Monday, April 26, 2010

Mama Was Home Alone

This weekend was very productive. My man was gone so let's see, what did I do...First on the list, watch the smokey eye You Tube video. Pretty good. I tried some new eyeshadow technique.

Next I watched a few Bump It videos. My hair was made to pouf, this is au la naturel' so I'm saving my $9.99.

Well, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go and look what caught my eye. The Jack Lasomebody Juicer. I want this. They were throwing in all kinds of free stuff.

I bet it really is whisper quiet. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the weather people were freaking me out with all the tornado talk. Geesh. I turned my closet into Fort Knox complete with a small matress, bottle water, weather radio, goldfish, pillows, candles, matches, diapers and wipes. Thankfully we didn't have to take shelter so I just kept watching my infomercial.

What? Today you are not selling it to me for $500??? It is my lucky day.

Oh good, an affordable payment plan.

They made a Strawberry spritzer drink that I'm still thinking about days later.

I also watched a Shark Steam Pocket cleaner commercial and am convinced this is what my life is lacking. If it works half as good as they say, man, life as we know it would be changed. Such an exciting life I lead ;).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Hour

This is what Happy Hour looks like at our house on those days when we can't make Sonic for our Vanilla Dr. Pepper. Snuggles when the little ones wake up.

Fresh cut lemon wedges in our sweet tea.

A sippy of milk & a sippy of sweet tea!

Happy Friday! Stay safe, find some good bargains this weekend and eat some good food :).

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I love this picture. There is a reflection of more pictures on the opposite wall.
In the center of all the pictures is a plaque that reads,
"Enjoy this moment...for this moment is your life."

My posts have been sparse lately. That is because I've not been on the computer as much.

Browsing decorating blogs is so much fun for me, however, it was taking up too much of my time during the day.

As I mentioned last week, I was staying up too late, sleeping in too late, and taking a nap several days a schedule was too chaotic and the result was I was getting nothing done. Well, I've whipped my schedule into shape and things are going great now. Going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, drinking more water, reading more to the boys, playing's been great. The best part, I'm saving blog browsing for Friday night fun after the kiddos go to bed!

I wanted to share a thought my boss's wife, Joan Horner wrote recently. It is about Suzanna Wesley, John & Charles Wesley's Mother and gave me a lot to think about.

Susanna was disciplined. She practiced it, carefully structuring her day, making routine the order of the children's day. She was disciplined in her training of her children. She went over and over again with her children, the academic (and spiritual) lessons.

Susanna was disciplined in her own private devotional life. She was faithful in training, faithful to her husband-and faithful to God-consistent and constant. God made Susanna Wesley who she was for a purpose. God made all of us who are mothers for a high purpose. That thrills me!

Those difficult days when the babies are crying for no reason, when the 5 year old spills milk for the 19th time that day, when the pre-teen never wants to stay at home but wants to go to Susie's home. When the 16 year old calls "Mom, I hit the garage door with the car" -all of these events contribute to the purpose for which we are called. O Lord-may we remember our calling! A mother with children in her home is specially called...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strawberries & Blueberries

After my oldest son was born someone brought us a dish of strawberries & blueberries. We kept them in the fridge and during the night when I'd wake up with the baby I'd go get a little dish of them.

This is such a good snack. Our kids love them. We love them. They are really good right now. Since they're so affordable right now I'm assuming they are in season.

After you wash your berries, cut the strawberries into halves or quarters. Add blueberries. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Keep chilled.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Couponing Part III

Well, we're two weeks into extreme couponing and there's still so much left to learn! By now, you've been looking at your couponing blogs, collecting coupons from the paper, downloading coupons to your Kroger card, and keeping it all organized.

But what happens when you need MORE of a certain coupon? Did you know you can BUY COUPONS ON EBAY? Let's say Kroger is running their Ronzoni pasta for $.75 a box and you know you have a coupon for $.75 off any Ronzoni product. Well, that would make it free! But you only have 2 of those coupons. Well, go to Ebay and type in "Ronzoni coupon" and you will see several options to buy a "lot" of those coupons. You can find a listing for 20 coupons for around $2.18 plus shipping, for a total of $3 for those coupons. Since the pasta is normally $1.10 at Kroger and on sale for $.75, you're getting 20 boxes of pasta (worth $22.00) for just the $3 you paid for the coupons. Sweet, right? And the great thing is, if you're reading your blogs, you know what items are coming for sale a few days before the sale even begins, so this gives you plenty of time to get your coupons ordered and delivered before the sales end. I do this ALL the time, several times a month. I do especially if I see a high value coupon in the newspaper inserts for an item I use frequently, like Lipton tea for example. If I see a coupon for save $.50 on one box, I know Kroger will double that to $1 and usually at the beginning of the summer (when they know people drink the most tea, they'll run their boxes on sale for $1.50 a box, so I'll order the coupons and get 20 boxes of tea for $10 and that will last us almost a year and a half!

If you're reading your blogs regularly, you'll see that there's a lot of free samples out there. I know a lot of people don't want to get into free samples because you think it's a lot of junk in your mailbox...but I ORDER FREE SAMPLES for one reason: They almost always send high value coupons with their samples. They want you to like their item, and then turn around and buy several of them. Recently I got a free sample of Puff's tissues and it included 5 coupons for save $.50 on any Puff's product, which Kroger doubles to $1 off. What great coupons! Plus, it's nice to get something other than a bill in the mail box! :)

When I first started couponing, I really just used them on everyday items at the grocery store, and it's only recently that I've learned out to SHOP AT WALGREEN'S AND TARGET. I avoided these places for good deals in the past because I assumed they were more like "convenience stores" and overpriced on most items. And in some cases they are. But if you learn how to shop their circulars, you can get a lot of items for next to nothing. Let's take Target. For the most part, their groceries are a little on the high side, but they have price cuts all the time and when their stuff goes on price cut, it's usually a VERY GOOD price. For example, right now they have their Betty Crocker fruit chewies on sale for $1.88. These are $2.89 at Kroger for regular price and $2.50 at Wal-Mart (the everyday low price). I used my save $1 on 2 coupons and got them for $1.38 a box, which is a GREAT price. Target also does Gift Card Deals, which you can really rack up some great deals on. For example, last month they ran a deal where you would get a $5 gift card for buying 4 participating Kellogg's products. The products were marked down to $2.50 each and with coupons as low as $1.50 each. So essentially you paid $6 for 4 products and got a $5 gift card for your troubles. You could keep that gift card and spend on whatever you wanted, or you could use it again on this same scenario and pay $1 for the Kellogg's products and get another $5 gift card back. Sweet! The blogs will not only tell you what the gift card deals are, they'll tell you where to find the best coupons to match with them.

Walgreen's is similar, but instead of gift cards, they have Register Rewards. Their ad might say, if you buy Colgate Advanced at $2.99 (a price that's too high), we'll give you a $3 RR back. You can use a $1 off coupon and get the toothpaste for $1.99 and then get back $3 RR towards your next purchase. You can use that RR on anything in the store but if you use it to buy more Colgate, you won't get another $3 RR back. You CAN use it on a different RR purchase, like for shampoo or something. Here is the important thing to remember about Walgreen's The number of coupons you hand over CANNOT exceed the number of items you are purchasing...and an RR counts as a coupon. So, if you are using a $3 RR to buy some shampoo and you have a coupon for that shampoo, then you are buying 1 item and using 2 coupons. For this scenario, you would have to include a cheapo "filler" item so that you would have 2 items and 2 coupons. The blogs will list cheap filler items each week, such as a $.39 candy bar. I love the RR promotions because you can "roll" them into each other and end up with some great savings. For example, let's say your first transaction is the toothpaste. You will pay $2 and you'll get back a $3 RR. You can use that $3RR on the Dove promotion which is buy one Dove at $4 and get $4 RR back. If you have a $2 off coupon for the Dove, it costs $2 and you have $3 RR to spend. You will have to pick up a $1 "filler" item to get all the way up to $3. You will pay nothing (except tax) and get back $4 RR. You can use that on the cottonelle deal that say you will get $5 RR when you buy $6 Cottonelle product. You'll have a $1 off Cottonelle and your $4 RR and pay nothing again and get back a $5 RR. So far, the only thing you paid for was $2 for your toothpaste, but you now have toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper, plus $5 RR on your next purchase. See how it works?

It's important to note that both Target AND Walgreen's will allow you to "stack" a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. For example, if Walgreen's is running a sale on Campbell's soup for $.79 per can "with in-store coupon" that means that you need to cut out that coupon in order to get that price. Since this is an in-store coupon, you can also use a Campbell's coupon for save $1 on 3 cans of soup, so you end up getting each can $.46 each. These are typically $1.49 at Kroger when not on sale, so that's a great price. They limit you to 3 or 4 at a time, but just do 2 transactions and you can get more. Pairing an in-store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon can add up to some serious savings!

That's it for today. I keep putting off talking about tracking your savings, but I promise we'll talk about that next week, along with coupon etiquette, pantry tithing, and sending expired coupons to soldiers.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Look what I scored for $1 Saturday at a Tag Sale. That's a fancy way to say me and my Mamaw went Yard Salin' and made out like wild bandits. So, you know I'm transforming my decorating style into Cottage. One thing my decorating style is moving towards is white, blues, yellows and more white. (please pardon the tissue and medicine cup! we've had 2 with ear infections and 1 with pnemonia this week)

I sprayed this with a spray primer and then did 2 coats of white spray paint. I got 5 blue tapers and I am so pleased with how it turned out. I can see that I need to go fix those pretty crooked candles. I'll get right on that!
Total cost: $6 (including candles, paint and gold candleabra)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


"The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied." Proverbs 13:4

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23

I've been feeling empty lately.

When it comes to being a good manager of my time, I've been failing.

I want my days to look and feel different and yet every day I repeat the same unfruitful patterns.

Staying up too late, sleeping too late.

Not feeling productive during the daylight hours.

My time reading the Bible has been mundane and unexciting.

The last statement is what has the red flag going up in my heart.

For the last 5 years I've experienced a new realm of joy and excitement in my Bible reading.

I know what has been different lately.

I am tired.

I'm tired because I haven't been managing my time good.

Sure we've had some sickness and I'd really like to use that as an excuse but the reality is I've not been doing what I need to be doing.

I'm happy that today is a brand spankin' new day.

I'm asking God to enable me to be disciplined today.

I talked to my husband and we are setting up boundaries.

Boundaries for computer time, sleep time, getting housework done.

"A heart at peace gives life to the body!" Prov 14

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pottery Barn Milk Bottles

Aren't these adorable?
The simplicity is so beautiful.
That Pottery Barn has the best ideas.
Our backyard is amazing right now.
Things are blooming right and left.
We have about 20 Hostas bursting out of the ground.
Carolina Jasmine growing around a trellis.
Hot pink, pale pink & fuchsia azaleas.
Beautiful yellow forsythia.
Budding crepe myrtles.
There is a gorgeous white flowering shrub.
I squealed when I looked out my window several days ago.
For weeks it has just been a pretty green shrub.
Out of nowhere there are long trails of white flowers on it.
Our trees have leaves that make the sunlight dance on the grass.
The Pottery Barn Milk Bottles look very pretty with fresh cut flowers.
Mason Jars would also be cute.
There is nothing like fresh cut flowers to cheer up the inside of your home.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Coupons Part II

Welcome back Guest Blogger Amanda! Amanda saves 60-90% every time she shops. We are on week 2 of learning to coupon. Enjoy and THANK YOU AMANDA!!! You are a huge blessing to so many of us moms trying to be good stewards of our money.

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.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Little Friends

This morning I was reading my notes from Bible Study and the thoughts were on helping your children form and cultivate friendships. It's an interesting topic of discussion because it feels like cultivating meaningful relationships is a thing of the past. My mother and father in law used to hang out with a couple sets of friends all the time-they'd even do holidays together sometimes. The result is that years later they still have life-long friendships.

(I love this picture. All three boys after baths last night. Pappa & Nanna gave them the pj's and Grandpa & Grandma gave them the books.)

Last year this thought was on my mind a lot. Shane and I were investing in adult friendships and we left the kids at home with a baby sitter while we went to Bible Study. God put it on our minds to start cultivating friendships with other families. The benefit is that our children are getting the blessing of little friends as well.

We have enjoyed hosting Coffee & Desert nights on Friday nights at our house. It is simple, fast and affordable. We'll invite a family over between 6-6:30pm for coffee & dessert. It's informal, low-key and fun. Usually we get all the kids dressed in pj's before the family leaves so they can go home and go straight to bed.

It takes being intentional to do this though. Some nights you just feel tired and worn out. You think popping in a movie is the best route and sometimes that's the case. We have found a big blessing though in opening our home to new friends. Just last Friday night we had been at the zoo all day with the boys. We came home and were worn out. Spur of the moment we invited a family over at 7:30pm for brownies, milk & coffee. The dads ended up dying Easter eggs with the kids in the kitchen and we just sat around and talked while the kids played.

My house was not perfect or company ready that night. That was hard for me. Really hard. Here's the deal though. I want to choose people over perfection. I am finding something to be true. People are perfectly comfortable to come to a house even if toothpaste is still on your bathroom mirror. Makes them feel more laid back and at home in your home.

So that's my thought for the day. Don't wait for the perfect house or the perfect moment to open your home to friends. It's worth the phone call (or text message ay caramba!). Memories. That's the payoff.

"Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us continue to meet together to encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching" Hebrews 10:24-25 (i think :), going off some old TMS memorization here!!!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dinner & Dance

Do you have plans this Friday?
How does a date night sound?
$30 including childcare
The menu:
Beef Bourguignon (Julia Child's!)
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Dinner Salad
Sweet Tea
We will enjoy live music and dancing afterwards.

This is what it looks like. It's a fancy beef stew Julia Child's style. This is the very first thing I cooked in our new home. We invited our entire family over and it was a ball and oh so good.

This is a very special fundraiser event raising money for our youth summer mission trips. For only $15 a person you get an unbelievable dinner, music and dancing, and childcare at the church! 6-9pm It is going to be a fun night out. Here's the kicker, if you are interested you have to sign up by tomorrow (Wednesday morning).


I've been on the computer a lot less the last two weeks.

We've been reading quite a bit.

I am trying to stop and sit with the boys and just enjoy them.

They are a lot of fun.

We went to the zoo on Friday and it was a blast. I cannot wait to take them back. Part of their Christmas present this year was zoo passes. It was the best investment we've made on a gift!

My boys have some birthdays coming up and I've been trying to think of clutter free gift ideas. Any ideas?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Meet the Coupon Queen!

I want you to meet Amanda! She has agreed to do some guest posts on my blog for the next few Fridays. She began couponing two years ago and I am AMAZED at what she saves. She's going to help us go from knowing nothing about using coupons to saving money. Thank you Amanda for teaching us about this! I hope everyone enjoys.

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!!!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roast Chicken

Here is the best way to roast your chicken. I use this in recipes that call for cooked, cubed chicken. You can boil a boneless, skinless chicken breast but it comes out looking really white and kind of gross if you ask me. And flavor, well, what flavor? This process is so simple, I promise anyone can roast chicken. It is not as weird as cooking a whole chicken either. I made a beer can chicken awhile back and almost could not bring myself to touch the little sucker. This is much easier than that. So, you get a package of split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on. That right there is clue number one that this is going to be great chicken. The bone-in, skin-on adds to the flavor.
I don't pay more than $1.99 a pound. Sometimes I think it even goes for $.97 a pound which would be the time to stock up.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lay them out on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 35-40 minutes. That's it. Look how yummy it looks right out of the oven. That would be great in Poppyseed Chicken, Mexican Chicken, or Chicken Stew wouldn't it?!

Once it comes out of the oven let it hang out on the pan to cool while you go do something else. In other words, fuhgetaboutit. The juices redistribute and you won't burn the dickens out of your hands on accident.

Don't x me out here (wink wink). This next part isn't that bad, you don't even have to touch it if you don't want. Flip those suckers over and take a fork and good knife. This is how you debone it. Place your knife right up to the bone and cut.

See how easily it is separating from the bone? I used a knife so I would not have to touch it. That's how Southern Iron Chef's who don't touch gross looking stuff cook.

Here you have it: A beautiful piece of roast chicken. Just like the frozen stuff you used to boil, only a heck of a lot better tasting. Layering great ingredients and seasonings is the key to extra-ordinary flavor in cooking. Seasoning as you go is what I'm talking about. Season the meat, season the sauce, test as you go, use fresh when possible.

Cube into large dices and use in whatever dish you're serving that evening. If you are preparing this for dinner, you can either assemble the dish and refrigerate it until time for cooking. OR you can simply put your cooked chicken in the fridge until that night when you are ready to cook.

Roast Chicken:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place chicken breasts on a sheet pan. Rub them with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4-6 cups.

(this is Ina's recipe from Barefoot Contessa's Family Style cookbook)