Category Archives: Coupons

Saving money makes cents

Maximum Grocery Efficiency

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How do you plan for a shopping trip?

I like to plan a menu, and then make a list. Then I check my coupon stash and match up my coupons to the items I need, and off I go to the store! This handy dandy little Grocery Checklist is helpful. I go down the list with my daughter, who checks how much we have/if we need more of an item. She feels good for getting to help, and I always have my little pantry stocked with the essentials.

I match my grocery list to my Wal-Mart ad (where we do most of our coupon shopping) and compare to our stock up stores ads (Aldi and Sam’s). Usually the best deal is at Wal-Mart, but we buy certain items at the other locations in bulk because the every day price is cheaper if you buy large quantities. It only makes sense for some items, especially since space is at a premium in our house.  I use one sheet for each store,printed on old school papers (recycling!).  Then I grab my coupons, and head to the store!

Do YOU use reusable bags?

Smaller bags for smaller trips

Big cart bags for big trips

I try to, as often as I can. Sometimes I forget to grab them. I got a neat set of Grocery Cart Helper Bags, which attach to the sides of your cart and are great for places like Aldi or Sams, where you HAVE to bag your own…I attach both to the carts and organize my purchases into the bags. They clip closed, and it means less trips to the car when bringing the food in!

I have four smaller bags I like to use for quick Wal-Mart trips, when I can remember to bring them….I bag my groceries the way I was taught back in my teenage days, when I worked in a grocery store. On either side I place a box, like cereal or a similarly sized item, and then fill the cavity in the middle with a layer of cans, then smaller boxed items, and any fragile items or bread on top. I try to spread heavy items like cans evenly through the bags, to keep them from being heavy. I also have a large Aldi insulated bag, for cold and frozen items.

Do you look up coupon/sale match ups online? 

No Wal-Mart Bashing here

I have a few places I like to look for match ups. My favorite blog is I Heart The Mart, since I go to Wal-Mart most often. It doesn’t hurt that I get a teensy discount, because *MH works nights there. 🙂 If I combine the sales, coupons and my discount I can save a pretty penny on our food. BUT on deal items, I certainly do a sale ad check, and compare my favorite stores for prices. Then I can go out and maybe get something free, or nearly free!

Do you rebate? 

I rebate within the parameters of each deal. If it says you need to be dissatisfied, and I am satisfied, I do not usually send out the rebate. It just feels dishonest to me.  But couponing in combination with rebates, if following the rules and ethics, can be a smart way to save!  Today I found a coupon for a local store (good for that location only, for one day only, from 3pm to 7pm only) for a dinner deal for Marie Callender’s new lasagna, 2 liter bottle of Coke (any coke product) and bag of Fresh Express salad – all for only $5! The lasagna alone costs $6.39 (on sale for $5) so it was like getting a bagged salad and bottle of Sprite for free.  THEN…I filled out my Marie Callender rebate, good up to $8. My final cost on dinner tonight was $0.00! I don’t often find deals THAT good, but today we ate dinner for free.

Tasty but small...

Stay tuned for more about menu planning…there are a few different systems you can use, depending on your family’s needs.  It will save you time, money and maybe even lead to healthier eating habits with time.  One quick tip : don’t introduce an entire meal of new foods to your family all at once. Instead, introduce a single new dish in a meal that is full of familiar dishes.  The new item will be associated with old favorites, and perhaps more likely to be accepted. You know your family’s likes and dislikes better than anyone else…don’t try to make liver and onions an acceptable dish if you know it won’t go over well. It is a frustrating waste of time, effort and money!

Happy shopping! 🙂

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My Coupon Organization System

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I finally got my coupon situation under control…I had a plastic bin that I would put my coupons in, and sort through them every time I went shopping…not very efficient.

I chose a simple and cheap organizer, that has clear plastic pockets for 6 months worth of bills and other stuff, and each pocket has a clear envelope type pocket on the front, for the coupons. So I can hold each months bills and coupons in one place!

I love blue!

I printed out a monthly calendar, in order to keep track of paychecks and bills due. They are FREE, and you can get one every month here.

Free printable calendars

I also picked out a small accordion organizer, for taking my coupons to the store with me. I have it set up by store section, which makes life very convenient and I almost never have to double back for an item.

Organizes coupons by section of the store

The plain blue folder is for my rebates…one side for ‘item needs to be purchased’ and the other is ‘ready to mail out’. When I am ready to use one, I stick the rebate in my monthly organizer, to remind me to purchase the item.

I have my envelopes, stamps, pens and scissors all in the same place, and a very useful free self inking ‘Paid’ stamp, from Vista print. Now, I keep all of this in the same bin. It is my ‘Bills & Bargains Bin’, haha.

Bin of Bills and Bargains

Everything is all in one place, can be put away or taken out easily, and all my time sensitive materials are organized by date.

One Pot Stacked Enchilada Pie

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Stacked Enchilada Pie

I borrowed my neighbors dutch oven for this recipe. I could have made it in a large sauce pot or a crock pot/slow cooker, but I felt like trying something new. 🙂 This is one of my favorite meals to make if we are having friends over for dinner. It is kid friendly too, and feeds a crowd!
Serves:8-10

Melty Goodness

Ingredients:
12 inch Dutch oven (or oven safe crock/pot)
2-pounds ground beef or ground turkey (I used beef)
1- large onion, chopped
1-package yellow or white corn tortillas
2- small cans diced chilies
1-large can enchilada sauce
1-8 ounce can sliced olives
2-packages of taco seasoning mix (I used mild)
4-cups (2 packages) of shredded taco mix cheese
2-Tbsp Canola or Vegetable oil

Not expensive to make if you shop the deals.

Directions:

1. Get Sizzlin’.    Warm your oil in your dutch oven/pot and add chopped onions. Cook on the stove top pver medium-low heat until the onions are half cooked. You can tell when they reach this stage because they will be limp but not see through.

Warming up,not quite tot the point of smoking.

Not quite tender enough yet

2.  Beef it up!     Add ground beef and brown until cooked through. Add your taco seasoning mix and stir thoroughly. Drain fat. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add your meat when the onions are halfway cooked.

Smells delicious! Ready for layering.

3. Layers.   Time to start layering your stacked enchilada pie! This part is fun.  Take around one third of your meat and spread on bottom of Dutch oven/pot- keeping in mind that you will be making about three layers.

I love everything in this!

3B. Now spread one third of sliced olives, diced chilies, and enchilada sauce over the meat. Cover this with 5 to 6 of your tortillas and then cover your tortillas with one third of your cheese. Repeat this until all of your ingredients are in the pot!

Saucy!

Top layers of tortillas and cheese

4.  Bubble Bubble…  Move the dutch oven/pot to the actual oven. Cook for 40 minutes or until the cheese is melty and bubbly.

Smells Delicious!

This recipe is so versatile…you can swap ingredients to your personal tastes, and make the recipe your own! You could add corn, black beans, rice, diced tomatoes…you name it, I have probably added it at one point. Also a great way to use up leftover veggies!

Vote for me in the Pi day contest! Click photo to go to Instructables.com

This is guaranteed to make your family happy, or win you some hearts at a potluck. I might make this for the upcoming Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Those lucky teachers!   😉

Savin’ Money and Stickin’ to Rules….or How I Coupon, and My Goals for 2012

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There are so many different rules, codes and ways to coupon. I have a few simple guidelines I live by, that I find helpful. You may or may not agree/abide by them, but you may find them helpful! I will probably be going into some of these in a little more depth later on, but here is a quick run down of how I plan to go about my coupon adventures.

Clip extras for a free coupon swap!

The Guidelines:

1. You can print or clip coupons that you do not need/are not sure that you will need; once you are sure that you will not use them (and are not expired!) Common courtesy says that you should put them into the coupon swap bin in front of your local grocery store. My Wal-Mart just started doing this, and twice a month I plan to dump a handful of coupons in! It is also a great place to find coupons. Don’t have a swap bin? Ask the manager to start one, or start an online local coupon swap. I started mine with Yahoo groups.

2. Print ASAP! Don’t wait…a lot of times coupons are limited time only, or limited amount of prints. Grab it while you can…this is where rule #1 comes in handy. It is okay in my book to print like a wild woman (person) as long as you pay it forward.

3. Get the item for the coupon as soon as possible, so you do not miss out. But do not have a spaz attack if you don’t get it the first week. A lot of times the coupons are hard to get, but the item will be around again at some point. You can also ask for a rain check, which is a great way to ensure you get the most out of your coupons.

4. DO NOT BUY ITEMS THAT YOU/YOUR FAMILY DO NOT USE REGULARLY. This is a big one for me. I recently saw on a Facebook fan page that a couponer had over 30 boxes of hair dye, from 3 different companies, in 5 wildly different colors. This is NOT ALLOWED in my book. Pardon my language, but WTF could you possibly need all that for? It is wasteful both of money and space. It is taking viable products that someone else might actually need, off the shelf. I do not like this practice at ALL. Make a list of core brands/items that you use and stick to it. Veer from your brands or items only if it is something you want to try out but do not want to pay the full price, or if it is a freebie coupon. If you don’t need the item, give it away.  Shelters everywhere need EVERYTHING.

5. NO ALTERING,PHOTOCOPYING OR MISUSING OF COUPONS. Another biggie with me. If you don’t play by the rules, you could potentially ruin the coupon game for everyone. Play nice, and be ethical.

6. Carry the coupon policy with you to your stores. Don’t fight with managers. And most importantly…pick your battles. I saw a woman once get escorted out by the police because the manager wouldn’t honor a 25 cent coupon. That’s right, she got a record for 25 cents. It just isn’t worth it, folks. Keep your dignity.

7. Pick 1-3 stores that are within either A. a 5 mile radius of each other, B. a 10 mile radius of your home, or C. 5 mile radius from work/on your way home. Stick to these stores, regardless of deals that try to entice you into other establishments. MOST coupon policies state they will take competitor coupons, and do ad price checks. This is where rule #6 comes in handy.

8. Develop an organization system that works for you. This includes the coupons, the stockpile and your freebies. I also like to have a stash of gifties hidden away. Find what works for you…this may be a trial and error sort of thing.

9. Don’t spend more than 1-3 hours per week clipping/printing/searching. It negates the actual savings, unless you think your time is worth nothing. TIME=MONEY so keep it to a minimum, to max out your benefits and savings.

10. Keep track of what you save, and ACTUALLY SAVE IT. Using cash during shopping helps with this. Stick the money saved in a separate savings account and watch it add up over time.

Keep it fun for everyone

My Coupon Goals for 2012:

A. Not to pay for feminine products (razors,tampons) for the entire year.
B. Drop my monthly grocery costs by 20%.
C. Actual, in an account savings of $500 by December,2012.

Think I can do it? I think A and B will be a lot easir than C, actually saving the cash instead of spending it on something else the house needs/wants is a tough one.