Saving Money in January: Couponing and Meal Planning

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It’s a new year which means it’s always a new resolve for me to save more and spend less.

Not really a resolution – more just a stepping up of my game since I’ve been couponing for years – I just like to push myself.

Every time our family goes out to eat it’s expensive – really expensive – a sit down dinner at a restaurant could cost us anywhere between $50 and $90 or even more dollars! And that’s for ONE meal!! On top of that I rarely leave a restaurant feeling it was a good experience that was worth the money I just paid for it.

However, it’s easy to say “we’re not going out to eat ever again” but it’s so much harder to do. Crazy nights where we get busy or the lack of desire to cook or the lack of ingredients in the house are all reasons we head out the door for a quick meal or order in. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I enjoy it and I’d rather have Chick-fil-A or a restaurant meal and I’m certainly not turning down a dinner date with my husband but for a regular night meal and honestly even a weekend meal I’d rather cook from home and save the money.

That too, is easier said than done but with a lot of planning and a little shopping I can have a plan for the month that saves me time and money as well as headache of trying to figure out what’s for dinner only to find out I don’t have all the ingredients.

Enter the monthly meal plan. It’s a crazy process but I love it. I won’t go in to all the details here. Instead I will just pass along the website I’ve used this month to come up with our family meals:

Mommy’s Fabulous Finds: 23 Easy Crock Pot Freezer Meals

My crock pot has been getting a work out but considering the snow and the upcoming way below freezing temperatures we’re expecting this week the meals have been perfect!

2 things:

– the recipes call for enough food to feed her family of 4 so I have been scaling up for our family, however, most of the recipes seem to make plenty to feed my family of 8

– I did not make and freeze these in advance – really each one is so easy to put in the crock pot that I don’t mind cutting up a vegetable or two the day it goes in thus avoiding the step she suggest of letting it thaw overnight

When I do make a large meal plan I do shop for as much of it as I can at the beginning of the month and then throughout the month I supplement with fresh produce and of course couponing for what’s on sale.

Which brings me to a little bit of couponing:

What I picked up at Harris Teeter’s Super Double coupon event this week (Super Doubles = HT doubles coupons with values up to $2.00)

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I will say I bought a lot more than this but these are the items that were good deals – the rest were things that I needed and sadly had to get without a coupon though I did forget to include 2 small packs of 8 Pepsi cans similar to the 8-packs from Coke pictured below.

Total before sales and coupons with the Pepsi: $85.36
What I spent after sales and coupons: $21.31

On a side note – the milk, eggs and Tabasco were not on sale, however, I put them in the picture because I purchased them to earn money back from a rewards bonus from Ibotta and since they were three items I really needed it made sense though it just about killed me to pay full price for that Tabasco – see how much I love my husband!

My total spent for those 3 items was: $9.77
After Ibotta deposited $2.50 in my account it brings that down to $7.27

And what I picked up this week at CVS:

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This is also not all I got – I purchased 3 other 12-packs of soda and a 2nd pack of paper towel for a grand total of:

Total Spent:$26.25
Total Saved: $79.94 for a 76% savings
Earned back: $23 in ECB’s (or Extra Care Bucks which is basically money I can spend at CVS on anything else that I want so my out of pocket total or OOP is $3.25 which is a savings of almost 100%)

Before I started handing over my coupons my total was $106.19 – yikes!!

I will also add that instead of doing this in one transaction I could have broken it down in to many transactions and spent less out of pocket – in fact, since I started out with $31 in ECB’s from last week (well $26 in ECB’s and a $5 off $25 coupon that was e-mailed to me) I could’ve gotten the soda deal entirely free and earned back $10 which I could have used on the next transaction and gotten that for free, etc. I’m just weird and prefer to do it all at once.

On a separate note – some of the deals I picked up I wouldn’t consider to be great deals – the paper towel deal was just okay but I needed them and since I had so many ECB’s and coupons from the previous week it really worked out for me to pick them up at CVS. Same with the soda deal – it’s not that great of a deal unless you are using ECB’s to pay for the soda.

However, the Pediasure was free and the vitamins were $1.00 after coupons and ECB’s so if you’re wondering where to start at CVS start with deals like those unless of course it’s not something you need then pick something else. I’m not into buying things or picking things up just because they are free unless I truly plan to donate them or give them away – if I buy it it’s because I’m planning to use it.

The Tums and candy were flat out free because of coupons that printed at the coupon kiosk in the store – it really does pay (literally!) to stop at that thing!!

I won’t bore you with all the match-ups – instead I will encourage you to go here for Harris Teeter match-ups: Southern Savers Harris Teeter

And here for CVS: Southern Savers CVS

How are you saving money this year?

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