Monday, July 11, 2011

Save It For Later

Like most people who are into homesteading or self-sufficiency, I have finally tried my hand at canning, which is one of the better ways to preserve food through the winter. Now, when I was a kid my mom canned all summer, as did her mother, who lived next door. So, I was familiar with the process although I had never done it. I have to say I was a little intimidated, especially about making things like jam, things a little more involved than just sticking one type of vegetable in a jar and processing. At any rate, I made strawberry and blackberry jam and some pear butter and they seem to have come out fine.
In addition to having conquered another do-it-yourself activity, canning also gives an opportunity to save some money. Of course you have some start up costs, such as the water bath canner but I have been saving jars and such for a while so I only had to buy the lids. Since we live in a rural area we were also able to walk down the road and pick several gallons of blackberries and a few bags of fresh pears from a neighbor's tree. They don't use them and welcomed us to take them since Jack does a little yard work occasionally for the older lady of the house. I did buy the strawberries but got them at the local farmer's market so they were a better deal than the grocery store. All this considered the jams ended up only costing me nickels and dimes per jar, rather than the $3 or more you would pay for organic varieties.

Since being laid off I have naturally been looking for many ways to save money on food. Growing our own food is the best thing but there are a few things we still purchase so I thought I would try the couponing craze that is so popular right now. I signed up on several online sites and did find a handful of coupons that I could use, but by and large I was disappointed to see that most coupons are for processed or prepacked foods; stuff I don't use. There are the occasional coupons for cat food or litter or such but it is hard to find coupons for staples such as flour, salt and such. I have been observing other people in the stores also to see how they do it but haven't found much useful info. For example, I saw 2 ladies one day that had their buggies just loaded down to overflowing with food and they had their coupon notebooks with them all categorized and such. I got to looking at their stuff and suddenly realized that the vast majority of what they were buying was junk. Snack cakes, sugary cereal, juice boxes etc. So, what's a person that wants to eat healthy to do but grow your own?! Since the garden has been producing my food bill has dropped a good bit. I used to spend about $100 every 10 days (on average) for me and Jack. Now, I'm down to maybe $50-60 every 10 days and some of that is for treats, not absolute necessities. The best thing I have found, other than growing our own, is I shop at a store that does a lot of 2 for 1 deals and when they have a staple product (like flour) that I use on special I stock up. I have been making my own chicken stock and such for a while now and will add salsa, soups and many other sauces etc. to that list now that I have the canning stuff. One nice thing about the couponing, (and maybe a good side to a poor economy) is that people seem to not only be looking out for themselves but looking out for others too. I have had several instances of being in the grocery store and looking at a product, or have it in my buggy, and another lady will come up and just hand me a coupon for it because she had extra. And I mean good $1.00 or more off coupons. I talked to one lady about the fact that I hadn't been able to find many for the products I use and she could relate. She did give me some tips on several area stores that had specials on certain days too. She had a whole system worked out!
So, while I think producing your own food is the best way to economize, there are other ways. Anybody have any other tricks or ideas for getting a good deal on things you have to buy?


ErinFromIowa said...

A lot of staples for baking and cooking go on sale seasonally and for holidays. Stock up as much as reasonable. Note the item, price, date and store. After a while you get the swing of it and plan a budget ahead of time. Now that I think about it someone has probably put this information online with a spreadsheet and everything. Ha.
My freesias are blooming all wild and caaaraazzyy!!

Ed said...

Since I have a brother in Alabama I am able to translate 'buggy' into 'grocery cart' as we say up here in the north but I thought I would mention it for other northerners. In the north a 'buggy' is a horse drawn vehicle operated by Amish.

I normally don't even bother with coupons for the reasons you mentioned. All I can get with them is junk that I don't eat. We are fortunate to live fairly close to a bulk foods store where we can get a lot of the staples cheaply in bulk like flours, rice, etc. What we can't, we wait for a deal and stock up our pantry, freezer, etc. with the item. We feed the three of us perhaps on $100 every 7 days or so. It used to be around $80 until the last couple years with oil prices caused grocery prices of staples to go up.

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! yeah, that is a good idea and a lot of the baking stuff keeps well.

Hey Ed! thanks for the translating help man! lol!!
Yeah, I think the past 2 years has seen a big increase in food costs here also.

Island Rider said...

Mmm. Pear Butter. Will you share the recipe?

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Woody said...

I'll still be watching for that care package. Especially now that you've included a pic of the goods.

Ron said...

We buy a lot when things are on sale, so we never really buy anything that isn't on sale.

edifice rex said...

Hey IR! Sure! I'll put it up soon.

Hey Woody! well, I'll send it just as soon as I can pry the jars from Jack's hands. lol!!

Hey Ron! yeah, I try to buy most groceries on special and I almost never buy clothes, tools etc. unless they are are sale or better yet, on clearance!