Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Couponing and Processed Food

For the last year, our family has stuck to a $200/month grocery budget. Each week when I'm grocery shopping, I have two goals--to keep our menu healthy and to keep it under $50/week. We have a small family (3 of us, and Squishy isn't eating a ton of solids yet), but we also routinely feed others in our home. So how do I manage to keep the weekly grocery budget as low as $50?

Homemade yogurt (with jar of whey on left)
My methods: Couponing, stocking up when items go on sale, and making more foods from scratch.

Many people automatically assume that if you shop using coupons, you buy a lot of processed food. One of my goals for our diet has been to slowly decrease the amount of processed food that we eat, and yet, I am an avid couponer. The missing link? Homemade food. Homemade food is generally easier on the budget and better for you (less preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, etc).

I regularly make our own:
Condensed Cream Soups
Taco seasonings
Jam (a recent addition...but so easy that I now have 3 jars of different jams in the freezer!)
Pancake Syrup

Incorporating things like making homemade bread into my routine was something I took on gradually. If I had set out to start making all of these things from scratch all at once, I would have been completely overwhelmed. But as I've taken it on item by item, I've realized that it's easier than it sounds. Don't let the words "from scratch" intimidate you!

So, if I make a lot of my food homemade, what does my couponing look like? Well, hop in the car, and let's re-live my latest grocery run.

My $48.86 Shopping Trip
First stop, Publix. I come equipped with a handy shopping list from Southern Savers. I'm shopping for this menu plan. Here's what I bought, including the coupons I used.

6 Boxes Ziploc Freezer Bags - $2 each, used 3 Walgreens $1/2 coupons, 2 manufacturer 1.25/2 and 1 manufacturer 1.50/2 coupon - $.83/each after coupons
4 Jars Ragu Pasta Sauce - $2.53 for 2, used 2 $1/2 Publix coupons and 2 $.60/2 manufacturer coupons - $.47/each.
2 cans Enchilada Sauce - $1.55 each, no coupons
Frozen Peas and Carrots - $1.49, no coupon
1 can Chipotle Peppers - $1.99, no coupon
1 Jalepeno - $.10, no coupon
5 lb bag Flour - $2.29, no coupon
1 Pkg Flour Tortillas - $2.19, no coupon
1 Container Parmesan Cheese - $2.89, no coupon

=$22.02 total - $3 Walgreens RR = $19.02 total

Next stop, a small family-run grocery store that sells local produce. Yes, I know, you don't have this store nearby, which is sad. But if you familiarize yourself with the resources in your town, you can figure out how to get your produce for as cheap as possible. Don't forget to try bargaining at your local farmer's market! Or check to see if there are any produce co-ops in your area...
Here's what I bought (notice that everything, with the exception of the avacados and the green beans, was less than $1/lb!):

2 Russet Potatoes at $.99/lb - $1.22
2 Large Tomatoes at $.99/lb - $1.06
Head Iceburg Lettuce - $.99
3 Organic Haas Avacados - $3.87 ($1.29 each)
Bunch of Cilantro - $.87
Pluots at $.39/lb - $.76
Green Beans at $1.49/lb - $2.40
1 lb Carrots- $.79
Yellow Onions at $.99/lb - $1.19
Peaches at $.69/lb - $1.37
1 Cucumber - $.43
Bananas at $.69/lb - $2.37

$17.34 Total

Last stop, Sweetbay (some weeks I go to Sweetbay, other times I hit up Winn-Dixie).

1 lb Butter - $2.50, no coupon
2 pkgs Pepperoni - $1.50 for 2, used $1/1 coupon - $.50 for both
Just under 11 lbs of Chicken Leg Quarters at $.89/lb -$9.50

$12.50 Total

Now it's time to go home, put away the groceries, and put your feet up! I already had enough milk and eggs on hand, so groceries for the week are taken care of. The grand total was $48.86.

I'm constantly learning and improving when it comes to eating healthy and staying within budget. Both experimenting in the kitchen and learning to use my coupons more effectively are helping me meet those goals.

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday, Wallet-Friendly Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, Frugal Finds, Frugal Friday, and Penny-Pinching Party.


  1. Yay! :) I need to get back into Walgreens at least, now that the commissary takes their RR's

  2. @Audrey: this was actually the first trip where I used a RR at Publix! I was so excited! I will definitely be a more avid Walgreens shopper from now on.
    Last week I used a $5/30 Publix coupon and a $4/20 CVS coupon when I bought my Publix groceries (my store accepts both if my pre-coupon total is at least $50), and that was a huge money saver. :D

  3. Great job!!! It all looks very healthy and yummy! I'm getting hungry now :-) Oh, and I really need some ziplock bags so I may just take a quick trip to walgreens!

  4. Wow! I'm proud of you! I used to write a "frugal in the kitchen" column for a women's newspaper and I was always amazed at the things people would say to me in the grocery store ... like they had no idea that they could make something from scratch for lots less money! I bet Squishy gets homemade baby food, too! That's a way I saved lots of grocery money ... but that was 35 years ago! Another tip is to invest in the "air removing" systems for storage. Ziploc makes those bags now ... so you don't have to pay the high price for other fancy brands. Everything lasts much longer, if you remove the air from the bag! Good job!

  5. That's a lot of stuff. Now you need to learn how to make homemade flour tortillas. :)

  6. @Betty: Yes, you're right! I have actually made them before, I just didn't make a big enough batch to freeze or anything. I need to make those in bulk, because I tend to think about needing them at the last minute (and the dough is supposed to be in the fridge for what...30 min? prior to using).

  7. That is awesome! Our small town grocery store has really good deals on produce as well as meats from time to time.

  8. I love reading blog posts like this. I'm a coupon user too and trying to make more things from scratch too. I'm going grocery shopping today. maybe i'll write up a post like this too. thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Alicia, wow! You are my inspiration, my Wonder Woman! I have been out of it the past 2 months, but now I am getting back into cooking and planning meals again. My bread I tried to make did not rise. I think I kneaded it too much. So this week, I will try again. Plus, some of your other recipes too! I will let you know how they go! Does Publix take any and all coupons because you said walgreens and cvs weree used? I will try this. I love reading your blog, it lifts me up! God bless you!

  10. @Tammy: I always thought small town grocery stores were outlandishly overpriced until we moved to our new town, where I have been pleasantly proved wrong.

    @Little Mimbsy: Aw, thanks Lindsey, but I'm hardly Wonder Woman! I for SURE couldn't fit into her tights! Haha.
    I really hope the bread making goes better for you next time!

  11. This is wonderful. I keep telling myself I need to get away from the processed food...but then I feel overwhelmed by both the work and the perceived price tag. I love that you took us grocery shopping with you!

    Homemade flour tortillas are delicious, though I've never tried freezing them...and mine turn out thick like a soft taco rather than thin like the prepackaged tortillas.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  12. What I miss about living in San Francisco was that there were great deals at the Asian and Mexican supermarkets. Chinatown (where our church was) was the best deal for us for the produce (and snack items).

  13. It looks like you are doing great. I wish I had time to make more from scratch.

  14. I totally agree! And more healthy food coupons are popping up all the time. It's totally doable!

  15. Great job!
    Thanks for linking up!

  16. Way to go girl plus all those box tops on your Ziploc boxes.


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