Geek Chef

I cook, I talk, I geek

Eating on a budget July 1, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:09 pm
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I started reading a blog written by a guy Eating Well on $1 a Day. He’s done an amazing job staying on budget while eating 3 meals a day, including fruits & vegetables and whole grains, plus snacks. Self proclaimed ‘bad cook’, the food itself is rather bleak – he could stand to read a few of my recipes. But the message is clear and very impressive.

Coupons of the future

Inspired by the buck-a-day guy and attempting to save for my shiny new toy, I decided to pay more attention to my spending. I was happy to find out coupons have gone new millennium with websites like Cellfire and Shortcuts which link to your grocery store loyalty cards, thus saving you from clipping coupons and feeling like an old lady. There is even an app for it! Cellfire has a free app for the iPhone.

I tried out Cellfire on my trip to Safeway yesterday with a few of the ole timey clipped coupons as well and saved at least $50 on my purchase. I haven’t figured out my menu for the next week yet, so I just bought the basics, and I’ll end up making another trip later this week for meal specific items. But I picked up some ‘Catalinas’ while checking out, so that’s another few bucks off  in addition to future coupons virtual or otherwise.

What the hell is a Catalina?

While reading up on the coupon world, Catalinas came up often. I pieced together it was good, highly sought after by clippies (good nickname for them?), but was worried it was something store specific. Not quite.

Catalinas, nicknamed after the marketing company, are those machines next to the receipt printers at most grocery stores. They shoot off purchase specific coupons to be used on your next trip. If you buy the right combination of items you can even get free money (on your next purchase.) Neato!

There is some appeal in this game. With a little ingenuity and research, you can end up with a ton of dirt cheap items.  It’s also not impossible to get one or two items for free and occasionally, if you swing it just right, you might find a combination that nets you a few cents.

Here is a link for Catalina info.

Is it worth it?

I question if the time I’m going to spend researching deals before shopping is really the best use of my time, but I do think this is overall a very productive exercise. Saving money is always good and there is a sense of accomplishment when you see the savings at the bottom of the receipt.

More importantly, it forces me think about what I eat.  I eat pretty healthy, with the exception of the occasional bacon binge. And I spend a lot of time thinking about my menus, particularity the ones that I write about. But now I’m thinking a few meals at a time; what it will cost, how long it will last, what else I’ll be eating that week and how healthy is it overall.

The end result, I hope, will be a healthier diet of the same quality at a lower price. I’ll try to keep you up to date on the progress.