Category Archives: Shopping

Updates

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I haven’t had much time to write lately.  We are all safe and sound after Hurricane Irene, and our new house also made it through unharmed.  I will be adding recipes for hobo burgers, veggie and tuna patties in the coming days.  For now, I have added links to my Blogroll for printable coupons, including organic products, as well a link to the “pick your own” database.  Picking your own fruits and Veggies isn’t something most people can do on a weekly basis.  However, it is a fun cheap way for the family to get their hands on some organic produce, and can double as entertainment.  The database also includes road-side produce stands which also have incredibly good deals on locally grown organic produce.   You have to be careful, not all open air produce markets are offering locally grown (let alone organic) produce.  So if you are going to go to the trouble of getting produce somewhere other than the supermarket I advice sticking to vendors on this database, otherwise you are most likely buying the same thing sold at Box stores just in a cozier environment.  Fun Shopping everyone!

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Dis-Crim-I-Nation

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That’s right, discrimination.  Use it.  Don’t just buy what you need from someone because they know someone, or because you came across them first.  How many times have you been job hunting, were passed over because you didn’t “know someone”, yet you knew that you were truly the most qualified candidate.  Do NOT do that to someone else.  In the service industry each time you call for a service, be it dry cleaning or home buying, you are the boss conducting a job interview.  You can use a site like Angieslist, or you can do it the old fashioned way… by calling everyone yourself.  The latter is my preference.

This blog has been brewing since I began the home-buying process 2 weeks ago.  The actual process began long before that.  Before my husband and I even started looking at houses we saved a bit of money for inspections and fees, and set a limit as too how much house we could afford, we didn’t let someone else do it for us.  We looked at what our Basic Allowance for Housing is per month (we are military and currently live on post.  The civilian equivalent would be rent+utilities)  and decided to try to make sure our MORTGAGE + ESCROW were within this ball-park.

We not only looked at mortgage rates and calculations here, but also searched the area and looked at how tax rates are figured, crime rates (also here and here), schools, and utility costs.  We also shopped around for home owners insurance. This gave us a pretty solid idea of EXACTLY how much house we could afford BEFORE we called a bank for a pre-approval.  It was best to control the top amount ourselves so our realtor’s idea of our top end house was WELL within the range of what we could afford.  I say this a lot, but it is your money and when it comes to neighborhoods, you truly get what you pay for the majority of the time.  So if I am going to dish out a little extra for something, it’s going to be housing.  My kids identity is crafted not only by the environment inside my home (in their early years), but also the neighborhood (tween and teen years).  They will want to be friends with the other kids they see out playing, so we needed to be very conscientious of the back-drop as we house shopped.  You can never find a perfect place, but you can minimize heart-ache to some extent.  Since we have an 11 year-old the neighborhood was more important to us than it had been when we bought houses previously.

Before we called a realtor we already had a pre-approval from a bank we SHOPPED FOR, and a solid grasp on what our financial and geographic boundaries were.  This is where to be discriminatory.  We didn’t just pick the first bank, or the first Realtor we came across, we shopped for folks that would work HARD FOR us.  After all I am paying these people.  I want to give my money to someone who will work for it.  Our real estate agent was STUPENDOUS, and we found a great house in a FABULOUS location (because our top end wouldn’t make us “house poor” neither party had to deal with the “but your bank says you can afford this much house” tug-o-war).  Each time we saw a house we REALLY like we looked it up on Zillow and Trulia to see it’s “appraised” value, and to get an idea of the property trends over the last few years.  This helped us decipher the validity of a seller’s asking price, before we considered making an offer.  There were a couple of houses that seemed like a great deal, until we looked at their trends on zillow.

When it came time to pick an inspector, our Realtor of course had her favorite that she recommended.  Instead of blindly giving my 300$ away to someone because he knows someone, I called every inspector in the phone book and essentially interviewed them.  My criteria were clear in my mind; an eager go-getter attitude, friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to guarantee his work.  I’ll tell you what, the dude was FANTABULOUS (and Christian)!  When it came time to hand over the dough I didn’t mind at all, because in the end I know he saved me thousands of dollars due to his willingness to crawl under this house and hawk-eye the support girders.

I guess what I am sayings is that with any purchase decision it’s easy to just buy the first car you see, or stop at the first restaurant you see, and so on.  What we need to start doing is really thinking about where our money is going, and who it is supporting.  One of the reasons I wanted to get debt free was so that when it came time to spend my money I could use discrimination and pick the best person for the job, not the cheapest.  Since I’m not spending tons of money on things I don’t need, I can use my money to support others as they make their living.

In the end, we will get an amazing deal on an amazing house in an amazing neighborhood, and some amazing people in the service industry will get a payday!  Win-Win!  With the extra space our (foster-to-adopt) family is thinking on adding more than just ONE “new” addition to our life.  Thinking that is, we will take our adoptions one child at a time.

Groceries: $70, 10 days, 30 meals, 4 people

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I just got back from the grocery store.  70.99 was my grand total for 10 days worth of food for my family.  To be honest I mainly bought things for dinners and lunches, as I had most of what I needed at home to make snacks, and I didn’t need many personal hygiene products.  I only had 4 coupons totaling $2.85.  I shopped mainly sale items.  I will split up the a sample portion of the receipt based on dishes for you, and give my little secrets away.

DINNERS:

Tuna Casserole (7.59)

3x cream of mushroom soup/generic (2.61)

1 bag of egg noodles (1.59)

2 cans tuna 2.50 (bumble bee solid while albacore.  Could save money with generic, but I REFUSE to support net fishing in our oceans.  That is totally a personal choice).

green beans (.89)

Sloppy joes  (5.33)

Manwich (.89)

1# Turkey (1.55)  *CHEAPER to buy frozen turkey in “log” packaging (sometimes you’ll find it in the meat section, sometimes in the freezer section).  Turkey in plastic meat style packaging is about 2.55 per/lb, and beef in such packaging is about 3.55 per/lb

Glazed Carrots (.50) *bought a bunch for .69 and use about 3 or 4 carrots a dab of butter and a pinch of brown sugar.

I will make bread instead of buying buns (~.75).  I already have the ingredients at home.  I will make mac and cheese also, I also have ingredients for this (.89 for the noodles, and .75 for the cheese)

Italian Chicken and Rice ($4.67)

1/2 Red Pepper (.48)

1# chicken tenders/breasts (3.19)

1/2 cup Italian Dressing  (.25) (had on hand got for .75 with a coupon)

2 Cups Rice (.75)

So there are three sample meals.  I will move on to lunches now.  Instead of menu items I will just list some of the items I bought for 10 days of lunches

LUNCH ITEMS: ($12.09)

Large Skippy Peanut Butter.  Will last one week (3.00 with coupon)

Bread x2 (3.00)

Small Jar Strawberry Jam (1.50 with Coupon)

2# Apples (2.00.) I buy which ever type of apples happen to be .99 cents a pound.  If a different fruit is a better deal I opt for that.  This is where you can keep your family from getting bored.

Carrot or celery sticks (.69) with dressing (-1.00 on sale) or hummus (I like to save money and make my own… another post I guess)

Milk (2.89 for us because we do Soy Milk… a splurge)

This is what I chose to do for this week.  This part of the menu can be really versatile.

Breakfast items: (7.66)

Soy milk (2.89)

Frosted Flakes (1.99)

Hungry Jack (1.89)

Bananas (.89)

SNACKS:

I will be making oatmeal cookies, and cutting lots up my fruits and veggies, peanut-buttering crackers etc…

The only non-food items I purchased were:

Dog Food (Med sized bag 11.99 with a coupon)

Toilet Paper (2.89 for 6 rolls on sale)

That’s how things went this week at our house.  Of course the tally is a bit higher on weeks when I buy hygiene items, or need to restock my baking supplies, but not more than 30 dollars higher unless we are hosting a bbq.

Groceries Galore

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I am doing my weekly grocery planning.  I LOVE doing this.  I love doing a little inventory of what I have, writing a menu, and then making up a grocery list.  I like the structure.  I like knowing where my money is going.  If you are saying, “I don’t have time to do this” you are lying to yourself.  If I said I wasn’t a bit of a nerd, I’d be lying to myself.

Some people make their list based on coupons.  I covet their devotion.  I do quite the opposite.  I look at the coupons I have, and if they are for products required for a dish I like to make I add that dish to my menu, and use the coupons.  For instance, this week there was a coupon for Campbell’s soup.  I need Cream of Mushroom soup to make Tuna Casserole… so guess what we’re eating this week.

Snacks, this is where you can save a bundle, and keep some weight off.  I buy peanuts in the shell, whole fruit, or make my own.  That’s right, I make baked french fries, cookies, bread, among other things.  Carrots (it’s cheaper to buy them whole and cut them yourself) and dip, apples, grapes, and homemade goodies save us a ton!  Not only are the packaged snacks full of chemicals, they are expensive (yes even the generics) compared to making your own.  This goes for breakfast too, oatmeal vs cereal.  Minute oats go farther than the largest box of cereal, are healthier, and cost about the same as generic cereal.

Meats are generally the most expensive item on any grocery list.  I can ALWAYS find coupons for “pre-cooked” meats, although I very rarely buy them.  They are full of chemicals that are banned in other countries because they are proven to be cancer causing.  That being said, I do have two sons and every once in a while I do use one of those coupons.  If you are a fan of chicken nuggets, or other frozen meats there is no reason to pay full price, EVER.  Your Sunday paper will have coupons for these.  It is much harder to find coupons for fresh meats.  I suggest shopping the “Manager’s Specials” (generally each store has a “Manager’s Special” day each week).  Manager’s Specials are the meats that are closest to expiring and are discounted, JUST BE SURE TO PUT THEM I THE FREEZER AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME!  Due to the fact that it’s cheap, I use a lot of ground turkey, and once every couple of weeks I will buy a whole chicken or a rump roast.  I also use canned tuna.  When it comes to any type sea food I won’t compromise my brand choice.  Bumble Bee Albacore Tuna is fished responsibly and without the use of nets.  It’s my money and I am not going to use it to support the destruction of my husbands office (he is a “deep-sea” diver), and our greatest resource.  It is important to have discretion as to who you are giving your money to.  You may think you are voting with a ballot, but you really vote with your wallet.

So if you want to save SIGNIFICANT money on groceries, plan your menu THEN your list.  Plan to make your own snacks, and shop for deals on meats. Not only is it gloriously fun to make snacks with your kids, it teaches them great habits.  Don’t be afraid of couponing, it will save you money.