The Truth about Extreme Couponing and the Coupon Information Corporation

27 03 2012

Couponing.  We’re fans of it.

Extreme Couponing.  Beware.

The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) has released these two alerts regarding the recent television show “Extreme Couponing” aired on the TLC network.  Couponers should be aware coupon fraud is present.  Couponers are also urged to follow the rules of the specific coupon (expiration date, purchase quantity, etc.).  View the CICs press release regarding extreme couponing and review their website regarding coupon fraud.

USDA’s Cost of Food Guide for Feeding your Family

7 03 2012

How much should we spend per month on food costs?  Is there a magic number?  The correct answer is no.  Not one number is ideal for any one family or individual because everyone’s financial situation differs.  However, the USDA has put together an average cost of food for feeding your family (2010).  The figures are based on purchasing nutritious foods using the Food Pyramid.

The chart is broken down into four categories:  thrifty plan, low-cost plan, moderate plan and liberal plan.  Then the chart is separated by weekly and monthly costs within each shopping plan.  For example, a family of two (husband and wife) is estimated to spend $349.90 per month on a thrifty spending plan.  While a family of four with two toddlers is estimated to spend $992.90 per month following a liberal shopping plan.

View the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels chart here:

As an avid saver and planner, we are under budget following the USDAs cost of food chart.  Under budget by $100 per month following a thrifty monthly plan for a married couple.  Do your food costs match the figures on the chart?  Are you a thrifty planner or liberal planner?  Maybe your figures are higher than the suggested values – how can you find ways to lower your bills?  For help on lowering your grocery bills – view my posts on grocery hounding to help with budget envelopes, creating menu plans, shopping with coupons, etc.

Statistics/Quotes: America’s Coupon Obsession

1 03 2012
According to, coupon redemption jumped 63% in 2011 with Americans saving a total of $3.7 billion dollars in coupons.

The Consumer Price Index Increase for 2011

18 03 2011

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food increased 0.8 percent in 2010 and is forecast to increase 3 to 4 percent in 2011.  A somewhat large increase since 2010 and it will probably continue to rise as the years pass.

What can we do, as consumers, to somewhat shelter our money from the rising food prices?  One might suggest to shop in bulk.  Others might say shop during the sales.  Both are great options but if our money is going to compete with inflation our salaries should increase concurrently with inflation.  However, that is not always the case.  As evidenced in the most recent economic slowdown, employees were laid off, denied raises and bonuses and many have experienced pay cuts.  During tough economic times, it is up to the consumer to manage their finances so they will not spend more than they earn.  We will need to shelter our current income stream.

How does one shelter their income stream to keep up with inflation when their salary has not?  Here are suggestions for preparing yourself during the recent Consumer Price Index hike.

  • Save More, Spend Less.  It is important to realize how much money leaves your pocket every month.  The less you spend the more your savings are retained.  Withhold from major purchases if you find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck.
  • Freeze Food.  Freezing perishables such as vegetables and meats will prevent them from spoiling when they weren’t cooked in time.  Extend the life of your food and save money doing so.
  • Shop Sales.  Grocery shopping around sales is a smart move to make.  Why pay full price for an item when there are always weekly sales?  Plan meals around those sale.
  • Use Coupons.  Compound coupons with sales and you have double savings!  Also, you don’t have to purchase the Sunday paper to find coupons.  Some cities deliver them to your door for free(!) along with manufacturer circulars.  Don’t be shy, ask your friends for coupons if they aren’t clipping them.  Host a coupon swap meet at the beginning of every week or month.
  • Be a Smart Shopper.  Research where to find the best deals.  Often times we shop at certain stores because of the convenience factor.  While that may not be such a bad thing, there are times when you have to shy away from that because of the negative money flow.  The extra 10 minute drive can possibly save you $20 or more on grocery purchases.  Review store circulars, ask about their coupon doubling policy.
  • Find a Part-Time Job.  If you find yourself unable to keep up with the rising prices of food and other items in general, see if you can find a part-time job during the nights or weekends.  The extra income can supplement the rising prices until the economy levels out. 

While the prices of food continue to rise just as the sun does each morning, we can find ways to beat the impact it has on our wallets.  With careful planning and smart shopping we too can manage the effects of the rising Consumer Price Index.

How to Create Menu Plans

15 03 2011

Your food budget is the 2nd largest monthly expense followed by your mortgage/rent payment.  An easy way to keep your food budget under control is by creating menu plans for the week or month.  These menus will curb purchasing excess items as you grocery shop.  You’ll learn to purchase items on the shopping list according to the menu you have created.

Creating a menu plan may sound tedious and overwhelming, but I can reassure you money will be saved.  On average I save $20 a week (or $80/month = $960/year) because I am purchasing items listed on that week’s menu.  It is true that planning meals and shopping according to that list saves precious time and money.  You reduce the number of take-out dinners, fast food drive-thrus and restaurant visits.  I know when 5pm rolls around and you ask yourself, “what’s for dinner” you will have a clear picture because the menu is written and the food is purchased.

Prior to making meal plans, I had no idea how much I was spending per month on food.  This lack of awareness of not knowing how much money was being spent brought a change inside me.  I jumped on board with creating shopping lists which helped curbed dropping random items into the shopping cart.  Plus, when I ended up buying things that sat in the fridge and pantry because they weren’t “planned”, I felt money was being wasted foolishly.

How does one create menu plans?

  • Use cookbooks.  An easy way to plan meals is with the use of a cookbook.  Scan the pages and take note of recipes that standout or the ones you are sure your family will love.  Once a recipe is chosen, write the ingredients on your shopping list.
  • Use coupons.  There will be times when you’ll find a hot item coupon.  When that happens you can plan meals around those savings.  If you found a coupon for $1 off a whole chicken, add the chicken dinner to your menu plan.
  • Shop Sales.  Planning meals around grocery store sales is magnificent!  Skimming the sale circular will give you menu plan ideas, on top of  saving money on the ingredients.  To take this savings one step further, if you have a coupon for the items on sale at the grocery store you just doubled your savings!  For example, stuffing mix was on sale during the Thanksgiving holiday and I just so happened to have a $0.75 coupon off a box of stuffing. 
  • Nutrition.  Eating healthy is important because it can reduce medical risks and keep you in shape.  Plan meals around the food guide pyramid.  You can break the meals down by preparing a fish dinner on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, rice and beans on Wednesday, grains for breakfast, etc.  
  • Take Votes.   Host a voting party where the family votes on what meals they’d like to see on the menu plan.  It can be a family learning experience about finding foods in the cookbook that are healthy.  The family can learn money-saving tips by planning meals around sales.  You might decide that each family member is assigned a specific day where they choose the meal on that day every week.  Your spouse may handle Friday meals for example. 

Menu plans are a great place to start if your food budget is not within your budget anymore.  While it may take some time in the beginning to get the hang of things, I can promise you that it will save you money each month.  Plus it eliminates the hassle of rushing to put something together for dinner during the week.

Grocery Shopping Tools of the Trade

5 09 2010

Rolist Financial Group would like to share with everyone our grocery shopping tools of the trade.  Honestly, we don’t ever leave home without them as we grocery shop.

  • Coupon Organizer.  First up is our Couponizer.  This was a Christmas gift from my wonderful husband Rob two years back.  I love that it comes in a clear pouch – this is handy when toting around in the store.  However, this organizer wasn’t cheap ($20).  For those looking for a more affordable organizer, I found one from Gooseberry Patch.  If I didn’t have my current organizer, I would definitely purchase Gooseberry’s.
  • Menu Sheets and Shopping Lists.  Next we have our free(!) meal planner, courtesy of Betty Crocker (I had signed up on-line to receive this).  Printed in the left margin are cooking and organizing tips; which, by the way, are helpful!   In the right margin is a perforated grocery shopping list.  We love this menu plan because it has listed the seven days of the week, in addition to the shopping list.
  • Budget Envelopes.  The idea of using envelopes is to not spend more than what is inside each envelope.  I personally like this system because there are lines to track your spending.  The introduction page lists examples of what expenses are ideal to pay for with cash (food, stamps, gas, etc).  Read up more on why we love our budget envelopes here.
  • Coupons.  Last but not least are the actual coupons so that you can rack up the savings!  I have found and the newspaper inserts to be the best!  Sadly, our commissary stopped taking internet coupons so I’m having to stretch our dollars and cents.

These all are essential organization tools when it comes to planning, spending and saving.  A clear mind and plan of action will help you get to where you want to be – and that should be towards financial freedom!

Get to Know your Food Pantry

6 08 2010

When you spend less, your savings grows.  And what better way to curb excessive spending  at the grocery store is to actually use items in your own pantry cabinet!  Let’s explore the depths of our pantry and use those canned goods, boxed meals and cake mixes that are hidden on the pantry’s bottom shelf. 

Without further ado, let’s jump into our pantries:

  • Organize.  We suggest organizing your pantry and cupboards once a month.  When your pantry is cluttered it makes finding specific items impossible.  In addition to not finding items, a cluttered pantry leads to avoidance.  When you avoid noticing the items you have, you are going to spend money on items you “think” you don’t have.  We’ve all heard the saying, “out of sight, out of mind”.  Taking frequent stock of your food will stop those frequent purchases.
  • Eliminate Duplicates.  Organizing your pantry and taking stock of your food will avoid accidental duplicate purchases.  There are instances when it would not be a huge deal, but you should consider the spoiling factor.  Not only do you need to use/eat the duplicate item, but also use/eat the original item.  Another problem would be purchasing a duplicate item which is not often used, leaving you with two.
  • Consolidate.  A great way of taking stock would be to consolidate the half-used items and half-empty packages.  Free up your space so you know exactly when you need to restock.  This could eliminate a premature purchase or two.
  • Eat Out of Your Pantry.  For those that went over budget grocery shopping, you will definitely want to use the food you have on hand.  This also applies for those that hadn’t gone over budget, but need to use up their fully stocked pantry.
  • Meal Planning.  Calling all clever minds to join forces.  This is where creativity kicks in!  We’ve discussed the importance of organizing.  After you take note of the food you have on hand, you should plan meals around your stockpile.  You might just have enough food on hand to eliminate a trip grocery shopping!  A simple and favorite meal of ours is rice and beans!  Or pasta with sauce.

Above is a photo of our pantry recently organized.  You will notice our use of baskets and, of course, glass jars.  I find using these containers helpful for tossing smaller items inside them (condiment jars, cake mixes, snacks, etc.) which makes it easy to pull the entire basket from the shelf to counter.

I group like items together.  Dog food is on the left, followed by vegetable and olive oils, condiments, snack items and beverages.  The shelf directly below houses pasta sauces and tomatoes, pasta, teas and coffee, canned/boxed foods, followed by baking items.

We want to hear from you, drop us a comment.  What meals have you planned around your pantry stockpile?

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