Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grocery Budget Waste

Like many moms, I spend a lot of time and energy working on the grocery budget for my family. It's one of the few flexible areas in our family finances where I can cut back. So I clip coupons, study grocery store fliers, plan the menu, and frequently search the web for tips on how other mothers save money in this area.
In the August issue of "All You" magazine, I read an interesting tidbit. They said that the average family throws away $72 of food a month! Now I believe that my family is more frugal than that, but it did make me think about how helpful it can be to notice what is being wasted. By monitoring wastefulness, you can know when you need to give smaller portions, buy in a smaller quantity, or not buy something at all if your family just won't eat it. When you see which leftovers got eaten, then you know which meals are a hit and which are a miss.
The magazine suggested that you should go through your fridge once a week, and pull the leftovers or expiring goods to a designated leftovers area. What a great idea! That way, you can know what you need to work into the menu and what you can suggest for snacking.

For accountability, I thought I'd list what my family wasted this week:
*2 bananas (thought I'd get around to making banana nut muffins but didn't happen)
* partial head of romaine (can't believe this didn't get used)
* many hot cross buns (total baking disaster-think I made hot cross rocks instead)

Honestly, I really didn't watch too close during the week so there may have been other items. This is just what I threw out today when I cleaned my fridge. I now have the official leftover/expiring goods area, so hopefully next week we will waste less!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our visit to the Farmer's Market at Lake Ella

Yesterday, my two boys and I made our first visit to the Farmer's Market at Lake Ella. It was a beautiful day and I thought it would be a great way to get our daily "green hour"*. It turned out to be a wonderful learning adventure plus I got some great deals on produce.
From the vendors to the other customers, we got to meet and interact with an eclectic variety of people. First we met an earnest young man with some delectable samples of grilled clam with garlic butter on top. The boys had never tried clams before and were hesitant at the start. I was surprised that little brother was the one to try it first because he is a very picky eater and always inspects his food very carefully. He loved it! Big brother was not as impressed.
Next, we looked over a variety of handmade goods such as soaps, jewelry, and even bread. There was an artist ready to make quick scetches for $10 a pop. (I'm hoping to budget in some money for this in the near future).
As we wearing looking around, the boys got called over by a man called PepperJohn and invited to do a taste test on his preserves. He had wheat thins with cream cheese on top ready and asked the boys to decide whether strawberry pepper jam or raspberry pepper jam was better. Pepper jam was a new taste for the guys and they both loved it! PepperJohn was very charismatic and managed to bring my shy ones out of their shells. Of course, the taste test ended in a draw with each boy preferring a different one. We can't wait to try the blueberry jam that PepperJohn promised to bring next week.
We bought some yellow squash and tomatoes. The tomato guy was super nice and threw in half of a watermelon for free! All totaled, I spent $16 and got 17 lbs. of produce, 12 clams, and of course, 2 jars of pepper jam. For me, though, the best deal of the afternoon was my boys getting food and handmade goods from the people who actually grew or made them.

Farmer's Market at Lake Ella is open Wednesdays from 3 til dusk.

*For more information about the "green hour" go to

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harveys Dollar Days

No BOGOs at Harveys this week but here are the deals that fit my criteria for meat and produce purchases:

Chicken Thighs/Drumsticks 1.00/ lb.
Pork Spare Ribs 1.50/ lb.
Lees Smoked Ham 1.00/ lb.
Pork Chops 1.00/ lb. (Wednesday Only)
Armour Sizzle and Serve Sausage 1.00/ box
Watermelon 0.69/ lb.
Imported Mangos 0.69/ lb.

Pretty Close to Criteria Items:

Pork Cube Steak 2.00/ lb.
Ground Chuck 2.00/ lb. ( Better Deal at Winn Dixie)
Lees Smoked Pork Chops 2.00/ lb.
Slab Bacon 2.00/ lb.
Chicken Breast 2.00/ lb. (Wednesday Only)
Beef Cube Steak 2.00/ lb. (Wednesday Only)

Winn Dixie Buy One Get One Free

Here are the BOGO specials at Winn Dixie for the week of July 22 to July 28 :

Breyers ice cream
Special K Cereal
Tuna,Chicken, Or Hamburger Helper
Armour Meat Hot Dogs
Fishermans Wharf Talapia
Fishermans Wharf Perch
Fishermans Wharf Cod
SeaBest Butterfly Shrimp
W.D. Frozen Chicken Breasts/Tenders
W.D. Bakery Cinnamon Rolls
Town House Crackers
Kraft BBQ Sauce
Reese's, KitKat, or Hersheys Bar
Arnold Bread, 12 Grain or Whole Wheat
W.D. Seasonings, Sauces, or Gravies
Osteo Bi-Flex
Conair Brushes
Mentadent or Spinbrush
BeechNut Baby Cereal
Sanderson Farms Chicken Thighs
W.D. Assorted Pork Chops
W.D. Center Cut Pork Chops
W.D. Country Pork Loin Ribs

In an effort to reduce grocery costs, my new goal is to only buy meat that is less than 1.99/ lb. and produce less than 0.99/ lb.
This week I'll get:
Ground beef 1.69/ lb.
Yellow Onions 0.76/ lb. (3 lb. bag)
Red Potatoes 0.59/ lb. (5 lb. bag)

I'll have to calculate in the store to see if any of the BOGO meats fall into my criteria. Hopefully, Publix or Harveys will have some good deals too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Angel Food Ministries

At the end of June, I participated in Angel Food Ministries. If you are not familiar with them, here is a quick summary. Through this outreach program, you can buy groceries for a discounted price. You pay $30.00 for the "signature" box and receive groceries that might cost you between $40 to $60 at the regular grocery store. They also have other specialty boxes like one for senior citizens and another for people with gluten allergies.
The nice thing about this program is that it helps your everyday family who may not qualify for food stamps, but may be struggling to put food on the table. There are no income qualifications, in fact, they don't ask about your income at all!
I had heard about this program in a frugal living forum and decided to give it a try. First, I went to I checked out the menu and it seemed like a good value. The menu is different every month. I was able to place my order online before the deadline(although you can pay in person if you like.)

There are several churches in Tallahassee who are host sites for this program including:
Calvary Chapel Tallahassee
Church of Christ
Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church
Presence of God Ministries, Inc.
Wildwood Church Our Father's Storehouse

I chose Calvary Chapel because it was closest to my home. On a Saturday morning 2 weeks later, I went to pick up my order. I have to admit that I was nervous about the whole procedure and the quality of the food. When I got to the church, they had everything organized in a drive -through manner. They were so nice! I didn't feel embarrassed or uncomfortable at all. They even carried the boxes out to my car!
The quality of the food was fine. Nothing was dented, damaged or out of date. I ordered 3 boxes and my favorite turned out to be the fruits and veggie box because I think it was the best value.I got alot of produce and we were able to eat it all before it spoiled.
I think this outreach would be most helpful to seniors or families who don't have the time or inclination to use coupons.

Here is the new menu for August.

1.5 lb. Ribeye Steaks (4 x 6 oz.)
3 lb. IQF Split Chicken Breast
1 lb. Boneless Center Cut PorkChops
2 lb. Mac &?Beef Dinner Entrée
1.5 lb. Breaded All White MeatChicken Nuggets
1 lb. 80/20 Lean Ground Beef
1 lb. Bake or Fry Fish Sticks(32 sticks)
1 lb. Frozen Corn
1 lb. Frozen Baby Lima Beans
1 ct. Cello-Wrapped Iceberg Lettuce
2 lb. Sweet Potatoes
15 oz. Pork & Beans
1 lb. Rice
32 oz. 2% Shelf Stable Milk
Dozen Eggs

6.5 lb. Assorted Meat Grill Box $23.00
1.5 lb. Bone-In New York Strip Steaks (2 x 12 oz.)
2 lb. Boston Butt Pork Chops (4 x 8 oz.)
2 lb. Lean Hamburger Steaks (4 x 8 oz.)
1 lb. Italian Sausage with Cheese

4.5 lb. Steak Combo $22.00
2.5 lb. Ribeye Steaks (4 x 10 oz.)
2 lb. Sirloin Steak (4 x 8 oz.)

10 lb. Assorted Chicken Grill Box $22.00
5 lb. IQF Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
4 lb. Leg Quarters
17 oz. Ready to Cook Cornbread Dressing

Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box $22.00
3 lb. Premium Fresh Idaho Baking Potatoes
2 lb. Premium New Crop Large-Medium Yellow Onions
1 head Premium Fresh California Sleeve Romaine Lettuce
1 bag Fresh Gourmet Caesar Salad Croutons (5 oz.)
1 pint Premium Fresh Vine-Ripened Grape Tomatoes
1 head Premium Fresh Green Cabbage
1 lb. Premium Sweet Cello-Pack Carrots
6 Premium Tree-Ripened Peaches
1 lb. Premium Fresh California White Seedless Grapes
1 Premium Fresh California Vine-Ripened Honeydew Melon
1 Premium Fresh California Vine-Ripened Cantaloupe
4 Premium California Valencia Oranges
4 Premium California Large Juicy Lemons

You san even find recipes for the menu items either on the AFN website itself or on .

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vinegar in the kitchen.

Vinegar is a great multipurpose item to have in your home. I used to think it was only for making Easter eggs! But not only is it great for cleaning, it can do wonders in your kitchen too!

Here are a few ideas:

For wilting vegetables - Soak them in cold water and a little vinegar and they'll freshen right up.

Cooking vegetables - Add a little vinegar to help them retain their color.

Rice - Add a teaspoon and your rice will be fluffier.

Merange - Add 1/4 teaspoon to your egg whites and the merange will be really fluffy.

Potatoes - Cover peeled potatoes with water and two teaspoons of vinegar to keep them from turning dark.

Too much salt? - If you've oversalted a dish, add a teaspoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar and reheat , it'll taste much better.

Know of any other good uses for vinegar? Please leave me a comment.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tell Harlequin (and get free books!)

I like to take part in "consumer survey" groups. You sign up, get freebies, preview new products and then tell the sponser what you think about their product. Today I want to tell you about It's probably my favorite because it involves free books. I am an avid reader and book collector so I was thrilled when I found out about this group!
I joined about a year ago and they have sent me about 3 to 4 books since then. It's not a lot for someone who reads as much as I do but it is such a pleasure to go to your mailbox expecting only bills, and find a freebie like this. Plus, its kind of cool to know that I'm seeing it before its released to the general public. A few weeks later, a survey comes in my email. It isn't a long survey and I enjoy expressing my opinion. Once in a while, I'll get a brief survey from them about my reading preferences. Its a pretty straight forward process and I think Harlequin is a trustworthy company. So if you like romance novels and would like some free books, I recommend you check it out.
I'll share some other great groups in future posts so keep an eye out for them.