Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's Time to be Honest

I bit off more than I could chew. There. I said it. I can feel the pressure lifting . . .

Shall I share a little background? In typical Julie fashion, it's slightly long winded.

You might know that we are in a slightly odd stage in our married life. Usually you go to school before children, and often, before you are married. However, Jesse only recently (past 3 years) learned where his passion lies, and how he is gifted. So we are doing things backwards and doing the school thing married, and with 2 children. Overall, life is still fairly normal. But the biggest adjustment we've had to make has been our finances.

Some of you can relate I'm sure. Imagine trying to budget for a family of 4 when the Mom stays at home with the kids, and the husband works part time, and attends school full time. Yeah, it can create some problems. I'm not telling you this because I want sympathy, not at all! I'm just telling you what our daily reality is.

Thankfully, 5 years ago our church paid for us to go through Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey. That course is one of the building blocks in our marriage. We will be forever grateful to Cornerstone Church for sending us through the class. We learned how to budget, live within our means, create a small nest egg and get rid of debt. We've been debt free for more than 3 years!

Now back to the family of 4 with a part time income . . . . going to school costs money. Living daily life costs money. Like I've said before, I jumped on the coupon wagon out of necessity. And I'm still on it because I'm saving more and more money each week. As I began to learn how to coupon, I saw a blogging niche I thought I could fill. Helping people match up coupons with good recipes. So many crazy couponers out there live off of $35 dollars a week, but they eat rice and beans and frozen casseroles. I couldn't do that! 5:30 is seriously one of my favorite times of my day. I look forward to the time I can start preparing supper almost every day. No lie. What can I say, I enjoy cooking.

So I thought I would give my hand at blogging for income. I wasn't expecting much, just a little extra cash flow would help. I started The Coupon Cook. And quickly realized that I bit off more than I can chew. I fully believe that I have the creative juices to run something like it. What I lack, is TIME. Jesse and I have been talking a lot lately about how we are going to make life work, where we can make cuts, how we can do it without taking out loans, etc. All the while, we are keeping in mind that our 2 young children are that: YOUNG! If these 2 kids are the only 2 we have, these next few years while Jesse is in school is it! I only have a few years to really pour into them and train them before they go off to school and start learning more about the world. (Yes I realize the training doesn't stop after age 5, but those first 5 years are HUGE for so many areas of development.)

So as I considered all of the ways I can contribute to my family income, I quickly saw that I'm not going to have time to do all of them, AND be the Mom and wife I need to be. Currently, I work super super part time for The Upstream Collective and the Skybridge Community. It's something I really enjoy being a part of. I also am hoping to teach group Spanish classes for children from our home this school year. Right now that involves getting out into the community, and networking with organizations that could put me in contact with interested parents and kids.

I plan on continuing to post on this blog about my couponing journey. I know a lot of people who are getting into it too so I hope I can be a source of help and possibly humor as I mess up quite a bit! But I am going to stop posting on The Coupon Cook. All 15 fans on Facebook will be disappointed I'm sure. :)

God has been pressing into me these past few weeks as I've tried to figure out ways to generate income from home. The biggest lesson I'm learning is that I really am in a prime place in my life to learn to trust God for my basic necessities. Where in the modern day American Christian church do we get to trust God for the basics? Hardly ever! We often times don't really act like we need God for much besides emotional pick me ups and spiritual hugs. God is there for that, but He's there for so much more-if only we'd let Him. So I'm going to be a good steward of the financial resources he has given us, and trust Him with the rest.

Ahh, my load feels so much lighter already.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Do I Organize The Coupons??

Yesterday we talked about how to find coupons. Today, we'll talk about organizing them. There are so many different methods out there, so I really can't tell you the best way. All I can do is offer a few suggestions, tried and true by other coupon moms.

  • The Binder- cut out ALL coupons and keep them in a binder. Lots of women buy plastic baseball card sheets to place their coupons in. Coupons are sorted by date so expiration dates don't get lost.
  • The Expandable-This is my current preferred method. I bought a small expandable holder at Wal-Mart and labeled each tab with the following: 
    • Breakfast
    • Frozen
    • Dressings/Sauces/Condiments/Jellies
    • Canned Items
    • Dairy/Refrigerated (Includes meat)
    • Beverages
    • Desserts/Snacks
    • Baking
    • Paper/Cleaning products
    • Baby Items
    • Restaurant/Retail/Other
  • The Box-This one is similar to the Expandable idea. I see women use these on blogs who have much more experience than me. So maybe as you save more and more coupons you have to keep them in a box. Who knows. Basically, with a box, you create dividers (use similar categories as above) and order the coupons front to back in each category. The ones that expire soon go in the front, the ones that don't, go in the back.
  • The Folder-This suggestion just came to me recently and I have to admit-it sounds smart! One woman doesn't clip ANY coupons, until the week she needs them. She keeps all inserts for a few months, and writes the date on each one. Then, when she reads a blog that says, "Use the 2/$1 from the 6/13 Smart Source, all she has to do is find that insert, cut out the coupon she needs and go get the deal. I might attempt this one someday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting Started in the Coupon Game-Part 1

I'm fairly new to the Coupon Game. And believe me-it IS a game. At least sometimes it feels like it.

There are times when I walk up to the cash register with sweat threatening to drip down my face because I'm not sure if I'll get Cruella DeVille, or Marge Simpson behind the counter. And even if they accept my coupons, what if I forget one? It's probably similar to how the US Soccer team felt when the referee disallowed their goal against Slovenia. They felt cheated. Coupons and World Cup soccer are in the same realm of importance right?

When it comes to couponing (yes, it's a word) I think getting started can be the hardest. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you start too big and end up running all over town to get every last deal. Don't do that. It's easy to feel like you have to, but remember this: the point of couponing is to SAVE MONEY. You are not saving money when you drive all over town to get each deal. Trust me.

Here are my recommendations. Remember they are coming from a rookie. Don't give up too early, and don't start out too big. I promise that in the long run, taking the time to learn how to coupon right is worth it. I'll be posting about this series for a few days so stay tuned!

Where Do I Get Coupons?
1. The Sunday Paper-My preference is to pay $1.25 a week for 4 days of front door newspaper delivery.  I don't have to drive anywhere to pick it up so I'm saving on gas.

Most Sundays, you will have coupons from 3 different inserts: Proctor and Gamble, Smart Source, and Red Plum.

2. Friends, Family, and the local Starbucks-If you are really cheap, you don't have to pay for the paper. Instead, you can ask your Yuppie friends and family if they can give you their inserts from the Sunday paper. This also works if you need more than 1 coupon, and you only have access to one Sunday paper.

I'm serious about Starbucks. Remember back to your single days of freedom when you had the money to pay for a Grande Mocha Latte. (Is that a thing? I don't do coffee . . .) How many times did you need to move someone's left over paper out of the way so you could sit down and read your O magazine? Stop by a Starbucks (or any coffee place) on a Monday morning and you're sure to find a few papers.

3. Dollar Tree-Some Dollar Tree's will carry the Sunday paper for: you guessed it- $1! This is hit and miss depending on your region so don't take my word for it.

4. Gas stations, supermarkets, Wal-Mart, Target-If you are brand new and just want to get started already, buy 1 paper at full price if you have to. This will help you have the right mentality about couponing: you can't always get ALL the good deals. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet.

Coming up next time . . . How do I organize all of those Coupons?

Red Plum and Smart Source Recipe Inspirations-7/11

To skip my commentary, scroll down to the recipes written in bold.

If you are like me, you might feel disappointed with this Sunday's coupon inserts. Each week I learn new things about the couponing game. Lesson learned-not every insert has a ton of food coupons that you will actually use!

I read an article recently about the top US cities for couponing. Apparently there are pockets of the country which have a larger number of Penny Pinchers than others. In the article, research shows that those who coupon actually spend $4 more per month than their non-coupon counterparts. What? So what's a tight wad to do? After all, if my only option for using coupons is to buy hearing aid batteries and Pepcid AC, what's the point?

This is where the bigger coupon lesson comes into play: saving money using coupons requires long term planning and organization. Each week, cut out any coupon you think you might use, either that week, or in the future. Some weeks, you'll cut out a lot. Some weeks, you'll find the "Refrigerated" tab is bursting at it's seams in the mini-expandable file, while all other categories are almost empty. Don't lose heart!

The trick comes from watching weekly sales. I may feel like I can't make any great meals based off of what's available from the Sunday paper's Red Plum and Smart Source insert. Put I'm thinking too small. I do most of my shopping at Hy-Vee and Aldi, so I wait until Wednesday to plan my weekly menu because Wednesday is when Hy-Vee changes their specials. There may be a sale for something that I have a coupon for from 3 weeks ago! Save those coupons! Sure, you may be well stocked on Yoplait yogurt cups right now, but in 3 weeks, you may not. The coupon will most likely still be usable,  and there may be a store sale for that yogurt. I'll say it again: Save those coupons!

Now, all that to say, some of you are part Penny Pinchers and part Yuppies.  I'll call this breed Pinchies. You enjoy the thrill of getting a discount, but you may have the means to pay for it at full price anyways, and some weeks all you have time for is the actual coupon clipping itself. You are the kind of person that can head to the store with a fistfull of coupons, and no real menu. That's ok! If this is you, then here is my recommendation for a few recipe ideas for this week:

**Note: All coupons mentioned below are from the 7/11/2010 Red Plum or Smart Source insert in your local  Sunday paper.

Going to a party?
If you are hosting a party, or headed to one and need a dish to bring, make the classic Little Smokies appetizer. Heat up some sausage links in a crock pot and drizzle a good amount of your favorite bar-b-q sauce. This week there is a coupon for $.55 off any 1 package off Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage links.   

From Scratch Items
For some reason, there is a fair amount of butter coupons this week. I also found a coupon for $.45 off any Daisy Cottage Cheese tub. Butter and cottage cheese. Butter and cottage cheese. What can you do with butter and cottage cheese?

Cottage Cheese Bread (Bread Machine recipe)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Add the ingredients to your bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer, and start. You can use up to 1/2 cup more bread flour if the dough seems too sticky.  

Cottage Cheese Pancakes 
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • cooking spray 
Combine cottage cheese, flour, oil, and eggs in a large bowl Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side. 

Amazing what you can do with cottage cheese! The pancakes could be a meal idea-every kid loves it when Mom says that it's "Breakfast for dinner" night!

Yogurt Parfaits 
Use one of the many Yoplait yogurt coupons to make a yummy parfait. Just add blueberries and granola, or your choice of fruit.

Main dish 
Use the HIllshire farm $.55 off any 1 package of Deli Select Hearty Slices Lunchmeat for this recipe:

Tortellini and Ham in Cream Sauce
  • 2 (9 ounce) packages refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked ham (cut deli meat into slices-works the same!)
  • 1 3/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Dash of sugar
  • Dash of garlic salt/parsley combination
Drain tortellini and put back in pot. Stir in sliced ham, cream, butter, Parmesan cheese, sugar and garlic mixture; heat through. 
This would make it a heavy carb meal, but, you can also serve Rhodes Warm-N-Serve rolls. The coupon from this weeks insert is for $1 off.
Tomorrow I'll be posting recipe ideas inspired by Hy-Vee deals and coupon match ups. If I'm feeling brave, I might attempt another store. Any suggestions? What stores are your area that you need help matching up coupons with good recipes?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Caving In . . .

Well I finally did it. I went straight to Wal-Mart with no coupons and bought THREE items at full price.


It was just one of those days. My mind was lost in thought about many things, and I needed contact solution, as well as garbage bags. I've actually been running very low on contact solution for a few weeks. However, because I've been in coupon mode, I've waited to buy new solution until I could get it much cheaper. I mean, after you buy things at half price, it just feels wrong to pay full price. Am I right? However, I'd used and reused so many ounces of contact solution that my contacts were begging me to bite the bullet and buy a new bottle.

Honestly, I would have held out longer if our trash bags hadn't run out. I didn't realize how much trash I threw away until I found myself searching for the makeshift garbage bag everytime I went to the empty trash can.

This was a prime example to me of how us Penny Pinchers can easily get our panties in a wad. Couponing and saving money is about meeting the needs of your family. If you are trying to catch every possible deal out there, or refusing to buy a $4.38  item  that you need simply because you can't get it on sale, you're missing the point. I promise that your husband and children do NOT need a woman who is stressed out (or worse-nasty smelling-buy that deoderant!). They need a woman who is calm and collected. And in my case, tonight I needed to be that woman who bought the $2.28 hair gel (finally) just because I wanted it. I've been out of hair gel for over a month. My husband likes it when I take care of myself. So you know what? Buying the hair gel that wasn't on my list was a good buy. Take that Crazy Coupon Cook.

I'll be back tomorrow with a few meals you can make using some of the deals available this week. Wednesday I'll do the Hy-Vee match up. Thursday I'll look for contact solution coupons so I don't repeat my night tonight. Good night.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dress Like a Cow reminder

Just a reminder that TODAY is Dress Like a Cow day at your local Chic-fil-A. I just came back from lunch with my two Little Locos and it was a success.

For me, I wore a skirt and white shirt, black hat with ears and mini horns (made from construction paper) and taped black spots all over my shirt. For my Little Loca, she wore a white skirt and shirts, a sign on her back that said, "Eat Mor Chikin", a paper plate cow mask, and black spots as well.

We didn't have to buy a single thing. Gasp! All we had to do was pick which meal (not just a sandwhich- a full meal!) we wanted and that was that!

I have to give 2 hooves (sorry to be cheesy) up to Chic-fil-a because the employees were kind, and seemed to be having fun too. There were a LOT of people there which means the employees could have been really annoyed, but instead, they were patient and extra helpful. What a great place to each a free lunch!!

This offer ends today so if you need a place to eat supper, I recommend Chic-fil-a if you are dressed like a cow!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Third and Fourth Children . . .

In general, wherever I go, my children come with me. Except of course when I'm on a hot date with my husband or sipping wine with girfriends. But usually, I never leave home without them. At least not on purpose.

Since my journey into Coupon Country began, I've learned that there are 2 more things that must also come with me. I call them my 3rd and 4th children.  Why? Well, it's just easier to get in the car and start counting "kids." Then I know I have everything I'm supposed to have. So who (what) are my 2 other children?
Meet my iPod touch.

My particular iPod has a bright pink protective case which is very useful considering Child 1 and Child 2 are actual human beings and have a tendency to play with my beloved iPod touch. The iPod is a great list maker for me. I have a list of Price Comparison which tells me what items cost at each store. This is not an app. you can buy from iTunes. I was just that organized for once and diligently wrote (finger tapped) in the prices for each item as I visited different stores.

This comes in handy especially when using coupons. I can check the final price after coupons with the actual price if I were to buy the same item at Aldi. I swish my finger across the screen to the Price Comparisons list and find what the item costs at Aldi. If it's cheaper there, I put the coupon back in my folder, and keep it on the grocery list (which I also have on my iPod touch.)

Now meet Child #4:

 I'm kicking myself for not getting mine from Amazon as this expandable is by far superior to mine (I bought my boring gray expandable at Wal-Mart for about $7). It even has fun colors to choose from!

Depending on your mind's organizational system, this really might be a must-have as you begin your coupon journey. My attempt at using coupons in the grocery store saw me with a fist full of coupons, and a desperate look on my face as I repeatedly flipped through the stack looking for that one coupon I thought I had in there somewhere.  Once I got an organization system, the desperate look subsided. (Until the time came to pay of course.)

Well now you know my main recomendations for keeping sane in the grocery store while trying to use coupons. I really do mean it when I say I don't leave home without them. In fact, last week we celebrated our 6th anniversary and I had to force myself to leave the expandable at home. We were using a coupon for our dinner, but I had a cute purse that would have looked seriously bloated had I brought Child #4 along. I finally just decided to take the restaurant coupon out and let my husband keep it in his wallet. I looked young, hip and not a tish over the age of Coupon Crazy! 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dress Like a Cow!!

Looking for free chicken? Head to your local Chic-fil-A on July 9th. What's the catch?

You have to dress like a cow!!

If you are up to the task, pull your little black and white cow dress out of the closet and head to your local Chic-fil-A. Click here for more details.

Thanks to Penny Pinchin' Mom for the heads up!

I'm a Peanut Butter Snob

It's true. I'm pretty frugal (read cheap) when it comes to the food we eat. But when it comes to peanut butter, well, I'm a snob.

One day, a long time ago (the 80's is now a long time ago), my Mom came home with 2 different brands of peanut butter. Our family had been die hard Skippy fans for years. However, I guess Mom decided that it was time to venture out and try some new flavors. After all, she didn't want us to grow up to be Those Kind of People, the kind who get squemish at the thought of trying a (gasp) new type of french fry!

So she pulled all 4 kids into the brown and yellow striped wallpapered kitchen, individually, so that the taste test could be authentic and void of any older brother bullying. I remember when it was my turn I felt really excited that I got to be a part of such an important decision in the family. Peanut butter! I was helping decide the fate of which peanut butter brand would be slabbed onto my lunch sandwich everyday! For a 7 year old, it's a big deal.

My Mom told me to stand still and close my eyes. She carefully turned around and faced the yellow Formica countertop. There were 2 opened jars of peanut butter. One read Skippy; the other Jif. She dipped a spoon in one jar then proceeded to tell me to "Open your mouth." I stood with my hands behind my back, and relished the joyous peanut butter taste in mouth. It wasn't every day my Mom let me eat peanut butter straight from the jar!

Next, she took out another spoon and had me taste the 2nd peanut butter. After scrapping every last glop from my mouth, I told her which one tasted better and she sent me on her way. After each sibling had a turn in the Peanut Butter Taste Test Laboratory, Mom revealed the results. Jif won in a landslide victory of 4-0! Ever since that day, I've been a devout Jif fan. There is just something perfect about this peanut butter.

And lucky for me, Hy-Vee is having a sale this week: 2 Jif peanut butter jars for $4! Sure, it's more than the Aldi brand peanut butter, but if you are a snob like me, it's worth it!

Hy-Vee Weekly Match Ups 7/7-7/13

Click here to see the Hy-Vee Weekly Match Ups.

And here are my recipe recommendations:

Salsa Verde Chicken Wraps
Use this link or this link to view the recipe.
4 of the 7 ingredients are ON SALE this week!
  • Hy-Vee sour cream- .$.50 with coupon from last week's ad.
  • Tyson Grilled Chicken Strips, 2/4$
  • Green bell peppers-$.50 each (recipe calls for red peppers, replace with green for a cheaper meal!)
  • Avocados are on sale for $1.50 (and honestly, I think I saw them cheaper recently so this price might not be right)
Total Spent: $6
You'll need to make sure you have lettuce and tortillas on hand as well, or head to Aldi to get them even cheaper!

BLT's-A Summer Classic
All but the tomatoes are on sale this week!
  • Earthbound Farm Organic Iceberg Lettuce Heads-$1.48 (or you can use the .99$ non organic head of lettuce)
  • Farmland Sliced Bacon 12 - 16 oz. or 2.1 oz. fully cooked $2.98
  • Hy-Vee Split Top Wheat bread-$.99
Total Spent: $5.46
Make sure you have tomatoes on hand. Serve with $.97 California Green Seedless Grapes or Kandy Honeydew Melons on sale for $1.99 each. I always love chips with my BLT's too!

Loaded Potatoes
This meal should cost close to nothing because you are combining ingredients from other meals!
  • 2 for $1 Butter Kernal Corn ( 14.5 or 15 oz can)
As long as you have potatoes, shredded cheese, salt and butter on hand you are set to go! Just make as many baked potatoes as your family needs, then place the following ingredients in small bowls to load those potatoes:
  • Crumbled, cooked bacon (left over from BLT)
  • Chopped peppers (left over from Salsa Verde Chicken Wraps)
  • Corn (see above)
  • Sour cream (left over from Salsa Verde Chicken Wraps)
  • Chopped white onion (I'm assuming this is something most will have on hand)
  • Shredded cheese
Total Spent: $1
Keep eating healthy by using all of that fruit you are buying on sale this week!

Friday, June 25, 2010


You need to go to Hy-Vee. I just bought 2 dozen eggs for $1!! $.50 each?? You'll never find that at Aldi!

Other deals:
-$1 Hy-Vee box cereal (stock up on knock off rice krispies, cheerios and cornflakes to use in rice krispie treats, baby snacks, and casserole toppers)
-10% off a bag full of dairy items
-2/$5 Tennessee Pride sausage (and if you have the coupon from this past Sunday for $1 off, it's even cheaper!) Use 1 lb of sausage in lasagna, and the other you can save for a breafast for dinner meal, pizza, or an actual breakfast!

I'll be looking at recipes with eggs in them over the next few weeks because I now have 3 dozen eggs in my fridge! I'm thinking quiches, breakfast casseroles will be on the menu. Anyone have some great recipes using eggs that are not specific to breakfast? I'd love to hear them!

P.S. I pretty much live right across from a Hy-Vee so it's pretty convenient for me to stop in there when I'm checking on a coupon deal. In case you were wondering . . . .

For all you Hippies . . .

This blog is for you! If you enjoy organic and environmentally friendly stuff, check out this site for deals on 7th Generation diapers, organic baby blankets, chemical free hair detangler etc. Go read it now!

Coupon Ethics

As I'm a pretty recent couponer (yes, it's a word), I'm trying to learn what the appropriate coupon ethics are. Here's an example from yesterday:

I had a coupon for $1 off 2 packs of Rayovac alkaline batteries. On various sites, I'd read that there were some Rayovac batteries on sale for $1 at Target. People using 2 coupons were getting them for free! Well I went to check it out (and buy 2 loafs of bread for .50 each at the grocery store next door!) and by the time I was in line, I realized the packs I had in my hand were not alkaline as the coupon insisted. Also, how were people getting them for free since the coupon said it could not be combined with any other coupons, and the limie was 1 per customer. I only had one coupon so I felt OK about that, and I also figured that if the batteries I had didn't align with the coupon's requirments, it wouldn't work.When I gave the coupon to the very friendly cashier, she had no problem scanning the coupon. It took the dollar off just like that!

So here is my question that I'm researching (and we all know that "research" done online is totally legit . . .): do coupons have bar codes on them that let the computer know how to apply the price reduction, in accordance with the coupons requirements? Or is it solely dependent on the cashier reading the coupon correctly?

I want to make sure I'm doing this all legally so I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on the subject as well as any legitimate sites that provide coupon guidlines. Here is a great article I found and I'm now headed over to one of my favorite sites, The Coupon Mom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hy-Vee Deals Today and Tomorrow!

For any of you living near a Hy-Vee, now would be a good time to head on over! They are having some big sales. I made my first stock pile purchase today. Hy-Vee brand 8 oz. shredded cheese usually costs about $2.06, but today they are on sale for $1 each! (Limit of 5) Shredded cheese is something I use often, whether it's my homemade pizza I make almost every other week, or in my favorite enchilada recipe. And recently, I've been buying block cheese and shredding it myself because I use less cheese, and it's cheaper. However, when I see $1 shredded cheese, I BUY IT.

Also, tomorrow the dairy section is having a good deal as well: fill one paper grocery bag with dairy items and save 10%. This is a prime opportunity to combine coupons with a great store deal. As for me, I already used some of my best dairy coupons earlier this week so I'm not going to go spend more money just to save 10%. But if you happen to have a lot of dairy coupons, you need to take advantage of this deal!

Click here to learn more.

Healthy Coupons!

Yes, coupons for healthy/organic foods are skinnier than that coupon you have for $1 off a package of Little Debbie cake rolls. So if you are a Hippy, check out this site for some healthy coupons!

Thanks to Lorrie at Natural on a Budget for the great link!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Bottom Line

When it comes to finances, everyone has their own Bottom Line. I've decided there are 3 main Bottom Lines: Environment/Organic, Time, and Money. Let me explain how I categorize the stereotypical grocery shoppers.

The Hippies: These are the people who place the environment above all else. It doesn't matter if that bottle of cleaning spray costs $8.99. It's chemical free and won't harm the environment. The Hippies are usually found at food co-ops, organic grocery stores and in their own garden. To them, it's worth it to spend the money on something that is organic and chemical free.

The Yuppies: When I'm behind a 20's something wearing $100 shoes, talking on her cell while she absently unloads her groceries onto the belt, I know I'm behind a Yuppy. Or a DINK. (Duel Income No Kids). This woman doesn't care what she spends at the grocery store because she makes enough to pay for it. Sometimes these people come in the form of a Grandma who works full time and would rather spend her time with family. For these people time is their bottom line. They work full time so it's not worth it to them to spend the time clipping coupons. I fully expect and hope that one day I'll be like this. Sure, I will still look for deals, but there will come a time when my Bottom Line will not be money, it will be time.

The Penny Pinchers: That's me. My Bottom Line is money. I stay at home with 2 kids while my husband works part time and attends graduate school. Money is my bottom line because it has to be. We don't have the luxury of spending whatever we want on groceries. We have a budget and we stick to it. So to me, it's worth it to take the time to clip coupons.

Of all of these three types of people, not one is the correct way to live. You just need to decide what your Bottom Line is. Couponing can be frustrating for some if their Bottom Line is Time, but they think they "should" be clipping coupons. If you are a Coupons For Life! kind of woman, DON'T make those who despise couponing feel like they are less than the ideal woman. And you Hippies? We're glad you love saving the environment, just don't scoff as those of us who don't have the money to save it with you.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog and learning how to save money with me. But if your bottom line isn't money, like it is mine, I understand that you might not find the coupon tips that beneficial. Hopefully, you can still find the recipes and menu planning helpful. Let me know if there's something you'd like to see on my blog to help you with YOUR Bottom Line.

Shopping Update

So yesterday I made my first real attempt at shopping for groceries for a week, using a menu that was based off of coupons, sales and store promotions. My goals was $50. I want to get that down even further eventually, but hey-I'm just starting out with this coupon thing!

I first went to Hy-Vee where I realized I'd made my first mistake: Weekly specials are changed every Wednesday so last weeks specials were still up, while I had this week's coupons from the Sunday paper. Oops. But it worked out fine because Hy-Vee was offering some things at sale prices that I also had coupons for. If you remember my list from yesterday, I ended up buying cottage cheese, yogurt, sugar and hot dogs from Hy-Vee.(plus a few other items)
  • I bought 2 4-packs of brand name yogurt for less than a dollar each because I had TWO coupons, for each. (One printable, one from the paper.) I think I spent less than .50 on each!
  • The cottage cheese was name brand, but it was on sale, and then I had a coupon for .50 off so it made it cheaper than I could have bought it for at Aldi. That's a deal!
  • All in all my total was $10.10 because I saved over $6 in coupons! This ratio encouraged me because the first time I attempted coupons with no real list and no real plan, I saved $10 and spent a total of $80!

At Aldi . . . I also messed up there. I had left my blog post up on my iPod so I could read my list at the store. When I arrived, for some reason, it only showed a white page. (And it had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn't connected to the Internet in case you are wondering if I'm that stupid.) So I had to re-create my list from memory . . . which means I forgot some stuff after the fact. I did however discovered a few things at Aldi:
  • Chicken is cheaper there than Sams! $5.49/3lbs vs $11.89/6lbs at Sams
  • Produce isn't really cheaper there (nor is it that great). A head of lettuce is $1.19 and I can get romaine or a head of lettuce at Hy-Vee for .99. Grapes at Aldi are REALLY good, but they are more expensive.
  • You can't pick just a few potatoes or a few onions at Aldi. So although it might be slightly cheaper or the same amount to buy a 3 lb bag of onions at Aldi, I wouldn't do it because I know I won't use all of those before they go bad and I only need 1 or 2 anyways. I'll keep getting my produce at Hy-Vee so I can pick exactly how many of each thing I want.
  • Canned items are hands down way cheaper at Aldi. Trust me.
  • I got a dozen of large eggs for .77 at Aldi!! That's a deal!
  • My hot dog purchase at Hy-Vee was a great deal . . . until I saw that I could have bought the same amount for less at Aldi. This is a prime example of how even after using a store discount combined with a coupon, sometimes Aldi is just cheaper!
After I was done at Aldi (where I only spent about $22.00 for almost everything else on my list!) I stopped back at Hy-Vee to grab some ham because I wasn't sure if it was cheaper at Aldi or not. There I realized I'd forgotten some things from my Aldi list and my time was running short so I had to grab the cheapest thing I could (Hy-Vee brand) for each item. Guess what happens when you go to the store with no plan and no coupons? You spend almost $18.00 for about 5 items!

Although I made a few mistakes and spent way too much at Hy-Vee that 2nd time, I'm glad I was able to see the drastic difference between shopping with a plan and coupons, and NOT. Plus, I was able to add more items to my list of each store. Like I mentioned before, I take my trusty iPod with me and I have a running list of prices for the things I regularly buy. This will help as I do future planning because I can figure out ahead of time if the coupon deal will be cheaper or not.

Stick with me-I hope to keep saving more money!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Recipe-Coupon Match Up-June 23-June 30

Here's my first week of making meals based on what I have in my cupboards and fridge, plus items on sale combined with coupons. Remember, I'll be shopping at Hy-Vee and Aldi for these items. You can follow along and make these meals using the same coupons, or just make the recipes without! Let's see how little I can spend!

Tuesday-Broccoli Ham Ring served with lettuce salad
Wednesday-Lasagna served with lettuce salad and garlic crescent rolls
Thursday-Broccoli and Chicken in Noodles, side of Fruit
Friday-Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with baked beans and chips
Saturday-I'm out of town with the kids so Hubby will enjoy the lasagna leftovers!
Sunday-Still out of town for lunch, but I'll probably do homemade pizza for supper.
Monday-Scalloped potatoes and Ham with frozen veggies



Hy-Vee(Only using Sunday paper coupons or printable coupons. If the bottom line price is still more expensive then Aldi's, I will NOT buy the item at Hy-Vee. I'll wait until I head to Aldi)
  • 2 cans refridgerated crescent rolls-$1 off 3 Pillsbury (use 3rd as side dish on lasagna day)
  • Cottage cheese-.50 off 24 oz. Roberts dairy(will use in broccoli ham ring and lasagna)
  • Cooked ham-$1 off 2 packages of cubed turkey or ham (Farmland), or $1 off Farmland select ham
  • 1 lb sausage- $1 off Odom's Tennesse Pride sausage plus ground beef (You'll use that ground beef on Friday!)
  • Hot dogs-$1 off Oscar Meyer package
  • Yogurt-I have a bunch of printable coupons. This is just for our general snack food.
  • Sugar-$2 off when you buy 10 Kool-aid packets. I've been wanting lemonaid and now I'll have it!
  • Pepperoni slices


  • 2 Broccoli crowns(use in Tuesday's and Thursday's meal)
  • Onions (Broccoli Ham ring, and I'm out and usually have these on hand)
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Tomato paste(Lasagna)
  • Parmesan cheese(Lasagna and Alfredo Sauce)
  • Eggs(Lasagna and general use)
  • Lettuce(I love serving salads with my meals if you can't tell!)
  • Cream cheese(Alfredo sauce)
  • Hot Dog buns
  • Cheese(mozzarella for lasagna as I used my last on Broccoli Ham Ring-I'll shred it myself!)
  • Potatoes(Monday's meal and general use-I'm out!)
  • Butter(General use)
  • Grapes(General use)
  • Chips and snack items we're out of



Broccoli Ham Ring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, mix the following:

  • 1 cup cooked meat (ham, turkey or chicken)

  • 1 cup chopped broccoli

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese

  • 8 oz shredded cheese (I'm using mozzarella this time)

  • 1 tsp of dry mustard or just squirt in some regular mustard like I usually do

  • Squirt of lemon juice or squeeze some out of a lemon

  • 1 tsp parsley
Open 2 cans of refridgerated crescent rolls. Roll out triangles in a circle so the widest end faces the middle of the baking stone. They will overlap each other. Using scoop or 2 spoons, carefully place the ham/broccoli mix evenly around ring. Fold over pointy ends of the triangles and tuck under the wide ends. Sprinkle a bit of dill weed on top and put in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. Serves 2-4 adults.

Recipe from my mother-in-law via Pampered Chef.

Lasagna with salad and garlic bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown meat, drain. Add onion, garlic and cook a few minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and paste, water, salt and oregano. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir occasionaly. In other dish, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley. Grease 9x13 pan. Put noodles on bottom layer. Spread 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 of mozzarella, and 1/2 of meat sauce. Repeat. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 30 minutes.

Recipe from my mother-in-law, tweeked by me.

Broccoli and Chicken in Noodles

  • Boil water for noodles and follow package directions.

  • Cut chicken breasts in bite size pieces then place in skillet with oil. Sprinkle your favorite herbs (I'll be using thyme, rosemary and basil) on chicken as they cook.

  • Steam broccoli.

  • Make alfredo sauce last: 1 stick butter, 1 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. milk, 2/3 Parmesan cheese. Melt butter and cream cheese. Wisk until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and milk and whisk til smooth. Serve immediately. Thickens quickly!

  • You can either leave the broccoli as a side dish, or mix it in with the chicken and noodles.

Alfredo recipe from Jenny Kuphal.

Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with baked beans

I think you know what to do with burgers and hot dogs! Make your favorite baked beans recipe.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

5 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 quart heavy cream (I always use milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place the potatoes, onion, garlic, Cheddar cheese, and ham in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Gently stir until well combined. Pour the cream over the potato mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour.


I'll let you know if I can do all of this for under 50$! If anyone tries this same menu, let me know how much you spent. I'll shoot for another coupon/recipe match up next week too and try and cut my grocery bill even slimmer!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let the Couponing Begin

Have you ever known someone who spends hardly any money for groceries yet makes out of the store with more groceries in her cart than you? I hope to be that person in your life.

OK, not really but I do hope to be that person who spends very little on groceries. Right now my husband is job hunting, and once his school starts in the Fall he'll be going to school full time, while working part time. This couponing thing has now become a necessity. But I'm not going to lie . . . it's kind of fun!

About a month ago we drove to Virginia to buy a mini-van from my Aunt and Uncle. I think the real reason we went was that I needed someone to tell me about the addicting game of saving money through coupons. My cousin gave me a basic lesson and directed me to some great websites. I left Virginia with a new mentality of shopping.
Lessons from Virginia: Combine manufacture's coupons with store coupons and then use them to buy things already on sale. Also, CVS Pharmacy can be a gold mine!

Then we ventured west past Knoxvull (that's how they say it . . .) and stopped in good 'ole Nashville to see my husband's Aunt and family. While we were there, his cousin gave me a coupon of lessons too! So between 2 cousins, I came back ready to start saving!
Lessons from Tennessee: Create your menu for the week based on what's on sale. Don't create your menu and then find out what menu items you can get on sale, and what items you have to pay full price for.

Now that we are back to buying all of our own groceries again, I've started clipping coupons and shopping around. I've been to Sams, Hy-Vee, and Aldi (all stores fairly close to our apartment) to compare prices of all the items that I usually have on hand, or use in recipes frequently. I took my iPod touch with me (It's like my 3rd child-I can't leave home without it!) and made a running list of how much things cost at each place. Here is what I discovered:

Sam's-Has the cheapest milk, and the cheapest whole chickens. Occasionally I'll buy ground beef in bulk there but it's not something I use often in recipes so it's not on my list. Overall, I wouldn't say that buying in bulk at Sam's really saves you that much. (See Hy-Vee info to understand why)

Hy-Vee-Their in-store promotions combined with manufacturers coupon and/or store coupons can get you some really cheap stuff. Here were some of my deals last week:
  • I bought 4 boxes of cereal at 2 for 5$, then used a 1$ off coupon for each pair, THEN I got a gallon of FREE milk because Hy-Vee had a special. Four boxes of name brand cereal and a gallon of milk for 6$. Pretty good!
  • I had a manufacturer's coupon for .50 off a box of pasta. Then Hy-Vee had a sale going on that took another .75 off. So I ended up spending .53 for a box of pasta! Since I'd already done comparison shopping, I knew that it was cheaper than I could get at Aldi.
Aldi-I know I know . . . it does kind of feel like you are shopping at a second hand food store, but trust me-the food tastes fine and it's a great steal of a deal. If I know that I can get something cheaper at Aldi, then I DON'T buy it at Hy-Vee, even if it's a great coupon deal on a name brand item. I will say that I'm probably not going to buy my meat or (some) produce there if I can avoid it. The produce is hit and miss. Their grapes we've bought there are the BEST, but some of the stuff . . . well I know why it was so cheap. In general, here are the things I buy at Aldi on a regular basis IF I can't get it cheaper elsewhere using coupons:
  • Eggs (.88/dozen!)
  • Dairy products
  • Cereal
  • Chips/snack food
  • Canned food items
  • Ice cream
  • Deli meat (sometimes)
This is what I've learned so far about couponing. I'm pretty much a rookie. Tomorrow I'll post my menu for the week to show you (and so I can remember!) how I'm planning my week of meals based on the deals this week. I'll be shopping at Hy-Vee and Aldi tomorrow so if you want to follow along with my menus, (and you live near a Hy-Vee and Aldi) find your Sunday paper and clip those coupons, then read tomorrow and I'll give you a week's worth of meals you can buy for cheap!

Coming soon . . .
  • CVS deals. This week I'll attempt to buy a large box of diapers for only $6.99! I'll let you know how it goes!
  • A list of great websites that have helped me understand how to save money using coupons, while not losing the big picture, and not spending all of my time doing it.