Category Archives: Money

How I Shop The Ads

How I Shop The Ads

I have 3 main goals when I look through the ads.

  1. Find ingredients that I need for the meals I came up with from my inventory sheet.
  2. Check for staples we always have around the house that may be on sale. Things like salsa, bread, certain produce my kids love, etc.
  3. Look for great deals that can contribute to a meal. This might be meat at a great price, produce on sale that we will eat as a side, or other components like rice and tortillas.

Other tips:

I almost always “settle” for an ad item. What I mean by this is instead of eating broccoli as a side, we will have asparagus because it’s on sale cheaper than the broccoli.

Don’t buy an item just because it’s on sale. Buy it if it’s cheaper than the store brand and you actually NEED it or will USE IT for a meal.

Color code the stores as you make your list. You will be able to see which store has the best deals at a glance, then decide if it’s worth going to that store.

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If there are only 2-3 items in an ad that you need, will use, and is cheaper than store brand, it’s not worth going to the store. I only go to the store if there is a significant amount of sale items.

If you’re new to ad shopping, I suggest starting a price sheet just to start seeing what good prices are. This opened my eyes a ton to seeing what is actually a great sale price. You can read about how I did that here.

Download my Ad Shopping sheet below!

_Ad Shopping

Dollar Tree Halloween Finds

Can you believe it’s October already! My kids have been itching to decorate for Halloween since Walmart put out their costumes.  We have collected some decorations over the years, but I like to add a couple things each year.  Without breaking the bank or dipping into other areas of our budget.

So where does a Mom go who wants her kids to have memorable holidays but doesn’t want to spend a whole lot of money??

Dollar Tree, of course!! Everything is $1 so you already go in knowing how many things you can get.  While their stuff probably isn’t the BEST quality in the world, it will certainly do in a pinch.

Take a look at a few things my 4-year-old and I found….

We bought this banner to hang in our kitchen window.

These went in our basket, too!

Breckyn picked out Frankenstein to hang in the kitchen. 

 

There were some great options for a quick, cheap costume, too! Last year, it was snowing and they were covered up with winter coats. We may go the Dollar Tree route this Halloween!

They have a couple options for non-candy treats. We can’t give out candy/food at school, so I picked up pencils and erasers for my class.

I’m not sure how excellent that knife will work, but you can’t go wrong with a big spoon for scooping the guts out of a pumpkin.

Halloween cards for $.50!  I am trying to get better at sending notes/cards to people so we picked up a couple to send to friends and family. 

There you have it!!  I forgot to take a picture of the tablecloth and spooky garland we picked out, too. Our kitchen area is now set for Halloween!

Mid-Month Meal & Grocery Planning

My goal going into part-time work was to cut our grocery bill in half. On You Need A Budget, I noticed it was the 3rd highest spending category so I changed the way I shopped for groceries.  At the beginning of September, I detailed how I only spent $151 for two weeks.  Here, I will lay out my mid-month planning and shopping.

The first thing I did before planning meals for the remainder of the month was take inventory of the ingredients we already have.  I list all the things in the freezer, pantry/cupboards, and fridge – items that can be part of a meal.   You may already do this in your head, but it’s much easier to see the meals you can make once it’s all written out.

I studied the list and checked to see what I could use together to make a meal – frozen taco meat, tortillas, taco shells, garden tomatoes – all I needed was some lettuce and sour cream for tacos.   Same thing with hamburgers – I had frozen buns, ground beef, and french fries. Hot dog pizzas – I had pizza sauce, frozen hot dog buns, and mozzarella. All I needed was the pepperonis.  Chili – I have every single ingredient and hadn’t even planned on it!

Next, make a list of ingredients needed to complete each meal, as well as items for snacks or refills (dish soap, syrup, etc.).

I had already done my price sheet so I checked that to see where the cheapest price was for each item. If it wasn’t on sale, I quickly searched online Walmart and Hyvee. I was ordering online anyway, so I just added it to my cart at whichever store was cheaper.

Last, I hit up Fresh Thyme for cheap produce and picked up my orders at Hyvee and Walmart! Grand total was $182.89.  I wanted to be around $150, but purchased meat this time. A few convenience items also brought the price up.

Meat: chicken legs, chicken breasts, turkey sausage, deli turkey, deli ham

Produce: 2 baby carrots, lettuce, avocado, canteloupe, 2 salad bags, grapes, oranges, apples, 2 prepared salads, pears, 3 bags frozen vegetables, bananas

Convenience: PBJ Uncrustables, frozen pancakes, taquitos, juice boxes, Larabars, 20-pack of snack crackers, 8 fruit cups, frozen veggie noodles

Diary, etc.: Eggs, 2 packages sliced cheese, string cheese, cheese singles, stick butter, soft butter, sour cream, 5 yogurt Flips, Go-gurt

Refills: syrup, gum, dish soap

Other: 2 loaves of bread, pita crackers, nacho cheese, 3 bags chips, raisins, chocolate chips, canned fruit, chocolate pretzels, oatmeal, almonds, cinnamon

2 weeks + Family of 5 Eaters = $151 Grocery Bill

When I switched to working part-time, I revisited our budget several times to see where we could cut back. One category that was always extremely high was the grocery bill. At an average of $800/month, groceries was the third highest spending category – just after mortgage and daycare.

I’ve always wanted to use the ads, compare prices, and use coupons or money-saving apps. I’d never taken the time to do those things, and I thought I knew what a good price was. I assumed shopping at Walmart gave me the lowest prices, but after using a price sheet I realized I was wrong!

If you’ve read how I create and use my price sheet, this is where I show it to you in action!

STEP 1: Shop your cupboards. Take inventory of what you already have. I knew I had about 8lb hamburger, a pork shoulder, and 2 packages of chicken to use for meals. These were past sale purchases that I knew I would utilize in the future.

STEP 2: Plan your meals. For 2 weeks, I plan 8-10 meals, which allows for a couple leftover nights,1-2 nights of dining out, and 1-2 “Clean out the fridge/freezer” nights, if needed.  I found that getting groceries weekly resulted in a lot of wasted food.

STEP 3: Ad prices go on the price sheet. Find which store has the lowest price and make a store list. I shop from 4 stores – 2 are pickup, 2 I have to go in.

  

STEP 4: For the remaining items, I searched online Hyvee and Walmart to see who had the lowest price. I order online and pickup at both of those stores.

STEP 5: Go shopping and be proud of all the money you just saved!!

Using A Price Sheet To Save Money On Your Next Grocery Trip

If you’re like me, grocery shopping looks like this:

  1. Plan the meals.
  2. Make the grocery list.
  3. Go to the store. Most likely with 1-4 children.
  4. Throw the groceries in the cart like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep.
  5. Pick the shortest checkout line, which ends up being the longest wait. (Every. Time.)
  6. Load the groceries in the car while telling kids no less than 5 times to get buckled.
  7. Unload the groceries.
  8. Eat the Subway you picked up because there’s no way you’re making supper after all of that.

So WHY ON EARTH would you want to add yet another step to the madness of grocery shopping?!

I’m here to tell you that you could be savings HUNDREDS of dollars over time by creating this simple list.  I say that from experience, and I’ll show you how I did it in just 2 easy steps.

Step 1: Create a table (5 columns) on your program of choice (I used Word.).  Label the columns item, store, price, price/unit.  You may want to make separate tables for each category: produce, meat, dairy, household products, etc.

Step 2: Get out your weekly ads.  Log only the items you use (don’t get too crazy logging the entire ad).  Even if I’m not buying a product this time, I still log it if I’m going to buy it eventually because I will want to compare prices over time.  All items in RED are the current week’s ad price.

 

BONUS STEP: If you want to get really detailed, you can go back after shopping to log items purchased at regular prices.  I try to do this for things I have never bought on sale so I can see across stores, who has the best price.

You will soon start to notice if an ad price is really a good price when you compare over time.  I did this for three weeks and when I saw bacon was on sale for $1.99, I practically ran to the store to buy a few packs because the lowest price I’d seen so far was $3.99.

Here are some examples of the same item on sale. I chose to buy shredded cheese and strawberries at Supersaver because they were the lower prices.

Another thing your price sheet will do for you is help you decide what items you may want to stock up on (so many things can be frozen!).  In the first example, I saw buns and BBQ sauce were super cheap. I didn’t need them this month, but I bought them to freeze and save for when I do.

This may seem like it takes a long time, but once you get rolling it becomes easier! I would love to hear from those of you that do this. Any tips or tricks?

How You Need A Budget Changed My Life

“I’m on a budget.”

How many times have I said that and not ACTUALLY been on a budget?  Countless.

I didn’t even really know what a budget was. What I meant was “I know I shouldn’t spend this money because I have other things I should be paying for.”

Until You Need A Budget came into my life.  Basically, it changed the way I looked at and spent money.  The word “budget” can be scary, but the philosophy is that you can spend your money however you want, but you HAVE TO know where your money is going.  Spending is all based on what is important to you.

Each month, I assign my dollars to do “jobs” for me.  Important jobs like pay the mortgage, electric bill, daycare – money that I know exactly how much and when it’s due.

Then there are the jobs for things we know are going to happen but we don’t know when. THIS is what I was missing in my so-called fake “budget”.  Things like auto repairs or medical bills. We put in a little money each month to save just incase.

Next, we budget for things that will happen in the future, such as my daughter’s birthday, Christmas gifts, or summer camps. Saving a little every month rather than paying it all at once and hoping we have enough money for the rest…now that was a huge, positive change for us.

Can’t forget about paying down that debt!  Because I know where all of my money is going, I know exactly how much EXTRA I can pay towards my debt.

Lastly,  FUN MONEY! Dollars that are spent however we want, no questions asked.  This is a wonderful solution for couples who question purchases. He can buy shoes and I can buy clothes, no questions asked, as long as it’s within our Fun Money budget.

One thing that was a big change for me was actually assigning jobs to my savings account. I knew how much money we had in savings, but it was always “just incase”. Well, now we are already budgeting for those (see above), so this is truly saving for fun things like carpet (me) and a boat (John)!

After using it for almost 18 months, I have no clue how I knew what my money was doing before! I can’t count how many times I have NOT purchased something because either 1)I knew I didn’t have money for it or 2)If I wanted to buy it, I would have to take money out of my Carpet or Boat fund, making us that much farther away from buying either of those things.

There are so many other great things I won’t go into detail about like goals, age of money, graphs showing net worth, quick budgeting, and an app for on-the-go tracking. You can read about all of those on their website!

(Ok, I will give one sneak peak of one of the reports because I love them so much and think you will too!)

I highly recommend giving it a try if you’re stuck in a money rut or if you’re “budgeting” like I was 18 months ago.  They offer a 34-day trial so you don’t have to pay up front!

Click here to check it out!