Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to Get Started-Part 5- Simple and Practical

I know I took a break from this "series" for a while. I fully enjoyed Memorial Day weekend and I have also been a little busier with work and with making baby food!! Excuses, excuses!

If you need to catch up on this series, you can find the previous posts here:
Start Small
Start Reading
Start Researching
Start Finding Coupons
Let Others Work For You

I think this is a good time in the series, and also in my endeavors of being a good shopper, to talk about how to be simple and how to be practical when learning to save. Fitting, huh?

Simplicity. Finding the most basic and efficient way to do something. If you keep it simple, it will be much easier. We try to teach babies how to crawl before they walk, how to swallow before they chew, how to swim before they jump in. And shouldn't it be the same with saving? If you feel like you need to buy a bigger home because your stockpile has gotten too big, maybe you need to deplete your stockpile. If you are buying lots of food products that are on sale, but can't eat them because none of them can go together in a meal, maybe you need to rethink your purchases. Keep it simple. Buy things your family will use or you can gift. You may save $50, but if you still spend $100 that you wouldn't have spent this month, is it worth it? Is it just going to clutter your home or cause you to go over budget? Is it going to cause stress?
Keep it simple.

Practicality. This goes along with keeping it simple...keep it reasonable, realistic and doable. If you don't own a cat, don't stock up on cat food just because it is such a good deal. I talk a little bit in this post about why I chose to buy the things I did on a recent trip to CVS. It was cheap, and I had a coupon, and I knew I would use it! That's it. Be practical with your purchases.
Keep it practical.

That's what I'm all about here. Trying to keep things simple and practical.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Shopping Trip to Wgs

Last night I was looking at the Walgreens deals for next week and I decided I was not very excited. But I had $16 RR that were expiring Sunday and I would much rather roll them than to purchase things just to use the money and then have to start the "rolling" process all over again. Especially since my goal is to spend as little as possible oop each week.

So, I made a stop today. I knew they had the calcium for $8.99 and yielding a $9 RR. I had $9.50 RR I was going to use so I knew I would need some fillers. As I was flipping through the flyer to remember what was on special I ran across the .59 Butterball Chicken Broth! Perfect! 2 weeks ago when I was shopping I received 2 $1/2 for Butterball broth at Wgs. Niiice! Just needed one more thing at about .16 to get to my $9.50 RR (and I wanted to stay as close to this as possible while still buying something of some use. I found hair bands on clearance for .20. Again, perfect!

So here is what I got:

1 Posture D Calcium Vitamins @ $8.99
4 Butterball Chicken Broth @.59 each
1 2-pack hairbands @.20

I used 2 $1/2 Q for the broth
I used 2 RR for a total of $9.50

I paid $.57 out of pocket
I have a $9 RR for another trip
Total Savings: $15.23

Nice random trip to Wgs for me! How did you do?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Making Applesauce for Baby Food

I have heard before about people making their own baby food. Before I ever had a baby of my own I thought these people were probably nuts or just had absolutely nothing better to do with their time.
I have started making my own baby food. I am not nuts. And I do have other things that are always needing to be done. But it is more fulfilling, more rewarding, and less tedious than I once imagined. I have done carrots, avocado, banana and now apples. This is the first time I have remember to document the whole process so I can truly show how easy it is and how much money it can save.
The first thing I did was buy the apples. I know. It's that simple. You can read more about that here. Next, I peeled them. I like to peel first, then cut. This is a personal preference. I am also really excited about the fact that I put these peels in my new compost pile! This part took me about 20 minutes (for 19 apples. my husband ate one, so this has thrown my numbers off a little).
After they were beautifully naked, I used my handy dandy, but not so sophisticated, apple chopper. It does the job just fine. And this part only took me about 5 minutes.
I put them in the pot, added enough water to almost cover them (that's it, just apples and water), brought them to a boil and then turned the heat down to let them simmer (with the lid on). This is the time when you can really start to enjoy the aroma that this creates in the house. This is also a time where you can go get other things done, like feed your infant, or water your garden, or fold some laundry, or just be lazy. I don't know how long exactly that I let them simmer, I just kept checking until I decided they were nice and soft, ready for the next step. It was maybe 30 minutes or so.
After the apples were soft and a little cooled down, I strained them, making sure to reserve the liquid. This has nutrients and flavor and is great to add back in to the apples in the mashing part until you get the consistency you desire (or need for you age of child).

Adding liquid as needed. I would add small amounts at a time, then test the consistency until I got it how I wanted it.
This is what mine looked like. Pretty much looks like store-bought unsweetened applesauce. Then I poured it carefully into my ice trays. I think the ice part of my trays are a little smaller than normal, about 1 ounce each. I filled 5 trays and left 8 oz in the fridge to use sooner than the rest. The pureeing/pouring/covering took about 15 minutes total.
I covered the trays with aluminum foil, put them in the freezer, and once they are frozen through I will put them in ziplocs and label with the date and name. All done! Oh yeah, there is a messy kitchen now...but that'll only take about 5 minutes too.

All Told:

Time: 30 minutes to peel, 5 to chop, 30 to simmer (can do other things here), 15 to puree and measure, 5 to clean. About 1.5 hours, but only about 1 hour work time.

Tools I used: knife, apple cutter, cutting board, pot, strainer, bowl, food processor, pour cup, ice trays, aluminum foil

Smell: Amazing aroma fills the house!

Amount Made: about 88 oz!

Cost: Each apple cost me about $.26 ($.78/lb). I used 19 apples (silly husband messed this up). So, I paid $5 for the apples and got 88 oz of applesauce, meaning $.05/oz.

Savings: Baby food jars are 4 oz of food and you can maybe find a best price of $.50/jar or about $.12/oz. At that price I would have paid $10.56 for the 88 oz I made. This means I saved over 50% (if I could have found this at the cheapest price possible).

Verdict: I think it was well worth my time. I saved money. I know it is good and healthy. I made my house smell lovely. I will do it again, and I will continue to try more foods!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Homemade Baby Food

I saw that my Kroger has Organic Braeburn apples on sale this week for .78/lb! That's a great price, so I made sure I got by there to get some for making applesauce for my son.

While I was there I also got some bananas just for eating (I like them to still be a little green) and noticed some that were marked down because they were a little older. I got them home and realized all this meant was one had two bruises, one was opened a little bit, and they were already yellow instead of green. My husband likes them more yellow, and I knew they would make great baby food since they are a little more ripe. The newer bunch was .38/lb and the older ones were .29/lb.

I bought an extra recyclable bag while I was in there (they are .80 each right now), just under 7 lbs of apples and almost 5.5 lbs of bananas. For $8.11. I saved $8.48. I was pleased with this, and am greatly looking forward to breaking these amounts down even further once I have made all the baby food to see how much I paid compared to buying prepared food for him.

I'll write another post once I have figured up all the numbers. I am estimating that 1 banana will get me 2 meals (how my son is eating now) and each of these bananas coast me .12, meaning that each meal cost me .06! I like that number!! Much better than store-bought!

WFMW - Dusting

I am not one for hard-core cleaning.

I am especially not one for dusting. To me, this is hard-core cleaning. I prefer the shove-under-the-bed or in-a-closet technique. When we have people coming over. I would like to think that anyone could stop by my house at any moment and I would be comfortable with how it looks, but I would be fooling myself with that thought!

But I have found recently that I do enjoy dusting. Just a little bit. I don't know if it is so much the act of dusting I am enjoying. Or maybe I am enjoying that I am killing two birds with one stone (or, more accurately, I am making two uses out of one thing) and I am not spending hours doing it!

I would normally take the laundry out of the dryer, fold the clothes/towels/sheets/etc. and throw the used dryer sheet away. (I know I make it sound like I do this all in a very timely fashion, but I would be fooling you if you thought this was true. It's more like do the laundry, remember a couple days later it is in the dryer, bring it upstairs the following day, walk around it in the living room for a few days, get items out as I need them, and then maybe fold it when we are going to have someone over.)

Back to the dryer sheet. It begs to be used more, so I have given in to it's loud cries of agony over wanting to be used to it's fullest potential.

Why not take that sheet and dust a little. I don't try to do the whole house. This would be hard-core if I did. I try to pick a different room each time I have a sheet ready. And that's all I do. This keeps it from overwhelming me, but also keeps the dust from overtaking my house. One small step at a time. One room at a time. One dryer sheet at a time. And over time, my house stays cleaner!

This is what works for me. Check out other great tips over at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dunkin Donuts Sample

I love getting cheap or free coffee! Get some for yourself today!
Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

Canning Book Giveaway

I know canning my own food would be another great way to save on my grocery budget. I am hoping to win a book from Coupon Geek to learn the art of canning. You can enter too, just go on over here.

CVS Deals I Got

I wanted to go to CVS on Sunday because I wanted so many of the Only Sunday/Monday deals. Unfortunately it did not work out this way, but I still got some good stuff yesterday:

I started with $4 in ECBs (that I had had for a month because the deals hadn't been that great lately)
I spent $1.72 OOP.
I saved $30.65.
I now have $7.99 in ECBs.

I wanted to get the Post Trail Mix cereal (which would have been free) and I tried to find the small bottles of Nutragena sun care which would habe cost $3.98 (would have used ECBs) but I would have gotten $10 back in ECBs. I may keep looking for these little bottles if I get the opportunity, but have a feeling everybody beat me to it!

Still a pretty good week, and definitely under my $5 challenge (weekly spending limit at drugstores/Target combined). I may even make this amount lower next month!

How did you do this week? CVS or Walgreens for you? Or Rite Aid?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Before and After: Changes in Picking Recipes

Happy Memorial Day!

I am currently at my parent's house, out on a lake. Sadly the sun is not shining. But I am enjoying trying to pretend like I am on a real vacation.

As for meals this week, We are going pretty low key. It is the end of the month and I am trying to stay under budget, thus we will likely be using food from the freezer mostly. Chicken BBQ for lunches, Mandarin Chicken for a couple dinners, Enchiladas we still have from Saturday. I am making one meal that I already have all the ingredients for: Creamy White Bean and Apple Chili.

This past weekend I spent some time in my house trying to de-clutter and organize a little bit. I like taking small steps at this so I don't get overwhelmed. My small step this past weekend was organizing my recipes. I have magazines, torn out pages, printed off pages, etc. As I was going through all of this stuff, I realized that trying to live my life more simply has caused me to look at all these recipes and recipe books a little differently. Here are some things I noticed about how I decide what recipes to keep and/or star for a later use: (by the way, I should have taken before and after pictures, but wasn't smart enough to think of this before I started, but I feel much better about the organization and new empty space I have created in my kitchen and breakfast area!)

Before: If the picture looked good, and maybe even elegant I would keep it. A picture is a definite.
After: Still gotta have a picture, and it's got to look good, but now I look for simplicity, not just elegance.

Before: Make sure I could at least find all the ingredients at a grocery store.
After: Look for ingredients that I already have on hand, that can easily be used in other recipes, and are not exotic, hard to find or overly expensive. The fewer and more versatile ingredients (without getting all boxed or pre-made items) the better.

Before: Look for something that will taste good when made, and hopefully still taste good for leftovers.
After: Look for meals that are good to eat, will be good for leftovers, and will freeze well. Also look to see if the meals can be made in advance and still retain the best flavor.

Before: Is there a possibility, any possibility, ever, that I might one day, any day, make this meal?
After: Will I actually make this any time soon?

Meal Planning:
Before: Find recipes that look good, buy the ingredients, and hope I don't have to go back to the store tomorrow for what I forgot.
After: Plan for a month at a time, looking at activities we are involved in, days we need meals and days we might not, plan for meals that will use similar ingredients so none will go to waste, plan for foods that are on sale at the stores

I'm sure there are more things that subconsciuosly go through my head, but these are the most prevelant. How do you decide what recipes you will make? Is it working for you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Get Started Part 4- Let Others Work For You

We all want to save money, but sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming to even get started. This series is meant as an aid to get you started in the business of saving money for your family.

If you need to catch up on this series, you can find the previous posts here:
Start Small
Start Reading
Start Researching
Start Finding Coupons

Since this is the business of saving money for your family, I want to talk about the need for allowing others to work for you in the business.

Here's what I mean:

There are already people researching all the latest deals, finding all the coupons, learning the system and writing about it. There are blogs, websites, photos, lessons, descriptions, scenarios, anything you might need to know about a store near you is out there somewhere. Don't try to duplicate all the work that has already been done. Enjoy it. Thank the writer. And gratefully use their advice to make your "business" grow.

Need an example? Surviving the Stores has a tab each for getting started, Walgreens and CVS, and each of these go into great depth about what to do and how to do it. On a weekly basis this site shows the deals for the drugstores, the coupons that work with the deals, how to do the deal, and even some scenarios of how to purchase the items while spending the least amount of money. Instead of doing all the research to figure out all of this information for myself, I gladly go here to get started on saving money.

Another thing you want to do while you are learning how to start, but something that has likely already been done for you? Learn the system. Each store has different deals, coupon policies, rebate programs, etc. It is best to try and learn how the system works first so you can again let the system work best for your benefit. Again, this has already been done for you, so don't try to spend all your time on this. Deal Seeking Mom has some great info on various drugstores and how they work.

You can see even here that I am not trying to redo what has already been done. I am trying to give you the simple steps (and links) to getting started with saving money for your family.

Got questions? Need more info? Ask away!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Homemade Baby Food

I started looking into making my own baby food a while back, well before my son was ready to start eating food, but I figured I needed to start understanding the process for when the time came.

The time is now!

I just made carrots for the first time for my son! Had some carrots I did not want to have to toss, so I decided to cook them up and give it a try. Put most of it into an ice tray to freeze, but thought I would try some while it was warm and fresh. It was so easy to remove the skin, chop, steam, and puree, adding water for the right consistency. Faster and cheaper than going to the store to buy in a jar!

He ate it all and didn't make any disgusted faces either! We've done cereal and some avocado mixed with cereal, but this is a first for a vegetable on it's own.

I am so excited about the possibilities as well as saving so much money this way!

Hulu Works for Me

Ever heard of Hulu?

If so, then I'm sure you already LOVE it!

If not, then you are surely missing out!

Maybe I watch a little too much TV. Maybe I am addicted to a few shows. But these are my friends! If I miss a week it's like I am missing out on what is going on in their life. I need to catch up. I can't let our relationship drift away. (a little dramatic, I know, but this is really what it feels like sometimes.)

I initially fell in love with Hulu just after I had my baby. He didn't like sleeping at night and i had a hard time staying awake with him unless I was occupied. And I found Hulu. And among other shows I found Bones. And I was able to watch almost every show from every season thus far (over a period of a few weeks of course).

Some pros:
Watch anytime you want, just go to to find what you want to watch.
It's free.
If you don't have cable (like me) it increases the availability of things you can watch.
There are clips, shows, movies, cartoons, documentaries, just about anything you might be looking for.
The "commercials" are much shorter, so an hour-long show is about 40-42 minutes!
If you watch multiple show that are on at the same time, you know you will eventually be able to catch up on the one you couldn't watch on TV.
If you can't sleep at night and don't want to watch infomercials, this is for you!

Check it out today. This is what works for me, head on over to We Are THAT Family to get more great tips for what's working.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Things to do this summer!

Summer is fast-approaching. And with this comes a lot more free time for kids at home. They are so excited to finish the school year, but are often bored after the second week.
I highly recommend helping kids to learn to be self-entertainers. I mean this in a way that they aren't constantly bothering you, the parent, to help them figure out something to do. Not only will this help their creativity and imagination to continue to develop, it will also allow you the freedom to still get things done.
I also highly recommend kids staying active during the summer. It can be so easy for kids today to become inactive, lazy and overweight in today's culture. Help fight childhood obesity and keep your kids active!
Lastly, here is a link to some free and cheap opportunities for you and your family this summer, thanks to The Simple Dollar.

Wendy's Frosty Coupon

Craving something cold?

Craving something sweet?

Craving some caffeine?

Get all three in the new Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty.

And get your coupon for it here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to Get Started-Part 4

Wanna save money but not sure what to do to get started? This is the place for you.

If you need to catch up on this series, you can find the previous posts here:
Start Reading
Start Researching
Start Finding Coupons

On to Part 4: Start Small

When I start something I tend to go all in right away. I decided I wanted to give this whole saving money/clipping coupons/blogging thing a try and I jumped in head first to the deep end. It worked out OK for me, at least because I have a husband who was very understanding and gracious during this learning period. But I don't recommend doing it this way.

Don’t try to go out the first week and get every deal that is mentioned. The people who write about all the deals don't even go out and get them all, they are just trying to inform their readers of all the possibilities.

Start with one or two things that you know your family will use and you know (because you have a fairly good idea of normal prices from regular shopping trips) is a good deal. In my area, CVS and Walgreens often have very good deals where I can work "the system" to get things for very cheap to almost free. It's a little tricky at first, but again, this is why you want to start small. Find out more about how drugstore deals work from Deal Seeking Mom here or Surviving the Stores here and here.

Don’t worry if you can’t find a coupon for everything. Eventually, you probably will be able to find a coupon for almost anything you want to buy, but don't overwhelm yourself in the beginning, just find what you can.

Don’t worry if you throw away an expired coupon. I am not the most experienced ever, but I have noticed that I usually throw out expired coupons a day or two before I get the exact same one in a paper or on line. It'll come around again.

Don’t worry if you only save $1 on your first try. That's $1 saved! Every dollar counts, and eventually you may be able to save more in coupons than you spend. This is a good goal, but eventually, not right away.

Don't be afraid to take some time to learn the systems, find all the coupons, find the best deals... and eventually you'll be a pro!

Update on Wgs Shopping Scenario

I made it to Wgs today. Went to the one that usually has more of a supply. I didn't do the best shopping I've ever done, and I didn't get everything I wrote about here (because they either didn't have it or it wasn't the price I thought it was going to be), but I still think I made out good, and still made out under my $5 challenge.

Transaction #1
  • Colgate Visible White toothpaste $4.49=$4.50RR
  • Skintimate Shave Gel $1.99=$1RR
  • Right Guard Deodorant Professional Strength $5.99=$5RR
  • Kraft Macaroni and Cheese .69 with in ad coupon (2/$3 regular)
Total before coupons:

Coupons I used:
  • $1/1 Colgate (printed this one and the register didn't want to take it, but the cashier was really nice and he made it work somehow)
  • .75/1 Skintimate from the 4/26SS
  • $1/1 Right Guard from the 4/19SS
  • b3g1 FREE for Kraft (made sure he scanned this coupon BEFORE scanning the ad coupon so that it will take off the full $1.50 instead of just 69¢) This coupon also says that it will take off up to$1.30, so I wasn't sure what the store would actually take off.
  • .69 in ad Kraft Mac and Cheese (takes off the right amount for all 4, even though it says limit of 3 and it already took off the $1.50)
Total after coupons: $10.98
  • Pay with $8 RR from last week.
Final cost $2.98 + tax or $3.67

Transaction #2
  • Edge Shave Gel $1.99=$1RR
  • Right Guard Deodorant Professional Strength $5.99=$5RR
  • Binder Tab Dividers on clearance for $.64 and needed for filler item
Total before coupons:

Coupons I used:
  • .75/1 Edge from 5/17 I think (now I can't remember)
  • $1/1 Right Guard from the 4/19SS
Total after coupons: $6.87
  • Pay with $6 RR from last week.
Final cost $.87 + tax or $1.30

Total Spent Today OOP: $4.97 ($.03 left to spare!)
Total RR used: $14
RR for next visit: $16.50

Not bad! How did you do?

Menu Plan Monday Wk of 5/18

This week is going to be an easy week. I have scratched off two things from my monthly plan that I originally made since we have extra food from last week. Things are lasting longer than I have planned for, so much better than the other way around!

Monday: Mandarin Chicken from last week
Tuesday: BBQ Chicken from grilling with the fam Saturday (instead of eating out like I originally thought)
Wednesday: Apple, Cheddar and Turkey Meatballs
Thursday: Minestrone soup from last month (it's been frozen, don't worry)
Friday: Anything that needs to be eaten from earlier in the week
Saturday: Pizza Night (DiGiorno was on sale at Walmart, so I used a couple of coupons I had printed last week)
Sunday: Creamy Corn and Spinach Enchiladas (love that I can start the crockpot before church and come home to a wonderful smell and quick meal)

What's your meal plan look like this week? Need some fresh ideas? Head on over here to view a great selection.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Walgreens Shopping Scenario 5.17.09

This isn't the best week at Wgs, but it is definitely better than last week, and I would rather use my $14 in RR on stuff this week (getting stuff I know I can use) and extend the life of my RR a couple more weeks (since they expire so quickly).
I would normally be at church right now, but since I could not go in today, I am coming up with my shopping plan. Here is what I would like to do and how I'm going to do it:

Transaction #1 (I think I am only going to do one, but we'll see how it goes)
  • Colgate Visible White toothpaste $4.99=$4.99RR
  • Skintimate Shave Gel $1.99=$1RR
  • Right Guard Deodorant Professional Strength $5.99=$5RR
  • Bayer Quick Release Crystals $2.49=$2.49RR
  • Kraft Macaroni and Cheese .69 with in ad coupon ($1.59 regular)
  • Dove Single bar Soap .99
Total before coupons:

Coupons I will use:
  • $1/1 Colgate (printed this one)
  • .75/1 Skintimate from the 4/26SS
  • $1/1 Right Guard from the 4/19SS
  • hoping to find the $1 Tear pad coupon for Bayer Quick Release
  • b3g1 FREE for Kraft (make sure they scan this coupon BEFORE they scan the ad coupon so that it will take off the full $1.59 instead of just 69¢) This coupon also says that it will take off up to$1.30, so I'm not sure yet what the store will actually take off.
  • .69 in ad Kraft Mac and Cheese (for all 4)
  • Use the $1 Dove Face Care coupon from the 5/17RP (if I am able to get out and find a paper, if not I will just not get this item)

Total after coupons: $12.08 or $12.37 (depending on how much is taken off for the Kraft)
  • Pay with $12 RR from last week.
Final cost should be either $.08 or $.37 + tax
  • RR I will leave with: $13.48 (or most likely $13.50 because they always round up when I get them)
Hope I can get all this at one store! I'll let you know how it goes!
Do you have any scenarios you are going to try, or already have tried if you got out early?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Halfway Thru No-Spending May

We are halfway through the month and it is going great! I love not spending money. I mean, I love finding deals and using coupons and spending as little as possible, but I am really loving NOT spending as much as we possibly can!!!
So here is an update on how we are doing, and what we are doing to try and spend as little as possible:
  • I love that I have gotten really good at finding the deals at Target and the drugstores, but I can often go a little overboard at these stores as well. I have limited myself to spending less than $5 a week at Target, Walgreens and CVS, combined, as I wrote about here. Week 1 I spent $.90 and week 2 I spent $3.16. Doing great so far!
  • We (I say we, but really it is just my husband) have been working on planting the garden, including tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers, and our peach tree is starting to produce fruit. I am so excited for the money we will save on all this produce this summer!
  • We got our second shipment of Boca Java coffee. We got 4 1/2 lb bags for only $4.95, and the coffee is really good. We (again, this is mostly my husband since he is more the one at fault here) decided that we should not be making coffee (a full pot I might add) twice a day! This will help our coffee last longer.
  • We also just did another deal with Gevalia yesterday, which means we spend $10 we didn't need to this week but also means we will get 2 more bags of coffee. And a coffee maker. And a carafe. And a travel mug. That's a lot for $10!
  • I made a menu plan for the whole month so that I could make sure I was making enough, but not too many meals, for us. And also so I could watch for deals better at stores, knowing what meals were coming up soon.
  • We decided we were not going to eat out at all this month. Not at all! Not $1, not the dollar menu, nothing. And we have stuck to this. Also helps that I had the menu plan and have stuck to it, so we have had plenty to eat in the house at all times.
  • I have put every receipt into a spreadsheet I have (for all spending I do, to track spending and saving) right when I get home. This helps me because I know exactly what I have spent this month and it is making me really thing hard about each item that I buy.
  • As much as I love coupons and love saving money, I have spent extra time at the grocery store in order to spend less money. Gotta spend more time to make sure that I am getting the best deal, even if that means not using a coupon because the store brand is still cheaper.
  • There are many other things we (again, husband here) have thought about buying this month. I told him it seems like now that we are NOT spending money he is coming up with everything we need. But ultimately, we are both trying REALLY hard to not spend any unneeded money this month, and from here on out, to make this more of a lifestyle. Our simple lifestyle.
I know there is more, but this is a good update, and I feel good about how we are doing. Stay tuned for more the come. This is FUN!

How to Get Started-Part 3

So hopefully you've had a chance to start reading and researching, and now it is time to really get into this whole saving thing.

Coupons! Star looking for them, start finding them, start saving them, start clipping them. Just start! You can buy a Sunday paper (get one from a bigger city as it will have more coupons in it), you can find coupons on line, or you can collect a combination of the two.

Coupon Clippers allows you to see each week what coupons are going to be in the Sunday paper. This may help you see if you don't want to buy a paper one week, or if you want to buy multiple papers on a week. I can't get a big city paper delivered to me where I live, but there are absolute advantages to doing this, and you can even get multiples delivered to you!

There are numerous places on line to find coupons. One of the first places is to go to your favorite manufacturer's website. Go directly to the source and you are likely to find what you are looking for. Go here to find a recent list of on line sources, just for kraft coupons!

No need to do again what has already been done great: It's Hip 2 Save and Bargain Briana both have a great reference page to all things coupons!

More reading and researching in all of this, I know, but you are soon going to find your fave spots for all the information you might ever need in life. At least all things in life having to do with saving money.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WFMW - Getting Back in Shape

Working out has also come fairly easily to me. I really enjoy working out. I enjoy any sport. I ran a marathon in college. I went hiking for 2 weeks in Arizona last year. Without a shower. As vacation with my husband. I studied health, exercise and nutrition in college. And so it goes.
But having a baby changed this for me. Not necessarily my desire. But my ability to make excuses why I shouldn't work out grew. And this is NOT good to get rid of pregnancy weight that was gained. And not just the weight, but being in shape was important to me. I wanted to be able to walk upstairs without getting winded, to carry my son without my arms fatiguing in the first 5 minutes.

So, how did I finally get back into it? There are a few things that keep me going.
1. I know that my husband wants to be active, so if I do something active in my day, then that helps to keep him accountable. He has no excuses.
2. I take classes. I belong to a Y and I find classes that I will enjoy and that will fit into my husband's schedule, so he can be home with our son. This allows him bonding time and makes it more likely that I will make it happen since I know the time is a set time.
3. I mark it on my calendar. I know I am going to do it, when I am going to do it, and this helps me to be even more likely to follow through with it.

I was not a "class" person at all before I had a baby. Well, a little in college, but mostly cycle classes. But this is really what has helped me to focus on getting back in shape, what has helped me to make it a priority.

This is what works for me. Head on over to We Are THAT Family for more great tips.

How to Get Started-Part 2

I don't know if you would really consider yesterday's post Part 1, but either way, it was an intro, there was a takeaway for you to start working on, and this is going to continue off of that. So there. This is Part 2.
I know it can seem very overwhelming to start trying to save money, but everyone is trying to do it these days, so give in to the peer pressure and just start. Yesterday I told you to just start by reading, by finding some books or websites and just start reading about what others are doing and how they are doing it. Again, everybody seems to be giving it a try, so there is a lot of information and a lot to learn in the process.

Research. Very similar to reading, but maybe a little different in that now you need to narrow your focus. Find people who blog who live in your region (so you have similar stores, etc). If you are a vegan and you want to know how to eat on a budget, that is completely different from learning to eat on a budget with no restrictions. Now it is time to start researching exactly what fits your family and lifestyle.
You will still encounter many blogs, websites, forums, etc. but now you will be finding ones that you want to bookmark because you know you want to go back. You know you want to be like the writer when you grown up. You know you want to make a meal as beautiful as the one in the picture. Whatever it is that draws your attention, you know you want to remember to go back. And you want to keep building this list. It is nice to have numerous references to go to when you are looking for something because everyone has their own way of doing things and you want to find what suits you best. Just like getting a second opinion when going to the doctor. This might not be life-threatening, but sometimes it feels that important to save money.
And give yourself time to do this. It won't happen overnight. You will find one site you like, and it may lead you to another, which has a link to another, which leads you in a different direction, all of which you like, but maybe the final one is the one you are truly fond of. It took time and patience (ok, maybe not patience) to get there. Be ok with that.
You can start with some of my faves in my blogroll to the left, or just start typing in some keywords on google to find what you are looking for, you might just be surprised by what you actually find out there!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nice to Meet You!

Yes, I am that person.
The one that thinks "If I know both of these people, then they must know each other!"
Yep, that friend that awkwardly stands by as a new friend of mine and an old friend of mine decide they must introduce themselves to each other, because I am not going to do it. But, surely if I know them then everyone must know them! So I'm not good with introducing people, and I think I may have possibly done a similar thing with this blog.
I began a quest to organize my life (after the baby), start couponing, start spending less, start planning more menus, and start blogging about it all. Mostly the blogging was for my own accountability to stick with the plans, but also a bit just in case I could possibly help someone else. But I think I left out the helpful part, the How To's of the process. I forgot to introduce my new friend (Spending Less) to my old friend (Reader). Woops.
So this got me thinking. And when I start thinking I started getting really excited. Not only would this help me to really think through the process and all the details of what I try to do, but it could help others who are just trying to get started (which is only a few steps behind me since I just recently started as well).
SO...I am going to start a How To series. Yep, I think, nope I Know, that this will take more than one post. Plus, it would be like trying to change your whole life in one day, it's just not practical, and I want to make these simple, practical and gradual steps that anyone can take. Get ready for some good stuff!
Wait! you said your excited now and you want a starting place? OK. Just start reading. This is such a hot topic right now since the economy is bad for everyone, so just start googling, or yahooing, or swag bucking, or whatever you do to search on the web and go for it. Try to learn a few new things today about how you can save a few pennies. Here's one place to go to get you started.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Wk of 5/11

Week 1 of my first month of planning out all meals and not eating out at ALL went great! We ended up having people over for dinner one night, but made it a potluck and finished with more food than we started with, easily getting us through the week.
Week 2 is now under way.

Monday: Random leftovers and corn on the cob (it's really good and cheap right now)

Tuesday: Mandarin Orange Chicken

Wednesday: Mexican "Un-stuffed" Shells (from the freezer) Used small shell pasta for this and just mixed it all together.

Thursday: Mandarin Orange Chicken #2

Friday: Cookout at a going-away party for some friends

Saturday: Eating out with the In-laws (I know, we are not eating out this month, but they have said they are taking us out, so as long as we are not paying for it, I will agree to go)

Sunday: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Night Out?

Looking for a great place to take your family to eat tonight without the steep bill at the end of the meal? Or maybe you want to leave the kids at home and take your spouse out for a great night, maybe even celebrate Mother's Day a couple days early instead of hitting the mobs on Sunday afternoon??
TGI Fridays is running a promotion right now on their salads and sandwiches, only $5 each! What a great price for a great meal! Head on over here to check out the details and menu for yourself. Hopefully you have one near you too.
Thanks, Mom, for the heads up. Is this a hint for where you want to go?:)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WIN Extra Inserts

A great way to save money is to enter now to win 5 sets of extra inserts. Just go on over here today or tomorrow by 10pm.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WFMW - The bottom of the candle

Today's Works For Me Wednesday post is supposed to be a frugal tip that works for me and I am excited (maybe a little too excited) to share what I do when I get to the bottom of a candle that just won't burn anymore...hop on over here to get more ideas or share one of your own.

I enjoy candles very much, recently finding that I really enjoy soy candles. They don't leave soot everywhere and I've found some very good deals recently to get some for very close to free (go to Target to get the new Glade soy candles). So, I burn them just like normal. I don't burn them all the time, but mostly when the cooking or the diapers have caused a bad stink, or when we are having company, so it sometimes takes a while to get to the bottoms.

Not too long ago I realized many of our candles were the very bottom, were very hard to light, and were just not working as well. We took just a little time to scrape out the bottoms, any remaining wax that could not be burned in the bottom. We took all the pieces from all the candles and put them in an old pot (one I didn't think I would need anymore) and made a double broiler so the wax could be melted over the boiling water and thus continue to let off the aromas. Even though there were many different candles, it just turned red, and the aroma is a beautiful potpourri that flows through the whole house.

This is what it looks like after it has all been melted together and then has set. Enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Budget Weekly Goals

I thoroughly enjoy finding great deals at CVS, Walgreens and Target. And I really enjoy trying to use the ECB's, RR's and gift cards that I accrue buy purchasing items in these stores to then purchase more items that will give me more ECB's, RR's and gift cards, and so on...
So with this new month and my new budget (and knowing that many of the things I get at these stores are not always needed at the moment but are always used eventually) I have decided that I will allow myself to spend no more than $5 in a week out of pocket (oop) at all of these stores. combined.
So here is how week 1 is going for me (and I am pretty sure I am done unless I see another amazing deal that just can't be passed up): I got everything pictured below, plus my non-pictured Aveeno travel pack valued at $9.99 (since it is advertised but was not sent to stores in my area...frustrating) for $.90. Yep. 90 cents oop this week.

I got the 3 Aveeno lotions at Walgreens on sale for $2.63 and I used the printable (don't have the link) coupon for $2 off each one. With this purchase I was supposed to get the travel bag, but they did not get them and I had to persuade the manager to give me a rain check showing that I had bought what I was supposed to get without receiving my gift! Weird that I had to ask for it and convince him!
The aluminum foil was my filler, on sale for .59.
I also used a $2 RR. Total oop was .90. I did not walk away with any RR, but still have $11 RR from previous visits.

I got the 2 glade candles (again this month! since I miraculously had 2 SS inserts in my one paper yesterday! yay!) on sale for $5.99 with 2 $4/1 coupons. I used my $5 gift card from the Special K deal last week.
Then I did the Fiber One deal at Target, buy any 4 and get a $5 gift card. I got 3 of the cereals on sale for $2.39 and used 3 $1/1 coupons. I also got 1 of the toaster pastries on sale for $1.79 and had .50/1 coupon for this. I used the rest of my $5 from the Special K deal and then my new one from the glade deal, and walked away with .11 still on one card plus a new $5 card.

I don't think I will get anything at CVS this week, but have $4 ECB for future trips.

I'm happy with week 1.

Menu Plan Monday

I was SO excited to create a menu for our whole month, and to already have done most of the shopping for it! Maybe a little too excited. I already know I'm a dork. But, alas, I am excited for this month and I am realizing how much easier this is making my Monday. Instead of trying to quickly compile something for this week and hope to get to the grocery store in the meantime, all I need to do is walk over to my calendar and follow the instructions. As you can see below I will be utilizing my crockpot a lot this week!

Monday: "Healthified" Cheesy Potato Chowder
Tuesday: CrockPot Salsa Chicken, and some friends to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!
Wednesday: Leftovers from Tuesday since this is a meal on the go
Thursday: Fajitas
Friday: Any leftovers from the week
Saturday: Pizza night
Sunday: Asian Peanut Butter Pork for Mother's Day

Saturday, May 2, 2009

April Budget Roundup

Another month gone.

Crazy, huh.

Another month gone! Where did it go?

I have been trying to keep track of my spending meticulously again this month. I think some receipts may have gotten lost through my husband, happens. We'll get better next month. We use and it works great for us and keeps even better track of every single penny we spend (well, not cash, but we hardly use cash). I know mint has transactions that I don't have in my spreadsheet from receipts I collected, but I know I am fairly close to our actual totals and I know it is much better than last month all around! Yay!

Last month was my first time doing this, and you can see my results and explanations here.

What I would have spent if I actually bought everything at retail cost (granted, I wouldn't have bought many of these things if I weren't getting superb deals, but just to look at the numbers): $766.97 (I did not buy as much this month, by far...did much better at waiting for the best deals instead of just going for a good deal.)

What I saved using coupons, store sales, and rebates: $454.93

What I actually spent OOP:$353.61 (Much better this month, but again, I think I am a little off)

Percentage of savings in April: 64.60% (BEautiful! Last month I was happy to be over 50%, so I am even more excited about this!)

With each month I will gain knowledge and experience, and I will thus be able to spend less. I posted yesterday about our "spending fast" this month, so my May totals should reflect this. Looking forward to a challenging month!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Today is the day!

It's Friday.

It's May 1.

It's time to start working a little harder to save money. We like to set a "budget" but you see it in quotes because we do not follow it as closely as we would if it were capitalized and not in quotes. The months usually start off good, but things come up, we get invited out to eat, we get lazy, we "forget" that we had a "budget" to begin with. If it is not set in stone it is very easy to stray from, and this is how it has been for us, it's never come out of quotations.

But not today. Not this month.

And hopefully this will set a better standard for us so we will not just have one good month, but we will be able to make this our natural lifestyle.

I will be doing lots of cleaning this month. Cleaning up our budget. Cleaning up our house. Cleaning up our life. I am excited to get rid of more clutter, challenge myself to spend much less, and to just simplify life a little more.

Some of the things I will be doing this month and the people who will be helping me:

1. Planning a whole month of meals. We will not be eating out and I cannot plan on this once in a while. I usually do this by the week, but the month will be very fulfilling and will help me to watch for sales as meals are approaching. Yes, it will be challenging too! Once a Month Mom has been a great help and inspiration in this area.

2. I have been working on getting rid of some of the junk in our house as of late. So much clutter, so little space. To help stay motivated with this, I am going to join Simple Mom and her Spring Cleaning schedule over here.

3. I will be doing lots of evaluating of the things I buy, especially of my "wants" vs my "needs." It is so easy to find a "need" for everything. Maybe it is today or maybe not, but someday I might really need it! This could quite easily be the most challenging of these steps I am taking in the next month.

Little steps. Simple steps. But hopefully leading to leaps and bounds of change. Hopefully leading to the simple life I am striving to live.

Got any great ideas for this? Want to join me along the way? Leave a comment if you do.