LIVING WELL: Saving on your food budget
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Jun 04, 2014 | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We all know that the economy in our country has changed over the past 5 years. Many Americans no longer look to get ahead, but just to make ends meet. In fact, the buzz phrase we hear used in our Cooperative Extension trainings is “financial stability.” In other words, one of our goals is to help people manage their finances so that the month and the money run out at the same time! One of the ways to help achieve financial stability is by saving on food costs. Taking time to plan grocery shopping and taking advantage of coupons can save your family money.

The first step in this savings process is to create a monthly meal plan. Menu planning not only saves money, but also saves time. Make a list of the meals that you already know and make for your family. This serves as your basic guide. Fill in a blank monthly calendar with the meals you have listed. Add the meals that you plan to eat away from home and the new recipes that you want to try. You will quickly fill in the month. Families tend to eat the same meals repeatedly so this plan can be a template for future plans. But to save money and time, you have to stick to the plan!

The next step in the planning process is to create a master shopping lest. This is a list of every ingredient and item you buy at least three times per year. For example, we all buy breakfast cereal at least three times per year, so cereal would go on your master shopping list. Non-grocery items should also be listed on the master shopping list.

A helpful tool that allows you to track prices of the most frequently purchased groceries and household items. The price of one item can fluctuate greatly over a period of time, often over twelve weeks. The price book helps you identify the “rock bottom” price for that specific item. Once you know the low price for the item, you will know whether or not to buy that item now. It will be easier to begin by choosing 5 to 10 of your most purchased items to track in your price book.

Using coupons can help increase our savings on our food bill. Coupons are often found in the local or regional Sunday newspaper. However, there are many other places to find coupons. They can be in weekly mailers delivered by your postal service. They can be dispensed at the grocery store next to the item. They can be printed off of manufacturers’ web sites. Attending a coupon exchange is a great way to collect coupons. Take advantage of store discounts or customer reward card and download coupons onto them. This is a free and easy way to receive additional savings at the checkout.

Once you have the coupons, you need a way to organize them. File coupons under clear categories. For example, breakfast, canned goods, toiletries, and laundry. A three-ring binder and baseball card style insert pages is a simple way to store and view your coupons. Other ways to store and organize coupons include using a coupon file or envelopes. Just use the system that works best for you.

Having a grocery store game plan is important in saving money. Shopping at multiple stores might help save money, but consider the cost of time and gas to visit more than one store. Look through local sale ads and identify what you plan to buy. Using a coupon with a rock-bottom, sale-priced item in the way to save the most money. Sales and coupons usually run in a 12-week cycle. Stick to necessities if items are not on sale and you do not have a coupon.

There are a few rules of etiquette to remember when shopping with coupons. Using coupons is a privilege and is given to consumers courtesy of local stores and manufacturers. Some simple, common sense rules to couponing are:

• Do not copy coupons. Printable coupons can be printed from your personal computer but not copied.

• You must purchase the item for which the coupon is intended. For example, if the coupon says you must purchase two items, then you must purchase two items to use that specific coupon.

• You can only use one manufacturer’s coupon per item. However, in some stores you can use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon together on the same item. This can really increase your savings.

• Be polite to the cashier and store employees when shopping and checking out. Employees are more likely to be patient with you in the store if you are friendly.

• Make sure your coupons have a valid date. Using expired coupons at the checkout is usually not permitted.

By developing a meal plan, using the price book, and applying coupons, you can be on your way to spending less at the checkout and keeping more money in your bank account. A little time and effort at the beginning of your plan will save you time as well as money!

Fruity Cheese Ball

1 (15-oz.) can fruit cocktail

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple

2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (4-oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups chopped pecans

Drain the fruit cocktail and crushed pineapple and pat dry. Combine the cream cheese, fruit cocktail, and pineapple in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the pudding mix and mix well. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 8-10 hours. To serve, roll in the pecans to coat. Serve with graham crackers or gingersnaps.

Yield: 28 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 137 calories, 12 g total fat; 18 mg cholesterol; 96 mg sodium; 8 g total carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 4 g sugar; 2 g protein

Summer Vegetable Dish

1 tablespoon margarine

2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 cobs)

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

2 cups sliced zucchini

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon black pepper or white pepper

Melt margarine in a 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add the corn, tomatoes, zucchini, salt, sugar, cumin, and pepper. Cook, covered, over low heat for 6 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 144 calories; 6 g total fat; 3 mg cholesterol; 189 mg sodium; 24 g total carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 6 g protein

Cornell Barbecued Chicken

1 extra-large egg

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon pepper

10 chicken breasts

Preheat a gas grill to medium or a charcoal grill until the charcoal burns down to glowing embers. Beat the egg in a bowl. Add the oil gradually while beating constantly. Add the vinegar, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper and mix well. Place the chicken on a grill rack. Grill for 1 hour or to 165°F on a meat thermometer, basting with the sauce during the last 15-30 minutes. Note: The sauce can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for no more than 2 weeks.

Yield: 10 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 350 calories; 26 g total fat; 97 mg cholesterol; 1469 mg sodium; 1 g total carbohydrate; 27 g protein

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.

Information for the article was obtained from the University of Kentucky publication FRM-AP.087, “Couponing 101: Surviving an Economic Crunch” by Audrey Myers, Green County Extension FCS Agent, and Katie Englert, former Hancock County Extension FCS Agent; June, 2010.

Recipes for this column are from “Living Well: More than a Cookbook” published by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, 2010.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.
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