Over the past year I've investigated and applied different means of saving two precious resources: time and money.
Below are three websites that you may find useful, if like me, you're looking for ways to be more efficient and to spend less. I'll give you a brief introduction to what each site offers plus the positives and drawbacks I've experienced as I try to implement each project.
About a year ago, I was introduced to couponing - a system of matching weekly grocery store sales with manufacturer and store coupons for what can amount to substantial savings. For example, I stocked up on at least six months worth of cat litter for around $10. I've also bought Krusteaz pancake mix for .10 cents a box. On some shopping trips I've saved more money than I actually paid out.
Southernsavers is an excellent couponing resource because it's free and organized by store. Each week you simply look under your store's tab for their weekly sales items, check the boxes next to the groceries you plan to buy, and then use the provided links to print online coupons or track down newspaper and magazine coupons. By checking the boxes, you can create a customized shopping list. It's couponing made easy because the site's author does all the hard work for you!
Establishing an organized system for keeping track of clippable coupons has been the drawback for me. I have yet to work out a system for efficiently organizing and catagorizing the coupons I clip from magazines, the Sunday paper inserts, and other print sources. I have found, however, that I can still save around 40% per by tracking the weekly store sales and using only printable coupons.
Experienced couponers routinely save over 50%!
2) Once A Month Mom (OAMM)
Because I've heard that life is chaos with a newborn, I want to preserve my sanity where possible. Knowing that planning and cooking meals is often a huge stressor for me, I figured sticking some some meals in the freezer would be handy. I actually began making my own list of meals I thought would freeze well, but then I came across this website!
Freezer cooking basically means taking one day a month (6-8 hours) to prepare meals that you can pop in the freezer and then just as easily pop in the oven the day you need them.
OAMM is a fantastic site because it's free, complete, and easy to understand. Each month this author publishes a monthly menu (you end up with 15 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and 15 dinners) accompanied by a grocery shopping list, recipes for each meal, instructions for your big cooking day, and pre-made labels to stick on the containers that go in the freezer. She is very thorough!
Ben & I are planning our big cooking day for later this month (hoping Reed doesn't arrive early!), so I can't review the actual process of the cooking day yet. According to the website you can expect to spend about $150 buying groceries for the freezer plan; as I've been shopping this month for our regular groceries, I've also been watching the grocery store sales and picking up items as we go. This can be difficult if you don't have a lot of wiggle room in your grocery budget because you're basically buying this month's food AND next month's. For us the payoff is obvious, though - easy meals at home after our new arrival so that we don't blow our budget on take-out.
This website is my newest and most exciting find! Every week I dread menu-planning because I so easily default to spaghetti, tacos, pizza, etc. Those are my go-to easy, relatively cheap, no-brainer meals. But even for a die-hard spaghetti fanatic like me, that routine gets old. I've used different recipe websites to invigorate my menu but that can take a ton of time and energy and be equally frustrating as I try to sort through good/bad/expensive/inexpensive/etc.
While listening to the radio recently, I heard an advertisement for this website so I checked it out. The basic premise is you pay $5/month for a weekly menu plan that includes simple cooking instructions, a preorganized grocery list with estimated cost, and a final page of coupon links that will help take that grocery list cost even lower.
Your $5 entitles you to one menu plan but she has dozens to choose from (with the variables being number in family, number of meals, grocery story preference, and even diet requirements). We chose the two person, five meals a week Publix menu plan which she estimates costs an average of $45/week. Not bad! I just went shopping yesterday for this coming week's meals, and I spent $48.
Now, this figure does not take into account other groceries I needed to buy like milk, cheese, etc. And you may be worried (like me) that the menu won't fit your taste preferences. Good news though - you can cancel your subsription at any time (you're billed in a three month cycle). And you can, of course, tweak any meal plan to better suit your family. After following the menu plan this week, I'll let you know what I think about the whole process.
If you have experience with these or other sites, I'd love to hear your feedback. I'm always looking for new, creative ways to simplify life.