MARIETTA, GA (WTOC) – We're learning how to cut back and stretch our dollars during some of the toughest times many of us can remember. One way is by using coupons when we shop, but that's not the only way.
Most people love fresh fruits and vegetables but they can be expensive.
"One way to save on produce is to do it yourself. I have a five minute rule. If it takes you less than five minutes to peel your own carrots or wash your own lettuce, you can save about half by doing it yourself," explains Stephanie Nelson, the Coupon Mom.
Stephanie never buys fruit or vegetables that are already cut because you pay more for the convenience.
"Now a pound of baby carrots is regular price is about $2. This is five pound bag of carrots averages out to be about 75 or 80 cents a pound," says Stephanie.
One of the biggest tips we have learned about shopping in the produce department is always pay very close attention to the size of what you are buying.
For instance, two heads of lettuce cost the same amount even though one is obviously bigger. When you buy the bigger head of lettuce, you're essentially getting free food.
"Another thing I do when I'm buying fruit is I look at the cost per pound and what it cost per piece of fruit. When I buy apples by the pound, it's about $1. When I buy the same type of apple in a bag, they are slightly smaller, but they are about 40 cents a piece. So I am saving more than half just by buying a smaller bag of apples," says Stephanie.
The same holds true when you're buying just about any produce. The bagged produce is usually cheaper than the loose fruits and vegetables.
Another place families waste money is in the meat department. If your family loves pork chops, why not get them a better quality meat at a better price?
"I can buy the entire pork loin for $7.60. I can buy boneless pork loin chops for $3.50. That's not quite double, maybe 80 percent more expensive. So we take this to the butcher and he will cut this into chops while I shop. By buying the pork loin on sale and having the butcher slice it, you are paying about the same price for more than twice the amount of meat," adds Stephanie.
The deals are all around if you pay close attention. Snacks can also really take a bite out of your budget, but Stephanie found some great deals before we left the store.
"Here's a great deal because we are actually making a profit. It is included in the promotion. It's usually $2.19. It is on sale for 99 cents, but I'll pay 49 cents because it's part of the promotion and I have a coupon for 75 cents off this item. So I am making a 26 cent profit," explains Stephanie.
"I buy the popcorn on the bottom shelf the plain old regular popcorn. It's $1.49 for 32 ounces. This is 32 ounces. of microwave popcorn for $6.59. I never buy individually wrapped snacks. Individually wrapped snacks have five bags for a total of 3.5 ounces in the bag for $2.29. I can buy the big bag which is $1.99 and it's 12 ounces. It's almost four times as much for slightly less money. I am saving more than 75 percent for putting some chips in a bag," said Stephanie.
You might wonder where she gets all of those coupons. She clips them from the paper and prints them from online like from her website, www.couponmom.com.
She also emails companies and just asks them if they have any coupons. Stephanie emailed 81 companies as she was researching her book. Fifty companies mailed her their coupons.
She also has all of those addresses in her book, "The Coupon Mom's Guide To Cutting Your Bills In Half".