Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weight Watchers Goal Achieved (& How I Save Money at the Grocery Store doing it)

**WARNING!  A VERY LONG POST!**  I started my Weight Watchers journey December 29th, 2009.  24 pounds gone and 30 weeks later, I can say that I hit my goal!  I'll be the first to admit that eating healthier does cost a little more than not consciously watching the waistline (no duh, huh?) - but I still do manage to save quite a bit of money shopping with a new "healthier" lifestyle.  I figured I'd outline some tips in case anyone is interested.

-  Frozen vegetables.  I stock up on these suckers.  Why do I love them?  Frozen vegetables are easy to cook with.  They have virtually zero prep work involved.  And shocker - a LOT of frozen vegetables are actually cheaper than fresh vegetables.  My favorite is the Shaw's/Stop & Shop Pepper Strips.  A 16 oz (1 lbs) bag is either $1.25 or $1.50 regular price.  $1.50 for a pound of sliced peppers (red & yellow included) is a great price.  I also hit up the Bird's Eye/Green Giant sales.

-  One thing that I've really been able to eliminate from my diet is processed foods.  I used to (and honestly, probably still do...) love Rice-A-Roni and the Betty Crocker Au Grutain potatoes.  Sales combined with coupons make this crap dirt cheap.  But I just don't do it anymore.  I personally think it's actually cheaper to buy rice in bulk and fresh potatoes and make a side from scratch.  What can I say?  My inner June Cleaver has finally emerged after 4+ years of homemaking.

-  I've changed our meat consumption.  I used to always buy 80/20 ground beef and not think anything of it.  Now, I won't buy any less than 90/10.  That goes for ground turkey as well - which has the same fat equivalents (and point values) of ground beef (I really don't like ground turkey though - so I hardly ever buy it).  90/10 & 93/7 beef will go on sale for $3.99, but it is typically about $4.29-$4.49/lbs.  80/20 will sometimes go for $1.99/lbs, but usually sits around $2.49-$2.99.  I used to always cook with 1 lbs of ground beef in recipes.  Now, I usually cook with 8 oz.  I have learned to make some simple substitutions for things.  For example, if I'm making tacos, instead of using the 1 lbs of ground meat like the "basic" recipe says to do, I only use 8 oz of beef and throw in 8 - 12 oz of frozen corn.  Same amount of "bulk" but less calories and fat.  And you can grab frozen corn cheap with sales and coupons.   My husband and kids don't complain about this.  Even though I may be spending $4 per pound of ground beef now instead of $2, I'm finding ways to only use 1/2 a pound to feed what 1 pound used to feed us.

-  If you aren't (or don't want to) eat certain crap - just don't cut the coupons for it.  I used to cut coupons for every product that I knew would produce a killer deal if a sale were to come along (Hi Bagel Bites!  I know you miss me!).  Now, if I know I'll get in "trouble" with certain products, I just skip cutting it.  I really don't have problems with cookies/cakes/sweets - but my weaknesses are things like potato chips and Cheez-Its.  Seriously - Cheez-Its can kill me.  So I just don't buy them.  My kids don't miss them and my husband never ate them anyways.

-  I actually spend time prepping produce now.  We buy a lot of fruit now.  My older son loves it.  My younger son hates it.  My husband doesn't care either way.  I usually devote a half hour to hour prepping fruit every week.  It's mostly grapes, strawberries, blueberries and of course watermelon. I got rid of all of our nasty old GladWare and Ziploc containers and bought about 15 2-cup Ziploc Twist & Loc containers (using coupons matched with sales, of course!).  I think they are the small ones.  A 2 cup container is a perfect size for fruit and single portion leftovers.  Besides some single serve things I buy for my husband's lunch (and yeah, I'll cheat on those things), we really don't buy that many packaged snacks.  Of course we have the occasional bag of Goldfish, or a "free" bag of cookies thanks to Facebook promos - but overall, there aren't that many "snacks" in the cupboard anymore.  Oh, unless you count the 6 dozen Fiber One bars in there...(which by the way, I've convinced my kids are "candy bars" keeps them regular.)

-  I still LOVE using coupons and scoring great deals.  I used to gage my savings "success" on if I saved more than I spent (as per the grocery store receipt).  I hardly ever save as much I spend.  Usually it's stuff like if I spend $100, I would have saved $60-$70.  This, I attribute to a few things.  Sometimes these days, I'm too lazy to go to BJ's or Roxie's for deli meat (the husband digs it).  Grocery store prices are outrageous, but I still buy it.  Usually it doesn't go on sale for that much.  It's crap like Turkey Breast goes from $7.99/lbs to $7.49/lbs.  Big Whoop.  I buy things that aren't on sale - but I think are a good deal anyways.  Weight Watchers yogurt (I've turned into "one of those" people who drink smoothies on a pretty daily basis), frozen vegetables, High Fiber wraps, Weight Watchers Cream Cheese, Romaine Lettuce, other produce, etc. etc.

-  There are a lot of "healthy" coupons out there.  I still clip a bunch of coupons for food.  I think the general theory is that all coupons are for crap food.  Not the case.  Some good ones that are out there now or that you can get pretty frequently are:  $1/1 Hood Cottage Cheese, $1/1 Hood Sour Cream, $1/1 Activias and Fiber One yogurts, the Free Yoplait yogurts are always good since my husband eats that, Dole Fruit Cups, cereal, pasta, pasta sauces, peanut butter (unless it's your weakness...), Ice Cream coupons (yes, it can be healthy if eaten in moderation), Hot Dogs (okay - not healthy but I love hot dogs - reduced fat ones), tuna fish, $1/1 mission tortillas, salad dressings, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, Pepperidge Farms Deli Flats, $1/1 Mt. Olive products (I'm a banana pepper junkie), Soups, Fiber One products, Mustard/Ketchup. There's others - and honestly, only you can be the judge of what is "healthy" and what is not.  If you can buy Bagel Bites and only eat 2 at a time - more power to you.  That could be a "healthy" purchase.  I cannot do that.

-  If you are trying to make a sacrifice to eat healthier, then you do have to cut yourself some slack with the savings.  Depending on how you are trying to be "healthier" - low fat, low cal, all organic, all natural, low sodium, low sugar, etc.   All restrictive diets will mean extra money spent at the grocery store - it's not like Shaw's has national Diabetic Week where every low sugar item is on sale!  That would be pretty cool though.

-  Don't kid yourself that "healthy" things don't go on sale - they do.  A lot of products have reduced fat/reduced calorie/"healthier" versions.  If you see Tropicana OJ on sale at the store - chances are Trop50 (a lower sugar/calorie version) is included in that sale.  Edy's Ice Cream is on sale?  Sure the picture is just of the Chocolate Chip carton - but the Frozen Yogurt and Light varieties are almost always included.  Baked Beans - some varieties have a lot more sugar (calories) than others.  Some have a lot more fiber.  Activia Yogurt.  One of my favorites (for my smoothies, or course...I'm not a big "yogurt" person).  They have their regular version, which seems "healthy" - but it's 2 WW points.  They actually have a "light" version that is only 1 point.    Tuna Fish.  There is that crap that is packed in oil (which I accidentally bought 2 weeks ago and is full of oily nasty) vs. the stuff that is packed in water.  V8 Splash (on sale at Stop & Shop this week for $2 a bottle).  The "normal" stuff is just like all juices - about 120 calories per serving.  But they have a Diet V8 Splash which is only 10 calories a serving.  Mayonaise.  Regular, Light and Fat Free are usually all on sale together - even if just the regular is pictured in the circular. I could go on and on.  But I won't.  The one exception to this "rule" of mine that I have found are Thomas English Muffins.  They have a great variety that's called Better Start or something like that.  Each muffin is 100 calories and packs in 8 grams of fiber (1 WW point).  They have "light" and other more wholesome varieties too.  These usually aren't included in the BOGO sales.  Sometimes - but not always.

-  My psychotic self has memorized a lot of the WW point formulas.  Which has helped me a lot in the grocery store for unexpected WW deals/finds.  One day, I just sat and studied the points tracker in the back of the weekly journal (yeah, I'm that weird).  I'm also pretty good at remembering the key numbers to a lot of my favorite foods (calories/fat grams/fiber grams).  I'd say it's relatively easy for me to pick up a product I've never seen before, look at the nutrition label and mentally calculate how many points a serving is. This has helped me A LOT.  For instance, just last night I went to Stop & Shop.  Ronzoni came out with this new pasta variety called Garden Delights.  It was $2 a box, but the boxes had .50/1 MFCs on them (which doubled to $1 off a box).  So quickly looking at the box and seeing 190 cals, 1 gram fat, 4 grams of fiber - I knew that the 2 oz serving was 3 points.  I grabbed 2 boxes to try (why not, at $1 a box?!) .  Want $1.50 off a box (a .75/1 that will double)?  CLICK HERE FOR IT!  WOOOHOOO!  Then - I was going to buy 6 jars of Ragu Tomato Sauce to have in the house.  They were 3 for $5 (so $10 for 6 jars).  I had 2 $1.25/3 MFCs.  6 jars for $7.50.  Not outstanding - but we had none and I wanted to stock up.   Looking at all the varieties, I discovered a "Ragu Light". Upon looking at the label, had only 50 cals, 0 fat, and 3 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup (that's actually a LOT of tomato sauce).  0 points for an entire 1/2 cup of tomato sauce?!  Awesome!  

So there you have some of my tips.  Most of it seems like common sense - but all I know is that before I actually got my butt at Weight Watchers, I couldn't lose the 25 pounds that crept up on me in the past 10 years.  This stuff was not common sense to me just 8 months ago.   But now, it's kind of turned more into a way of life.  Do you have any tips to save money at the grocery store while staying healthy?  I'd love to hear them!


MaryAnne said...

Congratulations!!! Now you have me tempted to try WW to lose the 14lbs I've failed to lose post-Lily...

My only tip is to make sure you cook the fresh food you buy - and we do the frozen veggies, too. Costco even sells organic ones for cheap.

Money Saving Maine-iac said...

Congratulations!! THis is a fantastic post. You must feel so good. :)