I’m Under Attack!

Battan down the hatches, kittehs! Lock the doors! Man the barricades. You! You BB’s there! You visitors! Get down! Go toward the moat, move in a zigzag pattern! We’re under attack by the enemy!dollar sign

What enemy?

Ahem..my budget.

I know, kind of a melodramatic opening (the scene was FANTASTIC in my mind though). But yes…my budget is attacking me.

It wasn’t a purely sneak attack. I had clues. I had plans. But then reality stormed the bastion of my LaLa land and bang. Re-evaluation.

I’ve had to take a good, hard look at things. Trim, and snip. Flip andĀ Flop. Strategize and count my eggs….try to resuscitate the cracked ones :)

I’ve got everything on course and feeling good about it. But one part I could use advice about: Bargain Shopping.

Specifically grocery shopping. I don’t have a huge monthly bill but admit to rarely comparing prices and buying a lot of pre-made things that cost more. I use the occasional coupon but wonder about comparison. Kroger vs. Walmart? Store brand vs. name brand? Family Dollar for tissue? Worth the trip?coupon

Is there an APP for that?

Any good meal plans out there, something that can be trimmed to one or two servings or in the words of Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” something that “freezes beautifully.”

How do you all figure out the best prices? Coupon sites you can recommend. Dates you can have a girl and her two hungry baby cats over for dinner? Tell me the secrets to your budget ;)

cat eating

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Comments

45 thoughts on “I’m Under Attack!

  1. 1
    Jane says:

    Hi Joanie,
    I always check out the ads for sales and then go to thekrazycouponlady.com. They list the sale items and which coupons are available for these items. The site also lists unadvertised deals/rebates.

    • 1.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Good morning Jane!

      (Jot, jot) bookmarking that website.

      Sorry about the Golden guy…he REFUSES to be reduced so you get him today at full price….but…..have him read Becke’s post and I bet he’ll knock a few cents off :0

    • 1.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Thanks for the site reference, Jane. I’ll have to try that!

  2. 2
    Helen says:

    Joan

    I am probably not the person to ask LOL I am not a shopper at all and just get it done as quick as I can and never really have many ideas about food to cook during the week if I see something on special then I buy it. We don’t have the coupons like you do in The States althought all the supermarkets have specials every week. These days with not as many living in at home as there used to be can usuall make the meals last a few nights :)

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • 2.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Oh Helen! How sad you don’t have coupons….

      There is a HUGE sense of “Ah ha! I win” when you cash one in..and if your market DOUBLES it…bonus!

    • 2.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Helen, I love the idea of making a dish, freezing half of it for later. My husband doesn’t like to eat the same thing two days in a row, so I pretty much have to do that. It sure saves on the cooking time!

  3. 3
    Becke Turner says:

    Joan:

    I only look at the Sunday paper ads. I buy boneless chicken breasts in bulk, cut the huge breasts horizontally, and freeze on breast per package. One breast cut in that manner serves me and my husband. It’s portion controlled and cost saving.

    WalMart has the lowest price on boneless, skinless. However, I often pick up the BOGO @ Kroger.

    • 3.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Great advice Becke!

      I’ve been a pansy and buying the Perdue chicken breasts individually wrapped. One of those is about right portion wise and they do “freeze beautifully”. I’m gonna bite the proverbial bullet and try some comparison at Walmart. I don’t care for the combo stores of appliances and food….but they do tend to have better variety.

    • 3.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Hi, Becke. We don’t have Kroger here; at least I don’t think we do. What’s BOGO?

  4. 4
    Mozette says:

    Budgets? hmmm… I’m not great at budgeting, but I can do it. ;)

    I’m one of those people who can make the groceries in my fridge and pantry stretch if I have to. So, what happens is: I shop fortnightly and make sure I have enough food to last me about 2 days past the next shopping day; just in case something happens and I can’t get to the store.

    However, I’m a home-cookin’ kinda chick. I love to cook everything at home. From pancakes to cannelloni, I cook it all in my kitchen… the fillings, pancake batter, pizza dough, nachoes, stir-fry sauces… it’s all made from things I have in my kitchen pantry and fridge. Nothing is brought in from outside, I have no vouchers, no coupons, no takeaway menus (however my characters in my books regularly get takeaway food! How’s that for weird!).

    What does help is that I buy my fruit and veggies from a local fruit market called The Big Apple. This place works with local farmers and I eat seasonally, so I eat only what’s available during each season. Then, I go to the store with a list in hand and never ever shop on an empty stomach… this is a grocery shopper’s worse nightmare. If you are are hungry, and haven’t eaten anything for breakfast, you’re likely to buy just about anything that catches your eye on the shelves – namely junk food! – and that’s a proven fact.

    I try not to buy specials unless the price really does save me money – otherwise, if I only need 1 of something, I buy just 1. I’m very strict about what I buy… and it’s something make sure I don’t fail in doing. I make sure everything is put away and properly stored, put away all my shopping bags (yeah, I have folding shopping bags to cut back on plastic bags in my house) and then I’m done. :D I end up spending around $275 per fortnight on groceries, medication and other things too like laybys and incidentals. :D Not bad when you think about it. :)

    • 4.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Wow, Mozette. I’m impressed. My husband shops about every 2-3 days, mainly for fresh produce, but also because I think he likes it. He always meets MY friends in the grocery store, so I think he has a better relationship with them than I do!

      • 4.1.1
        Mozette says:

        I’ve gotten into this strict habit due to not living close to my shopping centre and having to have to catch a bus there and a cab/taxi home.

        Over the last few months, I’ve had access to a car and that’s made shopping more enjoyable. I can get all my shopping – grocery and fresh produce shopping – done in one day! Yay! :D

        I’ve always used lists as my memory is terrible; so I’m constantly writing things down. :)

  5. 5
    Joan Kayse says:

    Mozette, girl you have it down!

    I’ve always heard about not shopping hungry. The list thing I’ve started to do. It does help you focus on “just the fact’s ma’m” instead of “Ooooo…cookies…pretty.”

    On my days off I am trying to cook. Last week it was brisket/potatoes/carrots…that gave me 3 meals. This week chili

    • 5.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Chili freezes well, as does spaghetti sauce. I have my special recipe for spaghetti sauce, which I never share, but everyone seems to like it, so I freeze it in 2-3 portion containers. And, of course, always make fresh noodles!

    • 5.2
      Mozette says:

      Aaww… thanks. :D

      Besides, I do love the social interaction of shopping. It gets me out of the house, away from the unit complex and out into the real world for a while. I love looking at new things in shops and going to the local music store too.

      Besides, I get to talk to people too… which is always a plus. :D

  6. 6
    Sandyg265 says:

    The thing that helps me stick to a budget is lists. I have a list of everything in the freezers and another one of staples so I always know what I already have on hand. And we keep a running grocery list so if someone uses something up they can write it down. Then we all sit down and make a dinner menu for the week. That way I know exactly what I need to get at the store.

    I also shop at a farmers market for produce and eggs which are cheaper there than at the supermarket.

    For meals I make at least one thing each week which will stretch to either two dinners or a dinner and lunches each week such as chili, pasta, a stir fry, or soup.

    • 6.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Hmmm…soup. I would love some recipes for soup…I like types with a thicker base..not quite stew but not “soupy” either.

      That sounds ridiculous, now that I type it outloud

  7. 7
    Jo Robertson says:

    Oy, budgets, Joanie. I’m so bad with them. Actually, I THOUGHT I was good, and managed the budget, paid the bills for the first 20 years of my marriage. I was certain my husband could NOT keep on top of things. Finally, when I started teaching full time, I turned the whole thing over to him.

    And you know what? He did beautifully, he always looked at the big picture, and he not only got us financially stable, but he worked out a plan for us to sock money away for retirement.

    Who’d have thought. Now I refused to take back the budget! Since he also does the grocery shopping, I have no ideas for you, but I do know that Walmart is my best friend. I’m the one who does the Walmart runs and it’s the best place for bargains on the items we buy.

  8. 8
    catslady says:

    I have no problem budgeting but it’s actually my husband who spends money like water. I’ve clipped grocery coupons for years but they’re just not as good as they use to be. The cheapest groceries are the ones that take more time to prepare so you have to decide if you have the time. My best secret is I rarely do any shopping lol. You don’t get tempted if you don’t see all the stuff out there and sometimes sales really aren’t.

    • 8.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      LOL, Catslady, isn’t it true that sometimes time IS money and you have to decide which is more valuable at any given time. That’s why I love crockpot dishes that I can just throw the ingredients in and forget about it.

    • 8.2
      Joan Kayse says:

      catslady….sigh…I know. Me neither BUT I can’t trust Grayson the Monkey Cat with the car keys to go DO the shopping. Plus, he always comes back with Tuna Helper…So I have to do it :D

      I’m watching sales on litter but will not forego my Pet Insurance. Can NOT imagine being faced with financial choice and my babies health

  9. 9
    CateS says:

    I stick to my tried & true receipes. Go with a list, check the ads, and shop the perimeter of the stores not wander up & down every aisle.
    My freezing hint is; place the item in the baggie and almost completely immerse the bag in water – which will force the air out and zip the baggie closed.

    • 9.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Cate! What a great tip for freezing (and yeah, about those middle aisles).

      I found a bag of broccoli in my freezer from 2011. (sheepish grin)

  10. 10
    Minna says:

    We don’t have coupons either. Also our supermarkets have specials every week and I obviously check out those in case there is anything I need. My freezer is full of food, soups and other things I’ve made, ground meat, cake (made by me), berries I’ve picked, fruit etc. I go shopping usually once or twice a week -less chances for impulse buys. Good meal plans… Well, you might want to check out http://chickensintheroad.com/farm-bell-recipes/ .

  11. 11

    Joanie -

    I’m no help at all on the matter of grocery shopping on the cheap as my daughter has done it all for about six years now. While there was a time when I could quote what a gallon of milk cost at the various supermarkets, these days I haven’t a clue. I do know that if you shop at some of the supermarkets, you get a break on gasoline. I filled up my car yesterday – 14 gallons – for free and so “saved” about $50. However, common wisdom says those perks were really paid for in the markup of the groceries.

    Some “off-brands” are as good as the more expensive ones, but it’s “try and see” to find which ones those are. We go to a bargain grocer for the staples and a traditional supermarket for meats, fruits and veggies as the bargain place sells too close to expiration dates on those. Best preparation tip I heard this week – cook hamburger before you package it according to need then freeze. If you freeze the raw meat, it takes too long to defrost and cook.

  12. 12

    PS. Hugs on the belt-tightening, budget watching. Been there, done that and it’s no fun. You’re welcome here for dinner anytime – course there’s that matter of a river between us. Here’s hoping fans will spread the word on your fabulous Romans and budgets will be a thing of the past.

  13. 13

    Fair warning, Jane! The GR is not good for anyone’s budget!

    Joanie, honey, I LIVE in the world of the big, hairy, scary budget! Here are a couple of things I do.

    I have a list of things I NEED, those things I keep on hand when I am in budget mode – no luxuries – just needs. I have one list of foods and one list of staples. I keep it in a notebook in my purse. Anytime I go into a store – grocery store, Walmart, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc if they carry an item I jot the price for that item down (size, ounces, etc) and the place. If one place consistently carries an item at the best price that is where I buy it. I work at Walmart, but I will shop at the nearby dollar stores if the price is better. I buy generic unless I have tried it and it was so awful I threw it out. Don’t waste money on something you can’t fix up enough to eat.

    I do have a list of items I refuse to buy generic and I check prices on those. For instance – Heinz ketchup, none other.

    I never shop hungry. And before I put something in my grocery cart I consult my book. Is it on the list of stuff I need? If it isn’t can I justify spending the money on it? Can I get more than one meal out of it? I do the same with fast food. I will buy a pizza at Domino’s or Little Caesar’s if I can justify the expense to how many meals I get out of it.

    I only clip coupons for items on my list, the brand I always buy, unless I get to try something new with the coupon AND it is cheaper than my normal buy with the coupon. I live alone so coupons that ask me to buy TWO to get the discount are out.

    I pay my bills first. Then what is left is budgeted to feed me and the fur kids. IF there is money left some goes into my conference fund, some into my property tax fund and I try to give myself a little “luxury” money every paycheck, even if it is just enough to buy a book or DVD or CD I want.

    • 13.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Louisa, now see THAT’S what I need to do….make a note of things.

      I was kind of hoping for an APP for that :D

      There are all SORTS of ways to trim (I’ve found out) For instance, I called Sprint and found out they offer a 12% discount for employees from my hospital. Called some of the “newer” garbage haulers and found I’d been paying $135/3mo and can get the SAME with another company for $54/3mo! Man! The money I could have saved if I’d done this YEARS ago!

  14. 14
    pjpuppymom says:

    I live by the budget too, Joanie. I keep a running list of items needed and try to stick to that list once I get to the store. Keeping a list also helps me remember everything I need so I don’t have to waste gas making extra trips to the store.

    I try to cook from scratch whenever possible then divide into meal-size portions and freeze. Cooking with fresh ingredients is healthier, having ready-made meals in the freezer is quick and easy and also keeps me from grabbing take-out when I don’t have a lot of time.

    I study the grocery sales ads before going to the store to pinpoint deals for items on my list. I also have the local grocery store app on my phone to make it convenient to shop unadvertised specials and use their coupons (but only if the items are already on my list).

    I pay my bills first and that includes a payment to myself which goes into my savings account. I’ve found that if I include a payment to myself (sometimes it’s only $5, sometimes more) with the rest of the bills I’m much more successful at saving money instead of spending it on things that I don’t really need.

    I was out of town yesterday and got home at dinnertime. I picked up a large pepperoni pizza at Little Caesars on the way home. I could have paid $15 – $20 at any number of pizza places around here but instead I paid $5 at Little Caesars, have enough for four meals, thoroughly enjoyed my pizza and made by budget happy.

    Good luck, Joanie! You’re getting some great tips here today. (I’ve been busy taking notes!)

  15. 15

    Good luck, Joanie. I’m also on a trimming phase for my budget. I do hunt through the coupons but I tend to avoid packaged foods and most of the coupons are for things I don’t use. I”m a big chicken eater and usually buy the bigger quantities and freeze them separately. My problem is I prefer organic fruits and vegetables and they are so darn expensive! One thing I need to do more of is make my lunch for work.

    • 15.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      I’ve been packing…lunch..too Christie. This week is bologna week :D

      Cafeteria food in a hospital is way expensive and they’ve taken away our discount…..

  16. 16
    Joan Kayse says:

    Sorry to have been gone a chunk of the day. Went to a movie matinee ($5) and saw Captain Phillips.

    O.M.G. INCREDIBLE movie!!!!! You MUST see it! Tom Hanks at his best, on the edge of your seat….INCREDIBLE

  17. 17

    Hey Joanie!

    I’m lucky. While dear hubby is picky about eating organic foods and little-to-no processed foods. He will eat left overs. I make a pot of soup or stew…he eats it for days! I made barbecued boneless beef ribs yesterday. He’ll eat them again tonight.

    When the kids were home, I used to use coupons a lot. Now, only if it crosses my mind, but then our food consumption has dropped, except on the nights I have family over for dinner.

  18. 18
    Barbara Elness says:

    I do clip coupons – I use Coupons.com – and our Publix supermarket has buy one get one free promotions every week, so if it’s something I usually buy or can use, I’ll stock up then. I compare prices to Target and mostly for sundries like shampoo, soap, etc., I’ll stock up on those things there. I’m not sure it does me a lot of good, but I seem to be getting by. :D

    • 18.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      Thanks Barbara for another website to consider.

      I’m comparing shampoos too. I’ve been using Aveda products but…..am trying the store brands. I need volumizing though so…don’t know. Did find out (again after YEARS of going there) that my Aveda salon stylist will do a periodic “bang cut” FREE…While I don’t have bangs, the hair does grow and stick out at odd angles around my ears. She said she’d count that as bangs. :”D

  19. 19
    Deb says:

    I don’t coupon. But, I do buy generic items. There are some things I don’t buy generic, but most grocery items are comparable in taste. I’ll let you in on a secret. My uncle was a millwright at Quaker Oats. He said to go ahead and buy Dyna Crunch Berries or other cereals like that because when Quaker had its quota of Captian Crunch Berries (sometimes 10,000 boxes a day), he just changed the label on the press, and different label, same cereal. I also shop at Aldi and save a lot of money. One of the best buys for me is the Dollar General clothes spritz…$1.95 a bottle, whereas Downey’s is $6.50 or something like that. We’ve found the budget woes to be bad lately, too. Hamburger (or ground turkey) can be fixed many ways, but can be boring.

    • 19.1
      Deb says:

      Captain Crunch or Frosted Flakes or really any cereal…..

    • 19.2
      Joan Kayse says:

      Hey Deb,

      Yes, I’d heard that that was the way of things for a lot of store brands. I”ve been told that Land O Lakes makes the Kroger store brand butter…I used that for all my Fair baking back in the day and won ribbons!

      But not changing from Jif or Zesta saltines. And hope I don’t have change from Northern bath tissue…a girl has priorities :D

  20. 20
    Amy Conley says:

    In our house hubby gets x amount of dollars per week. He can use said money on what he wants, including food. I pay the bills, put gas in trucks, get what needs to be gotten. And IF there is anything left, I get what I want as far as groceries go. You see, hubby works nights, so unless it is a Sat night or MAYBE a Sun afternoon, depending on whether he has to work Sun night or not, we never eat together anymore. So it’s a free for all. Of course, I do go out to eat with my in-laws several times a week and usually bring something home to eat for my own dinner. (Only upside of going to oncology appts.) As far as what’s cheaper where, you just kind of have to watch when you are shopping. I know toilet paper is cheaper at Wal-Mart than at Dollar General Store. So are many other “everyday” things. But I hate shopping at Wal-Mart unless I just have too. Also, I like keeping my money in my own little town, and we have a Dollar General Store, sooo sometimes I’ll pay more for the convenience of driving 2 miles as opposed to driving 24 to Wal-Mart.
    It really is hard to buy for just one though. Good Luck!

    • 20.1
      Joan Kayse says:

      TP is cheaper at Walmart than Dollar General?

      Who knew?

      The adjustment in eating out has double benefits for me as I now have to watch my carbs ala Tom Hanks…yep…genes caught up with me and I too have Type II….lost 12 pounds so far!

  21. 21
    Joan Kayse says:

    Thanks to everyone for the tips, suggestions and advice. And the support.

    May the force…and coupons/deals…be with us all..and our wallets! Goodnight!