The Budget Savvy Way to Season, Simmer, & Saute

Most of you know me as the travel guru here at Rocket City Mom, but in addition to spending money on travel the second largest expenditure for our family is food! I love to cook and enjoy eating, however, my goal is to feed my family healthy and nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

I was what some would consider an Extreme Couponer for many years, yet realized that coupons for healthy food were almost non-existent. So although I paid very little for groceries, there is truth in “you get what you pay for”. In the past few years I have altered my grocery shopping… I no longer have a pantry full of cereal, cookies, fruit roll ups, Knorr packaged side dishes, mustard, or a multitude of other “free with my coupon” items.

Like Jennifer, I have stopped the extreme couponing craze. It required more hours than I could spend, doesn’t allow for healthier options (there are rarely coupons for milk, fruit and veggies) and left me with a pantry of junk that I couldn’t even make a meal out of. I’m shopping the outside aisles again. Shopping for healthier ingredients and staying away from processed foods. Here are a few tips I incorporate into my grocery shopping to keep me eating healthy foods without eating a hole in my travel budget.

Try to shop the outer aisles for healthier grub.

Try to shop the outer aisles for healthier grub.

Shop the Perimeter

I already mentioned shop the outside aisles. For one, the outside is where your natural non-processed foods are found. Don’t pay extra for the grocery store to do your kitchen chores for you. Buy vegetables unprepped because they’re cheaper that way. Stay away from the prepared food section of the store because you pay a premium for salads and other dishes already made for you. Avoid prepackaged meals, such as Lunchables ($3 to $4 each), because it’s cheaper to buy bread, cheese and deli meat, and assemble sandwiches on your own.

The outside aisles will also keep you from making impulse snack buys that add not only to your spending but to your waistline as well! More details here.

Aldi is Awesome

Check out Aldi for the bulk of your groceries. I go to Aldi at least once a week. It is a no-frills store with all the basics including milk for $2.69 a gallon, eggs for $.69 a dozen, cherry tomatoes often $.99 compared to $2.00 at Publix. If you are not from Germany or accustomed to the Aldi way, it will take you a few visits to acclimate to the $.25 deposit for the cart or the fact that you must pay for each grocery bag (I bring my own bags or use boxes found inside the store). Aldi also has a satisfaction guarantee which I love, and since Huntsville has yet to bring in a Trader Joe’s, you can’t go wrong trying out TJ’s little brother… Aldi.
NOTE: Aldi’s produce is rarely organic, but it is often seasonal, but they are currently implementing an organic line of products.

Another important key to saving money on groceries is to build your meals around sales for the week. Watch for sales on things you will use often and stock up. Just last Wednesday for instance I ran across a great deal on chicken at Aldi. Each package was labeled for quick sale with an addition $2 off per package. I bought 10 packs and put them in my freezer for future use!

Stocking up when you find great deals is key if you have a big freezer!

Stocking up when you find great deals is key if you have a big freezer!

Match the Price

If you are afraid of trying something new like Aldi, there is always the tried and true Wal-Mart. Did you know that both Wal-Mart and Target has a price match policy?

Back before I let my Huntsville Times subscription lapse, I would make a Wal-Mart list every Sunday – I would go through the ads looking for everything I would need to buy for the week and find the lowest price. Then I would take all of the ads with the circled prices to Wal-mart and begin the shopping process. This offers substantial savings and saves me the time of running from store to store all over town looking for the best deal.

Local Shopping Links

Publix Shoppers this is a must-have link that lists current deals with current available coupons. Did you know that Publix accepts competitor coupons such as Star Market and doubles coupons up to $.50? Bookmark Publix Link!

A great alternative to Earth Fare is Garden Cove. They have fresh fruits, veggies and grains as well as a friendly knowledgeable staff all with a small neighborhood store atmosphere. Check out the table in the back for ready to use today quick sale items at a tremendous discount. More about Garden Cove…

Tech Tips

Find blogs you like with budget-friendly meals:
Two-Dollar Dinners blog
Budget Bytes blog
$5 Dollar Dinners blog – has a GREAT Costco meal-saving post!

Use your smart phone to download my favorite money-saving app. Ibotta even gives me money back on bread and milk! Save money on things you are already buying, no coupons to clip and money goes into paypal account or you can redeem for Starbucks or Redbox gift cards. Click here to sign up: Ibotta.com

I recently downloaded the Cartwheel App for Target. It is great for everyday shopping and has discounts for things I buy. For instance, this week’s hot buys include 5% off kiwi, tomatoes, apples & oranges, 5% off Market Pantry Milk, and 10% off Yoplait Yogurt. This does not sound substantial, yet at the check-out I am always ahead between $5-$10 on everyday purchases.

Consider signing up for a meal planning tool like eMeals. Not only will they help you plan your meals from week to week centered around sale prices, they’ll provide a list of groceries, recipes, AND automatically print out the coupons you can use at your favorite grocery store. You can choose from a variety of meal plans like: organic, Paleo, slow cooker, gluten-free, classic meals, and many more.

eMeals Epipheo from Epipheo Studios on Vimeo.