Sorry For My Absence

Hello everybody, I want to apologize for my absence as of late.  This has not been a good year for us.  My husband’s cousin died suddenly right after the new year began, so he had to take a few days off to fly up to Chicago for his funeral.  Then my daughter and I both chose to leave our jobs at Dunkin Donuts for a variety of reasons (my main reason was so I could spend more time on the job search); our last day was February 14.  My daughter lucked out and got a job at a local Publix about a week later; it’s a GREAT job, the only downside is that I have to drive her back and forth five days a week, and it’s a half hour away (one way).  So I have been putting nearly 400 extra miles a week on my SUV since then.  Then in March, my father-in-law passed away (Alzheimer’s Disease), so we all drove up to Chicago for that funeral (he died down here but was interred in the Chicagoland area); this gave us another week of no income.  In short, since January we have literally been living paycheck to paycheck, and not even that most weeks.  Lately my daughter has been buying milk, bread and other staples for the house because we have NO money for even that.   And the latest is that we have to move from the house where we have lived the past nine years; it is owned by my mother-in-law, and because of things happening throughout the past several years, we have not been paying her back.  It is OUR fault; so we are not refusing to move.  My husband did ask her for a little more time so the kids could finish their school year and have more time to pack their things, and she agreed.  After he had a long talk with his mom, he decided – and I agree completely with him on this – that we should move regardless of whether or not she says we can stay longer.  As it turns out, there is a house down the street from his mom (same subdivision, a block or so away from us) that is inhabited by gangbangers.  Yeah…we are SO outta there…

 

But the good news is…I just got a job!!  After months…no, YEARS…of searching, in the past two weeks I have received THREE job offers.  Two are companies that do outsourced customer service for other companies; and I’m not thrilled about those because they are very similar to Telerx in structure and pay (plus one was nearly an hour from the house).  The third is for Publix, but a different store than the one where my daughter works.  My store is literally halfway between the house and her Publix; I drive PAST it to take her to and from work.  LOL  I should start May 28, unless that training class is cancelled (due to Memorial Day being that weekend); in that case, I would start a week later.  The sooner the better – I want to have a paycheck again.  We NEED to catch up.  Especially with the coming move, I need to be able to contribute towards the bills more than I have been.  Because of the money issues to this point, couponing has been a rare event for me.  I’ve gotten a deal or two here and there, but nothing like what I was getting.  I am going to have to be very careful with my spending right now, because we need to be able to finance this move; but I will be posting some other things as I can (we have no internet at home so I must find time to go to a hotspot).  

 

Thank you all for following my blog and for your understanding.  I am trying very hard to keep up with things but in light of recent events for us, couponing has had to take a back seat to other, more pressing matters.  I plan to be quite successful at Publix, as does my daughter; and it will only facilitate my couponing addiction when I am able to return to it full force…lol… Yes, it definitely helps when one works at a grocery store!  

Lunchables Deal @ Publix

A few months ago, I happened to acquire some peelies (coupons that are stuck to packages in stores) for $1/1 Lunchables Uploaded Walking Tacos.  I used a coupon here and there, but most of them stayed in my sorter because my kids weren’t eating that particular variety as much.  I honestly thought they would end up going to waste…

 

But no, once again my reluctance to immediately use the coupons has paid off.  Last week another blog I follow posted a Publix deal, where the Walking Tacos would be $0.50 each after using a $1.50/2 coupon.  At first I thought, “Darn it, I don’t even have that coupon…”  Then it dawned on me…I have a BETTER coupon!!  And to make things even easier, I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to make this purchase, because my daughter works at a local Publix!

 

 

The BOGO makes each box $1.25.  Factor in each $1/1 coupon, and each box costs a QUARTER.  Yep, only twenty-five cents.  SCORE.  We’ve been stretching our money quite a bit lately, because our trip to Chicago in March set us behind several weeks on many of our bills; so to be able to get my kids Lunchables for school at such a low cost is a literal Godsend right now.  One of my kids has been going without a lunch, preferring instead to eat after school.  Now he doesn’t have to do that for a while.

 

 

My deli drawer is so full, I had to relegate my lunchmeats and cheeses up to the fruit drawer.  LOL  I have 21 so far (20 bought this week, and one left from a purchase a few weeks ago).  Tomorrow I will be using my last nine coupons, so I will have a total of thirty Walking Tacos.  That should last us a while…a few weeks at least…

 

  

When all is said and done, the bottom line is that I will have spent $5.50 on thirty Lunchables, and I will have saved $45.00.  I can deal with that…I can most DEFINITELY deal with that… The sale runs through this coming Thursday (4/28), so if you have any of these coupons, head over to Publix and snag this deal!

So sorry!!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I wanted to let you all know I’m still around.  Since January, we have had two deaths in the family, plus I am still battling some physiological issues (long story short, neck and arm pain and weakness, plus now sciatic pain in my left hip and leg).  I have not done as much shopping as I normally do, but am still doing a little bit.  We have dipped into my small stockpile somewhat, so I will need to work on that in the next couple of months.

 

The next two weeks are VERY tight for us, as in NO spending unless absolutely necessary.  Basically, milk and bread is all we can afford.  We had to use all available monies to go to Chicago last week for a funeral.  After that I plan to look for some good deals so I can rebuild my stockpile, and maybe even grow it a little bit.  Let me see about working on some other types of posts for you!  Anything in particular you’d like to see?  Let me know!

Vacuum Deal

People always ask me why I’m in several couponing groups, and why I follow so many other savings blogs.  Few seem to understand that the groups and blogs can be a goldmine of information, that just one post can mean the difference between having to save up to replace an appliance or being able to buy it immediately.

 

I’ve been couponing for a few months now; my savings aren’t amazing, but I have saved enough that I am comfortable making the purchase I just made.  I had two vacuums; an older Dirt Devil and a Bissell Pet Hair vacuum that was about five years old.  My older daughter killed the Dirt Devil in Dcember, and the Bissell decided to stop working right after New Year’s.  I do have an older Roomba, but with a dozen cats and two German Shedders (aka German Shepherds lol), I would have to clean the Roomba literally every three minutes.  That is NOT happening…

 

Tonight, in a group run by a very well known and reputable insert seller, someone posted an image of a Shark steam mop they got for 60% off, and also gave the promo code in her post.  I don’t need a Shark steam mop since I already have one; so I went to the retailer’s website (Macy’s) and started trying Shark vacuums.  The first two, the least expensive ones, would not accept the code.  I was beginning to get frustrated and discouraged; here I am with a valid need for one, and can’t catch a break one time.  

 

WRONG.

 

The third vacuum, just a bit more expensive than the other two, hit pay dirt.  I darn near fell off the bed, I was so shocked that it actually WORKED.  I rushed to complete the purchase, in case it was a fluke or the item went out of stock on me.  BOOM.  Shark vacuum for less than half price.  I was so excited, I splurged and upped the shipping to 2-3 day priority so I would get it faster.  LOL

 

 

As an added bonus, I will earn Plenti points on this purchase!  If you don’t have a Plenti card, you should really check it out.  It is much more than just a rewards card for Rite Aid.  I have used it when buying gas, and will be using it when I pay our cell and DirecTV bills at AT&T.  It all adds up, just with a few purchases at Rite Aid and one gas purchase I have over $18 in points available to me.  I can’t wait to see what THIS purchase gives me…  You can check out the Plenti program HERE.

 

I can’t wait to get my new vacuum!  I have always heard great things about Shark products; and I do love my Shark steam mop, so buying this was a pretty safe bet for me.  I will be sure to give it a good test run and post my findings for everybody!

Batteries Galore!

“MO-OM!!  Do we have any batteries??”

 

If you’re a mom, like I am (or even a dad), I’m sure you have heard this question countless times – probably at full volume, yelled across the expanse of the entire house…haha… And I’d wager that more than half the time, no matter what size batteries are needed, there wasn’t a single one to be found anywhere in the house.  It’s a scene that I have lived through many, MANY times.  Not this year…

 

A couple of months ago, when I was just starting to get back into the couponing game, I happened across a post in a Facebook group.  In it, someone was offering up multiple sets (side note; a set of coupons is typically ten of the same coupon) of a coupon for $1 off of any size Rayovac batteries.  Someone had commented that some Walmarts carried the $1 packs of Rayovacs.  Naturally, I got a bit impulsive, and decided to jump in on this deal; I got ten sets of the coupon.  That’s 100 coupons… Of course, I didn’t think to first see if my local Walmarts had those $1 packs, and I quickly discovered that not a single Walmart in my area carried them.  The Ingles by my weekday job had the Rayovac batteries on sale for 10/$10 (or $1 each), but they were completely out and were not getting more until after the sale was scheduled to end.  Frustrated with myself, I put the coupons into a little sorter in my purse and forgot about them for several weeks.

 

Two weeks ago, I was at Ingles, and to my delight the batteries were again on sale!  Because of a greedy, selfish couponer from the last sale, who had singlehandedly cleared out all four local stores not once but TWICE, Ingles was limiting people to four Rayovac coupons per day.  I was not to be deterred from my mission.  I had a wad of coupons to use and by golly, I was going to use every last one of them this time around!  It took four days of going to three of our four local stores (the fourth is a bit too far to make it worth the trip), often with one or two of my teenagers in tow, but I’ll tell you what…I managed to use every last stinking coupon in my sorter.  I only had to pay tax on each purchase, and for some reason three of the transactions had no tax due (possibly the cashiers entered the coupons differently and knocked out the tax on it).  So for 100 packs of batteries, my total OOP was $5.94.  Best haul EVER, and totally worth the effort.

 

It is frustrating when cashiers and managers are not knowledgeable in their store’s coupon policy, or when stores limit how many coupons can be used due to fraud or greed; but do not let it stop you.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Yes, I spent a bit more in fuel (and in Starbucks, which two of the stores so conveniently had right by the doors, haha), and it took a full weekend and then some; but we will not need to buy any batteries for some time.  I will let these photos speak for themselves…

 

 

We (my older daughter and I) decided to get:

  • 4 packs D
  • 8 packs C
  • 8 packs 9V
  • 30 packs AAA
  • 50 packs AA
This is mainly because we have a lot of electronic devices and toys, most of which use either AA or AAA batteries.  The 9V are needed for our smoke detectors, so I know we will need more of those by summertime.  Hopefully another good coupon will be released before then…LOL…
 

Just A Few Things…

I generally do not like shopping to begin with; add in the holiday season and I positively DESPISE it.  So any trips I do between now and the new year will likely be quick in-and-out runs.  This week I don’t have a lot of money so I am only going to get absolute essentials and a couple of items that will be free with my coupons.

 

I’m holding onto my Tide and Tide Pods q’s, looking for a decent sale.  I also have a TON of Rayovac $1/1 q’s because I was told the small packs were $1 at Walmart, but NONE of my local Walmarts carry them and I can’t find them anywhere else…so those will be held for a bit.  I’ve got q’s for a few of our essentials as well.  Then there’s THIS…

 

 

Forty of each q, which will earn me free string cheese and yogurt.  I cannot STAND yogurt – the mere THOUGHT of eating it makes me gag – but my family likes it so I will get it.  And the kids go through a TON of string cheese, so this will be forty less I have to buy.  LOL  Not shown are the twenty peelies I have that will get me some free Scotch tape (great time to get it, just in time to wrap Christmas presents).  Here is the stack of q’s I am currently carrying around in my purse…

 

 

The ones in the middle, with two of each color paper clip, are the freebies; I divided each into sets of ten, to do two transactions at each of our two large Walmarts.  The rest are q’s for essentials and other things we may want.  I’m looking for a way to sort larger quantities of q’s in my binder, which is why these aren’t currently in there.  Any ideas, guys?

Today’s Trips

I had a terrible headache that lasted most of last week, so I had not planned on making a shopping trip this early in the week.  I changed my mind, literally as I walked out the door this morning.  I ended up doing four stores before work and one after work!  

 

CVS #1:
– Four Tide, $5.94 sale, used four $2/1 q’s
– Four Dawn, $0.99 sale, used four $0.30/1 q’s
– One Tampax, $7.79 not on sale, no q

 

 

CVS #2:
– Four Tide, $5.94 sale, used four $2/1 q’s
– Four Dawn, $0.99 sale, used four $0.30/1 q’s

 

 

DG #1:

– Four Tide, $5.50 not on sale, used four $2/1 q’s
– Two Trix, 3/$9 sale, used two $1/1 q’s
– One Lucky Charms, 3/$9 sale, no q
(they only HAD two boxes of Trix or I would’ve gotten three of those)

 

 

DG #2:
– Four Tide, $5.50 not on sale, used four $2/1 q’s
– Three Trix, 3/$9 sale, used three $1/1 q’s

 

 

Target:
– Two SW gummy snacks, $1.75 on sale, no q’s
– Four Lunchables, 2/$5 sale, no q’s
– One cranberry sauce, $1.39 sale, no q
– Four Bounty, $1.02 no sale, used four $0.50/1 q’s
– Ten Purina Beyond, $9.11 sale, used ten $5/1 mfr q’s and four $2/1 Tgt q’s
(goofed and didn’t read the store q, four max per transaction, oops LOL)

 

 

Not phenomenal, but I’d say pretty dang good for an unplanned trip! Target was after work; the other four stores were all before work. Saved around 55% total.  I did goof and overlooked the part on the Target q that says max of four per day.  So I lost out on about $12, but I still saved a TON.  The cashier was quite impressed, actually.  She was hurrying to get home, and I was her last customer; so I wasn’t going to delay her by having her take six of the cat foods off and return my q’s to me.  She was super sweet and helpful, so I’ll eat the $12 (well, my CATS will, at any rate, lol).  I’m trying to find more of the $5/1 manufacturer q’s so I can try to use the Target q’s on more cat food.  If I can’t, no biggie.


Tonight I am awaiting my $10/$30 q’s for Kmart, because Super Doubles is coming up again and I know I will want to get more than just five items (first five q’s up to $2 each are doubled).  I should be getting some q-mail in the next day or two, hopefully.  I want my free ham steaks!  I’m going to start keeping a list of things I need to stock up on, so I can watch for those q’s more actively.  What other suggestions do you have to help streamline the process?  Share with us!

Weekly Missions Planned

I am still adjusting to being a full-time office employee again, so I have not planned much by way of couponing lately.  I’m a bit mad because I was told that some Walmart stores carry Rayovac batteries for a dollar, so I bought a slew of $1/1 coupons…and I can’t find the $1 packs ANYWHERE.  I will still use the coupons, because with four kids we tend to go through a LOT of batteries; but I was really hoping for a great deal on them.  The other one I’m not happy about is the Spam Snacks coupons; I was told that, again at Walmart, the coupons would make the product free and it didn’t even come close.

 

I just ordered a bunch of coupons for free Chobani yogurt.  I hate yogurt, absolutely despise the stuff.  It makes me gag if I even THINK about eating any, and from what I’m told Greek yogurt is nastier than regular yogurt.  But…my husband and children will eat it, so I will take advantage of the deal for them.  

 

I just printed out my Tide $2/2 coupons, so I think I will hit CVS tomorrow and get some $4 bottles.  It’s not half price (which is what I got last time, my bottles were $3 each because I had $3/1 coupons), but it’s not much more so it’s a really good deal.  I also need to go to Target and load up on some Purina Beyond for the dogs and cats; I have a $5/1 manufacturer coupon AND a $2/1 Target coupon, so I will end up getting $7 off each bag.  Their app shows prices as low as $9.59 for some varieties, so this is an awesome deal!  Finally, I need to figure out who has the best price on Trix cereal, since I just printed off my $1/1 coupons.  

 

I have some coupons being mailed to me as well.  I’m still waiting for my ham steak coupons, which will make the product free at Target for me.  I also have some peelies for Scotch double-sided tape coming, which will make those free at Dollar General.  Any day now I should be getting my Libby’s vegetable and fruit coupons (ten for veggies, ten for fruits), which are things we use all the time here.  Finally, I am waiting on my $4/1 Coty IP coupons so I can print them and run over to CVS; they will bring the gift sets down to $2 each!

 

This week I will be watching for coupons on toiletries – razors, tampons, toothpaste, etc.  My stockpile needs to be expanded; cake mixes and Simple Green cleaners just won’t carry us through!  LOL  So what’s on your list for the week? 

baked ziti

I love pasta.  I have a VERY picky son who, from a very young age, would only eat a few things.  The baked ziti from Sbarro (typically found in most major malls) was one of his favorite foods.  I found a copycat recipe online, and tweaked it to be closer to what Sbarro offers.  This is that recipe.  I often make two large casserole dishes of it and freeze one for later use.  Now that I am working full time during the week, I plan to make a few different things that can be frozen, so the kids can easily make a good dinner for themselves on the weeknights I am at work.  The recipe as written should yield one 9.5″ x 11″ casserole dish.

 

 

Baked Ziti (“tweaked” version of the Sbarro copycat recipe)

 

Ingredients:

— 2 lbs. Ziti (uncooked) — I used Farfalle, it’s the same shape as ziti but has the “lines” down the sides of it

— 2 lbs. Ricotta cheese

— 3 oz. grated Romano cheese  — I used Kraft Parmesan/Romano

— 5 cups Ragu Robusto Parmesan/Romano sauce

— 1/2 to 1 tsp. black pepper (to taste)

— 1 to 2 tsp. parsley (to taste)

— 2 cups shredded mozzarella (I suggest using the finely shredded version)

— 1/4 to 1/2 cup Spice World Minced Garlic (to taste)

 

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions – 12 to 14 minutes, until al dente, stirring often.  After cooking, drain well but DO NOT RINSE OFF UNDER WATER!!

 

2.  While pasta is cooking, preheat oven to 350.  Combine ricotta, 1.5 cups mozzarella, Romano, 1.5 to 2.5 cups sauce (use just enough to give it a pink hue), garlic, pepper and parsley in large bowl.  (I combine all except sauce first, mixing by hand – then add sauce afterward.) 

 

3.  Gently combine cooked pasta with cheese/sauce mixture.  Spread evenly into disposable pan (11.75″ x 9.25″ x 2.5″).  Top with mozzarella cheese; if you like, sprinkle a little more Romano on top as well.  Bake until mozzarella is thoroughly melted (usually 15-20 minutes).  While baking, heat remaining sauce in pot on stove.  Spoon ziti onto plates and top with sauce (if desired).  Serving suggestion; add a Caesar salad and some garlic Texas Toast! 

Getting Started – Tips and Tricks, Part Two

Now that you’ve had time to absorb the info from the first part of this series, let’s move on to the rest.  These tricks will help you at least get started with saving the most money possible.  There are a lot of things I still need to learn, but what I’ve discussed thus far is from my own experiences using coupons.  

 

7.  When you want to use a coupon, try to find it on sale if you can.  There are some apps available that will show you where items are on sale; the one I use is called Favado, and I will review it and other apps in a future post.  Another thing you can do is see if a store has their own coupon for an item; at most stores, you are allowed to use one manufacturer coupon AND one store coupon.  For example; if I need to buy deodorant for my son, I look at the current sales; I see that Walgreens has a store coupon for Right Guard printed in their weekly flyer, and I find a manufacturer coupon for the same item in my binder.  I can then go to Walgreens and present BOTH the manufacturer coupon and the store coupon, to get an even better price.  If the item is ALSO on sale, I’ve just nailed the trifecta of shopping.  

 

8.  Some stores still double coupons, either all the time or during special events.  A few stores also hold occasional triple coupon events.  What this means is that the value of my coupons, up to a specified limit, is doubled or tripled.  I have a grocery store that will double coupons up to 99 cents in value, up to five coupons per transaction, at any time.  I also have a grocery store that holds triple coupon events 3-4 times a year, where up to twenty coupons are tripled (also up to 99 cents in value per coupon).  If the items are also on sale, I save even more!  The best I ever did at a triple coupon event, having two of my kids do their own transactions (gave them each twenty coupons, a list, and my extra debit cards), was when I scored over $200 in groceries for under $25.  Usually, if I’m not really trying to match sales or look for store coupons, I can save an average of 35-50%.  Remember that many stores have loyalty programs as well; be sure to enroll at all of the stores you use.  I bought two 12-pound Butterball turkeys just this afternoon, and saved 50% with my store loyalty card, then an additional dollar with the coupon in my wallet.  If I had more coupons I would have saved more…

 

9.  Unless you are organizing coupons or redoing your binder, keep that binder in your vehicle.  Many people make unplanned trips to the store; and I have been caught unprepared many times, because I would see an item on clearance or unadvertised special and NOT HAVE MY BINDER WITH ME.  By the time I get back to that store, I’ve usually missed out on the deal.  Keep it with you.

 

10.  Once you start getting the hang of saving money, you’ll want to do it all the time.  You’ll want to go to every store every week and use as many coupons as you can find.  I’m here to tell you that this is a VERY bad idea.  You will quickly lose control of your finances, because while you are saving money you are still spending more than you normally do on higher amounts of the items you use.  You will also burn yourself out, trying to learn the tricks at every store you frequent.  Trust me on this.  Start small; learn one store and master it, and use a few coupons elsewhere while you do.  Once you’ve mastered one store, start learning another.  Get into a routine with one store at a time and SLOWLY add to that routine.  Don’t go hog-wild on buying everything you can just because you have a coupon for it.  If you have a budget, like most of us do, don’t go over your personal limit for those items.  If you absolutely need to, say if you get twenty amazing coupons for Tide and there’s a really great sale on it, tweak the budget and pull the money from another area (maybe give up Starbucks for a week, or don’t eat out one weekend).  

 

11.  Sometimes, you will go to buy something and find nothing but empty shelves.  This will happen, typically when there is a very good deal on an item.  Do not let it discourage you.  Most stores have multiple locations, so try another one.  When I was getting forty eyeshadows (most to donate, a few for my teenaged girls), I ended up going to five different CVS locations.  I was able to get five at each of the first few stores, and had to do a couple more stores before I found al I had planned on getting.  It was a deal that earned me $30 in ECBs (basically money to spend at CVS at a later time), and for those forty eyeshadows I paid around $10 for the applicable tax.  If you can’t or don’t want to go elsewhere, plan on trying on a different day if possible; I have even asked the store when they expect their next truck, and if they think the items will be on the truck.  You can also request a rain check.  I have never done a rain check for items for which I have a coupon, so I don’t know if you could use the coupon if they expire before the items arrive.  I try to avoid being one of those “crazy couponers,” who run to a store and literally wipe the shelf clean.  The Simple Green I got?  Six stores.  I have a personal policy of leaving at least half of their stock for others.  The most I got from any one Walmart was eight, because they had nineteen on the shelf.  The Tide?  Three stores, because the most at any one CVS store was eight and I didn’t want to wipe them out.  The cake mixes?  Four stores.  I did clear one store but they only HAD two to begin with, so I really didn’t think I had much of a choice (I wasn’t sure if other stores would have more or be equally barren).  Be polite and consider others, always.

 

LaundryRoom1.jpg  LaundryRoom2.jpg

 

12.  Finally, use the power of social networking.  Facebook has many good groups for couponers, and there are numerous other savings blogs that have a Facebook page.  There is also Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other sites.  I often do coupon swaps, when I have coupons I don’t need and someone who needs them has coupons I do need.  There are also coupon trains, though those seem to have dropped in popularity from just a few years ago.  Mainly, I use the groups as a tool for learning.  I watch posts.  I pay attention to how others use coupons to get free or cheap items, typically by doing many of the things I have written about in this series (matching coupons to sales, stacking manufacturer and store coupons, etc.).  I note posts that talk about upcoming deals and how to use the coupons with them.  I ask questions.  And network offline as well!  Ask friends and family to pass on any coupons they don’t need from their Sunday papers and mailings.  

 

That’s it for this two-part intro to using coupons.  I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from it.  If you have any additional tips, or any suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact me.  Happy couponing!