Tuesday, 31 January 2012

10 Best Ways To Save Money On Groceries Without Couponing

We are all busy people, right?
 Not all of us are inclined to spend our free time finding coupons, clipping coupons, organizing coupons and carrying them around with us at all times.
It just isn't praticall to commit to that kind of time & dedication for many people.
So how can you save money on groceries if you don't coupon?
There are several things you can do to save money on what you spend on food each week.
You probably use a lot of these strategies already, but maybe you might find one new idea to use!

1. Don't Shop This Week.
That's right! Don't shop this week. I bet if you take a look around your kitchen and freezer, you will find that you have more than enough to create a week's worth of meals without going to the grocery store this week. Challenge yourself to use what you already have to menu plan for the week. Or at the very least, just shop for fresh fruit and veggies and other perishables you might run out of. I find we use our groceries better with very little waste when I shop every 2 weeks instead of every week.

2. Menu Plan.
As I mentioned yesterday, menu planning makes the best use of your grocery dollars by giving you a plan to follow that help you avoid quick runs to the grocery store at the last minute to grab things for meals or a trip to the drive-thru. You can read more about how I menu plan here.
3. Read the Flyers.
I know so many people who don't check the flyers! The weekly sales flyers are delivered to my doorstep each week and I always make a list of the best deals that week so I can make my grocery dollars go further. Take some time to read the flyers. The best deals are always on the front pages, so even if you do a quick scan of the front page, you may see a deal that works for you.
4. Shop The Sales.
Shop the sales and stock up! When I say stock up, I don't mean stock up with an extra can or two. I mean really stock up....like for 6 months to a year. If it's something that can last for a long time...stock up if you have the room and the budget for it. For instance, I make soup a lot, so when I recently saw a great sale  on chicken and beef broth, I purchased 20 cartons of each. { I typically use 3-4 cartons per soup.} Buy cases of things when they are on sale. February is National Canned Food Month, so some of the grocery stores are offering great prices on cases during this time.

5. Stock Your Pantry.
This goes along with reading the weekly sales flyers and stocking up on sales. Stock up your pantry with things you use all the time, so you are cooking from your pantry with things that were purchased on sale and at the best price. I have a pantry in my kitchen, but I also have a large shelf in my basement to store overflow from my pantry. My pantry is so well stocked now that there are several weeks that I don't need to buy any pantry items. And if you live a distance from a grocery store....this will save you on gas and time as well!

6. Discover the Discount Bin.
I shop at  a grocery store that marks down perishables about to expire on a daily basis .In fact, it's one of the reasons I shop there. One day in August, I shopped there after I dropped the kids off at school and here are the deals I came home with:
  **Please note all the bright pink stickers say 50% off**
{except for the meat, which is 30% off}

What did I do with everything?
The tortellini went into the freezer for meals and soups.
The green beans went into the freezer for meals and soups.
The red peppers {Canadian} were diced and put into the freezer for soups, casseroles, pizzas and stir frys.
I also do the same thing with green and yellow peppers, mushrooms and onions.
The blueberries were the best deal.... less than a $1 a pound and they were Canadian blueberries.
Do you know what you pay for a small little bag of blueberries from the freezer section of the grocery store... a lot more!
To prepare the berries, I  picked out the bad ones, washed them, scooped them into freezer bags and then filled my freezer with these yummy berries.
I also do this with raspberries,strawberries and cranberries when they are marked down.
I used some of the blueberries to make a delicious blueberry and peach cobbler for dessert that night too!

I used the pork, some of the red peppers and the green beans to make a delicious stir fry for dinner that night.
And I don't like cutting up cantaloupe and honeydew....even though I know that buying the whole fruit and cutting it up yourself  saves money.
So when I see these ready to eat fruit trays marked down, I scoop them up for desserts and school lunches.
$4.99 for this cut up fruit....yes please!
This brings me to another way to save money on groceries.

7. Make Friends with Your Freezer.
Your freezer can be so useful! Not just for buying frozen foods, but for also taking fresh foods and preparing them for the freezer yourself. And often it takes so little time!

8. Buy in bulk.
 Recently it was Chinese New Year, so a lot of Asian foods were on sale. So I picked up an 8 kg of thai jasmine rice for a great price...it's one of our favourites. This saves so much instead of buying little bags of rice over and over again at a higher price.
9. Do 'Big Cooks' or "Batch Cooking'.
Use your freezer to create your own convenience foods. Make double batches of soup so you have some to freezer for another time. When you cook rice, cook double the amount you need and put the extra in the freezer for another meal. There are a ton of blogs and websites that have terrific ideas and recipes for freezer meals. Take some time and find some recipes that your family likes.
10. Plant a fruit tree or join a "Fruit Rescue".
The previous owner of our home planted an apple tree and we get so many yummy apples from that one little tree. They aren't very big, but they sure are good and the perfect size for the kids lunches.
And again, I make good use of my freezer and use our fresh apples to make 'apple pie kits'.
I just add cinnamon and sugar with the sliced apples and freeze in freezer bags,  and I have a 'kit' ready to go into the pie or apple crisp.
My city also has a 'fruit rescue' organization that I belong to.
Residents of the city who have fruit trees or bushes and are not able to harvest the fruit call the 'fruit rescue' who then organizes volunteers to harvest the fruit. A third of the fruit goes to the homeowner, a third to the food bank, and a third goes to the harvesters.
This is a great way to do a good service to your community and take home free fruit.
How about you?
 What are some strategies that you use to save money on groceries without couponing?
Make sure you come back tomorrow when I share some helpful ideas for revolutionizing your laundry!

Don't forget to check out these other helpful posts:

And have a peek at these boards on Pinterest:

Monday, 30 January 2012

5 Easy Steps to Meal Planning...

So, here at Echoes of Laughter, we are going to talk about some super fun home management stuff this week!
Hopefully, you will find some ideas that you make your life easier!
Today is about "Meal Planning".
Tomorrow, I will be sharing some ideas on "Saving Money On Groceries Without Couponing."
Wednesday's topic will be "Revolutionize Your Laundry."
On Thursday I will be sharing an organizational project you won't want to miss as it it something that all families should have.
Meal planning is so important for families.
It is the key to healthy meals, controlling the grocery budget and avoiding fast food.
Plus...it reduces the stress in your life...you will feel so much better knowing  that you have a meal plan for each day!
No running to the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up something to make for dinner!
And I know lots of you out there already do meal planning, but since I had some readers ask about how I meal plan, I thought I would write a new post for 2012,

I usually plan our meals for the week on Sunday....it's the day that works best for me, but really meal planning  can be done on any day that works for your schedule.
 Some people plan meals for whole month at one time, but I plan a week at a time..it's just the way I like to do it!
Do whatever works for you!

Here are the 5 easy steps I use to plan our meals.

1. Look at the Family Schedule.
Each week, before I begin meal planning, I look at our family calendar to see what's happening for the week.
 Is there a day supper should be early or a day where it should be an easy supper?
 I take this  into account when planning the meals for each day.
I  plan the time that each meal will be served so that when the kids or hubby ask, I can say dinner will be ready at a certain time.
Because of the children's schedule, for instance, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I serve dinner at 3 pm...as soon as they get home from school.
{You can read more about this here.}
2. Check the Fridge & Freezer.
Many people don't think of this step when planning meals, but it makes perfect sense to plan meals around what you already have.
The first thing you should check is what fresh vegetables and fruit are in the fridge.
 Plan to use those first so you are not wasting fresh stuff you already have!
For example, have some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber? Make a salad as a part of the first meal.
Do you have potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash? Roast them to go with a meal.
Is your freezer full of meat? Start there for making your meal plan!
In doing this, you save money on groceries by using what you already have and creating less waste.

3. Write Down the Meals.
After you have checked the inventory of the fridge and freezer, now it's time to write down the meals you have chosen to make/serve based on what you already have.
Just write it down on paper...you don't need anything fancy!
I use a simple meal planning pad that I found at Micheal's for $1.50 and I leave it on the fridge.
And I only plan meals for Monday to Friday.
I leave Saturday and Sunday open so we have some flexibility, and also because my husband likes to cook on the weekends.
When planning the meals, I like to make sure that we have a variety.
I plan the protein first, and then I add the sides and vegetables.
I keep these things in the freezer all the time:
For proteins: fish, chicken breasts, ground turkey,  beef, lean hamburger, and pork tenderloin.
For sides: frozen peas, frozen beans, frozen corn and frozen mixed vegetables.
I keep these things in the pantry all the time:
Canned tomatoes, canned beans {assorted}, different types of rice, potatoes, onions, carrots and sweet potatoes, assorted pastas and cartons of beef & chicken broth.
And go easy on yourself...don't plan complicated things or try new recipes on weeknights...save that for the weekend when you have more time!
Notice that a  lot of my meals are simple, kid-friendly, and can be on the table in 30-40 minutes.
For weeknight meals,  Below is a sample menu plan.
 I rotate the protein choices each night so we have a variety of meals and flavours throughout the week.

Here are examples of what we might have:
Soup Night
 Fish Night:
 Beef Night:
{Shown:Sloppy Joes}
 Pork or Chicken Night:
 Pasta or Vegetarian Night:
Rotating protein choices helps to relieve the boredom of similar meals served too often.
4.Plan the Grocery Shop & Prep Notes.
Plan your grocery list to pick up things you  need to complete the meals or for packing lunches.
{You can read my post on '5 Easy Steps for Packing School Lunches' here.}
And it's a great time to read the weekly sales flyers!
Take advantage of the sales to make your grocery budget go far!
Also, write down on your meal plan or in your planner little reminders of when you need to take things out of the freezer to thaw in time to make the meal.
For instance, if you are having chicken  on Wednesday, write down that you need to take chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday.
Also, are there things that can be done ahead of time to make the week easier? For example, if you are having rice on Tuesday, maybe the rice could be cooked on Sunday and stored in the fridge to make things easier come Tuesday.
Plan the grocery list to include lots of fresh fruits & vegetables that your family likes.
The best way to avoid junk food is to not put it in the grocery cart  at all!
I grocery shop evey 2 weeks.
We used to shop every week, but I found we wasted  lots of fresh fruits & vegetables this way by buying more before the previous week's produce was eaten.
Every 2 weeks gives us time to eat everything before buying more.
5. Involve the Family.
I usually prepare the meals, but sometimes if I am out, I let my daughter know that she needs to put something in the oven for me when she gets home from school, or I let Tyler know that he is helping make the salad that night.
I think it is so important to involve the children in the meal-making as much as possible so that they feel comfortable in the kitchen and will one day cook for themselves.
And my husband cooks on the weekends, so he chooses what he feels like cooking and I am quite happy to have a break!

One of my very favourite sites to visit for ideas for meal planning is my friend Laura's blog
On Mondays, Laura hosts a Menu Plan Monday link party where each week over 200 hundred woman link up their meal plans for the week.
This link party is so full of great information and inspiration....I highly recommend visiting it on Mondays!

Do you have any tips for planning meals?
What works for your family?
Here are other great meal suggestions:
Here are some other posts that might interest you:
 You can also check out these boards on Pinterest:
Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

So Canadian Eh: Please visit me over at hodge:podge today to see my interview....

The lovely and wonderful Barb of the blog hodge:podge  is featuring me today as part of her amazing series on Canadian blogs.
Thank you so much Barb for including me in  your series...I am thrilled!

Please click here to visit my interview.
Please tell Barb I sent you over and make sure to visit her archives to see more interviews from this delightful series!
{ A few weeks ago she interviewed Suzanne Dimma~the editor  from Canadian House & Home Magazine!}

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Vacation Memory Jar...

I have wanted to make a 'Vacation Memory Jar' for a long time.
I just love the look of them....something touchable and tangible.
Inside this jar rests the memories and sand from our family vacation to Florida in March 2011.
I really would have loved to use an antique jar, but I had visions of it being knocked or smashed on the floor....those types of things happen in this house....so I found this acrylic jar to use as  a safer choice.
I like the size and shape...perfect for this project.
I used simple twine to tie around the top for rustic feel....along with some scraps from my scrapbooking stash.
Some tiny clothespins worked well for attaching a tag to the picture.
I also used a photo overlay to add the pattern around the outside edge of the picture.
And sand from Cocoa Beach....a place that my family has been visiting since 1982.
The shells were collected by the children.
The little bottle full of shells we purchased from 'Ron Jon's'...a Cocoa Beach Landmark.
This project didn't take very long to put together after I had assembled the jar and my stash of scrapbooking embellishments.
I just played until I got a look that was pretty to me.
{It was extremely hard to photograph though...because of light & reflection!}
The memory jar sits on a shelf in a place that we can all enjoy.
It was a such a fun project to make.
I think this would be so lovely to make as a keepsake for a wedding too....with a pretty picture inside of the bride & groom and dried flowers from the wedding...it would be stunning and unique!

This post is linked to these terrific parties:

Positively Splendid

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Feeding Kids After School...

Like so many other moms, I have super hungry kids that come in the door every day after school.
They are hungry and want to eat.
No if, ands for buts.
I see it as an opportunity to feed them something that will really nourish their bodies.
{Below~fruit plate with a yogurt dip}
 My son takes a packed lunch to school and usually eats all of it.
Since he attends a sports academy for school, his school day includes lots of physical activity and he comes home ready for another meal.
My daughter is in High School.
She used to take  a packed lunch, but this year although I pack something for her, she chooses not to take it.
This does not make me happy, but I can't force her.
What I can do is make sure that there are healthy & nourishing things ready and on the table for when she gets home.
All my children have to do is wash their hands and sit down.
I call it the '3 o'clock special'.
Of course, I could let them rummage around the pantry for whatever they want...but I am home and I can really shore up a healthy diet for them by offering/making great food available.
{Below~spicy tzatziki with carrots and naan bread wedges}

 There are 3 days a week that one or both children have sports activities around dinnertime.
So instead of feeding them a snack....hoping it will hold them over until them get home after their sports practice...I just go ahead and feed them supper at 3 o'clock.
This makes sense for so many reasons....the first of which is it satisfys their hunger right away.
I know they are eating healthy doses of fresh fruits and vegetables...especially during cold & flu season.
And when they get home from practice, they only need a light snack.
And I am not left cleaning up the kitchen at 8 o'clock at night after a late supper.
On this particular day, I served my homemade Italian Wedding Soup along with a fruit tray, a veggie tray and rolls.
I usually eat with them, and I put the leftovers in the fridge for hubby...who meets the children at their  sports practice and brings them home.
Then while hubby eats supper, the children eat their snack with him at the table.
The other 4 nights, we eat supper as a family together.
 I have found that this is the best plan that works for our family.
And the kids are really happy to eat a meal when they get home from school...it seems to be their 'hungriest' time.
Even if I worked outside the home, I would still try to have a fruit or veggie tray in the fridge and ready for them to eat. And homemade soup ready to heat up.
This {below}was the '3 o'clock' special yesterday....crab cakes, a spinach salad, whole wheat pasta with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes, and fresh pineapple spears.
This meal was also a bonus because there was enough spinach salad and pasta left for today.
We really try to avoid the trap of drive-thrus and fast food.
And what really helps a healthy meal happen is menu planning on Sunday for the week.
Planning. Planning. Planning.
It is so important!

This post is linked to these great parties:

Home Stories A2Z


The 36th Avenue

I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom

It's Overflowing

that give mcdonalds coupons and 
breakfast coupons you also can find recipe from