Monday, August 31, 2009

Lockdown Budget: Ground Zero and 1/3 There Already

Tomorrow is day one of Lockdown Budget, and I am happy to report that due to a large case closing and the auditing process taking not nearly as long as usual, we have already paid off 1/3 of the debt we goaled ourselves to pay off by December 1. I anticipate, based on the way my work is swinging along, that we will be halfway to our goal by October 1, and God willing we might be done by November 1.

I don't think this big start out of the gate will make us complacent; Baboo and I are really determined to make.this.happen. I am doing my best to carve out as much as I can from the food and household budget and we are selling a few things on Craigslist and Ebay as well; we'd been meaning to do these things before but are now super motivated to get the no-debt party started. If you're the praying type, please keep us in yours as we sacrifice temporarily to get our family to financial freedom. I'll certainly be updating you as we go along.

Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Pack Lunches the Night Before

This seems more like an organizational tip, and it is that, but it also saves money. At night, while you are cleaning up the dinner dishes, pots, and pans, dish up the leftovers into a tupperware (or pyrex dish, if you are concerned about BPA leaching into your food in the microwave like I am -- sue me, I'm a little freaky about these things) and stick it in the fridge. The next morning it is ready for you to grab and go.

I cannot tell you how much money this has saved us; the wonderful combination of Baboo's thriftiness and slight to moderate culinary laziness means he prefers leftovers for lunches, and if they are ready to go he will happily grab them out of the fridge and eat them.

Similarly, if you can't bear the thought of two or three bucks per kid for school lunches but find the thought of packing lunches in the morning even more intolerable, make them the night before and stow them in the fridge. In the morning, plop them in the backpacks before they head out the door. Again, this has, quite literally, saved my sanity with five children. I might be exhausted when I drop into bed at night, but by golly, at least lunches are packed!!!

Menu Plan Monday: One Day Late Edition

Tomorrow's the first day of school!! I shouldn't be this excited, but I am. A trip to the grocery store with no children hanging off the cart . . . . aaaaaahhhhhhhh.

Monday: pasta with cheese, fresh fruit
Tuesday: French toast with raspberries and whipped cream, fresh fruit
Wednesday: Creamy italian chicken, brown rice, broccoli
Thursday: lasagna, salad, garlic bread
Friday-Saturday: mini vacation up nort', likely a romantic wine/cheese/fruit dinner whilst lounging in the whirlpool tub, followed the next day by dogs/brats over a campfire someplace.
Sunday: ham and swiss stromboli, salad

Go here

Shared via AddThis

for a .pdf 1/1 Expo Click coupon. Print as many times as you like, and take to Office Max this week; Expo Dry Erase markers are on sale buy one get one free.

What's the Deal: Pick N Save through September 2, 2009

A spectacular week for Pick N Save, even if you don't go on Wednesday for double coupon day.

They're clearing out their Staples school supplies; many small items such as single subject spiral notebooks, pencil cap erasers, and other miscellany are .10 each, limit 10. 12 count Staples pencils are 5/1.00, limit 5. Highlighters and index cards are .33 each. Elmer's glue and 24 count Crayola crayons are .25 each, limit 4.

To finish up the Kraft/Nabisco rebate, buy 10 Handi-Snacks and/or Nabisco Snack Sacks at 1.00 each; if you have coupons from the rebate booklet for 1.00/2, you can double them, or just redeem them on their own, or not use coupons at all; you will have completed your needed purchases for the $20.00 rebate and those items will be free after that rebate.

Dannon yogurt is 2.00 for most all varieties this week; pair with this week's coupons in the Sunday inserts to get them for 1.00 each or free if you double them on Wednesday.

Jennie O Turkey Franks are 1.00 per pack; there are .55/1 coupons from the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago, making them .45 or free, depending on whether you go on Wednesday.

Klement's precooked brats are 3.00 per pack; double a .75/1 coupon from the Sunday inserts a couple of weeks ago and get them for 1.50 each.

By the way, hot dogs and brats freeze beautifully.

Finally, Skippy peanut butter is .98, limit one, and Roundy's lunch bags are .78, limit one.

Canning supplies are 25% off, if you are overrun with cucumbers and need to make pickles (like me).

You're all set for back to school!

What's the Deal: Free Wonder Bread at Sentry August 31-September 6, 2009

A good week at Sentry!!

First, as I noted, there is a great kraft/nabisco rebate and coupon booklet. Five of the 20 items needed are Capri Sun drinks. Those are on sale with an in-ad coupon this week for 1.48 per box. Buy five boxes and you are 1/4 of the way to a $20.00 rebate.

Dannon Activia yogurt and Danactive drinks are free after a 1/1 coupon; check the blue bar on the side, some of the Dannon coupons have been reset. Also, there are Dannon 1/1 coupons from yesterday's coupon inserts.

If you have 1/1 coupons for California Pizza Kitchen pizzas, they are 4.50 each with in ad coupon, and 1/1 coupons doubled will make them $2.50 each. A nice quick (and yummy) lunch.

Hormel Natural Choice bacon and lunchmeat is 2.49; there are .55/1 coupons floating around which will make them 1.39 each.

All laundry detergent is 3.99; there were 1/1 coupons in the paper a few weeks back, and on double days this makes these bottles 1.99 each. That is a great deal for laundry detergent, especially a "good" name brand like All.

And finally, there are coupons in the blue bar on the right and in yesterday's coupon inserts for .55/1 Wonder Bread. There's also an in-ad coupon making Wonder Bread .99 each. Without doubles, Wonder Bread becomes cheaper than Sentry brand bread; with a double coupon, it is free.

If you are "wondering" (ha) whether I will be taking the Wonder Bread out of the store, the answer is yes. I am stepping up my lunchtime game for the kids, and white squishy bread made into homemade Uncrustables will rock their world. Additionally, feel free to stock up: Wonder Bread freezes fine, as it is indestructible.

What's the Deal: Office Depot August 30-September 5, 2009

Just when I think the school supply sales are over, they keep pulling me back IN!! (Name that movie).
This week, plastic compasses are a dime. Limit 3.
Four pack glue sticks are .20 each. Limit 10. Now is really the time to stock up.
One inch vinyl binders are .50 each. Limit 3.
Office Depot brand pencil cap erasers and plastic rulers are FREE with a $5.00 purchase, not including the cost of the rulers/erasers. Limit 3.
If you need copy paper, there's a spectacular deal. Buy 2 cases of Office Depot Multipurpose Copy paper, get a 39.99 prepaid Visa as a rebate (this makes one of them free). In the last few weeks, I have gotten many $10 off $40 or $25 purchase coupons which will sweeten this deal: even better, if you are a WorkLife rewards member, your second quarter rewards will be coming with a 30% off Multipurpose paper coupon. You can't stack the coupons, but if you are lucky enough to get the 30% off coupon, it will bring your total down to roughly $56 for two cases of paper, of which you will get $39.99 back in a prepaid visa. This makes the cost per ream after all these rebates/coupons SEVENTY CENTS PER REAM. In addition, they will credit your Worklife Rewards EIGHT DOLLARS for this purchase. So, you will have 2 cases of paper for .70 per ream, and another $8.00 coming to spend at Office Depot next quarter.
If you aren't a Worklife Rewards member, I highly recommend you sign up. It is free.

What's the Deal: Walgreens August 30-September 5, 2009

FREE this week after Register Rewards:

Rembrandt toothpaste (a moneymaker if you have a 1/1 Rembrandt coupon, they are available here) (5.00)

Carefree Ultra Protection Plus pantiliners (go to for a 1/1 printable to make a little money) (1.99)

Colgate ActiFlex Toothbrush (2.99)

Six Blade Razor (6.99)

Also, go to to register for a booklet with a ton of coupons and two, count'em, two rebates for $20.00 when you buy 20 participating products - one good until 2009, and one good beginning January 2010. Basically, your rebate will give you 1.00 off each item. If you can get the items for 1.00, they are free after rebate. If you can get them for less than a dollar, you will make money on the rebate.

Five of these products must be Easy Mac cups. Easy Mac cups are on sale this week at Walgreens for .89 with an in-ad coupon. Buy five and you are 1/4 of the way to a $20.00 rebate.

What's the Deal: CVS, August 30-September 5, 2009

This week at CVS: FREE Glade soy candles (the larger ones) or reed diffusers after Extra Care Bucks (6.99).
Also, go to and print coupons for 1/1 Aquafresh Isoactive and Sensodyne IsoActive and get these for .99 after coupon and Extra Care Bucks.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with Small Local Businesses: or, Why I Became the Popcorn Queen in Four Hours Flat

I'm going out on another limb here, committing several levels of heresy, I'm sure, but I'll come righ out and say what other people probably are thinking but just can't find the nerve to say:

I have a love/hate relationship with locally owned small businesses.

I love them, because, well, they're my neighbors, and I want my neighborhood to thrive, and I like knowing the people who sell me my goods; but I hate them, because they seem to think that if they are locally owned neighborhood businesses the notion of good business and customer service practices can be thrown right out the window.

Exhibit One: last night, four p.m. Baboo is a part of a neighborhood association and was the point person for a Movie Night event: an outdoor free movie at a local park with popcorn and soda for sale. Everything went without a hitch.

Everything, that is, but the popcorn. Baboo made arrangements for a local mom and pop popcorn shop to provide the popcorn; but when I went to pick it up, at four p.m., during their regular business hours, I find a sign saying "sorry, we are doing a fundraiser at a local school; shop is closed, sorry for the inconvenience."

Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is not cool. Unfortunately, this is also not unusual for the locally owned businesses in my area. There's a coffee shop down the street that I would frequent more, except that everytime I want to spend my money there, they are closed. I can't even begin to predict their hours, as they are something like "every other Saturday, except when a good Seinfeld re-run is on, then we might close early." And then they wonder why revenue is down, why people don't come.

Look, I understand that it is tough as a sole proprietor, and that keeping costs in check is crucial. But really. Hours of business should be consistent, predictable, and most important, HONORED. If I make a special trip to your business and your door is locked during business hours, I'm going somewhere else to spend my money where I know the door will be open when they say they will be. And I am not likely to give you a second chance. The few bucks you spend in labor to get someone to cover the front of the house for you will be more than repaid in repeat business and goodwill.

As for me, at four p.m., with an event scheduled to start at 8 and a school function to attend in between, I had to swing into crisis management mode; I got my biggest pot, my Coleman stove, and popcorn popping supplies from the local grocer (which was, in fact, open for bidness, hallelujah), and started popping at seven P.M. I must say, it turned out better than expected; we sold plenty and we had real butter. Everyone who wanted popcorn got it. Baboo learned a lesson about delegating and event planning. I got to cook for a horde, which I love to do.

But now I have a bad taste in my mouth for this particular business. And I wish I didn't.

Link Luv: Free Lip Item at Bath and Body Works with Any Purchase

Go here to print a coupon for a free lip item at Bath and Body Works with any purchase (this means you can buy a one dollar or clearance item to get the free lip item). Great for stocking stuffers for little girlies for Christmas; just buy a travel size lotion or other travel size item and get the lip gloss for freeeeeeee.
Great sales running right now there too; lots of clearance items and buy 3 get 2 free on their Signature collection. Happy Shopping

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A New Feature and A Sneek Peek at the New Giveaway

First of all, I was delighted to find that I actually have. a. follower!!! Thanks, Brook!! Basically, someone out there finds me entertaining or helpful enough to have my link on a feed or delivered to their inbox. In honor of this, I added a sidebar to highlight my followers. I'd love, love, love to have a bunch. Please subscribe!!! Please comment!! I'd love to hear from you and "see" you.

Second, to "encourage" some of you who may be on the fence, I'm giving you a lil' sneek peek at the next giveaway I have planned . . . .

I mean, how can I NOT own that adorable coffee money coin purse? And how can you not let me give you one?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's the Deal: Sentry

This week at Sentry, free Danimals Crush Cups after you double 1/1 coupons from the newspaper inserts.

Breyer's ice cream and Klondike bars are 2.33 each after you double 1/2 coupons available in the blue bar on the side of this blog.

Quaker True Delight granola bars are .50 per box when you double 1/1 coupons from the newspaper and printables from the blue bar on the side of this blog.

Sentry's Bonus Coupons include Dean's RbGH free milk for 1.69 per gallon, limit 2; Hormel deli ham for 1.99/lb, limit 2 lb., and a 3 lb. bag of onions for .99

What's the Deal: Walgreens August 26-29, 2009

If you go here, you can get a coupon for five dollars off a 25 dollar or more purchase at Walgreens today through Saturday, August 29. The 25 dollar minimum must be met AFTER coupons: however, there is a scenario that will work for this coupon.

Buy 2 select Kellogg's cereals at $2.50 each

Buy 4 Keebler cookies or club crackers at $2.50 each

Buy 4 more Kellogg's snacks or cereal of your choice at $2.50 each

Buy 2 Listerine Cool Blue for Kids at $4 each

Buy 2 Benadryl Itch Relief Products at $3.99 each

Use 5 $1/2 Kellogg's coupons here, here, or from the 8/2 insert

Use 1 B1G1 Listerine Cool Blue coupon from the 8/2 insert

Use 1 $1/1 Listerine coupon from the 6/14 insert

Use 1 $1/1 Listerine coupon from Kids Coloring Book (will deduct $2)

Use 2 $1/1 Benadryl coupons from the 8/2 insert

Your total should now be $26.98. Use the $5/25 coupon and that will bring your final total down to $21.98 plus tax.

Then, you'll get back a $2 Register Reward for purchasing the Kellogg's cereal, a $5 Register Reward for purchasing the Keebler snacks, a $3 Register Reward for purchasing the Listerine, and a $5 Register Reward for purchasing the Benadryl.

Your total after the Register Rewards will be $6.98.

Then, if you haven't done so already, submit your receipt for the $10.00 Fuel for School Rebate and you'll get everything for free plus make a small profit!

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for this scenario.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Starbucks Card . . . Free Coffee on your Birthday, 2 Hours of WiFi!

Once you are in possession of your handy-dandy cute little Starbucks mini-card, go to and register the card; when you do, you'll be eligible for a FREE drink of your choice on your birthday, as well as 2 hours of FREE AT&T WiFi while in the store.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Starbucks Mini Card Giveaway Winners!

Winners of the Starbucks Mini Cards are:

#13: My fave is the coffee frapuccino! rbjj32825[at]lycos[dot]com

#20: Thanks for offering this contest. Hope we win.Pumpkin spice Cha ChingQueen

Winners, please contact me at so I can get your mailing information!

Check back for another sweet giveaway in the very near future!!

Menu Plan Monday: August 24-29, 2009

Minimal kid week this week, and Baboo's birthday:

Monday: rice lasagna, salad
Tuesday: leftover rice lasagna, salad
Wednesday: grilled steak, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli
Thursday: Subway sandwiches
Friday: Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza with pepperoni, black olives, and mushrooms; Mike's Hard Lemonade; dessert TBD.
Saturday: Baked potato bar
Sunday: grilled chicken teriyaki, brown rice, stir fry veggies.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's the Deal: Office Max August 23-29, 2009

Folders, .01 each (yes, one penny) (limit 6)

OfficeMax glue combo (2 glue sticks and 1 bottle glue) .20 (two dimes) (limit 3)

Scissors, .20 each (limit 3)

OfficeMax filler paper, .20 each (limit 3)

Composition books .50 each (limit 6)

Toshiba 4 gig flash drive 9.99

What's the Deal: Office Depot August 23-29, 2009

FREE! This week, at Office Depot after rebate . . .

2 pocket paper folders, limit 5 (.39 each)

Sharpie 5 pack fine point, limit 3 (4.49 each)

Office Depot brand protractor, limit 3 (1.99 each)

Sharp EL-501--WB Scientific calculator, limit 1 (6.99)

Not free, but still screaming deals:

Office Depot brand copy paper 1.99 per ream, limit 2 (after a 2.50 mail in rebate)

10 pack Papermate pencils, .10 (one thin dime) (limit 3)

slider pencil boxes, .10 (one thin dime) (limit 3)

Scholastic crayons .25 per pack (one quarter) (limit 3)

2 pack scissors .25 (one quarter) (limit 3)

Purell mini hand sanitizer .25 (one quarter) (limit 3)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Three Bucks A Day Gourmet: Lunch at Chez Loose Change

Today, I made brunch for the bunch. Total damage is as follows:

french toast (10 eggs, 1 loaf whole grain bread, 1/2 loaf apple danish bread, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar).

bacon (26 slices)

milk (1/2 gallon)

and no leftovers.

Donations of farm animals would be appreciated. kthxbye.

What's the Deal: CVS, August 23-29, 2009

Looks like the school supplies are dwindling to a halt.

CVS memo books are free after ECBs until Tuesday, limit 2.

Spend 15 bucks, get 5 ECBs on Mead Five Star notebooks or binders; there are coupons in the blue bar for 2.00 and 1.00 off these products.

Carefree Ultra Protection 16 count free after ECBs. Use a 1.00/1 coupon to make a little money on this transaction.

And CVS Earth Essentials toilet paper, 12 roll packages, are again 5.00 each. Limit 3. By the way, this is the toilet paper we use almost exclusively, and we buy it in bulk at these prices.

What's the Deal: Walgreens August 23-29, 2009

A few good deals this week!

Kellogg's cereals are 2/5.00, with a 2.00 register reward when you buy two, making the boxes 2/3.00. Use a 1.00/2 coupon to make these cereals one dollar per box.

Keebler crackers, cookies, and CheezIts are 4/10.00, with a 5.00 register reward when you buy four, making them 4/5.00. Use two 1.00/2 coupons to make these 4/3.00, or .75 each!

Goody hair accessories are 2.99 with a 2.00 register reward, making them .99 each.

Buy 2 Benadryl creams at 3.99 each, get a 5 dollar register reward. To sweeten the deal, use 2 1.00/1 coupons to make these very cheap after register rewards.

All 2X laundry detergent 96 load containers are 9.99 each, limit 3. There are 2.00/1 coupons from newspaper inserts making these 7.99 each.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's the Deal: Pick and Save August 20-26, 2009

It is a good week for breakfast stock ups at Double Daze next Wednesday, August 26. Get yer coupons ready!!

First, there is a buy eight General Mills cereals, get 10 dollars off your total, plus a coupon that spits out for two gallons of milk FREE!! So basically, gather up all your General Mills coupons (there are many printables in the blue bar on the right hand side for .55 to .75 off one box of various GM cereals). Buy eight boxes of cereal. Scan your Pick and Save card and get ten dollars off the total amount (this comes to 1.25 off per box). Then hand the cashier eight coupons -- only five will double, but that is okay. You will likely end up with 8 boxes of cereal for twelve to fifteen dollars. Pay the nice cashier, and a coupon for two free gallons of milk will spit out of the machine. You can then use that coupon for two free gallons of milk on another transaction that day to get your total up to 25 bucks so that you can double five more coupons. Not a bad deal, I say.

Lots of yogurt available free or cheap with coupons available in the blue bar: fiber one and yo plus are free after you double 1/1 coupons. Gogurts are 1.20 per box after a .40/1 coupon doubles. Yoplait 32 ounce tubs are .69 after a .55/1 coupon doubles; these were also in the paper a while back. Good for adding protein to a breakfast in a smoothie or a parfait (Animal loves parfaits!).

So, it should work something like this:

8 General Mills cereals (average cost 3.69 per box) = 29.52

minus your 10 bucks off when you scan your card = 19.52

minus coupons (average 5 .55/1 doubled, plus 3 .55/1) = 12.37 for 8 boxes of cereal plus a coupon for 2 gallons of milk free.

the next transaction could look like this

2 gallons of milk = 6.50

5 fiber one yogurts = 10.00

fruits, vegetables, and other non-couponable grocery items equalling 10 dollars

your pre-card, pre-coupon total is 26.50

minus your free milk (6.50 off) and 5 1/1 coupons which double (10 dollars off) gives you 2 gallons of milk, 20 containers of yogurt, and 10 dollars worth of fruits, vegetables, and other stuff for which you have no coupons for ten dollars.

In doing two simple, quick transactions, you have essentially doubled the purchasing value of your dollars. Try it, you'll see.

Good luck!

Lockdown Budget: Prepping, Physical and Mental

Ten days and counting to lockdown. What have I done to prepare?

1) I went through all the kids' clothes to identify what we would need through December 1. Basically, it's jeans for The Girl, socks and underwear for everyone else. We also need back to school shoes for everyone. I tool The Girl and Swimmo shopping yesterday, so they're all set. We'll take the Leg Puller, Animal, and Book'em this weekend.

2) School supplies: done. See previous deal posts for the month of August.

3) No birthdays in the fam except for Baboo's in late August. I do have a kid gift stash and plenty of wrapping paper for other birthday parties -- though there have been very very few of them since the recession began.

4) Halloween: This will require creativity on my part, but I can make it work. I will have to start early, though.

5) Thanksgiving: food budget always seems to take care of this.

6) Christmas: though technically this is outside the three month lockdown period, I usually begin shopping in earnest right about now for stocking stuffers and the like. I anticipate it can come out of the food budget if it needs to. We do have a head start on this from pre-buying too much in previous years (ahem).

7) We have a system of rewards for behavior and chores which is exchangeable for cold hard cash or other perks around the house. The money, where it is appropriate, will come out of the petty cash fund which we still have available to us.

8) I ordered fleece lined jeans from LLBean to be delivered shortly. They were a preplanned purchase and will come out of the last of my clothing money.

9) The very last of my allowance went toward a stock up trip to Bath and Body Works: there was a buy one get one free sale on this yummy smelling stuff, and a two for twenty sale on this stuff that I cannot live without. I also used a coupon for a free Signature item. I got it all for thirty bucks, and I got a bodacious coupon book with some coupons for a free item with any purchase (yes, that means I can spend a dollar and get a twelve dollar item free twice in the next three months). I should be covered -- figuratively and literally -- on bath stuff, which is my luxury.

10) We will set aside Worm Money for Baboo. Can't go fishin' without worms. Of course, he could dig them up himself, but hey, at least we don't have them reproducing in the basement. Yet.

Am I missing anything?

Three Bucks A Day Gourmet: Beverages

When you are on a limited budget, beverages can break your bank. Here's how we manage the beverage beast on three bucks per person per day:

1) Water is your best friend. Seriously, what a great country we live in that we can walk into our kitchens, turn on the tap, and have (reasonably) clean and healthy water at the turn of a knob. We are made of over 70 percent water, and dehydration can often present as hunger. So do yourself and your family a favor and drink more water. I happen to have a handy dandy ice and water in door fridge with a filter and all that, but if the taste of tap water gives you the willies, get yourself a Brita or Pur filter for the fridge or faucet. If you require it bottled, buy a reusable bottle. Better for the environment and for your pocketbook. Cost: free to pennies (if you are filtering and springing for a nifty bottle).

2) If you must have flavor in your beverages, consider teas. Iced tea is a very cost effective beverage: water, a couple nickels for a couple tea bags, and some sweetener if you need it. We usually don't. There are decaf herbal teas for those of you who can't handle the leaded variety. Drink it hot in the winter and cold in the summer.

3) Coffee (at home!). Look, any single-serve beverage you pay for in a retail outlet is going to be a moneymaker for them and a money pit for you. A pound of high quality gourmet coffee beans makes at least sixty cups of java for the cost of 2 or 3 trips through the drive through. Keep the coffee out, but make it an occasional treat. Otherwise, brew and drink the good stuff at home. If you must have the froufrou drinks, make them yourself -- get some whipped cream in a can, put some caramel in a squeeze bottle, and go to town.

4) Milk. I know I am about to offend some people, but humans do not need milk to be healthy past their first year of life. That said, we drink it, but we do not drink it with reckless abandon. The kids have it with cereal and at dinner. The rest of the time, they drink water (and sometimes juice). We probably drink one or two gallons per week.

5) Juice. We are now getting into the top end of what I consider a regular beverage for my budget. It is a rare occurrence to have premixed juice from the grocery store. My price point is one dollar for a half-gallon of any type of juice -- so short of a bodacious coupon, we generally buy concentrate and add the water at home. We add an additional can of water to stretch it to one half gallon. One half gallon of juice lasts maybe for two meals.

6) Seasonal drinks: lemonade is cheap and refreshing in the summer, as is homemade gatorade. In the winter, hot cocoa made with milk and chocolate syrup is a big winner after playing outside in the snow. They are inexpensive and relatively health affirming.

7) What is important to note is what does not regularly fit into a three dollar a day per person budget: soda is a no-go, as is alcohol or anything pre-bottled at the grocery store or poured into a cup at a restaurant or retail store. This is not to say that you cannot periodically have a soda or a beer or some wine or a froufrou coffee as a treat: not at all. In fact, you will enjoy them more when you have them less often. Your wallet will thank you, too.

Giveaway!! Starbucks Mini Card For Coffeehounds Like Me

So, five kids, 64 homemade cinnamon rolls, two 16 inch pizzas, and one trip to the pool and the Sam's Club made yesterday a very, very busy day, and made me a very, very tired mama. Today holds no hope of rest, as it involves five kids, one school function, and one community function which I have been roped into. What's a mother to do?

COFFEE!! It's the last legal drug, and the cheapest. Mother's little helper! And it just became easier. Starbucks has this cute as a button little minicard that you can clip onto your keyring. No more fumbling in your wallet or purse to find that blasted card (as I did yesterday at the Sam's Club). I have one, and so can you, for FREE!! I'm giving away two of these sweet little mini-cards preloaded with five dollars each. To enter, leave a comment to this post telling me your favorite coffee drink. Two winners will be selected by random number generation. Enter by midnight CST on Sunday, August 23.

Now, off for a refill . . . . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's the Deal: Pick N Save

Pick and Save stores in the metro Milwaukee area double coupons on Wednesday. Unlike Sentry, you must make a $25 minimum purchase (before coupons) and can only double 5 coupons per transaction. Coupons over $1.00 will not double. If you can plan your trips and do a few well executed transactions, Double Daze Wednesdays can work for you.
This ad cycle, Pick and Save is promoting their double coupon policy by printing a number of high value coupons in their flyer. The best ones I see are for 1/1 gallon of Kemp's milk, and 1/1 package of Heartland chicken. I anticipate these coupons will make for very cheap milk and chicken.
Buitoni refrigerated pasta is 2/5.oo this week, and if you buy 2 you get a free Buitoni sauce. This makes for a nice deal, as there are 1/1 Buitoni pasta coupons from the newspaper. Thus, you end up with 2 packages of pasta and a container of sauce for 1.00. Add a salad and you have a complete meal.
There's a Hormel deal: buy 10 selected Hormel products, get a dozen eggs and a pound of Hormel bacon free. Items include Hormel precooked entrees (there were 2.00/1 printable coupons available a while back), chili, corned beef hash (gag, but Baboo likes it, so . . . . okay), natural deli meats (also some printable coupons and blinkies) and Chi-Chi's salsa. If you enjoy these products, now is a good time to stock up and get the value add of free bacon and eggs.
Quaker True Delight granola bars are .75 after a 1/1 doubled coupon, as are Yoplait Parfaits.
And Dannon fruit on the bottom yogurts are .30 each after doubling the 1/10 coupon in Sunday's newspaper.

What's the Deal: Sentry

Summer cash is done! Make sure you cash in your vouchers to get your gift cards!
This week is fairly low key at Sentry: Snyder's tortilla chips are free with a doubled 1/1 coupon, which was in papers a while back. Clorox wipes are .50 per canister with a doubled 1/1 coupon. I'm not sure where these came from, but they are newspaper insert coupons. Ball Park franks are 1.00 per pack after a doubled 1/2 coupon. Use the Mount Olive 1/1 coupon to score some cheap pickles. And Kotex pads are .50 each after a doubled 1/1 coupon.
Store coupon deals include .79 for a dozen eggs, and 5 quarts of Dean ice cream for 3.99.

What's the Deal: CVS

Still some good free after Extra Care Bucks deals on school stuff through the rest of today:

CVS filler paper free after ECB (limit 2)

Papermate pens free after ECB (limit 2)

Mini composition books free after ECB (limit 2)

Recycled pencil boxes free after ECB (limit 2)

Philips headphones, free after ECB (limit 1)

Kleenex 3 packs are 2.47 each, minus a .50 off 3 pack coupon makes them about .66 per box (stock up now for flu and cold season!!)

And, if you buy Loreal Revitalift Deep Set Wrinkle Repair and a Loreal Cleanser you get $10 ECB. If you go to the pharmacy department and ask for the Readyfill coupon booklet, they have $4/20 coupons in them. Use one of these, along with a $5 off coupon here for the Wrinkle Repair and get both for $1.98 after all ECBs and coupons.

And a preview for next week: free composition books and Carefree pantiliners, with another spectacular $5 sale on 12 packs of recycled toilet paper.

What's the Deal: Walgreens

Not too super much this week: The school supply deals are beginning to taper off. If you need a hairbrush, Conair brushes are .99 after register rewards.

Next week is looking better though: get ready for cheap All detergent, Benadryl cream, Keebler crackers and cookies, and free scotch tape.

Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Repurpose Crappy Hair Conditioner

Ever bought hair conditioner that . . . doesn't? Or makes your scalp itch? Or smells considerably worse on your hair than it did in the bottle? Use it up instead as shaving lotion for your legs and underarms. Works as well (or better than) shave cream, and the smell doesn't matter as much in such remote locations.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lockdown Budget: Obliterating Twelve Thousand Dollars in Debt in Three Months

Back in January of 2008, the Baboo and I sat down in anticipation of our marriage to look at what our life cost and the net effect of combining our incomes and expenses. That fateful day, we determined we were well into the five figures of debt, and our income did not exactly cover our expenses. In other words, we were in the red and majorly upside down. Through a concerted effort to tighten our belts and a series of events that I can only describe as divine intervention, we were able to eliminate some major expenses, bump our tithing up to ten percent of our income, and eliminate about sixteen thousand dollars worth of debt in about ten months' time.

After that ten months, we were emotionally exhausted from denying ourselves certain small luxuries; and so, we bumped up the amount in some budget categories and began to coast somewhat. We also had a period of delayed income for me, and some large expenses that all came due at once.

But as usual, God decided to get our attention. We'd been largely immune from the vagaries of the souring economy, so it was a surprise to us to find that the monthly minimum on one of the three remaining credit cards we have balances on had doubled. Doubled. And at that moment, we both realized that as long as we have credit card debt, we are not in control of our money.

So we tried to figure out a solution, but nothing really seemed to click until I said "if we could just live on your income and throw all mine at the debt, I bet we could get 2/3 paid off by December." And inspired by that, we sat down with the Excel spreadsheet that tells our money where to go and zeroed out all non-necessary budget items to see if we could make it happen.

We could, it turns out. And if we did it for three months, we could in fact pay off approximately twelve thousand dollars in debt by December 1, 2009. So, we agreed we would do it. For three months, we are funding nothing in the budget categories except things which keep body and soul together and keep us working. We are still tithing 10 percent; we are paying the mortgage and all housing related bills, and keeping the food and gas budgets the same. We do have some cash available from August's budget buckets which we will stretch. We will also fund any necessities for the kids (snow boots, for example) as they come up.

But honestly, for the rest of it? We have a ton of health and beauty aids, and stuff -- just stuff -- that we can use up. We have a ton of house projects to finish. We have a park 3 blocks away, and a library. As long as I have Alterra coffee in the morning, I'm good, and that comes out of the food budget. Baboo has his treadmill and his fishing pole and fishing license. Hiking is free. Bike rides at the lake are free. Walks in the park are free. And we have noticed that when we follow God radically -- when we listen to His will for us -- things have a way of working out. We can do this, with the help of God.

So come along for the ride. It should be fun, and I look forward to being able to tell Chase to kiss off by December 1. That would make a fabulous birthday present.

I Hate It When

someone unnamed turns the overflow fridge up to its warmest setting, thereby turning three gallons of skim milk into buttermilk.

Ew. We'll be making a milk run today.

Menu Plan Monday

G'morning, y'all. It's a busy week full of kids and back to school activities. Plus, I have four hotel pans worth of cinnamon rolls to deliver to a work breakfast for the Baboo. We're doing a lot of grilling and crockpotting this week.

Monday: Breakfast (oatmeal pancakes, bacon, fruit)
Tuesday: grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, fruit, crudite' (this is a fancy french word for cut up veggies) and dip
Wednesday: Grilled pork chops, potato packets, grilled zucchini
Thursday: Hot dogs, burgers, chips, and fruit.
Friday: Mojito lime chicken in whole wheat pitas with salad greens (dinner in a pocket!)
Saturday: Crockpot italian chicken, rice, broccoli
Sunday: pulled pork sandwiches, tortellini salad.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's The Little Things

Today's gift: after a rough morning in court, a voicemail from my in-laws, telling me they are thinking of me and love me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Three Bucks a Day Gourmet: Breakfast

Ahhh, breakfast! The most important meal of the day. It's not too difficult to fit a good hearty breakfast in on three bucks per person per day. Breakfast foods are generally cheap, filling, and healthy. Here's how I do it:

(1) Fill them up with oatmeal. Oatmeal, butter, and maple syrup are bought in bulk; the oatmeal is less than .70 per pound; butter is 2 bucks a pound or less (I buy it when it goes on sale and freeze it). All liquid sweeteners are bought in bulk, and we use very little. I got one of those very small-tipped squeeze bottles used by high end restaurants for saucing plates (.98 at Target or Wal-Mart) and decant the maple and honey into those so my heavy pourers can't OD on the syrup. We do keep instant oatmeal packets around for "those mornings." I have a great baked oatmeal recipe which my husband and a couple of my kids love; in the fall and winter it is used heavily.

(2) Bagels and cream cheese. Very inexpensive, lots of protein. I buy whole wheat bagels in bulk at Costco or Sam's Club. Cream cheese is bought at Trader Joe's for 1.29 per 8 ounces (it is hormone free, and though I can get it cheaper elsewhere it is worth the money for me). I whip a couple of bricks of cream cheese bricks up into whipped cream cheese and that stretches it and makes it easier to spread. I do the same thing with butter -- whip it with some canola oil or skim milk and it stretches the butter (don't use this for cooking or baking, just spreading and grilled cheese).

(3) Baboo and I drink coffee. We spend about 20 bucks a month for organic chem-free decaf. Real half and half is 3.79 for a half-gallon, which lasts all month.

(4) Cereal is either bought with a coupon, on sale (never more than a dollar a box). Many times I can get it for less than a dollar a box and I stock up. I try to minimize cereal breakfasts, they don't fill the kids up as well as the options above.

(5) On weekends or days off, I sometimes make cinnamon toast, or a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls, or homemade muffins (carrot/pineapple, sometimes cranberry orange, sometimes pumpkin). I use at least half whole wheat flour.

(6) In the summer, we drink a lot of breakfast smoothies. Seasonal fruit (berries and peaches) with some low fat yogurt, low fat milk, protein powder, flax seed, and crushed ice make a really filling, really refreshing breakfast.

(6) I batch-bake whole wheat waffles and pancakes and freeze them. They defrost and crisp up nicely in the toaster.

(7) Once in a blue moon (every 6 months or so) I get a screaming deal on toaster waffles or (gasp) Pop-Tarts. I never pay more than .50 per box for this stuff; I just don't buy it unless it is this cheap. Each kid gets his fair share of the loot, which is divvied up and labeled with the kids' names. When their share is gone, it's gone. It is always interesting to see who eats theirs up first and who rations theirs out.

(8) Hard boiled eggs are a great quick breakfast, paired with some whole wheat toast and juice. We keep about a dozen around for snacks and breakfasts.

(9) In a pinch, we have had a granola bar, string cheese, and an apple for breakfast in the car on the way to school or church. Quick, relatively nutritionally sound, and not messy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's the Deal Wednesday: Walgreens (cheap Huggies baby wipes!)

You need one of these coupon booklets; inside is a $2.00 off any Huggies wipes, size 64 or larger. It is a Walgreens coupon, which means you can also use a manufacturer's coupon along with it; there were .50 off coupons in weeks prior, and will be more in this week's inserts. Walgreens has Huggies buckets for 3.29. So, use the $2.00 off with a .50 off coupon and get buckets for .79 each. The cool thing about the $2.00 coupon is that you only need one coupon for multiple buckets -- so if you buy 4, the coupon will take $8.00 off your order.

Also, recall that there is a 1.00/1 Sharpie highlighter coupon here, which you can use at Walgreens to make a penny.

There's a Listerine/Reach deal which I posted about here, as well as a Band-Aid/Neosporin deal. And also, Colgate Total Enamel Strength toothpaste is free after register rewards this week.

If you are a newbie, start with the Colgate; pay 2.99, get 3.00 back. You can then use the 3.00 register reward to offset your out of pocket costs for the band-aid deal, which will net you 4.00. Then use that register reward to offset your out of pocket on the Listerine/Reach deal. You will end up with toothpaste, band-aids, toothbrushes, mouthwash, and floss for far less than normal, plus you will have a six dollar register reward at the end of all of it to do the next deals, or use to buy things you need but have no coupons for.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Cut Open Your Tubes

I luuuuurve Bath and Body Works lotion and shower cream. Luuuurve it. And hate when I run out. When I get to what I think is the end of the tube, I take my handy dandy kitchen shears and cut open the tube at the crimp and along the side. There is usually enough in the tube for one or two more applications. This tip will work for anything in a tube -- even toothpaste.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Couponing Primer: or, Today's Haul: Walgreens

When I first started the coupon thing lo these many years ago, it seemed a little . . . overwhelming. But I want to show you that it is doable, and to teach you how to maximize your time and effort in couponing. Here's how.

First: see that list of blogs on the right hand side? You must go see Money Saving Mom right now. Crystal is a wonderful blogger and has her finger on the pulse of so many great deals out there. I highly recommend going to visit her blog and reading the CVS or Walgreens 101 posts. They are very good at explaining how this all works.

So go read, and then come back.

Done? Okay, great. I'm going to show you an example of how to use lots of different kinds of strategies all together to maximize your dollar at Walgreens. This week, there is a great register reward deal; a register reward is a coupon that spits out of the register when you buy the right combinations of goods. This week, if you buy three Reach toothbrushes or floss or 500 ml Listerine at 3/$9, you get a $6.00 register reward. All on its own it is a good deal; pay $9.50, get $6.00 back, making the items about two bucks each. However, There is a three dollar off three Reach/Listerine coupon from last week's newspaper inserts and you can use it to take three dollars off the total. What this means is, if you use that coupon, instead of $9.50, you pay $6.50 out of pocket, and get back $6.00 to spend on other things, making the cost per item effectively .13 each.

With that $6.00 register reward, you can then purchase other things that spit out other rewards. I used mine to get the following: ten packages Sharpie Accent highlighters, for which there are $1.00/1 Sharpie Accent highlighter coupons here (print as many as you like, I did ten); these highlighters are .99 this week, making them a .01 moneymaker. I also bought two packages of band-aids, using a .50 coupon on each. And I bought 6 packs of Bic pens, using a $1/2 printable coupon available in the blue bar on the right and in the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts. And finally, I used an in-store coupon for $2.00 off a package of Huggies wipes. I also used a weekly Walgreens coupons to buy memo books for .19 each (I use these for tracking my billable time and noting the weekly deals in the ads. After all coupons (printable, in-store, flyer, and newspaper) and the six dollar register reward I got from the Listerine/Reach transaction, I paid a little over five dollars for everything in the picture below. That wouldn't be bad all on its own, but then! Because I bought two Band-Aid boxes, I got another $4.00 register reward.

What will I do with all of this stuff? Use it, or donate it to my local elementary school.

If I were so inclined (and I might be), I could take the $4.00 off register reward, and do another Listerine/Reach deal, making my out of pocket $2.50 and getting me another $6.00 register reward. Which I could then use to do another Band Aid transaction.

It seems complex, but start small. What do you need this week? Highlighters? Then go, and get some free ones! Toothbrushes? Then go, pay six dollars, and get six dollars back to spend on other stuff you need!

Menu Plan Monday

Again, few to no kids this week, so we keep it simple:

Monday: leftover spaghetti zucchini bake
Tuesday: nachos with leftover taco-flavored chicken, rice, beans, and white queso sauce
Wednesday: pulled pork sandwiches, potato packets, broccoli
Thursday: French Quarter Chicken pasta (zucchini, shrooms, and whole wheat pasta in a garlic butter sauce), salad
Friday: blessed silence, a glass of wine, and a book. plus, cambezola cheese, fruit, and crackers.
Saturday: maybe date night! or maybe meatballs at Ikea.
Sunday: Whatever the Baboo desires. This is usually homemade pizza with white sauce, basil, spinach, and feta cheese, but he can choose and I will cook.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Low Impact Larger Family Living: Check Craigslist First

Y'all know I love me some Ikea, and y'all also know I have five, count'em, five kidlets, ages 6 thru 9. Although we have a biggish house, we have smallish bedrooms and the kids are at the age where private space would be a wonderful thing. I have been eyeing these loft beds at Ikea: They would get all the kids out of bunks and open up a bunch of floor space, especially for my daughter, who has a postage stamp sized room (but a room of her own, which every girl needs). I could whip up some fun privacy curtains for the bottoms and each kid could have a quiet space to read, think, get away from siblings, even those that share a room.

However. Five times 199.00 is a little steep for us right now. We were going to have to bite the bullet and do something, though, because one of the bunk beds is broken. Soooo, I planned to take a little trip to Ikea next weekend to get two.

Except my sweet Baboo, ever the environmentalist, said "maybe we should check Craigslist first." And when we did, we stumbled upon four (count 'em, FOUR) of this exact model, barely used, all available, and some with extra add on shelves and desks to boot. The grand total for all four? $525. Saved at least 300 bucks, saved the impact of manufacturing four new beds, and saved the time and cost of driving to Schaumburg.

Okay, not that last part, because I'm still going to Ikea next weekend. :p

The moral of the story? Check Craigslist or Freecycle first. And if you have a trip planned to Ikea, for heaven's sake, don't cancel it.

What's the Deal: Office Max August 9-15

Always love the penny deals at Office Max!

This week at Office Max:

ONE PENNY for a one subject spiral bound notebook. Limit 3.

ONE NICKEL for a wooden 12 inch ruler. Limit 3.

ONE THIN DIME for a 10 pack of Dixon #2 pencils. Limit 3.

TWO THIN DIMES for a 24 pack of Crayola Crayons (that's as low as it gets on these crayons, folks, although Office Max's store brand crayons are one penny here and there throughout the season). Limit 3.

sooooo. . .

.03 for 3 notebooks

.15 for 3 rulers

.30 for 30 pencils

.60 for 3 packages crayons

A grand total of 1.08. You probably have this amount rolling around under the seats of your car.

A reminder: think of those less fortunate. If you cannot use these items, consider buying and donating to your local elementary school. You would be amazed at how many children come to school the first day with no supplies.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The IKEA Catalog Is Here!!!

It's here! It's here!! The IKEA 2010 catalog is here!! It even has coupons for coffee and cake and meatballs. It came just in time -- I'm going to IKEA next weekend with a girlfriend!!! I LOVE IKEA!!!
Do I sound like Steve Martin in The Jerk? I hope not.

My husband so knows what I will be doing tonight after the kids go to bed. (Sorry, sweetness).
Oh, and just for the record, if you're in the Milwaukee area and are ever looking for an Ikea partner -- hit me up.

Quick Take Friday: Keep Lunches Cold With Dish Soap

This is a nifty little trick I picked up somewhere, not sure where. Instead of buying those squooshy freezer gel pack thingies for keeping school lunches cold, take a snack sized ziploc, fill it with dish soap (like Dawn or Palmolive) and place in freezer. Then add to your kid's lunch bag. It will keep things cold until lunch. Have the kid return it and reuse indefinitely.

As an alternative, you can also freeze your kid's juice box or yogurt cup; as it thaws it will keep the other food cold as well.

Three Bucks A Day Gourmet: Introduction

This is the first post on a multi-week series on how I feed seven people on about 3 bucks per person per day.

What? WHAT? Yes. Three bucks per person per day. Totally doable, and totally yummy.

I feed my family of seven, 2 adults and five kids, on three bucks per person per day. We are all very well fed (in fact, one of us a little too much so . . ahem). We eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day. We eat meat. We have snacks. Much of what we eat is organic, and hormone and antibiotic free. And we don't believe in sacrificing quality for quantity.

Why three bucks per person per day? That number may seem arbitrary, but it is actually roughly the amount the federal government provides to people who recieve food stamp benefits. The USDA has calculated the average cost of feeding a person in America and posts that information here, and those are the numbers, adjusted for certain personal factors which I will explain later, that I used to set this guideline.

Why do this at all? I had a couple of reasons. The first was that I wanted to be conscious of how much I was spending on feeding my family to control our grocery budget. As a family, we have financial goals we would like to meet, and one of the non-fixed line items in our budget is food. The second was that I wanted to be a better steward of the resources God has given me; not just money, but a good mind, a healthy body, time, and the desire to cook. And third, because of the recession there have been lots of stories in the mainstream media about how "impossible" it is for a family to survive on food stamps. Just on general principle, I bristle at the thought that something like feeding a family on a fixed amount of money is "impossible." I believe in choices! And I wanted to prove, if only to myself, that we could eat a healthy, abundant, tasty diet on what the government believes is the bare minimum to keep body and soul together and what the mainstream media believes is "impossible."

How? I will show you how, over the course of the next few weeks. I'll include recipes and prices. But first, a couple of preliminary matters.

I do happen to have the benefit of an economy of scale. I feed seven people on a regular basis. Three bucks per person per day in my household is $21.00 per day, or an average monthly total of $638.75. It is actually less than the thrifty plan the USDA would say I am entitled to. If I calculated the "thrifty" plan based on the amount of time I have my children (half time for my three stepsons, 75 percent of the time for my two children), plus the full allotment for me and Baboo, I would be "entitled" to spend $695.41 per month. So I do three bucks per person per day to keep me sane; it's a nice round number, and $21.00 per day is a number I can work with. I feed 2 adults full time, 2 nine year olds and a six year old half the month, and a six and seven year old seventy five percent of the time.

My actual budget is a "household" budget, and it is $700.00. The difference between my $21 per day and that $700.00 must absorb all other consumable household goods (paper products, laundry and cleaning products, health and beauty aids, school supplies, light bulbs, etc.) For purposes of this series, I'll be including info about how I do that too.

Are there people who do better than me? Absolutely. One nice lady, Gayle, feeds her family of six for sixty bucks per week here. I love her blog and I love her ideas. Another lovely lady feeds her family of five (newborn included) for forty dollars a week here. Mary Ostyn just wrote a book on feeding a gaggle of family members for $75 per week. I have much to learn; but I'd say that I am doing fairly well, and with your help I'll be challenging myself to go even lower. Maybe next year it will be Two Bucks a Day Gourmet. *smile.

Look for posts on how I do breakfast, lunches, dinners, hospitality, beverages, snacks, and other household needs on three bucks per person per day in the coming weeks. And have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's the Deal: Today's Haul from Sentry

Here's how today's haul went at Sentry:

4 half gallons dean's over the moon milk
2 bottles Ken's dressing
2 packages Gold'n Plump drumsticks
2 jars Fishers nuts
1 jar Peter Pan peanut butter
1 package Cole's garlic toast
4 packages Hunt's pudding
2 jars Mount Olive pickles
4 packages Lipton rice mixes
2 6-packs v-8
1 can chef boyardee ravioli
1 can chocolate whipped cream
2.5 lbs grapes
1 lb. zucchini

total spent $14.29
total saved in coupons $37.48

this trip took about a half hour, so my hourly wage was about seventy five dollars.

Taming the Stepmonster: How I Avoid Burnout

I am the mother of five: two of my own children, three stepsons whom I love as my own. Most times we live in relative peace and harmony, for which I am eternally grateful. They know I love and respect them, and most of the time they love and respect me back. Not bad as far as parenting goes.

But then there are those days. We all have them. But generally speaking, around here "those days" can be traced not to me or their dad, but to something or someone else. The anger, frustration, disrespect comes out sideways. And though I am no psychologist, I am aware and smart enough to know that displaced anger and frustration only comes out when children feel safe. Again, the fact that my children feel safe with me and their dad/stepdad leaves me thankful beyond measure.

Still, it is frustrating. Even when you do not have a combative or mentally unstable co-parent, it can be difficult to be the container for all the anger and frustration a child may feel. Multiply times five, and you have a recipe for emotional exhaustion.

The solution? Disengage. Look at parenting as a spiritual process, in which you are asked to show the love of Christ/loving kindness to everyone, including your children and their other parents. Sometimes this requires careful listening. Sometimes this requires telling the truth in love, in a child's terms. Sometimes this merely requires granting God's blessing to the other parent. Sometimes it requires holding a crying child and reassuring that things will be all right. In any circumstance, it requires you, the parent, to empty yourself of desires, pride, and what have you and allow yourself to react with kindness to every situation.

This is easier said than done. Most times I trend more toward "postal episode" than "spiritual practice." But I am learning and working on it, and I encourage those of you who are working on it too to have heart. You are simply planting seeds which may or may not bear fruit; but it is the planting and not the fruit that is your responsibility.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's the Deal Wednesday: Office Max

School supplies! Woot. Love getting them cheap this time of the season; I stock up for the entire year. This week at Office Max, you can get 2 pocket folders and wooden rulers for .01 each (yes, a penny), filler paper and 10 pack pencils for .10 (yes, one thin dime), and composition books for .50 (yes, two quarters). Also, print this coupon for .01 (yes, a penny) Sharpie markers. Limit of six on the folders, and three on everything else. So let's see:

.06 six folders
.03 three rulers
.30 3 packages filler paper
.30 3 10 count pencils
1.50 3 composition books
.03 3 Sharpie markers.
2.22 total.

you have that much rolling around in your couch, right?

consider, if you believe this to be too much for your needs, the needs of other children whose parents are going through tough economic times. Contact the principal or social worker at your local elementary school -- I guarantee they will be thrilled to get the goods!!

What's the Deal Wednesday: Sentry

It's a terrific week at Sentry for doubles!

Gold'n Plump Chicken is on sale 2/5.00 for 24 oz. packages. Go to the coupon bar on the left hand side, print 2 1.00/1 coupons for Gold n' Plump chicken, and score chicken for .50 per pack after doubles.

Lots of great little stock up deals, too. Use the .60/2 Lipton/Knorr side dishes from last week's Red Plum insert to get them for .40 per package after doubles. Stock up on Fisher nuts, they're on sale for 2.29 per jar, after a 1.00/1 coupon doubles, they are .29 per jar. And Ken's salad dressing is free free free after the 1.00/1 coupon in last Sunday's paper.

So here's a meal deal for your family for under $3.00 for a fam of 4: Gold'n Plump chicken, .50, 2 packages Lipton sides .80, buy yourself a head of lettuce for a buck, and top it with the free dressing. $2.30 for a family of four! Not too shabby.

Works for Me Wednesday: Stockpiling

Two weeks ago I talked a little bit about figuring out your lowest cost per use and keeping track of that for all your products used in the household. Once you get the hang of finding the lowest price per use with the help of your price book, you can then take a step up the next rung on the ladder of money and time saving by stockpiling. By stockpiling I do not mean hoarding, which is amassing more goods than you could possibly use in a lifetime and then wasting the goods through spoilage, forgetfulness, or just plain failure to use. Stockpiling is a blend of art and science, buying just enough to get you to the next sale or, if you are like me, enough to last you for 6 months to a year and then replacing as you use it, rotating the goods so that the oldest is used first if the goods are perishable.

Let’s start with a (semi) non-perishable example – diapers. Diapers are shelf stable, but they also are "perishable" in that your baby will graduate to larger sizes and will eventually not need them any more. Thus, calculating how many of each size you need can be difficult. However, if you know your rate of use (for example, one jumbo pack per week, or three diapers per day, or what have you) you can feel safe purchasing out a couple of months ahead.

So let’s say you have calculated your cost per use, and you can roughly estimate your rate of use. Then, when you find a sale or have identified the place with the lowest cost per use, you can stock up. This may take the form of buying 8 jumbo packages on supersale at the local drug store, or it may mean that you buy the massive box ‘o diapers at the warehouse store. Either way, you have purchased enough to get you through until the next time you are passing by the warehouse store or the sale happens again, and you are not putting on yoga pants and going to the corner store at 9:49 P.M. because you are out of diapers and the baby has a stomach virus. This saves you not just money, but time and frustration.

Again, start small with the things that are on your grocery list every week. Milk, diapers, bread, peanut butter. Some things (like milk and bread) are highly perishable but freezable. Some are shelf stable (like peanut butter). The cool thing is, if you buy ahead, you know you are always paying the lowest possible cost per use price for the item, and you rarely, if ever, run out of the things you use every day. Even if you are a small family, you can calculate your cost per use and rate of use and determine how much you use in a month or 2 month period and buy accordingly.
The other cool thing about stockpiling is this: let’s say catastrophe strikes. A death in the family. A job loss. An illness. If you have a stockpile, there is breathing room – margin – for you and your family. There are fewer things you need to buy weekly. You can occasionally skip shopping for a week and eat from your pantry and fridge. You will not need to worry about running out to the store in your grief, sorrow, sickness, cash-strapped state. You will have planned ahead, and can weather the little storms (and the big ones) that much easier.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Reduce your Mailing Costs

Need a large waterproof envelope but don’t want to send your package Priority Mail? Grab a few free Priority Mail envelopes from the Post Office and turn them inside out. The inside is blank and you can fit a nice amount in there and mail using your choice of postage. Just make sure you weigh the package, provide the proper postage for your chosen rate, and abide by all rules for that given rate.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What's the Deal: Walgreens August 2-8, 2009

*ahem. I would be posting a picture, except that my camera has absconded.

Anyhoo, here's the big score for Walgreens this week. Who doesn't need peanut butter? (those with allergies excepted, of course). Who doesn't use pasta sauce? This week at Walgreens, when you buy 8 of selected Unilever products, you get a $10.00 off your next order register reward. Skippy peanut butter and Ragu pasta sauce is on sale this week $2/4. Thus, even without coupons, if you spend $16.00 on any combination of Ragu and Skippy, you get a $10.00 register reward back. That is like paying six bucks for eight jars, or 75 cents per jar! Not bad.

If, however, like me, you have four coupons for 75 cents off 2 Skippys or 2 Ragus (which came in this weeks' Wednesday coupon mailer), your total will be three dollars for eight jars, which is (drumroll please) thirty eight cents per jar.

So that's just what I did.

Transaction one:

4 Skippys
4 Ragus
minus .75X4

$13.00 out of pocket, $10.00 back.

Which I then spent on:

5 jumbo Elmer's glue sticks (school supplies)
2 packages Crayola markers (school supplies)
2 decks playing cards (ditto)
a 2 pack of toothbrushes
and a bag of M&Ms (to get the total over 10 dollars).

total 11.03, minus the 10 dollar register reward =
1.03 out of pocket.

So, look at it this way. I spent $14.03 out of pocket for $27.00 worth of goods. That is almost a fifty percent savings. It took a few seconds to clip the coupons, and a trip to the Walgreens, which took five to ten minutes of my time. I saved $13.00 in that 10 minute trip -- and so, my hourly savings rate is $78.

Do you make $78 per hour? Tax free? Me neither. Ben Franklin was right -- a penny saved is more than a penny earned.

Also this week at Walgreens, Vitamin shampoo and Gum toothbrush 2-packs are free after register rewards.

Menu Plan Monday: Back in the Saddle Edition

Whew, what a week it was! Vacation Bible School is OVAH, and I should be back to my old tricks this week. I have kids all week this week and we have a number of appointments so our menu is simple and kid-friendly again.

Monday: grilled chicken, potato packets, broccoli
Tuesday: blender pancakes, bacon, watermelon
Wednesday: Grilled barbecue pork chops, potato packets, spinach salad
Thursday: Hot dogs/hamburgers, veggies with dip
Friday: Spaghetti zucchini bake, salad, garlic bread
Saturday: Crockpot chicken tacos, salad
Sunday: Creamy italian chicken, rice, broccoli