picking up something from these areas I have trained myself to ask the question "Do I really need this?"  I have also trained myself to go down the isle and check it out. Usually I find a better deal by going down the isle and looking, for example a larger size may only be a few cents more and a much better deal.

The truth is that the big food manufacturers pay to have their product displayed and sold to you. Product placement is big business. The products that are prominently displayed are not always the best deals, but are the one that they want you to buy. A lot of impulse buying happens here.  Another trap, Eye level placement. You are more likely to buy things that are at eye level. Placing a product at eye level is big deal that leads to many sales for the large companies. They pay big money to keep their products at eye level to tempt you. You can save a lot of money by avoiding the products at eye level. So, look up, and down, not at eye level, and watch out for those end cap displays.

These are just a few of the skills I use to avoid overpaying at the grocery store. 

What are your tricks for saving money on groceries and avoiding impulse shopping? What advice do you have for other shoppers?  Please leave a comment below.