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29 Sep 2009   ·   95
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: Does Couponing Only Work if You Eat Junk Food?

Melissa left the following comment on my Super Savings Saturday post last week. I began to respond to it in the comments section and I wrote so much that I finally decided it would be better to make this a separate post:

I've been using coupons for a while, but I've just newly done research on getting the most bang for each coupon. The thing that I notice though is that much of the food you get at really great prices is not really so healthy… chips, candy, cookies, and lots of processed stuff which could definitely be left out of the grocery budget totally. I have a terrible sweet-tooth and really love all that stuff, but if I got that much I know it would not be so good for my waistline. Are there ways to coupon and get healthy stuff, or does the couponing really only work for the junk food? I don't seem to find a lot of coupons for fresh foods, and healthy meal/baking supplies. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place? Any suggestions? -Melissa

Melissa, what a great question! There is a widely-held myth that using coupons means you only feed your family junk food. From a cursory vantage point, it can seem like us couponers buy a lot of processed food. And yes, it might appear like my family must only eat MSG and high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden foods. However, that is very far from the truth.

I definitely do buy some processed foods and my grocery shopping trips are evidence of this. I know that bothers some people and I often receive hate mail about it. I understand that some people want to avoid every ounce of processed foods–and that's okay with me! But that's not where our family is right now. We strive to eat a balanced diet and do the best we can with the time and money we have.

We don't eat all organic, we do eat processed foods probably at least once or twice a day, and I don't always bake and cook every single thing from scratch. But if you look at examples of our weekly menus here, you'll see that according to most people's standards, we do try to eat fairly healthfully. There are definitely areas we can improve in and I'm always seeking to work on those. It's a learning process!

Balance is key to me; it's not an all or nothing thing. We've chosen to eliminate food coloring from our diet, we also rarely eat pork, we are very particular about the meat we buy, we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables (many of which have come from friend's gardens this Summer–yum!), we make much of our food from scratch, we eat very little fast food, we use primarily freshly-ground whole-wheat flour in our baking, we use all-natural cleaners for at least 90% of the cleaning we do in our home, we don't drink soda pop, and we avoid artificial flavoring whenever possible.

Those are just the things we've chosen to do in our own home based upon the research we've done and what works for our family. Every family is different so I encourage each family to do their own research and decide what are their own family's goals and priorities and then stick with those.

While we mostly eat foods cooked from scratch, I do buy some processed foods (such as granola bars, ice cream, and cereal–and occasionally even Oreo Cakesters!) when I can get them at rock-bottom prices. We enjoy these for treats, I pack a few in my husband's lunches each day, and we often share some of our extra goodies with others.

That said, there are quite a few coupons for healthful foods. To give you an example, this past week I was able to get All-Natural Dannon Vanilla yogurt and Musselman's All-Natural Applesauce for over 66% off the retail price thanks to coupons. The week before that, I got 12 organic CLIF bars for free and five boxes of Kashi products for free. There have also been some great Target coupons out recently for fruit and vegetables. Coupons for organic foods and produce are becoming more prevalent than they used to be, and I'm excited about this trend!

If you don't want to buy processed foods at all, but you still use traditional household items (such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and the like), you could just use coupons on household items. By watching for sales on these and pairing the sales with coupons, you can significantly slash your grocery bill–without ever even using a coupon on food items!

For example, I never pay more than $0.20 for toothpaste and toothbrushes. Every few months, these go on sale for $1 and there are quite a few $0.40/1 and $0.50/1 coupons available–which our Dillon's store doubles. I save these coupons and use them during the week of the $1 toothbrush and toothpaste sale to stock up!

It's the same for laundry detergent, deodorant, dish detergent, shampoo, conditioner, and so on. By combining coupons with sales, I often get these items for free or for pennies on the dollar thus saving us a significant portion of our grocery bill.

Unless you truly cook everything from scratch, don't use shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and use cloth toilet paper, you likely buy at least a few items which you could use coupons on. If you even just use coupons on 5-10 items per shopping trip and pair these coupons with great sales, you could probably save at least $20-$30 off your grocery bill per month–and that's money which is then freed up to be invested elsewhere in your grocery budget or put into savings!

I will be quick to say that while I'm a big advocate of using coupons, there are many more ways to save on your grocery bill without using coupons. In fact, I see coupons as just a part of the reason we're able to have a $40/week grocery budget. I also recommend that you have a budget, plan a menu, plan your menu around your store's sales, learn the sales cycles so you can buy ahead when an item you regularly use is at it's rock bottom price, shop with cash only and a calculator, shop at more than one store (if you're crunched for time, just glance at your local stores' ads when planning your shopping trip and determine which one has the best sales that week and then shop there), and bake and cook from scratch as much as possible.

Not everyone can do every single one of these things (and if you're new to the world of bargain shopping, coupon-clipping, and frugal living, please do not burn yourself out by trying to do it all at once. Take babysteps, okay?), but a little time invested in some of these things can go a long way towards shrinking your grocery budget without requiring you to expand your waistline or consume loads of junk food in the process!

For more information and ideas, be sure to read my article on how to lower your grocery bill without using coupons. Amy is also doing a series on her blog on 20 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store Without Using Coupons. Check out the first installments of her series here and here.

In addition, if you're new to frugal living and want some great ideas to slash your
grocery budget without using coupons, I'd definitely recommend checking
out the book I am currently reading Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

What other suggestions do you have for Michelle? Please share in the comments section. In addition, if you eat primarily unprocessed foods and blog on how you do so on a budget, would you be kind enough to leave your link in the comments section?

26 Sep 2009   ·   40
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My Double Dollar Coupon Shopping Trip

I planned to go shopping on Monday. But that didn't end up working out and then the whole week sped by at breakneck speed until all of a sudden it was Friday and I still hadn't gone to the store. So we ended up having an unexpected and unplanned-for Eating from the Pantry and Freezer Week.

And honestly? We didn't really seem to notice.

That's truly the beauty of having a good stockpile of food. It's also the blessing of having friends who continue to share their garden bounties with us. I've hardly purchased any vegetables for weeks now, because people just keep sharing with us. Since we had a flopped container garden experiment this year and our current landlords don't allow us to till up part of the yard and put in a garden, we've been so thankful for friends who having shared from their garden surpluses with us.

I hope we can return the favor soon. But I promise I won't leave any sacks of zucchini on anyone's porches. We grew about twenty too many plants of those the first year we moved out to the country growing up and I can hardly stand to look zucchini in the eye again as a result!

At any rate, we managed to survive eight days of not stepping into a store without any issues whatsoever. But when I heard my sister, sister-in-law, and Mom were hitting a local store's Double Dollar Coupon promotion today, I quickly decided it was high time to go shopping again.

I didn't have my coupons all that organized. In fact, I'd neglected them last week because of our trip to Atlanta so they were heaping out of my coupon box–some cut, some inserts whole, and printables strewn about mixed in. (See? For those of you who often write me thinking I have it all put together, here's proof that I'm as normal as it comes. My superwoman cape disappeared in the laundry along with some socks a number of years ago!) My sister came to my rescue and helped me scramble and get some organization in place before we left for the store.

As a result, here's what I came home with:

Download

2 boxes Oreo Cakesters
2 packages of Reese's
1 can Dole pineapple
4 cans of Pringles
1 bottle of Ken's salad dressing
1 carton of Dannon yogurt
4 4-packs of Musselman's applesauce
2 4-packs of Dannon yogurt
3 bottles of Pert Plus
1 bag of shredded cheese
1 bottle of Dawn dish soap
3 bottles of Tabasco sauce
1 Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
1 2-pack of Olay soap
1 3-lb bag of Jonagold apples
2 other apples (We're studying apples in our homeschool unit next week, so I'm trying to buy as many different kinds of apples as I can.)
5 packages of Schick disposable razors
1 bar Johnson's baby soap
3 cans of shaving gel
1 Reach floss
2 packages of whole-wheat lasagna noodles
2 packages of whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
3 packages of other whole-wheat noodles

Also pictured are 2 dozen farm-fresh eggs we bought from my brother who raises chickens.

Before coupons, my total was almost $85. After coupons, I paid $23.58 for everything pictured! I came home re-energized to organize my coupons again and after doing so, I found quite a few more so I think I'm going to head back to this local grocery store again tomorrow to do another Double Dollar Coupon transaction and I'm also planning to stop by Dillon's for their Buy 10, Get $5 Off Mega Event.

I currently have almost $75 in grocery money left to spend in September on our $40/week grocery budget so I'm excited to see how far I can stretch the rest of that. As I mentioned earlier this month, I've been trying to stay under budget like last month so I'd have some money left over to put towards another bulk purchase. It's looking quite feasible at this point.

But I just have to figure out what I want to stock up on… Oats? Frozen Fruit? Butter? Cheese? Coconut Oil? Oh, the possibilities!

I'm even seriously considering investing in some vanilla since so many of you suggested we really shouldn't live without it!

We'll see what I finally narrow it down to! One thing I do know, it has to be something which we'll use a lot of and which will keep well for at least a few months–if not more.

——————————–
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.

23 Sep 2009   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading Round-Up

Just a few good reads from the last few days:

::Amy is doing an excellent series on How To Save Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons. Check out her first installment here.

::I loved this piece on How to Save Money By Getting Almost Everything Free. I definitely concur. My philosophy is why pay money if you can find a creative way to get it free?

::Megan posted an excellent step-by-step tutorial here on making and canning your own applesauce. I'll admit that canning my own stuff terrifies me. I'm just sure I'll do something which will ruin the whole batch. But Megan's post almost makes think I could pull it off!

22 Sep 2009   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

This week’s menu plan (and how I learned the hard way that no menu plan = disaster!)

In a very uncharacteristic move, I jumped off the menu-planning bandwagon for the past two weeks. We had plenty of food on hand and I figured it wouldn't be too much trouble to wing it.

Was I ever wrong!

Trying to "fly by the seat of my pants" when it came to menu-planning was disastrous! We not only resorted to take-out a few times (outside of our once-a-week Dinner Out night), but we had little variety in our meals. And, worst of all, I found it took me a great deal of mental energy to try and figure out from day-to-day and meal-to-meal what we'd be eating. Five o'clock would sneak up on me from out of the blue every single night and I had no plan… again.

So, no more skipping the meal-planning around here. Two weeks of that madness was plenty enough for me. I'm committed to make this a priority now that I've seen how much time, effort, and money it saves!

Here's this week's menu plan:

Breakfasts
Fresh carrot/apple juice, Kashi waffles (free at Target last week)
Fresh tomato juice, Blueberry Banana Bran muffins from the freezer
Strawberry/blueberry/banana smoothies, toast
Cereal x 2
Fruit, muffins
Homemade cinnamon rolls, turkey sausage, fruit

Lunches
Healthy choice meals (free with coupons last week)
Quesadillas, fruit salad
Green pepper strips, fruit salad, PB &J sandwiches, stuffed eggs
Fried egg sandwiches with tomatoes
Bean soup, muffins from the freezer, carrots
Leftovers
PB&J, fruit, granola bars (free with coupons last week)

Dinners
Farmhouse Chicken, biscuits, grapes, peas
Chicken Pot Pie, fruit salad, broccoli
Southwest Roll-ups, corn and tomatoes, fruit salad
Homemade Pizza, fruit, ice cream
French Toast, turkey sausage, fruit
Out to Dinner
Homemade Mac and Cheese, grapes, homemade bread

Snacks
Granola bars
Cereal
Fruit
Veggies
Muffins from the freezer
Cheese and crackers
Ice cream

It's only Tuesday and I'm already seeing a huge difference in having a plan. But you think I should know that by now for how often I preach the virtues of having a menu plan. Sometimes, even us frugal zealots need to be reminded of this again, though! 🙂

19 Sep 2009   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: This week’s Wal-Mart, Target, and Dillons trip

We were traveling back home today from Atlanta so I didn't get the opportunity to post Super Savings Saturday until now. Here's what we bought at the grocery store this week:

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Wal-Mart (plus a bag of organic carrots some friends gave us): $19.73

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Target trip: $6.72, used gift cards earned last week to pay plus earned a $5 gift card back = $0.00 out of pocket (I was planning to get 10 Kashi items, but they were out of the Honey Sunshine Kashi cereal so I just had to improvise!)

059

Dillon's trip: $7.22

So all totaled, we spent $26.95 on groceries this week. It's looking like I'm going to have some extra grocery money at the end of September to invest in a few more bulk purchases, which I'm excited about. Now I'm just figuring out exactly what I'm going to use the money to purchase! I'll let you know when I decide.

Stay tuned for our full menu for next week which I'll post on Monday. We've had so much going on recently that I've not done as great of a job of menu-planning and it's definitely made mealtime run a lot less smoothly and made meals much less interesting and varied. So I've determined that I'm jumping back into the swing of following a meal plan starting Monday morning–and I think my whole family is going to be very grateful!

——————————–
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.

17 Sep 2009   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Check-up

It's September and that means it's time for our monthly financial check up. How did you do in August?

Here are our quick stats:

We began August at 57.8% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 65%!

I about fell over when my husband did the math and told me the final tallies. It's so excited to finally be getting really close to something we've long dreamed about, talked about, prayed about, and worked very hard towards.

Recently, a blog reader I had the privilege of meeting in real life was commenting to me about how difficult it must be for us to be waiting to purchase a house when we could afford to go out and pay 65% down on a home which is roomier and better-suited for our family than the rental we're currently in.

While having more than two bedrooms would be nice and having a larger yard that doesn't back up to a busy highway would also be a wonderful thing, neither my husband or I feel like we're in the least bit miserable waiting to pay 100% down. In fact, we both are very determined we want to stick it out to our 100% goal–even if it takes longer than we hope.

Why? Well, for one, we want to stand by our commitment to stay out of debt. We understand that this is not possible for everyone in every situation. That said, we do believe it is much more possible than many people believe it to be. And we hope that we might be an inspiration to some of you to set big goals and work hard towards them.

We also want to be an example to our children. Growing up, my parents had a dream of getting out of debt and then buying land and building a debt-free house out in the country. They worked hard towards that goal and when I was 12 years old, we not only had paid off our house, we had purchased land, built a house, and moved in.

Seeing their example made a major impact upon my life and this is one of biggest reasons we're currently aggressively saving towards buying our first home debt-free. It is our hope that our children can stand on our shoulders–just as we seek to stand on the shoulders of our parents–and, who knows? Perhaps they will be able to buy their first home with cash before they are even married!

In addition, we want to be the best stewards of the resources we have so that we can bless as many people as possible. We aren't seeking to pay cash for a house so that they we can go pursue some extravagant lifestyle. Instead, paying cash for a house is just the first step in a long line of goals we have for our family as we seek to make an impact in this world by giving of our resources to help those in need.

We feel that living a life without payments and with a strong financial plan in place will better enable us to reach out to those in need. And we're incredibly excited about the possibilities to give and serve with our finances–as God allows us to do so. (By the way, there's an excellent video here which has been a huge inspiration to us in this regard.)

So yes, our home might be a wee bit small right now, our yard even smaller, and it might seem very counter-cultural for us to wait just a little bit longer until we've saved up 100% to pay cash for a home, but we're willing to wait because we know that someday it will be worth the sacrifices!

(If you're new here, be sure to check out this post where I explain in detail why we've committed to this "crazy" idea to pay 100% down on a home. )

——————————————–
How did you do in August? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in August and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in September. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

17 Sep 2009   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Guest Vlog: Easy Meals in Minutes

Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam posted the above video on her blog for Tasty Tuesday and I was so inspired by it that I asked if I could share it here. She walks you through some simple and practical ideas for creating meals in minutes as soon as you come home from the grocery store.

I’m definitely going to try this out more as I believe it will be a lifesaver for our family on busy days. Plus, having food handy and ready to stick in the crockpot straight from your freezer can eliminate having to fall back onto fast food or carryout when you’re out of time and ideas for dinner.

16 Sep 2009   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading Round-Up

Here are just a few links I've found in the last few days which are worth reading:

::Can buying store brands save you money? JD over at Get Rich Slowly says it can in his well-written post here. I'd argue that by combining coupons with sales, you can often buy name brand for less than the store brand price. However, there are certain things which rarely have coupons available so I then choose to buy the store brand (or the cheapest brand). And if you don't have the time to use coupons, then it definitely would be cheaper to consider switching to buying mostly generic brands.

::If you're working on building a good stockpile of food, make sure you read The Prudent Homemaker's post on possible gaps in your stockpile here. She has many helpful ideas and reminders that she's learned from personal experience.

::Speaking of having a stockpile of food, Tiffany shares here how their stockpile allowed them to be prepared and bless others during Hurricane Ike.

::One simple way to save money on clothing and be more organized is to create a clothing inventory. Check out Tiffany's post on the subject here. I have found a very helpful thing to do is to match up my children's clothing by outfits and we keep it simple by having 6-8 outfits per person per season. Not only is this less expensive because we purchase fewer clothes, but it also makes it much less work for me in keeping their clothes organized.

::Mummy Deals has some frugal suggestions for your excess hot dog buns here.

Have you found an insightful article or blog post recently which you think I'd be interested in sharing? Be sure to email me with the link and I'll gladly consider it!

14 Sep 2009   ·   64
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: Time Management and Bargain Shopping

I just found your blog and I love it. But I don't know if I am a little too gung-ho about
this. I am not feeling overwhelmed. I have all these folders organized
in my favorites folder and blogs marked in my Google Reader. I have
forums to help me and sites to visit.

It just seems like there
are so many places to find deals and some sites have things that others
don't. Some post more frequently than others.
I guess I am looking for a way to simplify this so it is not so overwhelming. You said you take about 45 minutes a week and at the rate I am going, it will be hours a week checking blogs and forums. -Jessica

When
you are first learning to shop frugally, it can be a bit overwhelming,
especially if this is a completely new way of thinking. Here are a few of my
recommendations:

1) Start slowly. Don't try to cut your grocery bill in half tomorrow. Instead, set a very reachable goal for your grocery budget for this month.
Once you've achieved that goal, then gradually try to shave off a
little bit more and then a little bit more. Challenge yourself to
improve at a pace that isn't too slow so you see no progress happening,
but also isn't too fast so that it frustrates or burdens you.

When
you are just beginning, pick one or two areas to work on at a time.
Perhaps you have a CVS store nearby, make it a goal that you will spend
the next 2 months learning how to shop there and get all of your
deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and soap/bodywash there
for free (there are a lot more things you can get free there, but we're
going slow, remember?). Start here to learn how to do that.

Once
you've cut out that part of your budget and feel comfortable with
CVS-ing, then move on to something else, say learning Walgreens or
Target, using more coupons at your grocery store, or making two items
from scratch which you would normally buy pre-packaged.

Whatever you pick to work on, enjoy it and don't stress over it. Stretching your budget should be an exciting challenge, not a huge drudgery.

2) Keep it simple.
There is a tendency to want to read every forum and blog out there for
fear we might miss some great deal. The truth is, most of us do not
have that kind of time on our hands. Plus, time is money;
if we waste a lot of time scouring deal websites only to come up with
minimal savings to show for our hours of internet browsing, we really
aren't saving money.

I encourage you to pick a few forums or
blogs that you generally find the best deals for the stores you shop at
and use those as your resource. Set a time once or twice a week in your
schedule to peruse through these and choose which deals you want to do
and add these to your grocery list. (I've found it helpful to copy and paste
deals I find straight into a WORD document and then use that to compile
our grocery list and menu.)

3) Set parameters.
Not only do I recommend that you have a set grocery budget and only
bring cash (and a calculator!) with you to the store to make sure you
follow your budget, I also would highly encourage you to budget your
grocery-list-making time and your bargain-shopping time.

When
you are first starting out, you might allot 1-2 hours per week to
searching for bargains, scouring the ads, clipping and organizing
coupons, and making your list. As you become more adept, I'd shoot for
45 minutes to an hour maximum for grocery shopping strategizing. Have a
set day and a set block of time, if possible. Or split it up into 10-15
minute increments over a few days.

I also recommend that you
limit yourself to one to two bargain-shopping trips per week. Bargain
shopping can be a great way to be a better steward of your family's
income, but it should never consume your life. If you are running
around all over town multiple times per week to get great deals, you
need to step back and examine your priorities.

Like I've said before,
if your home and family is suffering for the sake of a good deal, it's
not a good deal. Set parameters and stick with them! (See this post here for more helpful ideas.)

I'd
love to hear from others on this subject: How do you wisely steward
your time when it comes to frugality? Do you have a method which works
for you to effectively and efficiently save money and take advantage of
great deals without it becoming too time-consuming? Tell us about it!

12 Sep 2009   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

I only went shopping once this week, thanks to a well-stocked fridge and freezer and cupboards (and some friends sharing some more fresh produce with us!):

006

I spent $5.82 on everything pictured above. Read more details on this shopping trip here.

——————————–
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.

10 Sep 2009   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

This week’s $5.82 Target trip

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I am totally loving Target right now! See all that stuff pictured? I paid $5.82 for all it. Yep, $5.82!

Here's the breakdown:

1 Glade Fragrance Collection 2 oz. candle–$2.49, used $3/1 coupon, free plus overage (see more details on this deal here)
1 Renu Contact Solution–$1.54, used $2/1 coupon here, free plus overage
10 sticks of cheese–$0.40 each, used 5 $1/2 coupons here, free plus overage
2 General Mills cereal cups–$0.95 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons here, free plus overage
6 small loaves of Artisan bread–$0.99 each, used 6 $1/1 coupons here, free after coupons
2 travel-size bottles of All laundry detergent–$0.99 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons from the 8/2 RedPlum insert, free after coupons
4 travel-size packages of Tide–$1.07 each, used $1/1 coupons from the 8/2 P&G insert, $0.07 each after coupons
5.23 pounds bananas–$0.58/pound, used 4 $0.50/pound coupons here, $1.53 after coupons (I should have weighed these more carefully! I didn't realize this coupon was expired when I was planning my shopping trip, but Target willingly accepted these.)
5 Gala apples–on sale for $0.99/pound, $2.47
2 Carmex–$1.04 each, used $1/1 coupons here, $0.04 each after coupons
2 packages of BIC mechanical pencils–$1.24 each, used $1/2 coupon from the 8/9 SmartSource insert stacked with the $1/2 Target coupon here, $0.24 per package after coupons
6 packages of BIC pens–$0.99 each, used 3 $1/2 coupons from the 8/9 SmartSource insert stacked with 3 $1/2 Target coupons here, free after coupons
7 boxes Fiber One cereal–$2.50 each, used 5 $0.75/1 coupons here (and from a mailer), used 7 $1/1 coupons here–$0.25 per box after coupons and gift card promotion
3 boxes Fiber One bars–$2.50 each, used 3 $0.40/1 coupons here, $1.10 each after coupons and gift card

My total was $15.82 after coupons. I used the $10 in gift cards I had earned last week and then I earned another $10 in gift cards for buying 10 Fiber One products. So all totaled, I only spent $5.82 out of pocket for everything pictured above!

You can see more details on these deals here.

8 Sep 2009   ·   56
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: Feeding babies nutritiously and inexpensively

Babyfood

I was just curious: do you buy baby food or do you make it? I
have two boys 8 and 3 and a baby girl 8 months and it
seems like I am spending a lot on baby food these last couple of
months. -Mandy

Having only
had three young children so far, I'm no expert when it comes to
parenting, so I'll just share what we've done with our girls (Silas is still nursing exclusively). Each
child and family is different so please do what works best for your
family. However, since you asked, here's what has worked for us:

1. I nurse exclusively for the first six months. For me, nursing is easy, simple, a great post-pregnancy weight-loss program, the best nourishment for my child, and it's free. (Well, it is unless you count all the extra food I consume while nursing!) I know some women would love to be able to nurse and have been unable to do so and I feel very blessed that nursing is something I've never had troubles with.

2. I start introducing a few foods here and there at around six months.
This is normally in the form of just giving the child a couple of
tastes of banana or vegetables a few times per week. I usually mash up
something that I'm already eating and offer a few bites. Nursing
continues like usual.

3. I start encouraging our children to eat small meals three times per day at around a year old.
We stick with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains first and then
gradually add in other foods. By this time, a child can easily eat soft
table foods (or fruits/veggies mashed in the baby food grinder) so
we'll just offer the child whatever fruit or veggies we're eating at a
meal plus some homemade bread or other wholegrain finger foods.

As
our child catches on to eating more, nursing is, in turn, gradually
reduced to only 3-4 times per day (usually once in the morning, once in
the afternoon, and once before bed) and will continue to be replaced
more and more by table food over the next six to twelve months. (I
weaned Kathrynne at 18 months and Kaitlynn at 19 months.)

4. I rarely ever buy or make my own baby food. I personally see
store-bought baby food as one of the most overpriced items ever, so I
don't buy it except on the rare occasion when I can get it for free with a coupon.
I've made baby food up ahead of time and frozen it in ice cubes before (see more information and ideas on doing that here),
but I found that didn't work very well for us.

Instead, I've found it to be much simpler to just
offer some of whatever foods we are already eating. Since I normally make
homemade bread every few days and we eat a lot of fresh or frozen fruits and
vegetables, it's been quite simple to have something for the baby to eat
from what we're already eating.

I do recommend you invest in a simple bay food grinder (I like the Kidco Baby Food Mill which is about $15.)

and then just make sure you plan fruits and
vegetables into your menus that your baby can eat. If it's something
which can't just be easily mashed with a fork, stick a small bit in the
grinder when you sit down at the table, grind it up, and
you're good to go!

So that's how we keep our babies nutritiously fed without spending a lot of extra money. I'd love to hear what works for others: do you make your own baby food, buy baby food, or just feed your baby mashed up table food?

Helpful Resources: If you are interested in making your own baby food, you might check out this post here or see if you can check out Feed Me I'm Yours
or check out some of the books listed here from your local library.

5 Sep 2009   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Two weeks of grocery shopping

I skipped posting Super Savings Saturday last week because I was still trying to catch my breath and recover from our garage sale. So here's what we've purchase in the way of groceries in the last 2 weeks:

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Week 1 our local grocery store was running their Double Coupon promotion so I stopped by there to pick up a few good deals. We then discovered later that night that we were entirely out of diapers and our shipment from Amazon.com hadn't come in yet (I usually purchase the majority of our diapers through Amazon using Swagbucks). So my husband made a quick run to the store for diapers. 

Our total for groceries last week was $26.15

036

This week, we hit Dillons and Target and bought all of the items pictured above for $30.81. But we also got back $10 in Target gift cards. (See more details on the Target deals in this post here.)

I'm considering hitting Target one more time this week in order to roll those gift cards and buy more Edy's ice cream and Special K bars. We love ice cream at this house–especially for $0.50 per tub–but I'm wondering if having all that ice cream around might counteract the good thing I've got going in the weight loss department here?! (By the way, I've now lost 5 pounds in two weeks and I'm pretty confident that it is a direct result of drinking the Acai Juice!)

In case you're wondering where the produce is in these pictures, we were the recipients (again!) of more fresh fruit and veggies from friends who had some excess. In addition, we've been eating some of the frozen fruit and veggies we have which need to be used up.

And don't forget that I shop using the Buy-Ahead Principle so we're definitely not just living off the food pictured above for two weeks–otherwise that'd be a pretty sorry diet!

I'm excited that we're underbudget again this month. I'm trying to set aside a little extra grocery money every week to make another bulk purchase and it looks like that's going to be feasible quite soon. Now my problem is just settling on exactly what that bulk purchase will be as my head is swirling with ideas! Stay tuned for more details, as they unfold!

——————————–
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.

4 Sep 2009   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

Cutting down on waste

Inspired by Stephanie's post on cutting down on waste,
I've been contemplating areas where we've cut down on waste in our home.
As I thought about these things, I realized how often frugality can go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly.

Here are a few of the ways we've cut down on waste in our home:

1) Utilizing PaperBackSwap and the library instead of buying books new.
Also, unless I find a book to be exceptional book, I usually pass it on once I'm
finished with it so that someone else might enjoy it and our home can
stay pared down from unnecessary clutter.

2) Buying clothes at second-hand stores at least 50% of the time or more. We also readily accept offers of hand-me-downs from others.

3) Cooking and baking from scratch as much as possible. This is not only healthier for us, but it eliminates much of the extra packaging which comes along with eating a lot of boxed and processed foods.

4) Thinking before I throw something out, "Is there another way I can use this?"

5) Reusing foil and plastic bags until there is no life left in them.
In addition, we use Tupperware or pans/containers with lids instead of
disposable containers whenever we can and, by doing so, I've found that I can get by with only buying a small roll of aluminum foil and a box of plastic bags every six months or so.

6) Eliminating paper towels and using cloth rags/towels instead.

7) Keeping it simple: Staying home more, not having an excess of clothing or household items, drinking water most of the time, and trying to only buy what we need.

8) Only requesting free samples for items we'll use.

9) Using baking soda and Basic H for almost all of our household cleaning.

10) Using less–less shampoo, less laundry detergent, less electricity, and so on. You can cut back in many areas without even ever noticing it and conserving in simple ways throughout each day can add up to big savings
in the long run.

How are you reducing waste and
being frugal at the same time? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Originally published March 2008.

3 Sep 2009   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Five Strategies for Shopping Success

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Guest Post by Beeb Ashcroft from SuperCouponGirl.com

When you first get into couponing, you will quickly notice that you're visiting at a lot of new stores. One of the great things about coupons is that you can use them to find fantastic deals at stores that might not have been worth shopping at previously. However, all these new opportunities to save can get a little overwhelming, and you may find yourself running around all day trying to snag the deals at every store.

You may ask yourself, “Is it even worth it?” People often say that they won't use coupons because they don't have the time to keep track of all these sales or run to 5 different stores. I've had people tell me that I'm just wasting time and gas by shopping around, so I'm not really saving anything.

While I think it is entirely possible to waste time couponing, I also think that it is just as easy to get a big reward for your time–and it all comes down to your strategy. Here are five strategies I've learned for shopping success:

Shopping strategy #1: Map Out Your Stores

Sit down and write a list of the stores near you, and how far away they are. The price and proximity of these outlets will determine your best strategy for true savings.

For example, I have a Safeway grocery store and a Rite Aid drugstore which are a 3-minute drive from me. There is also a Walgreens drug store and a Fred Meyer grocery store which are in the next town–a 30- minute round-trip.

There are several factors I consider when deciding where to shop. First, there is price and coupon policy. Safeway doubles coupon but has high shelf prices; Fred Meyer does not double coupons but has lower shelf prices. Proximity is a big factor, too: Even when I don't have a coupon for something I need, it usually make the most sense to buy it at Safeway despite the higher prices, because I would waste time and gas if I made a 30-minute round-trip just to get a few things.

However, when the sales are really good, I find it's worth going a little out of my way. I shop at Safeway for my day-to-day needs, but when the other stores have great sales, I plan a trip based on that. I check coupon matchups for my stores online and if I can see that it's going to be a great week at Walgreens, I will take an afternoon to go up there. While I'm in the vicinity, I will also pop into the other nearby stores that also have interesting sales running. This way I do it all in one shot, making one efficient trip.

But I will only do this if I consider the sales to be really good; if there's only one cheap or free item that I don't have a big need for, I'll skip the sale.

Shopping Strategy #2: Take Note of Prices

As you learn the sales in your area, you'll start to notice what the prices are like at each store and this will help you determine which stores are worth your time. You can either make a price book or use a spreadsheet (see here for an example), or just make a mental note of where the best deals are.

When I first starting using coupons, I visited a lot of stores frequently, and jotted down prices of key items in a notebook. This way, I became accustomed to the pricing strategies of stores I was previously unfamiliar with. Once you get a grip on which stores regularly have the best sales, you can narrow your focus to just those stores.

Shopping Strategy #3: Organize Your Shopping Trips

If you're planning to drive a little out of your way to take advantage of a worthwhile sale, then organization is your key to success. As you plan your shopping, think: What other stores are in the vicinity? Can you maximize your efficiency by getting deals at other places during this trip? Make a detailed list and assemble all of your coupons ahead of time. (I often print Money Saving Mom® coupon matchups and take that with me as a list!) Double-check your list and coupons before you leave so that you don't forget anything.

*Bonus tip: Pack a snack! If you're spending the afternoon hitting up several stores, bring something to eat along with you. There have been several times where I got quite hungry during my bargain-hunting-bonanzas, and ended up buying a package of chips or a candy bar to tide me over. Unless the item you're buying is free with a coupon, save yourself the possibility of spending extra and bring a snack or two along with you!

Shopping Strategy #4: Make the Most of Your Trips

Of course, the most efficient method of all is to do your out-of-the way shopping when you're planning on being in that area anyway. I often have to run to the next town to do other errands; so if I have time, I'll incorporate a Walgreens or Fred Meyer trip along the way. I always think twice before I make a special trip just for groceries. If I have to spend extra time and gas money in order to bargain shop, I want to make sure that I'm saving much more than I'm spending.

I've taken it even further, and done what I call “Coupon Roadtrips”. My fiance and I often make the two-hour drive from our home on the Oregon coast to Portland so that we can visit family and take care of necessary errands. If I have time, I check which stores are going to be along the route and see if there are any good sales happening. I certainly wouldn't drive all that way just to use a few coupons, but if we're driving by a Wal-Mart anyway and I know that there is a great deal happening, why not stop?

Shopping Strategy #5: Remember That Your Time Is Money

My time is invaluable, and I won't go out of my way for a sale unless there is a big reward. Think of your time in terms of an hourly rate: what would you charge for your time at a job? Keep that figure in mind as you decide which deals to go for.

If I spent all day chasing sales just to get a few tubes of free toothpaste, then I would not getting a good return on my time investment. But If I can spend the afternoon shopping and get $100+ worth of merchandise for free (like I did here), I consider that a worthwhile use of my time.

As you learn the ropes of super savings, you'll quickly discover what deals are worth pursuing, and what can be skipped. Trust me, with a little bit of thought and planning, you can have great success shopping around–without putting too much wear on yourself or your car.

Originally from London, England, Beeb Ashcroft moved to the US in 1989. Currently residing in a resort town on the North Oregon coast, she works out of her home as a freelance journalist. In her spare
time, Ashcroft enjoys clipping coupons and finding the best grocery deals. She chronicles her adventures in savings at her blog, SuperCouponGirl.com.

photo by Roadside Pictures' Photostream