Saving Money and Eating Healthy ~ In the Winter With No Coupons

by Merissa on January 22, 2011

in Thrifty Living

Wow that's quite the title! Lots to cover in this article I guess!

I was having a discussion with a friend from Canada yesterday. She's been trying to eat healthier but was having trouble with buying healthy food on a budget. Many stores in Canada take coupons but they are a little harder to come by. You can't just print them off like we can with Coupons.com you have to order them because stores either don't take or rarely take internet printed coupons.

I do use coupons. I use them all the time. But generally I use them on things like health and beauty products. Many people that are uneducated about coupons will tell you they are all for processed foods and unhealthy products. While many of them are, not ALL of them are. I see coupons all the time for basic baking products like baking powder, cornstarch, ect. While they aren't in abundance, these coupons are still pretty easy to come by.

But enough about the coupons. Let's say for the rest of this article, using coupons is out of the question.

Me and the hubby eat a pretty healthy diet. We enjoy fresh veggies and fruits. Pastas, stir fries, and lean meats. Because of my allergies I cannot eat any processed foods. That can make it hard on a budget. To have to cut out absolutely all processed foods and make healthy food all the time. Or so I thought. A few months ago I started making my own crackers. I did the math and figured a typical box of crackers cost at least $2- $3 from the store. And if I had a coupon and got lucky I might be able to get them for $1 a box. Even with the more expensive flour I buy I figured that my saltine crackers cost less than .25 to make. And the cheese crackers cost about .75 - $1 to make depending on what I can get cheese for. That's a nice little savings and I get a healthier product(and in my opinion, yummier) So if I generally buy 2 boxes of saltines and 3 boxes of cheese crackers each month I'm saving about 7.25 a month, just on crackers. That's just one thing I'm saving on, but that one small thing I save money on saves me $87 a year. When you start cooking from scratch, resist the urge to pick up a cooking magazine. Start with like a church cookbook or an Amish cookbook. They tend to have simple recipes with inexpensive ingredients. You can make healthy and nourishing dishes that are inexpensive and simple.

I started getting the Rachel Ray magazine a few months ago. It's not something I would pay for but I don't mind getting it for free. In one section of the magazine, Rachel Ray has a weekly menu plan. It's her budget plan and I think it's way too expensive. The dishes she makes for the week take fancy ingredients. Think simplistic. Stay away from the high priced, fancy, out of season ingredients. Make meals with what you have and what you can find on sale.

Start a price book. Write down the prices of items that you normally purchase. Write down the regular price and a price it generally goes on sale for. Write down how large the item is in terms of weight or units. When you are purchasing groceries, don't think so much about the price of the item, think of the unit price. When an item goes on sale for less than your sale price that you have written down, buy it and stock up.

Occasionally the sales are rare at the regular grocery store. They might not have something you need or there may not be any good prices. Something that's a big part of our budget is buying from our co-op and buying in bulk. You don't need to be a part of a co-op to buy in bulk, but I do recommend having a membership to Sam's Club or Costco or whatever bulk store is in your area.

Another BIG part of our food and what we eat is canning. Last night I didn't have any sauce for the pizza I made but I have at least 25-30 jars of tomatoes that I canned last summer. So I grabbed one of those off the shelf and 5 minutes later I created a pizza sauce. Canning and preserving is not something that many do anymore. And I know it's a summer/fall thing but you do it in the summer so you can have fresh food in the winter that you don't have to pay for. Next summer I'm going to be doing lots of how to canning and preserving videos, so if you haven't done it before but you'd like to learn, it will be a great time.

Ok ok, I know what you are thinking. That's all fine and great for next year and next summer but right now it's winter and I'm hungry for healthy, fresh, cheap food. Well, personally, I don't pay any more for fresh veggies and fruit in the winter than I do in the summer. The key is to buy in season. I know I forgot this month, but at the beginning of each month I normally put up a post listing the fruits and veggies that are in season. Watch for those things to go on sale throughout the month. As much as you want fresh strawberries in December, it's just not the smartest thing to buy. Apples and oranges will be less than $1 a pound in December whereas Strawberries will run around $3 or much more per pound. If you really want that specific fruit or veggie, buy it frozen. Frozen product is much healthier for you than canned because it's frozen at it's peak freshness. I love strawberries but I won't pay $3 a pound for them. I will pay less than 1.75 a pound, which is what I can get them for frozen all year around at Sam's Club.

I mentioned in a comment on the site before that we are not vegetarians but we do not eat meat for at least 2 meals a week. This is a big cost saver since meat is so expensive. I don't like to buy beef from the grocery store so we buy from my parents when we can. For chicken, I wait until it goes on sale for less than $1 a pound and then I will buy and stock up my freezer. I also like to check the mark-down bins to find cheap meats that are close to their sell-by date. I just stick them right in the freezer when I get home. I stick with the inexpensive cuts of meat and I don't really feel like I'm sacrificing anything. I rarely buy chicken breast and instead I buy legs or thighs. I cook it all up in the crockpot and use some for the current meal I'm making and stick the rest in the freezer. Ready to go for the next meal.

Think about cooking for the future. I'm not a freezer cooker. I'd love to be but I just don't have the time or space. However once of my challenges for Frugally Fit was to make one freezer meal each week. We tend to slip up on our food budget when we get hungry but feel too tired to cook. It's so much more tempting to just stop at the grocery store or stop at a fast food place and grab a meal. If you can, take part of one day out of each week and create some things for food for the week. Make bread, crackers, some snacky things, then you don't have to worry about it throughout the week. For the one extra freezer meal, don't stress about making special time to make the meal. While you are cooking during the week just make a double batch of something you are cooking and just put it in the freezer. No extra fuss and no extra mess.

So before you fall asleep reading this super long post I'll go over my main points once more:

  • Create meals and snacks from scratch.
  • Buy inexpensive ingredients.
  • Make simplistic meals.
  • Start a price book and only buy when the unit price goes below your "buy price".
  • Buy from a co-op or a bulk store.
  • Can in the summer to be ready for the long winter.
  • Buy in season.
  • If you have to not buy in-season, buy frozen.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat and watch the mark down section.
  • Prepare food ahead of time, make a few freezer meals.

I hope this helps and gives you some tips for healthy grocery shopping without coupons that you may not have though about before! Like I mentioned in the beginning of the article, this is how I shop and how I save money for me and the hubby on groceries. I do use coupons all the time, but I shop like this most of the time.

Do any of my readers have any other tips? How do you shop healthy in the winter, without coupons?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lana January 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Salad greens pretty much stay at a constant price year round and if you have Aldi they are always a great price there. Bags of baby spinach are $1.69 and romaine hearts 3 packs are 1.99. A package of each makes a large daily salad for hubby and me. Raw spinach is a nutrient powerhouse and we try to eat it daily.

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2 Ella McKinsey January 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Soup is one of my biggest money-savers in winter. I live in California, so getting fresh produce cheap isn’t as much of a problem for me, but we still have limitations. I use the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey bones to make stock and freeze it, and use it to make a ton of soup over the winter.

Also, I love dollar stores. I go to our local 99 cent store when they stock on Tuesdays, and they often have really great stuff like organic Romaine hearts, portobella mushrooms, half and half, eggs, mangos, red bell peppers, etc. that would all be pricey in regular stores. It’s almost all name-brand stuff that other stores just didn’t have room for. They also have a great brand of bread that is tastier than most store-bought bread. You obviously have to be choosy in dollar stores, but it’s almost always worth a trip.

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3 Lana January 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Wow! I have never heard of a dollar store with perishables. Nothing like that here in SC.

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4 Heather January 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Hello!
Could you please tell us the recipe you use for your crackers?

Thanks.

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5 Merissa January 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm
6 marly January 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Great article again Merissa Thank you

We are doing fairly well at budgeting but still eating well… and so far its going ok… will have to get more fresh produce end of this week or beginning of next but spent….. 120.00 in one week :S not good, normally we are at about 45-50 a week lol so if i am gong to stick to this i need to be strict lol

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7 Merissa January 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm

It takes work to switch over to a more frugal food budget and I don’t think it can happen overnight because then you are left feeling deprived. Take it one step at a time and you will get there!

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8 Heather January 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

We eat a lot of meat since it’s one of my hubby’s things, but I have noticed that including less meat in the meals is a money saver. So, if I’m going to make chicken and rice, I use less chicken (maybe a half pound instead of a whole pound) and include frozen veggies as supplements in the rice. Hubby eats his veggies and we save money!

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9 Renee October 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm

When Kroger puts their organic greens on clearance I blanch them in organic vegetable broth (bought on sale) then freeze them in cubes with the broth. I can then use them in soups all winter long. I get the benefits of organic really cheap.

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10 Erin October 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

I buy organic whole chickens at Costco for $2.29/lb. There are two chickens per bag. I go home and cut them up immediately in the following: 2 bags of 2 chicken quarters, 2 bags of 2 chicken breasts, 1 bag of 4 tenders (you can make this 6 if you have huge chicken breasts). Then I boil all leftover bones (except back bone). I let cool then pull off all chicken in pieces and use in meals like chicken spaghetti or stir fry. So for about $20, I made two whole chickens into 6 meals all for less than $3.50 a meal!

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11 tammy November 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Thank you for good ideas and good reminders#

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12 Virg November 26, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I have an awesome canner. A few years ago I bought a stove and found out too late I can’t can on it. Help!! I really want to can!! Any ideas?

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13 Merissa November 26, 2013 at 8:58 pm

You can always buy an induction burner or get a stove you just use in a basement or garage that you can can on instead.

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14 Cheryl January 18, 2014 at 2:02 am

We got an induction stove top burner recently and it awesome! We are able to pressure can and water bath and it is SO Fast and Efficient. About $70 w/ free shipping on Amazon, fantastic investment.

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15 Stephanie November 26, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I like to stretch meat by adding beans. Lentils in tacos, red beans in chili, i even found a recipe for cannellini beans in quesadillas, and they were really good. I cook a whole lot of them at once and then freeze flat in ziploc bags. They fit better in the freezer and it’s easy to break off a small bit to add to anything.

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