I fell off the coupon wagon a few months ago, somewhere in the middle of the garden harvest when we were enjoying meals of fresh fruits and vegetables and had no desire for anything store-bought. Then I kind of got sick of couponing, the weekly sit-down of cutting out coupons and organizing them and pulling out expired ones. Going online to check for deals and sales and printing online coupons were starting to annoy me. I was experiencing coupon burn-out!
Of course, falling off the coupon wagon means money isn't being saved. Not that I stopped shopping the sales, but I wasn't searching out the best deals and my coupon inserts were piling up, waiting to be cut. Couponing is a lot of work, equivalent to a part-time job, at least, when you factor in all the time it takes to cut, sort, organize, search, find, and match up deals to coupons.
After awhile, I got tired of my grocery budget not going as far as it could be and sometime around November, I hopped back on the wagon. A break was just what I needed, to come back refreshed and eager to start making my dollars stretch again! Just in time, too, because I found a lot of deals for Christmas gifts and other items, and I'm pretty pleased to say that the majority of the gifts under the tree this year were bargains. I think there were only a few things we paid full price for and I'm happy with what we were able to give to others and not feel like we came out broke at the end of it all.
Now that a new year has begun, I've started off on the right foot and really stretched the food budget today while I was out shopping. I try not to buy too much processed foods, but sometimes, and especially with a big family, buying a box or two of macaroni and cheese really helps stretch the budget and the meals. In this case, I bought 18 boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese!! Here's why: The local store advertised it as being on sale 3 for $1.25. That's a cheap price for a brand name! An added bonus is that I have 6 coupons for $1 off 3, which combined with the sale makes it 25 cents for 3 boxes!! No doubt, that's a stock-up price!! After sales, coupons, and taxes, I paid $1.75 for 18 boxes of macaroni and cheese!!
I can now take a box and then add to it to make a meal-- I might add a pound of ground beef, a jar of my home-canned tomatoes, a chopped onion and green pepper, some spices, and I've just made a home version of hamburger helper. Add a side of vegetables and a salad and it's enough for the seven of us to get filled up on. It's a little bit processed, but in general, it's a healthy meal, I'm not complaining.
Here's where going online helps to make a sale become a better deal: Target's ad states that when you buy 2 boxes of Digiorno pizza for $5 each, you get a free box of Edy's fruit bars. Pretty good. But going online to coupon websites, I discover there's an online coupon you can print to get 1 Digiorno pizza free when you buy 2. Even better! Now here's the best deal, print -2- of those coupons, buy 6 pizzas for $5 each, get 3 free boxes of fruit bars for $30 total before coupons. The coupon states it will give you a free pizza up to $7.01 and some stores will let you get the full value of the coupon, even if the pizza only cost $5. I was able to get the full value of the coupon twice, which means, after coupons, I paid $16 for 6 pizzas and 3 boxes of fruit bars!
Frozen pizza is not as good as eating out, but with this large family of mine, eating out often is not an option. Not as good as home made pizza, but that requires planning ahead and I usually come up with dinner ideas on the fly, meaning something gets whipped up at the last minute. I'll be saving those pizzas for those really crazy days, when we're all frazzled and tired and hungry and too pooped to cook.
I keep telling myself to keep track of how much I spent versus how much I should have spent, but after a week or two, I lose stamina and receipts get scattered. The easier way for me to know I'm saving money is when we continually stay under the grocery budget. I've been running out before the end of the month and that's a truly awful feeling to know I've spent the entire budget already. It's nice to get back on track again and I'm looking forward to seeing our budget carry over to the next month!