Friday, March 30, 2012

To coupon? or not to coupon?

Is that a question you ask yourself often?

To be perfectly honest I go back and forth with the little slips of free money. I find that when I have the time, I can really crack down and save more than my usual weeks. Then there are some weeks when I fall short on time and lack the effort to sit down and line up sales and coupons.

However, I did attend a couponing class recently and although my husband asked "Are you going to teach it?" (he proclaims I am a great saver) ....I did learn a thing or two and I am happy to share with you my knowledge from before and my new found tips on couponing.


They come to us in MANY ways....
The common way is to get the inserts in the weekend paper. These coupons typically come from SmartSource and RedPlum (referred to as SS and RP thru the rest of this post) and they tend to be targeted towards the area that the paper is marketed for. In the class I found out that this means that sometimes in more urban areas the coupons have higher values, leading to a more desirable savings when matching sales and coupons. So when you find sites on line (which I will list) who give you a break down of stores, sales and matched up savings you will notice that sometimes we do not benefit from those same coupons at the same amount. No fear, the deals can still be found. And I will show you how...
Okay so I have found that most sites will list the company producing the coupons (SS or RP for instance) and then a date. Example: SS 3-18-12 This means that this coupon may be found in the in the SS pull out of the 3-18-12 paper. My suggestion (since class) is to take a manilla folder, the plain office type... and put the date on the outside and then in that folder put all inserts from that date.
This will save you time since you may not need every coupon in the insert, so you might as well not clip every one of them AND if you clipped only the ones you thought you might need you may miss out on a free product or a money maker. (These can always be donated if you won't use them in your home)
Now set that thought aside...
Coupons come in many other formats, you may find coupons attached to products in the store. There are ENDLESS sites online that you can print coupons from. Coupons can be found on manufacturers websites and Facebook pages. Ever see those ones that get printed for you at the grocery store when you are checking out? Those are called "Catalina Coupons" (learned that terminology from class, apparently it's the name of the company who produces them).Then there are store coupons....confused yet? Don't worry it's alot of information, and you may need to refer back to this post a few times to get the hang of all of it.

The best advice I can give you is take a few weeks and just collect coupons. If you have the inserts from the paper put them in your manilla folders and then just take any other loose type coupons and put them in a safe place.

The World Wide Web:

After you have a small stockpile, take an hour (or two) and find a quiet place with a computer. If you have Facebook go to a couple of pages and "like" them....I recommend "Money Saving Mom" and "Thrifty and Thriving" both of these sites have their own websites as well and give wonderful information how to match up sales and coupons each week. There are dozens of these types of pages, so just search around when you have the time and find a couple you like. These are great because you will typically get an alert in your news feed when there is a good bargain to be had.
Then look up the web. Not only does she have an easy to follow couponing format, she also has tutorials on how to start out saving. I suggest "favoriting" her site, you will want to refer to it often.
Coupon Mom for instance is a site I use to both print coupons and match up savings. Do yourself a favor, take a few minutes and explore the site. One tip that I learned a long time ago is to use the zip code of an urban area when printing coupons on the web. The market is more competitive in bigger cities and manufacturers will produce larger denomination coupons. An easy one to remember is "90210"...Beverly Hills, BABY!
But obviously use the proper zip code when searching for the deals in your area. They do a great job tallying all of the savings at stores such as Shaw's, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.

Gather and Go:

Now the next step is to match up sales and coupons.
An example would be: Take the current Walgreen's flyer and browse the ads and see if you can locate any items that are on sale that you also have a coupon for. (Colgate is on sale 2 for $3.00 and you have 2 coupons for $.50 off 1....then you can get 2 packages of toothpaste for $1.00 each) If so, at that time clip your coupon and start an envelope for Walgreen's and place your coupon in it. You now have them all together to take on your shopping trip.
Do this with each of the stores you plan on visiting, or at least browse each flyer and see if there are any items you need or can stock up on.

The next post will dig a little deeper into store coupons, matching those with manufacturers coupons, store policies and register rewards!

Until then...I hope you all take a moment and save a few dimes!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Price Book Pics!

This is a Price Book....
I am in the process of updating mine, so I only have the information for a couple of stores and a few items, but over the next few weeks I will have it completed. You'll get the idea....

My book is just a small softcover journal, about 4" across and 5 1/2" tall. It fits easily in my purse.

Once you start using this tool you will realize it is worth it's weight in dimes! Okay GOLD!
If you happen to stop buy another store, or perhaps a wholesale club you will be able to tell right off hand the best price!

I am attending a coupon class tonight, I will be sure to share that information as my next blog will be CONQUERING COUPONING!
Stay tuned.......

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Name that price....

Good Afternoon Everyone!
Hope you all are doing well, joyfully springing ahead and saving some dimes!

Now that we have spoke of de-cluttering, menu planning, stretching your food budget and some homemade goodies. We can slowly dive into saving & couponing. When I say's because again this takes some time and organization. Of course, you CAN just read a flyer, cut a coupon, save a couple of bucks and be done. You may do this from time to time and trust me ANY money saved is great, but if you take a little bit of time and organize yourself you will see that it will pay off. One of the things I utilize is a pricebook...I will post a photo of an example soon. (I need to update mine, so this is great!) 

The best way to do this is to get yourself a small notebook, something you can easily tuck in your purse while shopping. And from your list of staples and menu plans, write down your most commonly purchased items along the left hand side of each page. Beside each list make 3 the top of each column write the initial for the stores you commonly use. For example my pages all have "H", "S" and "W" at the top. (Hannaford, Shaw's and Walmart)

Now comes the part that is a little time consuming, but well worth it. Spend some time at each place, you can go and do this some afternoon or each time you happen to stop into these stores you shop at simply make a few entries. The goal is to have an idea of how much an item costs at each of the stores so you are well equipped with this knowledge when sales arise and coupons are released. Once you see an item is on sale, you can then refer to your price book to see if it indeed is a bargain. You won't be tricked into thinking it's a deal, you will know! If a coupon comes out for an item you know you use, you can check and see where you might save the most money. Not to mention some stores double coupons and some don't. Here near my home Shaw's doubles coupons up to $0.99 so if they show an item on sale and it's the same price as I would purchase it at Hannaford, BUT I have a $0.75 coupon AND they DOUBLE that, well then I am definitely getting a deal. We will work into coupons but for now, gather your information and do your research...

Does it go without saying...check unit pricing? If there is an item you KNOW you are going to use alot, PLEASE pay attention to unit pricing. (example: 24oz of chocolate chips: $3.68, 48oz bag of chocolate chips: $4.68) if you know you use chocolate chips on a regular basis it saves you some dimes by buying the bigger bag and pay less per ounce.

While I do think it is important to compare prices, I do think it is wise to group purchases and shopping trips together so that you are not chasing small savings all over town. With the price of fuel these days it may not pay off in the end.

I plan to work on updating my price book this week, when I have it ready I will post a picture...keep on saving!

I hope this is helpful, if you have any questions please let me know...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Clutter BE GONE!

This may not seem like it applies to saving money, but I will tell you how it does.

When we live a cluttered life it makes it difficult to save. Organization is key to being empowered with a clear mind ready and willing to take on the steps to frugality.

When you clear out clutter you may find items you no longer need. There are so many ways these days to get a bit of return on investment. Or, you can donate these items to a great cause and although that may not fill your wallet, it will fill your heart and that can feel even better. When we are unorganized we spend more because it is easier...why look for something for hours when it only costs $5.00 to replace...haven't we all been there? Well no more...pick a hot spot in your home and see what you can find!

I am taking this weekend to do some de-cluttering myself and I know that doing so will help me fulfill all of these things! Baby Steps...that's what I want you all to remember.

Heck you may even find some dimes!
Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 5, 2012

How to S-T-R-E-T-C-H!

Okay, I posted a few things to get you going in the homemade cleaners department. I will follow up with more of those soon....

I wanted to move on briefly to help get you started on saving at the grocery store. Something that is VERY hard to do these days. I am not going to get into couponing right now, although I think it goes without saying if you see a coupon for a product you use by all means clip away, just remember to bring them to the biggest downfall.

When I started out being budget conscious, I did a couple of things. I sat down and made a list of my families favorite entrees, side dishes, breakfasts, lunches and desserts. This may take some time, so I suggest getting a notebook and just start jotting things down as you remember. When doing this get an idea of how many meals you can get out of one purchase. (5 side dishes from one bag of russet potatoes, 3 meals from one whole chicken and so on)  Stretching these types of purchases will really give you a bang for your buck. Once you have a solid idea of the types of foods you would be making on a regular basis. Start a list of staples. These are items that you will have on hand and stock up on when you have the extra cash, usually things that have a longer shelf life. For instance, I typically have on hand different cuts of pasta, grains, baking goods, cereals, etc.

The toughest part about saving at the grocery store, I think, is the fact that much of the inexpensive items are processed and loaded with things we can't pronounce. I try very hard to budget for a trip that allows me to make my family healthy, well balanced meals and I make as much as I can from scratch.

The best way to do this is work with a budget. You may have to fuss with this at first. But if you follow the basic idea then you can get it down over time. For instance, say you want to try and spend $80.00 for the week (my typical amount...some weeks I go WAY low and some weeks I have no choice but to spend a little more depending what we have going on)  then you plan out a menu according to what's on sale and stick to your plan.

So, this week I found a pork roast & cod on sale. I have 4 nights covered with these purchases. I searched the produce section for sales on veggies and with the items I chose I will have spent approx. $6.50  a night to feed a family of three. I of course will use a couple of things from my stockpile. My total for this shopping trip was $60.16, with lunch items, snacks and milk. We buy as many local ingredients as we can afford, so this even includes Organic Maine Milk and cheese. Because my budget was $80.00, I will then save the overage and use it to stock up on items that are on my staples list, or run back and get the things that I maybe have forgotten about and still be within budget. (I am human after all, hehe!) I have enough on hand to make a couple of meals to supplement the rest of the week.

When you start a stockpile it allows you to purchase items at a lower price and combine them with sometimes unavoidably pricier ingredients and still save over all.

The one thing that will help is also knowing proper portion sizes. Before I started doing this it was common for my husband to over eat. Heck, myself too! What I like about knowing where these items are being used thru the week is that when it comes time to dividing up the goods, there is only so much allotted for each night. So we don't over eat AND we don't waste as much as we used to.

When you get into a routine it really is a breeze. It won't take much of your time to pull together a week's menu and you will get to the point where you know what you have on hand automatically.

A few ideas for S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G your foods....

Pork Roast
Oven roasted or slow cooker pork roast with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed veggies.
Pulled pork sandwiches, oven baked fries.
Shredded tacos
Baked Beans with Pork
Pork fried rice to accompany an asian entree

Whole Chicken
Baked chicken, with side dished of your choice
Chicken Quesadillas
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Stir Fry
Chicken Noodle Soup

You get the idea....I come up with these types of menus and then when I see something on sale I can refer back and already have a game plan in place. And please follow the guidelines for all foods in regards to leftovers.

Again, this will get you started with a basic idea of how to collect more dimes at the grocery store! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

new at this....

Sorry followers....I am new at this. The 2 new posts are up....but you will want to read the one that gives you the list of all the things you need first! Apologies!

Mix away...

Now that you have the basics you can start creating some new cleaners....

The first homemade cleaner I tried making was laundry detergent. We all wash clothes, we all have our preferences of liquid vs. powder. I have always preferred liquid, and so I started here, however I do plan to try the powder recipe I have soon and I will report back. This one here is a liquid detergent, the consistency will be quite gel like, but it works great. I add a scoop full of oxiclean to a load that is particularly grimey,

Homemade Laundry Detergent

You will need:

1/3 bar of Fels Naptha
1/2 C. Washing Soda
1/2 C. Borax Powder
box grater and the 2 gallon bucket

Grate the 1/3 of the Fels Naptha Bar and put the shavings in a  large saucepan, add 6 cups of water and heat until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. At this point you can add a couple of drops of essential oils, lavender & eucalyptus are nice. Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon + 6 cups of water and stir again. Put the lid on the bucket and let sit for 24 hours. You will use 1/2 C. per load.
You may feel the need to stir this from time to time, but it is typical for it to be in gel form.

Homemade Glass Cleaner

1 cup Water
1/4 cup White Vinegar
2 to 3 drops Dawn Dish Soap
Empty Spray Bottle

Combine all ingredients in spray bottle. This is an amazing glass cleaner. Some people find the scent of the vinegar off-putting but rest assured it does disapate over time. In addition to this awesome glass cleaner another cost saving tip I have is using re-useable rags for your cleaning. I prefer the "bar mops" or plain white washcloths. The benefit clearly is you can wash them and used them over and over, I bleach them from time to time keep them clean. If you prefer to use paper towels, I recommend "Shop Towels" you can find these in the automotive department of most big box stores, they are great, durable towels that don't shed lint, which is nice when cleaning your windows.

Homemade All Purpose Cleaner

2 Tbsp. Distilled White Vinegar
1 Tsp. Borax
1/8 cup Dawn Dishsoap
1 cup Hot Water
Spray bottle

Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle. This may be sudsy at first but it will settle.

Homemade Stain Remover

1 part Dawn
2 part Hydrogen Peroxide

When I made this recently, I made it with 1/2 C. Dawn and 1 C. HP. Combine in spray bottle.
This is something that has most defninitely saved me money. We have 2 dogs, who are a part of our family. They are allowed to sit and cuddle with us on our furniture. We have a red, canvas type sectional couch....that had MANY stains. How embarassing!!....I was hesitant at first since the material on the couch can be tricky. Very little elbow grease had to go into getting it clean with this stain remover. I soaked the spots with the solution and let sit for 15-30 minutes and then wiped the area with a rag. Repeated until clean. I was very pleased!! 

So these are a few to get you started, I will be adding more soon!  I think you will be pleased and I hope it helps you save a few dimes!


Okay, so here are some things about making your cleaners at home that I love. They are certainly better for your health and the environment, my favorite part is the cost. Once you start the process and accumulate your basics you will be able to make just about any cleaner you could need in a home. I have made many and I will share only those that I have had success with. The following are the basics I started with.
I suggest buying in bulk to save the most $$ or at least compare the unit pricing.

Baking Soda
Dawn Dish Detergent
White Vinegar
Washing Soda
Hydrogen Peroxide
Fels Naptha Bar

You will want to pick up an inexpensive box grater (dollar store style will do), a 2 gallon bucket with a lid, and 3 spray bottles. I found that in the laundry section (the section that sells laundry baskets, ironing boards)at stores such as WalMart or Target you can find empty bottles for around a dollar. These are a great size for storing in a carryall tote to keep it all neat and tidy.

...I will start with homemade laundry detergent, glass cleaner, stain remover, and all purpose cleaner.Get shopping and read on!