th8 Should you boycott restaurants?Over at Midlife Mom Musings, a blogger named Sharon wrote about an unpleasant surprise. The July food budget for her family of four was supposed to have been $700. Instead, they spent nearly $1,700 on groceries and meals away from home.

“I just don’t remember spending that much,” Sharon said.

(Few of us do.)

More than $400 of that was on meals away from home. Manhattan Bagel. McDonald’s. Tropical Smoothie. Chipotle. Texas Roadhouse. Ciros.

“Not even nice restaurants,” she lamented.

They ended the month with a $1,000 negative cash flow — which she freely admits could have been avoided if they’d just stayed within their food budget. To help make up for that loss, Sharon is boycotting all eateries in August.

A no-restaurants month is a common meme in the personal finance blogosphere. Just like “no-spend week” and “cash-only quarter,” it works if you work it – and if you do, you can learn a lot.

Like, say, how to cook with what’s on hand. How to pack a lunch. How to say “no,” whether that’s to kids who want to stop for a smoothie or to yourself when you really, really want a blueberry bagel.

Hey, I love a serving of McDonald’s fries as often as I can get away with it. But eating them every day would torpedo my budget and, maybe, my arteries.


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ImageProxy A coupon app and a $2,500 sweepstakes.Don’t want to clip your own coupons? Let the Favado mobile savings app do it for you.

While you’re at it, enter to win the company’s Summer BBQ Savings sweepstakes. (More on that in a minute.)

Favado is a free app that tracks deals in more than 65,000 supermarkets and drugstores across the country. You make a shopping list right on your phone and then the app uses real-time data to match current deals, coupons and even “secret” sales (e.g., in-store promotions) with what you want to buy.

You’ll get automatic notifications when your favorite products go on sale at those stores – and the list includes markets like Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s and Kmart along with merchants like Safeway and Walgreens.

“Want to save on groceries…easily? Get this app,” advises Emily Weinberger of Good Housekeeping magazine.


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6Jzsjxlu5p2na58f6rGMjSLcrgc08TYIRKAAQTwdk44NfpSB2lsDn1hAaYExm8F10Nkd7xE4qGu41 5nTQGUxgs478 300x262 Giveaway: How to Coupon Effectively.Lauren Greutman, who blogs at I Am That Lady, can put to rest most coupon myths. For example, as the mom of four young children she doesn’t have time to turn couponing into a full-time job.

Nor is her pantry full of prefab potatoes, salty snacks and garishly colored cereals; in fact, her family eats gluten-free and organic.

That’s why she wrote an e-book called “How to Coupon Effectively: Learn How to Save Thousands Per Year Spending Only 2 Hours Per Week.” She’s offered to donate a copy to give away this week, to help some lucky reader save money without getting calluses from clipping those Qs.


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book 281x300 Giveaway: Couponing For The Rest of UsAnd now for something completely different: a coupon expert who doesn’t like coupons.

Kasey Knight Trennum, who blogs at Time 2 $ave/Time 2 Give, says that she’s never sung the praises of coupons. Ask her about “the joys of saving a ton of money,” however, and she’ll get pretty vocal.

More than vocal: Trennum wrote a book, “Couponing For The Rest of Us: The Not-So-Extreme Guide to Saving More,” that’s designed to help readers save money “without it becoming an obsession.”

The author offers information on topics like deciphering “sales cycles,” how to locate coupons for items your family actually eats, smart stockpiling, making the Internet do most of the legwork, and turning saving into sharing.

And again, a sane approach: “I can’t stress enough (that) balance is the key to making couponing work for you. You have to figure out how to make it fit into your world; it cannot become your world.”

In addition to the book, this week’s winner will also get a cute little green accordion-style folder. After all, some coupons are still made of paper rather than pixels.


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th8 Good to the last drop: Getting full use of condiments.Our fridge door is full of jars and bottles, some of which look odd. For example, the contents of a spicy brown mustard bottle may seem pale and grainy, or there might be a jar of brine without any pickles. A small jar of homemade jam looks all but empty; so does a bottle of ranch dressing.

When these and other condiments run low, we turn them into something else. If a mayonnaise jar has shoulders that keep us from getting all of it – even with a spatula – we take that as a personal challenge. That last little bit of catsup that won’t come out, even if the bottle stands on its head all night? It will be ours.

Sure, it’s just a few cents’ worth of food, if that. But we see no reason to waste it. Besides, it encourages culinary creativity.

If you too are frustrated by the inaccessibility of those last drops, try these tactics.


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