Friday, September 30, 2011

Couponing and Meal Planning

She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. 

She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. 

First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. 

She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. 

She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. 

Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. 

When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: 
Proverbs 31 msg


Common Cents Savings


How would the Proverbs 31 woman shop in today’s world? Would she coupon? Would she look for the best deals?


Stewardship: All that I have is the Lord’s and comes from Him as a gift. I am responsible to care for and handle these gifts well. This includes my finances and how I run my home.  I am called to be a servant to my family...less of me, more of Him.

A penny saved is a penny earned. How I spend my family’s money is just as important as how my family earns its money. As the one who buys and prepares food, it is my “job” to get the best deals for the lowest amount of money and to prepare healthy, filling food.  See this area of your life as "specialized career", not just something that has to be done.

We are living during a time when being frugal is hip and trendy…and necessary for many. Do you normally buy the majority of your items on sale? Do you use coupons? Do all of your food and health & beauty aids come from a grocery store? Why or why not?


You can do this! 

I want you to come away with 1-3 new things you can implement into your home-making experience. Don’t think you have to do all of this next week. Create a game plan. I am not organized. I have wandered the grocery store aisle trying to decide what to buy. I have rushed to the store to pick up a much needed but forgotten item. I often stare at my cupboards at 5 pm and wonder what to feed my family. If I can do this, you can do this!

There are a lot of excuses for not using coupons. If you think clipping coupons isn't worth your time, think again. Just a few minutes spent each week clipping or clicking can lead to big savings. The average coupon-using family saves about $1,000 a year, according to Deerfield-based NCH Marketing. Perhaps it sounds like a lot of work, especially after you watch the TLC show Extreme Couponing! It does take a bit of extra time and preparation, but most worthwhile things do.

What I’m going to tell you is quite simple: match up your coupons with sale items and get what you need at the lowest possible price. The difficult part here is to keep track of it all! As a mom, my brain checks out more often than I wish it would, so I use a couponing service called Savings Angel. This is a monthly paid service ($20 a month, discounts available), and there are several blogs that will list the best deals each week at a variety of stores. Options here are available!


How to get started:

Buy your Sunday paper, people! Beg, borrow (but don’t steal) coupon inserts. For West Michigan, getting the GR Press is a must. Not all newspapers carry the same coupons. The quantity, value and variety of coupons will differ greatly. The Detroit paper is also a big carrier of coupons. Buy more than one paper. I regularly buy three papers for my family of 5. I’ll tell you why in a minute.


What to do with your paper:  Most couponing sites will tell you not to cut your coupons until you need them. Instead, create a filing system and put your weekly inserts in a file, separating them by week. Write the date on the outside of the inserts with a black marker so it’s easy to identify. Coupon deals are listed by the date and name of the insert. Once a deal is posted that you are interested in, then you retrieve your coupon from the file and cut as many as you need/have. If a deal is a great deal, plan how many you’ll need until the next time it may go on sale. Most sales go in a 12-week cycle. Some sales are seasonal, so stock up.

coupon file box

Inserts and grocery list


STOCKPILE – Smart coupon shoppers stock up on products when they are at their lowest possible sales price (plus using a coupon), so they don’t have to run out and pay full price on items when they need them – and they buy enough to last them until the NEXT big sale (generally every 12 weeks). Stockpile basics such as cereal, meat, toiletries – whatever items your family uses the most.

HAVE A PLAN – This goes with shopping sales. You NEED a plan before you head to the store. Print out the best deals for your local store and build your menu plan for the week based on what items are on sale. Savings Angel will create a printable list with the sales and coupons you choose. Or create your own by copying and pasting deals into a Word document.

Remember, You Can Do This! 

  • Have I convinced you that you can save money by couponing?
  • Decide to buy the Sunday paper this week! (send husband out tomorrow, there will be 4 inserts) Decide where and how many.
  • What stores are within shopping range that you can begin matching sales and coupons?

When you first start out gathering and collecting coupons, you may think you’re missing out on deals because you need past coupons. Be patient! Start with what you have, consistently buy the Sunday paper and print out more when you can by using on-line coupon sites.

1. Use coupon-matching websites. There are great sites out there that track store sales and give you printable coupons, including ones that you pay a monthly fee for: SavingsAngel, CouponMom and The Grocery Game. Make sure the site that you’re using will work for the area in which you live. I joined the Grocery game early in my “career” and was incredibly disappointed because the deals they listed weren’t available in my area and the coupons the site listed weren’t the same as the ones I bought. This is why I love Savings Angel—it is using local coupons and watching local deals.

2. Stack coupons. Combine manufacturer coupons with store-specific coupons -- that's when you really start saving money. I use Walgreens store coupons and Meijer Mealbox coupons along with manufacturers coupons.

3. Shop for lower prices rather than specific brands. There are some things I’m brand loyal on, like some toothpaste and deodorant, but on many things, I’d choose a lower-priced good deal that fits my needs. If you are brand-loyal, just stock up when it’s a good deal.

4. Local grocery stores offer better deals than big box stores. Really watch the front page ads of a store for the best the store has to offer. These “headers” get you into the store and the store often doesn’t make any money on these items. Don’t be afraid to just buy a few things and go to several stores to stock up on what you need. I used to shop only Walmart, now I rarely go in there for groceries.

5. Store brands aren't usually cheaper. The price of a store brand often doesn’t go on sale, so when the name brand goes on sale and is combined with a coupon, it can be much cheaper than the off-brand.

6. Coupons aren't only for groceries. Housewares, clothing and toys all go on sale in very predictable ways. For instance, January is the best time to shop for toys, the end of summer is the best time to shop for school and office supplies, and September is an optimal time to buy patio furniture. Use those department store $10 off any purchase deals to buy necessities. Menards can offer some good deals, so watch their ads. Watch on-line sales and coupon codes for gifts and necessities.  Picking a few coupon blogs to subscribe to will keep you in the loop.

7. Watch seasonal sale cycles and stock up. Some of this is learned and some of this is common sense. This time of year, stock up on baking items, hot drink mixes, tea, coffee & creamer, canned & frozen foods. In January, stock up on health/diet foods.

After you have your shopping list together, start clipping your paper coupons and printing your on-line coupons. Many name brand products offer coupons to print from their websites after you sign up for their mailing list. There are also other kinds of on-line coupons, like, RedPlum, and Smartsource. Be honest, watch the expiration date, and only use the coupon with the item(s) it was intended for. Read the fine print on the coupon.



When I’m ready to go to the stores, I use letter binder to sort out my coupons by store and sometimes put them in order by the store layout. This helps me to have them all ready at the check-out line.



As you shop, you may find that the in-store deal differs from what you expected. You may be able to get a rain-check if the item is out of stock or you may be able to return to the store later in the week. This can be frustrating. Don’t give up! You can do this!



Have all the coupons that you are using in hand when the transaction is complete. Don’t forget to enter any card coupons, like Meijers Mperks. Don’t worry about how much time you’re taking during the transaction. People behind you can just deal with it...if they grumble, they’re just missing out. Honestly, I’ve never heard any complaints.


Print outs

If you receive any register rewards or catalinas at the check out, either spend them immediately or save them for your next visit. They will expire in a few weeks, generally. When I shop at Walgreens, I try to do several transactions at once and have no register rewards with me when I leave. This takes a bit of finagling! You can only use one register reward per transaction and you may not have more coupons than the number of products you are buying. For instance if I’m buying 2 products that have 2 of their own coupons plus using the RR from the previous transaction, I will need to add another non-coupon item to this transaction.


Remember, You Can Do This!

  • Are you going to be a coupon clipper or a filer?
  • Will you use an online site or blog to assist you?
  • Begin marking printable coupon sites on your computer.
  • This week, make your first list, using what coupons you can gather.
  • Start tracking your saving and spending
  • Make a goal of downsizing your grocery budget by a certain amount
  • Start shopping drugstores for health & beauty aids, even if you don’t want to buy many of the groceries that coupons can be used on. Use your savings here to buy the produce that you need.

Meal Planning

As you're planning your grocery trip, try to incorporate your shopping deals with your meals.  Free items like mustard or BBQ sauce or great, but how will you use up 10 of them?  Buy a reasonable amount that you will either use up or donate.  

I hear over and over again that the key to cutting down your grocery budget is to plan your family’s meals.  This will limit the number of trips to the grocery store because you’ll be shopping for the week’s menu (or 2 weeks or month) ahead of time.


Browse through your cook-books or check out some of the food blogs that I listed and start listing down some possible ideas for meals that your family might go for. Look for the recipes that are simple and require ingredients that you can easily obtain. Print out online recipes and make a binder of new recipes to try.

The biggest part of planning a menu is writing it down. To help you get started, print off a few of these menu planners and get to work filling them out. There are so many ways to keep track, but actually writing it down and posting the menu really works for us.

The further on this Common Cents Savings journey that I get, the more things I’m willing to try. As I try to prepare foods that are healthy, the more I see coupons and sales for “ready made” products that aren’t necessarily healthy. And the cost per serving is higher than I could make it for myself. I’m a natural DIY girl, and I’m no different in this area of my life. So here’s some things I’ve considered making and may or may not have attempted:


I followed this recipe after testing a few other recipes using the crock-pot unsuccessfully. This takes a bit of time and I had to buy a candy thermometer to get my temps just right. The end result is delicious! I like it better than what I buy in the store and often eat it with fruit for my evening snack. I haven’t gotten my kids totally hooked on it yet, but if I stop buying the store-bought containers, they’ll have to eat it, right?
My homemade yogurt



I still buy cereal, but in the cooler months, oatmeal, pancakes and muffins are such a healthy treat. I’ve made baked oatmeal a few times recently and it’s delicious and filling! I tried this recipe and it’s alternative with peanut butter. The kids didn’t so much like, but my husband and I did. If I make a big batch for breakfast, it will last a few days and reheats well with milk, I think. I also like a big batch of Old Fashioned Oatmeal on the stove.

Old Fashioned Oatmeal


Home Made Bread Yummy treat that I make every week or two. I have a favorite recipe that I use with a bread machine on the dough cycle.

Honey Wheat Bread



I’ve tried several recipes that I really like, but beware of the ones containing lots of sugar or sweeteners. Granola can be loaded with calories and fat. Although my family isn’t gluten free, I made this recipe for a friend and it was so yummy, I made a batch for us.

I want you to consider where you get your food. Are there alternatives to buying from the grocery store that could be cheaper and/or healthier?



We’ve been gardening for a few years, and every year we expand the size of our plot. I planted many (too many?) tomatoes this year, and have jars and jars of canned tomatoes—juice, soup, spaghetti sauce, salsa and more. I won’t have to buy any tomato products from the store this year. We also won’t be buying any potatoes. Or consider buying from Farmer’s Markets.


Learn how to can and preserve by asking older women around you or other friends who may know. Canning fruits like pears, peaches and applesauce are such a treat to eat in the winter months.

Instead of planting decorative plants in our yard, we began to plant berry plants. Yes, they are a lot of work, but {I hope} they will be rewarding year after year.


Bulk Food

I have a few options for buying things like flours and oats and dried beans and nuts. I order from Country Life Natural Foods as part of a co-op group here in Hart. I also travel to Fremont/Newaygo area to Amish stores where this is available in smaller quantities. There is a store similar to these in Scottsville. They are reasonably priced.
Spices bought in bulk

Quinoa, Couscous, beans, rice, barley and oats bought in bulk

Raise your own food

We have enjoyed eggs from our own chickens for the past year. They are supposedly the easiest pet to keep. Check with your local laws on raising chickens and see what you can do this spring. Spend the winter reading up on their care and what kind of shed they will require. The price of eggs is one of the things tracked during the last year to rise by $.30.



My Mighty Hunter has already slain 2 deer this fall and is spending today duck hunting {what do I do with a duck?} Consider this as an option for filling your freezer with meat.


Jill Savage gives a laundry detergent recipe
Frugal Girls give a host of cleaners, like Fabric Softener, plus others here
Febreze recipes? Try here


Remember, You Can Do This!

  • Start with a weekly plan for dinners, even 4 dinners planned out will be a help if you haven't done this before.
  • Or plan out 2 weeks or a month ahead, making a grocery list as you go.
  • Bake or cook something that you would normally buy pre-made. Try something new!
  • Cook up large amounts of ground beef (fry) or chicken breast (boil or grill) and freeze them in 2 cup (1 lb) ziploc bags. Easy to pull out to throw into soups, chili, tacos & Mexican, spaghetti...

Meijer Mealbox 
Meijer offers printable coupons that are good for one month. They add new coupons every Friday, and these items will generally go on sale once during this cycle.

Savingsangel matches up weekly ads with local and on-line coupons with many stores in West Michigan—Meijer, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Kmart, Aldies, Kroger, Dollar General, Family Dollar, D&W, Family Fair, Walmart, Target/Super Target, Staples, Plumbs, Pamida, Office Max, Office Depot, Hardings and Glens.

Saving Addiction is a fantastic site! It lists W MI stores' weekly sales on Meijer, Target, Family Fare, Walgreens and Rite Aid. Other deals and coupons are also posted. You can make a grocery list on this site and print it out.  Rite Aid and Walgreen coupon usage and deals are also explained.

Sarahs deals seems like the best blogger for W. MI. lists many local chain stores and uses GR Press.

Couponingfor4 chicago area

hip2save posts all kinds of deals for on-line stores, grocery deals, etc.  If you have an on-line buying addiction, beware!

Bargains to Bounty Detroit based blogger listing local deals and coupon match-ups

Glimpse of Sonshine West Michigan based blogger listing stores and coupon deals (doesn’t always seem up to date)

Centsable Momma specializes in Michigan, especially CVS sales and coupons. She matches up the best deals of the week with current on-line & newspaper coupons.  Her Meijer’s deals are based out of Detroit, so deals and coupons may or may not be the same as here. This site also does Walgreens, Rite Aid and Wal-mart.

Once A Month Mom helps you fill your freezer by creating monthly menus using seasonal recipes. This site includes monthly menus for traditional foods, whole foods, diet-friendly foods, gluten free foods, vegetarian foods and some toddler foods. Each month has approximately 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 8 suppers. It also includes a grocery list and a spreadsheet to adjust the number of people you’re cooking for. I use this a lot!

5 dollar dinners she offers many quick and frugal dinner recipes.


Crockpot 365 the crockpot is my friend! Here are many practical, every day dishes to feed your family from the crock-pot. Outside of summertime, I use my crockpot frequently. It’s great for days that I’m away from home part or all day, and it’s great when I’m busy with the kids and don’t like to take energy in the afternoon to cook. Plus, the crockpot is economical:

1) Plan your meals. Seriously. Take the time on Sunday night to plan your meals out. Many people do red meat on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, leftovers Wednesday, vegetarian on Thursday, and fish on Friday
2) Use dried beans. They are filling, nutritious, freeze well, and are CHEAP.
3) Make your own yogurt. Yup, in the slow cooker. It totally works. (I found this doesn’t work)

4) Make your own granola. Granola is wickedly expensive, and can be laden with preservatives and artificial sweeteners.

5) Make your own baby food. This is so easy, and really makes a whole lot of sense. The little jars are bad for the environment and your wallet.
If you are concerned about the amount of energy consumed by using a crockpot (which is a very valid concern!) here is a pamphlet put out by First Energy Corp., in Ohio. The chart on page 5 says that acrockpot uses $0.02 power per hour.
Here's another energy usage list put out by the Northeast Utilities System, that says the monthly cost of using a slow cooker is $1.17.

Kitchen Stewardship
this site contains a lot of very healthy, frugal recipes and living ideas.

Passionate Homemaking
this site has many ideas for a godly woman, mama and wife. It’s from a conservative view point, and spans the range from cooking, homeschooling, ministry, health, frugal living and more.

In order to keep track of all these websites that post deals continually throughout the day, I “like” their facebook page and created a “great deals” list of them on my FB.  I also use iGoogle to track my favorite blogs and websites.  Sites like these will often post giveaways.  Give it at try!  Although it does take time, and you may decide not to, I will encourage you by saying in the past few years, I’ve won Unity tickets {maybe} 4 years in a row {I’ve lost track}, 2 iPod touches, DVDs, Books, CDs, and more!  I’ve also NOT won a whole bunch, but you’ll never win if you don’t enter.

Coupon lingo

Just like any hobby, coupon shoppers have a language all of their own. At first all the acronyms might be overwhelming, but stick with it – it’s worth it.

$1/1, $1/2, etc. = One dollar off one item, one dollar off two items, etc.
2/$1, 3/$2, etc. = Two items for one dollar, three items for two dollars, etc.
BOGO or B1G1 = Buy one item get one item free
B2GO or B2G1 = Buy two items get one item free
Blinkies = Grocery/drugstore coupon dispensers with blinking lights
Cat = Catalina coupon, prints from a separate machine when your receipt prints
CRT = Cash register tape, usually used when referring to CVS coupons that print with receipt
FAR = Free after rebate
IPQ = Internet printable coupon
IVC = Instant Value Coupon, Walgreens’ store coupons found in ads and Walgreen’s coupon book
MFR = Manufacturer
MIR = Mail-in rebate
OYNO = On your next order
OOP = Out of pocket (the amount you pay out of pocket at the time)
Peelie = Peel-off coupon found on product packaging
PSA = Prices starting at
RRs = Register Rewards, Walgreens’ Catalina coupons
SCR = Single Check Rebate, Rite Aid monthly rebates program
UPC = Universal Product Code, bar code on a product
+UP Rewards = A promotion at Rite Aid. +Up Rewards print at the register and are triggered by items that you purchase. They are coupons to use on future purchases.
WYB = When you buy

Happy Shopping!  Let me know of your successes!

No comments:

Look but Don't Take

All content (including text, photographs, and design work) is ©Jennifer Beggs. My original artwork is shared for personal inspiration only and may not be copied for contest submission or publication.

My Family

My Family
God Bless America

About Me

My photo
I love Jesus with all my heart and a truth & Grace seeker. I married the love of my life in 2000 and I've been blessed with 5 lovies that I homeschool. Join me as I blog about my interests.


Web Site Counter

Blog Archive