As the recession grinds on, people continue to look for ways to save a buck. Instead of bypassing coupons, they're clipping. Dinner out and a movie has become family game night. Our Frugal $ense contest winner for last month, E. Donohue, of Durham, N.C., has a tip that will save you a lot of money on groceries. It takes a little bit of investigating, but people in 35 states have access to this "heaven-sent" organization.
Bankrate: How did you hear about Angel Food Ministries?
Donohue: I heard about Angel Food Ministries watching the local news. I went to the Web site and learned that there are no rules, applications or obligations. I explored the site and indeed found the food listed to be about half the price of what I would pay in the grocery store. It works by the customer paying for the food upfront and then picking the order up on a designated day. You bring your own bags or a box to carry the food. I suppose it is similar to a food co-op.
Bankrate: Have you ordered food through the program?
Donohue: I have ordered food through Angel Food Ministries for two months now. I get the Signature Box for $30. Last month, I also purchased the Assorted Meat Box for $22. The food is surprisingly very good. I buy food with coupons at the grocery store to go along with the "angel" meals. The food comes with a booklet each month that offers recipe ideas.
May's Frugal $ense winner: E. Donohue won $100 for submitting the following tip:
"I recently heard about Angel Food Ministries
. This is for everyone! There are no income questions, etc. You pay upfront for a bunch of groceries and then on a certain day, you go to the church for pick up of your box. Churches across the country have joined up for this program and keep costs low due to volunteers. The costs are low because there is no overhead (like) grocery stores incur, such as paying for employees, advertising, rent, etc. Go to the site and just type in your ZIP code to see if there is one near you. Then, look at the month's menu. We are getting steaks, chicken, pasta, soup, eggs and a lot more for just $30. They have other add-ons that you can get when you order the main box. They also offer fully cooked meal boxes for seniors and vegetarian boxes. It is not a handout, but instead a great way for hard-working people to save." -- E. Donohue of Durham, N.C.
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Bankrate: Where do you pick up your food order?
Donohue: The pickup location is convenient, only five miles from my house at a local church. You type your ZIP code in a section of the Web site, and different locations are provided.
Bankrate: Do you consider yourself frugal?
Donohue: I definitely live a frugal lifestyle. I just about never pay full price for anything. I shop when there are sales, and only for the things I really need. I figure out in my head how many hours of work I have to do in order to pay for an item, and that helps me determine if I really need it. I drive a used car. I do all my own yardwork and attend free Saturday workshops at local home improvement stores to learn how to fix things in my home. I have the least expensive cell phone plan, not prepaid, and always make sure not to exceed my limit. I also save money on pet care by grooming them myself and attending public events where I know free (or low-cost) items will be available. I recently had a dog microchipped for only $25 at a (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA) event and received all types of treats and toys for free by entering the dog in a contest. He didn't even win but still was presented with all the runner-up items.
Bankrate: Do you have any other tips for living on less?
Donohue: Networking is a huge way to save money. I am always striking up a conversation with someone wherever I go. Sometimes I learn of a deal on something that I had no idea (existed). Other times, I am invited to places. I recently was treated to a free (Bruce) Springsteen concert by a co-worker just because this person knew I liked his music. We don't even work in the same office, but a conversation about his music months before caused her to remember me and invite me.