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