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Why I Shop Loss Leaders (when I can)

If you are a regular Simplify, Live, Love reader, you probably know that I pride myself on keeping my grocery budget low – while eating as healthfully as possible at the same time. A couple years ago, I started reading deal blogs like Money Saving Mom and Hip2Save, and actively played the coupon and drug store game. I saved a ton of money, learned so much about prices and coupons,  and had a lot of fun.

But then life got really busy and I kind of fell out of the couponing loop. And I still need to keep my grocery budget low, especially in the winter, when my garden is not providing my fresh fruit and veggies. What I realized, though, is that I can still save a ton of money by planning my menus around store’s lost leaders. I still watch out for coupons and use them when I can find them – but mostly I stick to buying loss leaders, goods at Aldi, and bulk grains.

Here’s why:

Pictured above is $72.10 worth of groceries we bought in Florida. Does it look like a lot to you? It doesn’t to me!  In all fairness, it’s not totally comparable because the biggest portion of the bill was 12+ pounds of $4 / lb pick-your-own-strawberries that were gobbled down in 3 short days while we were on vacation in Florida. But this is an example of paying top price for groceries. When I started paying attention to store fliers, I was amazed at how much prices fluctuate from week to week and season to season.

Here’s a bunch of groceries I picked up this week at home in Iowa for less money than I paid for the fruit and eggs pictured above (3 dozen farm fresh eggs are missing from the pictures):

All of the items in the three pictures cost less than $70. I did buy a few things I’ve been staying away from – conventional potatoes and peppers and a bag of nasty pepperoni. What can I say? I couldn’t stomach the price of organic potatoes and I totally caved on the pepperoni. Overall though, it seems to be a lot more food to me than the fruit I bought in Florida.

I’ve become so conscious of grocery store prices in the last couple of years, that I can tell you when a lot of produce will be at its lowest price. (And yes, I buy mostly produce at grocery stores in the winter because most of my other goods come from bulk food stores and my Iowa garden doesn’t grow in the winter).

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • In the winter, we eat a lot of citrus. Why? It’s plentiful and CHEAP! – pineapples, mangoes, pomegranates, avocados, as well as oranges, grapefruit and beloved cuties – all of these fruits are cheaper in the winter.
  • In March, watch out for cheap cabbage! Why? St. Patrick’s Day!
  • In the spring – strawberries (and other berries) will be at the rock bottom prices.
  • In the summer – well, truthfully, I’m not sure because that’s when I’m in my garden!
  • In the fall – cheap apples
  • Around Thanksgiving & Christmas – cheap sweet potatoes!

So now, instead of couponing, I shop lost leaders. I check out the weekly ads, shop my pantry, and plan my menus. This week, mushrooms happened to be on sale at Aldi for 59 cents a pack! I bought 8 packs and almost everything we’re eating this week has included mushrooms. Onions were also super cheap. Since they keep fairly well, I bought a bunch.

Eating this way is actually kind of fun. Our society makes having whatever you want when you want it possible. If I want raspberries in the middle of winter (in Iowa), I can go to the store and buy them. Buying according to what’s cheapest (which corresponds to what’s in season somewhere) makes me look forward to changing seasons even more. I waited a long time for citrus. And now I’ve eaten so much of it, I’m beyond excited to move on to berries – and I won’t have to wait much longer because spring is right around the corner.

The best part of shopping loss leaders {besides saving a ton of money} is it’s easy for me and saves me time. Time is an invaluable commodity I can’t buy right now. And that’s why I shop lost leaders.

Do you shop loss leaders? How do you save money on groceries?

Linking up: Frugal Friday; Frugal Tuesday; Works for Me Wednesday;

Green Carpet Cleaning

If I had it my way, there would be no carpet in our house. We’d stick with hardwood and tile! But, I don’t have it my way right now and we have some carpet in our house. With four children, it’s inevitable that the carpet gets dirty  even though we have a no eating or drinking policy on the carpet, try to vacuum it often, and ask people to remove their shoes at the door as often as possible.

Carpet cleaners tout their services as necessary for prolonging the life of carpet. But is carpet cleaning safe? Traditional carpet cleaning can be toxic. The chemicals (particularly trichloroethylene or TCE) that some carpet cleaning products rely on are suspected in leukemia outbreaks and ground water contamination.

While some carpet cleaners use chemical cleaners, others just use water. Water is better than chemicals, but you want to make sure all the water is effectively removed from the carpet so the pad doesn’t grow mold!

green carpet cleaning tips

It’s a good idea to ask carpet cleaners what type of cleaning compounds they use so you can avoid the toxic chemicals and how they get all the water out. I know I don’t want my toddler breathing in and ingesting nasty chemicals or mold from my carpet. In addition to polluting indoor air quality and causing other health concerns, some cleaners, especially high pH products, can actually promote stains because they leave behind counter-productive residues.

How to Clean Carpet without Using Chemicals

So, how do you keep your carpets clean and safe without the harsh chemicals? Luckily, a lot of safe household products work really well at removing stains and odors. We recently deodorized our carpet with a big box of baking soda. We smeared the box into the carpet, let it sit overnight, and then vacuumed it up the next morning. It worked really well! And the best part, that box of baking soda cost under $4!clean carpet without chemicalsI also spilled red wine on my carpet a few days ago. I know – I need to follow my own no eating or drinking rules, eh? Of course, it was a nice big spot in a very conspicuous area on my carpet. I acted very quickly and the spot is gone! First, I dumped a huge amount of salt on the carpet. I left the salt there overnight and vacuumed it up the next morning. It looked like Kool-aid the next morning because it absorbed quite a lot of the spilled wine. I should have taken pictures…

The salt didn’t get the whole stain out, though, so I turned to hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a trick I learned from our home birth midwives. It’s also effective at getting blood out of fibers (but you want to test it out first to make sure it doesn’t discolor your carpets or fabric). I just dumped some HP on the carpet and scrubbed with a brush. The hydrogen peroxide did the trick and there is no big red wine spot on my carpet anymore! Yay!

green carpet cleanersOther household products that work well for carpet cleaning in addition to the hydrogen peroxide, salt, and baking soda are corn starch, vinegar, club soda, and borax. Next time you pick up a package of one of those products, look at the directions. You might be surprised how many ways they can be used around your house! Here is also a helpful link for how to deal with specific stains, but they do recommend some chemicals so read with caution.

How do you keep your carpets clean without chemicals? For more information, read this information from Healthy Child, Healthy World here, here, and here.

For more Green Cleaning Tips, check out these posts:

Decrease Toxins with 4 Frugal Cleaning Supplies

How to Clean Porcelain Sinks without Bleach

DIY Fruit & Veggie Wash

Do You Know What’s in YOUR Home Cleaning Products

What are your trips for cleaning carpet without using chemicals?

I’m linking to Frugal FridaysFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways.


Green Cleaning Tips