Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The last time that I recommitted myself to not counting calories, something weird occurred concurrently: I lost my taste for some of my favorite convenience foods. The two I relied on most were protein bars (mostly Luna bars) and Lean Cuisines/microwaveable lunches.

At work we only get a half an hour break, which is sort of criminal but has the bonus of making it nearly impossible to waste your money by going out for lunch every day (don't worry, we still have the option of paying $9, or $8.50 with our discount, in the cafeteria for an "artisan" turkey sandwich, meaning they put pesto on it.) I turned to microwaveable lunches because they're cheap, easy, and the nutritional stats really aren't bad- generally a fair amount of protein and fiber with some micronutrients thrown in. I still don't think they are a terrible option for you, but I started to realize how much sodium and sugar and, frankly, weird ingredients that I can't identify they contain. I started to get the feeling that they (conspiracy ahead, please disregard if you don't like woo woo) were engineered specifically to make me crave their products because of the stuff they contain. Overall, I just thought it might be healthier to pack my lunch with something that wouldn't survive the nuclear holocaust.

The main options have been: leftovers from the night before, pasta salad, pita pockets stuffed with cheese and apple and turkey, and salad with whatever protein I can find. Now, I have not sworn off all convenience foods- who the hell has time to make EVERYTHING from scratch? I guess I could order a wife from Russia to do that for me but she might be prettier than me and my apartment is too small. So I do rely on some packaged stuff but I try to make sure they don't contain weird stuff. Like my new friend, Trader Joe's Tabbouleh! Nothing but bulgur, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, tomatoes and some other spices. Nom. I'm currently eating it on a salad with mixed greens, persian cucumbers, mini bell peppers and Gruyere. Tasty. Just crying out for a giant bowl of figgy pudding to make up for the healthfulness (yes, I'm craving figgy pudding and I don't know why.)

Let's go to Trader Joe's!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Xtreme Coopining

I've felt like a bit of a fraud since I'm not as into sugar free/diet food stuff. For the most part, I've given them up in favor of eating only stuff I really like, which generally translates into not eating as much as I once did so the calorie intake is probably pretty much the same. I even purposefully seek out the Greek yogurt with some fat (which can be hard to find.) But I still love food and like to blog occasionally, so let's just agree that on those occasions I will just write about food, whether it be healthy food or not. Sounds good to me.

So today I wanna talk about grocery shopping, and more specifically, the best way to save your broke as some money by using coupons. There is great controversy on the pronunciation of the word "coupon." I believe in my heart that the proper way is "coo-pon", but other pronuciations include "cue-pon" and, on the "warsh" and "pitcher" end of the scale, "coopin." I kinda like "coopin", so much so that I wrote coopin on the front of my coopin envelope and henceforth will always refer to them as coopins.

I really can't remember if my mom used them when I was a kid- I think she did and I probably found it mortifying so I've blocked it out. I started using them when I moved out of my parents' house a few years ago and experienced what it is to buy all of your own crap. Here's how it is: lame. Enter coopins.

I read a message board that snarks on TV shows, and they love to hate Extreme Couponing. Lots of people on the board claim that coupons don't really save you any money, and they refer a lot to "coupon math" with a fair amount of derision. I just think they aren't doing it right. It took me awhile to get good at it, but now I'm a coopin queen. Here are some tips:

1. Coopins won't help you if the generic is cheaper. Don't be a dummy- your coopin for 50 cents off Campbell's chicken stock isn't doing you any good if the generic stuff is a dollar cheaper anyway. Make sure it's actually saving you money. BUT don't forget that sometimes the generic sucks, so know your limits.

2. Coopins work best when combined with sales. I think Kroger is the best grocery store because their prices are better AND the Kroger plus card can save you a shit ton of money, especially if you coopin. Most of the time, I won't use the coopin unless it's also on sale with the plus card, because in general, generic is always cheaper (though I prefer not to buy generic for boring philosophical reasons and if you wanna hear them, leave a comment.)  A good example is AlmondBreeze almond milk. Regularly, it's like $3.59 a carton, but it's often on sale with the plus card for $2.99, and they put out coopins all the time for $1.00 off. So really, you've saved $1.60. Most of the time, if it's not on sale too, I won't even buy it. Which leads me to the next tip:

3. Know when to say, "Not this week." Be patient. Wait till it's onsale unless it's something you need desperately. This also lends itself well to not buying food you'll waste just because you have the coopin. That doesn't help you.

4. The circular is my friend. I get the Thursday paper now, and literally the only part I read is the Kroger ad. I take a look, sit down with my giant binder of recipes and my coopin envelope, and plan my meals for the week. It saves a tremendous amount of money and cuts down on food waste. For example, last week I saw that top sirloin was on sale and immediately thought of a recipe I had for mushroom-sirloin skewers that I hadn't made yet because top sirloin is fucking expensive! But it wasn't that week, so I made it, and all is well. This is especially useful for meat: if you have room in your freezer, ALWAYS check what kinds of meat are onsale and stock up if something special (this week it was center cut pork chops) is a good price. Also helpful for canned pantry items.

I have more but this is getting boring. I used these tips to do my grocery shopping today, which will make me lunch every weekday, breakfast every morning, snacks, and 3 dinners with lots of leftovers, plus a few pantry stocking items & the porkchops that were onsale. My receipt says that I saved $26.60 with my plus card and coopins- 29%. Keep in mind that I buy at least 50% organic, and this is all pretty healthy food, and I'm pretty happy with it.

Good luck with your coopins!