3 Tips to Shopping Smarter

You’ve been studying for an hour and you decide you need to take a snack break. So you walk into the kitchen in your apartment only to find that there is NO FOOD. You’re hungry so without thinking, you decide to hit the grocery store. Once you’re walking up and down the aisles, you just start piling whatever looks good into your basket. Then you get to the long checkout line and while waiting you see candy and magazines so you throw those in your basket too. By the time you get home you realize that you’ve made a pretty big dent in your wallet all on expensive junk food and didn’t pick up anything that you need.

I’m sure that any college student can relate to this scenario. That’s why I have a few tips for college students to remember before grocery shopping.

1. Don’t shop while hungry. When we’re hungry, we only focus on buying food that we’re craving and generally don’t check the price on what we put in our cart just because it looks yummy. Before shopping, make sure you eat. That way you can focus on other things, such as looking at prices, to avoid buying expensive food. Eating before you shop also causes you to make healthier choices since you aren’t craving that junk food.

2. Make a list. If you go to the grocery store without checking what you have and what you need, you’ll end up wandering around in the store buying food you don’t need and ultimately wasting money. Sit down with your roommates before hand and make a list in order to avoid overspending. If it’s not on your list, don’t buy it. But we all know that sometimes we forget to put things on our list because we can’t see what the grocery store has. Food Lion (www.foodlion.com) lets you search on their website to see what grocery stores they have and you can add things to a list that you can then print off and bring to the store with you.

3. Avoid temptation. Grocery stores know that lines are often long so people may be waiting for five minutes just to check out. That’s why they put a wide array of tempting candy bars and magazines in the checkout lines. They’re waiting for someone to fall for it and put all of those things in their cart. To avoid temptation, use the self-checkout. Self-checkout lines often don’t have all of that distracting you and you’ll be focusing on ringing your groceries up yourself.

Even the smartest shoppers fall pray to these shopping scenarios. Next time you need to go to the grocery store, remember these tips to shop smarter.


Making peace with pizza!

My name is Melissa, and I am a pizza addict.

My mom used to tell me when I was a kid that if I kept up my habit, I would turn into pizza. Thankfully I didn’t, but I think I could still eat it everyday if I tried. Unfortunately my broke self just can’t afford that.

So I had to find other ways to feed my addiction. What was my solution? Every Sunday night, my roomates and I have homemade vegetable pizza night. Not only is it cost effective and healthy, but its super easy to make.  Check it out!

First, you need to buy all the ingredients (don’t freak out just yet). I headed on over to my local Walmart and was more then pleased with the final price:

  •             PizzaBuddy whole wheat pizza dough:                 $0.88
  •             1 Green pepper:                                                  $.050
  •             1 Red pepper-                                                     $0.75
  •             1 Red onion                                                       $ 0.98
  •             1 large tomato                                                     $1.78
  •             Fat free shredded mozzarella cheese:                   $2.50

                                                                             Total:  $6.51

Don’t worry, I was shocked at first too. You will be even more shocked by how good such a simple recipe can taste.  Follow these easy steps: (See photos below for reference)

  • 1.)  Roll out the pizza dough onto a pizza pan or any shaped large baking pan of your choice

         Tip: throwing down some flour first helps it not stick!

  • 2.)  Roll over the edges for a crust, and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until you see the dough bubble a bit.

         Trick: my roommates and I prefer a crispy pizza, so I lightly cover it in Extra Virgin         Olive Oil, but this is optional

  • 3.)  While the dough cooks, cut up all the veggies into small cubes, and the tomato into slices
  • 4.)  Take out the dough, and begin to smother it! Throw on the vegetables to your liking, and place the tomato’s around the dough generously.  Then cover it all with cheese! (I used the whole bag…I couldn’t help it)
  • 5.)  Then place the pizza back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese turns slightly golden

And there you have it!  But the fun doesn’t stop there. I took all the ingredients and added them up in a Calorie Counter, and it gave me the nutritional information for 1 slice of pizza (the whole recipe makes 8 slices). Here it is:

Calories: 229   |  Fat: 8.3 grams |  Sodium: 436 mg | Protein: 12.8 grams

I was more then pleased, seeing as it is almost half the fat and sodium content, half the price, and 89 calories less then the veggie pizza I have been ordering from dominos!  Not to mention I split it with my two roomates, so the overall meal only cost me a little over 2 dollars!

So for all you pizza lovers and addicts out there, there is hope. It’s homemade, its healthy, and it won’t cost you and arm and a leg.

P.S.– If vegetables don’t make your mouth water, swap out the toppings.  And don’t forget, take a tip from a previous post about Sharp Shopper if your looking to lessen the cost even more!


Never be without a deal!

If you could have coupons sent straight to your phone for deals at the dining halls around JMU’s campus, would you sign up for it? I know I would!

And that’s just what I did when I heard about the JMU Dining mobile club. Don’t worry, the club’s not exclusive. Anyone can sign up! All you have to do is text JMUDining to 65374. Simple as that.

Once you’ve sent the text, you’ll be able to receive special deals and coupons sent directly to your phone for food on campus.

My first text from the JMU Dining mobile club went as followed…

“It’s Thirsty Thursday at Market One. Get any 44oz. fountain drink for just 99 cents!”

Sounds like a great deal to me! All I had to do was fill up my cup (with some delicious sweet tea), show the text to the cashier to get the reduced price, and then I was on my way to class fully hydrated.

Can’t wait to see the next deal that the JMU Dining mobile club sends me!


And now I’d like to abruptly segue into another way that you can get access to deals in the Harrisonburg area. Because c’mon, who doesn’t like to save money?!

The site is called CampusSpecial.com

Seriously, it’s great. The site it filled with a ridiculously high amount of printable coupons. With 10,000 awesome deals on it, it is definitely something worth taking advantage of.

You can find coupons for your area by just typing it in the search bar. And with 102 cities and 342 universities, you’re bound to find coupons for your favorite local places.

And it’s not just restaurants/grocery stores that CampusSpecial.com offers deals on. You can also look for coupons in categories such as Hair/Nail/Spa to Apartments/Housing to Gyms/Fitness/Nutrition.

So what are you waiting for people! Go start printing some coupons!

Lettuce Help with Your Fajitas

Have you been wondering, “how can I make my fajitas and eat them too?”

Let’s face it, it’s almost bathing suit season and those darn tortillas are so fattening. So how can we have our fajitas without adding the fat of tortillas?

Try lettuce!

I took this idea from living with someone who has gone gluten-free. Wheat is found in most tortillas and for those going gluten-free, wheat=gluten=horrible stomach pains.

For those of us who aren’t gluten-free, tortillas only have one downside…the fat they add to our yummy fajitas.

Let’s compare two recipes: one for fajitas made with tortillas and one with lettuce leaves.

The following recipes come from the Kraft Foods recipe site.

This fajita recipe includes the use of tortillas and, with the inclusion of the other ingredients has:

  • a total fat count of 13 g/serving
  • 400 calories
  • 55 mg of cholesterol
  • and 1110 mg of sodium

Now this fajita lettuce wrap recipe includes roughly the same ingredients as the last recipe, but it replaces the tortillas with large leaves of iceberg lettuce. This recipe has:

  • 11 g of total fat/serving
  • 280 calories
  • 85 mg of cholesterol*
  • and 500 mg of sodium

*the added amount of cholesterol is due to added flavoring mentioned in the recipe

Lettuce leaves can be used in the place of the more fattening starches in other recipes as well. My aforementioned housemate made some great hamburgers for dinner one night and replaced the bun with two large lettuce leaves.

This idea of using lettuce leaves has impacted restaurants as well. At Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches they give you the option to take any of their famous sandwiches and make it an “unwich” meaning they give you all the same ingredients, but replace the bread with a large piece of lettuce. Pair one of these with a bag of Jimmy’s Thinny Chips and you’ve got yourself a low-carb meal!

But don’t just take my word for it, check out the nutrition facts for all of Jimmy John’s healthy options.

So the next time you want a healthier alternative for dinner, put down the rolls and pick up a head of lettuce!

Flavorful Greek Style Pasta

A Greek Pasta is an easy and flavorful way to eat on a budget. It also makes a lot of servings!

The minimal ingredients can often times be found right in your pantry, like penne pasta, and can also be substituted for even cheaper alternatives.

It only takes about 25minutes to prepare.

You’ll need:
2 cans of diced tomatoes (one can can range from $1-$2)
1 can cannellini beans (one can can range from $1-$2)
8 ounces of penne pasta ($1.50)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (around $5 for four ounces, can be substituted for cheaper cheese such as parmesian)

1. Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water
2. While the pasta is cooking, mix the tomatoes and beans in a skillet and simmer over 10 minutes
3. Add the spinich to the tomatoes and beans and stir the mixture for two minutes
4. Serve the sauce over your pasta and sprinkle some feta cheese on top.


Frugal Dating 101

Trying to impress a gal on a date but worried about paying a hefty bill for two?  Have no fear fellas! It’s time to start counting your pennies– literally!

 Spring is here, love is in the air, and Pennybacker’s casual dining in    Harrisonburg is here to solve our dating woes.

The tiny historic building nestled downtown on East Water Street has been serving our community since the 1850’s!  Needless to say, I trusted they knew what they were doing.

Pennybackers is truly a unique, yet frugal find to take your special someone on a casual, laid back style date.  It will save you from having to get too dressed up, and with all meals under $8, it will save your wallet as well.

Their menu is filled with carefully crafted sandwiches, soups, and salads, and how could I forget- dessert.  If you’re in need of a suggestion before you head on over, my personal favorite is the Water Street mix & match combo meal.  For just $6.99 you can choose two items from the following:

  • 1/2 Salad: Caesar, Spinach, or Mary Hallet
  • Soup: Tomato Basil, French Onion, or the Soup of the Day
  • 1/2 Sandwich: BLT, Grilled Cheese, Ham & American, Turkey & Muenster, Roast Beef & Swiss, or Pastrami & Swiss

Being the indecisive person that I am, I never have to decide between a salad or a sandwich- I can get both!

Melanie C, a JMU senior and frequent diner at Pennybacker’s had nothing but good things to say.

“My boyfriend and I were drawn to the homey, cool feel.  The best part is they give you a generous portion so I’m always full yet have enough leftover to take home,” said Melanie, who recommended getting one of their ‘amazing’ soups and having it out on their rooftop deck.

And don’t worry ladies, if the date is dull, Pennybackers has a built-in back up plan to cure your boredom.  All the tabletops are uniquely made from the tail side of pennies, and its your job to find the 10 on each table that are heads side up.

Ladies and gentleman, start counting your pennies!

Taquitos Time!

Tired of living off of Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac? Well then you need to try these homemade taquitos! This quick and easy-to-make recipe is delicious and budget friendly as well.

I found this recipe for Chicken, Bacon and Cream Cheese Taquitos on Pinterest. Now I’m not the most experienced when it comes to cooking, but these taquitos looked so good that I had to give them a try. And I’m so glad I did! I even tweaked the recipe a bit by not cutting the flour tortillas into mini sizes to make the cooking process a bit easier.




So the ingredients that you’ll need to make these taquitos are:

  • 1/3 of a 16-ounce package of bacon
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 2 12.5 oz cans of chicken, drained
  • A pack of flour tortillas
  • Vegetable Oil

Now I already had cream cheese and vegetable oil at my house so I didn’t have to purchase them for this recipe. But here’s the prices of each item in case you have to purchase them all:

  • Bacon:  $3.99 for 16 oz. Package
  • Cream cheese:  $1.49 for 8 oz box
  • Canned chicken:  $4 for 2 12.5 oz cans
  • Flour tortillas:  $1.79 for 10
  • Vegetable oil:  $2.00 for a quart

The total for all the ingredient is $13.27. But remember, this recipe makes 10 taquitos which is enough to share with others or to save them for leftovers another day. My roommates and I shared this meal together so if you were to split the price between 4 people, it would only end up being $3.32 for each person! Also, you don’t use all of the bacon and cream cheese that comes in the packages for the recipe so you can always use those leftovers for something else.

So here’s the steps to follow to make the taquitos:

  1. Cook the bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
  2. Stir the bacon, cream cheese and chicken in a medium bowl.
  3. Spoon the chicken mixture in the center of each flour tortilla. Roll the tortillas around the filling and secure with toothpicks.
  4. Pour the oil into a heavy 4-quart saucepan to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  5. Add the taquitos to the saucepan in batches and cook until well browned on all sides. Remove the taquitos from the saucepan and let drain on paper towels. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

That’s it! Just 5 ingredients and 5 steps is all it takes to make these wonderful Chicken, Bacon and Cream Cheese Taquitos. Enjoy!

Students’ Savings

This student is eating great and saving money!

James Madison University junior Lauren Delmerico spends time looking at coupons and sales before she goes out for groceries so she can get the best deals.

“I know that some stores have cheaper produce than others and I have bonus cards and coupons as well,” says Delmerico. “The other day I was able to get everything I needed (from three different stores) all for $16 and that was worth it.”

Delmerico says she goes to Martin’s Foods where she is a bonus card member and receives extra savings from them on certain purchases. She even adds up points with the card to save money on gas. Talk about a smart shopper!

Delmerico compares prices between Martin’s, Wal-Mart, and Food Lion and picks what she’s going to get at each one.

While most students choose to go the route of buying foods that are the cheapest and taste great, but aren’t necessarily good for us, there are students concerned about their diet and their wallet.

Rather than springing for the cheapest foods she can find like he typical college food staples of Ramen and Mac and Cheese, Lauren Delmerico buys fresh fruit and produce and doesn’t spend a fortune getting them.

It’s important for us broke college students to not only save our precious funds, but save our health by not overindulging in fatty andand carb-filled foods. Learn from super saver Lauren and get a Martin’s bonus card and keep your eye out for great deals on great food.

Staying sharp while you shop

It’s time to fix our love/hate relationship with grocery shopping.

You walk into any chain supermarket, and immediately you are hit with all the smells, colors, and advertisements. Pick me, buy me, it can be quite the overwhelming experience.  So what do we do? Grab the first thing we see, regardless of the price, and move on. Unfortunately, this can take its toll on our wallets.

Harrisonburg’s bargain food supplier, Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet, takes a different, more affordable approach.  It’s a simple concept.  We all know that a day at the clothing outlets gets you more for your buck then a day at the local mall. The same applies for Sharp Shopper.

When you walk in, be sure to remember one of the golden rules- never judge a book by its cover.  The aisles consist of plain brown boxes and crates, but they’re filled with well-known brands all the way from Pepsi to an assortment of cereal must-haves.

I know, I know, you’re all thinking “What’s the catch?”

What Sharp Shopper does is offer products at retail that may have a wrong packaging label, have been overproduced, or have warehouse damage.  But hey, nothings perfect right? And they still offer quality at an affordable price, you just have to do the digging!

So why choose Sharp Shopper?  Not only is it conveniently located up the road on South Main Street (right behind Kline’s Dairy Bar, need I say more), but it really could make a difference in how much you spend grocery shopping.

Let’s take a look at a product any serial snacker is sure to have heard of: Wheat Thins.  You can use them for a mid-afternoon snack between classes or along side some healthy homemade dip at your next party.  But they too can get a bit pricey for such a simple snack.

If you travel over to Harrisonburg’s local Food Lion, you can run in and pick up a 10 oz bag of Wheat Thins for the okay price of $3.19. Not bad, not bad.  It sure beats the hefty $5.29 it would cost you for the exact same box at Mr. Chips located right on James Madison’s Campus. That goes to show that convenience is not always worth the cost.

And then there’s Sharp Shopper. One might not even expect to find Wheat Thins at a grocery ‘outlet’, but there they were steadily stocked when I went to the snack aisle.  On top of that, for the mere price of $2.99 you could get not one, but TWO boxes of Wheat Thins, with the expiration date still far away.

Sharp Shopper has it all. Drinks, paper products, produce, and the list goes on and on. One word to the wise though, be sure to check out the product dating (pdf) for each item. While many items are fresh and ready to go, you always want to double check, and Sharp Shopper encourages it as well.

So for your next grocery stock up, give a new place a try. Wheat Thins is among the many items you will be sure to save a few dollars on by switching to Sharp Shopper, and with this economy, we can use every cent!