I can help-with ideas

Radford, VA(Zone 7a)

I've been on a low, fixed income for years-many as a single mom. I don't have time to keep up with all the threads, but will be glad to answer emails or post here. Here's how I live.

*Coupons are great, but I've not had the patience-and I've found they aren't always a bargain.
*Sometimes generic foods actually taste better and, lately, they seem to have more in the packet than the name brand. (Great Value mashed potatoes and oatmeal for example.)
*Having a vegetable garden is great, but not free either, if you are in a place where you have to water. You can't beat the garden for fresh veggies, but buying canned ones on sale just may be cheaper than gardening and canning yourself.
*Trading seeds makes sense, if you don't usually use a whole packet.
*Dehydrating is great & saves space.
*Herbs (especially fresh) can dress up the plainest (and usually cheapest) ingredients.
*Squirrel meat has a nutty flavor and fits nicely in a crockpot. ; )
*I rarely drink anything other than (filtered) water.
*I eat less than 1/2 lb. of meat per week.
*I don't cook much, but do bake my own bread.
*I rarely eat out more than once a week.
*I wear my clothes for several days at a time.
*I buy washable (not dry-cleanable) clothes.
*I wear slippers in the house, have a pair of old shoes for working outdoors, and have a couple of pairs of shoes for wearing 'out'.
*I don't believe a pair of shoes is worth more than $30-to me at least-unless it has arch support and maybe gold in the toe!
*I bought my kids' clothes and shoes one size too big so they lasted longer. They had one coat and one or two (cheap) pairs of shoes. I didn't buy popular or 'name' brands.
*I do all my errands at once-usually once a week.
*I don't rent videos or do pay-per-view, but I do have satellite tv.
*'Going out' means an inexpensive dinner, maybe once a week.
*I order a la carte & drink water.
*I go where I can order from the kids' menu.
*If a place is expensive (to me-$10-12 for a plate), I split with a friend.
*I buy clothes on sale. Sears.com has good clearance prices on nice clothes.
*I use shampoo, conditioner & soap sparingly, rather than lavishly, and I empty the containers completely.
*I usually shower/shampoo every other day, unless I'm working outside, etc.
*I have an idea in mind of what something is worth and do my best to wait until I can find it at that price.
*I've learned where to get the best prices-almost always it's Walmart. Kmart is now a lot more expensive than Walmart, as is Target.
*Some great bargains can be found at a real 'Dollar Store'. (Great for spoiling the grandkids cheaply!)
*I look at the unit price, beside the regular price, because manufacturers are cutting back on volume (11.5 ounces instead of 12) and being tricky with packaging (look closely at 3 sizes of Cocoa Puffs-the weights and prices are very different, but the package sizes are nearly identical).
*Buying a larger quantity is not always cheaper.
*When I shop online, I look for the clearance items and sales items first.
*I have a budget and try to stick with it. 'overspending' in one area is ok, it just means cutting back on something else.
*I know how much I plan to spend before I go out/shop.
*I try not to buy on impulse.
*If I see something I want, or need, and don't have the money-I wait until I do.
*I return items if I can't use them.
*I watch my checking account carefully to not incur overdraft fees.
*I seriously hunt for the best prices.
*I used to take my kids to fairs/carnivals-if they had free admission. We didn't buy a rides pass, but each could choose a few.
*I print on both sides of paper, and reuse paper.
*(When I could pay my credit cards) I paid them on time and didn't go over the limit.
I got in trouble with credit cards too, starting a business. I'm not perfect and don't do all the above things perfectly all the time. However, this is a way of life for me now-with about 30 years of practice.
Mostly, I am just conscious that my income is limited and try to get the best value for my dollar and choose what is most important to me.

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

Very good advice; I am happy to say that I adhere to many of these techniques too. But then I grew up in an era where coca cola was something you only got on birthdays....

Shenandoah Valley, VA

I have to say I completely disagree on the coupons. I save at least $20 each week on my groceries with coupons, and I live in an area where no stores double coupons. If you have stores in your area that double coupons, you can save even more. The only way they're not a bargain is if you buy a bunch of stuff you don't need just to use the coupons, but I don't do that. I do clip multiples of the ones I need, thanks to a couple of relatives who save their coupons for me, and I print online grocery coupons too.

And I do stock up when I have coupons plus a sale on something I use all the time. Having multiples of the coupons I need really helps with this.

Here are some excellent sites for printable grocery coupons. They also have links to the main sites such as coupons.com and smartsource.com.

http://www.freesamplesite.com/ydf/forumdisplay.php?forumid=18

http://www.afullcup.com/forums/printable-coupons/

http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=72

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

I buy very few name brand packaged goods, so I rarely ever have an opportunity to use coupons.
I do look out for two-for-one deals etc. to stock up on things like pasta, toilet paper etc.

Radford, VA(Zone 7a)

Same for me, I rarely find coupons for the products I usually use. I'll check out the sites though-thank you! I know they save a lot of money for a lot of people. We're all different.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The thing with coupons is you have to do your homework on them--a lot of people assume the coupon gets them a good deal and they clip and go without thinking about it. If the coupon is for the name brand product, the store brand could still be cheaper than the name brand plus the coupon so make sure you check that it's actually a good deal. And don't fall into the trap of buying something you wouldn't normally buy just because you have a coupon for it. If you keep those two things in mind you can definitely save money, but it takes a bit of time to do the research.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

I finally convinced my adult kids that soda is a once a week treat. They are amazed at how much money they are saving by not picking up a soda at the gas station, or when they get a meal out.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

The prices on the store brand items have gone up drastically in the two stores where I shop. They are no longer much of a bargain and nearly always, a name brand with a coupon is far cheaper than the store brand. In fact, I'm finding more and more instances where the brand name items are actually cheaper than the store brand, especially if they're on sale that week.

To give you an idea, here are some of the coupons I used this week.

$3 off Splenda, an online printable. Splenda was $6, so I paid $3, store brand was $5.64
$1 off yogurt, yogurt was $2.12 so I paid $1.12, store brand was $1.78
$1 off frozen meatballs, meatballs were $5.50 so I paid $4.50, store brand was $5.98 (actually more than the name brand, same size bag)
$2 off body wash, body wash was $3.50 so I paid $1.50, store brand was around $3
coupon for free Jello sugar free pudding, pudding was $2.50, I paid $0, no comparable store brand
$1.35 off high fiber granola bars, bars were $2.48 so I paid $1.07, store brand was $2

The stores where I shop place their store brand items right next to the name brand items, so there's certainly no significant time involved in research to compare prices.

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

Great bargains!

Prophetstown, IL(Zone 5a)

I've been trying to use coupons lately but find I do best when I clip for non-food items. I cook from scratch so usually those items don't have coupons. Paper Products, cleaning stuff, toiletries, pet food...I saved more than $10.00 this week using those coupons.

I'm slowly building up a pantry - when I was a young bride, a neighbor taught me how to grocery shop (and cook too!) - she always kept a well stocked pantry and always knew what she had on hand. I need to remember her lessons.

Catherine

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

That is something my husband and I argue about now and then. I like to stock up when things are on sale, he doesn't like to spend money, ever, lol.

Shenandoah Valley, VA

I also do a written grocery list each week, things that I need plus anything I'm stocking up on because I have particularly good coupons. Most of the coupons are good for at least 3-4 weeks, so on items I'm stocking, I may buy two one week, two the next.

I may also buy some things that aren't on the list if there's a good sale, but I more or less stick to the list. It helps either way in cutting down on buying something just because I see it.

You're right about the cleaning products. Some of the best coupons are for non-food items like cleaning items as well as items in the drug section like shampoo, over the counter medicines, etc. I have found the store brand prices are still cheaper, even with coupons, for most of the over the counter medicines like Aleve, Tylenol, Neosporin, though. I had a $2 off coupon for Mucinex when I had a cold, but the name brand was twice the price of the store brand, which had something like triple or more the number of tablets too.

Nowadays, you have to really do comparison shopping on the paper products. Most of the manufacturers both raised the prices and made the sizes smaller. I always check the number of square feet because the brand with the coupon or the lowest price per package may not be the cheapest when I factor in the amount in the package. And of course for paper towels, the flimsy ones really don't last as long on the roll if you have to use two or three sheets to do what one sheet of the better brands will do.

Some items are cheaper at the warehouse stores that don't take coupons like Costco. I've found produce, if you can use a larger amount, is far cheaper, such as salad mixes, bananas, asparagus. This is especially true in winter when you're paying off season prices for produce.

Oh, BTW, if you're going to clip coupons, you're going to need a coupon holder. Dollar Tree has them for $1, but the best one I've found is at Walmart in the office supplies section. It's made of plastic, not paper, and is $3-something. Look in the section where they have the divided holders for papers, checks, that sort of thing.

And for those of you who don't have time to clip, there are coupon clipping services online. Most charge around 5-10 cents per coupon, which is still a savings because you can pick exactly which coupons you want. I haven't used them but it might be worth a try.

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

I save about $10 a week with coupons. But I try to have an overall savings of about 30%. I do only buy things I normally buy. Most importantly I have my grocery shopping in a cycle so I really only purchase from the sale flyer. Then, I match any coupons to the already reduced price. I really try not to buy anything unless it is on sale that week. For example, last week pickles were on sale buy one get one free. I had two coupons so I paid less than 50 cents a jar. I may buy 20 cans of tomatoes one week, but then not buy them again for another 6 weeks when they go on sale again. Oddly our pantry is pretty empty looking.

My daughter's elementary school has started an organic produce co-op. It is $20/week. The weeks I have priced them against the grocery they have been between $40-46 retail. This week our bag included: spinach, bib lettuce, 3 oranges, 9 bananas, whole pineapple, bunch asparagus, 1 tomato, 1 eggplant, 1 quart of strawberries. It has been wonderful. They are opening it up to the public now Dutchlady.

One of my favorite places is the salvage grocery store. I spent $50 there today on great items. They filled 3 boxes. You have to look at expiration dates and damaged packaging though. I find a lot of organic & gourmet items there, as well as a ton of ethnic foods. I bought some wonderful balsamic vinegars, organic sunflower oil, dried onion flakes, kashi cereal, organic kids crackers, birthday candles, napkins, chutney, a couple different indian sauces, spray starch.... It takes a long time to shop there, but it was honestly about $150 in savings. It is close by also. Some items were splurges, but when you get an expensive bottle of vinaigar for $1.50 to go over your delicious fresh organic veggies you can't pass it up!

Shenandoah Valley, VA

What a great option on the organic produce coop! It sounds like a CSA - community supported agriculture, where you subscribe to a farm and get so much produce (and perhaps eggs and other products) each week in return. Some have different levels of subscriptions depending on how much produce you need each week.

More info here and you can look to see if there are any CSA farms near you, or one that has pickup locations near you.

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Which reminds me, another great way to save is pick your own farms and orchards and it's great for kids. We have a lot of pick your own apple and peach orchards in my area but you can find everything from vegetables to raspberries and strawberries, pumpkins in the fall. You can find locations at this site or check your state's agriculture department or cooperative extension. Some of them will have other products - some of the orchards here have hand pressed cider - and special activities for children.

http://www.pickyourown.org/

Central, AL(Zone 8a)

One of the best tips I can offer is...if you have an electric water heater turn it off when you leave the house and overnight. Just locate the breaker which controls it and switch it off when not needed. You will see a lower electrical bill immediately.

Naples, FL(Zone 10a)

The Florida strawberries and tomatoes are great right now. Dutch, have you ever been to Farmer Mikes? It is in Bonita east of 75 off Terry St. We have a daughter allergic to strawberries, but she loves to go & pick the grape tomatoes. Their veggie stand is inexpensive as well.

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