Friday, January 6, 2012

Guest Post: "All-In-One menu plan/cash/coupon"

I am pleased to introduce you to a very special guest. Her name is Carrie Snider. She is not only a good friend but she is also my sister-in-law. Yes that is right...I married her little brother. When my husband teases me that I married him because he was studying to be an engineer I correct him and say I married him because I wanted Carrie as a sister-in-law :)

Carrie is a very talented Mother of three children. She has two boys and a little girl. Along with keeping busy as a Mom, Carrie is also the editing manager for a book publishing company, and  a part time reporter for a local business newspaper. She also does other writing projects on the side.

"What do you do when you want to organize and thrif-i-fy the "food" part of your life? Here is a little tutorial outlining how I do it."

Step 1. Active shopping list. I like it on my fridge because as soon as I run out of something, I write it down. This is from the $1 section at Target.

Step 2: Recipe binder. I use a 3-ring binder (with a clear front pocket) and printed off all the recipes I use the most often. I've been updating mine for years, so this was fairly easy. It's really nice to have them all in one spot so I don't have to search several cookbooks or find the paper I printed from the Internet (I love I use a 1-inch binder and I found the cute printable cover online.

Step 3: Recipe book title page and dividers. This is the best thing ever! It's nice to look at one page and see all the recipes I use a lot. It's much better than flipping through the recipe book all the time. I have divided the main dishes this way: chicken - beef - pork - fish - beans. So then if chicken is on sale, I can just go to the chicken section and see what we could eat for dinner.

Step 4. Menu plan prep. I printed 12 pages of empty calendars (found online somewhere) and put them in the front pocket. I like this calendar because it has three spots in each date -- room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Step 5: Coupons. I have a few pages of baseball card sheet protectors to hold coupons I printed from the internet and also I get two Sunday papers.

I am not an extreme couponer. I limit coupons to toiletries and more healthy food options. I hear all the time "I don't coupon because it's just for junk food!" That is true some of the time. But there are some coupons out there for healthy food. Right now I have coupons for fresh avacado, canned pineapple, yogurt, bagged salad, baking stuff like olive oil and salt, etc. Also diapers, cleaner, cat food, etc.

I mostly follow and since they both outline couponing at Albertson's, Wal-mart and Walgreens, the three places I use coupons the most. By stacking coupons with the store sales (see the next step), that is the best way to coupon.

Step 6: Store ads and "deal list" of the week. I get store ads in the Sunday paper (or you can find them online at each store's website). Then I make a list of the best deals I think I might want to get. This week I listed a few deals from Wal-mart, Albertson's, Walgreens, etc. Did I get them all? No.... but by doing this I knew where to get the best deals on certain items. For example, at Wal-mart bagged chicken was about $7 for 3 lbs. At Albertson's, it is much cheaper at only $1.88 per pound. So when I go to Albertson's this week, I'm going to get the chicken there because it's a better deal.

On my "deal list" you see on the right, I used a regular pen to write out what I thought I might get, then I used a blue marker to show what I actually bought and the total.

Step 7: Menu plan. With coupons and best deals at the stores fresh in my head, I pull out my shopping list and calendar and make a 7-day breakfast/lunch/dinner menu AND a shopping list. It's nice to have my recipes right there for quick reference. And by using food I want to get with coupons and sales, I save money.

Step 8: Completed shopping list and coupons to use before I get in the car. I put these in the outside pocket of the binder so they are handy when I'm at the store. I like to take the whole binder just in case I need to refer to a recipe, use another coupon (like if I find an unadvertised clearance and I have the coupon for it, making it an extra sweet deal), etc.

Step 9: CASH! I listen and read Dave Ramsey. One way he tells people to save money is by paying cash for things. So on pay day, I pull out $x for groceries. I divide it in half and use that amount for the entire week. Once it's gone, it's gone. It's really forced me to be frugal by couponing, shopping sales, and only buying what we need. I also find myself really planning ahead and only going to the store for one major shopping trip per week, plus a small shopping trip on another day of the week if there is a good deal or we need something extra/fresh.

Step 10: Receipt and record. I have a pocket in my binder to put that week's receipts. I do this because eventually, I want to add another section to my binder: Best Price List. I want to compile the best prices on things we buy a lot so I know when to stock up. For example, I already know that the best price for 24-packs of water bottles is every few months when Walgreens has a coupon for $2.49 each (usually limit 3 per trip). Typically 24-packs of water bottles are $2.99 or even $3.99.  So when this sale comes around, I buy three (we put them in our cars and in our water storage) if we are running low.
As soon as I saw her post on her blog I asked to share it on mine. I agree with everything she posted and I use a lot of her same methods in my home already. Thanks again for the tips Carrie and please head on over to her blog so you can see what else she has been up to.

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