What Not To Buy at Costco

What Not To Buy at Costco

How many times have you walked out of Costco spending WAY more than you intended to spend? If you are honest with yourself, you will say “more than a few times”! It is so easy to overspend at Costco. You walk in to the store just intending to buy a rack of ribs and some muffins and you walk out after spending $300!

If you are getting great deals and can afford to spend the money, then that is fine. However, if you got sucked in by a tasting stand or an impulse buy and ended up spending a fortune…then that is a problem.

As I said in my “What To Buy at Costco” post, we are conditioned to think buying in bulk will save you money but the truth is, Costco is a business too and they need to make a profit. With that in mind, you need to know that some items at Costco just aren’t that great of a deal and you should buy elsewhere!

Now – before you say “I shop at Costco because I don’t want to have to worry about coupons”, let me tell you this: If you simply watch the sales at the grocery stores and stock up whenever there is a good deal and never use a single coupon, you will STILL save money over buying certain items at Costco!

So without further ado, here are the items that you should never buy at Costco:

Soda/pop – while soda prices vary around the country, as a general rule, you should never buy your soda at Costco. I know that, compared to the everyday price of soda in the grocery stores (typically $5 for a 12-pack), Costco prices are pretty good. BUT – you need to keep in mind that soda goes on sale almost every week at grocery stores. During the summer months, I see it as low as $2.25 for a 12-pack, but you can usually get the soda you like (Coke vs. Pepsi) for about $2.50 for a 12-pack about once a month. That is much cheaper than the $10 for a 36-pack at Costco! Simply stock up when it goes on sale and you will save money!

Cereal – even without using coupons, if you just shop the sales and stock up at a good price (not even a great price…just a good price) you will STILL save money on cereal if you take advantage of the drug store and grocery deals!

Breadcheck the sales in your area because you can usually always get bread much cheaper at the stores. The one exception to this is gluten-free bread. I have found that the twin packs of Udi’s gluten-free breads are a fabulous deal at Costco (more on me going Gluten Free coming soon) !

Toiletries- I have shown you time and time again how you can get free-to-almost free deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair care and more at the drug stores.  Some weeks you don’t even need to use coupons to do it.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – this is the protein that we eat the most in my house and I tend to be quite psychotic about it.  If you live near a Wegmans, the price on a similar-sized package is $1.99 per pound every day of the week.  Compare that to the $2.99 per pound price at Costco!  The Costco price is STILL better than the non-sale price at most grocery stores…but just watch the sales at your store because you can often get it cheaper!

Dried Spices – unless you will use up that huge bottle of Oregano within a year, you are better off buying them in smaller quantities.  Dried spices only have a shelf life of about a year and, while they don’t “go bad”, they will lose most of  their flavor after that.  A better solution? Grow your own herb garden in the summer and freeze the herbs to get you through the winter!

Books/CDs/DVDs – it used to be that Costco had much better prices on these items, and for some books, that is still true.  But these days, you will often find better prices on Amazon.com!

Like I said, Costco does have some great prices and there ARE certain things that you should be buying at Costco.  I just want you to be careful and not overpay for others!

Do you have any other products to add to the list?

What to Buy at Costco

What To Buy at Costco To Save Money

I am often asked if I think a warehouse membership is worth it, and the truth is?  My answer is:  it depends!

We do have a Costco membership and over the years we have grabbed some really great deals at Costco (as well as BJ’s, when we were a member), but you do need to be careful. Our brains have been conditioned to think that buying in bulk will save us money and to some extent, that is true. But if you do some price comparisons, you will see that you will actually spend more money on certain items by buying in bulk.

Most people can’t do all of their shopping each week at Costco (there are just some things that you may want or need for a recipe or your home that they just don’t stock in the stores), so me telling you this shouldn’t really be a problem! You are going to have to make another trip to the grocery store anyway! For me, Costco is about a “once every 4 to 6 week” trip and I only go for very specific things, because I know the prices!  When I was putting together my 20 Freezer Meals from Costco for $150, I knew that some of the ingredients were cheaper at Wegmans.

But still, there are fabulous savings to be found at Costco!

Now – before I go further, I know that someone is going to say that they can get whatever I am telling you to buy cheaper somewhere else. I admit that this might be true. But if you are looking for prices that you can count on each week or each trip, these should be your go-to items at Costco!

So without further ado, here is what you should be buying at Costco:

Costco cheese

Gourmet Cheeses – I really have a “thing” for cheeses, especially smoked Gouda, Brie and Parmesan Cheese (we don’t buy the green cans of parmesan – we always grate it by hand). Without fail, the prices at Costco are about half of what you can find in the regular grocery stores, even with a sale!

Nuts – Nuts such as pecans, almonds and cashews can be expensive…but not at Costco!  Costco prices are usually about half the price of the grocery store (although this may vary by area.  I wanted pecans a few months ago and was SHOCKED at how expensive they were.  A few weeks later we were travelling and stopped in a store in South Carolina and the prices were about a third of what I am paying in Pennsylvania!)

Costco seafood

Fresh seafood – About every other weekend, Costco will roll out the ice-filled stands and offer really good prices on crab, shrimp, clams and more. The selection will vary by what is available at the time and these items aren’t exactly cheap to begin with…but if seafood is on the menu this week, it is a great way to save some money!

Individually Portioned Snacks – The boxes of single-serve portions of cookies, crackers and chips? Much cheaper at Costco! While I agree with you that they are basically junk food, we do still keep them in the house for snacks and lunches and they are much cheaper at Costco.

Costco  produce

Produce – Costco consistently has better prices on produce, especially organic produce. But beware! Like everything at Costco, you are buying very large quantities and you don’t want to buy more produce than you can realistically use before it goes bad. If you saved 30% on your produce but threw 50% off it away – you aren’t saving money on produce! Another word of caution – make sure you check the sales of seasonal produce at your local grocery stores before you buy them at Costco. For instance, when apples are in season, your regular grocery store may be offering a better per pound price than Costco! But for items such as strawberries, blueberries, grapes, lettuce, etc?  You are usually better off at Costco!

Paper products – I know that you have seen all those extreme couponing hauls where people show off their huge stash of toilet paper. You know what I see when I see those images? Toilet paper that feels like sandpaper when you are using it! While I do believe that brand loyalty can cost you money, I am 45 years old and the only toilet paper I want touching my nether-regions is Charmin Ultra Soft. If I can get a good price at the grocery store with a coupon, I will. Otherwise, I know that I can wipe in comfort by buying Charmin cheap at Costco!

costco butter

Butter – while their price has gone up recently, it is still always cheaper than what I can get at the grocery stores (unless there is a really good sale).  We don’t use margarine or “blends” in my house so I am talking about “real butter”. Now – before you say “but I don’t need to buy 4 pounds of butter at once!”, I have a simple solution – freeze it.  We freeze butter all the time in my house.

Frozen convenience foods – once again, not usually the best things to put in your body, but for  items such as frozen fruits, veggies, ravioli/tortellini, frozen pizzas (especially gluten-free pizza) and Bagel Bites, Costco prices blow most other stores out of the water!

Organic Meats – I will get in to their meat prices in my upcoming post “What NOT to buy at Costco” and there are better ways to save money on meat, but for the time being, let me just say that their prices on organic meats can’t be beat! (make sure to try the Chicken Applewood Sausage – it is AWESOME!)

Costco Gas

Gas – if you are lucky enough to have a Costco with a gas station, you should be buying your gas at Costco.  You will save about $0.10 – $0.20 per gallon! This may not be the case if you also shop at a grocery store that offers gas deals, but for those that don’t have that, Costco can be a great way to save money.  Of course, if you have to travel 45 minutes to get to Costco, you don’t want to make a special trip just to buy gas….but I usually time my Costco trips for just about the time my gas light in my car is about to light!

What do you buy at Costco?  Sound off in the comments!

What is On Sale The Month of October

What is On Sale The Month of October

October marks the transition from fall to holiday shopping. You will see stores setting up their holiday displays, and it’s a great time to get end-of-the-season clearance. It is also time for Halloween, so there are plenty of deals on costumes, decorations, and candy.

Here is what is on sale the month of October:

:: Grocery & Drugstore Deals in October

In-season produce in October: artichokes, apples, almonds, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, cranberries, cabbage, lettuce, pears, sweet potatoes, pistachios, pomegranate, pumpkins, squash, turnips, yams.

Halloween sales: costumes, Halloween decorations, candy, baking goods, treat bags, taffy apples.

National Frozen Food Festival: frozen pancakes and waffles, pizzas, ice cream, individual meals, appetizers, family-sized entrees.

National Pork and Seafood Month: sliced ham, bacon, pork chops, pork tenderloins, honey hams, shrimp, scallops, fish, crab, lobster.

Columbus Day: frozen pizzas, pasta, spaghetti sauce, garlic bread, Italian sausage, olive oil.

National Dental Hygiene Month: Toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, toothbrushes, baking soda.

:: Other October Sales

Back to school clearance: pens, paper, notebooks, XL twin sheets, student desks, office supplies, memory cards, dorm accessories.

Summer clearance: lawn and garden tools, grills, lawn mowers, patio furniture, swimming pool accessories, bathing suits, summer apparel.

Appliances: Stores are getting new appliance models in ahead of the holiday season, and many retailers discount the older models. October is the best time to buy a new washer and dryer, dishwasher, or refrigerator.

Televisions and digital cameras: HDTVs go on sale in October to make room for holiday deals. You can get great deals on a new television and any cables you need as well. This is also the best time to shop for a new digital camera for capturing photos of your family during the holidays.

Kitchen cookware and utensils: Retailers expect that people will start buying kitchen items to prepare for holiday cooking. You’ll find great deals on pots and pans, tabletop accessories, and kitchen utensils throughout October.

Cars: Car dealerships are making a final push to get rid of last year’s models, and you can get a bargain on a new car if you do your research and negotiate a price. Dealers want these cars off of their lots, and they are more willing to make a deal in October.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: There are lots of great deals for items with a cause throughout October. Retailers support breast cancer research in October, and a portion of every dollar you spend on these special sale items goes to a noble cause.

How To Budget When You Are Broke

creating-a-budget

Budgeting for anyone takes time and a lot of energy. However, in a society where everything is going up and wages are staying the same, you need to know how to budget even when there isn’t much there. Are you ready to take a look at your budget and start inserting some new tips?

:: Look Again

There is always some wiggle room in a budget. How is this? Well, each time you take a closer look at your budget, you might find some available money. Can you call and get another discount on your cell phone? Are you willing to get rid of some channels on your television? In all honesty, if you’re that broke, it may be time to cut the cable bill completely. Are you stopping to get coffee on your way to work because it is “only” $1 (when you can make it cheaper at home).  Hitting the vending machine at work for a $0.75 soda?

Every time you take a second look at your budget, you become a little less broke.

:: Pay Necessities First

A lot of people who are on a tight budget are faced with what they should pay first. If your family is going to be suffering financially for a while, you need to pay your main bills first. What constitutes as a main bill? Paying your mortgage or rent first would be an example of paying your necessities first. Of course your heat, water, and electricity can also be considered your main bills.

If you can’t make major credit card payments, loans, and other debts, then it’s time to start calling your creditors.  This is a time to look at every bill you have and to take an even closer look at where all of your money is going!

:: Get Creative

Okay, no one likes eating macaroni or ramen noodles for an extended period of time, but if you’re broke, it’s time to swallow your pride. There is no shame in putting yourself on a tight food budget. After all, cutting a food budget is one of the easiest ways to stretch a budget. It’s a little scary to reduce this part of your budget, but you may not have a choice.

Buying just the necessities like milk, chicken, beans, and bread is something you may have to partake in for a while. Don’t get discouraged though because there are a lot of different recipes you can try out thanks to Pinterest and the Internet. (Have to cut the Internet out? No problem, take exclusive advantage of free WIFI in various places in your town.)

Are there other places you can get creative in your budget? Sure! Maybe now is the time to learn how to sew and patch your own clothing. When you are broke, there is never a wrong idea for getting creative with your budget, as long as it’s legal.

:: Increase Your Income

It’s understandable that for some families, increasing the revenue coming in is simply not doable. However, if you can get a part time job, then now is the time to do so. Even if you only have the job for a short period of time, any extra money coming in will help pay down debt and balance out your budget.

Most people have experienced being broke in their lifetime and there is no shame in it. Sometimes being broke is our fault and sometimes it’s not. That’s why you have to reevaluate where your money is going and double evaluate what you can cut. Use these tips to create a lasting budget while you’re broke. Things will get better, but until they do, it’s time to cut back and create a new budgeting plan.

What are your best budgeting tips?

Is Brand Loyalty Costing You Money?

If there is one thing that is holding you back when it comes to saving money at the grocery stores and the drug stores, it is brand loyalty! So many people say to me “there are never coupons for the things that I use!” Well – yes – there are!  I am sure that those people use toothpaste, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc.  By being tied to a specific brand-name product (saying “I have to save money on Crest”, instead of “I want to save money on toothpaste”), you could be missing a ton of savings opportunities!

Maybe you were raised on Tide laundry detergent or EVERYONE in your family has always used Huggies.  You need to get rid of this mindset if you want to save money! Wisk purchased at $2.99 (after coupon) will clean your clothes just as well and Pampers or (gasp!) store-brand diapers will still hold in the poop!

Take Advantage of Coupons for New Products

Whenever a brand comes out with a new product, they always come out with high-value coupons for those products. Last year, there was no reason to EVER pay for Green Giant Valley Steamers. Recently, Philly Cream Cheese Creations were free (or close to free). Last summer, it was Kraft Suddenly Salad that was free (or close-to-free) after coupon everywhere.

Be flexible in what you will try and don’t allow yourself to think of a product that you HAVE to have. Don’t be afraid to try new products and switch your brand loyalties to save money (especially when you have a coupon for the “other brand”)! I’m sorry, but $0.99 Hellmann’s Mayo just just as good as (if not better) than $3.99 Kraft mayo!  Seriously – we aren’t talking about Dom Perignon vs. Korbel…we’re talking MAYONNAISE!

Explore Store Brands

I know this sounds nuts for a site that is dedicated to coupons, but sometimes the store brand just IS a better deal. There will be those weeks when there are just no good deals, your stockpile is depleted and you just NEED to buy cereal, frozen pizza, etc. I am a particular fan of the Essential Everyday line by Acme/Supervalu, but your store brand may be just as good (and did you know that oftentimes the store brand and “name brand” are made on the exact same line?  You are often paying for packaging!)

Some Brand Loyalties ARE worth the cost

If you have sensitive skin or allergies, then you may be tied to a specific facial care line or laundry detergent. That is fine – but be on the lookout for new products and don’t be afraid to try new products as they are released to see if they might satisfy your needs for a fraction of the cost.

What Brand Loyalties have you chucked out the window?

Looking for more Extreme Couponing tips? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

What Is On Sale The Month of September

What is On Sale The Month of September

September is the transition from summer to back to school. You’ll find great deals on summer clearance and discounted school supplies. Labor day sales are great for finding last-minute deals on grills, gardening supplies, and other items just before the warm weather ends. There are also lots of great apparel deals throughout September. Look out for harvest season sales too, so you can get lots of great fruits and veggies for those last few cookouts of the season.

Here is what is on sale the month of September:

:: Grocery & Drugstore Deals in September

In-season produce: apples, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, cucumber, kale, figs, garlic, horseradish, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, nectarines, potatoes, peaches, pears, plums, pumpkins, red onions, spinach, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes.

Harvest season sales: sweet corn, apples, pumpkins, berries, squash, peppers.

Labor Day Sales: steak, hamburger, hotdogs, buns, chips, sodas, cold salads, ice cream, beer, solo cups, paper plates, garbage bags.

Family health: Band-Aids, antiseptic, antibacterial hand gel, sunscreen, sunglasses, deodorant, travel size toiletries, bandages. Restock your bathroom and make sure that the kids are prepared for sports boo-boos, the locker room, and being outside in the sun even though it’s cooler outside.

:: Other September Sales

Back to School: pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, folders, glue sticks, construction paper, colored pencils, watercolors, markers, white-out, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, backpacks.

Summer clearance: sunscreen, outdoor games, summer clothing, beach toys, lawn and garden supplies, bathing suits, summer apparel.

Harvest deals: food preparation tools- dehydrators, freezer bags, vacuum sealers, canning jars.

New cars: Dealerships are anxious to get rid of the current year’s models to make room for the next year’s vehicles. You can get a great deal on a car below sticker price in September. Make sure to do your research before hitting the lot to get the best deal possible.

Camping supplies: propane stoves, tents, tent stakes, lanterns, fishing tackle, fishing rods, hunting supplies, sleeping bags, camouflage clothing, insect repellent, backpacks.

What is On Sale The Month of August

What Is On Sale In August

August is the end of summer, so you will be able to find end-of-season clearance as well as fall sales throughout the month. While there aren’t any notable holidays in August, it is back-to-school season, so you can save big on school supplies, backpacks, dorm room essentials, and a host of other school needs.

Keep an eye out for clearance sales on bathing suits and summer apparel, and don’t forget about harvest produce sales.

Here is what is on sale the month of August:

:: Grocery & Drugstore Deals in August

In-season produce: beets, corn, cucumber, eggplant, figs, grapes, grapefruit, green beans, lettuce, melons, nectarines, okra passion fruit, peaches, peppers, plums, raspberries, summer squash, strawberries, tomatillos, tomatoes, zucchini.

Fall canning and food storage deals: food storage items, freezer bags, canning supplies, seasonings.

Labor Day Sales: steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, potato salad, macaroni salad, baking potatoes, drink mixes, soda, watermelon, beer, frozen French fries, condiments.

Back to school lunch sales: deli meat, boxed juices, individually packaged snacks, pudding cups, cookies, potato chips, peanut butter, jelly, bread.

:: Other August Sales

Back to school supply sales: pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, glue sticks, crayons, backpacks, folders, lunch boxes, book covers, locker organizers.

Apparel sales: school uniforms, jeans, jackets, socks, t-shirts, underwear, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts.

Electronics: PCs and laptops, cell phones and tablets are on sale for back-to-school. Cell phone providers often introduce new family savings plans just before school goes back. All electronics aimed at or use for educational purposes is on sale at this time.

Summer clearance: Just before Labor Day you’ll find all kinds of end of summer blowout sales. Clothing, outdoor items, sports equipment and several things for in and around the home will be on sale.

Gardening supply sales: August is harvest time so any leftover gardening supplies will be on clearance while stores make canning and food storage and preparation items more affordable. Dehydrators, vacuum sealers, freezing containers, jars and lids and pressure cookers are great deals in August.

How To Save Money on Produce

How to Save on Produce:

One of the most common misconceptions is that you can only save money on processed foods because those are the only products for which they see coupons. When you look through your Sunday paper you will mostly find coupons for processed foods and cleaning products or toiletries and rarely for fresh produce. However, there are still several ways you can save on your produce!

Buy in Season Produce:

Buying produce that is in season will drastically the cost. Buying produce that is not in season means, you pay more money.  Take some time to plan your menu around the produce that is currently in season.

Stock up:

When you find a good produce sale, make sure to stock up. You can freeze, can or dehydrate almost all produce. Stocking up at rock bottom will save you money for months to come.

Start a Garden:

This may not be an option for everyone, but if you can start your own garden you can end up saving a lot of money. Having fresh produce is a great way to have fresh produce at a fraction of the cost.

Farmer’s Markets:

If you have a local Farmer’s Market in your area, this provides the perfect opportunity to save on produce. The produce is normally coming from the farm to the market, which in turn allows the farmer to price the produce lower than store prices. You save money by not paying the overhead costs and you get to support your local farmers!

Health Food Stores:

Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s often have great prices on produce. You can also sign up for their newsletter, sometimes they send out coupons.

Buy Frozen

Often the produce has been frozen within hours of being picked/harvested, allowing the fruits and vegetables to retain most of their nutrients. Bonus: there are often coupons for frozen foods!

Save with Social Media:

If you have a favorite brand of produce make sure to follow them on social media and sign up for their newsletter. Produce companies like Dole, Foxy and several others send out coupons from time to time.

Looking for more Extreme Couponing tips? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

How to Save Money on Meat

Raw-Meat-1

Meat is something a lot of people incorporate into their daily diet. Meat is also a big expense in our grocery budget. It is very rare that you find a coupon for meat. In fact the only meat coupons that are normally circulated are for hot dogs and processed lunch meats. Seeing that meat is one of our biggest expenses it is important to know how to save on meat products.

5 Ways to Save on Meat

Buy Meat on Clearance 

Normally grocery stores will significantly mark down the price of meat on the sale by date. Some grocery stores have a specific date each week that they mark down their meat.  Some stores will also mark down meats at a certain time of the day. At my stores, they tend to mark down meats as the ru Ask your butcher if the store has a specific date they mark meat down on.

It is perfectly fine to buy meat on the sale when it is close to or at the expiration date! In fact, this is a great way to stock up on meat for a fraction of the cost. Just make sure to get in the freezer right away.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can result in a significant savings! You will have to come home and separate the meat into freezer bags, but it is well worth the time. I have been known to buy 20 – 30 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken or lean ground beef when it is on sale at the rock-bottom price, then separate it in to bags containing exactly the right amount for a family meal.  Not only have I saved money, but when I am looking at my freezer, I just count the bags and know exactly how many meals I have enough meat to prepare, and if it is time to go shopping again!

Go Meatless

I’m not suggesting that you completely cut meat out of your diet, unless you are a vegetarian. However, pick one or two nights a week that you will not incorporate meat as part of your dinner. Skipping meat a couple of nights every week can significantly lower your grocery bill.

Buy Less Expensive Cuts

When you’re looking for meat look for less expensive cuts. If your family wants steak one night a week, choice a London Broil over a New York steak. Choosing a less expensive cut can sometimes save you up to 60%! Less expensive cuts of meat can often require more creativity in order to make them to make them tasty, so make sure that you check out your favorite recipe sites or Pinterest for some great ideas.  Simply search by the cut of meat to get some great ideas

Grind Your Own Meat

You can purchase a Chuck Roast  on sale and ask the butcher to grind it into ground beef. You can also grind your meat at home if you have the right equipment. If you own a KitchenAid Mixer you can buy a mind grinder attachment and quickly have fresh ground beef.

Looking for more Extreme Couponing tips? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

15 Tips For Shopping At The Grocery Store!

mindi cherry grocery

We talk about how to shop at the grocery stores all the time.  We talk about how to get the best deals, how to use coupons and so much more.  What we don’t talk about that often is how NOT to make other shoppers want to kill you!

I recently launched to site Etiquette Help (seriously – make sure you read through all the archives and Like Etiquette Help on Facebook), but this is one post that I particularly love.

From my 15 Grocery Store Manners | 15 Tips! post

  1. Slow Down – Breaking the land speed record with a grocery cart is not necessary nor is it acceptable in the grocery store. Slow down and be careful around those blind corners.
  2. 20 Items or Less – Why is it that every time an express lane opens, someone with an entire cart full of items jumps over? Seriously folks, the sign is pretty straight forward.
  3. Have Your Money Ready – Nobody wants to wait while you write out your check or dig for your debit card. Consider those around you and have those things ready when you get up there. You wait in line anyway, so use it to prepare for your turn when you get there.
  4. Let common sense prevail – If you are standing there with an entire cart full of items and the guy behind you has a diet Coke, let him pass. If I need to tell you why, you should never enter a retail establishment again…ever.
  5. When a new line opens, be fair – We all have seen it. Five people are in line and the line next to you that had been closed opens. Then the cart at the back of the line runs over to take the first spot in the new line. Again, did we not cover this in kindergarten? A new line is not an invitation to race those in front of you. Be fair and let the people that have waited the longest get the next register.

See the rest of the tips on Etiquette Help!

How To Save Money On Dairy

dairy-products1

I think most of us are always looking for ways to save on dairy products. We use milk, butter, eggs almost every day, not to mention cheese, yogurt, sour cream and other products. When it comes to how to save money on dairy, you have to get creative since coupons are not always readily available.

How to Save on Dairy

Use Powdered Milk

Using powdered milk for your cooking, smoothies and baking can really trim down your grocery bill! Of course, you should still use fresh milk for drinking and cereal. You should end up seeing a good savings just by implementing this simple tip. Note: powdered milk is also the “magic ingredient” in my homemade hot chocolate mix recipe!)

Check the Date

When buying dairy products always check the date. If the date seems like it quickly approaching check products towards the back. Normally those are going to have a sale by date that is further out. This will prevent you from throwing aways dairy products that have gone bad.

Go to the Source

When buying milk or eggs try going directly to the source. Check with local farmers to see if they have the option of buying milk or eggs directly from them. Not only can this end up being more cost-effective, but you get a fresher product.

Use Your Freezer

If you have room in your freezer you can buy dairy products when they are on sale and freeze them. You will need to let your dairy products thaw out completely in the fridge prior to using them. Another tip is to only freeze shredded cheese. If you find a stock up price on cheese shred it before freezing it. Cheese tends to crumble easy after it has been frozen, shredding it will help you out.

Buy Store Brand

When it comes to dairy products you can easily get away with the store brand! In fact the store brand is often 25 to 30% cheaper than name brand products. You will usually find more in store sales on store brand products.

What are your best tips for saving on dairy products?

Looking for more tips to save money? Make sure that you check out all the posts in my Coupon 101 and Coupon Ethics sections!

Coupon 101: Top Couponing Mistakes

If you are a newbie to couponing, it is easy to go overboard once the excitement of all that free and nearly-free stuff sets in.

Here are some of the top mistakes many people make (and I made some of them myself!) when they start using coupons:

Sacrificing your family’s health for the sake of the deal: The truth is, sometimes the best deals are for foods that can best be called “junk food”. Your family eating habits should never be compromised just because you can get a good deal. Yes, grapes are more expensive than fruit snacks. That doesn’t mean that you should stop buying grapes and start handing out only fruit snacks all the time. The savings on the fruit snacks is not worth forgoing the benefits of grapes.  Balance is the key!

Building too big of a stockpile: I know people who literally have 50 tubes of toothpaste. Do you know what the problem is? Toothpaste has an expiration date! Unless they are running a small dental office (or are the Duggars), there is no way that they can use that much toothpaste before it expires, especially when they continue to add to the stockpile each week/month. Extreme couponing is just that – extreme and there is no reason to go nuts each week. Certain things can always be found for free or nearly free almost every week, especially if you have a CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens near you.

Buying things that your family normally doesn’t need or like just because it is a “good deal”: If your family doesn’t normally eat/like Hamburger Helper (for example), it doesn’t matter how good of a deal you can get on it. Unless you are planning on donating that Hamburger Helper and/or they are part of a moneymaker Catalina deal, spending even one penny on it is wasting money.

Letting good coupons expire: the two main reasons this happens? Not being organized or waiting too long for a better deal. I am a strong advocate of the coupon binder because it allows you to clearly see the expiration dates of all of your coupons. As for the waiting too long? Sure – it’s great when you can combine, for example, a coupon for a free item with a BOGO sale to get both for free. But you can’t count on that BOGO sale and do you know what they call an expired coupon for a free item? Recycling!

Letting couponing take over your life: As far as I am concerned, there is no amount of savings that is worthy of neglecting your family. As you get better, you get quicker, but in the meantime, don’t try to figure out the deals yourself. That’s where this site comes in. Make sure you keep checking the drug store deals and grocery store deals that I have posted to make sure you haven’t missed anything!

Couponing and saving money should be a way of life…it should not BECOME your life.

What are some mistakes that you have made, or lessons you have learned?