stretching your grocery budget: money saving apps

photo credit: corrine kutz @unsplash.com

(this post contains affiliate links which carry no cost to you but help support this blog)

 

I’m serving up something a little different for you today and talking about money. Specifically, how you can save it.

While paper and printable coupons are still around, there are newer kids in town who are here to save you money: apps. They function similarly to paper coupons, but (I think) carry higher payouts and are much safer than printable coupons which can invite viruses into your computer.

While money saving apps involve a little extra step than simply clipping coupons and handing them to the cashier, they are completely worth it. If you aren’t doing this, you’re leaving money on the table. In fact, just today, I was able to put $20 back into my grocery budget and another $20 is on its way in the mail.

 

In case you were missing a recipe, here’s a budget-friendly meal: best basic burritos. Click the pic for the recipe.

 

Here’s why I love these money saving apps:

  • No paper coupons to organize, lose and forget – all the offers are easily found within the app
  • You can earn money back on fresh produce!
  • With one of the apps, I can earn money back just for submitting a picture of a receipt.
  • Sometimes there are offers for the same product in more than one app which = even bigger savings!
  • It’s easier to let others in on the savings – with coupons, I just keep them for myself; with the apps, I can alert others of savings plus get a bonus for referrals.

All you need is a tablet, ipad or smartphone to download the apps plus your receipts and you’re ready to go. Since I’ve started using these money saving apps, I’ve earned back more than $140!

 

photo credit: alexander mils @unsplash.com

 

Below is a list of my favorite money saving apps plus how to use them. If you don’t have an account with these apps already, you’ll want to use the codes I give you for extra savings! (For transparency’s sake, I get a bonus too).

 

Ibotta:  This is my favorite app and that one that’s netted me the most money. As an added bonus, you can use it for mobile shopping and for more than just groceries. And there are bonuses available to increase your earnings. Here’s how it works:

  • Download it to your phone.
  • Sign up for an account (use this link to create it online https://ibotta.com/r/nuqylud or enter this code into the app itself: nuqylud) You get a $10 bonus for signing up and when you join my team, we get extra earning opportunities.
  • If you don’t have Ibotta already, you’ll definitely want to get it this month because you could earn back more an additional $100!
  • To use it, look for rebates in the app to match with the stores where you shop. Unlock the rebate and then redeem the offer by submitting your receipt (with a photo) once your purchase the item.
  • Once you bank at least $20, you can request a payout to PayPal, Venmo or in the form of a gift card.

 

Fetch Reward: A newer app which is even easier to use – all you need to do is submit a photo of your receipts and the app does the rest. At minimum, you get 25 points per submitted receipts and can earn additional points for product-specific purchases. Plus when you enter this code into the app: X3MCY, you will get a bonus 1,500 points when you complete one receipt (equal to $1.50). You can redeem your points for gift cards when you reach a minimum of 5,000 points (equal to $5)

 

Checkout 51: Similiar to Ibotta where you identify offers to redeem and take a photo of your receipt and submit it. Also has fresh produce offers and an added benefit of submitting receipts from any store. You can request a payout when you accumulate $20 in savings.

 

 

 

Saving Star: Similar to Ibotta and Checkout 51, but you can request a payout after only $5 of accumulated savings. Like Ibotta, Savings Star is only good with certain stores, so be sure to double check these before you shop.

 

 

 

Makeena: A newer app which works similar to the other apps and is geared to the organic/natural foods market and offers rebates on organic produce. You’ll want to enter this code: OJVUQZ in the app when you create your account to earn a bonus 1000 points (equal to $1). Like Saving Star, you can get a payout after $5 in savings.

 

 

 

Berry Cart: Also caters to the organic/natural foods market and works similarly to the other apps. Use this link: https://www.berrycart.com/rf/vT2VwMeSwX to create an account online and then download the app. Also allows you to get a payout after $5 in savings.

 

 

 

BONUS MONEY SAVING APPS

These are a little different than the ones mentioned above, but worth mentioning for their money saving power.

Target: If you haven’t started using Cartwheel yet, you need to as it saves you a percentage of selected products! The easiest way to find deals under cartwheel is to scan the barcodes for the products you’re purchasing in the app (and it’s fun too!). When you check out, have the cashier scan your barcode (in the app) and saving will automatically be applied as you checkout. Additional way to save: get a Target debit or credit card and save 5% every time you shop.

 

 

 

Whole Foods: Includes coupons in the app. Scan the barcode at checkout to have the savings applied when you checkout.

 

 

 

 

 

Ebates*: So this isn’t exactly for grocery shopping but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Ebates is mostly for online purchases, but there are some in-store options too! You get a certain percentage back for your purchases and they send you a check every quarter when you’ve accumulated savings over $5. Use this referral link https://go.ebat.es/imsk/yyy9XGYsVC for that so you can save $10 off your first purchase of $25 or more.

 

 

 

 

 

basic vegetable stock (vegan, sodium free, soy free)

Besides creating healthy yummy recipes, there are two things I love to do that go along with creating healthy yummy recipes: finding ways to save money and reducing waste.

This basic vegetable stock manages all three.

How? Glad you asked.

The genius of this vegetable stock is it’s simplicity…just save your scraps of onion, garlic, carrot, celery and wilted bits of fresh herbs, freeze them, then turn them into a flavorful stock. No hard and fast recipe needed, but here are a few helpful tips:

  • A higher ratio of onions and garlic will produce a more savory stock; carrots and celery one with a sweeter overtone.
  • It’s possible to include members from the brassica family (e.g. kale stems, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) but I personally don’t recommend it since they carry strong, and sometimes, bitter, flavors.
  • To keep your sodium levels in check, I prefer leaving out the salt in the stock. However, I would add freshly ground pepper or a up to a teaspoon of whole peppercorns. A few pinches of turmeric also works.
  • When you’re first getting in the habit of doing this, leave a designated veggie scrap container on your counter or even write yourself a reminder…there have been countless times when I meant to save my scraps only to toss them in the garbage out of forgetfulness.
  • I store my scraps in a designated bag (I reuse cereal box liners for this!) in our freezer and pull them out when I have enough for a large pot.
  • I usually freeze my stock in mason jars, but if you like sauteing with veggie stock (a much better option than oil…although I just use plain water), use an ice cube tray to produce convenient small portions.

 

There you have it…in one large stock pot, you have a flavorful base for soups and stews, get a bigger bang for your buck by using food parts normally pitched directly in the garbage, save money on buying pre-made stock and spare the landfill more container garbage. It kind of feels like being a superhero. But with an apron instead of a cape.

Last thing…in case you’re wondering if I do this all the time? No. Right now I try for once a month because sometimes life is just too busy or I don’t have enough scraps saved to make the stock needed in a recipe. For me, it’s about doing the best that I can…and keeping an emergency container of store bought sodium-free stock in my pantry for all those other times,

Penny-saving Basic Vegetable Stock
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

A simple stock to flavor your recipes and get extra mileage out of your vegetable scraps.

Ingredients
  • onion scraps
  • garlic scraps
  • celery scraps
  • carrot scraps
  • wilted herbs
  • peppercorns or freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 pinches turmeric (optional)
Instructions
  1. Collect enough vegetable scraps to fill at least one half of a large stock pot. Fill the pot with water up to about 2-3 inches below the pot rim. Add pepper corns and turmeric, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until all the vegetables are very tender.

  2. Place a vegetable colander over a second large pot or stock pot and carefully pour the cooked vegetable stock into the colander, making sure the stock is collecting in the pot below (and not running down the sides - it happens!).

  3. Either use immediately in a recipe or let cool completely before transferring into mason jars, ice cube trays or other storage containers.

  4. Freeze and use within 2-3 months.

 

 

 

Product Review: Banza Penne Pasta

 

My review of Banza Penne Pasta is my own opinion and I was not compensated by the makers of Banza for this post in any way. Some links in the post may contain affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you.

I love doing these product reviews! To catch the others, click here. This week, I’m featuring this penne pasta by Banza. Since pasta is in my meal plan weekly and I’m always looking for ways to boost the nutrients in our diet, I had to try this when I saw a coupon for it in the Ibotta app*. If you want my go-to marinara sauce recipe, click here.

Ever since I changed my diet, my taste for wheat-based products has naturally fallen by the wayside. Although I can tolerate it and don’t have a gluten sensitivity, I’ve found that I just don’t like it as much. For years now, I’ve been using brown rice fusili which I buy at Trader Joe’s and brown rice spaghetti from Aldi. But I’ve missed the penne pasta shape and was excited when I saw Banza was making their garbanza-bean pasta in this shape.

 

HERE’S THE FULL SCOOP:

Where I bought it: Whole Foods

Regular purchase price: $3.99

On sale? No

Which money-saving app? Ibotta*

Cost savings: $1.50 ($.50 for the coupon + I an additional dollar off by earning the Weekend Warrior bonus – I only had to buy two products to earn an extra $2!)

Total purchase price: $2.49

How does it compare to what I normally buy? Even with the coupons from Ibotta*, it’s more than twice the price per ounce from what I normally buy. However, it also has more than twice the amount of protein per 2 oz serving size.

How did it taste? Watch this video which I recorded LIVE on my FB page:

 

Would I buy it again? Probably. Especially since my children seemed to like it – and that is often the biggest hurdle to overcome. Although it wouldn’t normally be part of my pasta rotation unless it comes down in price, I like having this option available to freshen up our meal plan and think it would be excellent in pasta salads. I’d keep a lookout for coupons and discounts though! I did find at a cheaper regular price at Target online. OR you can get it here (affiliate link – no cost to you).

 

If you have an idea for a vegan food, personal care or household product I should try, leave a comment telling me the product name, where you found it and why I should try it.

 

*If you’re not familiar with Ibotta, it’s a free money-saving app you download to your phone. I would love to have you join my team so we help each other earn more savings together! I do get a bonus when you join with me but there’s never any cost to you…just cost-savings including a $10 sign up bonus!

product review :: Mamma Chia beverage

My review of this Mamma Chia beverage is my own opinion and I was not compensated by the makers of Mamma Chia for this post in any way. Some links in the post may contain affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you.

It’s back to business here at wildberry press after an entire week of snack recipes for Snack to School Week. While I won’t be posting every day, I’m excited to share this new product review series with you along with a new recipe on Wednesday. You definitely want to come back Wednesday!

Since the marketplace has happily become flooded with more better-for-you options, I thought it would be fun to try them out LIVE on Facebook and share my reviews. For the most part, I will make my selections based on electronic coupons available through money-saving apps like Ibotta. That way, not only are we reviewing new products together, but I get to show you how to save money too! However, if you have an idea for a vegan food, personal care or household product I should try, leave a comment telling me the product name, where you found it and why I should try it.

My first review is for Mamma Chia…a purchase that ended up making me $.10.

 

HERE’S THE SCOOP:

Where I bought it: Target

Regular purchase price: $2.79

On sale? Yes! For $2.00

Which money-saving app? Ibotta*

Cost savings: $2 ($1 for the coupon + I gained a second dollar off by earning the Weekend Warrior bonus – I only had to buy two products to earn an extra $2!) PLUS, because I bought this with my Target card, I ended up earning $.10!!!

Total purchase price: $0 (actually I earned $.10!)

How did it taste? Watch this video which I recorded LIVE on my FB page:

 

*If you’re not familiar with Ibotta, it’s a free money-saving app you download to your phone. I would love to have you join my team so we help each other earn more savings together! I do get a bonus when you join with me but there’s never any cost to you…just cost-savings including a $10 sign up bonus!

the perfect pot rack


We did a partial update of our kitchen a couple years ago, but still had some projects that got put on the back burner. And we still have a few things to take care of before we officially declare the kitchen “done.”

Since we actually lost some storage space with the redo, I felt like we needed a pot rack, but was looking for something cost-effective and unique.

Pinterest to the rescue! I found an idea for repurposing an old ladder as a pot rack. 


I’ve had the ladder for a while and got it either free or dirt cheap…I can’t remember exactly because it’s been that long.

The only thing it really needed was to be cut to the size we wanted, varnished, add a few hooks and hang it up. This last part is the reason it took so long. 

Since we have an almost century old home with aging plaster ceilings, my husband wanted to be confident the whole thing wouldn’t fall down or cause the plaster to crumble. His solution was to secure two parallel links of wood to the ceiling (painting them to match the ceiling color) and make sure they were firmly in the joists. That way when he bolted the hooks for the ladder in place, he knew it would be secured into a piece of wood and not just some plaster and thin lathe.


Originally, I envisioned using S hooks for the pot storage itself. However, my husband used sturdy J bolts instead (the same kind he used for hanging the ladder). I actually like this solution better since the S hooks probably would have slid back and forth as we tried to hang the pots up or retrieve them.

I think this entire project cost us less than $20, if that.  

If you don’t have a ladder (with round rungs) that you can repurpose, try getting one for free. Facebook groups, craigslist for free groups are all great resources. Then all you need are the hooks, chain and varnish. Plus scrap wood if you want to use the same approach as my husband for attaching it to the ceiling.

I love the way this project turned out. Not only does it free up storage space in our cabinets, but the ladder goes with the style of our home, it is a savvy use of materials and fills in the dead space that was above the stove. 

fridge, freezer and pantry apps

How many times have you gone to the grocery store, made your purchases and returned home only to find you already had one (or more than one!!) of those items already in your fridge, freezer or pantry?

Or stored leftovers from a meal in the freezer only to forget you had them there in the first place… until many months later when they are covered in the freezer fuzz?

I’ve been there way too many times myself and a conversation with a friend today prompted me to search for apps that can help with that.

Here are a few free apps I found that let you track what is in your fridge, freezer or pantry. I’ve included my comments on the apps as well.

Pantry Check


I like how this one has pictures to go along with the items and enables you to add your own products with pictures too. Especially key when storing leftovers. 

However, it doesn’t allow you to categorize where the item is stored: fridge, freezer or pantry.

 

Fridge Pal 


This app does allow you to categorize your items based on where they are stored. Since I have more than one fridge and freezer, this is extremely helpful. I also like that it allows you to record the price so when you are comparison shopping, it can help you save money.

If you are a visual person, however, this one does not have pictures of your items.
 

Cloud Freezer


This appears to be the more sophisticated of the three. While you can’t snapshot your items, you can take a picture of your receipt and it will list out the items for you. Then you simply indicate where it’s going to be stored along with the expiration date and other info you want to add. It includes a video tutorial on how to do this. 

If you like to comparison shop, it has a notes section for you to do that.

While the free version doesn’t allow you to indicate where things are stored if you have more than one fridge or freezer, there are two upgrade options you can purchase for $5 or less which would allow you to do this and it increases the number of items that can be stored on your lists.

One last thing…the free version only allows you to have 15 items per list, so unless you don’t eat very much, you will want the upgrades.

So tell me… have you tried any of these apps before? Are there any I should consider including on this list? Which one do you think you would try?

brown bag mondays: saving greens

brownbagmondayI’ve lost track of the dollars I’ve wasted in throwing out fresh greens that ended up spoiling before I used them up. Frustrating especially when I need them for a recipe.

So to save some green and some greens, here is today’s tip:

storing greensHere’s how:

Asparagus: store upright in a jar that has a little water in the bottom. Change the water every few days when it starts to get cloudy.

Cilantro, Parsley: Can also be stored upright in a jar that has a little water in the bottom. Change the water every few days when it starts to get cloudy. You also can pesto the herbs with a little water or oil and freeze them to use in recipes.

Basil: Fresh basil turns black after only a short time of being exposed to air. Best way to make it last is to pesto what you can’t use. I like to freeze mine in 1 T quantities so they are recipe ready.

Lettuce/kale: Buying the whole bunch instead of the pre-bagged and washed kind is a great place to start. I also found that removing any elastic bands or ties from around the leaves keeps them from getting slimy. Mine usually keep for a week like this in the plastic bag I place them in from the grocery store.

 

 

coco’nuts’ about these products

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blueberry banana bread bars featuring fair trade coconut oil

Who else likes to check these boxes?

✅saving money
✅buying food that’s good for you
✅giving a hand up to those who need it by buying fair trade
✅sharing the secret with others

Today, I was able to do all four when I bought two of my favorite pantry essentials from Vitacost: Coconut Secret’s Coconut Aminos and Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Fair Trade & Organic Coconut Oil.

Yes, these are more expensive than similar products, but there are times when I feel it’s important to “vote with my fork” and pay the extra money for a good cause.

Here’s the skinny on why I shell out the few extra pesos:

coconut aminos

coconut oil

So where does the saving money part come in?

Glad you asked. 😉

These two products are available at through Vitacost.com for a better price than I can find them in local stores and are priced better or competitively with other online suppliers.

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Leng’s salad featuring coconut aminos

And here’s where saving you money comes in…if you click on this link which takes you to the Vitacost site, you will receive $10 off your first order of $30 or more. Free shipping happens when you spend $49.

What I usually do is plan in my grocery budget to make a bulk purchase so I can save on shipping. So today I placed an order for six Coconut Aminos and two jars of Coconut Oil which brought be a hair over the $49 mark. Since these are shelf stable, I won’t need to order again for several months.

Want to give it a try to make a difference in someone’s life and fuel your body with better ingredients?

Head on over to Vitacost. Then come back here and tell me what you put in your cart.

*I participate in Vitacost’s Refer-a-Friend program. If you click the link and make a purchase from them, you will get $10 off on your order of $30 or more and I will also get a $10 credit. All my opinions are my own.

project pare: tracking spending

At heart I’m still a pen-to-paper kind of girl. After there’s no need to “log on,” never any wait time for a page to load and it doesn’t crash. It may burn, but I can’t remember that happening in recent memory.

100_3945Two years ago, I found this little organizer in one of stores I shop out that stocks closeouts as well as groceries. It’s not nationwide so I won’t mention it in this space. Although It took me until last year to start using it, as we’ve continued to become more budget conscious, I’ve found it invaluable for tracking and matching expenses. Especially food-related ones as they are our most frequent.

It also conveniently stores the coupons I occasionally clip and keeps my receipts from becoming mashed at the bottom of my purse.

100_3947If you click this link, it will take you to the page on Mead’s website where you can purchase it if you’re interested. There are only two downsides that I can see to this…they don’t have any refill packs for purchase and it would be great for them to develop a companion product to Organizehim.

So how about you…pen & paper or digital? Have you found any products that help you organize and track your spending? Please share!

project pare, where I’ve been, where I’m headed

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Yes I’ve been a little MIA here. Summertime, and a season to adjust to all kids in school and a new job for my husband and well, the days quickly add up to months which usher in a new year.

Not that I will rehash the last six months in detail, but generally, I’ve been doing much thinking and praying about this site and where God would use me and the time He’s provided. So in addition to dusting off these pages, I’m also inching toward the goal of applying my life coaching certificate to helping people reach their healthy eating, fitness and financial goals. That’s where I’ve been and where I’m *hopefully* headed, in a nutshell.

Now onto Project Pare.

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I’ve continued to work at streamlining my meal planning and shopping list creation approach. Though I haven’t exactly scrapped this idea, neither have I used it, because I ran out of enthusiasm while waiting to find a cheap, eco-friendly solution to apply it weekly. The inner perfectionist in me rears it’s ugly head once again.

So I opted for a low-tech approach by handwriting my menu and shopping list weekly on scraps of paper. Sometimes low tech just works better. It’s certainly helped me improve on ensuring all the items needed for the week make it onto the grocery week, but I still think I can improve on reducing the time I spend on this task.

Here’s my goal: Take just a few hours one day a month to create a monthly meal plan complete with weekly grocery shopping lists.

So how about you…do you plan out your meals? How far in advance? Do you prefer pen & paper to plan or do you use technology? If you’re a techie meal planner, what apps or websites do you like best?

If you don’t plan meals currently, would you invest in some coaching if you knew it would save you time and money in the long run?

And…share 🙂