Saturday, January 31, 2009

Month End Money Recap


Can you believe a month of 2009 has already past? I can't! How are you doing on your new year's resolutions? I'm doing pretty well - better then last year anyway. Not as good on my writing but my budgeting and devotions are going well.

Have you made any budget changes?

I have! Or at least I've stuck to quite a few. We cut out going out to eat this month and it was a lot easier then I thought. Knowing that we weren't going out made it easy. I knew I was making dinner every night (with a few exceptions for leftovers) so there were no nights that I "got lazy" and asked to go out. Somehow just making the decision made it easy. Like making the decision not to use credit cards. Works, amazing :)

I've also checked out some of the swapping sites I mentioned a few posts ago and I just wanted to share what I found out or at least my opinions of them :)

Paperbackswap.com - I signed up which was easy enough. If you list 10 books to swap they give you 2 free credits to shop around.

Great! I found 12 books I didn't need and put them up there. What I didn't anticipate is that these books would be requested so quickly. I have been signed up for not even a week and have mailed out 9 of my 12 books! Not a big deal except I pay for the shipping to each one of these places. The theory is that I will get credit for every book I mail. Once they receive my book and log in that they have received it I will get more credits to receive books from anywhere else.

Pluses: I can request a book from anywhere at any time as long as I have a credit. It's easy to search and find books you want and it's easy to upload. Now that I've mailed 9 books I'll have 9 credits for 9 free books.

Minuses: It is really hard to find the books that I want and you end up on a waiting list for the books you do want. Some of them I am like 70th in line to actually get them! So, who knows when I might actually get to receive a book I want. Though I did find one and ordered it but still I had to mail 9 to get one and I used one of my free credits anyway. With the money I spent in the mailing I could've bought a book I wanted but it wouldn't be 9 so eventually it will even out.

Swaptree.com - you put up the books you have to trade and then you find the ones you want - swaptree puts you together to trade.

Sounds simple but it's more complicated then you think.

Pluses: It's much easier to find the books I want - no waiting lists. You can trade DVD's for books, CD's for DVD's - whatever so you can get rid of DVD's as well as books which I thought was really nice.

Minuses: You have to have what someone wants in order to make a trade and it's sometimes hard to have what someone wants! I'm actually mailing a DVD to get a Golf book (I HATE Golf) so I can use that book to trade for a book I actually want. There's supposed to be a three-way trade option but I can't figure out how to use it.

So both of them are great sites for eventually getting that book you want. If you're an avid reader especially of fiction then you will find plenty. If you want DVD's then Swaptree is the place for you. It can save you money but it will take some work. But with a list like mine I'll take my chances on the waiting!

Stay tuned for February - so much coming and Cherie will be back :)

Photo by jenn_jenn

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Swanson Giveaway Link

Who doesn't love FREE? I sure do! So, if there's a giveaway then I'm all for it :) You too can have a chance to win if you head over to $5 Dinners and fill out the entry form.



Ten winners will receive 10 coupons for FREE cans of Swanson chicken breast. So head on over and enter and let me know if you win!

You have until February 1st at 2 PM to enter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Diaper Tips


Since I just bought a few diapers at CVS I thought I'd share some of their deals this week. I don't normally shop CVS but I'm learning thanks to Cherie's encouragement. Hopefully she will soon share more about CVS shopping at a later date (if you're wondering where she is she just started a new full-time job but don't worry, she'll be back...)

Normally I buy my diapers from BJ's using coupons. Because BJ's has such a huge variety I have a lot of options there including Pampers, Luvs, Huggies and their generic brand. Monthly they send out coupon books - the past 2 have included $5.00 off Luvs coupons so I can get 180 diapers for $25! This will last be about 2 weeks but is a huge improvement over what it could cost me from a grocery store.

Tonight I went to CVS and here's why:

Jumbo pack of Huggies were on sale for $10.00 - $.99 off
Huggies wipes were on sale 2/$5.00

Coupons I had:

$1.50 off Jumbo pack of Huggies (x2)
$0.50 off wipes (x2)

CVS Deal: Spend $20 on Huggies and earn $5 in Extra Care Bucks (ECB's)

So, I bought 2 packs of Huggies and 2 packs of wipes (I have some baby showers coming up so this worked well for me) for a total of $22.25 with tax but I earned $5 back that I can use on other things. Ultimately it means I get the wipes free and pay for the diapers on sale - not too bad especially for one baby. Times three this wouldn't be enough to cover me for a week but as baby shower gifts - perfect!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Book Swapping


Last week the big kids had off from school but we didn't have any extra money to go out or to buy them anything (not that they need to get new stuff at any time or anything but it was a long weekend and we hadn't done anything!). So, in order to get out and do something I decided to take the kids to the local used bookstore to allow them to pick out a few books.

I actually had a stack of books I wanted to get rid of so I brought those along. I had hoped for cash but ended up getting trade which was fine - the kids loaded up on $20 of free books :) Oh, they had fun with that and I had fun with the price!

In honor of my free books I thought I'd share a few sites that I was turned on to over at Frugal Bliss - this list is compiled by Dana at Frugal in Virginia (ha! me too) and I thought it was great.

PaperBackSwap.com - swap books for the cost of postage (media mail is cheaper)

SwapADVD.com - swapping DVD's instead of books

SwapACD.com - swapping CD's insead of books or DVD's :)

Swaptree.com - books, music, DVD's and video games - you tell them what you want to trade and they generate a list as to what's available - sounds simple.

U-Exchange.com - swap just about anything

BookMooch.com - another book trading site

SwapAGift.com - swap or sell gift cards on this site - also have gift cards at a discounted price.

I have not tried these out yet but I plan to. What a great idea! Who knew there was so much out there! Living as a tightwad gets easier all the time.

Let me know if you have any to add or if you try any of these out.

Photo by austinevan

Monday, January 26, 2009

We Went Out To Eat!

No, we didn't go over budget.

No, we didn't spend a fortune: just $30.50 for 7 people to eat out including tip and tax.

How'd we do it?

We went to Restaurant.com

I've been doing a lot of reading on money saving tips. On websites, in books, in magazines. And in doing so I came across the website Restaurant.com. Actually the Coupon Mom had it flashing on her site but I'm not one to click on random ads since I have no idea what the deal is or who is going to be trying to take more of my money. But when I came across the same tip in Woman's Day magazine I thought I'd give it a try.

And we did and it worked. So here's the real deal and you can try it for yourself if you'd like:

- Go to Restaurant.com

- Put in your zip code

- A list of restaurants will come up that participate

- You purchase a gift certificate at a drastically reduced rate

- You pay $10 for a $25 certificate so basically you get $15 off your meal

- Some restaurants allow you to buy larger certificates like $40 for a $100 certificate

Wondering what the catch is?

There's no real catch. But there are some restrictions. You can only use one certificate at a time - you can't spend $20 to save $50 on the same meal. And each restaurant requires you to spend a certain amount. We chose American Cafe because I LOVE their spinch queso. They required that you spend $35 and 17% gratuity was automatically added but there were no restrictions on days (some places you could only go during the week and had to spend $50 or more). The only other restriction is that you can only use one certificate a month per restaurant.

Here's the better deal - if you purchase a certificate now you can use a coupon and get a $25 certificate for $3 - just type in SAVE when checking out.

My thoughts - if you can get a good restaurant that you like and you are wanting to go out then it's worth it. I'm not sure it's worth it to spend $10 for the $25 since you're really only saving $15 bucks. But with the $3 certificate I'm saving $22 which covers all the kids meals, our appetizers and our drinks. So basically we paid for Kirk and I to eat and the tip.

Another thing we did was plan out our expenses in advance. I've noticed we have a habit of buying whatever when we go out without thinking about the cost. But this time we checked the menu in advance and wrote down what we would buy before we got there. We were off by $3 which was the tax.

I would recommend that you check it out but be sure to check the restaurants in advance to make sure you don't overspend.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Grocery Game Deals

The last few weeks I've taken photos of all the groceries I bought and shared how much I've spent. This week I thought instead that I would share some of the deals that I got so you can kind of see how it works in case you haven't tried it out for yourself (or wish to try it for yourself without the Grocery Game).

These are some deals I got last week:



Ziploc Sandwich Bags 100 count: Regular Price: $3.39
On sale buy one get one free or 50% off each one: $1.69
Coupon doubled: $.55 doubled to $1.10
My final price: $0.59

Quaker Rice Cake Snacks (girls love 'em): Regular Price: $2.29
On sale for 3 for $5.00 or $1.66 each
Coupon: $1.00 each
My final price: $0.66 (because I have so many papers I had 4 coupons and was able to stock up on this snack that the girls seem to love - they ate the cheddar flavor in one sitting - imagine if I paid full price!!)

And some sales from this week:



Frank's Hot Sauce: Regular Price: $1.29 each
Sale Price: 2/$1.00 or $0.50 each
Coupoon I had $0.50 off one
It gets better - HT doubles coupons so they actually paid me $0.50 for each bottle I bought - I "bought" 3 so I got another $1.50 off my order. I would also have gotten my Worchestire sauce free but they were out so I got a raincheck. It was on sale for $1.00 a bottle and I have 3 $0.50 coupons which double to $1.00 each - I only have to pay tax!

GrabnGo CornPop/Frosted Flakes: Regular Price: $3.75/ea or $7.50 for 2
Sale price: 4/$5.00 or $1.25 each
Coupon: $1.50 off 2
Final Price: $1.00 total or $0.50 each

Chex Snack Mix: Regular Price: $2.89
Sale price: Buy one get one free or 50% off each: $1.45
Coupon: $0.50 off which double to $1.00 off
Final price: $0.45 each (I had 2 coupons)

ACT Mouthwash: Regular Price: $6.99
Sale price: $4.99
Coupon: $2.00 off
Final price: $2.99

Ken's Marinade: Regular Price: $2.79 each
Sale price: Buy one get one free or 50% off each: $1.40
Coupon: $0.50 off which doubles to $1.00 off each
Final price: $0.40 each (I had 2 coupons)

Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers Vegetables: Regular price: $2.50 each
Sale price: 2/$4.00
Coupon: $0.50 off each which doubles to $1.00 off each
Final price: $1.00 each (I had 2 coupons)

So you can see how it works. The Grocery Game does the work for you but given enough time you can do it for yourself - matching coupons and sales and following trends to stock up.

I have to go back for a few things and I need to run to Wegman's for milk (I have coupons for free stuff there if I spend $10 and their milk is cheaper) but tonight at HT I spent: $58.59

But saved: $101.38

I must preface this by saying that I have been receiving $20 off $50 coupons to shop there and that obviously helps a lot but still that's only a portion of my $100 savings. I did have one cashier say that my $20 isn't included in my savings total but I find that hard to believe - anyone else??

Friday, January 23, 2009

Would You Join Me?

I have been asked to be a contributor on a very cool site: Blissfully Domestic It's a great site with a wealth of information!

I have been asked to contribute to:



And I hope you will join me there - you can click on the photo above to take you directly to Multiple Bliss. Even if you don't have multiples be sure and check it out!

But here's the really cool thing:



It's right up our alley, huh??!! Some great money saving ideas there even if they aren't specifically fortriplets :) Be sure to subscribe to both so you can be updated frequently. But continue to check back here - there's still plenty to cover!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$10 Dinners

We've been eating pretty well for the past two evenings and we've been eating pretty cheaply too.

Just thought I'd share these 2 recipes because we really love them (and by we I mean the older 4 in the family - the triplets don't eat anything yet anyway!)

Chicken Parmigiana:

4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves (2 lbs at $1.83/lb = $3.66)
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs ($.50)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese ($.50)
1 large egg, lightly beaten ($.10)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine ($.10)
1 (14-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce ($1.01)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese ($2.00)

Total cost: $7.87 (fed 7 for dinner and a large lunch for Kirk later this week)

Place chicken between two sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip chicken in beaten egg; dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

Melt butter in a large skillet; add chicken, and brown on each side over medium-high heat. Arrange chicken in a lightly greased 11-x7-x1 1/2- inch baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over chicken, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

From: Southern Living's Easy Weeknight Favorites

Layered Enchilada Bake:

1 lb lean ground beef ($1.98)
1 large onion ($.23)
2 cups salsa ($1.50)
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained, rinsed ($.67)
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix ($.20)
6 flour tortillas ($1.44)
1 cup sour cream ($.35)
1 pkg (8 oz) mexican style shredded cheese ($3.39)

Total cost: $9.76 (and it could be cheaper when cheese is on sale - I can't remember what I paid for it but this week at HT it's buy one get one free or 50% off each pack) This also fed all of us and left plenty of leftovers.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown meat with onions in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Add salsa, beans and seasoning mix; mix well.

Arrange 3 of the tortillas in single layer on bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with layers of half each of the meat mixture, sour cream and cheese. Repeat all layers. Cover with foil.

Bake, covered, 30 min. Remove foil. Bake an additional 10 min. or until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve.

I just LOVE this recipe - it is so good and very easy to make. It comes from one of my favorite places: Kraft Foods - it's a free site that even sends out a free magazine full of recipes - if you haven't checked it out DO - you won't be sorry!

But the best part about this recipe? If you want to make it ahead and freeze you can!!

Make Ahead Directions:

Line 13x9 baking dish with foil, with ends extending over sides of dish. Assemble recipe in prepared dish as directed. Cover with foil. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake, covered, 1 hour. Remove foil. Bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve. To decrease the baking time, thaw casserole in refrigerator overnight, then bake, uncovered, 45 minutes or until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted.

Enjoy these cheap meals - check back for more and please feel free to share some of your recipes! I am always on the look-out for great family recipes on the cheap :) Try to keep it under $10 or if you have a smaller family try for $5. Of course, larger families may be at $15 but even that beats eating out by far.

It's not so bad on the cheap side...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's On Ebay?

Finally :) Here is my first post on Ebay. From a number of people I have heard that they are scared of Ebay. I have heard that it is hard or they have heard stories of people not paying. I have only had very positive experiences with Ebay and with a little work it is quite easy to do!

Where to start?

1. Sign up for an account with Ebay. There will be a button that says "Register" right under "New to Ebay" - they make it easy. Then all you have to do is fill out a small form, pick a user name and you can begin to look around. You can look around as a guest but you can't watch an auction unless you are registered. And by watch I mean follow.

2. What are you going to sell? For a lot of us moms the thing we have the most of are kids toys and clothes! I would say the easiest thing to sell is clothes - mostly because they are cheap to ship, store and list. The buyer pays shipping but who wants to pay $15 to ship a toy but a larger toy could cost you that much and you don't want to lose money by charging to little but you don't want to turn buyers away by charging too much - see the dilemma?

3. Once you've decided what to sell you need to research your item. Look up the item you intend to sell and see how much others are getting for it. If the item isn't selling then you can easily donate it or set it aside for a consignment or yard sale without worry that you've lost money.

****Here's why I find Gymboree to be the easiest to sell. Gymboree has lines specific to its clothes. For example - I listed a dress on Sunday (see picture below) that comes from Gymboree's Ice Cream Social line from last year. But how do I know that? Some lines I remember but when I can't I check out Gymbohaven. It's a free site that lets you know what item came from what line. If you can't remember what year you bought your item from Gymboree check the tag - 95% of the time the tag will be a year ahead of the line (clothes I buy today will say 2008 on the tag because that is the year in which they were made).****



Preparing to list your item:

1. Make sure your item is clean and pressed Presentation is everything!

2. Take a very clear picture. The best camera with the best angle is very important. If you have a picture of your child in the outfit and feel comfortable putting that up I would do it. It's like modeling - works for magazines, works for Ebay. DO take your own pictures becuase this is the clearest way to show the item as it is which means you are not mis-representing yourself.

3. Check your item thoroughly for any blemishes - you will want to note them in your item description. You can sell items with minor blemishes as long as you make the buyer aware of them.

Your homework: prepare some items for Ebay and look around to get an idea of the sale price. Check back later this week and I'll share how to list your things.

In the meantime take a look at one of my current listings to get an idea for what it looks like and how it sells:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&item=160310883579

Monday, January 19, 2009

Feed A Crowd For Less Then $15

This week I have planned some of our (my) favorite recipes so I thought I'd share a few with you and how much I'm spending on my meals to feed a family of 7.

Today: Pizza Joes



I only wish this is what my food looked like :) I got this photo out of the recipe book: Easy Potlucks from Pillsbury along with the recipe. This is the recipe you use if you want to feed a lot of people. We are having friends for dinner and this will feed our 7 and their 6. Seriously it makes a LOT.

Pizza Joes:

2 lbs. lean ground beef ($1.98/pound = $3.96)
2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 cup) - (I used one large onion = $.23)
1/2 cup chopped green pepper (I used half a large - $.65)
2 jars pizza sauce ($1.39 each - $2.78 - these weren't on sale this week)
1 package (3.5 oz) sliced pepperoni, chopped ($1.19)
1 teaspoon dried basil ($.20)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano ($.15)
Pack of sandwich buns - I love potato best ($1.99)
2 cups (2 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese ($.92)

Total for Main Course: $12.07

1. In 12-inch skillet, cook ground beef and onions over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain.

2. Spray 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Spoon beef mixture into slow cooker. Stir in bell pepper, pizza sauce, pepperoni, basil and oregano.

3. Cover, cook on Low setting 4 to 6 hours.

4. To assemble sandwiches, spoon about 1/3 cup beef mixture onto bottom halves of buns. Top each with scant 2 tablespoons cheese (I tend to use more cheese then recommended). Cover with top halves of buns. (This step seems pretty self-explanatory but it's in there so I thought I'd share!)

Also Serving Corn: $.67/can X 2 = $1.34

And we'll have a side of chips (very healthy) but the guests are bringing those. This could be even cheaper with pizza sauce on sale - usually $1.00 and cheaper buns but sometimes you just gotta splurge!!

I promise Ebay is coming but so much keeps coming up :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Only Way To Go Over Budget!!

Wow!! So, I went a little crazy at Harris Teeter tonight :) Not exactly how you think. Tonight this is what I bought (not pictured - 3 gallons of milk and I did forget eggs so that's another $3.00):



Can you believe it? Covered my whole table! What did I pay? $151.83 Yes, I did go over budget (so I will spend less next week) but there were too many deals to pass up on. Though we are making one budget adjustment - since we are no longer eating out (at all) we are eating all 21 meals at home (or school/work but packed by me at home) and we are going through WAY more milk then ever - almost a gallon a day. We used to get by on 4 gallons a week so adding another three adds about $10 a week to our grocery bill and there's nothing we can do about it. So, I'm going to aim for under $125 - the extra $25 going for milk. However, I'm still aiming for under $100 but so far I haven't hit it :(

Want to know what I saved? $154!! I had a serious stack of coupons :) See the Rice Krispies? I paid $.50 a box. Capn' Crunch was a little more - $1.50 a box. And everything Quaker was on sale so I got cereal, granola bars, snacks and oatmeal all on sale with a coupon. I am completely stocked up on quite a bit of stuff.

So, besides cereal what am I making this week?

Monday - Pizza Sloppy Joes

Tuesday - Chicken Parmigiana with egg noodles and broccoli

Wednesday - Enchilada Bake

Thursday - Honey Roasted Chicken with rice and broccoli (sue me - I like broccoli)

Friday - Spaghetti (easy and cheap!)

Saturday - Tacos - hard tacos for the kids, soft tacos for the adults

Sunday - care group at church - kids eat there - adults scrounge but we should have plenty to choose from :)

While I don't recommend going over budget there are times where you will buy more then others - as long as it evens out in the end. Next week I will buy much less since obviously I won't need nearly as much.

I just wanted to second Cherie's post about Dinner Done! The food is fabulous!! Whenever I go I have a great time making the food and we have loved all that I've brought home :) Of course with 2 extra people we use the full meal making it a little more expensive for us but for the time you save it is truly worth it.

Ebay post tomorrow - we've already overloaded you for today :)

Is Dinner Done?

I hate planning out our dinner menu. I hate trying to come up with creative ideas each week.
When I don't take the time to plan out our menu, we eat more take out and we waste more money.

Several months ago, we started using Dinner Done. We first became familiar with them during my pregnancy. A very generous friend brought us a freezer full of meals from there. They were delicious! While I'm aware that many of our blog readers don't live near us, these type of dinner places are become more and more popular. (Our local Dinner Done actually has locations in Florida too.)

I don't have the time to go to the location and prepare all of my meals. So, I pay a minimal fee to have them made for me. All I have to do is pick them up.

I come home with a laundry basket full of yummy frozen meals. Each evening, I place one in the oven and make a simple side dish (steamed veggies, baked potatoes, rice, etc.) Dinner has been so easy lately.

The best part? It's very afforable!

Each meal serves 6 people. Because that's just too much food for us right now, I have each meal split in half. We end up paying about $11 per meal. Often, we have leftovers for the next day's lunch.

The even better part? The food is absolutely delicious. Each month there is a different menu to choose from. We've had everything from Beef Wellington to a pot roast. There is a lot of variety.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gymbuck Redmption Starts Today

A few of you think that's a foriegn language :) No, it's not - it's the beginning of my postings on brand-name clothes, why I think they're important, how to get them cheaply (i.e. NEVER paying full price) and how to re-sell them.

My favorite store to shop at for all my kids is GYMBOREE. I like Gap as well but they don't have the sales that Gymboree does and while their re-sale value is high their lines aren't clearly marked like Gymboree's are (I will discuss more about that later in another post).

Why I love Gymboree:





- the coordination and colors are just so great!!

How I pay for Gymboree Part I:

The best way to get the most clothes at the cheapest prices are to redeem Gymbucks. Gymbucks are coupons that you earn during an earning period and then redeem during a redemption period. During the earning period whenever you spend $50 you get a coupon for $25 off a $50 purchase during the redemption period. That's 50% off your purchase! You can collect as many as you want - if you have 4 Gymbucks that's $100 off a $200 purchase.

During the earning period you can do one of two things:

1. Buy clothes for your own child to wear for the coming season - this is basically what I do - I shop the sales with coupons to get the most clothes for the cheapest price while still earning Gymbucks - I then use the Gymbucks to round out the season or as in the case now to purchase clothes for the upcoming season at a drastically discounted rate - for example - I purchased 4 pairs of brand-new adorable sandals for $20 (total, not each)!!

2. Buy clothes to re-sell on Ebay at face value. If you spend $200 in the store, you put all those clothes on Ebay to earn back your $200 but you still get to keep your Gymbucks. Then during the redemption period you either purchase all your kids beautiful clothes at a very reduced price OR you buy clothes to re-sell on Ebay at a profit (more about that later).

If you already have Gymbucks, be sure to redeem them starting today through January 25th. If you do not have them check out Gymboree's site and look around to see how it's done and what you would have spent if the clothes you see were 50% off. I'd suggest starting in the sale and clearance section since the full-price clothes are still a bit high even with 50% off.

Stay tuned for Part II on Sunday - selling Gymboree on Ebay. I will begin listing my Spring/Summer clothes (yes, already but this is what's out in stores) so I will start to share how to list on Ebay, what information you need, etc.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Want a FREE Bottle of Shampoo?

Suave is giving away a free bottle today.

Click HERE and submit your information!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Quick Tip on Coupons

If you haven't ever done this, I highly recommend it.

Last summer I sat down and made a list of the grocery items that we use regularly or those that we particularly love. Then, I worked down the list and contacted the companies that made those products. Most of the time you can google the product name, find the website and then click "contact us" (usually at the bottom of the site). It's simple and takes very little time.

Most of the time I just complimented on the product. But there have been a few times when I've complained or voiced concern. I would say that about 80% of the companies that I contacted responded by mailing me a coupon. The coupons were far better than the ones in the newspaper. Many of them were for free product or for several dollars off a single item. I only had 2 companies that responded negatively and now I no longer buy those brands.

Here are just a few of the products/companies that sent awesome coupons:

Windex
Ore-Ida
Edy's ice cream
Skinny Cow Ice Cream
Tampax
Febreeze
Pampers
Huggies

Try it out!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winging It

Today was proof that The Grocery Game is an extremely easy way to save money and going without it makes me one very confused shopper. Not completely, I did use The Coupon Mom and that helped but it's not as clear as The Grocery Game.

How does the Grocery Game work?

- I buy two papers

- I save the coupon inserts from each paper and write the date on it

- I file it away until it's needed - no cutting required till later

- Once a week I print off the Grocery Game list I wish to use

- My list tells me what is on sale for the week and what coupon to use by the date and initials of the coupon insert: RP - Red Plum; S - Smartsource; P&G - Proctor and Gamble

- Green items are free; Blue items are the best deal for stockpiling and black items are to be bought only if needed - by dividing them up it is really easy to see what is the best deal and what isn't even when it seems like it could be

- Takes me about an hour to clip my coupons and compile my list and about the same to do my shopping and for that I save quite a bit!

But tomorrow I will be out all day and today I needed food and I was worried about missing out on a few good deals so I went ahead and shopped today. Why is that a big deal? The Grocery Game only updates on Sundays - for Harris Teeter her list is only good for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday thus other days it is not accurate for that week's sales even though HT changes their ads on Wednesdays.



I did get my shopping done and I did manage to save quite a bit: I spent $107 and saved around $93 but I felt like I wasn't on top of things. I was kind of out of sorts and not as sure if I was getting a good deal or not which frustrates me a tad. The Coupon Mom tells you the coupon, the item, the sale price, the final price and the percentage saved. I'm somewhat smart and I can see if my savings is greater then 50% I'm doing pretty well but what The Coupon Mom fails to tell me is if the price I see there is going to be the best price that product will have in a 12 week period because sometimes saving 25% on a product may be the best it's ever going to be. Know what I mean?

I've also found that I may need to adjust my budget a tad. Seems I am spending about $115 a week. This week I am short a few things because HT didn't have them in stock so I will need to return to the store. Last week I spent $25 at Target after my purchases at HT. I used to spend a few hundred at BJ's every month but now we're cutting that out since I can stock up at HT instead but that means my grocery list is longer so I'll have to go with the flow and adjust as the weeks allow.

My dinner list for this week:

Monday - White Bean Chicken Chili

Tuesday - London Broil (it was on sale now I'm trying to figure out what to do with it)

Wednesday - Baked Ziti (times 2) - one of them is going to a new twin mom

Thursday - Maple-Glazed Meatballs over rice

Friday - we have been invited out for dinner - yea, no cooking

Saturday - Cheesy Chicken Fajitas

So, I encourage you again to check the Grocery Game for your area. You can pay just $1 for a 4 week trial. She also gives you info. on stores like CVS and Rite Aid. If the Grocery Game is not available in your area or if you don't have a decent store near you (though even ones that don't double coupons do have good deals - Giant and Wegman's come to mind) do check out The Coupon Mom.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let's Get Personal

Before I post lots and lots more tips of how to save money I wanted to make a disclaimer. I am NOT a thrifty person by trade. I really love to spend money. Saving money is a difficult concept for me.

Why do you think I asked Cherie to join me?? Because I am NOT a natural at this and I know having her beside me will be my motivation to stick with it. To concentrate on spending less, to make it a priority.

My reasoning for this blog was partly to motiviate myself to stick with it and to really, really stay with a budget.

But what I've learned till now is that spending thrifty is FUN and ADDICTIVE. WHAT? Who would think that? But it is. When I get something FREE at the grocery store I am on cloud 9. So awesome. When I get a great deal, I am ecstatic. And I don't just mean a sale, I mean saving more on groceries in a week then I spent and still being able to feed my family. I mean finding the toy I had seen at full price and coveted at a consignment sale. These are the things that have become enjoyable. So, this year I want to live this way. Why should the retailers get my hard earned cash (or in our case my husband's hard-earned cash)? I need it for goodness sake!!

So, I am not holding myself out as some guru - you are taking this journey with me. You are my cheer squad to do it right and get it right. When I find a thrifty deal, when I pay off a credit card I'm gonna share and I hope that you will cheer me on! Because I'm cheering you on and I hope you share with me how you are doing because today it is more important then ever.

And now that I just learned the new law that takes effect on February 10th, 2009 about the legal limits of lead in children's products will not apply to consignment sales I can once again breath easy and look forward to sharing my Ebay tips with you!

Future topics include:

- CVS Shopping made affordable
- more of The Grocery Game - how it's done
- What's on Ebay? - follow me as I sell my kids clothes - find out how I do it and what I make
- Stay-at-Home Working Moms - lots of interviews coming from moms who actually make money at home doing things OTHER then selling Pampered Chef or other party based businesses (not that these are bad things but some of us don't like the whole selling thing)

Thanks for stopping by and do check back often...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Save $$$ at CVS

At first glance CVS is an overpriced drug store. But thanks to their Extra Care Bucks Program, there are some fantastic deals.

The first thing you need to do is sign up for a CVS card. I recommend doing this online at CVS.com. If you do this, you should also be given a great coupon to use during your next visit.

The next important step is to have a copy of the weekly sales ad. You will also do best if you have the weekly coupons from your newspaper.

An Extra Care Buck (ECB) is just a fancy term for store credit. Each week there are certain items that you can buy that will award you with ECBs. You can use your ECBs on anything in the store.

The best scenario is when you can use a manufacturer's coupon for an item that also is on sale and awards an ECB.

First Example:

This week Fructise shampoo, conditioner and stying products are on sale.
They are $2.99 BUT you get $2 ECB back.
There is also a $1 coupon in last Sunday's paper.
So, if you use your coupon, you will pay $1.99 for the shampoo BUT get $2 store credit back. Not so bad.

Second Example:

This week Colgate Total is on sale 2/$5 but you also get $2 ECB back. There is also a $1 coupon in last Sunday's paper.
So, if you use your coupon, you will pay 2/$4 but you also get $2 ECB back. In essence, you are paying $1/tube of toothpaste.

I know that it sounds very confusing at first. But, I promise that the more you do it, the easier it gets.

You can also save a lot of money by going into the store and earning several ECB and then going back and using those same ECB on different promotions. I have found that the best deals to be found are usually on toiletry items, such as toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, etc. Occasionally I find good deals on cleaning and sundry items.

Get out there and give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

$10 Dinners

One of my resolutions was to provide meals for my family at $10 and under. Two days in and I've already gone over! Sort of.

Yesterday's meal was Cream Cheese with broccoli and it was VERY good. As a further testament to what Cherie and I have in common we both highly recommend this book though I bought it seperately and not because she told me about it :) Anyway, this is a great book - check it out - it's on sale for just $12.98 at Amazon.com - very worth it:



Back to the cost:

Chicken was $1.83 a pound (HT buy 1 pack get 2 free) - used 1.83 lbs: $3.35
Oil: $.10
1 Package Italian Seasoning Mix: $1.75
Onion: $.23
1 can cream of chicken soup: $.64
Broccoli: $.50 a box - used 2 (I'd recommend a bag next time): $1.00
1 package cream cheese, cubed: $1.66
Spaghetti: $1.00

Total Cost: $9.73

(On a seperate note: the recipe also calls for 2 cups sliced mushrooms which we do NOT like so I left those out - also calls for 4 pounds of chicken but seriously that would have been WAY too much chicken so I only used 1 pack - also called for dry sherry but I'm not much of a gourmet chef and I have no idea what that is :) - so maybe I cheated a little but it turned out great. Oh, I didn't have olive oil either so I used vegetable which is way cheaper.)

Recipe:

1. Toss cubed chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian salad dressing mix. Place in 5-quart Crock-Pot slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 3 hours.

2. Coat large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add mushrooms and onions; cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Add soup, broccoli, cream cheese and sherry to skillet; cook until hot. Transfer to Crock-Pot slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 1 hour. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Yummy!!

I'd like to say tonights menu was as frugal but it wasn't exactly. Truthfully it was because I used all the pork chops which 2 packages totaled just shy of $10 themselves. However, we did not eat all the pork chops and they will feed my husband for lunch and a leftover meal later this week. I also had to buy olive oil at Target along with the frozen lemonade I use for the marinade. The sides I had on hand - carrots, scalloped potatoes (purchased for less then $1.00 at HT) and biscuits. So, it was slightly over $10 but still at home and cheaper then going out!

If you are interested in more cheap meals check out this blog: $5 Dinners I think it's a great website except that she's feeding a family of 4 and we have 7. I also can't imagine that she has many leftovers. To feed my family I could've done 3 pork chops since my 5 kids don't yet eat much but that would have left us with nothing and I like to have leftovers making a free meal later. But if your family is smaller it's a great site!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Introduction

I was absolutely thrilled when Dorinda asked me to co-author a blog with her. Over the past year my husband and I have done a major overhaul with our finances. We've been convicted of the importance of living within our means and of the importance of being debt free. As a result, I've become quite the thrifty mama and I'm happy to have a place to share all of my thrifty tips.

Dorinda and I met on the internet shortly after our triplets were born. We learned very quickly that we had a lot in common. Not only did we live less than an hour away from each other but we had delivered our triplets only 3 days apart. The list of commonalities could go on an on. When our babies were just weeks old we would email each other long letters. I vividly remember sitting at my dining room table trying to pump milk for my babies and type to Dorinda at the same time. We became fast friends and have enjoyed sharing the joys (and struggles) of raising higher order multiples.

Dorinda and I love to write. We both also enjoy stretching our families' dollars as far as we can. It only seems appropriate that we come together to share this blog.

As I mentioned before, I believe very strongly in living within your means. What exactly does that mean?

It means living on a budget.
It means purchasing only what you can afford.
It means building a savings.
It means having no debts.
It means not keeping up with the Jones'.

To put it even simpler, it means that your monthly income should be greater what your monthly expenses are. Every dollar that you earn should be accounted for.

I challenge you to track your spending for 30 days. You will be amazed. You will be astonished. I promise. Do you know where your money goes?

We use a fantastic budgeting software that I highly recommend. You can read more about it here. Using this software has dramatically changed how we manage our finances.

I look forward to hearing what you may have learned from tracking your spending habits.

In the meantime, you can look forward to some great money saving tips from a tightwad with triplets. :)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Grocery Game

I am addicted to The Grocery Game. It has saved me a lot of time and money at the grocery store. So, part of what I'd like to use this blog for is to tell you how it's working and what I'm getting. One of my resolutions was to spend $100 or less to feed the family every week.

Tonight I spent $89.20 and saved: $91.88. This is what I got:



Not pictured: 3 gallons of milk, 2 bottles of dish detergent and 1 Pantene hair product (I went to HT twice cause I forgot a coupon).

My favorite store is Harris Teeter and tonight was no exception. It was triple coupon night. Woo hoo! Love that. They also doubled some P&G brand saver coupons from $1.00 to $2.00 which gave me a huge savings - thus some of the Cascade and Pantene products.

From that our dinner menu this week will be:

Monday: Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli

Tuesday: Pork Chops with Potatoes

Wednesday: Chicken N Dumplings

Thursday: Homemade Mac N Cheese

Friday: Chicken Enchilada Roll-Ups

Saturday: Chicken Pot Pie

Sunday: Leftovers/sandwiches and shopping again

So, it's a little heavy on the chicken since that's what was on sale but with all the different ways I'm cooking it we won't really notice.

Why the Grocery Game?

There are other websites out there and that will help you figure out what coupons to use on what sales (The Coupon Mom is one) but I have found the Grocery Game to be the most easy to read. She's very specific with what is a good buy and what isn't - what you should stock up on and what coupons to use. She does charge $10 for the first store and $5 for other stores after every 8 weeks but it is well worth it.

Keep checking back - from week to week I'll post what I've spent, what I've saved, my meals and more info. on how to do the Grocery Game. It took me a few weeks to get into it and understand how to do it but once I did it has been a real life saver.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Money Resolutions

Since it is the 1st day of 2009 I figured I should list my money resolutions for the new year. I know a few things will change as time goes on since I am, obviously unable to predict the future but for now these are my thoughts.

Last year I made the goal to spend less. What I fear is that was too general. In some areas I did spend less but not less enough.

So, this year more specifically:

1. Spend $100 or less on food each week - including going out.

2. Pay $10 or less for dinner - I will play this by ear - that's about what it usually costs and I'd like to keep it that way or do better.

3. Pay down debt - long-term goal - no debt!

4. Continue to buy brand name clothes but pay cash.

5. No more credit cards - cash system only :)

There it is for now. Sounds simple, huh?

Not really. I could use some prayers! But maybe getting it out in the open will mean I'll get it done.