Archive for the ‘Grocery shopping’ Category

Grocery Challenge Monday – Don’t buy single serving packaged food

Monday, January 5, 2009 4:57 2 Comments

Today’s Grocery Shopping Challenge is to buy in bulk and avoid those “single serving” convenience packages.  The grocery stores are tempting everyone with foods packaged up in those 100 calorie packages, but you are paying premium when you could just be doing it yourself.  And let’s face it, buying a 100 calorie pack of chocolate cookies really isn’t doing anyone any favors, especially your waistline, even though the marketing companies want you to think those packages are “healthy” with “only” 100 calories… not to mention many people end up eating more that one pack at a time!!!

So the challenge this week is to buy anything that you might buy in those handy single serving packs, whether it is baby carrots, cookies or single serving soup packages, and buy them in the larger size.  Then, when you are at home, go and and divide them into single serving sizes into plastic containers or ziplocs. 

Don’t forget to check out the prices… that package of six single serving packages will cost just about as much as the large package that you can usually make two or three times the number of packages when you do it yourself. 

Don’t fall into the trap of just thinking it is “easier” to buy them packaged in the single serving sizes.  It is easier, but you are probably paying someone the equivelant of about $100 per hour to package them when you do buy them that way, when you can take 5-10 miunutes and do it yourself – and it is also a great chore to have your kids do for their allowance too!

This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Grocery Shopping Challenge

How to stretch those instant oatmeal packs into larger servings

Friday, January 2, 2009 14:23 Comments Off on How to stretch those instant oatmeal packs into larger servings

Instant oatmeal packets are like a staple of many household’s breakfast routines.  But many people (unless your kids are about 6 or under) end up eating two packets at a time, since the serving sizes are pretty small.  But at two packets a day, and especially when you are multiplying by multiple family members, can add up to a budgeting disaster, and with this economy, the last thing you want to do is waste money!

Here are some tricks you can do to make those packets stretch – or do away with them altogether – when your family loves them so much!

Buy in bulk
the first key is to buy your Quaker (or whichever brand you prefer) instant oatmeal packs in the larger quantity sizes.  You will save a lot more money when you buy the boxes of 50+ packets than when you are buying the small boxes of only 8 packets at a time.

Supplement with Quaker Quick Oats
You can buy large backs of Quaker Quick Oats, which are the exact same oats used in Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal packs.  For every packet, add the same amount of plain Quaker Quick Oats to the bowl, and you now have double the amount of oatmeal, but are only use one of the expensive oatmeal packets.  And as a bonus, you are also reducing the amount of sugar the family is eating in your oatmeal, since there is only half the amount there would be if you were using two packets of instant instead.

Add extra “stuff”
If your kids complain about not having as many raisins or apple pieces, simple add some of your own from the pantry.  The raisins are exactly the same (except for all that added sugar powder on them) or chop up dried applie slices into small pieces and toss into the oatmeal before cooking.  You can use any kind of dried fruit, just cut the pieces up small enough so they will cook.

Skip the instant oatmeal packets all together
You don’t actually have to use the packets at all.  Use Quaker Quick Oats, or your preferred brand of quick cooking oats and make your own oatmeal packets.  Doing it this way you can double the portion size for family members as needed, and you can ensure what you include in the oatmeal is healthier.  Experiment with different types of dried fruit to make your own creative oatmeal blends.  If your grocery store doesn’t have a wide variety of dried fruit, check out your local health food store, which will also have more unusual dried fruit such as canteloupe, mango and pineapple.  Just remember to chop them in very small pieces so they have time to rehydrate in the microwave.

Use coupons
Keep your eye out for coupons to cut your costs on oatmeal.  We have some Quaker coupons (both for quick oats and for instant oatmeal packets) right now in our coupon section, on a first come, first served basis.

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This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Make your own

Are you haggling to get a better deal?

Friday, November 21, 2008 1:33 Comments Off on Are you haggling to get a better deal?

While some stores don’t seem to be swayed when you try to strike a deal, many surprisingly are.  Here are some tips for haggling so you can get the best deals.

Damaged/Open packaging
If you are buying something that has been previously opened, ask if you can get a deal on it.  Stores have a much harder time turning over goods with opened and damaged packaging, so you can usually save an extra 20-30% off the retail price.  You can even ask them to open the packaging while you are in the store so you can check and make sure all the pieces are still in the opened package… if anything is missing, you can usually get an extra discount… and if it is just a manual, you can often download a copy of it online or request one from the manufacturer.  You can also ask the cashier to mark on the receipt that you purchased an open product if it is something that might have been returned because it didn’t work.

Dated product
If the product is nearing its expiration date (and you know you will use it before that date) ask for a discount. This is especially true for perishables, such as dairy products.  Sometimes if the date is close enough (expires within a day or so) they might even gift it to you for free, especially if you alredy have a cart full of other groceries you are buying, since the section manager might view it as a good will gesture, knowing you are purchasing a significant amount of other groceries too.

Already Reduced
If something has already been reduced (whether it is perishable, or something that is out of season, such as a pair of shorts in December) ask if they can discount it any further.  And it doesn’t hurt to do a price check… if it is clothing, it could have been hiding on a rack when a service person went through with their price gun to show further price reductions, which is a frequent problem in chain department stores.

Meat department deals
Many grocery stores will go and reduce meat that is nearing the best before date.  So become familiar with your grocery store policies, such as if they discount them 2 days before the best before date.  Shopping first thing in the morning you will have a better selection for the meat, then just ask the meat manager to put the discount stickers on them before you go to pay.  It is a great deal, as long as you remember to eat them or freeze them before the best before date.

Price adjustments
Many stores, particularly for clothing, have a policy where you can being your receipt back for a price adjustment if it goes in sale within the next X number of days, usually 14 or 30 days.  Just remember to take your receipt back for the price adjustment!  Most stores offer this simply because most people do not get around to returning for the price adjustment, and if they do, chances are pretty good they will end up buying something else when they come back too!  So be sure to ask if there is a policy, and then watch the sale flyers to see if it goes on sale, then make a point of going back and getting your receipt adjusted.  If you want to skip out on the holiday crowds, plan your trip either as soon as the store opens or closer to the closing time.

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This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Holidays, Shopping Tags: , , ,

Don’t just shop farmers markets in the summer

Friday, November 14, 2008 5:34 Comments Off on Don’t just shop farmers markets in the summer

Many people make the mistaken assumption that once summer is over that you can’t buy from farmer’s markets anymore.  But there is a pretty good chance you are mistaken… just because strawberries and corn aren’t in season, doesn’t mean there isn’t farm fresh vegetables that are in season.  In actuality, there are many in-season vegetables right now.

The most common seasonal vegetables in November are:

  • Greens such as kalem bok choy, collards, chard and spinach
  • Brussel Sprouts (if you have ever wondered why they seem to be a Thanksgiving vegetable staple, it is because they are in season!)
  • Many types of squashes including the common butternut squash
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes (again, a popular Thanksgiving veggie!)
  • Broccoli & broccolini
  • Bell Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery root
  • Pumpkin (of course!)
  • Turnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnips

So next time you are in the neighborhood of your local farmer’s market, drive by and see if it is open or what hours it is open (some might only be open Saturdays and Sundays).  You never know if it is open, and you can save a bundle by buying those vegetables that re in season now, rather than paying a premium for out of season fruits and veggies.  And even if it is closed, you will find these seasonal vegetables should be priced quite reasonably in the grocery store now.

How many in season vegetables can you use in your cooking this month?

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This was posted under category: Cooking, Grocery shopping Tags: ,

How fresh are your jars of herbs and spices

Thursday, November 13, 2008 1:29 Comments Off on How fresh are your jars of herbs and spices

Since many of us give our jars of spices and herbs a workout during the holiday season, it is a good time to check and see just how fresh your herbs and spices are.  I don’t know about you, but can you remember how long ago you bought that jar of parsley or thyme?  Here are some tricks o the trade to help you figure out whether that jar is fresh enough or whether you should toss it and buy a replacement.

Color check
Does the color look fairly close to what it was when you bought it?  If your parsley was once a vibrant green but it’s now a dull grey or brown, it definitely needs replacing.  If you aren’t exactly sure what color it should look, make a note of the spices and herbs you need to check and have a look at them next time you are at the grocery store.  Then you can see just how true to the color that jar at home really is!

Smell test
Take a pinch of the herb or spice from the jar and rub it between your fingers.  Is the scent still strong or is it a barely lingering scent?  You should be able to smell it well.  If not, it needs replacing.  For example, when you crush basil, you should really smell the basil.  The intensity you smell when you crush it will relate to the intensity of the herb or spice in your dish.  If you can barely smell it, then you will barely taste it either!

Date it
Many herbs and spices need to be replaced every 6-12 months.  When you buy a spice, write the date you opened each one on the label, or put a small sticker on the top or bottom with the date.  That way you can wait until you notice when spices and herbs are on sale at grocery stores and replace what you know needs replacing, rather than having to pay full price because your rosemary doesn’t smell like anything when it is time to do your holiday cooking.

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This was posted under category: Cooking, Grocery shopping Tags: , , ,

Should you make your own burger patties or buy pre-made frozen hamburgers?

Saturday, November 8, 2008 5:04 Comments Off on Should you make your own burger patties or buy pre-made frozen hamburgers?

If your kids love hamburgers, it is a great way to get protein in them, and you can make them healthier by using extra lean ground beef or even chicken or turkey instead of ground beef.  Plus, you get to control the seasoning and the extras your kids put on burgers.  And yes, as a busy parent, it can be extremely tempting to buy those boxes of 20 or 40 frozen pre-made hamburgers simply because it is quick and convenient.  But are you paying a lot extra for that convenience?

Yes!  Compare the weight of the hamburgers you want to buy, then head over to the meat section and check out the price of the ground beef for the same weight.  Chances are pretty good that it will be far less than half the cost – and if you pick up ground beef on sale, you can save even more.  Add some bread crumbs (save those end pieces of bread to use as bread crumbs, if your family doesn’t like to eat them) and egg, and some seasonings as you wish, and you have burgers!

You can also buy a large amount of hamburger and make a large batch of hamburgers, shape them into patties and then freeze them, adding pieces of parchment paper between each burger to keep them seperated.  Want some freezer friendly hamburger recipes?  You can find a variety of hanburger recipes that are freezable in our Freezer Cooking Recipe section… and it’s an easy way to get your toes wet in the whole “once a month cooking” idea, if you are tempted to start.

Here are some of our favorite recipes for frozen patties:

So next time you are tempted to buy those convenient pre-made frozen hamburger patties, remember how much extra you are paying for that convenience, and pick up some ground beef to make your own instead.

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This was posted under category: Cooking, Freezer Cooking, Grocery shopping Tags: , , , ,

Stretching out your fresh milk with powdered milk

Monday, November 3, 2008 1:24 3 Comments

This is one of those tips you probably won’t want your family (especially your kids!) to know about, because even though they might not taste the difference, many will complain once they know!  It also won’t “taste” powdered milk, like it can when it is 100% powdered milk.

First, you need 1 gallon of fresh milk and 1 empty gallon milk jug that you have washed out thoroughly.  Divide the gallon of milk into the second empty container, so each container has 1/2 gallon of milk.  Then mix up 1 gallon of powdered milk according to the instructions, making sure you stir really well, then add 1/2 gallon each to the milk jugs.

You will now have two milk jugs that are filled with 1/2 fresh milk and half powdered milk.  If the date on the outside of the second milk jug you used have an expired date on it, you can gently scrub it off with soap and water.  Kids usually don’t think to check the expiry date on a jug of milk, but they might notice it if it is sitting near the top in an obvious place, and a jug of milk with a two month old expiry date is a dead giveaway!

Also, if you tend to use a lot of milk in cooking, you might want to keep a small jug of all powdered milk in the fridge and use that in your cooking instead.  When it is mixed in with many other ingredients, it won’t be noticeable at all, and you’ll save money when you use powdered instead of fresh milk.

Also, there are several different brands of powdered milk, so you might want to try a couple of different brands until you find one you prefer.  And don’t worry, powdered milk has come a LONG way since the powdered milk you probably remember as a child!

This was posted under category: Cooking, Grocery shopping Tags: ,

Start buying your holiday groceries now to get the best prices

Saturday, November 1, 2008 4:11 3 Comments

Yes, we all know how it makes so much more sense to buy Christmas presents early, but people never seem to think about the advantages of starting your Christmas grocery shopping early too.  If you waited to buy all your ingredients until the week or two before Christmas, you would not only be spending a fortune, but you’d also be dealing with a crowded grocery store full of people all trying to get their Christmas grocery shopping done to.

And, when you start your grocery shopping early, you can take advantage of the sales in the weeks leading up to the holidays and picking up items as they go on sale.  This makes much more sense than buying them the week before Christmas when not as many grocery items will be on sale – and might not be in stock, causing you to go to even more grocery stores during this chaotic time.

So MomsBudget has made this handy printable that all busy women will love! 

All you do is plan out your holiday menu, and then go through each recipe, writing down all the ingredients that are non-perishable.  Then, in the weeks (or even months!) leading up to Christmas, all you need to do is check your holiday grocery list with the grocery flyers to see if any of the needed items are on sale that week.  And you can bring the list with you incase you find any “in-store specials” that were not advertised.  And as you buy each one, check it off so you know you have it.  An don’t forget to see if you have any coupons that you could use for any of the items on your holiday dinner list.

Ready to get started?  Get the free printable here.  And don’t forget to recommend this to other busy moms so they can take advantage of all the free printables too… not to mention the joy of getting most of the holiday grocery Christmas shopping nearly done with!

This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Holidays, Printables and worksheets Tags: , , , ,

Are you wasting money buying in bulk?

Friday, October 17, 2008 5:27 1 Comment

With the current economy crisis, buying in bulk is one of the things many people are turning to as a solution to save money.  But some people actually waste money buying in bulk… are you one of them?

One of the big problems with buying in bulk is the fact you might end up with a two year’s supply of  something.  So you need to ask yourself, since you won’t recoup the cost of that for two years, would that money be better spent filling an immediate need? 

For example, let’s say you bought two years worth of tomato soup, and for arguments sake, you spent $40 on it.  Now, what if you bought only six months worth on sale – even if it costs you more per item – for, let’s say $15.  That means you have an extra $25 to spend NOW rather than on something that you won’t finish using for 24 whole months.

Now, sometimes the deal is too good to pass up… let’s say that two year supply of tomato soup would cost you $18 versus $15 for the six month supply, then it should be a serious consideration.  But you need to consider the pros and cons when purchasing in such bulk that the supplies are lasting for 2+ years, and decide if that money is better spent on something your family has an immediate need for, such as extra pounds of ground beef or some fresh veggies.

Lastly, also consider freshness… does the soup expire before the two years are up?  Does the product tend to go stale, such as some cereals, before you would use it up?

Still wondering?  Here are some more thoughts on buying in bulk.

This was posted under category: Grocery shopping Tags: , , ,