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Buying Groceries on the Cheap and Food Security

No matter if you dine out at fine restaurants or have potatoes and beans at home, we all must eat to survive. Food is one of the most basic preparations one can make. I do a fair amount of gardening and raise small livestock, so this time of year I’m busy putting up the harvest from the garden and minimizing the number of animals that will need be fed through the winter. For those of you that do not produce a significant portion of your own food at home (or any at all) there are other fantastic ways to economize on your food budget. Amazingly many of the best deals out there happen to be long shelf life foods with expiration dates that are 2, 3, even 4 years without the need for freezing or refrigeration.

Despite producing some of my own food I take full advantage of the grocery stores for simple economic reasons. A case in point, I have the ability to produce my own wheat and eggs. I even have the equipment to mill these grains, mix in some eggs and water, and I have my own fresh pasta. Some would say my cost is zero, but in reality I have spent a whole lot of labor to produce what I can currently get for free from my local grocery store (yes free, see below). Now I still advocate knowing how and having the tools to make your own if for no other reason than the security of knowing you can if you have to. At the moment though, I will take the free premium brand pasta from the grocery store.

Now if you want to buy groceries on the cheap consistently, you need to get them when they are on sale and in a quantity that you think you will need until the next sale comes along. Beyond just saving some money it is also worth considering having a food supply on hand that will last your household for a given period of time. How long you might ask? That depends on what you are preparing for. If you just want to be prepared for a weather event, then 2-4 weeks should get you through most events, even severe storms that can leave utilities out for extended periods of time. If you want to protect against job loss you might want to consider 3 months as a reasonable time frame to secure new employment. Are you worried about a full on economic collapse? Then you would want 6 months stocked up, with seeds and livestock set to grow and raise your own come spring. Even if you have the skills and equipment to produce your own food, fall would be a bad time to find yourself with a near empty pantry.

Getting started, one of your first steps is checking out what kind of gimmicks your local grocery stores have. And almost all of them have a gimmick to get you in their door. Here are the gimmicks for the 3 stores closest to me.
#1 has a card that gives $0.10 off a gallon of gas for each $100 spent.
#2 has double coupons up to $0.99
#3 has double coupons up to $1.00

I prefer the double coupons, as just 1 coupon doubled saves me more than I would save on a full tank of gas. Now it is important to note that there are many $1 coupons out there that at store #2 would only save you $1, but at store #3 it saves you $2.00 due to doubling.

Now as for getting coupons, by all means take advantage of your local papers and any inserts from friends or family that does not use coupons themselves. There are also great sites for Internet coupons that you can print, as well as places you can buy them for pennies on the dollar. Why buy a coupon? My number one reason is that if there is a great deal on an item that I use a lot of or a particularly good price on a long shelf life item it becomes cost effective. After all, printing at home still costs you paper and ink and the time to cut them all out. Many coupons cost 8-12 cents yet save you $2 each when doubled.

One of my favorites is getting and leaving coupons at local community centers. Many people think of community centers as places for old people to congregate or just for people on welfare. While some may have devolved to this point, you can help change that with your presence. Stop by and give your surplus coupons and spend a few minutes helping others learn how to be self-sufficient. Many dependent people are in the position they are, just for the lack of someone taking the time to give them the tools needed. But be careful, you might make a few friends.

Where you get the really good deals is matching your stores sale items with the coupons currently out. It is worth going online and checking you stores sales flier. My store has a preview that is available 3 or 4 days before their flier hits my mailbox. This allowed me to order coupons for $0.10 each that were $1 off 1 can of coffee for when the sale started. Can of coffee $2.49 each on sale, $1 off coupon doubled minus the coupon cost meant I bought half a years worth of coffee for $0.59 a can. Regular price is $3.98 so you save 85% off of retail.

Here are a few other recent examples:
1. Progresso soup regular retail $1.99 on sale for $0.99 each
$1 off 3 manufacturers coupon once doubled gives a final cost of $0.32 per can

2. Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna 12oz can on sale for $2.69
$1 off coupon doubled gives a cost of $0.69 a can. That is the same as paying $0.29 per 5oz can of tuna most buy for a dollar on sale.

3. Dreamfields Pasta (elbow macaroni, angel hair, lasagna, and spaghetti) is normally $2.42 a box.
It is currently on sale 2 boxes for $4.00. Dreamfields has a coupon for $1 off, so 2 coupons give you 2 free boxes of pasta. http://dreamfields.com

(Take note that all 3 of these have a shelf life of 2 or more years.)

Here are some good places to get coupons. Always check expiration dates when buying in bulk as sadly many grocery stores do a poor job of rotating product.

Printable coupon sites
(most printable coupons can be printed twice by using the back button)

Coupons for sale

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Forum Topic: Buying Groceries On The Cheap and Food Security