Monday, October 25, 2010

Part Two.

One of the other ways I've been trying to save our family money is by having a home garden and visiting "you-pick" farms. Our garden didn't do very well at all this year because of a drought in our area. I watered for a while, but was afraid of drying up our well, so I quit at the end of July and let it fend for itself. The result was okay, but not as good as it could've been, and definitely money down the drain. I did manage to have enough zucchini to freeze for bread and some to make zucchini relish. We also got some Yellow Finn potatoes to can. I bought green beans and a sweet friend gave us enough tomatoes so I was able to can those, too.
The you-pick outings went much better. We went out and picked strawberries, blueberries and apples this year.
The strawberries all went into jam, as did some of the blueberries, but we froze a lot, too. The apples went into frozen pie filling, applesauce and apple butter. I'm actually still working on the apples. Things have been a little nuts, lately, but I WILL get it done ;). We also actually came into some free "found" foods. Or rather, donated :). We currently have six pumpkins awaiting dispatch. It's not advised that you home can pumpkin or winter squash of any kind, but we have big plans for the seeds ( yummy) and I'm going to bake and freeze the pumpkin puree' for pies.

Here's a picture of our "cellar room" in the basement. It's where I keep all my home-canned goods and duplicate canned goods. I've got quite a collection going. it's funny, but seeing it almost full makes me feel secure. :).

Thanks to our church, we also have weekly access to bakery-quality bread. Panera Bread has a program where they donate day-old bread, bagels, etc... to churches to pass out. We come away with a few loaves every week that really help stretch our budget.

Something else we're doing to save money ( although it's really more for quality and "know-where-your-food-comes-from sake) is keeping chickens. We've got ten hens and two roosters right now. This picture is from when they first started laying. We were getting quite the assortment of sizes and shapes. They're all pretty uniform, now. It's not really a money-saver, but I like knowing what our chickens eat and that they're not medicated and that they're treated well. We're not really selling eggs, yet ( okay, not at all), but we do give some every week to our neighbor. He's been good to us and if it helps with public relations, it's worth it ;).
I'm hoping next year, our garden goes much better. I've got the canner and dehydrator on stand-by, so maybe next summer/fall, I'll be able to post some REALLY bountiful pictures :).

Thrifty Deals and Stockpiling Part One

Since my last post about a year ago, I've begun using coupons and building up a stockpile that enables me to do most of my "shopping" from my freezer and pantry. As grocery prices have gone up, our budget has not. I needed to do something to adjust or we were really going to be hurting. It took me a while to really get the hang of it and figure out the best way to go about it. The secret is to pair a lot great coupons (especially BOGO or those that double) with items on sale. For example, I recently got a LOT of Barilla whole wheat pasta at Tops by waiting for the 10 for $10 sale that comes along every few months.

I ordered three lots of twenty .55 off one box coupons- netting me 60 boxes of free pasta because the .55 coupon doubles at Tops. Granted, there was the cost of ordering the coupons from the coupon clipping service/ebay, but $7 dollars for 60 boxes of pasta is worth it to me. There IS an art to it, though. Tops will only double four "like" coupons per order, so I do several separate orders at the three different Tops stores close to us. Since there is also "overage", I have to have other items to absorb the overage. In this case, the Jennie-O turkey sausage was also on sale. Many of my order totals were about eleven cents.I try to only go after those deals that will either be free or very deeply discounted. An example of deeply discounted would be the Quaker Oats I got for .50 a canister. It was on sale two for three dollars and I believe the coupons I ordered were for a dollar off each one, making each one .50. That one was nice in that I didn't have to worry about doubling the coupon, so I was able to do a lot in one order. I still split it among my three local Tops stores so as not to clean off the shelves at any one store, but it was nice.
The Better Than Oats instant oatmeal in the picture was a great free deal, too. It ran 10 for $10 several weeks in a row at Tops. I had a two $1 off coupons that I had printed online and more for .75 off one box that I had ordered. When those doubled, I had a LOT of free instant oatmeal. That was nice on Sunday mornings when we were rushed for time! The kids liked the peaches 'n cream and Josh and I liked the raisin 'n spice. The box in the picture is all that's left out of about twelve.
There have been many other great deals that I haven't documented, but you get the idea. 50 boxes of Rice Krispies lasted us about five months. When I first started, I would stand back and look at how much I'd gotten and feel slightly guilty/overwhelmed, wondering if we could possibly use it all- we can. Not to mention how nice it is to be able to put together a box as a gift for a friend who may have fallen on hard times. When we were first married with a baby, times were often rough. Several times a box of groceries turned up on our door-step and to be able to "pay it forward" is a great feeling.
My most recent bulk deal were 60 cans of Libby's vegetables at about 13 cents a can and 24 packages of Jennie-O hot dogs for FREE. The veggies were on sale 20 for $10 and I ordered 20 coupons for $1.50 off 3. The hot dogs were on sale 10 for $10 and included in the Tops circular last week was a $2 off super coupon for Jennie-O netting you two packages of hot dogs for free each trip. Josh and I worked in tandem, spreading out purchases over the week at the three different Tops stores. Extra circulars are always placed in a rack at the front of the store. All told, I think we used seventeen super coupons. We follow the rules printed on the coupon and try not to push the issue. We also got several packages of turkey bacon very cheap. I had printed two .55 off Jennie-O turkey bacon coupons online that when doubled and paired with the $2 super coupon got me each package for .40 cents. I couldn't print anymore of the bacon coupons, but using one $2 super coupon on ONE package still got us turkey bacon for .80 cents. Now, I'm not a fan of giving kids lots of hot dogs. They're chilling out in our freezer and will more than likely be a year supply for us. I'm picky about canned veggies, too. I detest canned peas, for example. Most of what I picked up were canned corn, french-cut green beans and mixed veggies for soup. I also picked up a few cans of "succotash". I'm sure I can find a creative use for them.One more recent freebie that I'm rather proud of is about twenty individual Bumblebee tuna pouches. They were on sale for several weeks at Tops 10 for $10. Well, right below the box was a little "blinkie" coupon machine spitting out coupons for .55 cents off one pouch. When doubled, makes for free tuna plus overage that can be applied to something else.
Another way to save on food is to go to "pick your own" farms, and of course, to grow your own. There is up front cost, but it ends up being much, much cheaper in the long run. I'll continue that in the next post.

Picking up where I left off...

I've had quite a few culinary adventures since my last post, but I've been neglectful about posting. I'm going to try to give my FB account a rest and chronicle my stories here instead like an adult. :). I'm sure my FB friends will be grateful.