Monthly Archives: January 2008

Giving to Charity

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Stephanie of Coupon Mom speak to the ladies of our church. She encourages us to clip coupons and shop sales to get the most for our dollars, not only to save money, but to collect food and personal care items for the needy. After listening to her, a group of us at church decided to implement Stephanie’s ideas and pool our donations every week. Our church already helps out at a local homeless shelter, and we have had food drives for the shelter in the past. Now we decided to step it up a bit and donate every week.

I looked in my pantry and bathroom, and I realized I have many things that cost me just pennies. If I allowed just $1 a week from my budget for charity, how much would I be able to put in the donations basket every week? There’s my challenge: maximize my dollar and see how much I can get, every week, for the rest of the year. I asked the Lord to “grow” the dollar every week, and to give me wisdom in my purchases. So far, I’m off to a good start because every item in the photo above cost me less than $1, and several were free. Totaled, they add up to about $4, so that will catch me up to the beginning of the year. (Not that I need to catch up, but I just want to.)

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You Can Do It Too. Really.

In my bargain-hunting this week I found some great deals. I shopped at Publix and Kroger, and spent $15.62 plus tax for all the grocery items below. Here is my breakdown:

Publix
Ocean Spray cranberry juice (2): 95 cents each
Bounty towel roll: 1 cent (mystery coupon item)
Cabot yogurt (9): store owed me 20 cents on each
Quaker granola bars (2): 90 cents each
Kroger

Kashi cereal: .50
Del Monte tomatoes (6): 10 cents each
Softsoap (2): 30 cents each
Fresh Express coleslaw: 49 cents
Kraft “Game Day Essentials” promo (buy 9 get $6):
8 oz cheese (6): $1.62 each
salad dressing (6): $1.30 each

At Publix, some of these were BOGO, plus coupons. The yogurts all had .50 peelies on them, doubled, but they were regularly 80 cents a piece. So I made 20 cents on each. The Kraft “Game Day Essentials” is a promo at Kroger this week. I walked around the store looking for the special tags to see what was included, then I matched items with coupons I had. I ended up buying a little more than I needed to earn the $6, but my coupons were nearing expiration, and both the cheese and salad dressing are items we use often. The salad dressing was actually a little less expensive at Publix in their BOGO promo, but buying them at Kroger allowed me to get $6 off my entire order, so in the long run I saved money. The cereal, tomatoes, and soap were all on sale, matched with my coupons. The coleslaw was on clearance in the produce dept.

I tell this here, not to brag about my great deals, but to encourage others to do likewise. It really isn’t very difficult to find great grocery deals. It takes some planning and organization, some on-the-spot math, but it’s nothing too difficult. Instead of rushing into a store and tossing stuff into the cart, read the ads ahead of time and plan how your family can use the sale items week by week. Stock up when the price comes way down, especially if you have a stash of coupons for that item. Look around for clearance items, as I did for the coleslaw. I wasn’t planning to buy any, but when I saw the great price, I decided to make coleslaw for our greens tonight.

The Cabot yogurts were the same thing. I didn’t intend to buy any yogurt, but when I saw the bright red stickers on them, I did some quick calculations and realized I would make money on them. The more I bought, the more I would save. But I also don’t want to be a glutton, so I limited myself to eight. (I bought one carton yesterday just to try it out. It was quite good, so I went back for the other seven today.)

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How Not to Look Old

I was having a grand old time clicking around on blogs just now, when I came upon this site telling me how not to look old. I read the list of the top 25 things that must be removed from all closets (scroll down a bit), and then I ran directly to my closet and began pulling antiquities out.

(Note: She claims it’s a list of the top 24, but the original list says 25. For some reason, the linked blogger removes overalls from the list. I wonder why. Does she like overalls? I say, toss the overalls! 20 years ago! We are not farmers in the field, ladies!)

From the list:
1. A holiday sweater and one close-to-being a holiday sweater
2. Elastic waist pants (OK, I never actually wore these in public; they were just for grubby jobs like painting, but they have too much paint on them, and they DO have elastic in the waist.)
3. Shoulder pads in three dresses; I haven’t worn them in perhaps 7 years, but they are taking up more real estate than they deserve.
4. Thin gold chains. Everyone else wears…what?…for jewelry. I’ll have to notice.
5. Souvenir t-shirts. Well, I don’t actually wear these as real clothes anymore. I pull them on in the depths of summer when I sweat like a pig as I exercise. But perhaps it’s time to get some real exercise clothes.
6. A backpack purse. It was falling apart anyway.

And a few pieces that were not on the list, but it was time for them to go too:
A baggy knit dress
A too-short pink sweater

Now I’m left with my real wardrobe. For this icy-cold winter weather, I have exactly:
2 pr black pants
1 pr black jeans that are too big
3 long sleeve shirts
2 jackets
3 cotton cardigans (Make that 2. I just tossed another too-short one.)
1 dress
3 skirts
1 black cami to add a layer of warmth
Who wants to go shopping for/with me?

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New Coupon System

I just recently changed my coupon organizing system from a small accordion coupon file to a 3-ring binder with plastic baseball card holders. (Walmart. $1.44 per ten-pack.) I use one 9-pocket page for each category of coupon. I find it is very convenient to use in the stores when I prop it, opened, in the baby seat. I can quickly flip to a new page to see if I have a coupon for a product that catches my eye. No more leafing through a wad of loose coupons, while I try to keep the accordion from fanning out and emptying in a scatter on the floor. No more looking for a hard surface for note-scribbling; I carry one with me now. This system does have one drawback, though, as I discovered yesterday…

I must look too professional! As I walked down an aisle in Rite-Aid, the manager rounded the corner, then stopped and gave me an odd look. “Are you a very organized customer, or a vendor?” he asked. A vendor! How did he even have a thought that there was a possibility that I was a vendor? Vendors are professional people, wearing professional clothes that are color coordinated and stylish, and heels, and make up, and styled hair and brushed teeth; all those qualities which I definitely did not have at that moment. I had simply rolled out of bed, pulled on my sweats and a jacket, and taken my daughter to school. Rite-Aid was an afterthought. I was quite embarrassed about how I looked right then, bedhead and all. Oh well. It was funny.

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82 Cents at CVS

After two days sick in bed, I got up to go do my CVS thing today. And I did well. I spent 82 cents for $43.24 in goods. My main concern was figuring out how to spend a $12 xbuck I had. This seemed like the right week to go for it because some good CVS brand products are BOGO. Here is what I bought:

The 4 boxes of mopping pads were BOGO. I earned xbucks on the deodorant ($3.99), the cotton puffs ($1), Cottonelle wet wipes ($3), and the CVS trash bags twin pack ($2). I had mfr coupons for the Soy Joy (free bar) and the two Reeces Whipped (BOGO). I had a $1 CRT on the deodorant. I stacked multiple CVS coupons also. In the end I had to add filler, so I kept adding the ravioli until I had enough on the register to use my $12 xbuck. Canned ravioli isn’t something I usually buy, but daughter can take them to work for dinner when she can’t find anything interesting in our refrigerator, and it’s only $1 a can this week. So, I spent a $12 xbuck, 82 cents cash, and earned $10 in xbucks.

At Walgreen’s, I especially wanted to get the .99 grated cheese because the price is just unbelievable. I did find some, and I also found some clearanced conditioners. I got two Vive Pros for $1.29 each, and had a $1 coupon on each. That’s a net of 29 cents each. The Sunsilk was $1.12, with a $1.50 coupon. So I earned $ on that. Overall, I spent only 20 cents on the three bottles of conditioner; $6 for my entire cart.

The Professor shakes his head in disbelief when he goes shopping with me, but he also sees how much time it takes me to clip coupons, file them, pour over the ads, write my lists, and figure out the best deals. He tells me every week how much he appreciates what I do to save us money. And I think it’s a fun game!

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Painless Ways to Save $100

Crystal at Money Saving Mom asked for a list of Five Painless Ways We Saved $100 in 2007. Here is my list:

1) I started doing the CVS thing.
2) We ate out using our own dollars just twice during the year. Several more restaurant meals were gifts given to us, or, in one case, a prize won.
3) I saved lots of money on gas by piggybacking errands on other trips I had to make anyway (like college kids drop-off at school).
4) I line-dried about half of our laundry.
5) We borrowed DVD’s from the library at no cost, instead of paying rental fees at the rental store.

It’s hard to limit my list to just five, so here are more:
6) We trimmed our Christmas budget by about one third. I can’t honestly say that it was totally painless, but it was necessary since prices have gone up on so many items, especially gasoline.
7) I cut everyone’s hair but my own.
8) We grew some veggies this summer.
9) We don’t have cable TV.
10) I cooked from scratch.

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A Homemade Bread Day

Time to clean out the refrigerator and use up all the little bits. Leftover pancake batter, barley flour (that was a mistake; I accidentally ground barley instead of whole wheat kernels), and some aging sourdough starter, blended together in my big ceramic bowl; it sat on the counter to work its magic all night. This afternoon I enjoyed the smell of bread baking in the warm kitchen. It is a nice contrast to the chill of outdoors on this gloomy day as we await the possibility of an ice storm. Or snow storm. Oh! Just as I write I see giant fluffs of snow falling outside my window! Briefly ~ they are gone now. No matter; the warm bread is homey anyway.

My next cooking projects will involve sweet potatoes, a tiny bit of beef broth, lemonade, chocolate icing, and rice. But not all in the same dish! Then the refrigerator will be tidy again.

Later, with a tidy refrigerator~
The sweet potatoes I simply baked in the skins and served with butter. I used the beef broth as part of the liquid in broccoli cheese soup (leftover broccoli from dinner). I made a pan of brownies and frosted them with the leftover chocolate icing. Someone ate the rice plain. And finally, I made “Easy Lemon Pie” with the leftover lemonade concentrate. That was the favorite dish I made from these leftovers. It really is very easy: blend together 6 oz lemonade concentrate, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and an 8-oz tub of Cool Whip. Pour into a graham cracker crumb crust and chill. Yum!

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