Sunday, December 4, 2011

Couponing for Charity: 12/4-10

I recently gave coupon classes to my son's school and our church. So to guide those getting started, I thought I'd return to my Couponing for Charity posts for awhile. There are other deals to consider, but these are the best I see for charitable giving or the ones that work best for my family.

For all the match-ups, check Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, see Coupon Katie.

Since I try to minimize my OOP (out of pocket expense) and use all my RRs before I leave Walgreen's, here's what I bought:

Transaction #1:
  • 1 Revlon nail polish ($3.99, use $1 WC from "Make this Season Stunning" booklet at the cosmetic counter, get $3RR=FREE) I tried to use the $1 MC from the Walmart insert a few weeks ago, but the clerk said it was for a specific Revlon line.
  • 1 Schick Titanium Quatro refills--not free but it's what the hubby uses ($8.99, use $2 WC from the same booklet, use $2 MC, get $3RR=$1.99)
  • 3 gift bags for filler ($.13 with in ad coupon); I only needed two but I had thought my extra Revlon coupon would work.
Total w/ tax: $9.60
Total Saved: $10.49
RRs earned: $6

Transaction #2:
  • 2 Delsym ($10 each for 3oz, get $5RR when you spend $20, used 2 $2 MC I picked up from my pediatrician's office--great place for high value coupons=$5.50 each)
  • 3 gift bags ($.13 each with ad coupon)
  • Used 2 $3 RRs from transaction #1.
Total w/ tax: $12.27
Total Savings: $13.47
RR earned: $5

Transaction #3
  • 1 Revlon nail polish
  • 1 Schick refill
  • 3 gift bags
  • Used $5RR from transaction #2.
Total w/ tax: $4.45
Total Savings: $15.33
RRs earned: $6

Transaction #4
  • 4 Breyers ice cream (B1G1 at $6.49, used 2 $1.50/2 printables = $2.49 each)
  • 3 gift bags
  • Used 2 $3RR from transaction #3.
Total w/ tax: $5.41
Total Savings: $22.47
RRs earned: $0

In total I spent $31.73 and saved $61.76. It's not the best savings percentage but I got some high dollar items my family needs for a lot less than the grocery store.

For all the match-ups, check Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, see Coupon Katie.

I didn't get as many staples here, but as the clerk said, "We paid you to shop today." They were out of Schick disposable razors. So I got a raincheck for this great money maker deal:
  • Spend $20, get $10ECB on Schick products. I'm going to buy 2 10ct disposable razors for $8.39 each and 1 Hydro shave gel for $3.69. I'll use 1 B1G1 coupon, 1 $2 MC, and 1 $1 MC--the last two from today's paper. Total OOP: $9.08, will get $10ECB.
What I did buy:
  • 1 box of small candy canes ($1.27, get $1.27 but since the ECBs weren't printing, she had to round up and gave me a $2ECB = $.73 MM). Limit 1.
  • 3 99 cent American Greetings cards (Buy 3, get $3ECB. Used $1/3 MC printable, $2 CVS printable, AND $1/2 CVS coupon printed from the kiosk. All told, this was a $4 MM and I got 3 cards to send. Dad, your birthday card will soon be in the mail. ;-)
Total Spent: $.35
Total Saved: $4
ECBs earned: $5

Thank you, CVS!

As for the grocery stores, I'm not seeing any great freebies this week, but I'll probably take advantage of Kroger's fuel points gift card promotion. You earn 4x the value of select gift cards in fuel points. I tend to buy ones for Target or Home Depot because I know we'll use them in the year to come. This is not valid on Kroger gift cards.

So what deals excited you this week? Are you new to couponing? Is it overwhelming or fun yet?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thankful to be Giving

'Tis the season to be giving. On one level, I find the whole gift decision making and buying process very stressful. Despite my love for couponing, I really don't like to shop. But thanks to couponing, I have been able to give generously to several organizations this year--without the stress and expense.

I haven't been posting regularly about the best Couponing for Charity deals, but like Southern Saver's mascot, I've been a squirrel gathering nuts for months. Three tubes of toothpaste here, one cent crayons there and before I knew it, I had a nice stockpile from which to shop.

Through the Church of the Good Samaritan or MOMS Club, lists of needs were posted and then I pulled what I had on hand. I post these pictures not as a way to say, "Look what I gave" but as an inspiration for what you can give too in the future. It's when we all give a little that we can make a tremendous impact on our community. All of these goods cost me $.25 or less plus the cost of tax and will go to some great organizations.

The pictures at the top are from the church's annual Stuff a Stocking campaign for senior citizens. The whole family got involved in stuffing stockings from the many generous donations from parishioners. We were able to give 48 razors plus several other goodies like tea and hot cocoa.

Another collection through our church was the Shoebox Ministry for the Volunteer Ministry Center. Imagine not having a home and having to keep all of your and your kids' toys or necessities in a shoebox. For them, we had crayons, deodorant, pens, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.

The Hope Buckets were collected to give to patients battling HIV/Aids. Some clients of Hope Center face the additional challenge of being rejected by friends and family and often have no one to care for them physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially. From soap to tissues, toothpaste to lipbalm, I was able to meet their specific requests easily.

Finally Operation Christmas Child was the service project adopted by our MOMS Club. These boxes will be given to children in need all over the world. Each member of our play group came up with creative additions to the box for a girl 2-4 years old. I was able to give pens, crayons, markers, and notebooks I'd gotten for pennies back in August.

And the list doesn't end there. From diapers I'm giving to support a young mom in our church to baked goods I've donated for mission trips, couponing has allowed me to buy what I need for much less. Suddenly all the requests to give are not overwhelming and I am thankful that I'm able to spread "good coupon karma." Happy Holidays!

I'd love to hear what you've been able to give with the help of coupons. Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Black Friday Pharmacy Deals: Money Maker Heaven!

I don't tend to be a Black Friday shopper, but the pharmacy deals are beckoning me. It's the SUPER BOWL of freebie couponing, and I don't want to miss out. Looking at all the deals, it can be enticing and overwhelming. If you're new to couponing at pharmacies, you may want to pick just 2 or 3 items. If you can't get enough of couponing, here's what I see as the best deals and my plan for getting them. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned because some items will be gone when I get there, but you have to start somewhere. MM stands for "money maker" and there are plenty of them:

For a few more deals and all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.

  • $4RR wyb 2 Bic Flex 4 disposable razors at $3 each. Use 2 $2 printables = $2MM.
  • $2RR wyb Gum Deep Clean toothbrushes 2pk at $2 each. Use $.55 MC (not sure which magazine this came from) = $.55MM.
  • $3RR wyb Colgate Total Advanced toothpaste 4oz at $3. Use $1 MC from SS 11/13 = $1MM.
  • $2.50RR wyb Crest 3D White Vivid toothpaste 3oz at $2.50. Use $1 MC from P&G home mailers. All other coupons are for 4oz or more and can not be used. = $1MM.
  • $2.75RR wyb Preparation H Totables hemorrhoid wipes 10pk at $2.75. Use $2 printable = $2MM.
  • $2RR wyb DenTek Floss Picks 75 or 90 pk at $2 each. Use $.75 MC = $.75MM.
  • $5.50RR wyb 2 Secret 3 oz body splash or spray at $3.75 each. Use 2 $1 MC = FREE.
  • $4RR wyb Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick at $5.99. Use $1 off Revlon Color cosmetic from Walmart insert AND $1 Walgreens coupon=FREE. You’ll need an extra filler for this deal.
  • $1.50RR wyb Oral-B indicator toothbrush at $1.50 = FREE. Don’t bother using $.75/2 coupons with this because then they wouldn’t be free.
  • $3RR wyb 2 Scunci hair elastics 18pk at $1.50 each = FREE.
  • $.99RR wyb Advil PM pain relief 4ct at $.99 = FREE.
  • $2.49RR wyb ThermaCare heat wrap neck, wrist, and shoulder or menstrual at $2.49. If this is a 2ct product, you can use $1 or maybe even $3 printables (not sure how they’ll handle that at the register).

My plan, Amounts are OOP= Out of Pocket after coupons noted above:

Transaction #1:

2 Bic razors: $2

1 Thermacare: $1.49 (if it’s not 2ct, move this to transaction #2)

1 Colgate: $2

1 Crest: $1.50

1 Preparation H: $.75

1 DenTek floss: $1.25

1 Gum toothbrush: $1.45

Total OOP: $10.44, get back $18.75 in RR.

Transaction #2:

1 Oral B toothbrush: $1.50

2 Scunci: $3.00

1 Advil: $.99

2 Secret body splash: $5.50

1 Revlon lipstick: $3.99

3 filler items ($.30 or less each)

Use these RRs from Tr. #1: $2.50, $3, $2.50, $2.75, $2, $2

Total OOP: $.23 plus tax and cost of filler items

Transaction #3:

1 Thermacare: $1.49

1 Colgate: $2

1 Crest: $1.50

1 Preparation H: $.75

1 DenTek floss: $1.25

2 fillers

Use $4 and $3 RRs from Tr. #2.

Total OOP: cost of fillers plus tax

Transaction #4:

1 Oral B toothbrush: $1.50

2 Scunci: $3.00

1 Advil: $.99

1 Revlon lipstick: $3.99

1 DenTek floss: $1.25

1 filler

Use $2.49, $3, $2.50, and $2.75 RRs from Tr. #3.

Total OOP: cost of filler plus tax

I still leave with these RRs: $4, $1.50, $.99, $5.50, $2, $3, $2, $4, $1.50, and $.99 = $25.48 and I should spend less that $15. Of course it never works totally as planned, but we’ll see.

CVS (numbers of products are by limit of deals)

For all the match-ups and a few extra deals, go to Southern Savers.

  • 1 Breathe Rite Strips Bonus Size 10 + 2ct: $5.99, get $5.99. Use $1.50 CVS coupon and $1.50 MC = $3MM. Can’t find MC.
  • 1 Benefiber sticks 3 ct: $1.49, get $1.49ECB, Use $3 printable = $3MM.
  • 1 Finish Quantum 10ct dishwashing detergent: $2.99, get $2.99ECB. Use $1MC = $1MM.
  • 1 L.A. Looks styling gel 20oz: $2.49, get $2.49ECB. Use $1MC = $1MM.
  • 2 Colgate Total Advanced toothpastes, various varieties: $2.87, get $2.87. Use $1MC = $1MM. I'll probably use my coupons here instead of Walgreen's.
  • 1 Theraflu caplets 8ct: $1.87, get $1.87. Use $2 printable = $2MM.
  • 1 Theraflu daytime or multi-symptom travel size: $.99, get $.99ECB. Use $3/2MC = $2MM.
  • 2 Listerine pocketpacks: $2.99 each, get $2.99ECB each. Use 2 $.50 MC = $1MM.
  • 1 Fiber One brownies: $3.99, get $3.99ECB. Use $.40 MC = $.40MM.
  • 1 Carmex lip balm: $1, get $1ECB. Use $.30 printable = $.30MM.
  • 2 GUM Super or Micro-tip toothbrushes: $2.99 each, get $2.99ECB each. Use $.55MC from unknown magazine=$.55MM.
  • 1 Cepacol lozenges 16ct: $4.99, get $4.99ECB. Use $1 printable = $1MM.
  • 1 Balance Bar: $1.69, get $1.69ECB = FREE.
  • 1 Starbucks double shot, 6.5 oz: $1.69, get $1.69ECB = FREE.
  • 2 Hershey’s king size bar: $.99 each, get $.99ECB each = FREE.
  • 4 Mars chocolate singles candy 1.08 – 2.15oz: $.75 each, get $.75ECB each = FREE.
  • 1 Advil Pm 4ct: $.99, get $.99ECB = FREE.
  • 1 Advil 10ct: $2.99, get $2.99ECB = FREE.
  • 1 Be Kool from Fever Discomfort gel sheets: $4.49, get $4.49ECB = FREE.
  • 1 CVS dental flossers 90 ct: $1.99, get $1.99ECB = FREE.
  • 1 Pepto Bismol 4oz: $2.99, get $2.99ECB = FREE.
  • 1 CVS alkaline batteries 4 ct AA or AAA: $3.99, get $3.99ECB = FREE.
  • 6 Revlon nail polish: $4.99, get $4RR. Use $1MC= FREE. I'll probably use my 2 Revlon coupons here instead of Walgreen's.
  • 1 Softlips single pack: $2, get $2ECB = FREE.
  • 1 Kleenex cool touch tissues, 50ct: $1.50, get $1.50ECB = FREE.

I'm starting with $4ECB and will pick the biggest money makers first. I'll keep rolling ECBs into future deals with as few transactions as possible. I don't mind walking out with lots of ECBs because I'm confident I'll use them within four weeks.

So are you ready or is this as clear as Greek? What questions do you have about shopping pharmacies?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Earthfare Deals & what to do with unwanted candy

I confess I haven't made it to Earthfare in awhile, but since I was in the neighborhood today, I stopped in for a few deals. Before I go, I always check the match-ups that Hannah at Frugally Farming Family does. She's a mother of 7 and still finds it in her budget to go to Earthfare. You go, girl!

She notes the best deals at the top of the list if you want to look quickly. However, my favorite deal wasn't advertised:
  • Back to Nature select crackers, including their version of Cheez-its: $2 a box! That's half price for Earthfare and much better than the typical sale at Kroger: $3. I watch this product closely because it's my kids' favorite snack. Once you taste how good these are, you'll never go back to that neon orange excuse for a cracker. Tip: If you don't see them on the shelf near the cheese, check on the end cap, where they put some of their best deals.
I also bought:
  • bulk sliced almonds for $5.99 / lb (savings of $2/lb)--great for holiday cooking / topping casseroles.
  • Glee Gum, 18 ct: $.75, use B1G1 coupon makes them $.38 each. This is a great stocking stuffer or donation to Christmas charities.
  • bag of organic apples: $5.99 (not a great price but this is one of my dirty dozen I only buy organic)
  • bag of organic potatoes: $5.99 (again, not a great price but this is one of my dirty dozen I only buy organic)
  • I contemplated the Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen deals, but I think I can find them cheaper elsewhere.
Finally, they're having a promotion, Trick or Trade In, through Nov. 5 where you can turn in Halloween candy in exchange for healthier goodies. No coupon necessary. I chose the 1-50 piece option that gets you a goody bag. Inside was a huge apple, $1.50 of coupons for Earthbound Farms good for 8 months, and a coupon for one free itty bitty bites meal (value: $3.99). You can get this to-go and feed it to your kids the next day if it's not lunch or dinner time. Offer valid through mid November.

The Take the Boot Challenge is for natural ant-acids. If you have Rolaids in your medicine cabinet, you could trade those in for a better alternative.

Every Thursday night, kids eat free with at least one adult meal worth $5 or more, 4-8pm.

And if you homeschool or are an educator, you could save 5% with ID.

Go green, save green!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Great deal on Blue Diamond almond milk

After learning my oldest was allergic to cows milk and after seeing the health benefits to my youngest with limiting her dairy all together, we've become a family devoted to almond milk. We like the generic brands as well as Blue Diamond or Silk, but when you can get the others cheaper, we go for it.

Here's a way you can really save on Blue Diamond milk this week at Kroger.
  • Buy 4 Blue Diamond half gallon milks. Make sure you have 6 other mega deals (I recommend Annie's mac n cheese for only $.69 or Campbells cream of mushroom soup for $.49 each).
  • The mega deal price will be $2.49 each.
  • If you have the $.55 or $1/2 coupons, use those.
  • At check-out, you'll receive a catalina for $4 off your next shopping trip (valid for two weeks only).
  • That makes them $.94 - $1.49 each, a great deal for sure.
Catalina ends 11/6. If you buy 2, you get $.75; buy 3 you get $1.50 off your next order. It's definitely worth buying 4.

Kroger's new coupon policy is now active in Knoxville

I just returned from Kroger (saving 46% woo hoo) and learned the new Kroger policy that had been put in place in other markets three weeks ago is now in effect in Knoxville. The key differences are:
  1. They will now only take two internet printable coupons per manufacturer per customer per day. It had been per product; now it's by manufacturer.
  2. You can use no more than 5 like paper coupons. This should help with shelf clearing.
My cashier today said they were only taking two internet printable coupons period, and when I said, "Oh, no, no, no" she confirmed with a manager I was right. So if you can find the policy to print out, do so and put it in your binder.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My best Halloween candy deals

If you can make it CVS today, Sunday 10/23, with your kids in costume, I highly recommend it. Especially if you have three kids. Here's how I scored three large bags of Hershey candy for just $.49 each.

Today only, every kid who shows up in costume will receive a Halloween gift pack worth $5 and $10 of coupons inside. The gift pack has a Twizzler, a glow stick, a Wonka fun dip, and a plastic snake and spider. I'm not a big fan of the straight sugar products. So my kids were excited to get their one fun dip for the year, and I didn't have to pay for it. The coupons inside are a free 5x7 which they take in the store while you shop ($1.99 value), $5 off Hershey candy of 19oz or larger, $5 off costumes, and $2 off CVS batteries C or D size.

Since I have three children, I received three packs. She printed three copies of their picture so that I could share them with both sets of grandparents and keep one of us. The clerk said the $5 couldn't be used for costume accessories like hats or masks; that would have made them free. I didn't look at the battery deals but will the next time I'm in the store, as these expire 10/31.

My favorite deal was on large bags of Hershey candy (19-20 oz).
  • Each bag cost $5.99.
  • I bought three bags.
  • I used 3 $5 CVS coupons from gift packs.
  • I also used the $1.50 / 3 Hershey manufacturer coupon from a few weeks ago.
  • OOP: $1.47 plus tax (or $.49 each)!
If you can't make it CVS today, their best candy deal is this:
  • Buy 4 smaller bags of Mars or Hershey candy (9.34 - 12 oz) for $2.50 each.
  • Use $1.50 / 3 Hershey manufacturer coupon or 2 $1.50/2 Mars manufacturer coupon from All You magazine.
  • OOP: $7 - $8.50 plus tax.
  • Get back $3 ECB for future purchase.
  • Makes them $1 - $1.38 each.
More Halloween deals good Sunday - Tuesday only:
  • 1 Gold Emblem candy corn 8oz: $.99, get $.99 ECB = FREE; limit 1
  • 1 pumpkin carving tool: $2.49, get $2.49 ECB = FREE; limit 1
More good deals to consider:
  • 1 Covergirl blush ($5.99) & 1 Covergirl blush-3 shades ($4.79). Use $8/2 MC and get $3 ECB when you spend $10 = $.22 MM. Limit 1.
  • 4 Progresso soups ($1.25 each). Use $1/4 MC and get $1 ECB when you buy 4=$.75 each. Limit 1.
I got all these deals today and even without prior ECBs to use, I feel good about my savings. I did three transactions, using some ECBS from one on others.
Total OOP: $11.03 ($3.30 of which was tax)
Total savings: $44.83
ECBs remaining: $3.48

For all the CVS match-ups this week, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie.

What's your best Halloween candy deal?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My First Mammogram

Mammogram. It's a word that up until now never bothered me. I've been a strong supporter of breast cancer awareness for 10 years, between stories I would produce for CBS to raising funds through the 3 day, 60 mile Avon walk. "Monthly self breast exams" and "early detection is the key" have become ingrained in me.

Until this week, that was honestly all information for someone else--not me. But since I am turning 40 next month, it was time for me to get my first baseline mammogram. I have no cause for concern, no lumps that worry me; it's just something I need to add to my list of routine healthcare.

So I made an appointment at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. With insurance it should be free, and I was in an out within an hour. The paperwork and questions were straight-forward. I tried to lighten the air with answers like this.

Nurse: "Do you have any breast implants?"
Me: "If I do, I should really get my money back because they're missing!"
Nurse: "Are you breast feeding?"
Me: "No, these girls worked for 4 years breast feeding and are taking a well earned retirement."

Another woman and I went into the dressing rooms together, but we were escorted to two different waiting rooms. My mammogram was just a "screening" one and hers was a "diagnostic" one. I don't know the specifics of how the procedures differ, but I was secretly thankful to be going into my room.

The procedure itself was awkward, not painful. It's along the lines of how dental x-rays feel when they stick that cardboard in your mouth except this time a nurse is physically smooshing your ta-ta's. They took four pictures within five minutes, and I should have the results within a week.

The one unexpected surprise during this visit was running into a dear friend, Gabrielle. She blogged about her experience here. My heart sank when she asked, "Did you find a lump TOO?" I didn't like hearing that she had to go through the diagnostic procedure, wondering what if... Thankfully, it was nothing abnormal and she's fine.

As I think back on my experience, I'm grateful we have tools today to help ease our minds or get us ready for battle. For me, I'm hoping for an "all clear." For Gabrielle, she can rest easy for now. But for hundreds of women every day, a mammogram's results will signal, "Now it's time to fight." During October, which has quickly become known as Breast Cancer Awareness month, I encourage you to seize the tools available to us so that you too can remain powerful through knowledge. And if you can participate in the 5K Race for the Cure, it's this Saturday.

If you care to share your story or link to a blog where you talked about early detection or fighting breast cancer, please leave a comment.

Kroger's new coupon policy

Once again the couponing community is abuzz about changes to coupon policies. This time it's Kroger in the Cincinnati / Dayton area that has new limitations, but it's likely a policy that will spread to other areas quickly. If you want to feel the steam rising off couponers' computers, check out some of the threads from their Facebook page.

Coupon Katie breaks down the basic changes like this:

  • A limit of no more than five paper manufacturer coupons for the same product. This seems to be an effort to keep products on the shelves and prevent “extreme” buys. I think I like this change and some manufacturers (like P&G) are already placing limits on the number of like coupons you can use.
  • A limit to two internet coupons per manufacturer per customer per day will be accepted. This is interesting, in our area (Knoxville) it is a limit of two of the same internet printable coupons (which is logical because the print limit is usually 2 per computer) This however is per manufacturer. I am sure this is an effort to stop fraudulent use/copying of IP’s.
The changes obviously come on the heels of TLC's Extreme Couponing where we watch people clear the shelves and get crazy savings like 97%. Of course they don't actually buy real food like bananas, bread, or milk. Last night there was a woman who got 240 tic tacs for free, thus "saving" hundreds of dollars. "We like to put them in our stockings," she said. Great! Then get a few packs and move on. YOU don't need 240 tic tacs; so leave some for others and stop pretending like you're feeding your family with tic tacs!

Since I've seen a sharp increase in cases of empty shelves, I'm all for setting limits. However, this new policy may be a little too tight on the second point. I'm already limited to two internet coupons per product because I only have one computer. However, now I have to make sure I don't have two internet coupons per manufacturer. So I wouldn't be able to use more than two printables for General Mills cereals, even if they were different types of cereal. That doesn't seem fair.

Also, my friend Gabrielle at Couponing in Critical Times buys food for her church's food pantry. She does two transactions: one for herself and one for the church. She can even save some tax for their purchases with their tax ID card. Would she be limited to the deals she can get because she's the same individual? That's not fair either. She should be allowed to shop for both.

Finally, if you ever feel sorry for the stores because of couponers, don't. The store gets their money back from the manufacturers. You save $1 with a coupon, Kroger gets that dollar from whoever decided to print the coupon. They're not losing money. The only case where they might lose money is that they double coupons $.50 or less, a practice I sure hope doesn't change. The way I see it, it's another enticement to have us come to their store instead of a competitor--just like why they put certain items on sale every week. It's business.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The New Kashi Granola Bars: My Review

Recently I had the opportunity through Green Moms Meet to review a new product with a group of my friends and their kids. This is the first time I've sampled a product in exchange for a review, but I got primarily positive feedback about the concept. I was under no obligation to give anything other than my honest feedback. Though it won't become a regular thing for me, when it's a product I believe in, I'm game.

The product is Kashi's newest snack and "one of the top 10 kid-friendly Kashi products:" the TLC Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola Bar. They also sent me a free box of Kashi cereal, cereal bars, and a reusable bag. I had enough samples for each mom and kid to try and then take home an extra. Since no one was allergic to peanuts, we were safe to have this as our snack during our weekly playgroup.

I've liked Kashi products for years because they are natural, minimally processed, and free of highly refined sugars, artificial additives, and unnatural preservatives. I try to minimize the amount of prepackaged food we consume, but sometimes I need something easy to throw in the car.

The 7 moms with 8 kids were all familiar with Kashi and had bought Kashi products before. The majority of moms and all the kids liked the taste. Those who did not care for the taste noted the texture of the chocolate. Personally, I liked the chocolate coating and my kids only want granola bars that have some evidence of chocolate. Having the coating on the top makes them more appealing but also more messy. Have your wipes handy.

The key point to whether the moms would buy a box was the price. None of us would pay $3.89 but by paring a coupon with a sale, we would buy them for $2 or less. I often see them on sale at Kroger for $3; so this isn't out of the question.

Thank you to Green Moms Meet and Kashi for the yummy treats and best of luck as you continue developing products we can be proud to give our kids. Enjoy my short video below and check out what other testers had to say here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

31 Ways in 31 Days

I just found this blog through my ties with Holistic Moms Network. Brenda Trudell, a chiropractor and author of Docbrenda's blog, lives in Wisconsin and has challenged herself to do something extra on her path to holistic living every day during October. I agree with her belief that when we take steps to be healthier individuals, it will lead to a healthier community and planet. Should be interesting following what she comes up with.

So far she's given up alcohol and coffee and is starting a new exercise routine. I'm all for more exercise but believe in moderation for the other two. Good luck, Dr. Brenda!

If you had to make one new choice every day that was a greener, more holistic improvement in your life, where would you start?

Coupon Workshop 10/9: Don't Miss!

If you've been wanting to learn more about couponing and want to shave 50-75% off your grocery bill, mark your calendar! Gabrielle is a good friend and mentor for me. She gets the "big picture" of saving money, making green choices, buying locally, gardening, reducing waste, and supporting others through her couponing ministry. She's not just any coupon blogger it's just five bucks! Here's the scoop!

Sunday, October 9
2 pm
Faith United Methodist Church
1120 Dry Gap Pike, Knoxville
Presented by Gabrielle Blake
Couponing in Critical Times blog
$5 donation at the door
(to benefit the outreach programs at Faith United Methodist Church)

Attendees will learn the basics of couponing and how to save 50-75% from their grocery budgets by using coupons and savvy shopping. Budgeting, coupon organization, coupon sources, store policies, and drugstore shopping will be reviewed. The workshop will take approximately 2-2 ½ hours. All are welcome!

For more info:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Couponing for Charity: where, oh where did you go?

Hi there, faithful followers. For those who have been checking weekly for my Couponing for Charity posts, I apologize if you've been disappointed. I've backed off a bit from couponing lately for a number of reasons.

A. The deals just aren't as plentiful as they were a year or two ago. The stores have realized that a lot more customers are into couponing and have perhaps scaled back on the goodies they offer.

B. The deals are often scooped up by other eager couponers before I typically make my rounds Tuesday morning. There's nothing more frustrating than scanning the blogs, gathering the coupons, trekking to the store and not being able to buy anything. Even if I get a raincheck, the goods are often not restocked before my coupons expire.

C. The demands of my family pull me in other directions. Coupons always take a backseat to my family time.

D. TLC's show Extreme Couponing has given the rest of us a bad name and have made hoarding an acceptable practice. Not ok!

E. When my local Walgreen's was robbed at 2:00pm on a weekday, I started questioning whether getting a good deal was worth a threat to my safety. I hope this was a random incident, but you never know.

So I decided to only post when the compelling deals worked for me personally. Hopefully this will serve as a good test of when couponing might work into your busy schedule as well.

My favorite store for deals is by far CVS.
For all the match-ups for 10/2-8, check out Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, check out Coupon Katie or Real Housewives Clip Coupons.

Make sure you sign up for a free $2ECB by pledging not to be a money trasher. It will be emailed to you. The videos are clever. I liked the mousetrap one best.

And before you begin any trip at CVS, scan your ExtraCare card at the kiosk for extra coupons. Today I received an unexpected $1.50ECB and $.50 off M&Ms I was already planning to buy. Woo hoo!

So here's what I bought:

Transaction #1:
5 packages of M&Ms harvest mix (make sure you're getting the right kind; not all M&Ms qualify). Each package was $2.50; spend $12, get $5ECB.
  • Used $1/2 MC, $1.50/2 printable, and $.50 CVS coupon noted above. The pretzyl M&Ms do not qualify; so I couldn't use the $1 coupon.
  • Also used $1.50 and $2.00ECBS noted above and $4.79 in ECBs from previous trips.
Total spent: $2.04
ECB earned: $5
Total savings: $18.74

Transaction #2
2 Oral-B satin floss ($3 each, earn $2ECB when you buy 2, used 2 $2 MC=both free); limit 2
2 Reach toothbrush two packs ($3.99 each, $4ECB when you buy 2, used 2 $2 printables=4 toothbrushes for free); limit 2
  • Also used $5ECB from previous transaction
Total spent: $2.27
ECBs earned: $6
Total savings: $19.58

WALGREEN'S has some deals this week but they continue to frustrate me with not having goods in stock or the register rewards not printing properly. Unless I really need their deals, I pass.

KROGER has good deals on meat this week but not much for the couponer. With one exception:
  • Clif and Luna bars are on sale for $1. I have a $.50 coupon for Luna bars and several catalinas for Clif bars, including $1.50/4 and one free bar. I'll be stocking up.
One final note on couponing and helping others. Despite my frustrations, I continue to seek out sales and stock my charity pile whenever I can. There are several members of my church who regularly give me coupons and I'm hoping to have a lot to contribute to our Stuff a Stocking drive near Christmas. Thanks to them, it's a team effort.

Also, I continue to take the coupons I won't use to the Karns Library. I hear that many people look forward to gathering coupons from that and it's a fun way to share the savings. I encourage you to do the same at your library or throughout the stores you frequent. Happy Couponing!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great savings on pumpkin patch & family fun

I was very excited to see this deal in my in box a couple of days ago and jumped on it right away. Apparently, I wasn't alone. They've already sold more than 3,000 deals! The deal is still on through the end of today 9/9.

Head to Groupon for 66% savings on admission to Oakes Farm in Corryton, TN. We've been every year for five years, and we wouldn't miss it. Now that the kids are getting older, the corn maze should be even more fun.

So here's the deal: For $11, you get three admission tickets by October 15 or two admission tickets after 10/15. Admission includes the hayride, corn maze and entrance to the "back 40"--lots of traditional games. I believe pumpkins are $5 each extra.

General admission is $10 for ages 11 and up, $8 for ages 3-10 and under 3 are free. Normally our family would have to pay $36, but with this deal, we'll only pay $19 (one groupon and one kid at the door). What a great idea to go during fall break.

For a few more tips for getting the most of your trip to Oakes Farm, check out my post from last year. My, how Brooke has changed! Ahh, fall activities. I'm ready!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

FREE family movie night 8/25

My kids have been talking about this for days since we got the email from Redbox. Today, August 25 is "America's Movie Night." Search "Redbox" on Facebook and click "America's Movie Night" on the left. You're just a few clicks away from a free code. I know the movies are just a buck, but isn't it fun to get it for FREE?!

What good movies have you rented from Redbox lately?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eco-friendly scotch tape: get it FREE!

When I can score a deal that's a green product and I get it for free, I wear a smile all day. Yes, I'm that nerdy. I just stopped by Staples to get all the extreme deals on the front of the flyer for myself and my church. They still had plenty of everything, and the notebooks rang up $.09, not $.19--even better.

My favorite deal was for Scotch magic eco-friendly tape, made from 75% renewable or recycled materials. The dispenser is made from 100% recycled plastic, the back-card is from 100% renewable materials, and the tape is made from over 53% renewable plant-based materials. I'm not sure how they do that, but that's cool. You can also reuse the dispenser and buy refills separately or recycle it through Terracyle. Since our school has just started collecting for Terracycle, I'm jazzed about this idea, which pays the school $.02 for each item. Love it!

So here's the deal: You pay $3.99 and get $3.99 back in Staples rewards to use on a future purchase. Voila: FREE. Limit 1 per customer. Go green, save green, give green!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Decent Staples deals this week

If you happen to be near a Staples this week, there are a few good deals to pick up. You need a rewards card for some of them. I will probably be picking up deals for myself and my church by using both Staples cards and I won't have to pay tax on their purchases. There's a limit per account; not per customer. The deals are either in Staples rewards; pay now, save later through store credit, or Easy Rebates; pay now, they send you a check. Rewards are usually good for 2 months. Here are the deals:

1 Scotch Magic Greener tape: $3.99, get $3.99 in SR=FREE
1 Staples pack of pastel paper 500 sheets: $8.79, get $8.79 in SR=FREE
1 8 pack of Staples writing pads / steno pads: $10.79, get $10.79 in SR=FREE
1 3 pack of Scotch moving & storage tape: $13.99, get $13.99 in SR==FREE
1 5 pack Bic Mark it permanent markers: $3.00, easy rebate: $2.75=$.25
1 4 pack Pentel Wow retractable pens: $2.99, easy rebate: $2.74=$.25
5 2 pocket ply folders: $.25 each
5 Really Useful storage boxes: $.25
2 Staples 70 sheet notebooks: $.19 each
2 Staples memo books: $.50 each

What deals do you think are worth the trip?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I just picked 3 gallons of glorious blueberries!

First, the bad news: I called Falls Blueberry Farm in Maryville yesterday and they said that would be their last day. Say it isn't so?! There were just no more berries on the trees. I went the same time last year and they were dripping with berries; last year they had them well into August; so I was VERY disappointed. Between trips, camps, and VBS, we haven't had a single day to get there til now.

Second, the good news: I had heard the Blueberry Hill Farm in Norris was great. The answering machine said they were open for picking every day, sun up to sun down and they should have berries til the end of August. This farm was actually closer to me; so I piled all three kids in the car and off we went.

I was delighted to see they had PLENTY of blueberries and they were delicious! And I had the added surprise to see a friend had brought her kids there too. So we got to pick and visit at the same time. In an hour and a half, we had filled 3 gallons. I would have kept picking but the kids were done. The berries seemed nice and plump after yesterday's rain, but I did get soaked by the drops falling off the leaves. We all cooled off in the creek near Norris Lake not far away.

I am pleased with my berries, but their pricing is much higher than in Maryville. $16 a gallon--cash only (more than twice what I paid last year). I respect that they work on the honor system. You put your money in an envelope and slip it between two slats in a barn! Despite paying more, it's still much cheaper than any market's sale, they don't spray pesticides on the berries, I'm supporting local agriculture, and I've ensured I should have enough fresh berries to get me through to next summer. Very happy! Sorry I have no good pictures; I was too busy harvesting blueberries! ;-)

Blueberry Hill Farm
Brian & BJ Baxter, owner/operator
101 Reservoir Rd
Norris, TN 37828 (Anderson County)
Phone: (865) 494-7903

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Couponing for Charity 7/10 - 16

Maybe it's just a summer thing, maybe we're in the midst of a slow sales cycle slump, or maybe TLC's Extreme Couponing has changed the couponing scene for everyone. Whatever the cause, I'm lamenting that lately there just aren't as many great deals as I'm used to seeing. Fewer deals for my family and fewer deals for the charities I've been supporting.

However, I have found a few deals I'll try to pick up this week.


For all the savings, check out Southern Saver's match-ups.
For a pared down list, check out Coupon Katie.
Here's my plan:
  • 1 Complete Multipurpose solution 12 oz ($7.99, get $7.99 ECB=FREE); limit 1
  • 1 Balance Bar ($1.69, get $1.69 ECB=FREE); limit 1
  • 2 Raison Brans ($2.50 each, $1 ECB wyb 2; use 2 $.70 printables =$1.30 each); limit 1
  • 2 Colgate toothpastes 4oz ($1.66 each, use $1.50/2 CVS kiosk coupon and 2 $.75 MC=$.16 each. If I can find the $1 coupons, they're free.)

Here are all the Southern Saver match-ups.
Here is a pared down list from Coupon Katie.
I doubt I'll go into Walgreen's this week, but if I did, here's what I'd get:

Transaction #1:
  • 1 Hyland's natural teething gel--a great gift for a baby shower ($5, get $5RR, use $1 printable=$1MM)
OOP: $4 + tax
RR earned: $5

Transaction #2:
  • 1 W Womens 6 Blade Razor System ($3.99, get $3.99RR=FREE)
  • 1 GUM 200 yards floss ($2, get $2RR=FREE)
  • Use $5RR from previous transaction
OOP: $.99 + tax
RRs earned: $6

Click here for all the match-ups from Southern Savers.
It's another mega-sale; so lots of deals other than what I've noted here, but these are the freebies I see.
  • Colgate ($.99; use $.75 - $1 MC=Free to nearly free). Tip: If you don't want to deal with ECBs and RRs, this is a great way to get free toothpaste.
  • Pringles ($.85, use $.50 MC, doubled = FREE)
  • Mars & Nestle bars ($.50, use $.50/2 MC or $1.19/2 e-saver=FREE)
What are your favorite deals?