Friday, March 25, 2011

Saving Money on Groceries Part 2: Lists

Once you have a handle on your budget, pricepoints, pantry, and repertoire, you can finally get into the nitty gritty of actual shopping. There are two main types of list that you need for good grocery savings:

A need list

Your need list will consist of all the things that you absolutely need to buy this week. To begin with, it helps to make a really detailed meal plan: list every single main dish and side item you will need for every breakfast, lunch and dinner you will eat this week. Include snacks that your family has to have. Then go to your pantry and see what you already have. Make a list of every item that you need to buy to make your meal plan work. You don't want to have to run back out to the store mid-week - you'll waste gas and probably spend extra on impulse buys.

Now, how can this help you save money? Well a few ways. First of all, preventing all the extra trips is huge. Also, for a lot of people, having meals planned and on hand can prevent those quick fast food meals that add to your budget really fast. Even if you get a day or two off, you can always look back at your initial plan and know that you have everything you need for enough complete meals for the week.

The big savings come, though, when you make this list strategically. Start to plan your meals around both your pantry and the grocery ad. For example, if pork chops are on sale, and you have applesauce in the pantry, you have the makings of a great meal. You just need to add a vegetable and maybe a starch and you're good to go.

A stockpile list

In addition to looking through your grocery ad for items that would make good dinners this week, start to look ahead to the future. If you have an idea of what your family regularly uses, and you know the normal pricepoint for each of those items, you can start to stock up when the items are cheaper than that. For instance, if your family eats a lot of pasta, and pasta is on sale for half your normal buy price, buy as many as you can afford! Over time, two things will happen: as your pantry gets fuller, your need list will get shorter and your buy prices will get lower. As your need list gets shorter, you will have more money to buy stockpile items. As your pantry gets fuller, you will be able to wait for lower and lower prices, eventually getting to the point where you can get most items for close to free. This is when you'll start to see the biggest grocery savings.

Next time I'll talk more about how to stockpile, with coupons and matchups, and some great resources to help you do that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Uprinting Postcard 2nd chance giveaway! 24 hours only

Unfortunately, it looks like my winner for the Upromise giveaway wasn't eligible, so you have another 24 hours to enter. Right now, there are NO additional entries, so you have a GREAT chance of winning. Head over to the original post to sign up now!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A new to us car?

My husband and I both drive fairly new cars, the newer of which will be paid off within the next month. The plan when we bought them was to keep them until they died, but since then life has changed a little. After a baby and a move to a state that actually has winters, my 2 door and his subcompact sedan just don't meet our needs anymore. We really feel like he needs a car with 4 wheel drive so that he can get to work when it snows and ices(after being stuck at the bottom of a hill for literally half an hour once this winter), we need at least one car that can haul a fair amount of stuff for when we travel, and I would be much happier with a 4 door car (although I can deal without, it's just a little hard on my back.

The plan right now is to sell the 2 door, get an AWD hatchback or crossover for my husband, and keep the sedan for me. This is doable even if we buy a new car, but then we'd go right back to having a car loan again which ANNOYS me to no end. Whenever I feel like we are making progress, it seems like we are just treading water.

Hubby has started feeling the same way, though, so he asked me to run numbers on how much car we could buy in cash. I ran the numbers and came up with a potentially good sized chunk of money, although not nearly enough for any new AWD cars. Neither of us has ever bought a used car before, except for the clunkers we drove as teenagers. Does anyone have good tips on how to find a good late model used car?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Uprinting giveaway winner!

The uprinting postcard giveaway winner is



Thursday, March 17, 2011

7 Tips for a frugal roadtrip

1. Plan ahead. We mapped out our route and booked our hotels ahead of time, rather than looking for a place to stop. This allowed us to budget more clearly because we knew exactly how much we were going to spend. In one case, we even got a discount for pre-paying for the hotel. Also, because we booked ahead of time, they were able to block our rooms for us with our crib and my husband's feather-free pillows, so we could be sure to get them.

2. Use points. We had accumulated several hotel points from our relocation and my husband's business trips and were able to use them to get one of our nights of hotel completely for free. This is the first time we ever had enough points to do that, but we have been diligent anyway about always using our numbers, and now are close to being able to book rooms at several different hotel chains. I'm also a fan of Free Frequent Flyer Miles for accumulating points and miles without traveling.

3. Look for promotions. When we were at the wedding, we used the wedding block code to get a great rate and a free breakfast. I also checked the hotel website before we left and found a promotion for one free night after every two stays, which I registered for. After our trip, we should have a free night to use next time we want to go away.

4. Consider giftcards. Our grocery store gives gas discounts for giftcards purchased, so we bought a giftcard to use for our hotel stay and for some of the restaurants along the way.

5. Find restaurant coupons. If you've planned your stay, you know where you're going to stop. Search each of those towns to find out what restaurants are there, and sign up for mailing lists to get coupons to those restaurants. It's also a good idea to pile up coupons for fast food and coffee places for stops along the way.

6. Make good use of breakfast. Mid priced hotels are most likely to offer free breakfast. Many of these breakfasts are so good now that you can eat well enough to skip lunch and just snack in the car. This saves you time as well as money.

7. Pack food. We always pack a bag full of snacks from my stockpile - things like poptarts, granola bars, cookies, crackers - as well a cooler with some bagels sandwiches and drinks. You could also pack cereal and milk, and even some microwave meals to eat in your room. Be sure to bring your coupon folder to go to the grocery store once you are there and restock for the trip back.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Giveaway: 100 Uprinting Postcards (Closed)

Uprinting has been kind enough to offer me another outstanding prize to give away. One lucky reader will receive 100 custom printed postcards.

The specifics: 5” x 7” 14pt Cardstock Gloss on a 2 Business Days Turnaround; Front Only printing

These cards would be great for small business owners trying to get the word out but would also make excellent Save the Date cards or birth announcements. My mind spins just trying to think of what I can make with mine.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me what you would use your cards for.

You can get bonus entries by doing any of the following:
  1. Follow My Money or My Life publicly on Google Friend Connect.
  2. Follow me (story3girl) on Twitter.
  3. Like Uprinting on Facebook.
Leave a comment for each bonus entry. PLEASE be sure your comment includes a way to contact you if it isn't visible on your profile. The giveaway will close Sunday night, March 24. You must be a US resident, 18 or older to win. Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by UPrinting. No monetary compensation was given and I will receive postcards for hosting. For more information about postcards, please visit them at Uprinting Postcards.

Do Good: Free $1 donation to Japan relief efforts

Right now when you like Voskos Yogurt and their current status, they will donate $1 to relief efforts in Japan.

As I find more ways to help Japan charities, I will post them on my Ways to Help Japan Now lens on Squidoo. Please feel free to link up your ideas there or here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting back in the swing of things

We are just back from a long weekend away, and it's taking me a day or two to get my life back in the swing of things. I have been plowing through the laundry and the mail, trying to get my budget reconciled, and getting my kitchen restocked.

Some random thoughts to share after 4 days on the road, including a wedding in the middle:

I have a fantastically even tempered baby.

Planning makes trips cheaper and easier.

11 courses at a wedding might be too many courses.

Gas is expensive. Very expensive.

There's no place like home.

More to come! Just glad to be back!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Free $25 to LetsGo Green

If you are a new member of the deal a day site Gaggle of Chicks, or if you've signed up but not used your sign up credit yet, you can get a $25 credit to Let's Go Green completely for free! There are lots of great green home products, so this is a way to stock your house for free while helping the environment. Count me in!

Thanks Couponing to Disney for finding this deal!