Friday, August 29, 2014

Shopping healthy on a budget

A few months ago, I decided to give couponing a try. Although I haven't gone "extreme" (yet) I am proud to say that I have been able to stock up on some extremely good deals. I think I've gotten into a good rhythm, with a simple organized system that doesn't consume all my time-- I spend about an hour each week clipping coupons and planning out my shopping trips. The result has been well-stocked shelves of paper goods, laundry detergent, shower gels etc. for about 80% off the retail price. I've also walked into the store twice and paid entirely with coupons for a bag of products. Pretty cool!

I will admit that a good majority of the coupons in the circulars go untouched. The reality is that there is a lot of junk that you could buy for pennies (but that you will pay for with your health). So, the big question is "How can one shop healthy (better yet, organic) on a coupon budget?" There is a misconception that you have pay more for quality food. Well, we have some great tips for buying good food for less.

Annabelle: Elisa is an eater (just like her momma) and I can't really fault her for being hungry constantly but it does get expensive!  These days, I've been getting quite friendly with the grocers in my area...visiting them 3-4 times a week at least.  What else can I do when two boxes of strawberries disappear in under three days or when I find an empty cereal box in two days? One might think I'm feeding a small country but it's just my 6 year old girl!

Inspired by Lisa's ability to keep her weekly grocery budget to $100 a week, Ellyn's commitment to serving her daughter only organic foods, and Tara's passion for couponing, I decided to reevaluate my grocery store approach. I'm quite talented at clothes shopping and finding a great bargain but never really paid attention to the cost of food since I figured we all have to eat right?! There had to be a way to find reasonably priced organic produce/foods while not having to take out a loan for the summer months.  Mrs. Green's, while usually astronomically priced for me, sells only organic produce and they tend to have great sales.  I've been keeping my eyes open for their circulars and I've found that for almost the entire month of July and into August, their strawberries have been priced at $3.99 which I think is really great.  Also blueberries, raspberries, grape tomatoes, grapes, plums, salad clamshells are often listed on sale. So, I've been stocking up! Another plus is if you sign up for their free rewards card, you get $5 towards free produce that will be applied to your account in about a week.  And then you get $5 in rewards when you accumulate points from purchases.  Their receipts will also have coupons on the back and on certain days, they will take 10% off for customer appreciation days.  Another budget breaker, Whole Foods, will often run sales as well. They also have special one day sales that they will advertise during the week for the coming Friday so make sure to sign up for email alerts. Additionally, you can print online coupons from their site.

Ellyn: Clara likes portable applesauce, and so for years, I purchased "Crushers" from Trader's Joe. These are great for on-the-road trips and easy to eat with no utensils. A visit from my environmentalist sister this summer taught me that apples are one of the most pesticide-heavy foods. This made me uneasy since Crushers are made with non-organic apples. I started looking for an organic solution and noticed that on the shelf right next to the Crushers that cost $2.99 was a pack of organic applesauce containers that cost $1.99. The amount of applesauce in the containers is significantly more than the Crushers so it feels like a win in savings, quality, and quantity.

Tara: One of the biggest money savers for our family was becoming members a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Technically, my mom is the member and splits the farm share with us. (Thanks, Mom!) For about $15 a week, you can get a generous amount of organic veggies—kale, collard greens, corn, beets, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes etc. Since we make green smoothies every day, nothing goes to waste. We put stems, wilted greens, and bruised fruit in the blender for a healthy drink to start the day.

I am also a member of the online “Driscoll Advisory Panel” (sounds really important, right?). Basically, every time I buy a Driscoll product (strawberries, blueberries etc.), I complete a quick online survey. For my time (about 1 minute) I get a coupon for my next purchase. I then stack the coupon with other store promotions and take home fresh berries at a deeply discounted price. For example, I have stocked up on packages of strawberries for $1.20 each!

Many of my family’s favorite healthy brands, like Kashi, Applegate, Chobani, and Stonyfield, will send me coupons on a regular basis since I am signed up for their e-newsletters and promotions. You can also print coupons from their websites and/or Facebook pages. Following the main rule of “couponing 101,”of course, wait until the product is on sale to maximize the deal!

Happy (and healthy) shopping!

-Tara, Annabelle, & Ellyn

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