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CouponKatie Answers: Saving vs. Spending Less

moneyI have received several emails and comments (which I love) from readers who are saving more (yeah!) but still not hitting their budget. I thought sharing some of what I have learned might help.

The goal is not to just save a lot; the goal is to spend less.

I learned this the hard way. When I first started using coupons and shopping sales, I was saving hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately, I was also spending a lot more than our monthly grocery budget.

What was my problem?

I could not pass up a deal. If I had a coupon and a product was even a little on sale, I bought it. Rookie mistake. I was concerned about the wrong numbers. I loved seeing high savings amounts and percentages (I still do), but was not focused on the amount I was spending.

So I changed a few things. I set a firm grocery budget. Over time I learned that I do better with a weekly grocery budget than a monthly one.

I plan my meals and my shopping one week at a time. When my weekly budget is gone, I quit shopping. It is as easy as that.

This keeps me from overspending and getting to the end of the month and having no money left.
At first I had great anxiety when I would miss a great deal on something because my weekly grocery allowance was spent.  The longer I coupon the more I realize that deal, or an even better one,  will come around again soon. So I encourage you, if it will blow your budget don’t be afraid to pass up on a “deal”.

I also made the mistake of trying to shop the sales at several different stores. I wasted a lot of time and probably money.

As a new couponer it was way too overwhemling.  My advice?

Pick one store.

Plan your meals, make your list, organize your coupons and go to that store.

Once you get comfortable at that store add another one and so on. This way you will gain confidence, knowledge and become more efficient.

On busy weeks I still only shop at one store, other weeks I’ll hit up to four.

Those are just some of the lessons I have learned couponing.  I hope they help in your efforts to save a little money and make your budget work.

If you have any questions leave them; they may lead to a new post.

If you have any suggestions for new couponers leave them too; it is always great to hear what other people have learned.

CouponKatie Answers a Reader’s Question – Saving Money on Baby Food

babyfoodHere’s a question from a reader about how to save money on Baby Food:

My little one has just started solids and I’ve got to add baby food and cereal to my weekly shopping.

Do you have any ideas for saving money on baby food?

I saved a lot of money by making my own baby food. Making your own baby food sounds overwhelming at first;  it really is not. I have done it for both of my sons.

When I started I had a pot with a steaming pan, some good knives, 8 ice cube trays and THE HUSBAND bought me a small KitchenAid food processor- that is all I needed.

I tired to use in-season fruits and veggies.  When they were on sale I stocked up, made my purees and then froze them. It is much cheaper this way especially if you want to feed your baby organic foods. If some things were out of season, then I bought frozen packages and pureed them.

Carrots, squash, peas, corn, spinach, and other veggies I steamed until very soft (helping to retain most of their nutritional value), pureed them, and froze them. In the mornings I would get out what I needed to use that day and just let it thaw in the fridge. If  I was in a hurry or forgot, then I carefully defrosted it in the microwave.

For soft foods, bananas, avocados, cooked sweet potatoes…I  smashed with a fork and then froze them in ice cube trays.  Apples, pears, peaches, and other fresh fruits I pureed in the food processor and froze.  Each cube was 2 Tbsp.  so I would always know how much I was feeding one of my guys.

I usually took one afternoon every two weeks and did all my baby food making.  By the end of that day my freezer was full of ziploc bags containing cubes of all colors.

When we were on the go for the day I took an avocado, a banana, an applesauce cup, rice cereal or the food grinder. It was very convenient to have pre-packaged baby food.

My guys also loved chicpeas, Yo Baby yogurt, kiwi  and oatmael as they got a little older.  When they were over the baby food stage I used a Kidco grinder and fed them whatever we were eating.

That was pretty much what I did to save money on baby and make sure my kids ate healthy.  It took a little bit pf practice and planning, but it was so handy to have all this food ready to go when I needed it.

If you are bottle feeding and using name brand formula there are sites like The Coupon Master that sell coupons. I have never used one of these services but recently saw a $1.00/1 coupon on sale for $.07.  If you have to use a specific forumula for some reason that may be worth checking out.

If you have a question for CouponKatie, please check out the Contact page and submit your questions according to the format listed there.  I will feature as many Q and A’s as possible.