Mid-Week Check In

Yes, I know it’s only Monday, but my grocery week started on Friday. So I wanted to report on my progress keeping to a grocery budget. To be honest, prior to this week, I didn’t really have a grocery budget per se. I used sales, coupons and grocery apps, but I didn’t try to stay below a certain amount.  As you can imagine,  this got out of hand rather quickly.

That all changed this week. I forgot when I set out to do this that I was going to be out of state on Friday and Saturday.  I think this is my first stroke of luck. Because of this, I wasn’t able to do my usual grocery shopping and instead had to make do with a couple of quick runs. My husband went on one while I was away and I ran after work today.

Because of this craziness, I’m only halfway through my budget. This can lead to great possibilities. Mainly, I’m hoping to stay out of stores for the rest of the week so I can have a cushion next week, especially since I’ll be needing meat and paper products. This budget challenge is making me realize just how often I give into impulse buys or picking up an extra “just in case” I’m low at home.

For food this week, I’m going to do a simple menu of “find it & use it”. Basically, I’ll be seeing what we have on hand and using it up. After this week, I’ll be menu planning as well. I hope.

Here is my pantry. I wonder how empty it’ll get?

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Checkout 51

Another grocery app I use fairly often is Checkout 51. The offers on this app change every Thursday and if you have any rebates for the week, you need to submit them by Wednesday.  Even if the receipt shows the correct date and the offer is the same as the previous week, it will be rejected.

There are pros and cons for this app. I like the fact that once you reach at least $20.00, you can request a payout and a check will be mailed to you. There are a variety of items offered as well, including both brand name items and produce or dairy.  There is no scanning of items. Rather you choose the items that are on the receipt,  take a picture of the receipt, and submit it.

I find myself mainly redeeming the produce rebates, which is 25 cents a week. On occasion, there will be more name brand items that I use, but this tends to be feast or famine. There are also a fewer number items each week than apps such as Ibotta have. Even so, it’s still a wonderful opportunity to cut your grocery budget. I especially like the fact that they always have a produce rebate–have I mentioned my family has a thing for bananas???1420397741764

New Year’s Resolutions

1420125143651My New Year’s resolution is simple, but it won’t be easy!  I want to find ways to cut our grocery budget in half. This is pretty ambitious, and to be honest,  I’m not certain I’ll manage to do it, but it’ll be fun to try! I know there are a lot of people who are able to have a much smaller budget with a much larger family. So why not us?

A little background about “us”: there are two adults, a teenage girl, and a preteen girl who make up the household.  My husband has allergies and food sensitivities, so our grocery purchases will reflect this. In addition, we are all focusing on eating better. This means eating more “real”‘ food and less processed foods. This is where I think the real challenge lies. How can a family eat healthy and not go broke?

A quick disclaimer: we also have two dogs and a cat. However, I will not be including pet supplies in the total budget. This is mainly because they are on special diets due to one having food allergies. Because of this, one bag of dog food would be two-thirds of the weekly budget. As much as I love my pets, on the weeks they need food, I’d rather not go hungry.

So ground rules: each week, I’ll allot myself $100 with which to do my shopping.  Once the money is gone, no borrowing against next week–I’ll have to scrounge and get creative with meals. On the other hand, if by some miracle,  I am under $100 for the week, I’ll roll it over to the next week. I am planning on using a checkbook register to track my progress. I’ll start with a $100 “deposit” and go from there.

In addition, my week will run Friday to Thursday.  With my schedule,  this is just what makes the most sense for me, but feel free to modify however you wish.

Finally, what items will be included in my new budget? Food, paper products, toiletries…pretty much anything that I buy at the grocery store/super center/butcher/specialty shop. I won’t include clothes or meals out.

So, what do you think?  Is a $100 budget reasonable for a family of four to live off? And not just live, but live well? Or does that seem like a large budget?

Another Money Saving Grocery App

The next money saving app I want to introduce you to is SavingStar.  Like Ibotta,  it’s a free app and is available on Androids and iPhones. It is different in that the payment can be through PayPal, directly to your bank account, or you can donate to a featured charity. Personally, I never link apps to an account other than PayPal, but it’s an option.

There are two features that I find myself using consistently with SavingStar.  The first is the Friday Freebie. Who doesn’t like getting useful items for free? These items are under $1.00, but free is free. I’ve seen several varieties of candy bars, and my philosophy is that there are no calories in free candy! Other items include a 26 oz. container of Morton’s table salt and a can of Hunt’s tomato paste.

1420051630368The other feature I use a lot is the healthy offer. Each week, you can get 20% off a featured item of produce. This week was bananas,  which are always a hit with my family. We eat them plain, but I also bake with them as well. I have a lot of recipes featuring bananas,  including oatmeal cookies, pancakes, muffins and bread. Last week’s offer was sweet potatoes, which is another favorite food for my husband.

In addition, there are items where the rebate works the same as Ibotta. For my shopping trip yesterday, Ibotta had a $2.00 rebate off a pound of Truvia brown sugar. SavingStar also had a $1.00 rebate off Truvia. I was able to use both on the same item and get $3.00 off, which was almost a 50% savings on that item.

A feature that I’ve just started using is the “One or Many” offer. An example of this is the current offer on Cottonelle, Viva, Scott,  and/or Kleenex. If, over the course of several weeks,  I spend $30 on these brands,  I receive a $5.00 rebate. This is great, because we already use several of the brands, and the eligible time is long enough that I can reasonably purchase and use the items.

I hope you’re enjoying the information regarding these grocery apps.  I’m hoping they’ll help me with my New Year’s resolutions,  which I’ll write more about later.

Saving Money at the Grocery Store

If you’re like me, you’ve noticed the prices at the grocery store are only going up. It can be frustrating because it seems like no matter how frugal you try to be, the final total at the checkout can still be a shock.

My family is trying to focus on eating better. This means more fresh foods and less processed convenience items. Add in food allergies and sensitivities and you can imagine all the fun I have in the aisles juggling a list, coupons, and a smartphone with all the grocery apps loaded on it as I’m trying to read yet another label to make certain that even my tried and true items haven’t changed their ingredients.

Wait a moment…what was that about grocery apps on a phone? What in the world are those? These are a recent wonderful discovery that I can’t seem to hush up about.  Seriously. I’m telling all my friends about them. After my most recent grocery store foray, I found myself so excited that I was actually texting people about my best deal. I even Skyped with my best friend about it, which then led to the idea of writing a blog about it. (Thank you, BFF!)

Rather than writing a book, I’ll just highlight one app at  a time. The one that I seem to use the most is Ibotta. This is an app that can be downloaded for free and is compatible with both an Android and an iPhone. Best of all, it’s a breeze to use.

Once you download it and set up your account, you just need to look at the items offered and select the ones you want. In order to activate the rebate, you’ll need to click on the item,  and then look for the circle. Simply click on the circle, then watch a short video, answer a question, or read a recipe or fact. This is extremely quick to complete. Once the rebate is unlocked,  just scan the item you purchased and take a photo of the receipt.  If multiple items were purchased, verify all items and then take just one picture of the receipt.

Ibotta is very fast to review the receipt and post the credit to your account. Right now you may be asking yourself what happens with the credit?  How can it be used? There are several options. Once you have accrued at least $5.00, you can request the credit be funded to your PayPal or Venmo account. Or, if you’d rather, you can request a gift card from a variety of retailers including Amazon.com,  Starbucks,  Walmart,  and others.

There are interactive aspects of the app as well. There are bonuses that can be earned, and you can form a team to help unlock items as well. Each person is given a referral code. One word of caution: if my team has two people,  and another person joins the team, only the one person has three people on the team. The other two people aren’t team members–only the one who sent the referral code sees both people in the app.

So after all the explanations, are you curious about my best deal today? It was a 1.5 pound bag of Tate+Lyle fair trade, non-GMO, organic turbinado raw cane sugar. I bought it at Walmart. The regular price was $2.94. I had a coupon from the Sunday paper for $1.50 off. I combined that with a rebate from Ibotta for another $1.00 off. After the savings,  I paid $0.44 for sugar that I would have had difficulty justifying otherwise.

The deal of the day. My tea is saved from boredom!
The deal of the day. My tea is saved from boredom!