Friday, February 29, 2008

Frugal Cooking

In an effort to cut costs in the area of food, I have been exploring some different techniques to accomplish this. In same cases, my frugal choices are also provide us with health benefits as well. Here are a few of my recent frugal choices:

1. Made my own spaghetti sauce. Prior to doing this, I had tried only one other time to make my sauce. It was not enjoyable. I cooked it in a pan that was too small, so it kept bubbling up and boiling over, and I actually burned myself. Plus, I didn't really even like the sauce. I found this recipe and decided to give it a go. It was a success. I'm not sure exactly how much I saved, but it tasted better and was more healthy for sure!

2. Using less meat than what the recipe directs. Last night I made a beef and broccoli stir fry, and I only used half of the beef that the recipe called for. I filled it up by actually doubling the broccoli. It was so yummy! And more veggies and less beef is always a more healthy choice!

3. Finding other ingredients to reduce. One of my favorite recipes is for a chicken pot pie. The recipe directs you to make it in a traditional pie manner. When I made it recently, I decided to follow my MIL's example of making pot pie and put it in a casserole dish. Doing it this way, I didn't put a bottom crust in the pan and just put one crust on the top. Since I had purchased a 2-pak of pre-made crusts (I may start making my own eventually), I still have a crust for the next time I make pot pie. Best of all, my husband said he liked it better with only one crust.

I have also saved money by stocking up on meat that has been at a reduced price. You can read about that here and here.

Be sure to visit Biblical Womanhood for Frugal Friday!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Grocery Deals!

Wow, there were some good deals this week at my local stores! I did some major price-matching at Walmart. I think pretty soon the cashiers are going to start running when they see me coming! Here's a few of the good ones. The original price is what it normally costs at Walmart.
1. Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts- 6.00 (3 lb. bag), PM to 4.47! This deal was amazing! I bought two bags, and I think I might go and get at least one more to stock up!
2. Secret deordorant- 3.48, PM to 2.19+50 cent coupon!
3. Various Pilsbury rolls, breads, bisquits- 1.93, and 2.00+, PM to 1.00+ coupons!

My friend Shelley told me about this site that helps you find all of the deals in the weekly circulars from your local stores. Every Thursday, I take the weekly circulars, go through and circle the items I'm interested in, and then later I will write them down and decide which ones I will actually add to my shopping list. Once I'm at the store, I will compare it to Walmart's price to see if I'm actually getting a bargain. If I'm not, I don't buy it unless it's something that I was planning to buy anyway. Since I've really been focusing on saving money, I've really started trying to plan my meals around what is on sale and also to stock up on things when they're at a good price. Case in point, the infamous rump roast from last week (which is going to give me four meals) and the chicken from this week. By doing this, I may be spending more on this week's (or last week's) grocery bill, but I'm spending less in the long run. However, with the assistance of this new site, I was able to find a few deals that I had initially overlooked. I also like that you can add the items you want to your list and then print it out.

I still spent more money today than what I eventually want to do on a weekly basis, but I'm not stressing about it. Number one, I figure there's a learning curve. Number two, I have acknowledged the fact that it takes a little extra money up front to stock up so that eventually you'll be spending less.

Recently, I've also been motivated to start looking into buying things like produce and meat more direct. My neighbor, whose in-laws operate a natural foods store, sent me this article, which really kind of alarmed me a little bit. That combined with the recent revelation into the beef industry and the recall of thousands of pounds of beef have got me wondering about finding a local farmer to buy from. Meat is not a major part of our diet, but I would like to know that what we are eating is of good quality. I also really like the idea of supporting local farmers. I'm looking forward to spring more than ever because it will bring the new season of farmer's markets. I'd also like to consider getting involved in this program.

I'm probably taking a week off from CVS this week. There weren't really any deals that grabbed my attention, and my ECBs have a couple of weeks before they expire.

I'm really thankful for all the ways God has provided for us, especially in just the last two days. I received a new assignment for some freelance work that I do (which is excellent money!), and we got our taxes back from the accountant tonight. God is blessing us with a very good refund, and we are so happy!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You Can't Beat Free!

Or can you?

Yesterday, I went to Walgreens to take advantage of their deal involving the newest Venus razor. They were offering a mail-in rebate for the entire purchase price of one of these razors, and yesterday was the last day to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, when I went in last night to buy one, the store was out of them. Thankfully, the manager offered to pick up one for me from another store, and to compensate me for the rebate, he said he'd just give it to me for free and completely bypass the mail-in rebate! Of course, I was happy to be getting the razor for free; however, I was planning on an even better deal. I had a $2 coupon, plus I had $4 off coupon to use. So, I was only going to pay $4 out of pocket, then get $9.99 back as a rebate. I was actually going to make $6! In bypassing the rebate, I bypassed my opportunity to make money.

Tonight, I went back to the store to get my razor. When the manager "rang" it up (to remove it from inventory), to our suprise it triggered the printing of a $5 dollar off coupon! Yeah! But now, I can only think of how sweet the deal would have been had I been able to do what I initially planned! I'm so crazy about saving money!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And the moral of the story is...Check your receipt!

I ventured out to Walmart for my weekly shopping trip. I decided this week to try just shopping for one week's worth of food. However, I was prepared that I was going to need to spend a bit more money because we were out of things that cost a bit of money...a couple of spices, olive oil, a few toiletry products that I couldn't work in at CVS, and filters for our humidifiers. However, I was also looking forward to scoring some deals by price-matching, namely on some beef- rump roast, reg. 3.50ish a pound; price-matched to 1.68/lb. It was going to cut the price in half. I also had some produce items to price-match.

Unfortunately, the cashier was new, had a little trouble but once someone explained it to her, she seemed to be doing okay. Then she hit the total button, and I almost choked. I know my eyes visibly bugged out of my head. It was 198 dollars! I was so discouraged, because I had really tried to be careful. I was sure that something wasn't right. I didn't want to make a scene, so I quietly paid my bill, took my receipt and pushed my cart out of the way to study it. Sure enough, as I was scanning down, I came to the realization that she had charged me full price for my reduced-price meat, not just once, but four times! That was $44! She had also double charged me for another item.

I remained calm as the manager at the customer service desk took FOREVER to figure out how the cashier had rung the meat up incorrectly. She was super-nice about it the whole time, though. In the end, I walked out with an additional $45! I still spent a lot of money, but $150 is much more acceptable considering all the extra items I had to buy this week. Plus, the chicken and beef that I bought will be used for 3-4 meals next week, so next week's bill should be much less!

Pay attention to your receipts!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Going Green

Sunday, I ran into Marsh Supermarkets to grab a few things to take to dinner at my sister's, and I saw a clerk filling up the display with these things. It's a re-usable grocery bag. I have been wanting to get some of these things for a while now, and they were only .99, so I bought 3 of them. For a while now, I've been completely dismayed over the number plastic bags that I end up throwing away every time I go shopping. A few get reused in our smaller trashcans, and my husband uses a couple each week to take his lunch items to work, but most just end up in the trash. These bags are a very good size, and can hold quite a bit. If you look at all I bought at CVS, I fit everything into one of these bags but the TP and the larger package of diapers. I will likely get a few more once I figure out how many I need at my next grocery visit.

Becoming more "green" is something that has been on my mind for a while, probably since the birth of my daughter. I have to admit that I have shyed away from it because of the idea of being more "eco-friendly" is predominantly perpetuated by liberals to the point where it becomes obnoxious, and I am not a liberal. My daughter's birth has led me to re-consider a number things regarding how I want to bring her up. The Lord has also convicted my heart regarding His command to be good stewards. To whom much is given, much is required. We are so careless in the way that we use and dispose of so many things.

Unfortunately, I was not raised in a family that made recycling a part of our lives. That is my next step. I am going to buy a trashcan to put in our kitchen for recyclables. Recycling plastics, glass, aluminum and the like is a little inconvenient for us because it's not included in our trash pickup. The nearest dropoff is a few miles away, so it will take some planning for us to accomplish this.

Another thing I am aspiring to do is find a way to cloth-diaper in a way that works for us. I recently discovered a site where I found a free diaper pattern, instructions and fabric. I'm not too handy with a sewing machine, but my mom is, and she thinks it looks pretty easy. I'll be posting more about this at a later point.

I'd also like to learn more about composting and whether it's possible with the small yard that I have.

There are so many changes that I could make. What are some of the "green" things you do or would like to do?

(Be sure to scroll down and check out my previous post.)

Choice: Disappointing Day at CVS...or...I've Never Been Good at Thinking on My Feet!

Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed. I actually completely planned out my trip to CVS, knowing exactly what I was going to buy, what coupons I needed and how many ECBs I would get back. I even had the items broken into three transactions to better maximize my ECB usage and therefore minimize my out of pocket (OOP) expense.

Here is how I had it planned:
Transaction #1:
(2) Huggies diapers- 8.99 ea
(4) Palmolive dishsoap- .99 ea
(1) Cottonelle TP- 5.99
(2) Cottonelle moist wipes- 2/$4

(2) $2 off Huggies (printed from internet)
(1) $1 off Cottonelle (printed from internet)
(2) $1 off 2 Palmolive
(1) $1 off 2 Cottonelle wipes
(1) $4/$20 CVS coupon
9 ECBs from previous visit
Total OOP (before tax): 10.93
Return ECBs: 15

That was the plan...however, I learned as the lady was ringing up my coupons that they only accept ONE internet coupon PER transaction. Not per item purchased, but per transaction. So, I couldn't use one of my Huggies coupons and my TP coupon. Now, anyone who knows me well from having spent extended amounts of time with me knows that I don't think well on my all. The exception seems to be when I'm teaching. Had I been able to think on my feet, I would have broken the transaction up and built up to the $30 I was required to spend to get the 15 ECBs. I believe that you are allowed to do that. Additionally, I discovered as I was ready to leave that the cashier also forgot to use my Palmolive coupons. Thankfully, she gave me the cash back for the coupons!

Actual OOP total (before tax): 15.03

Transaction #2:
Sambucol- 12.99
Fructis shampoo- 3.33
Fructis conditioner- 3.33
Tresemme conditioner- 3.34
(2) Colgate paste- 2.39

(2) $1 off Fructis
(2) $1 off Colgate (both printed off internet)
$4/$20 CVS coupon
15 ECBs from previous transaction
Total OOP: 4.77
Return ECBs: 14

I got hung up with the one internet coupon on this transaction, too, so I kept out one of the toothpastes. No big deal. The big thing on this one was that when I went to give her my CVS coupon, I gave this one coupon I had that triples ECBs earned on money spent at CVS. It also took 0.01 off my order. As a result of giving that coupon, I couldn't use my $4/$20 coupon! What a ripoff! Had I known that, I would have bought a piece of candy and used that triple ECBs coupon in a separate transaction. Additionally, again I didn't realize until I was on my last transaction that the toothpaste wasn't printing any ECBs, and it was costing me more than 2.39! Thankfully, the cashier gave me back the money that I overpaid, and told me to call the customer service number to get my ECBs. The best thing about this transaction is that I still have a mail-in rebate for the Sambucol, so I will get all of my money back.

Actual OOP total: 9.46
Actual return ECBs: 10 (with 2 more coming)

Transaction #3:
Covergirl powder: 7.99
Covergirl blush 5.99
Covergirl eyeliner 5.29
Covergirl mascara 4.99

(4) $1 off coupons
$4/$20 CVS coupon
14 ECB from previous transaction
Total OOP: 2.26
Return ECBs: 10

This one didn't end up being too bad. Only difference was I only had 10 ECBs from previous transaction because of the toothpaste goof. Plus, I had to add in one of the toothpastes to this transaction so I could use my coupon and get my ECBs.

Actual OOP: 8.25
Actual return ECBs: 10 (with 2 more coming)

In all, I got all of this:

...for $33.64, and I have (or will have) 14 ECBs for my next visit. Plus, I have a mail-in-rebated for 12.99. I had planned to spend $22.06 and leave with 10 ECBs. I missed out on saving $7. Oh, and I threw in that stuffed lion because it was only $2...
According to my receipts I saved 74.46 off of CVS's original prices (which are over-priced IMO) on my three transactions.
So, lesson to learn from my experience-- If you have internet coupons, plan accordingly for only one coupon per transaction.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Making money with CVS

Last week was my first trip to CVS since I have started learning about their Extra Care Bucks (ECBs). I must say, my first trip was great! I bought the following things: (2) 3 bars pk of Irish Spring soap, (3) bottles of Softsoap handsoap, (2) tubes of Crest, (2) bags of M&Ms, (2) bags of Dove chocolates and (2) bottles of Excedrin (100 ct.). I spent $26. I got back $19 in ECBs! Not bad!! All of it (except for the candy!) was stuff that we use. I used a lot of coupons.

This week, the deals weren't so great. The nice thing was that I found several things that I was out of that were on sale and a few gave me some ECBs. But, I spent all of my ECBs from my first trip, and I only got 7 ECBs. But, again, I used a lot of coupons.

As far as couponing goes, here's what I have learned: Clip any coupon for a product that you think you might use, regardless of if you think you will be "needing" that product soon. I've realized that I've passed up several opportunities to save big if only I'd had the coupons. I've found several sites that are helpful with couponing.
1. The Coupon Mom- this site not only hooks you up with different sites to find printable coupons and freebies, but it also helps you know what deals are in your area. On Saturdays, they post what coupons are going to be present in the paper each Sunday.
2. Slick Forums- This site has TONS of postings about all present deals, and each Saturday you can find the next week's deals, and they'll even post about what coupons you can use to get even better deals.
3. The Coupon Clippers- you can purchase coupons you want for a very small price. You do have to buy minimum quantities, so it's really only advantageous to order the coupons that only come along every once in a while for a product you use all the time or to get coupons for really great deals (like at CVS). Plus, the lady that runs this service is a pastor's wife and a WAHM, so I feel good supporting her business.
4. The Coupon Master- just like The Coupon Clippers. The minimum quanitity is less, and they stock different coupons, so it's worth it to check out both.
5. Freebies 4 mom- Here you can find daily deals with links to coupons and more.

Honestly, you can find some great coupons by just randomly going to sites of products you use and checking to see if they have coupons for printing. Also, try emailing the companies of the products you use often and asking for samples or coupons. You might not get anything, but it's worth a try!

This weekend, I'm planning to review my past bank account statements and see where our money has been going for the past couple of months. Once I get that info, I'll start working on our revised budget.

As far as time management goes, I would give myself a C-. I'm still having trouble limiting my time doing stuff that keeps me from getting anything productive done.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

New Focus

In the interest of some changes that I'm aspiring to make, I've created this blog. I plan to focus this blog on spiritual growth and my commitment to following God's design for a godly wife and mother. I have much to learn! Specifically, I'm looking to create an environemnt in my home that is peaceful and enjoyable to live in. I want to honor God in the way I manage our family's finances. I want to set a godly example as a woman, wife and mother to my daughter.

In future posts, I will share how God is challenging me in my walk with him. In addition, I will post my plans for financial savings and any bargains I find.