Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Project - March

My coupon project continued into March, and here are the results:

*Unless otherwise noted, my comments to them were compliments

Heinze Ketsup - 2 $.50 coupons
Ore Ida French Fries - 4 $.75 coupons

Prego Itallian Sauce - 1 $1 coupon
Campbells Soup 1 $1 coupon

Country Crock Spred - A coupon book for Unilever products. 12 coupons totaling $11
Popsicle - A coupon for a free product, worth $5
Lipton Knorr Noodles - Did not send coupons

General Mills
Yoplait - I recieved a $3 check after complaining about a products texture. They sent the check instead of a coupon due to my states dairy laws.
Totinos Pizza Rolls - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)

Proctor & Gamble
Puffs - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)
Cover Girl - Did not send coupons

Uncle Bens - 1 $1 coupon
Jose Ole Frozen Mexican Products - 1 $1 coupon
New York Brand Bread Sticks - Coupon for a free product worth $4
Dole Salads - 3 $.75 coupons
Glad Trash Bags - Did not send coupons
Hefty Cups - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)
Coke - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)
Captain Crunch (Quaker/Pepsi company) - Did not send coupons
Farm Rich - Wrote for product information - Did not send coupons (Didn't get my product information either!)
Colgate Toothbrush (Colgate/Palmolive company) - Wrote inquiring about a certain product - Did not send coupons
Allen's Green Beans - Did not send coupons
Motts Apple Juice - Did not send coupons
Sunny D - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)
Wonder Bread - Did not send coupons
DiGorno (Nestle Company) - Did not send coupons
Hungry Jack (J.M. Smucker Company) - Did not send coupons
Acurite Meat Thermometer - Did not send coupons (No response was received at all)
Farberware - Wrote about my cutting board breaking - Did not send coupon
Handi-Foil - Did not send coupon (No response was received at all)
Kingsford Charcoal - Did not send couopn

Summary: This month I received 28 coupons totaling $33.25, assuming none of the coupons double (which they will!) Figuring that I spent 5 minutes contacting each of the 31 companies, then I made $12.89 an hour for the time I spent! Not so bad.

Happy Couponing!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter

I hope everyone had an awesome Easter. We sure did! The Easter Bunny came and the dogs didn't chase him away or eat him or anything (at least as far as I can tell.) The kids were very excited about thier baskets. Other than the traditional baskets, we for went any other traditions on Easter. There were no egg hunts, there were no huge dinners. We ate candy (ok, so maybe that IS traditional), cinnamon rolls, fish sticks and fries and Mexican food. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM...Mexican. I am eating the left overs now. Overall it was a pretty fantastic (and the fantasticness was much needed) weekend. Now I just hope I haven't set my sights too high for the upcoming week and weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Frugal Friday - Coupon Tips

Lately I've been asked lots of questions about my couponing, and I never seem to be organized enough to give anyone the full run down, so I though I would post some of my favorite tips. Feel free to ask questions, and I'll be glad to answer. Consider this an overview and I'll go more in depth on some of these in later posts.

1. If you use coupons, you will save money. Period. However, it is important to know what your goal is. Are you trying to get more expensive products at a bettr price? Are you trying to get your grocery bill down to a certain amount? Your goal will determine over all how much you save/spend.

2. Usually (I've never found a case where this isn't true) you can only use 1 manufacturer coupon and 1 store coupon on a single item. If you purchase 5 products, you will need 5 coupons (if you want to save on all 5) unless the coupon states otherwise.

3. I tend to save a bigger percentage and have a lower grocery bill when I buy the less expensive items. Items that typically cost $2 and under are my biggest savers. They tend to have coupons for a larger percentage of their purchase price than more expensive items. $1 off a $2 item is a better deal than $2 off of a $10 item.

4. To save the most money, you have to go to more than one store. Don't drive yourself crazy though, pick 3 stores to start with, and when you are comfortable with those, add more if want.

5. Organization is key. Looking through all those sale papers and matching up with coupons can be daunting. It is much easier if you go through each sale paper and make a list of the items you like and then go through your coupons and match them up. This will also allow you to see which deal is better if two stores have the same item on sale.

6. Kroger (for now) and Publix double coupons up to $.50. A $.50 cent coupon is actually worth $1. A $1 coupon is still only worth $1.

7. Don't feel the need to HAVE to use a coupon. I'll admit, I still feel guilty some days when I let a coupon expire with out using it, especially when I know it is for a product we use all the time. But, the truth is, the exact same coupon will come along again in a couple of weeks. Don't go buy something just because you have a coupon. Wait for a good sale to come along.

8. Actively seek out coupons in different places. Everyone knows to find coupons in the Sunday Paper, and online. Look for coupons in packaging, in stores and magazines as well. I've also started writing companies (look at my posts titled "Project") and letting them know what I think about thier products and recieved coupons in return. Proctor and Gamble lets you request coupons through thier site P&G Solutions once a quarter and Home Made Simple every 2 or 3 months.

9. If you shop at Kroger and use electronic coupons, beware that if an electronic coupon is added to your card it will come off when you buy that item using your kroger plus card. You will not be able to use a paper coupon on the same item and the electronic coupon does not double. To get around this, you could get a second Kroger plus card, and use it for items that you have an electronic coupon for but do not wish to use. You would need to do two transactions, 1 with the normal Kroger card and all the products you want the electronic coupons used for, and the second with the other Kroger card and the products you do not want the electronic coupons used for. This can mess up your fuel points though,so use your judgement.

10. Couponing is time consuming. I find that my savings are directly related to the amount of time that I have to invest in it. You have to set your priorities. There are weeks when my schedule does not allow me to devote much time to coupons, and those weeks my savings are considerably less than the weeks where I devote HOURS to couponing.

Feel free to ask any questions and I will respond to the best of my knowledge.

By the way, You may notice there is now a tab at the top of my page titled "Saving Money", there you will find links to past posts about saving money. ;)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Frugal Friday - Current Online Deals

Use code 448234 at Payless to get 20% off through April 24

At Snapfish use code TAXDAY to get $10.40 off any order of $25 or more through April 20 OR use code MOMMYBOOKS through April 18 to get 2 free 8 1/2 by 11 memory books when you buy 1! (I will SO be using this one, especially since I can cash in my coke rewards points and get the first one for free too!)

This weekend only (April 15-17) use code TAX11 at The Childrens Place to get 20% off.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Turbulent 6 Months

The last 6 months have been turbulent, to say the least. There have been all kinds of ups, downs, and stresses both at work and at home. I thought the end of 2010 was going to kill me. But, what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. I believe I have become a better wife, mother, friend, employee and Christian. I have had to examine my own flaws, forgive others, and take more of an interest in the emotional well being of every one around me. I have found truth in the Bible, that I had never found before (and if you know my background, that is a biggy). Yes, the past 6 months have been rough, and yes, I would gladly trade them, but, I have learned some very important things about myself, others, the world and life.

Top Ten Things I Have Learned:

1. Life is a balance of God's will, man's free will and prayer to change either.
2. I am still a work in progress.
3. If you feel the need to hide or lie, then you know what you are doing is wrong, no matter how many ways you can rationalize it.
4. Everything really does happen for a reason.
5. There is no grey area. It is either right or wrong. However there are many ways to be right and wrong.
6. Listen more. Defend less. Love your family with all you have.
7. Take committments seriously.
8. Do nothing to harm others: physically, emotionally, financially or spiritually.
9. Everything takes work and practice. Even what we thought would/should come naturally.
10. Only be original.
I said ten, but I couldn't narrow it down, so here is one extra:
11. The more you push and try to change people, the more they get set in their ways and stay the same. Real change happens with your influence, and the help of God, not with your pushing, prodding, and demanding.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eating Cheap

Some people have been asking how I keep my grocery bill down, and the truth is, sometimes I sacrifice what we eat.

Hamburger Helpers go on sale for less than a $1, and I have coupons, we're having Hamburger Helper. The Homestyle Bakes usually aren't a bad deal either. I noticed on my last box of Pasta Roni (which is never more than $1) it had a recipe for adding beef or chicken, making it a lot like a Hamburger Helper as well. The truth is, meat (ground hamburger, shredded or chunked chicken) mixed with a pasta and sauce with a vegetable side, is usually the cheap way to go.

But we all get tired of eating the same thing, every day, so here are some of my favorite cheap recipes.

These I've tried and the Family has approved:

Braised Chicken
Grease the bottom of your crock pot, and add in enough onion (fresh chopped or frozen or pearl onions) to cover the bottom. Add as much potatos (fresh cut up or frozen) and carrots (fresh, frozen or canned) as you would like. Combine 1/2 cup liquid (water, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, olive oil, etc) with 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 clove minced garlic (or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder) plus any other herbs you have on hand that sound good. Pour this mixture over the vegetables. Take 6 bone-in pieces of dark meat chicken (Chicken Quarters are usually the cheapest at about .59/lb) and rub them down with a mixture of paprika (2teaspoons), salt (1 and 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper (1/2 teaspoon) and place on top of the vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. I usually serve rice as an extra side/filler.

Chicken Pot Pie
In a bowl mix about 3/4 to 1 lb of shredded or chunked cooked chicken(you can boil dark meat chicken to get it off the bone, or use left over chicken from another meal), 1 bag of frozen vegetable (we've done traditional such as carrots, potatoes and beans and we've done just broccoli and then added 1 cup of shredded cheese. I am wanting to try more of a mexican one with pepper.) or 2 cans or about 2 cups of fresh vegetables, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, and salt, pepper and sage to taste. Once it is mixed together well, pour into a frozen pie crust (the cheap store brand is fine) and top with another frozen pie crust upside down. crimp the edges together and make slits in the top crust. Bake according to directions on pie crust.

Chicken and Dumplings
In a crock pot, combine 1 to 2 lbs of chicken cubed, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 2 cans of chicken broth (or about 2 cups if you make your own chicken stock), 1 and 1/2 cups of water and about 2 cups of vegetables (frozen, fresh or canned, we like carrots and corn). Add salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic to taste. Cook on low (covered)about 5 hours. 15 minutes before it is done, take a package of biscuit dough and quarter the biscuits. Roll each quarter into a ball and add to crock pot. Stir occassionally during this last 15 minutes.

If you are in a rush, this can be made on the stove top. Mix everything but the biscuits into a large pot and boil on stove top until Chicken is done. Add biscuits and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Twice Baked Potatos
Bake how ever many potatos you need at 450 degrees for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes remove potatos and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Cut each potato in half lenghtwise and coop out pulp (leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch border in the potato). Mix the pulp with sliced or chopped onions, milk (about 1/3 cup for 4 potatos), butter, slat, pepper, cheese and anything else you may like on your potato (sour cream, cheese, baccon bits, ranch dressing, whatever) and a meat (chicken, browned beef, cut up pork chops, ham, fish, shrimp, ANYTHING). You will need about 1 oz of meat for every potato. Spoon mixture back into the potato and top with cheese if you'd like. Bake for 15 minutes.
This is a great recipe to use left over meat from another meal, or to stretch very little meat very far!

Mexican Casserole
Brown and drain 1 pound of hamburger meat. Place in casserole dish. In a bowl mix 1 can of chilli beans, 1 can rotel (salsa also works) and 1 can of cream of mushroom soup. Pour mixture over hamburger meat. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Add shredded cheese to the top and cook another 5 minutes.

Another great way to save money is by taking some of your favorite side dishes and adding meat to them. I like to add chicken to broccoli casserole or ground meat to a corn bake.

The lesson here is that the cheapest meals have a main dish that is not meat only. It is meat with something. Meat is most likely the most expensive item on your menu so reducing the amount is always a plus.

I will try to add more recipes every week or so, and I'd love to hear if you have any cheap meals that are yummy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Project - February

Well, February did not have the wonderful results that January did. However, I still got some pretty amazing coupons.

Pledge (S C Johnson Company) sent a coupon for a free Pledge product ($4.00 value)

I wrote 3 Con Agra companies:
Chefboyardee sent a $.50 coupon
Manwich also sent a $.50 coupon
Banquet Homestyle Bakes also sent a $.50 coupon.

Mt. Olive Pickles sent a $.75 coupon in response to my compliment and another $.75 coupon for signing up for their news letter.

Tyson sent 3 $1.00 coupons good off any Tyson product.

Blixtex sent 3 $.25 coupons.

Kellog's Pop Tarts is supposed to be sending coupons for signing up with them, however, I have not received any as of yet.

My other companies that were a bust this month inculde:
General Mills
Hamburger Helper

Sally Henson
N.Y.C. Color

Wrights Baccon (Tyson)
Mahatma Rice (Riviana)
Wishbone Salad Dressing (Unilever)
Scotch Bright (3M)
Sun Drop (Prescot Bottling)
Tostitos (Frito Lay)
Old Spice (Proctor and Gamble)
Lloyds BBQ (Hormel)
M&M's (Mars)
Juicy Juice (Nestle)
Egg Lands Best
Love My Eyes (Bali)
Bath and Body Works

While I did not do as well this month, I still racked up $10.75 in coupons, assuming none of the coupons are doubled (but they will be!!!)

It seems the trend is staying true that General Mills, Unilever and Proctor and Gamble companies do not send coupons when they recieve compliments.

S C Johnson and Con Agra definitely tend to send coupons.

Nestle, it appears to be a draw. Last month I wrote two of their companies and received coupons, this month I wrote one company and did not recieve any.

Happy Couponing!