Living a nontoxic life to help our kids who have food sensitivities, allergies, Celiac disease, and other special needs can be difficult. As moms, we strive to make the most affordable choices, yet we know that cheaper items can contain toxins than their better quality counterparts whether we’re buying food, bath care, cookware, supplies – or just about anything.
And that’s not good for our kids! It’s been more than 6 years since I discovered how much one simple food item (cow milk) could upset my youngest daughter’s sleep patterns, disrupt our whole family and cause a seemingly unrelated allergy in my older child. Today, I’m going to share with you tips on how to save money, to get you through expensive seasons in life or periods of low income.
While I’m really grateful my kids don’t have life-threatening allergies, I’m well aware of how much it cost us just to have a minor food sensitivity that no doctor had ever warned me about!
The High Cost of Good Health
But while maintaining my family’s health is important, it’s a heavy strain on my budget. Spending most of my food budget on certified organic and the autism diet isn’t easy and isn’t always feasible. In fact, I have a long list of guidelines I use for all my food, health and bath care products to make sure they are safe. Still, I can’t always get around the price tag.
That’s why cost-saving rebates with tools like money-saving apps go a long way to easily helping you buy those safer products. Let’s face it: Either I pay a bit more for healthy foods now, or I pay a lot more later when my kids get sick or have an extreme reaction, and the medical bills take their toll. So how can you save money and still buy safely?
Tips On How To Save Money On Gifts, Clothes and More
The best strategy is to plan before shopping, no matter what you are shopping for, even large ticket items. Some seasons bring extra financial burdens with travel, gifts, and entertainment. You can also find yourself suddenly in need of new winter coats, boots, winter tires, or other high price items that you didn’t plan for. Here is where I shop to save money:
- Consignment and Resale Shops: These have been during a child’s unexpected winter growth spurt! Some of these shops are mobile events that focus primarily on kids’ clothing but make sure your kids are in the size range.
- Book Sales: These indoor events go on throughout the year and often raise money for the host facility, such as a school or library. This is an excellent way to stock your kids’ bookshelves, pick up cookbooks and buy must-read fiction for a fraction of the cost.
- Yard and Moving Sales: You’ll only find a few in fall and winter, but they are great for stocking your kitchen, grabbing unique decorative pieces or second-hand outerwear.
- Second-Hand Shops: These shops buy your stuff and give you either a dollar amount or a higher shopping dollar credit. A great way to declutter and make money!
- Outlet Stores: These stores carry the same items as the regular stores, only at better discounts. Look for sales events too.
- Cash Back Events: If you have a store that gives cash back after you shop, plan your shopping before the season, so you can accrue in-store dollars for their sale days. An insider secret: some stores don’t raise all the prices on their Black Friday sales, so you can shop after that day with just as good bargains! These are excellent places if you need to buy big-ticket items.
- Going Out of Business or Moving Sales: I don’t mean the “going out of business” stores. If a store is actually folding or moving to a bigger location, you can find jaw-dropping bargains on great items.
- Craft Fairs: If you need a unique affordable gift, craft fairs are excellent places to stock on small items for a little bit of money and support local businesses. You can also find unique items for that hard-to-please person.
10 Places To Save Money On Groceries
Savings on grocery shopping requires a more detailed shopping strategy since we do it so often.
Plan Your “Where”: There are several places you want to shop for groceries. Since I tend to be last minute, I do probably 90% or more of my grocery shopping in person. I shop at:
- Regular Grocery Stores. There are several I frequent, and I compare their sales against each other for the best deals. If you get flyers in your mailbox, you can do price and sales comparisons there.
- Aldi’s: This is a new find for us. Our local Aldi’s did a revamp and the savings are unbelievable! Less than $2 for a half-gallon of Non-GMO Verified almond milk? Wow!
- Costco: This is our go-to solution for bulk shopping but they also have lots of gluten- and dairy-free options and tons of certified organic choices. They also carry grass-fed beef and cheese.
- Target: This company just upped their game with organics and allergen-free foods. Use the Circle app (replaces Cartwheel) app and be sure that you have a Red Card. All of these give you a ton of savings – and they are competitively priced. For example, they have the lowest price in town on Daiya Pizza, the only frozen pizza brand my children can eat.
- Grocery Outlet: This one is new to me but I’ve been promised they have deeply discounted organics and gluten-free selections.
- Local Health Food Stores. Normally, they’re pricy but they can have excellent monthly sales and affordable organic produce.
- Deal Stores: Stores like Big Lots carry overstock or dented food items of quality brands that are deeply discounted, so I check it regularly.
- Farmside Stands/Farmer’s Markets: Some of these run into the winter so don’t assume they all close in September. Shop just before close because sometimes vendors need to get rid of produce and will give a discount. You can also find produce that is raised by organic standards by farms that can’t afford the certification, and the cost will be less.
- Amazon Prime: This is a great “one-stop” solution for both discounted food, shipping, shopping, and entertainment. We frequent Whole Foods Market and the discount is amazing. I recommend paying the annual fee at once just in case your income thins out during the year.
- Ugly Produce Subscription Boxes: Traditional CSA subscriptions tend to be very expensive, but places like Misfits Market sell “ugly” organic foods at a deeply discounted price. This is the produce that is too “ugly” for your supermarket to carry, but still perfectly edible!
Now it’s time to buy smartly. Here are my tips on how to save money while grocery shopping.
Step 1: First, look at your supermarket and brand emails, social media and websites as well as coupons sites to find and print coupons. Do this for anything you might possibly by. Check newspapers or online flyers for the best prices. Sign up for newsletters, use grocery store loyalty cards and bring them shopping. You never know who will have the lowest price.
Step 2: Print out all paper coupons and clip any online coupons. Next, organize your paper coupons. I use a small pocketed coupon holder and put the coupons in order of expiration date. This allows me to simply throw out the front of the pack any time I’ve missed a coupon. The first pocket contains brand coupons (food in one, home, pet and health items in another).
The next few pockets are for grocery stores, in order of the ones I use the most. The next section is for “free item” coupons and the very few coupons I have that never expire. Behind that, I place retail coupons, and restaurant and event coupons go in the last pocket.
Step 3: At the store, I double-check any flyers to ensure I didn’t miss any coupons or if they are running a special, such as a “featured organic items” event. Then, I shop in order of how “clean” the product is. Organic produce is always my first stop because sometimes the good stuff runs out, especially if there is a sale! I stock up on anything that’s a good deal and staples.
Step 4: Next, it’s onto the organic and non-GMO food section, which is often the allergen-free aisle as well. In addition to buying what I need, I make sure that I snag any sales. For example, allergen-free frozen pizza or dessert is pricy so I’ll buy at least 3 boxes if it’s 20% or more off. I also buy a lot of store-brand USDA Organic certified foods. That saves me a lot of money and I know the product meets my standards.
If I can’t find organic, I look for Project Non-GMO Verified foods. I also read labels, looking for short ingredient lists full of real food items and low or no sugar content. For meats and eggs, I look for grass-fed and/or pastured products, and organic.
Step 5: Next, I shop for non-food items and pet products. I buy what’s on sale for paper products and cleaning tools. I shop for safer brands for soap and shampoo, as well as cleaning products, especially if any are on sale. Sometimes, I’ll just buy DIY cleaning products to save money. Lemon, white vinegar and baking soda go a long way for a few dollars! For my cat, I try to buy natural brands when available if they have comparable pricing.
Step 6: Once I’m done, I find a quiet area or a really long line and take the time to go through my coupons. I double up whenever I can, especially if the store has an app and allows doubling or more. I often save at least $20 for a bigger shopping trip at my favorite store on a nearly all-organic haul!
I always take a few moments to recheck the store app and receipt to make sure I didn’t miss any last-minute coupons. Never do this on a short line, or you’ll upset people behind you because it can take time. And if your store has an app, check that discounts came off. Make sure you take and keep your receipt with you.
Step 6: Rebate time! Once I’m home, and everything is packed, I pull out my receipt and use a variety of money-saving apps that give me sweet rebates!.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I think of it as a little game I get to play to keep us on budget. It feels good knowing my kids are getting the safest food and products possible, and I’m saving hundreds of dollars year, if not more. What are your super saving tips to stay on budget in an expensive season?