My Couponing Strategy – Day 48: Eating Well On $1 A Day


Since I have a lot of Sunday coupon inserts but I never look at them, the inevitable questions I get is how do I match up the coupons with the deals that are out there. Being the lazy person that I am, I opted for the easiest way possible I could find to do this.

When I get the weekly inserts for the grocery stores in my area, I thoroughly read through them looking for the best deals of the week — this usually takes about 15 minutes to go over the 3 grocery stores that I have frequented for this challenge. Any good deals I find (usually about 10) I then place into a coupon data base which will tell me whether there are any coupons I can stack on top of the good deal. If there are, the coupon data base will tell me where I can find the coupon — I go to the correct Smartource or RedPlum Sunday coupon insert that is easy to find since I have them dated, and I am ready to make the purchase. If it is a printable coupon, I print it.

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This is part of a continuing challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here

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Looking through the grocery store inserts for good prices is difficult at first, especially if you are not familiar with what a good price is for specific products. There is definitely a learning curve there, but it gets easier and easier as the weeks go by. If you are not familiar with what is a good price (I definitely wasn't when I first started) it will take longer to do this process since you will be entering in more queries into the coupon data base.

That is really all there is to it. I probably spend about 30 minutes each week deciding what deals I will pursue at the grocery stores (and another 30 minutes for drugstores which I will discuss later), so my couponing research takes about 1 hour a week which I don't believe is excessive for the amount I am able to save. Again, I spend a lot less time than I did when I was first began. I have definitely become much more efficient over time and needed to spend much more time while I was first learning how to coupon.

It should also be noted that since I only pursue the best deals and ignore everything else, it probably takes me a lot less time figuring out deals than someone shopping with a bigger budget. Eating on $1 a day actually simplifies the process quite a bit because the decisions are quick, easy and limited: I can afford it or I can't. If I had more money to spend, I would imagine that I would end up spending more time because the deals available to me would greatly expand.

On my morning walk, I headed down to the grocery store today to pick up some lettuce and tomatoes. They were both on sale — $0.33 for a head of lettuce and tomatoes were $0.77 per lb on the vine. I ended up spending $1.08:

lettuce and tomatoes

day 48 food receipt

I ended up getting these (and made the Hamburger purchase the other day) because I am going to a BBQ with my dad for Father's Day so I needed to think what I would actually be eating at the BBQ. It should be interesting to see how my meal stacks up to what everyone else is eating. This is what I had during the day:

Blackberry Banana Smoothie

I started off my day with my the blackberry banana smoothie that I love — the glass that I usually use was dirty, so I ended up with a regular sized glass. The smoothies that I have been making fill 1.5 of these glasses:

berry shake

Roasted Veggies

I really need to that use the current food that I have on hand because not only am I beginning to learn new things about cooking, I'm sure that those that are reading are much happier that they get to see meals beyond what my challenged palate was creating. For lunch, I made some roasted vegetables via a recipe courtesy of DeeAnn:

Stuff You'll Need:
* An oven
* A cookie sheet (Jelly-roll size–11″x17″ is good, but just use whatever you have. The pan does need a rim on all four sides. If you want a lot, make two pans-ful)
* A cutting board and knife
* Oil
* 3-4 Potatoes (the same amount of potato as you use of everything else combined)
* 3-4 Carrots
* 1-2 onions (about as much onion as you have carrot)
Italian dressing (or some canola oil and lemon juice)
Salt and Pepper

The steps:

1. Put the cookie sheet on the counter and smear oil on it.

2. Peel the onion and cut it into big chunks (about 1″ square) and drop them on the cookie sheet. They'll fall apart, and that's good.

3. If your carrots are thicker than your thumb, cut them in half long-ways, then cut each piece into chunks about 1-1/2″ long. Put the pieces on the cookie sheet.

4. Cut your potato into 1″ square chunks (roughly; no need to be perfect here) and put it on the cookie sheet.

5. Mix all the veggies together with your hands, then shake the cookie sheet. If the veggies don't fit on the sheet in a mostly-single layer, put the extras in a bowl for later.

6. Shake the Italian dressing really well and drizzle it on top of the veggies. You want them to be nice and greasy, but not to have a big puddle of dressing on the bottom of the pan.

7. Put as much salt and pepper the veggies as you would use if you were going to eat the veggies as a salad.

8. Put the veggies in the oven on the middle rack and turn the heat to 450 degrees F.

9. Check the veggies every 15 minutes to see if they are getting brown or sticking to the bottom of the pan or starting to smell good. Stir when they start to brown or stick. (It's good for the veggies to have some dark-brown edges, and perfectly okay if the bottom of the pan is a little crusty. If the potatoes stick to the pan too much, add a little oil–same as you would do for hash browns).

10. The veggies are done when the potatoes are tender.

In terms of time, you should have nothing but hard soggy veggies after 15 minutes; shiny, juicy veggies after 30 minutes (but they may start to brown on the edges), more browning after 45 minutes; and the veggies will probably be done around sixty minutes

11. Washing the pan: (Read the WARNING now!) After you get the veggies out, the pan will have brown crusty bits. They are easy to wash off if you soak the pan while it is hot, so just put some water in the hot pan and let it soak for an hour or two to dissolve the caramelized sugars.

WARNING: DO NOT do add water to the hot pan if you can easily bend the pan! Flimsy pans tend to warp and splash you in the face with oily, scalding water.

This is what it looked like when I was done:

roasted veggies

I had a serving of the roasted veggies, a quarter slice of the quiche I had made and the half glass of fruit juice I had made in the morning (Note To Self: not nearly as good as when it comes out of the blender)

day 48 lunch

Beefy Pasta Florentine

For dinner, I borrowed a Beefy Pasta Florentine recipe that DeeAnn had emailed me:

Stuff you'll need:

* Pot with water and salt for the pasta
* Spiral pasta–however much you normally eat in a meal
* a fry/saute pan
* half an onion, chopped
* ~4oz ground beef
* Pasta sauce (about as much as you have dry pasta, or whatever you like)
* ~1/2c Spinach

The steps:

1. Put the spinach in a bowl on the counter to thaw a bit. You can use the same bowl you plan to eat out of.
2. Make the pasta.
3. While the pasta water is heating, brown the onion and ground beef over Medium heat (or Med-High if you want it to cook faster and are willing to pay a more attention to the stove), using a spoon to break the meat into small chunks.
4. When the meat isn't pink anymore and the onion is soft, you can pour off the fat if you want.
5. Stir the pasta sauce into the meat mixture and cook until it is hot and bubbly. If the pasta isn't done when the sauce is done, turn the heat down to Low and wait for the pasta.
6. Stir in the spinach when you drain the pasta. Let the sauce get warm, then dump in the drained pasta. Stir for about a minute to thoroughly coat the pasta. Eat.

Here are my results:

Beef pasta

Beefy Pasta Florentine mix

beef pasta dinner

This is the current list of food I still have
This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $37.50
Money left to spend: $23.50 ($1.33 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $995.24

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The Beginning ::: Day 49: Should I Be Able To Eat Free Farmer's Market Samples?

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10 Responses to My Couponing Strategy – Day 48: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Jenelle says:

    Well your meals are starting to look good enough that you are making me hungry! I may even make a quiche and roasted veggies for dinner tonight. Thanks!

  2. Elisabeth says:

    You have a lot more money at this point in the month than you did last month at this time. Are you more efficient or is it that you are building a stockpile? Only 12 days left in month 2.

  3. jeffrey says:

    @Elisabeth

    I don’t think that I am being more efficient – in fact, I am probably getting a bit lazy in the sense that I can afford to get things now that I would have never considered the first month.

    There are a number of factors for this. The biggest is probably that my restrictions are a lot less severe than they were that first month (looking back on it, I’m surprised that I managed as well as I did). Being able to use more than coupons from 2 inserts makes a huge difference. Being able to forage has also meant that I haven’t needed to buy as much fruit.

    I also started the second month with a bit of a base rather than with nothing which is another huge benefit. I’m trying to build up a cushion because there are times when there are no real good deals and I want to make sure I can still get needed items when that happens.

  4. Ryan says:

    You’ve learned how to coupon, save like a mad man, find the best deals, and cook all in the last 6 months? Dude, you’ll land a wife in no time. My wife only wishes I could do just one of those things. :)

  5. Eris says:

    You’re doing a great job. To me, your meals look delicious and balanced. Don’t let your sister tell you otherwise. (I know how siblings are).

  6. cptacek says:

    The shake will taste better in the evening if you put a little lemon juice in it and drink it really cold.

  7. Priskill says:

    I just discovered this blog and am transfixed — Bravo! You are so inspiring, and your recent meals are looking healthy and downright yummy — That splash of berry smoothie must be a huge inspiration every morning. Of course, you may want to save your skinny cows but you might add one/portion of one for a creamy berry treat sometime . . .Just a thought!

    I have a question — how are you able to use so many coupons at once? My local SoCal markets usually have a limit of 2 -3 coupons per person/transaction. It looks, from your receipts, as though you are able use as many multiples as you have. I have had cashiers prevent me from using more than 2 . . . Thanks for this fabulous reading and inspiration!

  8. jeffrey says:

    @Priskill

    I would find out what the corporate coupon policy is for the stores you shop at. Often stores have “rules” that aren’t in sinc with what the corporate policy is and you need to educate the managers of what is allowed. It is not always fun, but not only will you be helping yourself, but many others that shop there save money.

  9. Suga says:

    Been following your blog, this is such a cool experiment. It reminds me of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days series.

    With your current list of ingredients can I recommend two dishes? One, Egg Drop Soup with some shredded carrot and onion, Two, Cajun Dirty Rice: browned ground meat (you don’t need too much meat, mostly for flavor and fat), cooked rice, onion (or onion powder) and garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste.

  10. JL says:

    Your roasted veggies look yummy!

    Just one tip for the clean up: You can do all the oil smearing-mixing-dressing-stirring plus roasting on a foil lined cookie sheet. When they’re done, just throw away the foil and your clean up should be very minimal.