Monday, August 9, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Great!

I've been looking for ways to cut back on spending so we can add to our savings and enjoy the sweet life. One area that really pulls from the checking account is groceries. It's not like I can just buy a truckload of ramen noodles and be done with it. I have to find a way to save money but not eat like a college kid in a dorm. (or a newlywed. Chuck and I were so poor that we lived off ramen for a while. Paydays we got to have grilled cheese and Ramen)

I checked out a terrific book from the library called Family Feasts for $75 a Week. It had so many great ideas and recipes that I decided to try some of the tips and see how I would do.

I shopped the sale ads online (did you know you could do that?) for the grocery stores in my area and found the best deals on the big ticket items like meat, cheese, paper goods, milk, etc. I made my grocery list and a menu. Then I got online and did a coupon search for various items on my list. For example, I needed some Ronzoni noodles for a dish so I searched for "Ronzoni Smart Taste coupon." I found coupons for a lot of the items and then printed them out. You can also load coupons onto your Kroger card so you don't have to carry them around. Just be sure to print out a list so you know which coupons you have.

I got boneless chicken breasts for $1.99 per pound. 24 rolls of paper towels for $8. 24 rolls of double roll TT paper for $10. Pork loin chops for $.50 each. Ice cream for $.80. Some things I got free by using store coupons and the manufacturer's coupon I found on the web. In all, I saved over $100. YES!!! And I have enough meat to last the rest of the month. And I cut my usual spending in half, at least.

Good book. Check your library to see if they have it. You can also check the Amazon.com ratings to see what other people thought about it.
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I'm not sure what it is but I got the urge to cook like crazy this weekend. Chuck had no complaints. :)

Saturday and Sunday mornings I made biscuits from scratch. One batch was from Pioneer Woman's cookbook that sweet Shelley gave to me when we met. The other batch was from The New Best Recipe cookbook which is HUGE! Both were good but I have to say the ones from New Best Recipe book were the easiest to make and best texture. The folks in that cookbook try several different ways to make biscuits and discuss the science behind the recipe then tell you which way works best. They've done exhaustive testing so you know you're making something that has been tested exhaustively. Sorry, no pictures. :(

I also made a batch of waffles using some Bisquick Heart Smart mix that I got on sale coupled with a coupon. The kids loved them!


Another trial recipe: macaroni and cheese from Pioneer Woman's cookbook. We weren't too impressed. :(
Chocolate chip cookies from The New Best Recipe book. These made me a hero to Charlie's friends who got to see them (and smell them!) come out of the oven. Then they waited around like vultures until they were cool enough to eat.

Not your normal cookie, these were the size of frisbees. Crisp around the edges but chewy throughout the cookie. Perfect. Seriously.
Just look at that. Hard to resist.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
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2 cups plus 2 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled until just warm
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
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* Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. (I used parchment paper and clean up was a breeze and the cookies did not stick at all).
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* Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
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* Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until combined. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in chips.
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* Drop by scant 1/4 cup portions spaced 2 1/2 inches apart. (I would suggest further apart. Mine grew into a huge mass that I had to separate once they were cool)
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* Bake until the cookies were light golden brown, the outer edges start to darken, and the centers still soft and puffy, 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the cooking time. Cool cookies on the sheets.
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Is there anything better than homemade bread? Something about the smell makes the house feel like home. I used to always bake bread in the fall. I'd open the windows, turn on some Ray Lynch's Deep Breakfast CD, bake bread and enter my happy place. That was pre-kids. :)
It turned out perfect! It's really not difficult to make bread at home and the quality is far superior than anything you will find at the grocery store.
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Look at it just begging for some butter.
I made a grilled cheese for Rachel using this bread and took a bite. Oh my dear lord. I've never had better.
Sandwich Bread
from The New Best Recipe book
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3 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
2 Tbs butter, melted
3 Tbs honey
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
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*Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat to 200 degrees, maintain heat for 10 minutes and turn off oven.
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*Mix 3 1/2 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix in milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a bowl. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine 2-3 times to scrape down the sides and hook if needed, about 10 minutes. If it's still sticking to the sides of the bowl after 5 minutes, add flour 1 Tbs at a time (up to 1/4 cup). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
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*Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40-50 minutes.
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*Gently press the dough into an 8" square that's 1" thick. Roll the dough into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place dough seam-side down into a greased 9x5" loaf pan and press gently so it touches all sides of pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20-30 minutes.
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* Keep oven rack at lowest position and place other at middle position, then heat to 350 degrees. (Your bread is not in the oven at this time. It's still rising.) Bring 2 cups of water to a boil (I did this in the microwave) and put boiling water in a pan (I used another loaf pan) on the bottom rack in the oven and set the loaf on the middle rack. Back for 40-50 minutes or until an instant read thermometer says 195 degrees. Remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Slice, serve and enjoy.
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I wasn't finished baking yet. What had gotten in to me??
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How about some Bodacious Bars? With a title like that it had to be good. :) They're definitely pretty.
Tasty as they are pretty. They're very rich so a little goes a long way.
Bodacious Bars
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Coconut Bars
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted, chopped
1 3/4 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1/2 cup flaked coconut
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Chocolate topping
1/3 cup butter, softened
egg substitute to equal 1 egg (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 - 3 cups confectioner's sugar
2 (1 oz) squares milk chocolate (I used 4 "fun size" Hershey bars which are .5 oz each)
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For the bars, combine butter sugar, cocoa, vanilla, salt and egg in saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter melts and the mixture thickens, stirring to mix well. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds, cookie crumbs and coconut. Press into an ungreased 9" square pan. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator.
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For the topping, cream the butter at high speed in a medium mixer bowl. Beat in the egg substitute and vanilla. Add the confectioner's sugar gradually and beat until smooth. Spread over the bars. Cover and chill.
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Place the chocolate in a sealable plastic bag. Set the bag in a cup of hot water until the chocolate melts. Clip a hole in a corner of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the bars. Chill until serving time. Cut and enjoy.
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I can hear it now. "Tsk, tsk! How do you plan to lose weight when you've used more butter than Paula Deen?"
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A quandary: I love to cook from my cookbook collection but I want to lose weight. What do I do? Give up cooking? Give up on weight loss?
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Neither. I just take a bite of the cookie then pass it off to someone else. Sample a sinfully good bar then move on. It's usually plenty and I don't feel deprived at all.
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Plus exercise. An area I have been shamefully lacking lately. It's seriously hot here. 3 digits hot. I'm going to break out my DVDs and use those until it gets a wee bit cooler. I also have my Just Dance for the Wii which burns some serious calories. It's true! I tested it with my Bodybugg. I have other exercise "games" for the Wii and between all that I'll burn off my samples plus a whole lot more.
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I also make substitutions in recipes to make them low calorie so my meals are usually very friendly to a girl trying to watch her figure shrink. Balance, my friends. :)
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And with that in mind, I am off to have a bowl of Fiber One cereal that I paid $.75 for after coupons and buying on sale. :D

11 comments:

  1. AWESOME !!! I'm always looking for ways to save. This is great!

    Everything looks AH-MAZING!

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  2. Great money tips. Groceries really are out of control with the pricing. What I hate about coupons, though, are that they are usually for products I would never buy anyway, like pre-packed frozen dinners and lunch meat. And I can't break ties with my "free range, all natural meat" mantra. Luckily, more and more grocery chains are offering savings on this stuff, including Giant Eagle. Their store brand "Nature's Basket" features organic, free range eggs, meats, milk, cheeses and canned goods that are el-cheapo. Oh, and I noticed that a lot more companies are offering coupons directly on their websites. I got some killer $1 0ff coupons on the Organic valley website!

    Now, can I have a bite of that cookie?

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  3. Such delicious eats, Kelly!

    You are right about enjoying your treats so that you don't feel deprived. That was the old dieting mentality of "can't have" but, I think we are learning that it's all about balance! Good for you!

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  4. I only bake during the month of December, because I don't have the strength to take one bite of a cookie and hadn it to someone else, lol.....your stuff looks FABULOUS!!! :)

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  5. I LOVE saving money at the grocery store. I don't have time to do too much couponing, etc. but I do what I can.

    All of that food is making me hungry- and I just ate supper!

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  6. Cookies the size of frisbees? Count.me.in.

    You are a bargain-hunter extraordinaire! Very impressive with your finds!

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  7. Hungry now....for that yummy looking .....
    What is it called - sweet tooth stuff?

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  8. I need to be better about couponing. There's no reason not to except laziness.

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  9. I absolutely LOVE America's Test Kitchen cookbooks - since they have already done the guess work, every single recipe comes out stunning!

    Here are a few I've made again and again:

    http://biz319.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/italian-sunday-gravy/

    http://biz319.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/chicago-style-italian-roast-beef/

    I am the queen of using the sale papers, but what my store does one better is that with their sale paper, they have recipes combining ingredients on sale - like if there was Italian sausage and canned tomatoes, they would have an Italian recipe using both sale items.

    How cool is that?!

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  10. I think I gained at least 3 pounds looking at those photos, but it was well worth it :)

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