Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Planning: Can I Actually Use Someone Else's?

I menu plan on here almost every week and it got me thinking - does it help you at all? I have had quite a few people say they've found some great recipes on this site and when they're in a bind they've checked it to see what I'm making. But it got me to thinking, could I use a week's menu from someone else and make it my own?

So, I asked my good friend Kristy to send me her menu plan for the week to see what I could do with it (next week I've asked for her menu plan along with a few family recipes to see how that works for me)

Her week's meal plan:

Monday: out to eat (giftcard)

Tuesday: leftover pot roast and mashed potatoes

Wednesday: chicken spaghetti and broccoli

Thursday: grilled cheese and tomato soup

Friday: breakfast casserole and applesauce

Saturday: leftover buffet

Sunday: chili and cornbread

What I can do with her meal plan:

Monday: Layered Enchilada Bake (unfortunately, I did not have a gift card to go out to dinner - would have liked that but had to make dinner at home)

Tuesday: Pasta Skillet Dinner with garlic bread and a salad (since I don't have leftover pot roast and mashed potatoes I am adding my own meal for Tuesday night and since I don't see any pasta on her week's menu I decided to add some pasta for us here)

Wednesday: Chicken Spaghetti and Broccoli

Thursday: Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas (my kids don't like grilled cheese - weird right? - so instead we'll have quesadillas - similar concept though)

Friday: Breakfast Casserole and Applesauce - this will be new for us but I'm going to give it a try!

Saturday: Cheesy Chicken & Salsa Skillet (or leftovers - I'm always a little scared to schedule leftovers because sometimes we have them and sometimes we don't)

Sunday: Chili and Cornbread (don't have the recipe on this but I know Kirk will be thrilled to have some chili so we will certainly be going with Kristy's recipe here!)

I am looking forward to changing up our meal plan a little bit. I couldn't follow her plan completely how I would have liked but it gave me some ideas and a jumping point for the week. We'll see how this week goes and what I can do with her plan next week. Thanks Kristy for the contribution to my experiment!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time To Shop At BJ's

I finally got there (and everywhere else) yesterday and managed to get most of my monthly shopping done :) Of course, I leave some in my budget for weekly trips to Harris Teeter for sales and a few necessities but most of my money for the month finds it way to BJ's!

And this is what I "hauled" home for just over $200 (I splurged on Kirk's favorite coffee and that was $20 of my haul so really I just spent $190)

(Not pictured: 4 gallons of milk and the sour cream I forgot to put in the picture)

Because it's getting close to the end of the month I will just post my best deals and coupon match-ups and in October I will do the booklet. Each month you should receive a coupon booklet from BJ's in the mail - if not you can always ask for one at the Customer Service desk when you go in to BJ's. I always like to have mine in advance so I can plan so I'm pretty excited when it comes in the mail. I'm weird, I know.

Do note that the coupons have start and end dates. For example the one I have now began 8/25/11 and is good until 10/2/11 though some coupons expired on 9/13/11. Often the coupons that expire early are diaper coupons and paper products but it can be anything so be sure to check your dates carefully. A select few coupons didn't "begin" until 9/12/11 and expire on 10/2/11. Like any store they want you to come back multiples times :)

I will say for this particular month I didn't have a large number of coupon match-ups like I did last month.

Coupon match-ups I used:

Betty Crocker Potatoes
- regular price: $7.49 for 6 pack
- bonus coupon: buy potatoes get 3 pack progresso chicken broth FREE ($5.99 value)
- also used 2 $0.50/2 coupons (could have used 3)
- final price: $6.49 for 6 packs potatoes and 3 pack chicken broth or $0.72 each item which is a pretty awesome deal!

Betty Crocker Fruit by the Foot (28 ct)
- regular price: $7.59
- BJ's coupon: $5.00 off 2 boxes
- also used $0.50/2 coupon (does NOT double)
- final price: $4.84/each which is about the equivalent to $1.00 per 6 ct box at the store which is pretty good deal even though it sounds a little high. I'd prefer $0.50 a box but that doesn't happen often so $1.00 a box isn't bad)

Wellsley Farms Apples (8-lb bag) AND 1 Pillsbury Pie Crust, 2 pk
- regular price: $7.99 for apples ($1.00/pd) and $4.59 for pie crust
- BJ's coupon: $3.00 off both
- also used printable $1.00/2 pie crusts from Pillsbury
- final price: $8.58 for both - in essence it was like getting the pie crusts free

I also got 4 boxes of cereal. I don't normally get cereal from BJ's because it almost never comes out a better deal than Harris Teeter.

For example:

2 Boxes General Mills Kids Cereal
- Lucky Charms: $7.29
- Cinnamon Toast Crunch $6.29
- BJ's coupon: $5.00/2
- I didn't have a GM coupon for cereal for just 2 boxes and I wasn't buying a third to save $1.00!!
- final price for 2 boxes: $8.58 - since there are 2 bags of cereal in each box it's like getting 4 boxes of cereal at the store making the final price equal to $2.15 a box which is more than I'd like to spend but we needed cereal and the kids were happy to get it.
- also notice that there are 2 bags in each box and they do NOT have their own UPC codes so if I had a $1.00/2 coupon I would have only been able to use 1 on both boxes

Kellogg's Cereal
- Frosted Miniwheates: $7.99
- Frosted Flakes: $6.89
- BJ's coupon: $4.00/2
- also used $1.00/2 coupon I found at a blinkie at Harris Teeter (still a manufacturer's coupon so it still worked at BJ's)
- final price for 2 boxes: $9.88 - again each box had 2 bags so the price per bag was $2.47

In this trip I did buy a few more necessities because we were low on a lot of items. I love to buy Goldfish at BJ's because it's $7.29 for 3 LARGE bags of Goldfish and I can't find a better deal anywhere. Another good deal at BJ's is their milk and shredded cheese so even though I may occasionaly find cheese cheaper at Harris Teeter or other grocery store I find it easier just to buy the huge bag at BJ's. This goes for their salsa and syrup.

When my next coupon book comes in I will be sure to post coupon match-ups early so you too can get in on the great deals!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Planning: Comfort Food

I apologize that I didn't get to BJ's over the weekend. I am planning a trip there tomorrow and will do my coupon match-ups and details then. This weekend got extremely busy with our moms of multiples yard sale on Saturday and since that is the best way for me to make money to pay for my kids clothes it's something I have to put effort into!

For this weeks meals I was thinking about comfort foods. When the weather turns a little cooler I love the idea of cooking warm meals inside and one of our favorites is mini-meatloaves so that's what we started our week with :)

Monday: Mini-Meatloaves with green beans

Tuesday: Kirk's Banana Pancakes (just feel like having breakfast for dinner)

Wednesday: Ground Beef and Twice-Baked Potato Pie

Thursday: Easy Italian Pasta Bake

Friday: Roast Chicken w/ Potatoes and Broccoli

Saturday: Wedding - a good friend is getting married and we're very happy for him!

Sunday: Chicken Taco Bake

Next week I'm going to try using a friend's menu as my own. Considering how often I menu plan and post what we eat on the blog I am curious how easy it is to take another person's menu and use it as my own. We shall see how it goes!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harris Teeter: Triple Coupons And A Great Box Top Deal

Have you been to Harris Teeter yet?

I've already been twice! Mostly because I forgot a few coupons the first time around and then found a few special ones that I had. You know the weird ones that come on a package and you don't know where to file them? Or is that just me? Anyway, I found some for muffin mix and I just HAD to go back!

Here's what I picked up on trip #1:

I spent: $31.45
And saved: $46.80

And trip #2:

I spent: $7.34
And saved: $24.53

It's not the best ever but I really needed yogurt and a few other things so I went ahead and picked them up.

While I'm excited about my purchases I was even more excited to get almost $20 back in Box Tops certificates for my kids school! That's about half what I paid today going directly back to their school. On top of which each General Mills item I purchased has another one to two box top on it. What a great way for me to give to the school without the money coming out of my pocket!

My best deals today:

Betty Crocker Potatoes:

- regular price: $2.29
- sale price: 4/$5.00 ($1.25/each)
- used 2 $0.50/2 coupons which tripled to $1.50/each
- final price: $2.00 for 4 boxes (also, on each of the boxes there was a $0.50/2 coupon - these coupons don't generally triple so I plan to use them at BJ's this weekend because I have a BJ's coupon for Betty Crocker Potatoes that I can stack these with)

Chex Mix:

- regular price: $2.95/each
- sale price: 2/$4.00 ($2.00/each)
- used 2 $0.50/1 coupon (mine were previously printed from Swagbucks but you can find more at SS 7/10
- final price: $0.50/each

Betty Crocker Cake Mix/Frosting

- regular price: $1.89/$1.99 each (respectively)
- sale price: $0.99/3/$5.00 ($1.67)
- used 2 $0.75 off both from SS 08/07 which tripled to $2.25
- final price: $0.41 for both or $1.22 for 3 boxes of cake mix and 3 tubs of frosting!!

For more coupon match-ups check out Southern Savers

(Please note: the Swagbucks link is my own referral code and I will get credit if you are new to signing up. This costs you nothing and I greatly appreciate it but if you would rather sign up for yourself please go directly to their homepage rather than using my link - thanks!)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shopping At BJ's

Our area is preparing for something very exciting: a brand new BJ's!! I am thrilled since currently I travel almost 30 minutes each way to shop at one. I find shopping at BJ's to be worth the trouble but am greatly looking forward to having one closer if just to run in and get cheaper milk.

How does one go about shopping at BJ's? Aren't all wholesale clubs alike? And are they a good deal or a bad one?

For starters - not all wholesale clubs are alike. BJ's accepts manufacturers coupons while all other warehouse clubs do not. What's more - they will accept a coupon per barcode. Meaning if you have 12 cans of beans and each can has its own barcode you can use 12 coupons (not to exceed the value of the item and coupons do NOT double). However, if you have say a box of cereal which has two bags inside it and can not be sold individually then you can only use one coupon.

Pretty much everything that is packaged as if you took five or so of them off the shelf and wrapped them together in a big package - you can use a coupon on each of them :)

Warehouse clubs can be a great deal - they have cheaper milk and cheese and other basic products (not always meats) - but they can also be a poor deal. You pick up one *extra* item and instead of spending a few dollars you could spend $5, $10, $20 or more.

BUT if you go in with a plan and stick to it you will be on your way to a budget friendly way to stock up.

How is that?

1. Make a budget before you go - as my friends say I have a *thing* for numbers so almost to the dollar I can guess the cost of each item on my list so before I go I already have a general idea of exactly how much it will cost me. If I find I'm off by a lot and the item is not a good deal, I pass. I also have a pretty good idea of what I spend on any given item at the grocery store and I'm not paying more for it at BJ's (or any other wholesale club). I will add I'm not perfect and I do find extra items in my cart often (we really love those darn Veggie Straws!!)

2. Collect your BJ's coupons - each month I get a coupon booklet in the mail and a few times a year I get the BJ's Journal which contains a large number of coupons. These coupons are the basis for my monthly plan as to what I'm stocking up on - I only buy the crackers or snacks that I have a coupon for and I enjoy seeing each month what new items I get to add to my pantry. I also plan meals around the items I am able to purchase in bulk.

3. For me the items in the booklet are essentially "on sale" and we all know the rule: using coupons on sales saves you money! Once I have the booklet I use a coupon database site to match my manufacturers coupons to the BJ's coupons.

4. With both sets of coupons and a monthly shopping list in hand I head out to BJ's. As I shop I calculate my total cost so that I'm not overspending. In my last trip I saved over $50 in coupons alone.

BJ's really is a great and easy way to stock your pantry. It's also much faster than grocery shopping for sales alone since a sale item at BJ's is much larger than a sale item at the grocery store.

For BJ's official coupon policy go HERE

Since I am planning a BJ's shopping trip this weekend be sure and check in as I will do some coupon match-ups for the items I'm purchasing.

And don't forget that triple coupons starts at Harris Teeter on Wednesday and Southern Savers already has 2 lists out with coupons. I'm looking forward to that trip too!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meal Plan Monday: Happy Labor Day

I hope you all had a great Labor Day. For many of you I'm sure it was the last day of summer. For us, I was so grateful for a 3-day weekend after a crazy start to school and especially grateful to spend the day with some very good friends of ours. They grilled us some fabulous chicken which certainly helped my meal planning this week :)

Monday: Chicken grilled by friends (yum!)

Tuesday: Pork Chops with rice, broccoli, applesauce and biscuits (didn't get to these on Sunday)

Wednesday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole

Thursday: Wahoo! Chili with Beans per my husband's request to have soon :)

Friday: Baked Chicken Enchiladas

Saturday: Kirk's company picnic at Six Flags - we look forward to this all year and we certainly can't wait to go this year!

Sunday: Chicken and Potato Skillet Dinner

Sorry for the posting delay. The holiday put me a little behind :)