This post was most recently updated on February 2nd, 2012.
I just finished reading The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half and I must admit that I found it interesting enough to pull out a paper and pen to take notes.
Being that the book is written by a woman claiming to be The Coupon Mom I thought it would focus exclusively on how to clip, organize and utilize coupons. While coupons are certainly discussed and detailed throughout the first few chapters and sprinkled elsewhere throughout the book I was pleased by the wide range of cost cutting topics discussed.
The book is broken down into twenty-one chapters ranging from learning how to become a strategic shopper to learning where to shop and how to save on specific items. Individual chapters are dedicated to techniques for saving money on snacks, dairy, produce, meat, organics and non-grocery items. Nelson also details how to save money at various stores, like wholesale clubs, grocery stores and drug stores.
As a varsity shopper I found the actual coupon clipping portion of the book a bit of a bore. I know how to match coupons with sales in order to get the most bang for my dollar. However, if you are a busy or rookie shopper, (Nelson describes the differences between these three types in chapter two of her book), then you would certainly want to focus on those chapters.
While Nelson provides a ton of ways to save money I think her biggest money savings tips come from her do-it-yourself approach to food and food preparation. For example, she writes about making her own chicken stock, baby food, yogurt and even soy milk. She discusses baking loaves of banana bread so her kids can eat it for breakfast on mornings when they run late.
Nelson also spends a good deal of time describing the five minute rule, which in essence states that you should avoid cooked, washed, chopped, peeled products if you can perform the same task; washing, cooking, chopping and peeling in less than five minutes. While I agree with this approach in part I do not follow it as a whole. For example, while I buy, wash and chop whole heads of romaine lettuce I tend to buy shredded carrots rather than buying them whole and shredding them myself.
Why the different approach to similar produce? Well, I buy whole heads of romaine because I find the lettuce remains fresh longer in the fridge than pre-washed, pre-cut bags. On the other hand I eat carrots so quickly that they never get a chance to go bad in my fridge. Are shredded carrots more expensive? Without a doubt. I already wash and chop lettuce when I come home from the grocery store so why not wash and shred carrots too?
A similar approach can be applied to snacks. Why buy boxed cookies and brownies when you can purchase brownie mix on sale and bake them yourself? With this approach you’ll certainly pay far less for snacks than buying full priced cookies right off the shelf.
While it seems like a no-brainer many of these savings techniques will take more time out of your already busy schedule. Mixing a batch of brownies only takes a few minutes, but it certainly takes a few minutes more than throwing snack food directly into your shopping cart.
Since I consider myself a do-it-yourselfer I really enjoyed reading this book. Nelson certainly opened my eyes to a bunch of new ideas, for example rather than buying overpriced turkey meat from the deli counter, I now plan to bake and grill extra chicken so that I can cut it up for chicken salad and sandwich wraps that I can eat throughout the week. Similarly I might consider using leftover chicken parts to make my own chicken stock.
While the goal of this book is to save money I also believe it will allow my husband and I to eat healthier. By preparing more of our food we can decide on the ingredients, we can avoid sodium and preservative-heavy deli meat in favor of simple baked chicken with our own combination of seasonings.
I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to anyone looking to save on their grocery bills. I plan to write more about it in the next few days.
* – I recieved a free copy of this book to review.