I am back with another grocery savings post! This is where I pick apart the local grocery store ads to see if the offers are actually deals, or if I can save more money by finding alternatives. I am seeing more and more that the offers are for junk food, convenience food, or food that I can simply do without. Sometimes I look at the sales and think, "Who are they kidding?" Other times, things look enticing at first glance but not so much when I break down the numbers or consider other options. (You can see my other grocery savings posts here and here.)
I am pulling from a past ad for today's critique, but it is a good example of what I am seeing, and the principles can be applied to similar offers. This was from a sales flyer geared towards back-to-school lunches:
Buy a 24 pack of juice bottles (10 oz each) for $16.98, get a FREE multipack of chips (10- 1 oz bags, value of $4.98)
I think a $5 savings looks pretty good- and others must have, too, because the apple juice bottles were sold out during that sale- but I also know that things in smaller packages and single serves are usually more expensive. I wanted to see if this would still be the case with the coupon factored in, so I compared these individually packaged items to their bulk-packaged counterparts.
Individual, single-serve packages-
10 pack of chips (10 oz total): FREE
Bulk (regular size) packages-
Now let's consider the coupon in comparison with "real food" alternatives. I would swap out the apple juice for bottles or jugs water (assuming you don't just use water from your tap at home) and whole, fresh apples. Most of us know we should be drinking more water, and whole fruits are going to be healthier and more filling than juice because of the fiber. As for the chips, those are made out of potatoes, so we are simply going to look at a bag of whole potatoes. If we break down the cost:
Real food alternatives-
3lb bag of apples: $3.46
5lb bag of potatoes: $3.14
Not only is that still a savings over the bulk packages, that is a savings of $7.70 over the individually packaged groceries, and you get so much more food! We are looking at 8 pounds (128oz) vs 10 ounces for LESS money!
I am going to start adding in another option for my grocery savings posts that is from a preparedness/pantry stable perspective. It is so important that we keep a supply of food on hand in case of emergencies, and I don't think that should be neglected in our grocery shopping! So for preparedness purposes in our example, I would still buy the jugs of water, but I would substitute the fresh apples for jars of applesauce. The bag of fresh potatoes can be swapped for instant, shelf-stable mashed potatoes. Let's see how much we are able to buy if we are spending close to the original cost of $16.98 with the juice and chip coupon:
2 jars (46 oz each/$3.28) of applesauce: $6.56
3 boxes (13.75 oz ea/$2.56) of instant mashed potatoes: $7.68
Total = $16.92
That is a decent amount of food for simply resisting the chips and juice! Now I want to create a hypothetical grocery list, just for fun, that combines some of our options. The totals will be similar, but I want you to look at the amount of food you would get for close to the same price.
Our original option-
10 pack of chips (10 oz): FREE
Our frugal, pantry building option-
3lb bag of apples: $3.46
5lb bag of potatoes: $3.14
1 jar of applesauce (46 oz): $3.28
1 box (13.75 oz) of instant mashed potatoes: $2.56
Clearly we get way more groceries for less money, and the pantry has been added to with the second list! Not to mention that our cheaper option offers more flexibility. There are so many ways to prepare potatoes:
~Baked: whole, served with butter and cheese as a side or loaded for a main dish. Add seasoned ground beef with beans and top with cheese, sour cream, and green onions for a Mexican style potato and serve with a side salad. Potatoes can also be cut into wedges, tossed in olive oil and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and rosemary are good options), and baked for homemade "oven fries". Potatoes can be prepared this way cut into thin rounds also, or baked into potatoes au gratin.
~Boiled: drain, mash/whip, and add milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Garlic powder, chives, bacon bits, and cream cheese or sour cream can be added if you want your mashed potatoes to be fancy. To use up leftover mashed potatoes, add an egg and shape into patties before coating in flour and frying. Boiled potatoes can also be left in chunks to be served with melted butter or cream sauce poured over them.
~Fried: cut potatoes into wedges and fry in a skillet for homemade French fries. It requires some extra steps, but you can even make homemade potato chips! I have used a tutorial identical to this one and they came out delicious. Potatoes can also be shredded and fried as hash browns. I like to add thinly sliced chunks of potatoes to the pan while I am frying bacon or ground sausage for breakfast. After draining most of the grease, I pour scrambled eggs over the top to cook into a breakfast hash. Sometimes I add shredded cheese. Eat it alone or put it in a tortilla for a breakfast taco.
~Potatoes can also be added to soups and casseroles to add bulk. Or they can be made into potato soup or potato salad! There are so many possibilities.
There are options for apples, too:
~Eat them fresh, either alone or with peanut or almond butter. Lately, I have been topping mine with crushed up Heath candies from the freezer as a treat (I have to use them up somehow 😉). I make them special for the boys by adding sprinkles instead of Heath pieces.
~Apples can be seasoned with cinnamon and baked, or sliced and sautéed for a dessert.
~Shredded or chopped apples can be cooked and added to oatmeal or pancakes. They can also be the feature ingredient in cakes, muffins, and pies.
~To make applesauce, core and slice apples and add them to a pot with just enough water to cover. (Cores can be set aside for making apple cider vinegar or jelly.) Simmer until soft. Drain the liquid, but don't throw it away! Pour it into a jar and drink it like apple juice, diluting with water or sweetening to taste if necessary. Put the cooked apple slices into a blender to puree, pouring some of the cooking liquid back in to get the desired consistency if needed. Sweeten and add cinnamon, or enjoy plain.
Can you believe all of that came from a juice and potato chip coupon? With inflation being sky-high, we have to think outside the box to save money. We have to be smarter than the system in order to stretch our dollars, but it can still be done. Be critical. Don't assume coupons are going to save you money, and don't buy a certain product just because you always have. I know so many people who are frustrated with the rising prices, but their response is to just not even look anymore because there is nothing they can do about it. Boy, do I understand the frustration, but this is not the mindset that will get us ahead. I admit that looking at the flyers and going to the store can be disheartening, but in me, at least, it stirs up just enough productive anger for me to want to fight it that much harder. (I believe there are sinister forces at play, and that this is part of a bigger plan, but that is another topic.) To quote Pride and Prejudice, as I often do:
"There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."
Ladies, take courage. We can win at this. Pray for wisdom, consider carefully, save where you can, and prepare, prepare, prepare. I hope this post can help you do that in some way. Please share any grocery tips and encouragement you may have in the comments- we can all learn!