Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Organized Home Challenge: Week 7 - Coupons (Or how I really save money on food...)

This week the Organized Home Challenge is all about coupons.  There are tons of couponing sites out there, and shows like Extreme Couponing, etc.  At times, I've really been fascinated by the idea of couponing.  And then I realized something.  We don't have a Kroegers.  Or an Albertsons.  Or really any of the big grocery chains that the couponing sites are always talking about.  We have smaller chain grocery stores.  Now I'm not complaining!  I'm a huge fan of both HyVee and Fareway.  They offer a lot of great products and have good prices.  But the coupon matching sites just don't cover them.

I tried subscribing to the weekend paper for the coupon inserts, but I wasn't getting enough coupons out of it to make up for the price of the paper.  Part of that is my fault - we don't buy a lot of processed foods, and coupons for fresh meat and produce really don't happen very often.  So, couponing, while it sounds good in theory, just doesn't work well for me.

I do have a couple of ways I save money on groceries, though, so I'll just share those with you.

First - I do a lot of my shopping for regular weekly groceries at Target.  Why Target?  Well, I can get coupons for things I use at Target.com.  So, that helps with some things.  Plus, I have a Target debit card that gets me a 5% discount (plus 1% donation to my son's elementary school).  I've done some price comparisons, and after the 5% discount, shopping at Target for a lot of my specialty stuff (organic cane juice, turbanado sugar, whole wheat flour, arrowroot, Clif bars, etc.) is cheaper than shopping at HyVee, and Fareway just doesn't carry a lot of that stuff.  So, that helps.

The biggest way I save money though, is my cooking co-op.  I LOVE my co-op.  First of all, it's a really fun group of ladies.  But it saves money, too.  Most months I come home from co-op with 12-15 meals for my family, at a cost of (usually) around $10/meal.  Since starting co-op, I have bought so much less meat! That cuts the grocery bill by a LOT.  Plus, I'm not having to buy a bottle of something for a recipe, only to use 2 Tbsp and never use it again.  Suppers for about 1/2 the month are covered by the co-op meals.  The rest of the time we have quick meals, or something we have on our stand-by list.

Now, how does this co-op thing work?  It's really a fairly simple concept.  We do it at our local HyVee store.  Our group started out as the original (way back before I got involved), but they now have over 50 groups!!!  They all work a little differently, but here's what we do.  There are 18 of us.  15 of us each pick a meal to make each month.  For example, next month I am making Cincinnatti Skyline Chili.  Then we pick how many meals of each of the 15 we want to buy - from 0-2 of each.  So you could end up taking home 30 meals if you really wanted to!  HyVee does all of our shopping, cooks all of the meat that needs to be pre-cooked, cuts all of our meat, does our dishes, and runs down to the store to get things we run out of/return items we have too much of, etc.  A prep team of 5 shows up 1 hour before everyone else to do all of the chopping, cooking, or any other prep work that needs to be done.  Then when you show up at 7:00, you just make however many of your meal were ordered - for example, I think I'm making 13 bags of the chili.  When everyone's done, we divide it up, have a short meeting and dessert, and go home.  Usually takes about 3 hours, and you go home with a bunch of freezer meals.  Last month, I brought home Lasagna Style Baked Ziti, Stuffed Pork Chops, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos, Slow Cooker Char Siu Por Roast, Enchilada Pie, Crock Pot Italian Beef, Salsa Mac N' Cheese, Marinated Grilled Flank Steak, Mexican Two-Bean Chili Chicken, and Crockpot Shredded Chicken and Noodles.  All good, healthy food (we are pretty health conscious in our group - using less sodium and mostly whole wheat pastas, etc.).  It's been great for our family!

So, I may not do the "traditional" coupon method of saving money on groceries, but I do have my little ways.  What other ways do you save money on grocery shopping?


  1. So how does somebody join a co-op?

    1. There are a couple of ways. It depends where you live. Here (Bettendorf), you can contact HyVee directly and ask if there are any new ones starting. Or, if you know someone in a group you can get in on their group or put on their waiting list. Our group currently has 2 on the waiting list.

      Another option is to start your own. It's really not hard to start one if you can find a group of people who want to do it with you. Not all stores will be as awesome to work with as our's - we're really lucky. But you can do the shopping and cutting and dishes as part of the group. You could find a church or community center that has a large kitchen to work in. I do know some groups that do it out of their homes, but I think part of the fun is all working together. If you do want to start one, I'd be happy to help with more information than I can put on here. Just send me an email (brandangelak@gmail.com) with the subject Co-op.