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?