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Category: Coupons

In the Land of No Double Coupons: Skip Junk Food & Shop at ALDI (Part 2)

Guest post by Clair Boone

This is part 2 of Clair’s series, In the Land of No Double Coupons. You can find Part 1 here.

2. Skip Junk Food

Research has proven that impulse buying increases your spending by about 20%. For me, that’s $40 per month of waste that could go towards bills or put into the savings account.

A major area where impulse buying occurs is junk food. Run into the grocery store hungry and you’re bound to grab a bag of chips to munch on in the car. While standing in line with fussy kids you cave into the pleas for candy and buy suckers.

Those items are only $1 each but if you impulsively put 10 such items in your cart, your bill just jumped $10.

One thing that’s helped us is to simply avoid junk food. Rarely do we have soda pop in the house and although we always have some snacks on hand, most of them are from ALDI where they’re very cheap.

As a mum, I’d rather give my child water or milk over soda pop any day of the week. Why wouldn’t I treat my body in the same way? Unless it’s a real treat (i.e. Dr. Pepper from a drive thru!) then I skip soda pop altogether.

3. Shop At ALDI

Once an unclean, unkempt place with more MSG and high fructose corn syrup than is healthy for any normal person, ALDI has come a long way! If you haven’t stepped into an ALDI recently, you need to.

  • Planning a diet or just love eating healthy? ALDI has an inexpensive diet range named Fit n Active. With salad dressings galore, rice cakes, and great brown rice, there’s no need to spend more money on good food.
  • I’ve tried ALDI diapers and they work! At only $5.99 a pack, it’s worth experimenting on them.
  • You can’t find cheaper pie crusts, sugar or most other baking products anywhere else.
  • At around $1 for a giant bag of chips or tortilla chips, there’s no need to pay more for snacks.
  • ALDI has roses for $3.99 for six and bunches of flowers for about $2.99. If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking the quality lacks, then you’re just like me…until someone bought me some from a florist and at the same time Hubs came home with some from ALDI. No word of a lie the ALDI flowers outlasted the florist’s by a whole week!

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow…

She bought diapers for 20 cents a pack prompting her friends to ask her to start to teach others how to save money. She loves to use her couponing powers to buy things and donate them. Originally from England, Clair Boone is wife to an amazing man, Mum to a toddler and lives near Chicago.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

How to Shop With Little Children — Part 2

If you missed it, read Part 1 of How to Shop With Little Children here.

After my third child was born, I waited a few weeks to try shopping with all three at the store at once. When I finally did, I realized that it was doable, but it was a lot of work. In fact, it felt more like a three-ring circus act I was trying to oversee.

“Be careful, you’re going to smoosh the whole loaf of bread.”

“Sit down in the cart, please.”

“No, honey, we’re not going to buy those. Put them back on the shelf.”

“Please do not push your sister.”

“Has anyone seen the coupon for the ice cream? It was just right here.”

We’re working on first-time cheerful obedience, but we’ve far from completely mastered it at our house. And I’ve decided that I’d rather choose other places than the grocery store to work on child-training right now.

I know there might be women reading this who are just shaking their head in disbelief that I can’t get my act together as you effortlessly shop at five stores every week with your seven children under four. More power to you! 🙂

But personally, I don’t find it easy to shop at multiple stores, use coupons and bring three children with me. So instead of beating myself up over this, I’ve decided to rethink my Grocery Shopping Gameplan for our current season of life.

1. Simple is Good

To be perfectly honest, since having three children, I’ve cut way back on shopping and using coupons. Whereas it wasn’t uncommon at all for me to shop at four to five (or even more!) stores many weeks back in the earlier years of our marriage, I now rarely go to more than two stores in one week.

I try to have one or two weeks each month where I put forth some concentrated effort on stockpiling and then I usually stick with the barebones shopping the other two to three weeks, occasionally even skipping shopping entirely for a week (outside of a few things like milk).

We’re keeping our meals extremely simple, too, so that makes shopping easier as well. We usually just have oatmeal or cold cereal for breakfast, smoothies of some sort for a mid-morning snack, veggies/fruit and some kind of protein for lunch, and for dinner we just rotate between a beef or chicken for the main dish, and have salad, fruit and maybe some bread made in the bread machine for sides. Other snacks are usually yogurt, cereal, fruit, veggies, muffins (from the freezer), hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, peanut butter toast or something else which is equally simple.

I know that this menu plan probably wouldn’t work for many people as it’s just so Plain Jane and redundant, but my husband is happy, the children are happy and we’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet (well, at least it works for us and we feel energetic and healthy!).

2. Flexibility is Key

Instead of having one afternoon a week dedicated to marathon shopping, I’m learning to be more flexible and stick with fitting in shorter shopping trips whenever they fit in. If we’re going to be getting together with friends on the other side of town, I might swing by a store while we’re out. Or, if we have a free evening and my husband gets home early, I might run out to do a quick shopping trip with one child after dinner while my husband is home with the other two.

Some weeks, we have a free afternoon, I’m feeling energetic and things are running pretty smoothly so I’ll load up all the kids and we go do a marathon shopping trip. However, freeing myself up from feeling obligated to do a big stock-up trip with all the children every single week has been so helpful.

While we might not be as stocked up on everything as we once-upon-a-time were and while there are weeks when I feel like I wish I were more organized and always did the shopping on the same day like I used to do, rolling with the punches and fitting shopping in when it works is getting us by.

3. Help is Wonderful

I think the biggest shift in my thinking about grocery shopping (and life in general) since having three children has been that it’s okay to accept help. After Silas was born and I was struggling a great deal with postpartum depression, my husband hired a wonderful young lady from church to start coming over one day each week and helping our family. This has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and I’d highly recommend something like this to every mom who has young children!

Our helper comes over each Tuesday and does laundry, cleaning and whatever else I need done. After our morning school lessons are finished, I’ll often take one of the girls with me on a quick shopping trip while our helper stays with the other children and feeds them lunch/plays with them. It gives me the opportunity to get some quality one-on-one time with a child and also allows me to get some efficient grocery shopping done!

In addition, Jesse’s step-grandma comes over every Thursday morning to spend time with us and I’ll occasionally run errands or do some grocery shopping while she’s here, too. And on those really busy weeks, Jesse also will gladly stop by the store — sometimes even taking some (or all!) of the children with him!

Creative Alternatives to Hiring a Babysitter So You Can Go Grocery Shopping

If hiring a babysitter or helper is not an option and you don’t have family nearby, don’t despair! Here are some other ideas:

::Swap With a Friend — Know another young mom who is also struggling with grocery shopping with young children? How about asking her if she’d like to swap babysitting with you so you can both get your shopping done each week?

::Shop With Your Husband — If your husband is game, find a time that works to shop when he can come along with you. It can make it much easier for you and can be a fun outing, too!

::Shop When Your Husband is Home –If there’s a time which works out for your family, consider shopping when your husband is home and able to watch your children.

::Bring a Friend/Helper Along — If you have a friend who’d love to spend time with you and would willingly be an extra set of hands, ask her about coming along with you. If you have a few quick in-and-out trips, perhaps she could even just sit in the car with your children while you run in. Or, if you know a mature teenage girl who is looking for a small part-time job, you could ask her to come along with you. For a small hourly pay, you may be able to provide a lot more sanity to your shopping trips.

While these things I’ve learned might be helpful to some of you, there are others of you who have no alternative but to shop every week with little children. So for those of you, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post for my ideas and tricks for pulling off a successful shopping trip with young children in tow. And come prepared to share your tips, too. (I already know that my readers are going to have dozens of amazing ideas to share!)

Do you have a creative alternative to hiring a babysitter not listed? Have you changed your gameplan when it comes to shopping as a result of having young children? I’d love to hear your thoughts and input!

photo by AlwaysBreaking

Q&A Tuesday: Which Drug Store Has the Best Deals?

I live pretty equidistantly from all the big three drugstores– CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid. I do most of my drugstore shopping at CVS, since it happens to share a parking lot with my local Kroger and saves a few precious moments of travel time.

However, I’ve begun to think more seriously about which chain in fact has some of the best deals or the best rewards system. I can think of pros/cons of all three chains, but what does everyone else think? Sincerely, Ellen

Great question and I’m fascinated to hear input from everyone on this!

I personally can’t give a very educated answer since I’ve never stepped foot in a Rite Aid store before — we’ve always lived hundreds of miles away from them!

When we lived in Topeka and Kansas City and had both a CVS and Walgreens, I chose CVS over Walgreens nine times out of ten because I found that I paid much less money out of pocket on the CVS deals. I only went to Walgreens when the deals were smoking hot — which happened to be about once every 6-8 weeks at that time.

Now, we live in a town with no drug stores but Walgreens (sniff!). I only shop there occasionally because they usually aren’t very coupon-friendly and I’ve often found it to be more hassle than it’s worth. But if I have extra time or there’s a can’t-miss deal, I still find it worth it sometimes.

I think which drugstore has the best deals will depend somewhat upon the area you live in and what kinds of items you routinely buy. Some stores are notorious for being out-of-stock of the weekly deals. Some stores, like our Walgreens, aren’t coupon-friendly. These types of factors will play into which drug store has the best deals for you.

So if you have easy access to all three drug stores, I’d suggest trying out each of them (preferably one at a time) for a few months. At the end of this experiment, decide which drugstore(s) seem a good fit for you.

What about you? Do you prefer CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid? Why? I’d love to hear!

Super Savings Saturday: 31 tubes of toothpaste and my first ever video blog

So, I’m stepping way out on a limb and posting a video blog of my shopping trip last night. Please bear with me, as it is completely obvious from the video that I have no idea how to do a video blog.You also might brace yourself for impending sea sickness as I’m holding the camera, showing you my groceries and talking with my hands at the same time. 🙂

Enjoy! Oh and excuse the mistake of me saying the bananas were $0.29 each. I meant $0.29 per pound!

This shopping trip is a great example of how I practice the Buy Ahead Principle. Stocking up on 31 free tubes of toothpaste might seem excessive, but considering we go through 1-2 tubes per month and the toothpaste deals have been sparse recently, I went ahead and used all my coupons. That way, if there’s not another deal on toothpaste for 18 months, we’re in good shape.

Wondering where I got 31 toothpaste coupons from? Check out my article on 10 Ways to Get Coupons for Free.

Big thanks to Erin from $5 Dinners for the foil pan deal tip, Mary from The Deal Detector for the Crayon deal tip and to my sister for going shopping with me and making it much more fun than if I’d gone by myself.

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Be Brand Dependent

One way to save a great deal of money on your grocery budget is to learn to like and use a variety of brands. The sooner you can get over being a brand-snob, the more your pocketbook will thank you.

Be Brave; Try New Things!

I have a confession to make: when we first started shopping at Aldi, I was really leery of buying their products. I figured they’d taste icky and cheap.

But since my husband and I were living on a beans-and-rice budget, we had to make a meager budget work. It was either that – or pretty much starve! So we hesitantly started trying different items from Aldi.

And guess what? We were pleasantly surprised! Not only was most of it not icky or cheap-tasting, we actually liked some of the food better than the brands we were used to buying.

Base Your Purchases on the Price Rather Than the Brand

Let’s say your shampoo stockpile is running low and it’s time to build it back up. If you’re stuck on only buying Herbal Essence shampoo, the cheapest you may be able to buy it is for $1.50 by combining a sale with a coupon. If, however, you’re willing to look for the lowest price on any brand of shampoo, you may very well be able to find shampoo priced at $0.50 per bottle after coupon and sale.

While the savings of $1 per bottle of shampoo might not seem too significant, think about how the savings could add up if you saved $1 on 15 different items each week at the grocery store because you choose price over brand. That would be a savings of $60 per month — or$720 per year. And in most people’s cases, the savings would likely be much more than that.

Don’t Stockpile 35 Bottles of Something If You’ve Never Tried the Brand Before

While I’m all for trying new things and looking at the purchase price rather than the brand, I do want to caution you not to go overboard. If you’ve never tried Cheeseburger and Cream shampoo before and it’s on a great sale and there’s a good coupon out for it, I’d suggest you buy a bottle or two and determine whether you like it or not before you stock up for the rest of the year.

It’s not saving money if you get a sweet deal on 30 bottles of shampoo and then they stay in the stockpile closet for five years because no one will use them!

Yes, Brand Does Matter Sometimes — But Not Much of the Time

Okay, before any diehard brand-dependent person flips out on me, I must clarify that I believe it’s totally acceptable to have a few items where you are stuck 100% on a certain brand.

For instance, we only use Pampers diapers. I have two children with extremely sensitive skin and we’ve tried multiple brands of cloth diapers, Huggies, Luvs, store-brand, you name it and Pampers are the only diapers who don’t break them out in severe diaper rash. So it’s worth it to me to spend the extra money on Pampers (though, since the advent of Swagbucks, I’ve not been paying for diapers out of pocket, so the extra costs don’t hurt as much!).

We also use Shout almost exclusively for stain removal. We have three young children and oh do we have need of a good stain remover! Shout is the only stain remover I’ve found which consistently gets out pretty much 100% of the stains. However, I can usually get it for under $0.75 per bottle by matching a coupon with a great sale, so I’m not really spending much more on it.

Other than Shout and Pampers, we try to keep a pretty open mind when it comes to brands and shopping. And we save so much money by doing so!

What brands are you non-negotiable on? Have you been pleasantly surprised when trying new brands?

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Eight Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons — oh really?!

Yahoo Finance released an article earlier this week on 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons. Articles like these always leave me shaking my head.

No offense to the author, but I believe she is very misinformed. A quick internet search would have proven most of her points invalid.

Of course, I’m biased as I believe everyone should use coupons in some way, shape or form. Unless you make half a million dollars each year and own an island, I believe you could benefit from using coupons — if even just to casually use them for a few products each week and shave $40 off your grocery budget every month.

Andrea did a great job of responding and rebutting each of the author’s points in her post. And, just for kicks, I thought I’d do the same. So here are the eight arguments for not using coupons from Yahoo along with my rebuttals:

Argument #1 You have to buy a newspaper.

My Rebuttal: Actually, I use lots of coupons and haven’t purchased a newspaper in over two years. Check out my article on 10 Ways to Get Coupons for Free.

Argument #2: Clipping coupons takes time.

My Rebuttal: Yes, clipping coupons takes time, but in most cases, it’s time very well spent. I mean, where else can you find a job you can do from your home that earns you $30-$50 per hour in tax-free savings?

To be honest, I really don’t spend any extra time clipping coupons. I bring my coupon box each week to a regular family gathering and clip and file while engaged in our discussions. I figure if my mouth and brain are going to be busy, I might as well keep my hands productive, too.

If you want to save even more time, try the no-coupon-clipping method of using coupons.

Argument #3: Getting a newspaper invites lots of additional advertising into your home.

My Rebuttal: Who says you have to bring the whole newspaper into your home? We don’t. We only bring coupon inserts to be clipped.

Argument #4: Many of the coupons will be for things you neither need nor want.

My Rebuttal: Yes, and that’s why there’s this thing called a trashcan. No one says you have to clip and use every coupon — especially if you didn’t pay for them. Use the coupons which work for you, toss the rest.

However, I’d also argue that if you’re willing to try new things which are free, almost-free or more-than-free, you might discover some new products you love! Or, if you have the time and energy, you could also consider buying things you can get for free or more-than-free with coupons and donating them if you won’t use them.

Argument #5: Coupons can tempt you to spend your grocery dollars on things you shouldn’t.

My Rebuttal: If coupons are tempting you to spend your grocery dollars on things you shouldn’t, you might consider not going grocery shopping because just walking down a grocery store aisle can tempt you to spend all sorts of money you shouldn’t spend. One reason you need to learn self discipline is that, otherwise, you’ll likely spend money on things you shouldn’t all the rest of your life.

My advice is to create a grocery budget and shop with cash in order to help encourage self-discipline. After all, it’s pretty hard to spend a lot of money you don’t have at the grocery store when you have a budget and pay with cash!

Argument #6: The same coupons tend to be offered over and over again.

My Rebuttal: Seriously, has this author ever even clipped coupons before? Yes, there are some coupons that you see regularly, but the whole point of coupons is very often to introduce new products. So there is a wide variety of coupons offered — especially with the advent of printable coupons and coupons offered through Facebook.

And at any rate, I like it when great coupons which net free or almost-free products appear again and again. It enables me to keep my pantry and stockpile filled for pennies on the dollar!

Argument #7: You might become a slave to coupons.

In explaining her point, the author says:

“It can be very difficult to buy something without a coupon once you get used to using coupons. Knowing that you can get ice cream for $2.50 might make it difficult for you to spend $4 on it…”

My Rebuttal: Okay, I admit it. I’m a Coupon Slave. Because seriously? Who pays $4 for ice cream? It’s very rare we ever pay over $2 for it!

Jesting aside, she does have a point here. It is possible to become so obsessed with coupons and bargain-shopping that you spend excessive amounts of time planning and shopping.  That’s why I always suggest you consider how much time you realistically have to invest and how much you are saving per hour.

If your other priorities are suffering or you are saving less than $15 per hour, you need to step back and take a look at how to streamline things so couponing is more effective and rewarding for you and your family.

Argument #8: Shopping takes longer.

My Rebuttal: It can, but it doesn’t have to. If you take the time to plan a menu and plan your shopping trip, you can actually save time on shopping and meal prep.

How? Because having a plan and following the plan is always going to save you time and effort when compared to having no plan and just flying by the seat of your pants. Instead of waiting until 5 p.m. to figure out dinner and then running to the store to pick up things to make dinner, you can write out a menu for the whole week and make one big shopping trip to buy everything.

Now, of course, if you enjoy couponing and see it as your hobby (a hobby that saves your family money, too!), you can spend more time grocery shopping than average folks do. But usually, the savings you’ll reap is also very significant. (And if it’s not, then you likely need to see my point above about re-prioritizing!).

Whew! There’s so much more I could say on each of these points. It was hard to condense my rebuttals to a paragraph or two. But I figured I’d leave it at that and let you chime in.

Do you agree with any of the author’s arguments for why you shouldn’t use coupons? Why or why not? I’d love to hear!

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photo credit: Miss Messie