How to save money without coupons: Part Two- Produce!

Yesterday I talked about how to save money without coupons when buying meat. Today I’m going to talk about fruits and vegetables!

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There are seldom coupons for fresh fruit or vegetables.

Usually when you find coupons for either, they are lower in value or you must purchase another item (like cereal, croutons, something not super healthy or inexpensive).

Here are some ways you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into your grocery budget and diet without breaking the bank!

My number one money saving tip when it comes to produce is: Eat fruit and vegetables when they are in season. Food in season is cheaper because there is a surplus of it. 

Living in So. Cal, I’m kind of spoiled in that we can grow and eat most fruits and veggies year round. But if you live some place where it snows or has cold winters, eat produce when it’s readily available.

If you aren’t sure when certain fruits and veggies are in season, check out the Produce for Better Health Foundation website here. They have lists based on season.

Tip Number Two: If you gotta eat fruit out of season (sometimes in December, you just gotta have strawberries), buy frozen fruit. Frozen berries are so juicy and flavorful. Frozen fruit is the fruit that is too ripe to sell in stores fresh, so it’s cut up and flash frozen. It contains all of the nutrients that are found in fresh fruit.

Tip Number  Three: If you grow your own fruits, veggies or herbs: Freeze, dry, or can/preserve whatever you won’t eat right away. That way you’ll have some when the weather turns.

I love to make jam and pickles. It’s really easy and you don’t need any special equipment. We don’t grow enough tomatoes to can our own, so I pick up fruits and veggies when they are really cheap and in peak season and make jam or pickles then. And you can definitely can more than just Cucumbers!

If it is something that interests you, here are a few books that I like:

If you want to get the canning gadgets that make canning a little easier, here is the kit that I bought years ago: Back to Basics 286 5-Piece Home Canning Kit I love the funnel!

Tip Number  Four: When fruit or veggies are on sale, stock up. That may sound weird, but most produce can be frozen. With the exception of raw potatoes and lettuce I think you can clean, chop, and store pretty much any fruit or veggie in the freezer. Speaking of frozen….

Fresh produce is always the best, but a close second is frozen. Occasionally frozen veggies are on sale. If they are types/varieties you like, stock up!

Canned fruit/veggies are my last resort. Why? Because, for the most part, they are canned in syrup or juice (fruit) or salt-laden water (veggies) and they are usually cooked and some of the nutrients leech out into the liquid they are cooked/canned in, and most of the time that liquid is discarded.

HOWEVER- I love salt-free canned tomatoes in recipes for all kinds of stuff, and Lil’ Man loves him some salt-free canned green beans.  Sometimes you can find low/no salt added canned vegetables.

I have found that when I calculate price per unit (more info here), blueberries and some other fruit is cheaper at Costco! So don’t overlook your large club stores.

Tip Number Five: Check outyour local 99 Cent Store (like 99 Cents Only), produce stands, and the markdown section of your supermarket. All three usually have inexpensive produce that is good quality. It may not be the prettiest produce, but that’s ok!

How do you save money on your produce?

Cutting down on food waste in 30 minutes!

One of the ways that we save money is to cut down on food waste. For me that means once we are home from the store and all of the perishables are put away, I pull out the cutting board, a sharp knife, the spiralizer, some zip top bags, and reusable storage containers.

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This was last weeks fresh fruit and veggies (plus 3 bags of baby carrots and a cantaloupe- not pictured).

I set to work, chopping, packaging, and spiralizing.  In less than 30 minutes I had all of the fresh fruits and veggies prepped and measured into small bags to be dropped into lunches, or packed into plastic containers.

This of course is only for the fruits and veggies that require prep. The oranges, apples, and bananas require no prep to eat, so they just go into the fruit bowl.

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Fruits and veggies all ready for a week of healthy lunches!
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Cantaloupe chopped up and ready for my belly!! The bottom container has 3 spiralized Italian zucchini squash, ready to be made into “pasta” salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By spending a little time each week getting veggies and fruit ready to eat, you’ll cut down on food waste, because the food is all ready to eat. No scrambling to cut up cucumbers for lunch early in the morning, no putting off eating something because you are short on time in the evening.

You will also be saving money over purchasing pre-chopped and pre-packed vegetables and fruit. All of this produce was purchased at 99 Cents only for less than $12.00. So you can eat well (and healthy) on a budget!!

And if it turns out atthe end of the week that you aren’t able to eat all of your veggies and fruit and they can be frozen (pretty much anything except melons), toss the bags in the freezer and you now have veggies for a casserole, or fruit for a smoothie!

The average American family of four throws away $25.00 in food a WEEK!  Here are a few more tips to help your family curtail food waste!

Eat your leftovers:  this seems like a no brainer. When you divvy out your portions for dinner, make yourself your lunch for the next day.  If you won’t eat it right away, pop it into the freezer- label it, so you don’t forget what it is.

When it looks like your fruit is about to go south, freeze it
. This includes bananas!  You can use defrosted bananas in banana bread or frozen bananas are great in smoothies.  Other frozen fruit can also be used in smoothies.
Citrus fruits can be juiced and frozen or the juice can be consumed for breakfast or put in smoothies.   Apples can be peeled cooked into applesauce or made into apple butter.

When I buy fresh tomatoes and they get just a little too ripe- I freeze them whole, then I bake them with chicken breasts and herbs and top with fresh parm- Yummy!

Buy less. I know it seems like a strange concept, especially with all of the really great deals you will be finding, but, the one proven way to waste less is to bring less home to waste.

Ten Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!

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For those of us living in CA, NV, AZ, TX we have the opportunity to save money by shopping the great deals at 99 Cents Only. 99 Cents Only is different from other discount/dollar stores in that the majority of locations feature a refridgator and freezer case with a variety of name brand foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to fesh and frozen foods, most locations have a great diverse stock of shelf stable foods too.
And 99 Cents only has more than food, they carry the same types of items that you have grown accustomed to seeing at discount/dollar stores, such as health and beauty aids, school supplies, and kitchen tools.
While 99 Cents Only does not accept manufacturer coupons, they frequently send out coupons that are good for a free item when you purchase X number of items (most recently they have been buy 5 items, receive one free). And there are a few apps that are not retailer specific (such as checkout51, snap by groupon, Mobisave, berrycart, shrink,and shopnimium) that you can submit your receipts to to earn a little extra cash back!
Not everything is .9999/each, many of the items are .7999/each, .6999.each, 2/.9999, or 4./9999. .9999? What? That’s right, after many years in business, last year 99 cents only had to increase prices just a fraction to keep up with inflation. So at .9999/each (or really, rounded up to $1.00), many things are still a screaming deal.
Here are just a few of the great deals that you shouldn’t pass up:
Carrots. A 20 ounce bag (that’s 1.25 lbs) of baby carrots is .9999. At most regular grocers The same bag is upwards of $2.50.
Bagged greens. Most locations carry multiple brands including Dole, Ready Pac, and Earthbound Organics (just to name a few), which can sell at most mainstream grocers for upwards of $4.00/bag!
Disposable person care items, such as cotton swabs.  1000 cotton swabs for $1.00! That’s a lot of clean ears! A box of 500 or so can run upwards of $5.00 at most mass merchandisers.
Men’s dress socks. I’m serious. At $1.00/pair, you’re saving approximately 75-80% over department store prices. Most of hubs socks come from 99 cents only, and he’s been wearing them for about 2 years.
Cake mix. I’m talking name brand here. Unless there is a sale and you have a coupon at the local grocery store, you’ll be spending a few bucks for a cake mix. Drop by your local 99 cents only and take a gander, you’ll be surprised by the variety and brands of cake mixes available. Last time I stopped in to my local store, they had Pillsbury cake mixes!
Bananas. Most grocery stores in San Diego charge .65/-.80/lb for bananas! Most 99 cents locations have bananas for just .49/lb. some select locations have 3 lbs/$1.00!
School/art supplies. Perfect for the parent of an artistically minded kiddo or a homeschooler, most locations have a great selection of construction paper, paint, craft kits, and bulletin board supplies. We get most of our craft supplies at 99 cents only!
Party Supplies, from disposable plates and utensils to goody bag filler, most locations have a decent variety. Not just plain colors, but fun themed goodies as well. Our local store has princess, pirate, minion, TMNT, frozen, sweet 16 themed party supplies.
Bread. This photo isn’t the best representation of what they have most of the time,cut most stores have a variety of fresh breads from companies like Sarah Lee, Orowheat/Arnold’s, and bread in the freezer case too from brands like Ecce Pannis and Texas Toast. Don’t forget to look for bagels and buns too!
Ethnic spices. Making a batch of menudo? Trying your hand at curry? Need Jugo? Don’t forget to check your local 99 cents only for ethnic spices before you start cooking! I get a large bag of bay leaves twice a year and split it with a friend. Perfect for soups and stews!
There is a lot of stuff that may be a good deal, depending on what your rock bottom price for specific items is. To determine if something is a good deal for my family, I keep a price book with the prices of the top 20 items I buy most often at the 5 stores I shop at most in my area. You can learn more about price books here.
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Yummy fresh strawberries- right off the truck!

Recently I spied .79/can Starkist Tuna can, 10 lbs of potatoes for .99, 1 lb packages of fresh Dole Strawberries for just .99, and name brand ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce for just .69/each.

If you are hesitant to buy produce at a discount store because you are concerned about freshness, call your local store and ask them what day their produce truck comes.  Most of our local stores receive their produce truck on Thursday mornings, so I am ready to shop for fresh fruits and veggies as soon as I drop the Kiddo off at school.
For my family, 99 Cents Only is the starting point for my shopping each week.  I start by filling my cart with tons of fresh fruit and veggies, checking the freezer case for any deals, and picking up any needed canned goods that are not on sale elsewhere. By starting my shopping at 99 Cents Only, I am able to keep our food budget at $50/week! When there are really good deals (like the case of Larabars for only 99 Cents!) I tend to spend a few extra bucks and stock up, since quantities are limited and 99 Cents Only doesn’t offer rain checks.
What’s your favorite thing to purchase at 99 Cents Only?

The Pricebook: A Frugal Shoppers Best Friend!

One thing that I get asked a lot when I’m shopping (besides, “Where’d you get all those coupons!”) is, “What’s that’s little book?” The Answer: It’s my price book! It’s a little spiral bound notebook, like this one.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 11.42.40 AM A price book is a list of the items you use and the prices they sell for in the stores in your area.

It is a perfect tool for tracking price per ounce, which will help you determine the best price. Prices in a price book should be listed by cost per unit so you can easily compare different size packages from different stores. Your price book is a great tool to help you determine if a sale is really a deal.

Your price book can be as complex or as easy as you want it to be. You can calculate price per unit, or just list the regular price of each item at each of the stores you visit in your area.

If you have an iPhone or other smartphone, there are several apps available for purchase that take the guess work out if it.  If you are computer savvy, you can do a price book in Excel and print a copy when you go to shop. There are several available for download free on the Internet.  Google search “Excel Price Book download”.

Your price book can be as simple or as complex and you want it to be.  If you are new to the concept of prices books, you may wish to add as much detail as possible, to track your savings to the penny.

Basic information for every price book should include:

  • Date (you can date the top of each page or note it somewhere within the columns)
  • The brand– i.e. Hunt’s
  • The item– i.e. stewed tomatoes
  • Size -in ounces or pounds, however the item is listed on the container (i.e. 14.5oz, 2 lbs.)
  • Price- for the entire package. i.e. $1.89

Name of store– This is helpful if you are trying to find the cheapest price for an item within a range of stores.  Is deodorant really cheaper at the grocery store, Target or CVS in your area?  Start price book and find out!

Because of my price book, I know the cheapest place to get bananas is 99 Cents Only: .49/lb all the time! We eat about 2-3 lbs of bananas per week. Most grocery stores charge .69-.79/lb for bananas. By buying the least expensive bananas each week I am saving approximately $30.00/year. That’s just on one item we shop for each week!

Additional info:

  • Sale price (if any)
  • Date of sale (if any)

Listing sale information may assist you in tracking when sales occur, and plan your shopping trips throughout the year.  Knowing when to stock up on specific items may save you a couple hundred dollars a year.

Your price book will help you determine if that 50-gallon drum of yogurt at Costco is a better deal than the 32-ounce tub from the supermarket. Not all bulk purchases are a better deal.

I have a sheet in my price book for each store that I shop at. One page is for food items, and the second is for HBA/toiletries. I tend not to buy toiletries at Costco, as they are generally NOT a good deal.

My grocery stores include: Albertsons, Costco (so I can determine what is a good deal), 99 Cents Only, Wal-Mart, and Target.

I update my price books once a quarter.  When it’s time to update, I take a little extra time when I visit each store and just double check prices and sizes. Sometimes the size of the product changes too.

Here are some websites that talk about price books and give examples:

 

Shopping for healthy food with coupons: It can be done!

One of my goals for this blog is to show you all how to save money and continue to eat the same healthy foods you already eat, or give you new avenues for saving so you can afford more of the healthy foods you like that you can’t find coupons for.

Today I went to Ralphs. For $7.30, I bought all of this:IMG_2850

That’s 10 1 lb. packages of Driscoll’s Strawberries and 3 cartons of Dream Blends nut milk.  I used ten Driscoll’s coupons I earned from the Driscoll’s Advisory Panel and three Dream Coupons that I printed from a recent Facebook Campaign (they are no longer available). 

The Strawberries were $1.48 on sale and I used a .75 off coupon on each package, for a total of $.73/each.

The nut milk was marked down to $1.79/each and I had $2.00 off coupons. Because the coupon price was greater, the cashier adjusted the amount of the coupon on her register, so I received the nut milks for free.

But, what am I going to do with 10 lbs of fresh fruit? I’ve already chopped up 5 lbs and put them into snack size Ziploc bags. They are chilling in the freezer, perfectly portioned for smoothies or to go into yogurt.

Henry is taking two pounds to school tomorrow to share with his class (his school has a no baked goods/candy for birthday celebrations rule).

One pound we will eat tonight, and the remaining two will be served at Henry’s birthday party on Saturday. Ten pounds of fruit doesn’t go all that far when you have two guys that LOVE fruit!

If you follow a healthy diet and are looking for more coupons on the products that you regualrly purchase, here are a few suggestions:

  • Check the websites of the products you like. You’d be surprised how many have printable coupons on their websites! That’s how I found out about the Driscoll’s Advisory Panel!
  • Don’t forget to check websites like Coupons.com, Redplum, Smartsource, CommonKindness, and Hopster for healthy printable coupons. Common Kindness and Hopster specialize in “whole” food coupons.
  • Don’t skip out on the money saving apps! This article has a pretty comprehensive list of money saving apps.

Driscoll’s Advisory Panel- Save money on fruit!

Original File Name: 20_waterfall_ 42433.tifWe eat a lot of berries, especially when they are on sale. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered the Driscoll Advisory Panel!

It’s quick and easy to join. Sign up here, and after you enjoy a package of Driscoll berries, just visit the website and enter the traceability code or scan the QR code at the bottom on the carton to take the survey.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.13.58 PMYou’ll earn coupon with each survey you take! Sign up and you’ll automatically score a .50/1 coupon!

Rewards Club members enjoy:
-Special offers & a birthday gift
-Get access to sweepstakes & contests
-New & exclusive recipes, health & wellness tips, and more
-A monthly e-newsletter

 

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With all of the berry sales coming up, you’ll find tons of chances to buy Driscoll Berries! You’ll be taking surveys and earning coupons in no time!

This week, Ralphs has Strawberries for $1.88- after the .50/1 coupon you can print after you sign up that’s only $1.38 per pound- that’s a good deal. And if you are an ORGANIC eater- Rejoice! These codes are on Driscoll’s Organic berries too! I’ll be posting a recipe featuring berries this weekend!

Backyard Fruit: Helping Others!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving around much of Southern California, there is one constant: Backyard fruit trees DRIPPING with unpicked fruit, and even more trees with piles of dropped and rotting fruit under the trees. That really makes me upset. WHY?

There are 16 million hungry kids in the US. I heard a statistic on the radio the other day that 1 in 4 kids in the US don’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies! If you have backyard fruit trees or gardens that are out of control with more produce that you and your family can eat, here are a few ways you can help others in need:

  • Contact your local church and see if they offer a food pantry. If so, take a box of produce from your trees/garden over to share with those in need.
  • Contact your local food bank and see if they accept home grown fruit. Some do, some do not.
  • There are several organizations across the US that will come to you, pick your fruit and donate it.FoodForwardVillage Harvest are just two.
  • There are websites where you can register your trees and share your produce with others. Neighborhood Fruitis just one.
  • Post on your local freecycle or buy nothing project group. I know around here there are many neighbors who would love to help you pick and eat your fruit.  Recently there was an older lady who had fruit trees and she couldn’t keep up with the harvesting, so she was looking for someone who could help her pick fruit. They were welcome to take as much as they could eat, as long as they picked 2 lbs of fruit for her. That sounds like a great deal to me!
  • Here is a crazy idea- Offer some to your friends and neighbors!