Feeding a Family, Freebies!, Shopping

Money Saving Mom’s New Budget Book

I have mentioned Crystal Paine several times, because her blog was my first introduction to effective couponing. So I am pleased to recommend her new book,

The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year

It’s available in Kindle or Softcover formats, but it would be most helpful in print,  because it has useful worksheets in it.


Although it’s not a comprehensive book like the one above,  you can also read her grocery shopping series on her blog:
31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget


Or “like” her Facebook page for more helpful advice.

She’s smart.


Empty Nest Meals, Shopping

Stocking for Two

After my last post, I grew somewhat smug about my ability to create real meals in spite of our hectic schedule.  When we got news that we were going to have guests, I assumed that it would be easy. Unfortunately, it was a work-all-day day. I was scheduled to work from 7-8, 10-1, and 3-9. With those brief breaks, it should have been simple to whip up a meal and leave it in the crockpot. I didn’t need anything fancy, so after consultation with my daughter-in-law, I decided that sloppy joes and store-bought potato salad (perhaps with a lettuce-y salad, too), would be ideal.  Between clients #1 and #2, I ran to the store and bought potato salad and ground beef, as well as some chicken breasts and pork chops. I dumped the entire package of ground beef into a pan, cut up some onions and cooked it all up. Drained it. Dumped it in the crockpot. Chili was starting to sound good, though, especially after I realized that I’d forgotten to buy buns. Yep, chili was a much better choice all around. I could make some 5-minute artisan bread to go with it. Normally, I would cook up dry beans, but I didn’t have time for that. I dug through the pantry and found several cans of black beans. No red beans or kidney beans. Well, it looked like I would have to cook some up. If I boiled them hard for a little while, they would finish cooking in the crockpot. But there were no kidney beans and only a handful of red beans. Okay. We like black beans.  I hadn’t yet opened the cans of beans when I realized that I had no tomato sauce. None. I had several cans of diced tomatoes, which would be good to add to tomato sauce for chili, but they really can’t replace ALL of the sauce.  Back to Plan A. I could pick up buns on the way home from client #2. I rummaged through the pantry and refrigerator and found one partial bottle of BBQ sauce. Not enough for sloppy joes.  I could have made more, if only I had some tomato sauce, of course.

It looks like my cupboards are bare of all those “ordinary” things I always took for granted.  The kind of things I picked up and put in the grocery cart from habit. Things I bought in the largest package available. Lately, I’ve just been shopping for things on my immediate horizon.  That sounds sensible, and it goes along with the good habit of using a monthly meal plan, but really… there are some things that I “should” keep on hand.  Many years ago, I used a master grocery list.  That helped me ensure that I had those basics in the cupboard.  Now, even though I rarely use it, I run out of ketchup! On the other hand, I have at least 8 cans of diced tomatoes and even more of refried beans. I keep buying those things because I can’t remember how much I have at home.

On a more important note, I’m nearly out of coffee. You would think that I could remember that. It’s a vital part of my day, but apparently not while I am shopping.

It’s a good time to reinstate that grocery list, ideally in conjunction with the menu planning.  Cooking for two is very different from cooking for a family, but it still requires organized lists! Starting one now: coffee, buns, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, ketchup…


Oh Yeah. I Rock.



Kmart Double Coupons Trip!

Olay Ribbons body wash – big bottle – $6.49

2 bottles Visine – $7.89

Dove Ultimate AntiP/Deod – $3.99

Dove Ultimate – $3.99

Tylenol Arthritis Pain – $4.79

60 Ct. BandAids – $2.50

First Aid Tape – $2.79

First Aid Gauze pads – $2.29

Pert for Men –  $3.49

Snaps Licorice – $1.79


Merchandise – $40.01   (pretax)


But after coupons….



(and that includes sales tax!)

Did I mention that I used my Paypal debit card, where I get cash back? So technically I only spent 97.5 cents.  😀

And some of that can be reimbursed by my FSA. I know that is really our own money, but it’s pre-tax and taken out of DH’s paychecks before we ever see it, so it feels like double-dipping.


Brand Loyalty

After writing that last post, I started thinking about “brand loyalty.” I refuse to have brand loyalty to something just because I started with that item – it has to prove itself to be really superior to other products, worthy of exclusive purchase. We don’t have many of those.

Brown sugar – C&H pure cane sugar. From Hawaii. Growing in the sun…  Virtually all other readily available brands of brown sugar are just white beet sugar with some molasses added for flavor and color. Ick.

QTips – my husband feels very strongly about this one. We have tried generic versions and the J&J nicer ones, but he wants QTips.

Kraft Miracle Whip – just one of those things. We have not liked any of the others nearly as well.

Sometimes, we avoid certain brands of things. Our newest tube of toothpaste is a definite loser. We won’t buy that one again. But it was free, so we will finish up the tube and move on to something else.

Otherwise, we are flexible.  With careful couponing, we get very nice things for less money than the generics (or even free!) Cereal is a good coupon item. If the only options are Fruity Pebbles and Golden Grahams, I usually skip it, but there are often good deals on more wholesome cereals.

We choose some items for reasons other than cost. I avoid high fructose corn syrup, so I buy Arnold’s  brand of 100% whole wheat bread at Walmart – $1.88 for the large loaf. I can get a similar sized loaf at Walmart or Aldi for less, but they both have HFCS, so I spend about 40 cents more for the better bread. I buy fruit canned in juice (instead of syrup) for my youngest son. I buy non-aluminum baking powder when I can find it. It costs a little more than the regular baking powder. We eat a mostly “whole foods” diet, so the majority of my coupon savings comes in household and personal items. Don’t be afraid to try new brands! If you hate it, you can console yourself with the knowledge that it was really cheap or free.

Feeding a Family, Freebies!, Shopping

Being Diligent

It’s very easy for me to not shop.  I am a homebody, and I often go from one Sunday to the next without leaving home. I like it. I have a husband who is glad to have me at home, so I don’t have to work outside of my home.  But by putting in an hour or two each week, clipping and organizing coupons and doing some online research, I can “make money” by reducing our grocery and household expenses.

No, I don’t buy things we don’t use, except when they are free or nearly free and I pick them up for the food bank or shelter. We are flexible in our tastes, however, and don’t have “brand loyalty” to more than one or two items. We will eat any cereal except for the sugary childrens varieties, and we don’t care about the brand of our soap, toothbrushes or toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, pain relievers, cough syrup, dish soap, shavers, cleaners, etc.    If they are free, I will even give cat treats to my dog.  He doesn’t seem to mind.

But I have to do it, and I have to leave the house and GO TO THE STORE.

I did that today – after coupons at KMart, I spent $5 at the register. I bought:

Secret Deodorant

Kotex Liners

Dental Floss Picks



Starbucks Espresso drink

2 packages of Playtex rubber gloves

Dawn Dishsoap

Pert Plus for Men

Everything was full size – no trial sizes. As soon as I got home, I filled out the mail-in rebate for the Pert Plus ($3.49). I also got two coupons from Kmart – one was for $5 off my next $25 purchase (total before coupons, and I will probably use that tonight or tomorrow) and the other was $5 off my next $50 purchase. I probably won’t use that one — I don’t buy that much!

So after the rebate and the $5 coupon, I came out about $3 ahead. And I will be going back soon.

I did very well at the grocery store, too. I had a number of coupons for free items, and I cherry-picked their sale items.

The coupons for free coupons are usually found on the company’s websites (Kraft often has some), and some come in the weekly paper. My favorite website for finding these is Money Saving Mom and if you are a forum junkie like me, you will also enjoy Coupon Mom Forums.


KMart Double Coupons this week

From MoneySavingMom:

It’s Super Double Coupon Week at KMart again this week (July 5-11, 2009). As usual, not all stores are participating. To check and see if your store is participating, click here and type in your zip code. If the cover of your weekly ad has a bright red box with $2 doubles on it, your store is participating.

Here are the important things you need to know:

::Coupons up to $2 will be doubled. No overage will apply.
::You can only double up to 4 like coupons per transaction.
::You can only double 10 total coupons per trip.
::Internet coupons are accepted.
::Your total before coupons must be at least $25 in order for the computer to double your coupons.
::Sales tax will apply to your pre-coupon total.

Due to the new rules imposed, the way to make the most of the Double Coupon event would be to plan to make multiple smaller shopping trips each totaling just over $25 before coupons and only using 10 doubled coupons total.


This is a really super deal if you have a good KMart. Last time I went, my store didn’t have a great selection. They are more expensive than Walmart, and their shelves were pretty empty. If you have a good store, however, you can get many free items. Take a look at the Money Saving Mom List to see some of the best possibilities.

Freebies!, Provision, Shopping


There have been a few fun samples in the mail lately, mostly shampoo, and a very nice sample pack of Huggies organic diapers. Those will be perfect for my new granddaughter, who will be arriving in late October.

Walgreens has changed their promotional system, and so far it doesn’t seem to be quite as profitable for me. I probably just need to get used to it — and be grateful for those freebies instead of whining about them. I was able to collect quite a bit of HBA for the food bank recently.

It’s been a tight time for ministries — remember them while you are shopping!  You may not need that free dandruff shampoo or denture adhesive, but there are people who do.  Feminine hygiene products are in short supply at the shelters, too.  This is an easy and affordable way for us to feed and clothe the Christ’s lambs when we don’t have money to donate.