Sunday, April 12, 2009

Penny pinching: Gas and groceries

The dawn of this year brought a few huge financial obligations. Two days after we rang in the New Year, John decided he needed to have his appendix taken out and had a costly appendectomy. Two days after his super-expensive appendectomy, we found out we were expecting a baby. And we all know the delivery of a baby and prenatal care isn't cheap. Two large pending medical bills in addition to our normal bills have caused us to start really pinching our pennies and looking for good deals. And because my husband graduated with a finance degree and all but breathes finance, he was happy to have an excuse to discuss our financial situation at length and figure out ways we could obtain the best deals weekend on how to live well, live healthfully and live frugally. Of course, because we live this way, I'm focusing on natural, healthy living for a lower cost rather than just lower-cost living.

I've found a lot of advice for living frugally, but not a lot of tips for leading a healthy lifestyle while saving money. Namely, most of the coupon sites and money-saving blogs I've read tell you about deals on things like fruit snacks and cereal. These are foods that have little to no place in our diet because they simply are filler foods that lack nutritional value. So here's my first healthy-but-frugal living tip when it comes to groceries:
**Stop buying filler foods like fruit snacks, crackers, cereal, soda and cookies. They are costly, provide little to no nutritional value and add calories not nutrients.
**Instead, put that money toward buying more of the healthier food items: chick peas to blend into hummus, eggs for morning breakfasts, apples, all-natural apple sauce, veggies that can be dipped and cheese sticks, for example. These types of foods don't even usually cost more than the pre-packaged foods, but will fill you, add nutritional content to your diet and end up saving you money because you won't be buying filler foods that don't really satisfy your hunger, thus leaving you hungry for more an hour after consuming them.
Only buy the filler foods when you can get them for free by pairing store coupons with manufacturer's -- don't justify the buy just because it's marked as on sale! Spend that money on healthy, nutritional, filling food.

Next, if you're a Jewel shopper, get yourself a preferred card and sign up for Avenue at the Jewel Web site to get coupons for stuff you normally buy. You can get some great deals by pairing your preferred card with the Avenue coupons and manufacturer's coupons. And when you use your preferred card, you accumulate points. And when you accumulate points, you can buy gas at Jewel gas stations (until May) for considerably less based on your points. We bought gas using our preferred points for $1.49 a gallon when it was normally $2.05. And go when your tank is REALLY empty. Good deal!

Again for Jewel shoppers --also, as a budgeting tool and a way to get extra money for groceries, you can buy a Jewel gift card and get free money. If you buy a $300 gift card, Jewel gifts you with a $30 gift card. So if you know you'll spend at least $330 at Jewel during the next year, buy the gift card and get the free money. To use the gift card as a budgeting tool, only allow yourself to spend the money on the gift card on groceries for a set period of time, like say, one month. This will force you to buy only what you need because you only have so much money on your gift card to spend on groceries. Make sense?


  1. Cool tips! I'll have to try the Jewel tips. I have also found that stocking up on frozen veggies and fruits at Trader Joe's has saved a lot of money. Their prices and quality are unbeatable.

  2. Thanks for the tips. One thing we have started doing is grocery shopping at Walmart though that's not my preference. Rachel mentioned Trader Joes...I've never shopped there but we just got one in our area so I'll have to check them out.

  3. I have found that shopping at the Farmer's Market 1x per week for our fruits and veges saves me a ton of money (and is much healthier). In a couple of months when my garden is ripe, I will have free (okay it cost me $5 for the seeds) organic vegetables! I also raid my neighbor's citrus trees weekly (he is elderly and loves to not have to clean up the dropped fruit).

    Also, I have found that our grocery store (Vons/Safeway) sells a store-brand 100% wheat bread that is only $1.49 a loaf!!

    Finally, I buy organic frozen chicken breasts at Costco.

  4. I think you should do a segment at least once a month on healthy/frugal stuff. I love it - stop buying crap! Even if it's only a dollar, you're spending a dollar on something useless! Ahhh, if only I could live without my diet soda.

    We have a Kroger, which runs things similarly to your Jewel, but they only have one gas station around here and it isn't even around here - like 30 minutes away. Boo, hiss.

    I want more.


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