Practicing Frugal in 2013: Combine Errands

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

errands

photo credit

Do you ever feel like this is you?

We all end up with lists of errands that need to be done that seem to grow as the week goes on.  Kids have lessons or activities to get to and you really need to drop off some things at Goodwill and mail some letters at the post office.  Not to mention all the other things that will come up in the next few days.

Errands can seem overwhelming, but they can also cost you a lot of money, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to walk or ride a bike to do your errands.  Let’s face it, gas prices keep going up while many of our incomes decline or stay the same.  We need to save money in as many ways as we can.

Let’s try to save money, keep from going “out” for errands everyday and save your sanity by keeping a list of the errnads that need to be taken care of.  Maybe you can run these errands while you are out taking your kids to their lessons or activities.  I know sometimes you just want to get done and go home, but it would be so much better in the long run if we ran these errands while we were already in the area.  In the end, you will feel better because you not only accomplished something, but you got them all done at once.

Many times we can make do without these eraands for a few days until we need to go somewhere.  Planning out your week and finding that time to run those errands will not only give you more time, but save you from doing things at the last minute.

If you are not a planner, I highly recommend you try to become one.  Planning can save you time and money in so many ways.

If you’re interested in getting better organized, read this past post.

Here is a link that I think you find useful about How a Notebook Could Help You, as well as a blog article by Kimberlee at The Peaceful Mom on how a notebook helped her.

I try to combine errands as much as possible.  I keep a list of the things I need to pick up in Little Rock in my notebook as well as a running grocery list.  I then try to run all the errands I can before or after whatever brought us to town in the first place.  It can sometimes make the day longer, but I am thankful not to have to go back.

Why do I often wait to buy these things in Little Rock?  We live in a pretty rural area that is served by a less than adequate Dollar General and a very expensive small town grocery and the nearest Walmart is over 25 miles away.  There are many things I cannot get where we live, so I just wait.  It’s just part of living where we do.  You learn to plan accordingly, and combine your errands or you spend a lot of money (and time) staying on the road.  I don’t know about you, but the more time spent on the road for us, the less that gets done at home.

How do you like to take care of your errands?    

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Buy in Bulk

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

The Wallphoto credit

Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money on items that you use on a regular basis. Why not buy a big package of something that you can use over the months to come?

Buying in bulk will usually reduce the amount of packaging you bring into your home as well.  Less packaging amounts to less waste.

Tips For Buying In Bulk

  • Only buy things that you will use.  Don’t buy it because it’s a great deal or looked good.  If you won’t be able to use a whole bag of flour, consider finding a friend or neighbor to share in the purchases.  That way you still get the savings without the waste while two people have benefited from buying in bulk.
  • Store your bulk purchases well.  Make sure they are sealed correctly for safe storage.  It would be terrible to end up wasting money because you didn’t store your purchases well.
  • Know your prices so that you know if a bulk item is a better deal for you.
  • Buy things you know you like.  It would be a waste to make a bulk purchase and then not like the item.
  • Eat before you shop.  Shopping without eating helps lend hand to those “why did I buy this purchases”.
  • If you are not currently a member of a bulk store like Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco, ask a friend if you could tag along with them to check out what the stores offer and the prices.  Many of these stores also have a couple times a year where you can print or clip a coupon to get in free for a day.

Places To Buy Bulk

  • Warehouse stores like Sam’s, Costco and BJ’s.
  • Specialty stores that sell bulk foods.
  • Health food stores.
  • Azure Standard
  • Local Farms or a local butcher – many times you can get a great deal on produce or meat bought in bulk from a local farm.  If you can’t find a local farm in your area, find a local butcher and ask them for recommendations.  Many times people are looking for someone to split a portion of meat with, so the butcher may be able to help you out there.
  • U pick Farms are a great way to save on produce too.  Check here or here for farms in your area.

Bulk Food

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Items You Can Get in Bulk – this is just a sampling of items you can buy.   I would definitely keep an eye on what your family uses a lot of  and how much you spend on the items before buying in bulk.  If you end up wasting food, you didn’t save money.

  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Yeast
  • Nuts
  • Produce
  • Paper products
  • Canned items – you can separate the restaurant sized cans into smaller sizes and freeze
  • vitamins
  • Health and Beauty items
  • Bread
  • Snack Items
  • Grains
  • Dried Fruit

Do you buy in bulk?  What items do you like to buy in bulk?  Have any suggestions or questions?  

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Ad Match or Price Match

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

Walmart Checkout Features Ad Match and Coupon Policy Signs

photo credit

If you would rather not stop at more than one store to get some of the great deals that are being offered at multiple stores, you should give ad matching, or what some call price matching a whirl.  You can ad match and still use coupons for even more savings.

It’s a great way to add to your grocery savings while getting some of the best deals (loss leaders) offered at many stores.

You can read the Ad Match Guarantee for Walmart which basically tells you that you don’t need the ads to get the price.  I usually have them with me in case I am questioned, but the best thing to do is make a note on the back of your grocery list of all the items you want to match, size, flavor, price and store.

What if I don’t get all the local ads in my mailbox?  Check for ads online.  Most stores now feature their weekly ads on their store website.  Write down the information you need to ad match the item and head to the store.  It’s that easy.

If you feel you might encounter problems matching at your store, take a copy of the ad match guarantee with you.  I actually have never had a problem.

To make the process easier, place all items you will be matching at the front or back of your order on the conveyor belt.  This will make it easier for you and the checker by assuring that you don’t forget to get a great price on something.  Don’t forget to tell the checker before she scans those items that you will be ad matching them all.  I find that being organized and helpful makes the process go much smoother.

It will also help you if you keep your ad match items in a certain place in the buggy.  If I only have a few, I use the child seat area.  If I have a bunch, I draw an imaginary line in my buggy or use something to separate them.

Now I have one pointer for you all.

See where the arrow points in this image below?

walmart ad matchThat rule varies by store.  My store allows me to match milk, juice and other private label items.  I have also been able to match eggs without the brand being the same.  This is basically up to your cashier and store.  I would put them in my order like I am matching the item and give them the prices.  All they can really do is say no, and then all you have to do is say I don’t want that item.

Cashier profiling is another thing that is best when shopping (ad matching and using coupons) at many stores.  I find that some of the “older” ladies question every little thing you do, resulting in a long and drawn out process that leaves you nothing but exhausted and less likely to ad match or use coupons again.  I have had this happen before.  It’s not like you are doing anything wrong, but sometimes these cashiers can make you look and feel like it.

Target also has a Price Match Guarantee.  I have had no personal experience with it as I don’t get to Target that much, but I have heard it’s not as easy as Walmart since you must do the matching at the service desk.

Other store ad match or low price guarantee policies:

Fred Meyer

Meijer

Best Buy

Staples

Office Depot

Sears

Lowe’s

Home Depot

What about you, do you ad match?  Do you take advantage of low price guarantees?  Have you ever found the price lower and gotten some money back?  Leave a comment telling us about your experience.  

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Use Coupons

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

coupons

Using coupons can be a great way to save on groceries if you are using coupons for things that you would normally buy.

I’m not talking about playing the drugstore game or becoming an extreme couponer, I’m talking about using coupons to save a little money each week.

If you save an average of only $4 a week, you would end saving $208 this year.  That’s probably the minimum you could save unless you are on a whole foods or real foods diet. There are more coupons out now for healthier and organic foods, but still nowhere near as much as there is for processed foods.

Sources for more coupons:

  • Coupons.com – offers printable coupons that change frequently and change according to the zip code entered
  • SmartSource.com also offers a variety of printable coupons
  • Live Better America offers printable coupons for healthier choices after you sign up
  • Redplum.com is also a source for printable coupons
  • Betty Crocker has coupons to print on the site after you sign up
  • The websites for products you normally buy sometimes offer coupons on their site.  If not try the contact us button to tell them what you think of their product.  Many companies will send out some coupons as a way of thanking you.
  • Target offers printable coupons that if they say Target Coupon on the top, may be combined with a manufacturer coupon.
  • Sunday newspaper
  • Product packaging – many times you can find coupons inside the product or on the inside of the packaging.  Keep an eye out for the coupons.
  • Grocery stores – many times you will find special ads or pamphlets that include coupons
  • Simply Organic has a few coupons available to print for organic products
  • If you shop at Whole Foods they have many printable coupons on their site that are store coupons that can also be combined with manufacturer coupons.  They also have a monthly magazine that has the same coupons in it.
  • Horizon Organic often offers printable coupons on their site with a sign up

* Most printable coupons can be printed up to 2 times per computer.

In case you missed the newspaper, you can buy already cut coupons of your choice for a handling fee at these coupon clipping sites:

Please remember to check expiration dates when ordering.  Keep in mind that they may not always have the coupon you are looking for or may be out of stock at the time.  Check back regularly for what you need.

If you would like to learn more about coupons, you can read my series The Basics of Coupons.  If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email, I would love to answer any questions you might have.

Curious about how I use coupons?

I use coupons pretty much all the time, but only on items we use or if I can get items that we would use for free or close to free (here in AR we pay taxes on pre-coupon amount).

I use printable and newspaper coupons.

I often combine manufacturer coupons with store coupons to get great deals.

I am not an extreme couponer.  I will buy a few of something that’s at a great sale price, but I don’t have thousands of dollars of product in my home.

I do not play the drugstore game.  If you are not familiar, it’s the term used for getting great deals at the drugstores using coupons and in-store rebates and rewards to get items for free or close to it.  It pretty much requires you to keep rolling the money and rewards over. It requires quite a bit of time, which I do not have.  I also do not live close to these stores. Money Saving Mom has a pretty good article about the drugstore game.

Do you use coupons to save on groceries?  How much do you usually save?  Leave a comment or ask any question.  

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Minimize Food Waste

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

yogurt

Minimizing the food we waste is a great way to save money this year.

Did you know that we waste nearly 40% of the food we produce in this country?*  Seems like a large number considering that food prices continue to rise while package sizes continue to shrink.

In the past couple of years I have increased my awareness of the food we waste in our house.  I do my best to control this as much as I can.  I know for certain that before I really paid attention, we were wasting quite a bit of food.  Quite a bit of food is quite a bit of money.

Here are some ways to minimize food waste:

  1. If you don’t like leftovers, learn to cook only what you need, or freeze the rest for a later meal. 
  2. Clean out the refrigerator once or twice a week and use the leftovers for a buffet style leftover night.
  3. Use the leftovers in a recipe.  Try using a website like Recipe.com that allows you to type in ingredients you have to get recipes.
  4. Learn tricks to use more of each part of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Keep a bucket or bag in freezer for leftover veggies, meat etc that you can use later in a soup.
  6. Use chicken bones to make your own stock before throwing out.
  7. Don’t buy what you won’t eat.
  8. Don’t buy in bulk if you can’t or won’t eat it all.  It’s always a great idea to buy in bulk and split cost/product with a friend.
  9. Use bruised fruits for baking and smoothies.  Throw them in freezer.
  10. Keep an inventory of what you have.  Know what yo have so you won’t buy anymore.  It’s a great idea to inventory anytime you go shopping.
  11. Don’t shop hungry.
  12. Rotate foods in cupboards.  Keep eye on dates.
  13. Store foods properly.  Seal tightly.  Close the bags.
  14. Make a list and stick to it.  I guess this goes along with not shopping hungry!
  15. Start a compost.  Let your fruit and vegetable waste feed the soil you can use for gardening.
  16. Menu plan.  This too will keep you from buying things you don’t need.
  17. Keep a list or snap quick pictures of your food waste for a couple weeks or month.  See how much you really throw out.  We often don’t realize what we are wasting to we see it with our own eyes.
  18. Check your fridge temperature.  It should be 40 degrees or below according to this fact sheet.  Obviously you don’t want it at 32 degrees or less, as that would make things become frozen.
  19. Get creative with your food before it goes to waste.  Spinach is great in smoothies (obviously not if it is slimy).
  20. Become friends with your freezer.  You will be glad you froze that bowl of soup!

*You can read more about food waste in this publication by the Natural Resources Defense Council titled Wasted:  How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of It’s Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.

To read more about food waste, visit Jonathon Bloom’s website, cleverly named Wasted Food.  He also has written a book titled American Wasteland that is on my library request list.

Love Food Hate Waste is not based in the U.S., but has so much information on food waste and how to avoid it.

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Freezer Cooking

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

IMG_3120[1]Like me, many of you are busy and have those days when their just isn’t enough time to get food on the table.  Those busy nights we find ourselves in the drive thru lane buying things we would rather not eat and spending money we would rather not spend.  It happens, but their is a solution to our problem!

Freezer cooking is a great way to keep yourself from spending money on food that is not really good for us.  Not only that, but we all get sick of the same old fast food.  Freezer cooking gives you a little variety, more healthy choices and it can save us money.

I am by far not an expert on freezer cooking, I actually have done very little, but it is on my list to tackle as soon as school gets out. (maybe even sooner)  I want to get some meals in my freezer for those nights that I don’t have time to cook or just don’t feel like it.

Think how lovely it would be to just go to the freezer and pick something out for supper tonight.  Instead of having all the added sodium and preservatives that regular store bought freezer meals have (not to mention the price), you have healthier home cooked meals that have the ingredients you want in them.

Since I am not a freezer cooking guru, I am adding links to some great posts on freezer cooking.

Don’t worry, you all will see and hear about my adventures in freezer cooking soon, and I would love to hear about yours.

Crystal at Money Saving Mom has some of the best reads on freezer cooking:

Saving You Dinero has a 4 part Series on 1 Hour + 1 Mess = 5 Crockpot Meals:

Kojo Designs also has some great posts on freezer cooking:

Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher is a highly recommended freezer cookbook that is on my wishlist.  I don’t buy very many cookbooks anymore, but I think I know I would love this one.

I think this is enough information to get anyone started freezer cooking.  I will post more articles, pictures and information as I journey into freezer cooking.

Do you do any sort of freezer cooking?  Have any great recipes you would like to share?  What are your thoughts on freezer cooking?  Leave a comment letting us know.  

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Practicing Frugal in 2013: Menu Planning

Looking to save money in 2013? You have come to the right place. For the next few months we will be talking about some simple ways that you can save money in 2013. Making small changes over a period of time will lead up to a big change. It’s often much easier and more likely to become a habit if you take one small step and work on it before introducing another change.

Chalkboard Menu

photo credit

Just walking into the store and buying groceries without a list or plan is just a recipe for budget disaster.  I am sure there are a select very few that can go without a list and come home with just the items needed for a week of meals, but chances are you are like the normal shopper, you need a list and a plan.

Menu planning allows you to serve simple, healthy and much more affordable meals, while assuring that you have what you need in the house for the meals you will cook.

A little while back I wrote a post you can read about Menu Planning.

If you don’t already menu plan and are having a hard time with your grocery budget, you should give it a try.  Try to plan your meals and snacks for the week and I bet you will see a change in not only the money you spend, but also the trips you make to the store because you are out of something.

Be sure to include frugal meals in your menu to help save money on groceries.

Do you currently menu plan?  How does menu planning help you?  If you don’t menu plan, what method do you use to help make sure you have what you need for meals.  

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