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12 Jun 2008   ·   340
Money Saving Mom

What’s your best Frugal Father’s Day idea?

Father’s Day is this Sunday and while I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing for my dad and my husband, I’m sure there are many others who are still looking for some great ideas.

My dad is very easy to please. He doesn’t like gifts, he likes handmade cards and letters so that’s what he normally gets and that’s what he’s getting again this year. It’s always so good to sit down and write out my thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to him for all he has done for me.

My husband is also easy to please. Up until this year, he always received a card and a special home-cooked dinner. This year, since we have more wiggle room in the budget, I’m actually buying him something. But it’s not anything fancy or extravagant. Instead, he’s getting dress clothes, thanks to Sears. And I know he’ll be happy as a lark since, unlike most men, he likes to shop and buy clothes!

What are you doing to bless and show appreciation for the special father(s) in your life? Tell us about it in the comments section in the next 24 hours and you’ll also be entered to win one of two $20 gift cards from Boston Market.
Bostonmarketgiftcards
Our family loves Boston Market; it’s like enjoying delicious home-cooking without the work and effort! I especially enjoy their rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes–Yum!

To enter to win one of these two $20 gift cards:

::Leave a comment telling us your best frugal idea for celebrating Father’s Day and blessing a special guy in your life.

::Tomorrow evening, I’ll randomly choose two winners and post them.

11 Jun 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: The Menu Edition

Whenever I post one of our weekly menus, I seem to get an onslaught of questions. Rather than try and answer all the questions left on this week’s menu post in the comments section of the post, I’m answering some of them here:

Do you ever have to mix up your menus? Like when you forget to take the
meat out of the freezer? Do you just substitute another meal that you
planned for later in the week? I guess what I am asking is: is this a
*plan* or a *guide* for your meals?

Do I ever mix up the menus? Um, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a menu completely accurately. That would be boring, you know. Just as I rarely ever follow a recipe to a tee and cannot–for the life of me–stick on a strict schedule, I also love to mix things up when it comes to menus.

The menu serves as my guide, not a rigid, must-follow-exactly taskmaster. I know that I have a plan in place for the week and enough food to carry out this plan but if another idea strikes my fancy, I can always change course in the middle of the week and make substitutions where needed.

I know that this method would drive some people batty, but it works well for highly-distracted "creative" people like me.

Your menus sound really yummy and healthy- do your kids eat the same as
you and your husband? I don’t see very much meat at all- what else are
you counting as a protein besides eggs?

We pretty much all eat the same; I’m not into making four different kinds of dinners–too much work for a simple person like me! I cook to please my husband primarily so I’ve tried to encourage my girls to learn to "eat what’s set before them". They don’t always eat everything but I do have them try everything and most of the time, require them to eat at least a bite or two of those items they aren’t very fond of.

I know that our menu might look shockingly protein-bare to the average American who has been raised that protein is only found in meat and eggs. In actuality, there is protein in a wide variety of food groups–even in fruit, believe it or not!

Since meat is expensive and many of the types out there are not that healthy anyway (hormone-laden, MSG-laden, etc.), we’ve opted to derive our protein from a variety of sources including cheese and dairy products, eggs, legumes, and vegetables.

We have at least one meat-heavy meal per week: hamburgers, beef hot dogs, barbecue meatballs, etc. We normally have one or two meatless meals per week (often lasagna, spaghetti casserole, or a Mexican dish–we just omit the meat and no one notices!). The rest of our dinners have some meat in them but it’s usually not in large quantities.

When we were first married, we were living on so little (less than $1000/month many months!) that we couldn’t afford much meat at all. We bought a bag of chicken from Aldi for $6.99 and this had to last us for two weeks. We didn’t buy beef at all for two years unless I could get it on some incredible mark-down price. We were willing to make these sacrifices because we wanted to stay out of debt through law school.

Now that our income has increased, we’ve been able to afford more meat, but we still have limited it as this helps keep our grocery bill lower. However, we are planning to purchase a freezer and a fourth of a cow from a local farm whenever our tax stimulus check decides to mosey it’s way to our mailbox. Since we’ll have a freezer full of hormone-free, organic beef, I’m guessing meat might make its way into more of our meals. We’ll see!

I am curious, how do you afford to eat dinner out once per week on your budget??

Our eating out budget is separate from our grocery budget. I know this really throws some people off, but it’s just the way we roll.

We like to go out to eat and since we’re currently living on almost less than half of our income, it’s a splurge we’ve decided to allow ourselves.

That said, when we go out to eat, we do it the frugal way: we use coupons, we go to inexpensive restaurants, we hit the free birthday dinners and other free restaurant deals, we order water, we split entrees, and so forth.

For some, going out to eat is a $40 or more affair. For us, we can often get in and out for less than $20 (or less than $10 if it’s fast food).

We don’t always go out to eat once per week, but I would say that we usually go out at least once a week–sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch or breakfast on the weekends, or sometimes for dessert if our eating out budget is almost maxed out for the month!

Where is the meat from your menu plan coming from? (BBQ Beef Pizza,
hamburgers, taco salad, etc.). Are you pulling that from previous
stock-ups? How much of your 2-week menu plan is leveraged from stock
vs. this 2-week trip?

When there is a good deal on meat, I usually try to buy enough to last for at least two weeks (provided I can wing it in our $40/week budget). Since not every kind of meat is on sale every week, this ensures more variety and it usually means that we have at least some beef and some chicken to work with each week.

You can see what we bought at the store for this two-week trip here. I already had 2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer, taco salad meat made up and frozen, plus some lunch meat on hand. In addition, I bought two packages of chicken and a package of beef hot dogs. At the rate we’re going, we’ll still have some of this left to use for next week since we’ve ended up with more leftovers this week than I was counting on (better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?). 

10 Jun 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Financial Shape in 2008: Monthly checkup

It’s already the second week of June and I’m behind on getting our monthly checkup posted. How did you do in May? Here’s our update:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months’ worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!
2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse’s income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse’s income as soon as we purchase our home.)
4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. Now
that Goals 1-4 are finished, we’re working super hard on Goal #5!

May brought a few unexpected expenses with health needs and vehicle issues, so we only put $2000 in our house savings, not $3000 like I’d hoped. However, considering the setbacks, I’m grateful we were able to put even $2000 into it.

It’s been two months since we first opened our house savings mutual fund and we now have saved $4500 towards our house. Yay! Our
short-term goal is to save $15,000 in our house savings by August 31,
2008. This is a rather ambitious goal, but we’re working hard towards
achieving it and are excited to see if we might actually make it! Who knows?

We spent some time in May putting some additional online income-earning ideas into place which we are hopeful will, Lord-willing, allow us to meet or exceed our goal of having $30,000 in our house savings by the end of the year.

———————————–
How did you do in May? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and the areas
you hope to improve in May. 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!

9 Jun 2008   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Menu

After determining to try a two-week shopping trip, planning a rough menu based upon the store sales and what I already had on hand, and then taking a few hours to make the big (or so it seemed to me!) $76 shopping trip, I then sat down and made out a detailed two-week menu. I decided to plan a little more than we usually would eat each week, just to be sure we had plenty since this whole two-week shopping thing is completely new territory for me.

Here’s the menu:

BREAKFASTS (I try to shoot for a combination of two servings of whole-grains, one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fruit for all of our breakfast menus.)

Cereal, fruit
Strawberry/banana/pineapple/flaxseed smoothie, toast
Blueberry cream muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Bagels, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
Blueberry/pineapple/flaxseed smoothies, toast
English muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Orange/carrot/pineapple juice (made in our juicer), toast, yogurt
Cereal, fruit
Whole-wheat waffles, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit
Oatmeal in the crockpot, fruit
Strawberry/banana/flaxseed smoothie, whole wheat waffles

LUNCHES (I try to have a combination of a serving of protein, one to two servings of whole grain/complex carbohydrates, and two servings of veggies/fruit for our lunch menus.)

Chicken fingers, apple slices, peas, whole-wheat toast
Vegetable stirfry over brown rice with flaxseeds
Split peas, brown rice, fruit
PB&J, oranges, broccoli
Leftovers
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed vegetables
Quesadillas, carrots
Salad, homemade bread
Split peas, brown rice, fruit salad
Leftovers
PB&J, apples, carrots
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed veggies
Burritos, carrots, apples
Chicken fingers, bananas, mixed veggies, whole-wheat toast

DINNERS (Dinners are similar to lunches in that I try to have a combination of one to two servings of protein, one to two servings of whole grains/complex carbohydrates, and at least two servings of fruit/veggies.)

Build-your-own burritos, wild rice mix, southwest corn, fruit salad
French toast, scrambled eggs, strawberry/pineapple/banana smoothies
Taco salad, homemade bread, fruit
Beef hot dogs, corn on the cob, pasta salad, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Hamburgers, wild rice mix, green beans, corn on the cob 
Dinner out
Homemade mac and cheese with veggies, peas, fruit salad
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce, homemade bread, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican platter: Mexican beans, lettuce, tomato, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa), corn
Spaghetti casserole, Italian cheese bread, green beans, grapefruit,
Chicken broccoli rice casserole, homemade bread, fruit,
Dinner out

SNACKS (We usually have at least two snacks per day–the fact that I’m still nursing Kaitlynn means I’m often hungry and three meals per day just doesn’t cut it for me! I try to serve at least one healthy snack a day and then one snack is usually something less healthy like Chex Mix or cookies.)

Fruit (apples/bananas)
Raw veggies (carrot sticks)
Cheese slices
Popcorn
Chex Mix
Animal crackers
PB&J
Cereal
Blueberry muffins
Homemade bread
Banana bread
Cookies

See more menus for this week here.

7 Jun 2008   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My CVS trips

I stayed out of the grocery stores all week this week as part of my Two-Week Grocery Experiment, but I certainly didn’t completely avoid CVS.

In fact, I did four transactions split up into two trips–one on our way home from an outing last night and one at the CVS down the street.

Here’s what we got:

101_0110

And our total out of pocket was: $1.48! Yay!

Best of all, I started the week out with about $15 in ECBs and ended the week with around $21. I was thrilled to be able to do so well even if I did somehow miscalculate and buy too many of the Pampers wipes. Oh well, at least it was something we’ll use!

——————-

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

6 Jun 2008   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Saving money on groceries in Canada?

Jessica emailed and asked:

I live in eastern Canada and I love reading your site, but I find a lot of it is based on American stores…so I’m just wondering if you know of other sites that may include Canadian ideas for stores here?

I know we have at least a handful of Canadian readers here so I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for Jessica. Are there any websites out there on grocery savings for Canadians? What are your best tips for saving money on groceries in Canada?

4 Jun 2008   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Less is More: Lessons from our little basement apartment

100_0479

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the
library and have homemade pizza. In the Winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and
clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the
midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!

4 Jun 2008   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

If it weren’t for Dave Ramsey and God’s provision, I’d likely be pulling my hair out just about now

I think this is the week for everything to break down…

::Our home air-conditioning quit last Thursday. I couldn’t figure out why I was sweating and roasting all day until I went over and felt warm air blowing out of the vents. No wonder! Gratefully, we are renting right now so a quick call to our landlords, two repairmen, and a few hours later, the A/C was good as new. And just in time for this hot June weather. (How did people ever live without A/C??)

::Two days later, the A/C in my husband’s vehicle went out. He couldn’t determine the problem and ended up taking it in. We thought it was fixed, but this morning it is still not working right and there appears to be some bigger issues than just the A/C.

::As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Sunday the A/C in our van went out. The plan was to take the van in last evening to get it worked on but then the van wouldn’t even start.

We have an out-of-town funeral to attend today so we ended up finding a great deal on a rental car since neither vehicles are up for eight hours of driving. And we’ll determine what to do next when we arrive home.

One thing is for sure, it’s times like these when I am so thankful for our emergency fund! Instead of worrying about how on earth we’re going to pay for these unexpected expenses, we can just dip into our emergency fund.

This is also one of those times when you realize just how much budgeting and penny-pinching really pays off!

Thank you, God, for your kind provision for us and thank you, Dave, for all your wise financial advice! 

3 Jun 2008   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Shopping Trip

The first step in The Two-Week Grocery Experiment was to make a grocery list/rough menu based upon what we already had on hand and what was on sale at the store. None of the stores within a few minutes of our home had any really incredible deals this week, but by shopping at Hen House, Hy-Vee, and Aldi and just getting the best deals at each, I was able to pull off a pretty good shopping trip.

Here’s what I bought:

101_0025_3
Look at all that food; $76.48 is a lot of money to spend in one trip!

ALDI
5 loaves of bread – reduced to $0.50 each
1 package of bagels – $1.39
sandwich baggies – $1.99
animal crackers – $1.19
brown sugar – $0.99
flour – $1.70
trash bags – $2.49
carrots – $0.99
chips – $0.99
salad mix – $1.89
tortillas – $0.99
bag of oranges – $1.99
1 can refried beans – $0.59
1 can pumpkin – $0.69
2 cans diced tomatoes – $0.45 each
1 can pineapple – $0.79
8 oz. cheese – $1.89
2 bags of bananas – $1.39; $0.89
package of cherry tomatoes – $1.29
package of blueberries – $2.99
1 bag apples – $2.99

Total: $35.67

HEN HOUSE
2 cans green beans
2 2-ltr of 7-Up (on sale for $0.50 each with coupon; we only drink this when we’re sick but I like to keep some on hand so I buy it when I can get it very cheap)
2 boxes all natural Rice-A-Roni (free with coupons)
Ragu all natural pouch sauce ($0.40 with coupon)
Ragu sauce ($0.66 with coupon)
Ragu cheddar sauce ($0.66 with coupon)
pasta salad mix ($0.63 with coupon)
croutons ($0.65 with coupon)
peanut butter (on sale $1.47)
Oscar Meyer all beef all natural franks (on sale $2.99)
2 lbs. fresh broccoli (on sale $0.99/lb)
5 bags frozen vegetables (corn, peas, broccoli, spinach, mixed veggies – on sale $0.58/bag)
2 packages deli sliced cheese (on sale $1.39)
1 package english muffins (on sale $1.25)
Yoplait kids drink 6-pk ($1.48 with coupon–treat for the girls who came shopping with me!)
2 packages Yo-Plus yogurt 4-pks ($1.16 each with coupon)
1/2 gallon whole milk from local farm – $3.19

Total: $26.50 (saved $25.84 with coupons/sales)

HY-VEE
Butter – $1.59
Birdseye Steamfresh veggies – used free coupon
Huggies CleanTeam wipes – free with coupon
Ronzoni pasta- $0.59 with coupon
5 Muir Glen organic tomato paste – free with $1/1 coupons
1 quart vanilla yogurt – $1.59
Plasticware – $0.77 with coupon
3 lbs onions – on sale for $0.69/lb
2 pkgs. Smart Chicken thighs – marked down to $2.20 and $1.95
5 lb bag of potatoes – $1.48

Total: $13.92 (saved $15.48 with coupons/sales)

I also did a quick run to CVS to finish out the Playskool deal. However, after coupons and ECBs, I only spent $0.39. Yay!

All totaled, we spent $76.48–about $0.75 shy of the cash I brought. Now we just have to see if all this food lasts us for the next two weeks.

Up next: The Two-Week Menu

3 Jun 2008   ·   1
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Inexpensive Graduation Gifts and “Anticipation Buying”

::Leaving Excess came up with a creative and inexpensive graduation gift idea using some of the freebies and bargains we’ve been accumulating. Read more here.

::The Simple Dollar has a great post up on "Anticipation Buying". This is really what all this bargain-shopping we talk about here is about: buy an item you’ll need to buy/use in the future when you can get it for pennies on the dollar. After a few months of stocking up like this and paying pennies instead of dollars, you’ll really start to reap the financial benefits.

3 Jun 2008   ·   102
Money Saving Mom

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Introduction

Since our Kroger stores have closed–and they were the source of most of my great grocery deals–I’ve been re-working my grocery shopping strategies and trying a variety of things to see what works best with the stores and deals we still have left. When there’s a will, there’s a way, right? Sometimes it just takes some creative ingenuity and thinking outside the box!

I stretched our last grocery shopping trip out to last almost 10 days, so when I went shopping this week, I actually had $75 to work with, as opposed to the usual $40. (I only had $35 left from the previous week’s grocery budget because I’d done a few transactions at CVS and picked up some ice cream on sale for a treat.)

This $75 was to last us for the next week and a half but I decided to see if I could buy enough to last us for two weeks instead. I’ve never shopped for two weeks in my life, nor have I ever spent $75 on one grocery outing (save for back in the days when I wasn’t married yet and was doing the shopping for my parents and six siblings!), but I figured I might as well try it and see what happens.

While I have yet to see if the groceries I bought do indeed last us for two weeks, I have already noticed two things:

1) I spent less time buying groceries.

I usually spend approximately 30-45 minutes planning the weekly grocery trip including going through the sale ads, matching the sales with coupons, pulling the coupons, making my lists, and writing a rough menu plan. (I often don’t write the final menu plan until I arrive home from the store as I sometimes substitute and make changes while at the store if I find an exceptional deal.)

My weekly shopping trip (usually hitting between 2-3 stores) normally takes me around 2 hours, including driving time.

Instead of doubling that time to shop for two weeks, I actually only spent around 45 minutes of preparation time and just under 3 hour of shopping time. So, I shaved off around an hour to an hour and a half of time by shopping for two weeks’ worth of groceries.

2) I was able to stockpile more than usual.

I’m not sure what it was, but something about having $75 to spend gave me more wiggle room to stock up. For example, I found loaves of bread at Aldi reduced to $0.50/loaf. On our usual $40/week plan, I likely would have bought two–twice what we normally buy for a week. Instead, I was able to afford to buy six loaves which I stuck in the freezer and will likely last us for at least five weeks.

I also bought 5-7 other items I probably would not have been able to wing in our usual budget; I’m not sure why that was but I seemed to get more bang for my buck with more money to spend. I’m still pondering that phenomenon!

And do you know how much $75 can buy at the grocery store? I felt like I’d just become independently wealthy or something when I unloaded all those groceries onto the belt at the checkout stand! In the next installment in this series, I’ll share what all I bought for $75. Stay tuned.

I’ve always said that shopping every week is likely the best way to maximize on sales and deals since store sales usually change each week. However, after noticing the time saved and my ability to stockpile more with two week’s worth of grocery money, I’m wondering if perhaps that’s not always the case. I’ll tell you how it goes and what my conclusions are in this The Two-Week Grocery Experiment series.

How often do you shop? Do you think that shopping every week is the best strategy? I’d love to hear!

2 Jun 2008   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Ask the readers: When do you clip coupons?

Emily wrote:

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I love all the
helpful tips and advance notice on deals. I’m a recent homeschool
graduate headed to a Christian college in the fall. I have been
stocking up on toiletry items for about a month now, and I’ve saved
lots of money! I’m trying to cut my expenses for next semester.

A lot of people I’ve talked to say that they don’t have the time
to clip coupons and plan detailed shopping trips. I, too, had time
fitting it in at first, but I’ve found a couple of ways to redeem my
time that i wanted to pass along.
 
– Listen to something while you clip coupons. I’ve been listening to the Old Testament, for about an hour every Sunday evening.

– Clip and plan while in the car. Obviously this won’t work well
for moms, but for people like me who are not the primary drivers it can
be a great use of time.

I normally clip coupons when I am on the phone or when we’re watching our Friday night family movie. I’ve also been known to clip coupons while talking with a friend, while on long drives (with my husband driving, of course!), or while I’m watching the girls play outside.

I pretty much always multi-task when it comes to coupon-clipping so it really doesn’t take me any extra time; I just fit it in while I’m doing something else that I’m already planning to do anyway.

What about you? When do you clip coupons?

27 May 2008   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Nine Coupon Myths Debunked

Guest Post by Jody Connelly

Myth #1: Coupons are only for unhealthful processed junk foods.
There
are a lot of coupons for processed junk foods. However, there are just
as many coupons for good healthful foods also. More often, I have even
been seeing coupons for fresh fruit. There are also often coupons out
for yogurt, bagged salads, and frozen veggies (which have less salt
than the canned veggies). Keep in mind, just because you’re using
coupons and saving money, you still choose what you buy and what you eat.

Myth #2: You can’t save money if a store doesn’t double coupons.

My
two favorite stores to shop at are CVS and Walgreen’s–neither one of
which double coupons. Most of the time, I find I save more there then I
do at my grocery stores that do
double coupons. Most drug stores have excellent store deals, sales, and
rebate programs that most other stores don’t have. Don’t overlook
shopping at a store just because they don’t double coupons.

There
are also often higher dollar coupons out which, combined with sales,
can net you excellent savings–even if your local stores do not double
coupons. Start looking around at sales and matching your coupons to the
sales and you just might be surprised!

Myth #3: Shopping at discount stores and dollar stores will save you more money than using coupons.
Family
Dollar and Dollar General are often just as expensive as other stores.
The disadvantage is they don’t have the store deals, rebates, and sales
like other stores do. As far as true dollar stores where everything is
$1, I’ve found that I rarely save money by shopping there since most of
the items I buy with coupons and sales, I get for less than $1 in the
first place. So for me, shopping at dollar stores are not a bargain.

Myth #4: Only poor people use coupons.

When
did saving money become such a bad thing? Contrary to what some may
think, according to statistics, people with lower income (under
$25,000/year) are less likely to use coupons.  Middle class, middle-aged people with a college background are the most likely to use coupons.

Myth #5: You should only use coupons for products you normally buy.

After
using coupons for so long now, I don’t even know what I "normally buy"
anymore. By using coupons, I’ve gotten things so cheap or free that I
otherwise would never have dreamed of buying or paying for–brands and products which would usually be quite out of our budget range.

In
addition, I’ve learned to be more creative in planning my menus around
what is on sale and being less brand-loyal so that we can save more
money by buying the brand which is the best deal.

Myth #6: Generic products are always cheaper than name brand products.

Yes,
it’s true that generic is a little cheaper than name brand. However,
generic is not usually cheaper than name brand when it is on sale and
you have a coupon. The key is to combine the store sales with coupons
to get the best deals.

Myth #7: People who use coupons spend more than people who don’t use coupons.

If you are going to the store and buying anything you have a coupon for, especially if the product is not on sale, you will spend more. However, if you use coupons the right way by combining store sales and coupons together to get rock bottom deals, you will most definitely cut your grocery bill.

Myth #8: It’s not worth it to shop at multiple stores.

The
4 main stores I shop at are on the same block and 5 minutes from my
house, so it really doesn’t take me much time to go from store to
store. But even if your stores are not as close as mine, it can be
worth it to shop at multiple stores. For instance, if you are able to
get $100 worth of product you need for $20 and you only spent $6 extra
in gas and an additional 20 minutes, then I would say that would certainly be worth it!

Myth #9: You shouldn’t clip coupons for products you won’t use.

Don’t
dismiss a coupon just because you haven’t used the product in the
past–you might be surprised at the great deal which comes along for
that very product! Besides, if you have a baby and your friend has a
cat, wouldn’t it be nice to swap the coupons you didn’t need so you
both get more of what you do need?

-Jody
Connelly is a stay-at-home mom with 5 children between the ages of 14 –
3 years old. She’s been couponing and saving money for over 4 years.
She also likes to cook, read, sew, and garden. Visit her blog here.

23 May 2008   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: This Week’s Shopping Trip

Here were our grocery/household product purchases this week (pictures forthcoming–I have to figure out how to download them off our new camera and upload them to this new blog platform!):

Hen House Purchases (Most all of these deals are explained in this post.)
Diet Pepsi Max
Lipton Raspberry Tea bags
Cattlemen’s BBQ sauce
2 bottles Sierra Mist
2 bottles French’s yellow mustard
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce
3 Rice-A-Roni Natural rice mixes
McCormick Grill Mates
Orville Redebacher Popcorn
Bag of Reese Peanut butter cups baking pieces (reduced to $0.50.)
Bag of York Peppermint patties baking chips (reduced to $0.50)
2 Hillshire Farms sliced turkey (reduced to $1 each)
8 ears of fresh corn on the cob
Frozen stir fry veggies
2 packages Dannon All Natural yogurts
3 dozen Eggland’s Best eggs
2 blocks cheddar cheese
Total after coupons: $19.45 (Total savings of $32 with sales and coupons)

Aldi Purchases
Bread – $1.19
1 Grapefruit – $0.39
1 bag bananas – $0.90
Carrots – $0.99
Two bags of going-bad bananas – I asked for a discount and they gave them to me for $0.25/bag!
Total: $4.27

Hy-Vee Purchases
Frozen strawberries – $1.77
CleanTeam wipes – $0.97, used $1/1 coupon, free
Split peas – $0.65
Chai Silk Soymilk – $2.59, Used $2.25/1 coupon, $0.34 after coupon
Deli turkey – on sale $1.99, Used $1/1 coupon, $0.99
2 pounds Braeburn apples – $0.99/lb
All natural chicken breasts – $3.59
Total: $10.29 (Total coupon savings: $4.25)

CVS Purchases
3 Crest Toothpastes – $1.99, Get $1 ECB
1 Oral B Toothbrush – $1.99, Get 1 ECB
1 Almay eye product – $6.99, Get $5 ECB
1 Tums Quick Pak – $4.69, Get $4.69 ECB

Used $3/$15 CVS coupon
Used 1 $1/2 Crest coupons and 1 $0.50/1 Crest coupon
Used $1/1 Oral-B coupon
Used $1/1 Almay coupon
Used $1/1 Tums coupon
Used $14.98 in ECBs

Total: $0.47 out of pocket
Got back $4, $4.69, and $5 ECBs!

——————-
How’d you do this week? Post
about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your
blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave
your link below.

16 May 2008   ·   2
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: This week’s $40 shopping trip

Thanks to your input, I’m going to try and do a better job of outlining my shopping trips each week so you can see more what we’re buying for $40 and hopefully be inspired in your own grocery savings.

Since we already had most staple items and fruit and veggies both fresh and frozen leftover from the last two weeks’ shopping trips, I mostly focused on getting a few items we needed this week (like meat, milk, and eggs) as well as stocking up on some of the sale items.

Here was our Thursday evening shopping trip:
Hy-Vee
4 boxes Kellogg’s SmartStart – on sale 4 for $9, used 2 $3/2 coupons = $0.75/box after coupons
12 packages FastFixin’ chicken products – on sale for $1 each, used 12 $1/1 coupons = Free!
2 bags Corazona Chips – used 2 free Corazona chip coupons = Free!
1 Yo-Plus Yogurt 4-pk – on sale for $2, used $1/1 coupon = $1 after coupon (We love yogurt here, so I normally buy it anytime I can get it for around $0.25-$0.30/serving.)
Total: $6.14 (savings from sales and coupons: $24.38)

Hen House
Baking Powder – $1.85
KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce – on sale $1, used $1/1 coupon = Free!
1/4 Watermelon – on sale for $0.49/lb = $1.90
Blue Bunny Ice Cream – on sale for $2.76, used $1/1 coupon = $1.76
Farm-fresh organic eggs (from a local farm) = $2.69
Half gallon farm-fresh hormone-free organic whole milk (from a local farm) = $3.19
Total: $12.36 (savings from sales and coupons: $4.46)

Price Chopper (They were having a 60th anniversary sale so that’s why some of these prices are so good!)
Peanut butter – on sale for $1.69
4 small yogurts – on sale for $0.29 each
Pace Picante sauce – on sale for $0.99
Ken’s salad dressing – on sale for $0.99, used $1/1 coupon = Free!
Sara Lee bread – on sale for $1.19
2 1/2 lbs. of 93% lean ground beef – on sale for $1.99/lb = $4.86
Fritos – on sale for $0.99
2 bags Westpac frozen veggies – on sale for $0.60 each = $1.20
Total: $12.99 (savings from sales and coupons: $14.86)

[And please rest assured that this shopping outing was rather junk-food-heavy, but I promise we won’t be eating all that junk food up this next week–especially all those chicken fingers and popcorn chicken! Stay tuned for this next week’s Menu Plan Monday post to see what we’ll be eating this week.]

On Friday, we took a field trip to a nearby free arboretum with some friends. On our way home, we hit Aldi and CVS to finish out our shopping for the week. Here’s what we got:

(Excuse the quality of the picture–my camera died today so we had to use the cell phone to take this! And don’t ask me why there is a yogurt in the picture, too. I guess three-year-old Kathrynne snuck that in when I wasn’t looking!)

Aldi
1 mozzarella cheese – $1.89
1 cheddar cheese – $1.89
1 pack of strawberries – $0.99
1 bunch of bananas – $0.91
Total: $6.11

CVS Transaction #1
5 Glade sprays – on sale for $0.97 each, used 3 $1/1 coupons and 2 B1G1 coupons
1 Colgate Sponge Bob toothbrush – $2.99, get $2 ECBs, used $0.50/1 coupon
1 Colgate Total Advanced toothpaste – $2.99, get $2 ECBs, used $1/1 coupon
1 Aquafresh Extreme Clean toothpaste – $2.99, get $2.99 ECBs
1 Colgate 360 toothbrush – $3.99, get $3.99 ECBs
1 Schick Intuition razor – on sale for $8.88, Get $6 ECBs, used $4/1 coupon
2 CVS 4-packs of toilet paper – $1.59 each
Used $3/15 CVS coupon
Used $3, $5, and $5.98 ECBs
Paid $2.30 out of pocket
Got back $6, $4, $2.99, and $3.99 in ECBs

CVS Transaction #2
2 Colgate 360 toothbrush – $3.99, get $3.99 ECBs, used 1 $1/1 coupon
1 Colgate Sponge Bob toothbrush – $2.99, get $2 ECBs
1 Colgate MaxFresh toothpaste – $2.99, get $2 ECBs, used $0.75/1 coupon
6 Bliss milk chocolate small candy packages – $0.25 each (added as fillers since my total was negative)
Used my $4, $6, and $3.99 ECBs earned from my transaction above
Paid $0.13 out-of-pocket!
Got back $7.98 and $4 in ECBs!

If I had it to do over again, I should have bought one 4-pack of toilet paper per transaction and then I would had paid less out-of-pocket in the first transaction and not had to add on the Bliss chocolates to get my balance above negative in the second transaction. Hindsight is 20-20, isn’t it?

All totaled, we spent $40.03 on groceries and household products this week–$0.03 over our $40 budget. I’ll take it, especially since we had $1 leftover in our grocery budget from last week. And we’ll not mention the fact that if I had done a better job of calculating at CVS, we wouldn’t have gone over in the first place… oh well!