Posted in DIY, Freebies, Frugal Living, Life and Money Hacks, Shopping Hauls and Couponing Reports, Uncategorized

Revamping and returning soon! Check out my YouTube channel!

Hi all, I have had some major health problems lately, (which I will get into in a post soon) so I apologize for the long time between posts. I am currently thinking about how to re-design this site to make it more interesting and organized. I had many ideas on what and how often to post and I will be checking out how to do it. Not easy when you have absolutely NO web or design experience. I will be working on it over the next couple of weeks, so please stay tuned and in the meantime, check out my YouTube channel, Coupon Choice Mom. I seem to have been more active on it than here, probably because I love playing with editing equipment. (It’s probably why I went into TV broadcasting in the first place. ) I hope you will stay tuned. If you follow me on the main page, I will make a post announcing that I am back when I’m done, but please check out my older posts in the meantime and subscribe to my channel!

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Posted in Frugal Living

On a Treasure Hunt- Part 2

I’m back.  I know you were waiting for me more anxiously than you were waiting to see if Jon Snow was still alive. Well, here I am, and with a lot less bloodshed.
Years ago, almost every single coupon available was in the newspaper. Well, newspapers are closing all over the place, and that includes the coupon inserts. The internet has taken over. Here are the ways to get deals, coupons, and rebates online and with your smartphone.

Load to Card Coupons

Before I go any further with electronic savings, I am going to assume everyone here has their local store loyalty card. Or even more than one. It’s a good thing to go ahead and get cards for each of the stores in your area, even those you don’t go to that often. That way, when you do end up unexpectedly going, you have a card to get the store deals. Many stores have sales which are only available to those with a loyalty card.
In addition to sales, most stores use their cards for exclusive “load to card” coupons. Giant’s program is called MyGiant and Safeway has Just4U. Once the store knows what kinds of products you buy, it wants you to continue and the competitors want you to try their brand instead. It’s kind of like Catalinas. You just need to log onto the store’s website or app and register your store card. Then you can go to the coupon section and click on the deals you want. The discounts will be taken off at the cash register. What makes these discounts especially great is that the discount is completely automatic, meaning you can use paper coupons (both manufacturer and store) in addition to these deals. Also, I have noticed lately, at least in Giant’s case, that the “load to card” deals are often for products that have coupons available on coupons.com. That is making makes it easy to save big.
And don’t forget, many rebate and points programs can and will use your store card to keep track of point earnings. Since you can often register more than one card with each site, it is another reason to get cards from any store you might possibly use. You will earn points without even trying.
Also, a lot of grocery stores use the cards to participate in some sort of gasoline rewards programs. With your groceries, you might get so many cents off a gallon.  Special deals might get you extra points, so if you get a lot of points, wait until your tank is almost empty to fill and get the most use of that deal.

Websites

The first thing you need to do in getting online coupons is to go to your favorite free email program and make yourself a new email. Yahoo, Gmail, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Make yourself an email address that you will only use for couponing and deal making. Use your name or initials and the word coupons if you want something easy to remember, or just make anything up, it really doesn’t matter. That way, you can sign up for coupons, newsletters, samples, and sweepstakes and your real email inbox is kept clutter free, just check this one when you have some time.
Now that you have a magical couponing email, it’s time to create a magical couponing Facebook page. Use the email to create a couponing Facebook. Don’t use it to like your friends or even link it to your regular one. Just use it to like products. Check your news feed for this one once in a while. Sometimes a product will offer a printable coupon to the people who like them, or even a free sample of a new product.
Now you want to hit those coupon websites. The most famous and oldest of these is Coupons.com. There’s also SmartSource.com and Save.com which used to be red plum. These are simply the websites for the newspaper insert companies but they have additional coupons online. Just click the ones you want, make sure your printer is on, and hit print. Viola, coupons galore.
When you first “click clip” these and hit print, it will prompt you to download a program. Provided you are on the sites listed, it is perfectly safe. (Never download a program from an email, no matter what the deal the subject line promises) The program will add a mark to prevent photocopying and keep track of how many coupons you print. The sites have a limit. For instance, Coupons.com only allows 2 prints per computer. Let me stress, each COMPUTER has the limit. People often have access to more than one computer. Ask your friends or the co-worker next to you if you can borrow his computer for a minute or two.
Now, don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s websites. Here again, your couponing email will come in handy, since a lot of them require you to sign up for a newsletter. But they will also allow you access to exclusive coupons for specific products. If the company has released a new product or even simply a new flavor, you might find more coupons than usual since the company wants you to try it.

Blogs

Many people coupon, and many of them blog about it. Obviously you know this, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.
There are many other blogs, and the great thing about these is that not only can you enjoy learning about coupons but you also can find out about deals that you may not know about. You can socialize with other couponers and learn new money saving tricks.  You also can find coupon databases. Databases make it easy to search to see if there’s a coupon for a particular product. They will tell you if one is available and where you will find it. There are so many couponing and thrift blogs, look around and find ones that most appeal to you.

Apps

Whether Android or Iphone, if you type coupons into an app store search bar, you will get a lot of results.  My personal favorites include Ibotta, Saving Star, RetailMeNot and Checkout51. There are many more available, and you may like others better. Some, like Target Carwheel are store specific, but most are not. A lot of them work similarly.  With some you search for a store or product and it will pop up a barcode for the cashier to scan or (if shopping online) a promo code to type in the box at checkout. But many work in a “rebate” way.

The greatest thing about these rebate apps is that they are  completely separately from paper, or even load to card coupons. They are rebates, and you get them even if you got them item free with coupons. Most stores nowadays won’t let you get money back with coupons, but if it’s free and you use a rebate app on top of that, it’s still getting something for nothing.  This is the most common way to “get paid” to take something out of the store.
With a rebate app, you select the product you want before you buy it. Either during shopping trip planning, or while at the store before you get to the register.  After you get home you prove to the app you actually bought the item, usually by taking a picture of your receipt. When the rebate clears, it is added to your account. When you want to cash out, you can either receive a paper check, or allow the money to be deposited in a PayPal account.

Points programs

It’s not just grocery stores that have loyalty cards anymore. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other places have them too. If you go the same place often for a breakfast bagel and coffee, see if they have a points card. Starbucks and Caribou do, and many others as well. My couponing group meetups are often at Panera Bread, so you bet I signed up for their rewards, and have already gotten a couple of free sandwiches.
Always look for points programs, Plenti covers many different retailers to combine points, pet lovers have Purina Perks, there is Similac Strong Moms for new moms, and many others. I love Kellogg’s Family Rewards. You get points for what you were going to buy anyway, and can get some cool stuff to cash in the points for. Why waste it?
My last birthday, I had a ball getting free stuff. A pancake breakfast at IHOP, ice cream at Baskin Robbins, a free cookie from a place in the mall, A&W root beer, pretzel, ….I just realized why I gained a couple pounds on my birthday. Oh, well. The point is, if a place offers a birthday club, it doesn’t hurt to sign up. Just use your couponing email, and make sure to check it more often during your birthday month.

If you’re couponing, you probably like getting stuff for free. Use your couponing email to sign up for sites like Freebies.com, Freebiefrenzy.com etc. These sites will let you know what samples or promotional giveaways are available. Besides samples, I’ve gotten promotional items like a tote bag, mugs, mouse pads, sewing kit and more. A lot of these sites also list current sweepstakes. This is why you have that couponing email, go ahead and enter, you have nothing to lose.

And that boys and girls, concludes my lesson. Hopefully you use these and last weeks’ tips to start finding coupons and starting your own collection. See you in a few days! Happy Couponing!
Posted in Frugal Living

On A Treasure Hunt- Part 1

coupons for blog

 

Today, I’m going back to some couponing basics. One of the first major things every couponer wants to know. “Where &*$%# do you find all those coupons?”  The short answer is, well, everywhere. I know, you were probably looking for something more specific than that. So here are the main ways that you can get printed paper coupons. Of course, you can get even more coupons online and I will go over these in my next post. (Hence, the part one of my title, I promise not to pull a Mel Brooks on you)
The first thing you need to know about coupons is that they are part of any company or manufacturer’s advertising budget. Therefore, when the budget restarts, look for more coupons to come out since they have that allotted money right off. More coupons will come out around the beginning of the fiscal quarter with a HUGE haul at the end of the year. There won’t be as many coupons right before a major holiday though. Manufacturers’ are guessing you will be using the holiday deals to shop for larger household items and they don’t want to waste budget money on a futile attempt to get you in the supermarket.
And on to the little paper treasures.

 

Newspapers

 

While newspapers used to be the mainstay of all couponers, that is no longer the case. But it’s always best to start at the beginning.
Just about everyone knows about the Sunday inserts. Many papers even advertise how many coupons are in Sunday’s paper in the upper corner. The two main companies that put out the inserts are SmartSouce and RedPlum. Once a month, Proctor and Gamble will put out an additional insert. Sometimes each company will put out more than one in a week. On any given week, the number of inserts will vary from none to six.

Papers themselves can be pricey, especially if you’re buying more than one for the coupons. Some Dollar Tree stores carry either the current or the previous weeks Sunday papers. If you are only getting the paper for the coupons, this is a great deal. And don’t forget to check out your local free paper. The Fairfax County Times in my neighborhood often carries the weekly coupon inserts.

A quick warning: When buying the Sunday paper, check the plastic wrapping around the inserts, if it’s torn open, make sure the coupons are still in there. Couponers who resort to illegal and rude methods of getting coupons are rare, but they are out there.

 

Magazines

 

Women’s magazines are a great coupon resource depending on what their focus is. Magazines like Real Simple or Good Housekeeping often have many coupons for household products. Fashion magazines will have coupons for beauty and grooming supplies. All You, which used to be the WalMart store magazine, has expanded and usually carries a wide variety of coupons. Once in a while I will come across a good coupon in a magazine at a doctor’s office waiting room. I’ve never been told no by a receptionist when I ask if I can clip it. Always ask though. And don’t forget about store magazines.

 

Grocery Fliers and Magazines

 

Besides letting you know what’s on sale, usually a flier will have additional coupons. Some of them might be for a one or two day “flash” sale or for extra points on a gasoline program.
Many stores also have a monthly store magazine. For instance, Giant has one called Savory and Wegman’s is called Menu. They are free and located near the front. These will have coupons for not only name brands, but some store brands as well. And since some of them will be store coupons, you can combine them  with manufacturers to stack deals. (More on this later) As a side note, the magazines also have some nice cooking advice and recipes.

 

Blinkies and Tearpads

 

Blinkies are the little dispenser machines on the shelf right next to the product it’s for with the tiny flashing red light. There are also Tearpads which are the notepad coupons also near the products. Now, just because the coupon is there, doesn’t mean you have to buy it right away. It’s there now to tempt you to buy now. The expiration dates usually aren’t right away. Grab a few now and wait until later when the product is on sale to buy it.
Don’t be snobby about coupons. One day Klondike was on sale and I already had a store coupon, but when I got there, there was a Blinkie shining on some one dollar offs. A woman walking past put a box in her cart. I (always sharing the couponing love) called after her “Miss, there’s a coupon here for that!” She turned to me and replied “No thank you, I don’t  use coupons”. I have to admit I was a little confused since she was already buying it and they were right there, and I was stunned by her attitude, so she walked away and paid 3.50 for her box and I got some ice cream goodies for 50 cents.

 

Catalina’s

 

These are the coupons printed out with your receipt. Never forget them. They are usually high value and connected with what you just bought. On occasion they might even be for a general  discount over your next shopping purchase.
It may sound bad, but I always glance over at the self-checkouts on my way out of the store . If no one is standing there, I grab any catalina’s left behind. I don’t know why people leave them, it’s like leaving money. So many people don’t know how cool couponing can be.
Once, I went into a store and saw an empty and closed self-checkout with catalina’s coming out of the machine down to the floor. Well, I grabbed them. One of them was for 5 dollars off my next purchase courtesy of Campbell’s soup as a reward for buying 10 cans. I don’t even usually buy that product, but someone did, and they got me 5 bucks off my purchase that day. Thanks mystery soup person.
And here is why manners always matter. I am always trying to be the southern lady I am and be polite, kind and charming. (Wow, I can hear my friends laughing hysterically from this side of the computer) I know sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I try. Now since I mainly shop at the same store, the cashiers know me and will save me the catalina’s other customer’s leave behind. So many people refuse them, so once again, I reap the rewards. Literally.

 

Packaging

 

You see a lot of labels that say save one dollar now, details inside. They don’t lie, there is a coupon tucked in there somewhere. Sometimes there is one even when one isn’t advertised on the outside. I recently tore open a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice to put in the recycling. Written on one of the cardboard sides was a coupon for fifty cents off my next box. (And it will double) It had no expiration date. Seriously, the coupon says does not expire. That’s pretty rare these days. Once a type of female product was on sale for 1.50 each. Tucked into each box was a 75 cent  coupon which the store would double  As the cashier scanned one, I opened one flap and grabbed the coupon for her to scan for the next box, and so on.

 

Mail

 

If you have a store loyalty card, your store will be sending you store coupons in the mail. This is also where you will get your local coupons from Valpak, Money Mailer or other local coupons. This is your main source of non-grocery coupons. Many restaurants, local entertainment venues, home improvement and repair stores, and even dentists and lawyers advertise with coupons in Valpak.

 

Friends and Family

 

If you want to get multiple copies of the same coupon inserts, you have to ask for them.
Look around for coupon swapping clubs you can trade with. Meetup.com might have some listings. If you can’t find one, start one. It’s a great way to socialize as well as get more coupons.  Grocery stores have community bulletin boards, so put one up looking for clubs. And let me do a shameless plug here. If you live in Fairfax County in Virginia, or you are willing to drive, check out meetup.com and look up the Centreville Clippers. Come on by for a meeting, I promise not to bite.
Let your friends and colleagues know about your couponer status. My friends save their coupons for me, and I often come into work or even back from lunch to find coupons sitting on my chair.
If you are near me in the DC area, we have a huge advantage. Coupon inserts differ by area, especially states. So when you live in an area (like here) where another state can be across the street, you might have co-workers from other states (or districts) to beg coupons from.  Also, any long distance family might be willing to mail you their coupons. Some areas of the country don’t allow stores to double coupons, so those areas might have higher value coupons. If you have family in those areas, ask them for their extras.

 

Where NOT to get coupons

 

Dumpster diving? Really?  Those pristine clean ones you see on TV? Yeah, nope. The cake is a lie. Most bins get covered in slime and the papers are half decomposed within hours. There are a lot less dangerous and (let’s face it) more sanitary ways to get a few coupons. No need to risk infection. Not to mention a ticket from the cops, since it’s usually illegal.
Speaking of illegal, NEVER steal your neighbors newspaper or mail.
Never buy coupons. This is very illegal. Never use “clipping services”. That’s just a way to get around buying coupons.  Either way you are risking receiving what looks like great coupons but were actually printed in Photoshop or something. Using one of these is theft of goods.
By the way, don’t try to snip the expiration date off or photocopy any coupons. The barcodes are there for a reason and the machine senses all.

 

 

As I said at the beginning newspapers are no longer the flying flag of coupons. Nowadays, everything’s on the internet. My next post will be about finding coupons and rebates all over the web.

Posted in Frugal Living

My Expensive Emma

IMG_0744

 

Look at that picture. It’s adorable isn’t it? Go on, you can admit it. That face is the definition of adorable. It also is the very potential for going broke.

 

Believe it or not, I know of some people who think that owning a pet doesn’t cost much, especially a cat. Well, they’re wrong, very wrong. You need to get more than food to take care of a cat properly. An adult cat isn’t quite as expensive as a kitten (especially if you have vet insurance) but here is what you need to get for your new kitty roommate. But don’t worry; you don’t have to go broke finding all these things

 

Food (both canned and dry)

Cat and dog food and treats are some of the most commonly seen coupons, so that shouldn’t be a problem, just remember to stock up when you see a deal. You might keep a list of what brands cost what when not on sale so you can recognize a great deal when there is a sale. If your new friend is under a year old, you will need food that specifically says it is for kittens because it has needed extra protein for growth. If your kitten is very little, you might need formula for a couple of weeks. Don’t forget to grab some treats.

 

Litter, litter box, and scoop.

Cat owners know that you can go through litter like water. Ok, maybe another analogy would be better. But any way you say it, you buy litter even more than food sometimes. So it’s a good thing you can find litter coupons everywhere, it really helps with your pet budget. Litter obviously doesn’t spoil, so feel free to stock up as much as you can when a sale and coupon deal is on.

I found some basic litter pans and scoops at my local Dollar Tree. Your cat doesn’t need a complicated one, especially at first while litter training, and a small cat or kitten would prefer a smaller plain one that she can easily get into and out of.

Remember that while litter box training, you will want to keep several litter boxes spread around the house as a small kitten might not be able to hold it in long enough to make it to one main box.

 

Scratching posts

It’s possible to find used cat trees and scratching posts, especially at garage sales and Craigslist. But if many cats used it before, your kitty might avoid using it. I decided it would be better to just buy a basic new one for now. When a local pet store has another major sale, I will check RetailMeNot for extra deals and get a larger one.

 

Cat bed

For a new kitten, a big cat bed isn’t necessary at first. Kittens like to feel snuggled and a cat bed may be simply too large. During the day Emma loves to sleep in a shoe box I have lined with a small microfiber throw. The throw itself was found for two dollars in the clearance bin at my local Wal-Mart.  At night she meows until I allow her onto my pillow so she can snuggle with me instead. Darn this adorableness!

Later on, I will check online for any free cat bed sewing patterns. I have a lot of fabric leftover from various projects and I like to use them in various small projects like this.

 

Hygiene items

All cats need things like claw clippers, dental products, shampoo, and brushes. Your individual cat’s needs might be medicine for flea and ticks, hairball remedies, de-wormers, calming sprays, and others.

I was able to find claw clippers and cat brushes and dental brushes at my local Dollar Tree. There was some flea medicine, but I don’t know how good it is. Although my vet said Emma was flea free, she still gave me some samples of prescription flea medicine that will last for a few months. You might ask your vet if they have any samples of medicine and remedies needed to keep your kitty happy and healthy.

 

Toys, toys, toys.

Toys may seem silly but they are actually very important to a cat’s mental and physical well-being. They both teach and allow an outlet for instinctual hunting, as well as comfort, and a place to chew and fight that’s not your skin. They also get good exercise from chasing a flashing ball or a ribbon on a stick

Always be sure to check the Dollar Tree for cat toys. Some basic ones, including balls with bells or rattles are found here. They even had some small containers of catnip.  More complicated cat toys were found at 5 Below. You can also easily make some cat toys.  Cats love paper bags and anything that crinkles. You can cut up and tape some paper bags (NEVER plastic ones) and create a “tunnel” for you kitty to play in. You cat may also love to chase a ball of crumpled aluminum foil. You can search online for other homemade cat toy ideas.

Another tip:  Rotate your cat toy box. Don’t give all the toys to your cat at once. Keep some aside in a box and switch them out every few weeks when her interest starts to wane. Your kitty will get excited at always getting “new” toys.

 

Health Care

Now I must stress to you the importance of getting vet insurance. Vet bills are very expensive and usually unexpected. At first, it will add some to your budget spending now, but you won’t regret it later when something happens and you are facing a sudden thousand dollar bill. There are many vet insurance programs out there. Embrace, ASPCA, PetsFirst, BestPets and many others. Please check with all programs to see what they cover and how much they are. Not all programs cover routine exams, so you must decide for yourself if you want the extra cost. A good basic insurance for illnesses or accidents is around $15 a month. I have decided to spend the extra for her first year, so that her new kitten shots will be covered, and later I might drop the extra and pay the routine exam  fees myself. I will, of course, keep the main insurance against accidents and illnesses. My previous cat Jewel was very ill the last few months of her life, and I spent a lot of money trying to help her. I wish I had had vet insurance then. Most insurances, (like human ones) don’t cover pre-existing illnesses so it’s important that you buy the policy and get your kitten checked out by a vet before any possible illness symptom begins.

One of the most important and best things to do for your cat’s health is getting her or him spayed or neutered. This is good not only for the cat’s physical health, but your mental one. A cat in heat will constantly yowl and spray all over the place, keeping you up and driving you crazy. Spaying or neutering will prevent many diseases including various cancers. It is thought that unless you are going to get the cat specifically for breeding purposes, it’s best to spay or neuter them. For females, it’s best to spay them at around 4 or 5 months old, before their first heat.

Spaying or neutering is a surgery so you might think it’s out of your budget, but actually there are many low cost spaying programs. Check the ASPCA website to find local vets who will spay or neuter your pet at a discount or even free if you meet the requirements.

Here’s a great way to save on a de-clawing procedure. Don’t get one. This is basically amputating your cats toes and it is completely unnecessary. It’s also dangerous. If your cat escapes, she has no way to defend herself against outdoor predators. If your cat isn’t using his scratching post, try one made of a different material, and gently place her paws on it when you see her begin to scratch something else. Spreading catnip on the scratching post might also help her become attracted to it. There is also a product called Softcaps that is available at your local pet store. These are simple plastic caps that are glued on to your cat’s claws and last for a couple of weeks at a time.

 

Although there are some extra costs at first while you get your starter supplies, if you find used items and shop around you can get some pretty good deals. And once you’re set up, the costs slow down. Once an adult cat, most of your costs are vet insurance premiums, and easily couponed food and litter. A new toy is only for once in a while and a new scratching post might be a once in a year splurge. Budgeting doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the company of your furry friends. Being frugal doesn’t mean giving up a nice quality of life and I have always believed a house with fur on the furniture is a happier one.

 

 

 

Posted in Frugal Living

How to budget for Passover

I love Passover. It’s a wonderful holiday. It’s full of family gatherings, feasts, and wine.
It’s also the grocery budget blowout that happens every year and affects your budget for months.
I’m not going to give you a theology or religious lecture on the history of Passover. This is not a religious website. Anyway if you’re reading this post specifically to find out hints on saving during Passover, you probably already celebrate it and know what the holiday is about. Basically, it celebrates the Jews being freed from bondage in Egypt and Moses beginning the Exodus. If you would like to know more, there are a number of websites available, or even Wikipedia.
There are special additional dietary laws during Passover that mean many of the foods in our pantry and freezer are no longer kosher, and not only can we not eat them, we can’t even own them, so out they go. Then we go out and buy expensive “Kosher for Passover” varieties. We usually haven’t even finished them when the 8 days are over; we just toss the special brands and refill the pantry with all the things you threw away just a week ago.
During Passover all Jews are forbidden to eat the following: wheat, oats, rye, barley, and spelt. (What is spelt anyway? I have no idea, and have probably never eaten it, but it’s on the list, so I’ll include it)
If you are (like myself) part of the approximately 85-90% of American Jews who identify as Ashkenazi, you are also forbidden to eat: rice, corn, millet, dried beans and lentils, peas, green beans, soybeans, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and mustard.
Well, that does seem like a lot, and it is. But it still leaves us a lot to eat and use. Fresh meat, fresh fruit and veggies, herbs, all the stuff that is good for you is fine. It’s basically a religiously prescribed mini-diet. I know I’m not the only one who healthily loses a few pounds during Passover.
Let’s go over the banned list again.
Wheat, that’s the main one, no bread or flour or pasta.  Or beer, for that matter. The guys watching the game will have to get by on wine.
Soybeans, so soy milk is out (sorry to everyone who is lactose-intolerant).
Well, no peanut butter either.
Corn.
As in, corn syrup.
Uh-oh.
That stuff is everywhere. Even in places you wouldn’t think to look. Not until you start prepping for Passover and you check labels do you realize how common it is. Go on; try to find a shelf in your pantry completely clear of it. Go on. Unless you’re completely organic, I bet you can’t do it.
The ban on corn and corn syrup is probably the 2nd biggest reason for the size of the Passover aisles at the store. The biggest being wheat of course.
But don’t let that intimidate or discourage your budgeting plan. In my next few posts, I will demonstrate how a little planning and meal creativity can help you have a happy Passover without destroying your budget.

Please keep in mind that I follow the basic rules of kosher, no pork or shellfish, and I don’t mix milk and meat. But my meat comes from my local supermarket, not a kosher butcher. I don’t keep my dishes separate. When it comes to Passover, I refrain from eating anything that is on the forbidden list. I even check the ingredients list on the containers. But I do not restrict myself to only products that are labeled specifically “Kosher for Passover”.  Whether your household rules are similar, or you are stricter, I hope you can use my advice to help with your Passover planning.

When I give advice for how to save at any time, especially Passover, there is one main piece of advice.
Plan, plan, plan.

Although it seems like it, Passover doesn’t sneak up and surprise you, there is plenty of time to plan and prepare.

Planning ahead is especially important during Passover because families are eating more fresh veggies, fruit and meat than usual, rather than relying on packaged foods.

This means a lot of buying ahead, way ahead. If you eat only strictly kosher meat, perhaps stocking up on the kosher brand turkeys after Thanksgiving and keeping them in the freezer wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you are like me and get your meat from the main supermarket, you might do the same for your store brand. A month or two before Passover, start stocking up whenever meat or produce goes on sale.

Some fruits and veggies will be cheaper during this time of year because they are “in season”.  Plan your Passover meals around these.

Vegetables in season are: asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, mushrooms, watercress, beets, avocado, Brussel sprouts (sorry kids), leeks, rhubarb, radishes, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.
Cabbage, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and onions are pretty easy to find all year round.

Seasonal fruits that might be better for your budget are: strawberries, mango, apricots, Barbados cherries, honeydew and melons, pineapple, lemons, limes, and oranges. Apples and bananas can usually be found cheaply year round as well. I also use canned or jarred fruit too, as long as it is packed in pure fruit juice, and not syrup.

Passover is a good time for a variety of salads. A wide variety of greens and herbs are also coming into season.

If some produce that is easily freezable is on sale, buy extra.

Strawberries are plentiful and cheap this time of year, so you might be having a lot of them for Passover. They can be bought cheaply a few weeks or a month ahead and easily frozen to eat during Passover. Just cut off the green parts, stand them cut side down on a plate in the freezer. (Single layer) once frozen, take off plate and toss in a Ziploc bag.

If you like melons, just scoop out the flesh into melon balls (do not use the rind) , and toss into a Ziploc.

Grapes just have to be pulled off the stem before being put in the Ziploc. You don’t have to peel them, but you can if you think it might be hot. In any hot weather, a great and healthy treat for kids is a few frozen grapes.

Plain pineapple slices are easily frozen or canned and go well with plain grilled chicken.

Although I have heard not to freeze green peppers, I often cut them into small cubes or thin strips and freeze. I have had no problems.

Beets, asparagus, rhubarb and other vegetables freeze well, especially if sliced or sectioned.

There are many other websites that tell you how to freeze or otherwise store many fruits and vegetables.

Once it’s a little closer to Passover it’s time to start getting rid of the chametz. That’s all the forbidden foods in the house. Although you can still use chametz, it helps to separate everything at least 2 or 3 weeks ahead of time. Knowing what I have to work with helps me in making a menu plan. When you have a plan, you can shop and cook ahead of time.

Which brings us to menu plans. Menu plans are the backbone of any and every grocery budget. Plans help you not to overbuy, since you can see and plan ahead to use the leftovers from a larger meal as an ingredient in a smaller meal the next evening. For instance cook a roast chicken on Monday night and use the small leftover pieces to make chicken salad for Tuesday lunch. (Also remember to save your skins to make homemade schmaltz)  A menu plan will also help out with schedules. If you know you have a busy evening, you can plan for a meal with less cooking and prep.  And don’t forget about packed lunches for school and work.

If you plan to be busy several days over Passover, try this tip. During the month or two before Passover, hit the dollar store and buy some of those foil casserole dishes with the foil lids.  Make your meals on a free weekend day or simply make extra on family dinner night. Stick it in the dish and freeze. During Passover, when you might be in a hurry, simply warm it up.

Now you can make your shopping list. Look at not only what you need, but where it might be cheaper. If you have an Aldi’s nearby, lucky you! You also can buy many good snacks and cooking goods at the Dollar Tree stores. I have bought coconut, dried fruit, and nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds all at the dollar store.

Now the most fun, but ultimately the most difficult part, shopping.

Matzah is a Passover necessity, so sneak to the edge of the Passover aisle and grab however many you think you will need.  If you have a bad macaroon habit, like me, grab a can of chocolate chip or whichever you prefer.
Now look down that Passover aisle, full of special holiday foods made just for the holiday. Now turn and walk away.

Do you really need the kosher for Passover potato chips and sugar cereals? You know, the ones that have half the taste at twice the cost. It’s only a week.  Can the kids survive eating scrambled eggs and hash browns on matzah for breakfast? Maybe a week with water, tea and juice instead of soda might be good for the family.

By the way, be careful of matzah. Some matzah isn’t kosher for Passover. It will say on the box “Not kosher for Passover” near the Hechsher, or kosher authorization symbol. Kosher markets will keep this matzah separate. However, big supermarket chains often have store managers who don’t know this and will simply put all matzah in the Passover aisle. Check the label on the box before buying.

If you absolutely must buy a couple of things in the Passover aisle, watch when you do it. Most stores will begin to stock it a month before Passover starts, and usually on sale. Stock up then. In the couple of days before Passover, the sale prices will disappear. But some stores will put some things back on sale in the middle of Passover, especially things that didn’t sell before and they don’t want to bother sending back. Now is when you stock up for next year. (See, planning works) Canned and dry goods last for a while. If you absolutely can’t live without those chocolate chip macaroons (or whatever else), check the expiration dates, and buy now.  But if you live in an area without a large Jewish population, some stores might not realize how long Passover is and remove and send back everything early.  Also remember to keep track of what you bought, what was gobbled and what was uneaten after a bite and an “Uggh, this is awful”.  Remember which was which for next year, so you don’t bother buying the same thing.

Just because a food isn’t in the magical Passover aisle, doesn’t mean it’s not kosher for Passover. Things such as tea, olive oil, and cream cheese are usually (but not always) considered Passover kosher all year round so cruise the aisles. Many products have kosher labels that say “Kosher for all year round and Passover”. If it says this, it’s fine, even when not in the Passover aisle. This is especially true of typically kosher brands. Empire, Hebrew National, Gefen, Manishevitz, and Streit’s produce mainly kosher foods and will say on the label whether it passes the Passover test.

Once I saw “Kosher for Passover” aluminum foil. Why? Most nonfood items are fine for use. Check the labels for ingredients and a general kosher symbol. I found the OUkosher.org website great for the guidelines on non-food items. KosherQuest.org is another good site for kosher information.

Check out my next post in a few days, where I’ll show you the start of my own Passover preparations and my own menu plan.