Friday, April 16, 2010

Guest Blog for Coupons Post #2

Well, I'm back for week 2 of this couponing bonanza series! I hope everyone has had a chance to review the first post and get started. By now you should have made a budget, made a buy-price list, started menu planning, picked up the inserts out of the Sunday paper, checked out a few coupon blogs, and printed a few coupons online. If you have...then you're ready for this week's new stuff. If you haven't, that's ok too! The beauty is, you can pick this up at any time.

Now that you've got a few coupons in your hand, you're probably trying to set-up some sort of organization system. It is very important to ORGANIZE YOUR COUPONS. If you don't, you'll have some in your purse, some in the car, some in your pocket, some still inside the newspaper, and some in a drawer and you'll decide it's just not worth it and throw your hands up and say "fuhgetaboutit".

There are a few different ways to organize your coupons, but I'll just tell you the way I do it. Once you really get into this, you may come up with a way that is much better for you, but this is what works best for me...

When I get the inserts out of my Sunday paper (I buy 4 each week) I date the front page with a black marker and I put it away...I do NOT clip coupons until I need them. I bought 4 plastic paper trays and have them stacked up on my desk in our home office. In one tray, I have my Smart Source inserts (SS is how it's abbreviate online), in another tray I have my Proctor & Gamble inserts (PG), in another tray I have my Red Plum inserts (RP) and in the top one I have my All You Magazines, Weekly Kroger coupon booklets that come in the mail, and monthly Walgreen's store coupon booklet. I highly recommend getting a subscription to All You. They are sold at Wal-Mart exclusively, but you can get a subscription online. They vary in price depending on which deals they have going on, but I got a 2-year subscription for $14 a few months ago. Each magazine has over $80 in coupons and there is an alphabetical index in the front of the magazine telling you were to find all of the coupons. If you are not receiving weekly coupon booklets in the mail from Kroger, you need to go to and register there. Not only will they send you "themed" coupon booklets (game-day, grilling out, breakfast, cinco de mayo, etc.) but once a month they'll send you personalized coupons based on what you normally buy...and they'll usually include a coupon for something free. These

I do carry an index box with me to the store, but this only has my most common food purchases and the coupons I have printed off of the internet inside because I make my list before I leave the house, grab the coupons I need, and then head to the store (more on this later)...and this really prevents me from impulse buying because I can't stand to buy something I don't have a coupon for. Because I actively read my blogs, I know exactly what's on sale and even what is on close-out. The only surprises I see at the store each week is what is on clearance over by the U-Scan area. If I find a particularly good deal and it's something I know I want to buy multiples of, I'll just run back home after I check out, grab my coupons and come back. Now, the thought of this might drive you CRAZY. If that is the case, feel free to cut all your coupons and keep them in your box, envelopes, or binder...whatever works best for you. The key here is to ORGANIZE them in some way.
I clean out expired coupons the first of every month since so many coupons expire on the last day of the month. This keeps my box from getting to fat and heavy.

Now that your paper coupons are organized, it's time to LEARN ABOUT ELECTRONIC COUPONS or e-coupons. I only discovered these babies a few months ago and they make me very happy!! These are coupons that are loaded to your Kroger Plus card and come off automatically when you buy the qualifying product...but here's the beauty of can STACK a paper coupon with the e-coupon!!!! This means that if you have an e-coupon for $.40 off of Betty Crocker potatoes, you can stack a paper coupon for $.40 off of Betty Crocker potatoes (which Kroger will DOUBLE to $.80 off) and you will end up saving $1.20 on one box of Betty Crocker potatoes. You will want to go to and and to load these coupons to your card. You will have to set-up accounts for these, but it will take less than a minute to add your Kroger card. Cellfire loads their new coupons on the 9th and 23rd of each month and Shortcuts and Kroger do it whenever they feel like. The good news is...the coupon blogs will tell you when new coupons have been loaded, so if you're reading them regularly, you'll know when to go load new coupons. The coupons will expire (usually 1-2 months out) and sometimes you'll get multiples of a certain item, so it's possible you'll have 2-3 coupons for the same item on the card. This is good. It's important to note: Each e-coupon is good for one item one time. Once you use it on that one item, the coupon will disappear from your card. The good news is, you may have 2 potato coupons on Cellfire, 2 on Shortcuts, and 2 on That means you can get 6 boxes of potatoes if they're on special and save 6 times! It's also important to note that these e-coupons don't stack on top of each other. For example, if you buy 1 box of potatoes and have 6 e-coupons, all 6 e-coupons will NOT come off...just one coupon per item. This is just another way to enhance your savings. And you will notice a pattern with these coupons...they are almost exclusively General Mills products (Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, etc.)

UTILIZE THE CATALINA PROMOTIONS that Kroger offers. This is one of Kroger's little secrets, and I don't know many people that use this, let alone even know about it. Did you know that Kroger runs promotions like: If you buy 3 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, we'll give you $2 off your next order? Some of these are marked with a red and white tag next to the item, but most of them they're not. You will want to regularly check and to see the current Catalina promotions. This is great because they are actually PAYING you to buy their products...on top of this, you can roll this "coupon" to buy more of their products. For example, on the Betty Crocker Potato deal, they are paying you $3 when you buy 3 pouches of potatoes at $1.15 each. My 3 e-coupons will knock them down to $.75 each and then I will use 3 $.40 off paper coupons (doubled to $.80) and MAKE $.15 for buying these three bags. On top of this, they'll spit out a coupon for save $3 off your next order. I can turn right around and buy 3 more bags of potatoes (using no coupons at all if I don't have any) and spend $.45 on three bags of potatoes and it will spit out ANOTHER $3 coupon. This can go on and on forever. When I find a good deal like this, instead of using the $3 to buy more, I'll use my coupons and pay next to nothing for it and hoard the $3 coupons off my next order. Once I get to about $30 off or so, I'll take them in and buy a bunch of meat for free!

Next up....Change the way you MAKE YOUR GROCERY LIST. In the past, you've probably kept a running list during the week, just adding things as you ran out. Then, once you had thought about your needs for the week, you added those items as well. Then, while at the store, you threw in a few extra items that appealed to you as well. I used to shop that way, but now I shop a little differently. I have an excel spreadsheet for my grocery list and it looks like this:

As items come up that I need (milk, bread, sugar, etc.) I check the ads to see if anyone is running a special on that item. If not, I will usually pick it up at Kroger and I'll find any coupons I can for it, and list it in the proper category. Then, once my blogs come out with the weekly sales, I spend a lot of time looking it over to see which sales appeal to me. The blogs will have coupon match-ups with each item that has an available coupon and they'll tell you where to find it. For example, if Bryan Hot Dogs are on sale for $2, they'll tell you that you can find a coupon for Bryan Hot Dogs in the 3/28 RP for $1 off of 2 items. This keeps me from searching through tons of coupons. I just go straight to it, clip it out, and put it with my pile that will be going to the store with me. While going over the weekly ad, I will also print out my shortcuts,, and Cellfire accounts so that I can see what coupons are being held on my Kroger card. I also go to the Catalina lists to see the "hidden" deals that Kroger doesn't go out of their way to advertise. This way I can see all of my savings and I know what to expect to spend. I usually try to spend no more than $50 on "need items", $20 on "stockpile" items, and $10 on toiletries/household items per week. This keeps my weekly spending around $80. After I see what I will be getting, I review what I have and then I sit down and make my menu plan for the next week. So I'm making my plan based on what I have, not on what I want.

Hopefully, this post will help you get to the second level of couponing...going beyond cutting a few coupons out of the paper. If you plan and get yourself into the habit of committing to saving, you will be able to: Organize your coupons and keep them organized, learn about and utilize e-coupons, learn about and utilize catalina promotions, and change the way you make your grocery list. I know this seems like a lot to do, but I always tell people...there's a lot to do in the beginning of this process, but the maintenance is a piece of cake! You will be so glad you did this once you get started!

I was going to post about keeping track of your savings in this week's post, but I think I'll save that for next week's post. At that time, I'll also be posting about buying coupons on EBAY, free samples, shopping at Walgreen's and shopping at Target.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I love a rainy day!

I look forward to Springtime every year not for the flowers and warmer weather and signs of new growth...but for the rainstorms!

I love to stay home and putter around the house on a rainy day while Ward is at work and the boys are at school. Our house has 27 windows and I open the blinds on every one of them and I can see the rain coming down in sheets, the willow tree bending over on it's side, and the wind whipping through the trees down our street. I watch the neighborhood animals dashing for cover, and see people sprinting to their mailboxes with newspapers covering their heads. I love to hear the thunder crashing and know that I'm safe and cozy in my house.

I got to experience this for about 3 hours this afternoon and it was heaven.

Now it's gotten dark again and we're expecting a second round. I think I'll go in the kitchen and put on a pot of chili and enjoy our rainy season.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I'm a guest host!!!

I was asked to guest host over at about couponing!

I am so excited to share this information with others! I have been asked to do several posts about it.

Here's the first post...

I am so happy to share my knowledge of couponing with you guys! It has been a long and fun road to get to the "Crazy Coupon Lady" level, and I'm proud to give you tips on how to get there yourselves. When I started couponing, I was saving about 25% each week at the store, now I save between 62%-91% and I feel guilty if it's less than that! It sounds ridiculous, but it's possible for ANYONE to do this...all it takes it a little education, and some planning.

Before we get started, I should warn you...couponing is addictive! Once you really get into this, you will never want to pay retail for anything again! On some days it's difficult for me to accept the fact that I can't get everything for free or less than $1! :) I'm so used to handing over a stack of coupons that it feels odd to buy something without one. But I didn't get here overnight. There is definitely a method to this madness, and if you're patient, and take this one step at a time, I know you'll all be pros in no time! The key is COMMITING TO SAVING MONEY!

You all should know...I do NOT shop at Wal-Mart. I will teach you that you don't need to depend on "Everyday Low Prices" and you don't need to go straight for the "off-brand" to get the best deals. When you learn to combine coupons with in-store specials and in-store coupons, you can buy name-brand on almost everything for much less than the store brand. I shop exclusively at Kroger, Target, and Walgreen's, and except for my son's birthday cake from their bakery, I haven't stepped foot in Wal-Mart in over 2 years. And it feels great!!!

This first post is all about GETTING STARTED. To me, getting started is the hardest part. It's so easy to say..."I'll start couponing once the kids are out of school this summer, once I get settled into my new job, after the holidays, etc." The truth is, there's no better time than right now. Even if your first trip to the store only saves you $4, at least you've started saving money! Now, let's talk about where to begin.

Step One: If you haven't done this already, MAKE A FAMILY BUDGET. Before you start your shopping trips, you need to know how much you're allowed to spend at the store. Once you've made your budget and you know what you can spend, go back through the last 3-6 months in your bank account and figure out exactly what you DID spend. Were you within this budget? I bet most of you probably spent WAY more than you thought when you added up the trips to Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Walgreen's, Fred's, Big Lots, etc....not to mention how much you spent going out to eat (which is something my family does MAYBE 6 times a YEAR) When I first started couponing in 2008, I had budgeted $600 per month on groceries and household items. Once I sat down and looked at the actual statements, I realized I was spending $900-$1,000 per month not including the $300 a month we were spending on eating out. What in the world were we buying????. I was astonished! We now spend between $300-$350 for our family of 4, and this includes ALL groceries, toiletries, medicine (non-prescription) and household goods.

Step Two: Once you've decided how much you can spend each week, MAKE A BUY-PRICE LIST. This is a list of common purchases at the store for your family, and the amount you are willing to pay for them AFTER COUPONS. On this list should be items like: Milk, cereal, bread, chicken, potatoes, lunch meat, frozen dinners, etc. It's important that you make this list because this list will change A LOT during your growth as a savvy couponer. When I started this, I put $3 per box on cereal as the price I was willing to it's $.75. If I can't get the box for $.75 or less, I won't buy it. Carry this with you every time you go to the store for a while and make note of the prices of your favorite items. Are they all over the place? Moving up and down from week to week? This is to be expected. This will help you figure out how little you should be paying for these products. It's important to note: Virtually everything in the grocery store will be priced at its lowest price at some point during a 6-10 week period. If you are carrying your Buy-Price list with you and watching the prices rise and fall on your everyday items, you will learn what the bottom price is for those items. Once you see that price, that's when you want to go in and stockpile - buying enough to get you to the next 6-10 week cycle.

Step Three: LEARN HOW TO MENU-PLAN. Stop making grocery lists based on what you feel like cooking that week and start making grocery lists based on what you already have and what's going to be on sale. In the past, I would sit down and make weekly menus based on what we were in the mood for, then make a list of all of the grocery items I needed for those menus. Then I'd take my list to the store and buy what I needed. When I got to the checkout line, it just cost what it cost. I'd just shrug my shoulders and say..."well, we needed it" and accept the high amount. But no more! Each week, Kroger, Walgreen's, and Target put out their weekly circulars highlighting their best deals. Not every deal is listed, but it's a great place to start. Once you get better at this, you'll be able to pair your stock-piled items with the sale items and make super-cheap meals. For example, I was just able to pick up Uncrustables for $.84 per box (with 4 inside) at Kroger with my coupons. I bought 5 boxes. This makes for a very cheap lunch for my boys at $.21 per sandwich. I make sure he gets 2-3 of these per week. That will last me 6-10 weeks (until the price bottoms out again). These circulars are found in each of the stores, and Walgreen's and Target's are in your Sunday newspaper. You can also view these circulars online at hundreds of different couponing blogs (we'll discuss these a little later) a few days before the sales begin. This gives you more time to collect your coupons and make your grocery list. If you see a good sale on chicken, buy 5 packages of it and stick them in the freezer until you're ready for them.

Step Four: PICK UP THE SUNDAY PAPER. Finally...we're talking about coupons, one of my favorite subjects in the whole wide world!!! I LOVE getting my newspapers every Sunday. Because I look at my coupon blogs daily (we'll talk about those next), I know what coupons are coming, so I know exactly how many papers I want to buy. It's important to note: Coupons usually don't come out on Holiday weekends, so make sure to check this website to see which coupon inserts you should be expecting. Depending on where you live, make sure to pick up the biggest newspaper that your area distributes. Your local newspaper probably won't have as many coupon inserts as your "big city" paper. Also, before you buy your papers, check to make sure every insert you are expecting is in there. There's nothing worse than getting home and finding out they're not in there. Remember, not every newspaper, even the big city ones, carries all the inserts available. For example, our newspaper doesn't have the Red Plum insert. But don't can always go to EBAY (we'll talk more about EBAY couponing in another post) and BUY 5 inserts for $1.25 plus shipping. I recommend this if you want to make sure you have ALL the coupons at your disposal. It's very frustrating when a great deal comes up and you don't have the coupons to match with it.

Step Five: DISCOVER THE WORLD OF COUPON BLOGS. This is where I totally changed the way I shopped. For my first 2 years of couponing, I just took my circular and matched it with coupons and shopped that way and felt I was doing a great job. But these coupon blogs make it so much easier and really take couponing to the next level. They actually go through the circulars for you and tell you exactly where to find the coupons to match with the sales....LINE BY LINE. My favorites are: (Walgreen's stuff) (Target stuff)

I keep all of these tabbed on my toolbar and refresh them about 5-10 times a day, depending on how much I'm on the computer for that day. Each blog will post 5-15 new entries a day and they tell us where we can find the best coupons, unadvertised deals, clearance and close-out items, free samples, rebates, and best coupon match-ups for each store. When you first go to these sites, (and if you spend some time researching you can certainly find some favorites of your own) I suggest reading the last 10-14 days worth of posts. This will help you see all the deals you've been missing (this will HURT at first! :) ) and it will let you see what kinds of posts to be expecting. It's also very educational. Once you're "caught up" on these sites, you'll just be able to refresh to see the latest posts and you can take advantage of the deals that appeal to you.

Step Six: START PRINTING COUPONS ONLINE. I resisted doing this for the longest time because I thought these coupons weren't "as good" as coupons clipped out of the newspaper and I was almost embarrassed to use them because I thought they looked "homemade" or even "fraudulent"...but now I have seen the errors of my ways. I have never had any problems using these coupons and some of them are for ridiculously high amounts. Most of the blogs listed above will tell you exactly where to go to print these coupons, but if you don't want to scroll through the posts to find them, I recommend:

The very first time you print a coupon online, you will have to download a coupon printer. This is totally legitimate and takes less than 1 minute and you'll never have to do it again. This is required because of the barcode that will be on the coupon. It's important to note: Most coupons can be printed twice. Once you print it the first time, click the back button and you will probably get to print it one more time. If it's a particularly good coupon and you want more than two, you'll have to use a different computer because it recognizes your IP address. And's fraudulent to make copies of coupons, so let's not do that! :)

Well, I'd say that's probably enough information for the first day! Spend the next week doing all 6 of the steps I mentioned above:

Make your budget
Make a buy-price guide
Learn how to menu-plan
Pick up the Sunday paper
Discover the world of coupon blogs
Start printing coupons online

By the end of the first week, you'll have coupons in your hand and you'll have a plan and you'll be ready to start saving money.

On next week's post, we'll talk about Organizing your coupons, Making your grocery lists, The difference between blinkies, peelies, tearpads, and inserts, and Keeping track of your savings! See you guys next week!!!

Ham and Cheese Pockets

My kids love these and I make them on busy nights at least 1-2 times per month.

I don't even need to list the ingredients, it's too easy!

Make your favorite pizza dough recipe (there are a million online) - mine is:

1 pkg yeast
1.25 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 TBS oil
2.5 cups flour

Mix it all with a fork (don't need to let the dough rise) and then roll it out to the shape you want, constantly dusting with flour.

I can usually make 6 pockets with this recipe. I just make 6 rectangles, fill them with sliced ham and shredded cheddar (I always use the bar, not bagged - tastes MUCH fresher). Pinch the sides closed and lay on cookie sheet seam-side down. Brush beaten egg whites on top, cook at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes until tops are lightly browned


I love a clean kitchen!

In general, I love a clean house. I don't love the work it takes to get there, but I looooove the finished product.

I'll admit though...our house is tough to keep clean. It's 3100 sq. ft and with the boys' rooms right off the kitchen/familyroom area, a lot of their toys end up in there. And when they really want to mess up the house, they make their way back towards our bedroom. I feel on most days, as soon as clean one room, they destroy it while I'm working on the next room. So, I'm constantly cleaning in circles. I can find the time on most days to pick up the day's mess, but I can't seem to find enough time to really get down and CLEAN. Well, yesterday...I made the time. The boys' worked on cleaning their rooms (a process that took 8 hours and basically nothing got done) Ward and I worked on the kitchen and family room. I worked all day on those two rooms, rearranged some decorations, thinned out the junk drawers, and even dejunked the front of the refrigerator. I'm so excited that I'm posting pictures because I'm not sure it will ever be clean again!!!

There are no dishes in the sink, no dishes in the dishwasher, no crumbs on the's all DONE! We're going out of town this afternoon and I'm so excited to know I'll be coming home to a clean familyroom and kitchen. I am really going to make an effort to keep this straightened up. I love the way our house looks when it's clean and it's so rare I get to see it that way! :)

I've been reading some blogs lately that are reminding me of the importance of making your home a haven. We're all so much happier when the house is clean and there's less temptation to mess it up. When it startes getting dirty, that's when everything seems to fall apart because no one takes pride in keeping it clean anymore since it's already "messy."

My goal this week? Take another picture of the kitchen next Saturday and hope it looks just the same! :)