Budgeting Feed

Take advantage of coupon deals, weekly specials of your local chain grocery store

Mike Thayer 2016 (2) T-boneBy Mike Thayer

If you don't already subscribe to your favorite/local grocery store's emailed coupon deals and/or online weekly specials, you should.  They really do make it worth your while, providing significant savings over regular prices.

Here's an example, the current weekly special at my local grocery store includes ground chuck for $2.49 a pound, T-Bone steaks for $4.99 a pound and avocados for just 69 cents each.

I challenge you to find better prices elsewhere.  Everyday prices at Aldi are at or a bit above these prices, but my local chain store is much closer to where I live.  That's about the only drawback I have when it comes to Aldi, it's where I do my regular grocery shopping, but I do have to drive a bit to get to one, there just aren't enough of them.  Hence the reason I shop specials at the local chain store...  They do indeed make it worth my while....

Weekly specials are convenient not just because of the price savings, but because it is a time saver if you don't live close to a discount grocer like Aldi.  Weekly specials are also convenient to meal planning for the coming week.  Why not plan out a steak dinner with prices for T-Bones at just $4.99 a pound?  That is menu YUM at a great price!

My local grocery store chain's weekly special price for ground chuck is saving me 50 cents a pound over what I usually pay at Aldi, their regular price is $2.99....  I'll be racking up quite a few chubs of ground chuck for my freezer.  If I buy ten chubs at that sale price, I've saved $5 over what I would pay for ten chubs at Aldi.   In further comparison, I'm not saving anything by buying the avocado at the local store, it's at the same price as Aldi, but I am saving time with store proximity.  Then there's the T-Bone, not even Aldi has a T-Bone price that low.  I'm saving a buck a pound.

Coupon deals and weekly specials are something to take advantage of at your local chain grocer, the key is to stick to buying only what's on special, don't drift off your list with impulse buys!  That's where the local chain store gets you.....  As in, you need some chips with that guacamole you'll make with that avocado right?  DON'T DO IT!  That's where the $20 budget for some quick, weekly special shopping turns into $40!

Spend wisely my friends......


Fried Rice, a budget staple

by Mike Thayer

Veggie stir fryIf you have some rice in the pantry and just about any kind of veggie and/or leftover meat in the fridge, you can create some rocking fried rice. 

Rice + meat + veggie + an egg = YUM!  And for pennies! 

Leftover steak?  Chop it up, make fried rice.  Leftover pork chop?  Chop it up, make fried rice.  Leftover chicken breast?  Chop it up, make fried rice.  Heck, got some lunch meat?  Chop it up, make fried rice!

There is no reason to pay the $$$ for Asian take out when you've got a decently stocked pantry, a few veggies on hand and some leftovers. 

The key to good stir fry of course, is to have all your ingredients chopped and ready to throw in the pan and knowing WHAT to throw in at what time and on some high heat.....  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.  Be flexible with it.

Ingredients:

  • One cup rice
  • Two cups water
  • One tab of butter
  • Tablespoon, vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces of leftover meat or fish
  • 5-6 baby carrots, sliced Julienne (like match sticks)
  • 4-5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 green onions, rough chopped
  • Tablespoon, soy sauce
  • Tablespoon garlic powder
  • Tablespoon chicken boullion powder
  • teaspoon hot sauce (your favorite brand)
  • One egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt the tab of butter in a medium sauce pan, add the rice, half the garlic powder and chicken bouillon powder, saute for about a minute, then add the water.  Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 20 minutes.  While that rice is cooking, chop up the veggies and leftover meat.  A few minutes before the rice is done, fire up the wok or a large non-stick skillet on high heat.  Once the wok/skillet is hot, add the veggie oil.  Give it 30 seconds, then put in the carrots, mushrooms, meat and let those sizzle for about a minute.  Next, add half the rice and the remaining garlic powder, let sizzle for another minute, giving some of that rice a nice crispy 'edge.'  Next, add the green onion and stir fry for about another minute.  Add the rest of the rice and all remaining ingredients, stirring constantly, for about another minute.  The goal here is tender crisp vegetables and a lightly (but done) scrambled egg.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This is a very satisfying dish, both for the stomach and the wallet.  Enjoy!

TIP:  While this recipe calls for cooking the rice, cold, leftover rice is actually better to make fried rice with.  Using cold rice gives the grains a better texture, making for a better bite.


Grilling on a budget

By Mike Thayer

Here's a great recipe if you're on a tight grocery budget, costing less than $10 to prepare.  

And tight budget or not, this is just a flat out great grilled hot dog recipe!

Mike's HamDawgs
Stuffed hot dawgs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup finely chopped cooked ham or luncheon meat
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 package of all beef hot dogs
  • 8 to 10 slices of bacon
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)

Mike's HamDawgsDirections:

Mix the first six or seven ingredients.  Slit the hot dogs, cutting them almost end-to-end and about ¾ the way through.  Stuff with the ham mixture.  Wrap the stuffed hot dogs with bacon and secure with tooth picks on each end.  Grill over hot coals, giving them ¼ turns and brushing them with BBQ sauce (and optional BBQ/Louisiana Hot Sauce blend) until the bacon is crisp.  Serve in toasted garlic buttered hot dog buns. And um, don't forget to remove the toothpicks.....

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Why you should have a membership to a wholesale club like Costco or Sam's Club

Mike Thayer 2016 (2)By Mike Thayer

I've heard a lot of people say, "I can't afford to be a member of a wholesale club."

Hogwash.

I would argue that you can't afford NOT to be a member.

Sure, you have to pay a membership fee, but you really do make up for that annual fee payment through savings the club offers.

The nation's top two wholesale club outlets are Sam's Club and Costco, with annual base memberships costing $45 and $55 respectively.

Yes, you'll save far more than that over the course of a year.

I've held a membership at both Sam's and Costco.  They are both very similar, although Costco tends to play more to the organic loving crowd when it comes to groceries.  I currently have a membership with Costco, but strictly for proximity reasons.  Costco is closer to where I live.  The savings at either club, is essentially the same.  They are able to provide you savings as a result of buying large volumes of product.

Ground BeefReason #1 to have a club membership:  You save BIG on groceries.  Yes, you'll have to buy in bulk, which may not sound like a good thing for a bachelor or for somebody who doesn't do a lot of cooking, but there's no need to burden yourself to restrictions like that.  Think outside the box.  If you don't cook, you still save BIG on snacks and prepared/ready-to-eat foods.  If you don't have a lot of refrigerator or freezer space, you can still save big on items that aren't perishable.

Here's a savings example, ground beef.  The days of getting good ground beef for $2.99 a pound are fast becoming a thing of the past.  When the mainstream grocery store puts ground beef on sale, yes, it's for $2.99 a pound, but the sale is infrequent, for just one perhaps two days and it's usually for the lowest grade ground beef they have.  It might be for a 70/30 (70% meat, 30% fat) grind - YUCK, too much fat, A LOT of shrinkage and grease.  The mainstream grocery store may offer a sale on an 80/20 grind and that's decent, but know that an 80/20 grind is great for burgers, but it's not a good grind for all-purpose applications.  An 80/20 grind still has too much fat for things like casseroles and one-dish meals.   What you need is a good all-purpose grind that's  good for a number of dishes, for casseroles, one-dish meals and simple comfort foods like meatloaf.

Costco, where I shop, offers an 88/12 grind at just $3.19 a pound.  That's not a sale price, that's an every day price.  How much is a similar grind at a mainstream grocery store you ask?  $3.99 and up.  Buy a five pound package and you save $4 at Costco vs. buying the same thing at the mainstream grocery store.   And surely, you've got room in the freezer for that!  Today I bought a package of ground beef weighing almost 6 pounds.  I portioned it out into six freezer bags and now I have ground beef to make meals with over the next few weeks.

ChickenI also bought 7.25 pounds of boneless chicken thighs for just $1.89 a pound, as well 5 pounds of boneless pork shoulder cut country rib style for just $2.29 a pound.  Each of those meats are about 20 to 30 cents a pound cheaper than the normal every day price at a typical grocery store.  We're talking a savings of around $3 for that same 12+ pounds of meat!

PorkSo to sum, for three types of meat; beef, chicken and pork, I saved around $7 shopping at Costco over buying the same thing at a mainstream grocery store.  Sure, you might see that kind of savings IF a mainstream grocery store has a sale, but if you're not a sale shopper, the point is mute and even if you do pay attention to the sales, how often do they really happen to make it worth your while, vs. low prices at Costco, every day?

And here's another way to look at it, especially for those of you who don't want to or don't like to cook: 

I spent $75 today at Costco on meats.   I've got over two weeks worth of entree items to work with in my freezer now.  That same $75, buys you maybe 10-12 meals at fast food joints.  What makes more sense, three meals a day, that's breakfast, lunch and dinner for better than two weeks for $75......   Or up to 12 dinners for the same amount?

Reason #2 to have a club membership:  You'll save big on gas!  The price for gas typically runs at least 10 cents a gallon cheaper at Sam's Club or Costco than it does at the typical convenience store.  And even if you have one of those loyalty cards at that mainstream grocery store that also sells gas, you'll still save 5 cents or more per gallon!  Being a club member means a savings of between $1 to $2 per tank fill up.   That may not sound like much depending on how much you drive, but think about it over the course of a year.....  How about an extra $50 - $100 bucks to do something fun with?

Reason #3 to have a club membership:  Both Sam's Club and Costco sell so much more than groceries and gas.  They offer furniture, office supplies, cleaning supplies, kitchen gadgets, home entertainment, clothes, outdoor fun, books and much more.  Like as for the groceries and gas, the clubs can pass on savings to you the customer, because of their volume buys in product.

Spend the $45 - $55 for a club membership, you'll get that back AND MORE in savings over the course of a year, EASY!  You'll probably realize that savings in the first three months.  Seriously.

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