one girl’s guide to surviving unemployment

a girl’s gotta eat

Repeat after me: I love coupons.  I love coupons.  I love coupons!

Coupons are an amazing tool for saving money on the things that you buy.  In addition to giving you a sweet 30 cents off, most stores will double any coupons that are under $1.  Plus, coupons are easy to find.  Plunking down $1.50 on the Sunday paper is a great investment: not only do you get the little money-saving gems, but the Sunday paper also lists jobs, and is generally an interesting read. 

The Sunday paper also has the store circulars.  Which store has the best prices on most of what you need?  You will also want to check out the circs for CVS, Wal-Mart, Target and the like.  They often run specials on dry goods and medicines and they take coupons.  (Wal-Mart recently had Tide on sale.  And I had a coupon.  My bottle came out to $2 and I was way too happy about that for a few days.)  Those customer savings cards that most stores offer?  Bite the bullet and sign up.  The savings they can offer can make a major difference at the register.

Besides looking through all that paper, there are other places to acquire coupons.  Start by checking the Web sites of the brands that you usually buy.  Many major brands are now offering coupons (and samples and tips for stretching your food dollar).  Proctor and Gamble’s site offers some great deals.  Also, don’t immediately pitch your junk mail.  I used to toss those Val-Packs and Smart Shopper mailers.  I’m now a nut for those.

In addition to coupons, it’s time to give more thought to what you’re buying, as well as where you’re buying it. 

Do you do all of your shopping at Whole Foods / Wild Oats, etc.?  Perhaps it’s time to consider a standard grocery store until you’re firmly back on your feet. 

I’m going to get a TON of flack for this, but organics are EXPENSIVE (and yep, I get all the reasons why, trust me).  Can you live with the conventional alternative for a few months?  That’s a call you need to make for yourself.

Regardless of where you shop, pay a trip to your local farmer’s market. The produce still has the dirt on it (so you know it’s fresh), you’re supporting your local economy, and many items can be much, much cheaper than the grocery.  Same goes for food co-ops.

While frozen meals can be a bore (and rather unhealthy), they’re cheap.  There are some decent ones out there.  There is a great site called Heat Eat Review that offers reviews if you’re struggling with the idea of microwaving.

Cooking and eating at home is a wise idea.  Stuck on how to cook?  The library offers numerous healthy, easy cooking guides.  Cooking for one?  Your library has that. Same with vegan, gluten-free, low carb and what ever else you eat.  There are also fantastic cooking tutorials online, many with video guides.  Use those awesome coupons to get reusable plastic containers, as many recipes yield up to six servings and you don’t want to waste anything.

Also, when you’re buying ingredients — especially fresh ones, hit up the salad bar for already cut veg.  Buying the portion that you need can save you time and money.  Same goes with spices.  If your grocery store is rad enough to offer spices in bulk, a tablespoon is certainly less than purchasing the entire jar.  (Flour, sugar, etc. fall under this as well. 

In addition, ask around and see if any friends, family members or the like have a Costco / Sam’s Club / BJ’s membership.  For the things that you use frequently, bulk may be the way to go.  This is also a smart option if you have mouths to feed other than your own.

The last thing I want to discuss is the difference, in my opinion, between necessities and luxury.  Take coffee for example.  Coffee for me is an absolute necessity.  I am grumpy, mean and monosyllabic before I have my first cup.  But a venti extra shot with whip raspberry mocha?  That’s a luxury.

Am I advocating not going to Starbucks?  No.  I just needed to ask myself “Self, the first month that I can’t pay my rent am I going to regret all these little purchases?  It’s not as though I’m spending money doing something nice with my friends or family. I can make coffee at home.”

More on stretching the dollars to come.  In the meantime, you need to get rocking on your job search.


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  1. * Tiffany says:

    Something that I’ve always done but had long since stopped thinking about is paying attention to unit pricing. Mostly I do this for the few packaged foods I buy- telling the difference between two differently-sized boxes of crackers, for example. And in the produce section to a lesser extent, but things are mostly priced per pound there. Something that hadn’t occurred to me, though, is that farmers’ market prices are often based on a different unit than grocery store prices. So a head of romaine might be 69c per pound at the grocery store, which means you’re actually paying more like $1.50 for it. But at the farmer’s market, it’s more likely to be priced per piece. So even if that head of romaine is $1.00, it may still be cheaper than the 69c head at the store. And then of course, even at the market, how the produce is priced will vary from farmer to farmer. One guy might sell tomatoes at $5/basket (and the basket is heaped high), and another might sell them 5/$1. Pay attention.

    So, use those scales at the grocery store to see what things really cost, and if you have to, carry a notebook to keep track of what produce costs at the grocery store vs. the farmer’s market.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago

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