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How to save money on over the counter medications

I suppose it’s time to help my readers save on over the counter medications. As a pharmacist, I do have plenty of secrets to share with you.

Recently, I was checking out at the grocery store. The cashier told me she was sleepy because she accidently took her night time cough medicine instead of her day time cough medicine. I cringed because there should be no difference. Read on to find out why.

Common symptoms that can be treated at home

  • Pain/fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Allergies
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

How to save money on Cold and Flu medications

Here I will share some secret tips that most consumers do not know about the over the counter cold and flu medications. Pharmacists are always a great reference to help you choose a medication for your symptoms. There are thousands of cold and flu products on the market sold under many brand names, although all of these products are just combinations of very few ingredients.

Disclaimer: Always read the safety information on all over the counter medications. Follow the manufacturer recommended dosing. Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using any over the counter medication if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have any health conditions, allergies or are taking and medications.

1. Don’t buy oral phenylephrine or any oral product containing phenylephrine

Phenylephrine has been found to be ineffective at treating nasal congestion in oral form. It has no value, but is still on the market to give manufacturers time to reformulate their products. The reason it has been allowed to remain on the market is because it is still considered safe, but not effective. Even though it is not effective you will still have drug interactions and side effects associated with it’s use, but no benefit.

What should you use instead of phenylephrine to treat nasal congestion?

If you want an oral medication for nasal congestion your only option is pseudoephedrine, which you do not need a prescription for. You will have to ask a pharmacist for it. It can be found at most local pharmacies for as low as $2.49 for 24 tablets ~ 21 cents/dose, max of 4 doses/day = 84 cents/day.

Another great option for treating nasal congestion is Afrin nasal spray. Afrin can only be used for 3 days. It is dosed 1-2 sprays in each nostril every 12 hours for 3 days. After 3 days, you will need to use something else to treat your nasal congestion.

what to use instead of phenylephrine

2. Save on Cold and Flu medications by choosing single ingredient medications

Brand name manufacturers try to simplify your purchase by listing symptoms in the name of their product. You could get the same benefit from taking the individual ingredients for less cost, and you could take only the ingredients you need. Usually a cold starts with fever, body aches and sore throat, then nasal congestion, ending with a lingering cough. It would be better to purchase the individual ingredients and treat only the symptoms you currently have.

Lower cost options for “day time” non- sedating cold and flu medications

Instead of using a combination product like these:

Tylenol Cold & Flu Severe -Current cost is $7.67 for 24 caplets ~64 cents a dose, max of 5 doses per day = $3.20/day

Vicks DayQuil Cold and Flu – Current cost is $16.57 for 48 liquicaps ~ 69 cents/dose, max of 4 doses per day = $2.76/day

Treat only the symptoms you have with the single ingredients in these products:

Acetaminophen – This ingredient is effective for treating pain and fever. If you have body aches, sore throat, other pain or fever, then this ingredient will help. Current cost for 325mg tablets = $2.12 for 100 tablets ~ 4 cents/dose, max of 6 doses 3900mg/day = 24 cents/day (note-this is adult dosing)

Dextromethorphan – This ingredient is a cough suppressant. It is used in adults and children 12 years and older to suppress a cough. It is not always good to suppress a cough. If your cough is productive then an expectorant may be a better choice. Current cost for 15mg soft gels = $8.99 for 100 soft gels ~ 18 cents/dose, max of 4 doses/day = 72 cents/day (note-this is adult dosing)

Guaifenesin – This ingredient is only in the Tylenol Cold & Flu severe, not in Vicks DayQuil Cold and Flu. Guaifenesin is an expectorant that helps thin mucus in the bronchial passages to make it easier to cough up mucus. It is most effective if you drink plenty of water. If you drink plenty of water you will help to thin the mucus anyway. This medication is best used to treat a productive cough. It will not help a dry cough at all. It does not suppress a cough. Current cost for 400mg tablets = $8.79 for 200 caplets ~4 cents/dose, max dose of 6 doses/day = 24 cents/day (note-this is adult dosing)

Phenylephrine – Is found in both Vicks DayQuil and Tylenol Cold & Flu Severe. Phenylephrine has been found to be ineffective at treating nasal congestion. If you do have nasal congestion-use one of my phenylephrine alternative suggestions above.

Lower cost options for “night time” sedating cold and flu medications

Instead of using a combination product like these:

NyQuil Cold & Flu – Current cost $17.88 for 48 liquicaps ~ 75 cents/dose, max of 4 doses/day = $3.00/day (note-adult dosing)

Tylenol Cold + Flu + Cough Night liquid – Current cost $10.67 for 8 ounces ~ $1.33/dose, max of 5 doses/day = $6.65/day

Treat only the symptoms you have with the single ingredients in these products:

Acetaminophen – This ingredient is effective for treating pain and fever. If you have body aches, sore throat, other pain or fever, then this ingredient will help. Current cost for 325mg tablets = $2.12 for 100 tablets ~ 4 cents/dose, max of 6 doses 3900mg/day = 24 cents/day (note-this is adult dosing)

Dextromethorphan – This ingredient is a cough suppressant. It is used in adults and children 12 years and older to suppress a cough. It is not always good to suppress a cough. If your cough is productive then an expectorant may be a better choice. Current cost for 15mg soft gels = $8.99 for 100 soft gels ~ 18 cents/dose, max of 4 doses/day = 72 cents/day (note-this is adult dosing)

Doxylamine – This ingredient is an antihistamine. It is used mostly as a sleep aid because it is very sedating, but also has a drying effect that can help with congestion. If you are taking either of the above combination products to help you sleep, you could save a lot by using the single ingredient. Current cost for 96 – 25mg tablets = $7.17 ~4 cents for a half a tablet dose (12.5mg is the amount in a dose of the 2 combination products above). (Note-this is adult dosing.)

Phenylephrine – Is found in Tylenol Cold + Flu + Cough, but not NyQuil. phenylephrine has been found to be ineffective at treating nasal congestion. If you do have nasal congestion-see my phenylephrine alternative suggestions above.

3. Buy generic cold and flu medications

I am a pharmacist and I almost always buy generic medications. They work just as well as brand name medications for a fraction of the cost. There are a couple of exceptions. I prefer brand name for flavored medications. Liquid or chewable medications often taste better if you buy brand name. The other exception is nasal sprays. I have found brand name Afrin to sting less than the generic.

4. Non-drug options for helping with cold and flu symptoms

  • Stay hydrated, this will help with cough, congestion and fever.
  • Use a humidifier, this will help with cough and congestion.

How to save money on seasonal allergy medications

Disclaimer: These recommendations are for mild seasonal allergy symptoms, not severe life threatening allergy symptoms like shortness of breath, hives or severe swelling.

There are many over the counter medications to treat allergy symptoms. Read on for some tips on allergy treatment savings.

1. Avoid combination products

Same as my advice on cold and flu medications, there are plenty of allergy products on the market with more than one ingredient. Watch out for phenylephrine on any product promoted for allergy and sinus relief. Do not buy any product with phenylephrine listed as an ingredient.

2. Choose the right allergy product for your symptoms

Allergy symptoms and treatment options include:

  • Runny/Itchy nose – Oral or nasal antihistamine, nasal steroid
  • Sneezing – Oral or nasal antihistamine, nasal steroid
  • Itchy watery eyes – Oral antihistamine, antihistamine eye drop

Disclaimer: Always read the safety information on all over the counter medications. Follow the manufacturer recommended dosing. Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using any over the counter medication if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have any health conditions, allergies or are taking and medications.

The first step is to try the lowest cost option of the non sedating oral antihistamine options: (take only one)

If you still have nasal symptoms, then the next step is to add one nasal steroid . Start with the lowest cost option: (these will take a week or two of daily use to show a benefit)

If you still have nasal symptoms then you can add a nasal antihistamine.

If you still have itchy watery eyes, add an antihistamine eye drop.

3. Buy generic allergy medications

I always choose generic medications for tablets and capsules. It’s okay to try generic flavored oral liquids and chew tabs, but sometimes I choose brands in those cases due to better flavor. Generic nasal sprays are worth a try, but sometimes I opt for brand name if the generic stings more.

4. Use your HSA account if possible to pay for allergy medications.

You may be able to use your HSA to pay for chronic medications for allergy symptoms, but you may need a prescription from your doctor even though these meds due not require a prescription. Just in case, ask your doctor for a prescription at your annual check-up. It will save you money if you can use tax free dollars in your HSA account to pay for OTC medications.

How to save money on OTC insomnia medications

Disclaimer: Always read the safety information on all over the counter medications. Follow the manufacturer recommended dosing. Ask a doctor or pharmacist before using any over the counter medication if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have any health conditions, allergies or are taking and medications.

There are plenty of over the counter options to help with occasional insomnia. The marketing for this indication is very effective in persuading consumers to overspend on very inexpensive medications.

1. Avoid combination products for insomnia

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but there is nothing more frustrating than watching people get sucked into spending more money just to get an advertised brand name medication with extra ingredients they don’t need.


Advil PM – Current price ~ 52 cents per dose – or take the individual similar ingredients: diphenhydramine 25mg tablets ~4 cents/dose + ibuprofen (if you have pain or fever in addition to your insomnia) ~4 cents/dose.

2. Buy generic medications for insomnia.

Cost saving examples:

ZzzQuil 25mg tablets – Current price ~ 55 cents/dose or you could choose generic (same ingredient) diphenhydramine 25mg tablets ~4 cents/dose.

ZzzQuil Ultra 25mg tablets – Current price ~ 35 cents/dose or you could choose generic (same ingredient) Doxylamine 25mg tablets ~ 7 cents/dose.

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Save Money

Saving Money on Clothing is Surprisingly Green

There are many ways to save money on clothing, and some of them are surprisingly green. I always try to be a good steward of our earth especially when it saves money too. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household spends nearly $2000/year on clothing. The cost of clothing increased 22.3% in 2021 and then another 10.9% in 2022. Saving money on clothing is defiantly worthwhile.

Your total clothing cost includes the initial purchase price, but also care and maintenance of the clothing.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn commission at no additional cost to you.

Here are some ways to save money on clothing and help the environment:

Buy used clothing

Buying used clothing is good for the Earth and your clothing budget. According to the EPA Americans generate over 17 million tons of clothing waste per year, of that a staggering 11 million tons ends up in landfills. Used clothing is an excellent choice for saving money and giving used clothing a new use will help keep it out of a landfill. There are plenty of places to shop for bargain used clothing. There are thrift shops, consignment shops, garage sales and online marketplaces where many perfectly good clothes are sold. Most of my personal wardrobe was purchased from thrift shops and garage sales.

Sell your old clothing

If you are able to sell your old clothing you can use the profit to pay for new clothing. This works best for kids outgrown clothes but is also quite profitable for adult clothing. You can attempt to sell your old clothes on your own by having a garage sale or online using eBay, Poshmark, or Facebook marketplace. Consignment is another great option. Search google for consignment shops near you or use a nationwide option like: Once Upon a Child, Plato’s Closet or Style Encore.

If you are not able to sell or consign you could also try to swap your used clothing with someone else. You could host a clothing swap party if you happen to have a bunch of friends nearly the same size, or you can even find large clothing swaps already planned by others.

The final option to make money on your used clothing is to bring it to H&M. They will give you a coupon to use on your next clothing purchase. They will take used clothing in any condition. If they can’t sell it they will recycle it if possible. Better than a landfill, and a coupon is better than nothing It’s a win win!!

Buy Quality Clothing

I know it seems counterintuitive to spend more money on clothing in order to save money, but in the long run you will save money when you buy quality items. Obviously this strategy works best for items purchased for full grown teens and adults. Quality clothing will last longer and need fewer repairs. I especially prefer quality footwear. Wool socks last a lot longer than socks made of other materials. My daughter ran nearly 3 miles in a sock from this quality Brand, when she lost a shoe at the beginning of a race. The sock was still in good condition after the race.

Smartwool sock held up during a 3 mile race

Repair your clothing

Many clothing repairs are simple enough that anyone could watch a quick you tube video and learn to fix. I’m fortunate that I was able to take take sewing in high school. It has been a very handy skill to have. Even if you have no sewing skills or experience you can still perform basic repairs.

What are some simple clothing repairs that can be done by hand?

What are some clothing repairs that may be worth the cost of fixing?

Some clothing and shoe repairs are too difficult for a novice or may require the use of a sewing machine or other tools. There are many alteration and clothing/shoe repair shops near just about every home. Some repairs may be less costly than replacing the clothing.

  • zipper replacement
  • altering a clothing size
  • fixing a large hole in a seam
  • a broken shoe heel
  • leather repair

Save money on clothing care

  • Whenever possible choose hand or machine washable clothing over dry clean only.
  • Use a portable washing machine for small loads to save on detergent and water. This can save you a trip to a laundry mat if you do not have a washer at home. It would also be great for camping!
  • Wash with cold water to save energy heating the water.
  • Change out of your good clothes when you get home to prevent stains and possibly get another wear before washing. Washing causes excessive wear on clothing.
  • Line dry your clothing if possible. It doesn’t matter if you line dry outside or use a drying rack inside. Dryers will wear out clothing faster and the energy to run the dryers is also expensive.

Check out my other money saving tips:

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Entertaining at home Save Money

Frugal Family Fun Ideas at Home

The definition of Frugal is: sparing or economical with regard to money or food. Is it possible to have fun without spending a bundle? If you are on social networks, I’m sure you have seen your share of fancy trips, elegant dinners out, and expensive events your “friends” have shared. When I was a kid there was no such thing as social networking. It was, in my opinion a better life. My parents were full of frugal family fun ides. We used to go to a roadside park with a picnic lunch, where the big draw was climbing up and down a big sand hill. My siblings and I were so excited about the outing we could hardly sleep the night before. As an adult, I asked my dad “how did you make that outing sound so fun?”

His response “It’s all in the hype! You just have to make it sound super great and kids will believe you.” The truth is it was actually really fun and we always looked forward to it. Kids don’t need expensive vacations, fancy meals, and extravagant events. They just want to play and enjoy time with their families. It’s adults who need to spend a bundle to impress their social network “friends”.

International Frugal Fun Day is the first Saturday in October. The idea is to do something fun that costs less than five dollars. I’m assuming this is five dollars per person. It is a great day to get started with a frugal fun home life.

Frugal Fun Ideas at home:

Dinner and a movie

At my house we usually eat dinner at the table, but as a special event we allow the kids to eat in front of the TV. For little ones we set up a table, but older kids can manage with a tray. We make a big deal about how much fun it will be to enjoy dinner and a movie. We ask the kids for movie suggestions, dinner suggestions, and dessert suggestions. Our kids always get so excited, even help set up for the big event!

Make your own pizza night

This is a family favorite at my house. In the summer we grill the pizza, in cooler seasons we just bake them either way it is fun. We make our own pizza crust and prepare a bunch of topping options. Everyone makes their own creation. We bake or grill them in shifts and eat on the deck in good weather or at the dining room table in cooler weather. The kids love it!

Family game night-best games by age

Family game night is a frugal family fun idea. In my opinion the fun increases for the parents as the kids get older. I can’t stand playing mind numbing games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. What are the best family games for each age?

For more family game ideas check out my post on fun games to play.

Do a Family Craft

A Family craft can be excellent frugal fun. It can be a simple as making slime or playdoh or as complicated as building a birdhouse. Or anything in between. Make candles, soap, birdfeeders, decorations, jewelry, or anything fun!

Bake Something as a Family

Nothing could be more frugal fun than baking together as a Family. Pick out a seasonal favorite and get to work. Maybe a pie would be a nice choice. Try my best pie crust with your favorite filling. Or choose something that will be fun to decorate like cookies or cupcakes.

Enjoy the great outdoors as a family

Playing outside is usually free of charge. There are plenty of ways to have fun in your backyard or neighborhood.

  • Go for a walk, with or without a scavenger hunt
  • Play catch or frisbee
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Do something seasonally appropriate: run through a sprinkler, jump in the leaves, build a snowman
  • Draw with chalk, play hopscotch
  • Build a fort
  • Climb a tree
Climb a tree
Climb a tree

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Save Money

Beyond Beans and Rice, How to Save Money on Groceries

Many of us focus on budgeting and paying off debt at the beginning of the year. I am a Dave Ramsey fan and have worked his plan for many years. It is a very good plan , and although I did not follow every step exactly as he presents them in his book The Total Money Makeover, I have successfully become debt free. This article is not intended to help you become debt free, just to help you save money on one of your biggest expenses, groceries. Dave pushes for a diet of beans and rice while working his plan. I’m pretty sure he does not mean that you literally have to live on beans and rice alone. Beans and rice are both inexpensive foods that can really stretch a meal. In other words, fill you up for less money. There are plenty of other inexpensive foods that can stretch a meal and other ways to save money on groceries.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn commission from qualified purchases at no additional cost to you.

Save money by wasting less

Food waste can be a huge drain on your grocery budget. A study published by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that the average American household wastes 31.9% of the food it buys. This works out to be over $150 of wasted food per month per household on average. If you feel you may be wasting too much food it’s definitely worth taking a look at some strategies to help you stop the waste.

How can you reduce household food waste?

Put a list of leftovers on your refrigerator
  1. Use your leftovers! Here is how to save money on groceries. We recently started a list of leftover food on the refrigerator door. We told the kids if we end up throwing away any leftovers we will not be able to get take out for 2 weeks. Using this system we have not thrown away any leftovers in 4 weeks! Download my leftover list below.
  2. Use up your produce. Unfortunately those produce drawers have a way of hiding your fruits and veggies. Out of sight out of mind. I like to keep a few fruits on the counter in a fruit bowl. Most fruits can be kept at room temperature for a few days. If they are in the bowl, they are more likely to be eaten. I also cut up a tray of fruit and leave it on the counter each weekend. It really disappears fast this way. Smoothies are another great way to use up produce quickly. Make sure you have a plan for the produce you buy. Dig through those produce drawers often and make sure you rotate stock.
  3. Use your freezer. Use this chart from for guidelines on how long your food will be safe to eat. Note that the freezer recommendations are for quality only, the site explains that food can be store indefinitely at 0 degrees F or less. So don’t start throwing out food in your freezer based on that chart. If you do not think you will be able to finish a food fast enough, then freeze it if possible.

Save by making things instead of buying premade items:

Hummus is easy to make at home. It is less expensive than the premade product and is so simple especially if you have a mini food processor.

homemade hummus recipe

Make your own foaming hand soap. Just mix hand soap with water to get a lot more soap! All you need is a foaming soap dispenser.

how to make foaming hand soap

Save money by packing your Lunch.

How much can you save by packing your own lunch?

Packing your lunch can be a huge cost savings over buying lunch every day. Only you can determine your actual savings. There are savings estimates out there, but it really depends on what you personally have been spending. You should be able to prepare a meal at home for less than half of the cost of the same meal as take out. For example if you buy a taco salad at a restaurant for $10.00, you could make that same salad at home for less than $5.00. Even if you could manage to save just $5.00 per day, that would be a savings of $25.00 per work week or $1300.00 per year.

Don’t just take your lunch for a ride either. You have to eat what you packed, resist the temptation to order out with your co-workers or choose that favorite dish at the cafeteria. If you end up ordering out and taking your lunch home, you may end up having to waste what you packed. Then you will have paid for 2 lunches!

How do you find the time to pack your lunch?

Make sure you pack your lunch the night before. If you save this task for the morning you will inevitably be running late. If you have children any number of things could distract you from your lunch making task, a forgotten homework assignment, a spill you have to help clean up, a lost shoe, or you name it. Trust me, if you want to save money you need to make your lunch the night before. Teach your kids to do the same.

Why should you pack your kids lunch?

I know what you are thinking. Why would I pack my kids lunch? The school lunch is only $3.00/day. Sure it would be difficult but not impossible to pack a lunch or less that $3.00/day, so why do it?

  1. It teaches responsibility. Kids can learn valuable skills by packing their own lunch. How to make a sandwich or salad. Knife skills for chopping fruit. Even how to add items to a grocery list when they are getting low.
  2. It’s healthier. I know Michelle Obama tried really hard to make school lunches healthier, but they could still use some work. Currently these lunches are free for all and my kids are still packing their lunches at home. My son tolerated the low quality tasteless food the longest. He finally gave up and started packing his own lunch after reading the ingredients on the Uncrustable in his school lunch. He said “It had too much added sugar and 50% of my daily fat. I just can’t continue to eat that food.”
  3. You will waste less food. Leftover dinners make great lunches. We try to use up our leftovers within 4 days. It really helps if every family member helps. If you end up throwing out leftovers because you bought that bargain $3 lunch, you have not saved anything.
  4. You can save money by buying in bulk. It’s easier to buy in bulk if your whole family is packing lunches. Once you open a bulk package of lunchmeat, you should use it up in 3-5 days. If only 1 or 2 people are packing sandwiches, you may end up throwing some of it out.
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What should you pack for lunch?

  1. Soup or chili. I like to make a big pot of homemade soup or chili every week. Find my favorite soup recipe here. This is a quick and easy chili that makes great leftovers. I use a Corningware meal mug for packing soups. When my kids were younger I always packed their soups in a Thermos Funtainer. We would heat them up in the morning and the soup was still warm at lunch time. This way they could skip the microwave line and had more time to eat.
  2. Leftover Dinner. You have to pack up your leftovers anyway, why not just pack them for lunch. Casseroles and pasta make great leftovers for lunches.
  3. Salads. You can really get creative with salads. Try pasta salad, coleslaw, bean salad, Waldorf salad, or just a traditional lettuce salad. Check out my article about quick and easy packable salads.
  4. Sandwiches. Meat and cheese, PB &J, leftover pulled pork, leftover meatloaf. Have some fun! Get creative.
  5. Try Bento Box lunches. These containers are an excellent alternative to packing everything in Ziplock bags. You will save on plastic bags and benefit the environment while saving money on your food budget. Check out my bento boxed lunch post for some great ideas for kids and adults.

Save money by shopping sales

How do I find time to save?

I know you are probably thinking you don’t have time to shop several stores to get the best prices. I’d like to say that you probably do. Sales are a great way to save money on groceries. There have to be some high use non perishable items in your home. Maybe a particular sauce, or salad dressing. These are the items you want to find the best prices on. For example, I always buy Smuckers natural peanut butter at Walmart. It’s cheaper there than sale prices anywhere else. I don’t stop there every week, I just stop in and buy 3-4 jars when we are getting low. Just a few trips a year. Take the time to find the best deals on you highest use items, this will be worth your time.

Never pay full price.

I never pay full price for pasta, canned soup, BBQ sauce, mayo or any food with a long shelf life. When I grocery shop weekly, I’m mostly there to pick up fresh produce, eggs, and dairy items like milk and yogurt. I only buy meat if it is a really good sale, otherwise I defrost some meat I bought on sale earlier. Lastly, I always pick up a few nonperishable sale items for later use.

Save on Chicken breast during Super Bowl week.

By the way, the week of the Super Bowl is a great time to stock up on chicken breast. Chicken wings are so popular for the game that the rest of the chicken parts are usually marked down for quick sale.

Why coupons are not so great

You were probably expecting an article on saving money on your grocery budget to include a bunch of ways to save with coupons. I’m not saying that I never use coupons or that they will never save you money. I’m just saying that in my experience they have not really been worth the time. It takes a lot of time to search for, clip and sort coupons. Then to keep track of expiration dates. I believe that time could be better spent saving money in other ways like meal prep or managing leftovers.

Most of the time when searching for grocery coupons they tend to be for name brand products I don’t buy. It’s much cheaper to purchase generic items. One study showed that most grocery coupons were for unhealthy food.

There is nothing worse than spending your time clipping a coupon, finding the product in the store, only to find that the store brand equivalent is less expensive than the brand name product even with the coupon. Overall I don’t believe clipping coupons is the best way to save money on groceries, and defiantly not a great way to make healthy choices.

Save money by planning your meals

Meal planning seems like a daunting task, but it’s not. Start by checking the grocery store ad for produce sales. Sales are a great way to save money on groceries. I always start my plans with what ever produce is on sale. If there is a big sale on mushrooms, I’ll plan to make my favorite recipe with mushrooms. Big sale on broccoli and cauliflower, then stir fry will be a great choice. A sale on bell peppers would be a great time for stuffed peppers.

Meal planning is not just about shopping the sales it’s about finding the time to prepare the food. If you know you will be too busy to make dinner on Wednesday night due to soccer practice, then plan that to be a leftover night. There is nothing worse than having a house full of hungry family members and no plan for dinner. These are the nights that will cost you a lot because you will cave under the pressure and order take out. There goes your food budget! Save money on groceries by making the meals on your less busy days. Make sure you defrost your meat, you might even be able to trim the meat ahead of time. Chop a few onions on the weekend, you can use them in recipes and on sandwiches and salads throughout the week.

Save with grocery apps or manager specials.

Save money on groceries by using the Flashfood app to get great deals on marked down produce and meat that is close to expiration. These items can be used right away of frozen for future use, either way the savings is usually at least 50%. Use the referral code KRIS4BP8W to save $5 on your first purchase of $10 or more.

Flashfood bargains
$10 bargain haul from the Flashfood app

If you are driving home from an evening event, stop in any grocery store on your way home. Managers begin to mark down items with a sell by date of the following day within a few hours of closing. You can often find great Manager Specials on meat and deli items that are close to expiration. If you don’t know where to find the manager specials, ask an employee. You’ll be glad you did! If you can’t use the meat before expiration, toss it in the freezer when you get home. Pull it out for an inexpensive meal later!

manager's special

How to stretch your grocery budget with low cost foods

There are some foods that are budget friendly and can be used to feed your family for less. Here are some examples of low cost foods that can help you save money on groceries:

Low cost food #1, Potatoes

There are plenty of recipes that include potatoes. Soups and casseroles like Shepherd’s Pie. If you are trying to save on your grocery budget you can add a couple extra potatoes to these recipes to expand the number of portions. A baked potato can also be a very easy and inexpensive side to any meal.

Shepherd's pie on the smoker
Shepherd’s Pie on the smoker

Find my Shepherd’s pie recipe here.

Low cost food #2, Pasta

Pasta. It is not difficult to find a sale on pasta. This ingredient can easily be added in excess to most recipes to expand your number of portions. It also makes an inexpensive side dish or salad.

better than rachel ray's Italian mac n cheese

Click here, for my favorite pasta recipe.

Low cost food # 3, Zucchini

I stopped growing my own zucchini a few years ago because I noticed that I was having to turn down so much free zucchini from friends, family, and neighbors. I’m sure you have seen a pile of free zucchini on your breakroom table each summer. Just one plant provides more zucchini than most families can consume. Take the free zucchini, make bread or add it to your stir fry or just grill it up next time you make burgers. My favorite zucchini dish is zoodles! You will need to invest in a zoodle maker, but it is worth it to make a delicious pasta dishes with zucchini as noodles. We sauté onions and garlic in olive oil then add the zoodles to the pan. Sauté until warm then add capers and olives. Top with some shredded parmesan and you have a tasty meal or side dish, the bulk of which was free!

Low cost food #4, Eggs

Want to add some inexpensive protein to your meal? Consider adding eggs. I like to keep some hard boiled eggs in my fridge. They make a quick and easy inexpensive breakfast. They are also a great addition to fresh salads. You can also use eggs in fried rice.

Low cost food #5, Cabbage

This is a very inexpensive vegetable and it is so versatile. You can make coleslaw as an inexpensive side dish. Add it to salads, soups, or sandwiches. It can also be a meal itself. It has a very long shelf life, longer than lettuce so it can also help reduce food waste.

Low cost food #6, Beans

Add some beans to your meat. I used to add one can of beans to every one pound of ground beef when I made chili. I have found that I can add an extra can of bean per pound of beef and the chili is still delicious, and I get an extra serving. Here is my chili recipe.

Low cost food #7, Rice

This is a very inexpensive ingredient that can be prepared as a meal or side dish. There is seemingly no end to the varieties of ways you can prepare rice. I love fried rice, Spanish rice, and Caribbean rice. You can add it to pretty much any soup and many casseroles.

Low cost food #8, Onions

I’m not suggesting you eat a plain onion as a side dish, well maybe I am. It’s just that onions are very cheap and they are included in many recipes. If you double the onion you could add an extra serving to many dishes, plus make them healthier and more flavorful. If you are grilling, wrap and onion in some foil and throw it on the grill. Grilled onion is a delicious addition to pretty much any grilled meal.

More ways to save money

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Recipes Salads Save Money

Salads for packed Lunches – Save Time and Money

Salads are healthy

It’s that time of year again. Time to start packing some lunches. Are your kids getting tired of sandwiches? Maybe it’s time to switch things up and try something new. How about a packing a nice healthy and delicious salads for lunch? It’s good to get kids started early with a nice variety of veggies in their diet. Try these tasty salads for packed lunches.

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Use your leftovers and save money

These tasty salads are also a really good way to use some of your meal leftovers. I love finding creative ways to use my leftovers. Approximately 30-40 percent of the American food supply is wasted.1 We should all do our part to use our leftovers. Teaching the next generation not to waste food is a huge part of that. Teach your kids to eat the leftover food! Eating your leftovers is also a huge cost savings, it’s estimated that on average, each American household wastes over $1800 of food each year!2 Using up your leftover food leads to having more money for other things and a happier less stressful life.3 Here are some salads my family enjoys:

Tasty Salads for packed Lunches

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad for packed lunch
Caesar salad for packed lunch

What can be easier than Caesar salad? Traditionally romaine lettuce is the base, although you could also add some baby spinach or other greens for variety. Croutons, Parmesan cheese and a good Caesar dressing is really all you need. I prefer to buy my Caesar dressing in the refrigerated section of the produce department. My favorite is Marzetti Supreme Caesar dressing. If you would prefer a heartier option add some sliced grilled chicken or fresh bacon bits. This salad is an excellent choice when you have some left over grilled chicken. I used a 2 compartment container, but a 3 compartment container would be ideal for packing because you could keep the dressing and croutons separated until you are read to eat lunch.

Waldorf Salad

This simple salad is made with leftover chicken, apples, celery, grapes and pecans. It’s so delicious! Sometimes I even eat it for breakfast. It can be served alone or on a bed of mixed greens or spinach. You can also serve it on a croissant.

waldorf salad

Pasta Salads

Pasta salad is another family favorite. I usually use Organic Garofalo Tricolor Rotini as the base, but any leftover pasta will do. Just add your favorite veggies. I like to make this one after family pizza night. I add the unused pizza toppings like chopped red onion, black olives, salami strips and mini pepperonis. Other excellent options to mix in are sliced cucumber, mini baby mozzarella balls, and cherry tomatoes. I dress my pasta salad with Kraft Zesty Italian and McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme Seasoning . Once again I used a 2 compartment container for this salad. It works great this way because I can add some fruit on the side. A single compartment container would work well for this salad. I love Fit and Fresh Containers because the lids stay on well and the have an optional freezer pack you can use with them.

Pasta Salad packed for lunch
Pasta Salad packed for lunch.
Dill Pickle pasta salad

Taco Salad

Taco salad is the perfect salad to pack for lunch on Wednesday, following Taco Tuesday. I usually just pack up all of the leftover toppings I sliced for Tacos. Chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Top with cheese and some leftover taco meat. I mix up sour cream with salsa for the dressing and put it on the side to mix in when ready to eat. I used a two compartment container to pack this one, but once again a three compartment container would be better because you could add a side of tortilla chips!

Super-food Salad

I call this super food salad because it is dressed with poppy seed dressing which works well with so many super healthy foods. I used mixed greens with romaine, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds on my salad. This salad also loves all types of nuts, seeds, berries, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and Swiss cheese. Get creative with it. I buy my poppy seed dressing in the refrigerated section of produce. Marzetti has a great one. This salad works well, packed for lunch in a 2 compartment container but would also work well in a three compartment container if you want to keep your nuts or seeds crunchier you could separate them when packing and mix them in when ready to eat lunch.

Superfood Salad

Find the vanilla paste here.

Potato Salad

potato salad

Potato salad is a great way to use up leftover baked potatoes. It is filled with inexpensive ingredients that together make a tasty lunch. Try this amazing recipe.


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