Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spend Small, Live Large!

When it comes to food trends I’ve got my radar on. Like a potato with too many eyes, I often put feelers out (to my recipe testers) to see how they feel about the latest craze, and with the economy holding so many of us hostage, I was eager to see if extreme couponing and really good food could go hand in hand. I turned to a local grocer, who is all about fresh and organic. A few weeks ago, he offered an in depth personalized tour of how to find the best deals in his store.

Everyone at the tour wanted the latest monthly edition of the coupon book he spoke about (I linked to it here), and they wanted to know more about the 365 store brand—one tour member said they recognized our Whole Foods guide from the rotary garden club—small world! It soon became clear just how long I’d been preaching to the choir. Our friends and neighbors really do want to know where our food comes from and turn cooking into a less solitary experience. I felt good about that the rest of the day—even if I didn’t win the $500 bag of groceries at the end of the tour.

My economy shopping hence reminds me that bargain hunting really isn’t about snipping along dotted lines that save you 40 cents here, and 75 cents there; it’s about stretching, about buying the steak, but with a menu in mind that ensures 1 ½ pounds ground sirloin feeds four and incorporates the things in your crisper that only last so long. The eggplant in this dish saves you from having to buy breadcrumbs too, binding the meatballs and helping bake the cheese in oh so beautifully! My Meatballs with Eggplant Topped in Muenster Cheese (shredded zucchini and carrots also work well) is a deeply satisfying casserole that you can eat off of for a couple of days. Another good one for budget eaters is Veggie Burgers with Spicy Cranberry Mayonnaise. You save $5—the cost of 4 frozen patties. My recipe yields twice that amount of better-tasting faux beef.

As to what my contributors think of EXTREME couponing, whereupon you pay virtually nothing for a grocery cart bulging at the seams...I thought I’d share a few of their quotes because they were so down to earth and funny:

Says one foodie friend:
“I think the whole thing takes too much time. I don't have a basement to store a year's worth of paper towels either. I'm not sure how they get all those coupons. I am lucky if I have 2 or 3 to use each week for things I NEED. And it is rare to get a coupon for produce or non processed food. I tried waking up on Sunday and planning my shopping trip based on coupons and sale papers but it is no fun to make 3-4 different trips just to save a dollar here and there. I try to shop just once a week.
P.S. This particular foodie friend has begun taking cooking classes at The Publix Apron Cooking school and reports that learning more about the kitchen is saving her calories, time an money.

Says another foodie friend on the subject of extreme couponing:
“I've been couponing for 30 years and have a good stash, but I don't do extreme. I spend 30-60 minutes a week clipping from the Sunday paper or printing and clipping from the Internet, then sorting into my coupon keeper. And I subscribe to several Facebook coupon groups, like Fabulessly Frugal and Frugal Gals. They link you to free coupons and give tips on what coupons to use where. But I don't do a ton of coupon matching to stock up, I just take my coupon bundle with me and match as I go, depending on what I really need.”

Thank you, guys, for sharing! I love it when you bring something to my table! Happy cooking and good luck on spending small and eating big!

1 comment:

Jenny Mertes said...

I'd love to have a guided tour of our Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, because I feel lost in those places. I'm way too familiar with the convenience foods aisles at Fry's and Safeway. But now that we're trying to eat healthier foods, I'm buying more fruits and veggies. It'll stretch me, but it's a good change.

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