Friday, April 16, 2010

pinching my pennies

We pinch pennies around here. BIG TIME.
Especially when it comes to the grocery budget. Why you ask? well, quite honestly, this is where I tend to overspend the most. So, a little over a year ago we instituted a new plan

Each week, on Friday morning typically, I withdraw $100 in cash from our checking account. That cash has to cover all the food and consumables we need to purchase (consumables = toilet paper, dish soap, furnace filters, trash bags, etc.) sounds easy right? Wrong. You'd be amazed to see how fast that $100 gets spent. It's tough but, if I want to continue staying home with Levi we have to hit a zero balance or better each month so, here are my tricks of the trade (aside from cloth diapering, breastfeeding, and babyfood making of course - although those three are HUGE penny savers).

Ad Matching:
Our local discount-grocer will honor other grocery stores' advertised prices IF (and that's a big if) you bring the paper ad with you. So each Wednesday I go through those ads, find the super low prices, and circle them so I can see if the ad gives me a better deal than our grocery store does.

Coupons: I don't use many coupons. We don't get the newspaper anymore (I get the grocery ads from our neighbor when she's done with them) but every once in a while I'll get some coupons in the mail.

Buying in large quantities: When something is on sale for a STEAL, I buy a TON of it. Of course, only if it's something I use a lot of. Examples: we have currently 16 boxes of cereal, 20lb of jasmine rice, and a whole lot of cans of tomatoes. Why? because they were the cheapest I'd ever seen them. I keep a record of these "cheapest prices" and when they go lower, I snag the deal. We never buy a box of cereal for more than $1.99, and I won't buy tomatoes that are over $.48 a can.

Paying attention to "price per unit": Not all cereal boxes or cans or bags of shredded cheese were created equal. I bring a calculator with me to the store and divide the item price by the number of ounces in the package to determine whether it would be cheaper to buy the small container or the larger one on a per-unit basis. You may be surprised to know that it's cheaper for us to buy small yogurts than it is to buy the large container (which is easier for Jonathan's lunch making anyhow) and occasionally this is true for applesauce cups/applesauce jugs also.

Serving sizes/Left overs management: So basically, I tend put too much on our plates. Typically we don't finish everything and something gets wasted. Bad form, I know. So I started dishing us up smaller portion sizes. THEN, before bed, I divy the rest up into one quart freezer ziplocks (genius invention). These bags fit enough in them for two servings of just about anything. Lentil soup, pasta sauce, enchiladas, meatloaf, you name it. Into the freezer they go for another night and now I don't have to wonder if we'll ever get around to actually finishing that left-over before it goes bad. Oh, and our fridge doesn't become a mess. Double bonus!

Last but not least, I read THIS blog written by friends of Jonathan and I from Washington. They have twelve children, eight of which are still at home. They are doing an experiment called 10-for-10-for-10. You should really check it out. (in case you need a hint, they're trying to feed 10 family members, for 10 dollars perday, for 10 weeks. Fascinating!)

So, what are your penny pinching strategies?
- Melissa


Brynn said...

You should check out You get a weekly email and you can go through the coupons you want to clip and then just print whichever ones you want to. A lot of times with ad matching and coupons it is cheaper to buy the name brand stuff than it is to buy the store-brand stuff. Also I've noticed the coupons at are a lot of times actually worth more than the ones in the paper - for example, save 50 cents on 6 yoplaits rather than save 40 cents on 6 (which is what is usually in the paper). That was pretty sweet this week when Yoplait was on sale at Russ's Market for 10 for $4! :)

Shelle and Dan said...

I love your tips. We're on a tight grocery budget around here too. I've found some great online coupons at (penny pincher gazette), some great cheap meal ideas at and inspiration and how-to at For us, meal planning is HUGE. I sit down with coupons and grocery ads and plan at least a weeks worth of meals before I go shopping. I also make some of Lana's baby food and lately I've been taking whatever we're having for dinner and pureeing it in the blender (as long as it's baby-appropriate food of course).
Keep it up. You're doing a great job!

Christina said...

WOW thank you for sharing your tips - We are trying to SAVE right now in hopes that when we have kids, I can stay home. It is so nice to read what WORKS for others (esp. you because I know you have similar views on healthy eating!)

miss you chickie-poo. Glad you are blogging regularly now!