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Friday, April 2, 2010

Healthful Eating on a Budget (Part 2)

Note: This is part 2 of a 2 part essay, to read part 1 click here


While it is possible to grow a good deal of food at home in containers or a garden, there will always be food items that you are just not able to grow or produce for yourself. For the foods that still need to be purchased, consumers can save money on them by using coupons. Many people do not understand how to use coupons, causing them to believe that they are not worth the time it takes to find them. However, once the proper way to use coupons is learned, consumers can save a lot of money on food and other items that are needed. There are many places that one can find coupons.

Traditionally, people think of finding coupons in the Sunday paper, which is still a reliable source for finding them. Coupons can also be printed off the computer from various websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com, RedPlum.com, and even directly from different manufacturers’ websites. Many people mistakenly believe that there is nothing more to using coupons than clipping them and then using them. However, there are occasionally situations when it would be in their best interest to avoid using a coupon that they may have.

According to Mommy Savers (2007), “You will need to become coupon-savvy in order to recognize when coupons are a good deal and when they’re not”. (Perfecting the Art of Couponing: How to Use Coupons, para. 2). Coupons are more effective when used in stores that will double them, meaning people can receive twice the value for one coupon. Coupons can also be paired up with sales, and store deals, to increase the savings. Shaw’s supermarkets will double coupons with a value up to 99 cents. In this case, it is better to have a coupon worth 75 cents than one worth $1. Once the value is doubles, consumers will end up receiving $1.50 of the normal purchase price. People should also always remember to purchase the smallest item allowed by the coupon to increase savings by volume.

In order to maximize the savings, and decrease the frustration that can result from trying to use a variety of coupons, it is best to find an organizational method that suits each person’s individuality. Many people use a three ring binder with trading card sleeves and tabbed dividers to keep their coupons organized, whereas others use a simple accordion style folder or a small file box. After finding a method that works effectively, it will become much easier to save money and plan shopping trips, and also to plan menus around the use of the coupons.

When planning a shopping list, keep in mind which local stores are having sales, and which coupons are available for the sale items. Using coupons on sale items is a good way to get the best possible price and to save money. This method is especially effective if the store also happens to be participating in a Catalina deal. A Catalina deal is when purchased items meet a predetermined requirement (usually $20 or $25 of participating items). Then, at the check out, the purchaser will receive a certain dollar amount off on their next shopping trip. These coupons can be “rolled-over” and used for multiple trips through the checkout, at the same store, to increase their savings. I have been known to take three or four trips through the check out, in one day, to take advantage of these Catalina deals, just to go in one more time to buy other items that were needed that I either did not have a coupon for, or were not part of a current store deal. On my best day I brought home over $140 worth of groceries and personal care products, but I only spent a little more than $16.

When it is possible to find really good deals on fruits and vegetables do not pass it up just because of the fear that they will go bad before they can be used up. Berries can be spread out and frozen, and then bagged for storage. Many other fruits can be frozen and saved for future use, as well. Erin Chase ("The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook", 2009) stated, “Frozen fresh fruit is best used to make smoothies or for baking, as it tends to turn ‘mushy’ as it thaws” (p.31).

Building a stockpile is probably the most important part of saving money on food. A stockpile is exactly what it sounds like—a large collection of products that are used regularly. Some people stockpile toilet paper or canned foods, while others stockpile diapers and other items. By using coupons in conjunction with deals and sales, and purchasing items that a family will use regularly, instead of just whatever happens to be on sale, a stockpile will slowly be built. By purchasing items when they can be obtained at their absolute lowest price, and building a stockpile of non-perishable foods and other items such as toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, etc.), then room can be freed in the budget for healthier items, such as fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Having an established stockpile helps to cut down on costs because when a person sits down to plan out their weekly or monthly menus (a very important part of saving money) they can check their stockpile, the current sales fliers, and available coupons to see what they have and what is inexpensive that they can pick up to complete meals for the least amount of money possible.

Although healthy food costs more, people can indeed eat healthy without breaking the bank. By shopping sales, and taking advantage of deals to stock up on non-perishable items that are used frequently, people can easily free up money from those areas of their budget to make room for the more expensive fresh and healthy foods that their family will thrive on.

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