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The $200 mission....
One mom. One Mission. One dinner plate at a time.

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The $200 Mission has relocated to savvysuzieblog.blogspot.com - be sure to update your subscriptions and links!


Testing the waters

Before I decided to go ahead and set a budget goal, I did a little homework, both online and in my own spending habits. I have never really had the patience to be a coupon clipper, mostly because no matter how many little coupon organizers, card files, or envelopes I bought, I always manage to forget about the coupons until long after they have expired. Somewhere out there is a pile of long-forgotten scraps offering $1.00 off this and 2-for-1 on that, left over from many of my attempts to clean out my purse.

A while back, I started doing a good chunk of my food shopping at Price Rite. For those who are lucky enough to have a Price Rite or Shop Rite in your neighborhood, it should be the first stop in your grocery excursions. Outside the Northeast I am sure there are similar bargain grocery stores. These stores get a bad rap - I've mentioned where I shop and gotten questions like "isn't everything expired?" and "they're pretty low quality, aren't they?". Rest your head, I am not poisoning my family with expired food or stuffing them full of cheap fillers. For one, the Price Rite brand stuff is as good, and often EXACTLY the same as the big supermarket store brands. And while some of the stuff they get may be close to the sell-by date, I have seen the same thing at the big name stores as well, though for some reason if the label says "Green Giant" or "Kellog" that makes it OK. (???)

A co-worker also operates a farm and he actually RECOMMENDED the Price Rite produce. They get fresher and riper produce because they know it will move fast. I find that the meat section is pretty limited, but I can get 5 pounds of boneless chicken breast for $1.99/lb every day so that works for me. I would not necessarily buy paper goods there, that's probably the only place where quality does suffer, but the frozen foods are all quite good and I can always find the things I use regularly.

But while that has helped my food bill significantly, I had a feeling I could do better. I did some poking around online and got hooked on Couponmom.com. The site logs and sorts two things: the coupons in the sunday circulars, and the supermarket sales. They tell you to save the WHOLE circular and file by date. Each week you can hop on and pull up info on the best deals for your local grocery store, and it not only tells you what the percent savings is for sale items (so you know if it's REALLY a good sale) but it will also cross-reference with the coupons from the circulars so you know if a coupon will really boost your savings. When I first browsed the site I noticed that the list I pulled up for the Shaw's listed coupons from 4 weeks ago - so if I had been saving those coupons, I'd have just needed to wait till the site said it was time to pounce for the best possible price! I LOVE it!

You do have to get past a bunch of ad pages, but it is definitely worth it once you're signed up. On a side note, they link to a bunch of other coupon sites...the only one I found worthwhile was Coolsavings.com. All of the sites linked pretty much have the same coupons to print, but that site had the least number of ads to pass through before you could print coupons.

So here's my basic strategy:
- make a list of the items I buy very regularly at Price Rite with cost and unit size, for comparison
- Follow the Couponmom system, saving circulars and checking the site weekly for sales at Shaw's and Stop & Shop that will maximize my savings - never buying unless it's at LEAST 40% savings but shooting for the 55% and above items
- Continue to participate in the Serve New England co-op program (more on that later)
- replace convenience foods with homemade versions
- find ways to use all of the leftover bits from meals and minimize waste, so food goes further

Seems like a lot of work, but if I can reduce my food bill by half it's worth it!!

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