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Frugal Pantry 101: Getting Started with Coupons

By Sherry Brooks ecomii.com
April 12, 2012
File under: Meal Planning, Saving Money, Shopping

It’s fun to watch ‘Extreme Couponing’ on The Learning Channel, but how many of us have the time, space or desire to create stockpiles of discounted groceries and thousands of coupons.

Maybe you would like to have some extra cash to do something fun. Certainly spending less would free up funds to pay some bills and you don’t have to look far for reasons to save money.

The key? Get organized and it will only take a little extra time to master saving at least half the amount you spend on groceries.

If you spend $600 a month on food, you could be a saving $3,600 a year!  And that is after-tax money.  That means you would have had to make about $5,000 before taxes to pay the $3,600 extra that you are unwittingly spending now.

  • Choose a style of cuisine that works best for you. Isolate an approach to eating (for example, vegetarian or low sugar) and dining styles, such as, Italian, Japanese, Mexican or raw foods.
  • Buy bountiful healthy, fresh produce, but only when it is the loss leader, or a shockingly low price per pound at the market.   This ensures that the produce is in season, therefore of higher flavor and quality, while saving the big bucks on your grocery bill.
  • Shop Farmer’s Markets. They are a great source of affordable, delicious, fresh produce in season.
  • Grill asparagus spears or wide slices of inexpensive zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes or other vegetables when in season.
  • Chop fruit and keep it in the refrigerator in a glass container or big jar to encourage quick and healthy snacking and meal preparation.
  • The same thing can be done with lettuce and chopped salad vegetables.
  • Take a minute to scan the weekly circulars from local grocery stores, circling anything that works for your household at a lower price than usual.  Stock up at warehouse stores for the items that you use in large quantities.
  • It is worth the price of a Sunday newspaper to buy it for the coupon inserts alone.   You may also find the coupon inserts left behind in the magazine bin at your local coffee house if you prefer to spend that newspaper money on some ‘joe’ you can sip while you peruse the coupons. Coupons are available all over the Internet, too.
  • In “Extreme Couponing,” couponers use notebooks with clear baseball card organizer pages, but for the layman, a small plastic accordion file works to sort coupons by category or by date. You can keep this file with the circulars inside your reusable grocery bag near the door or in your car.
  • Do not clip coupons for items that are unhealthy or will probably not be of use to your family.  It is best to just concentrate at first on the items that you already are familiar with and use.
  • If a coupon doesn’t expire for a few months, wait to use it when one of the stores runs a special on that item. Look for specials on staples like paper towels and toilet paper, which are often deeply discounted. Use that “one-dollar off” coupon to bring the price down to below half the regular price.
  • Buy boxes of whole grain pasta, with the with the longest expiration date, on sale using coupons. Keep in the back of the pantry and use with chopped leftover grilled veggies or brand-name pasta sauce (bought with coupons, of course).
  • You don’t have to pay more than a dollar for great jarred sauce bought on special with coupons. If you pay more than fifty cents after applying this rule, you are paying too much.   Buy several bags of frozen chopped spinach on sale. Thaw one in the fridge to save electricity and stir it into pasta with tomato sauce to amp up the cancer preventing phytochemicals.

Sherry Brooks is a healthy, happy and trim “Frugalista” living the lean and green life near Malibu in sunny southern California. Follow Sherry on Twitter

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