Sunday, February 27, 2011

Couponing for Charity 2/27-3/5

If you're new to Couponing for Charity, it works like this. I share what I feel are the best deals for the week, give scenarios for what I'm buying, and tell what I'm keeping for my family and what I'm donating. I try to focus on the freebie and money maker items that are non-perishable or foods with a long shelf life, but a few other good deals slip in there too. If you're new to shopping the deals at pharmacies, this is a GREAT week to get started, provided you have the right coupons. If you're interested in the CVS deals, I suggest you go today or tomorrow, before some of the coupons expire 2/28.

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

Here was what I bought today:

  • 2 Crest pro-health 4.2oz toothpaste ($3.29, get $3.29, used 2 $.75 MC = $1.50 MM) The cashier wouldn't accept the $1 Pro Health for Me coupon; depends on your clerk. You could buy Oral B floss instead.
  • 2 Oral-B crossaction power toothbrushes 1ct ($6 each, get $3ECB for each, used 1 B1G1 expiring 2/28 and 1 $3/1 coupon in 2/27 insert=$3MM)
  • 1 Revitalens multi-purpose solution 4oz ($5.99, get $5.99=FREE)
  • 1 CVS travel wipes ($.99, used $1 off any wipes printed at kiosk=FREE)
  • 1 Kashi cereal, 1 Kashi granola bars ($3 each, buy 2 get $2ECB, used 2 $1 MC coupons I picked up at the Coupon Fair=$1 each)
  • Used $14.57 in ECBs from last week
Total spent: $6.23
Total saved: $38.83
ECBs for future: $6.58, $6, $5.99, $2, $1 (green tag)=$21.57

Tip: You could also get free Softsoap body wash; check out Coupon Katie's link for details and see if an extra CVS Softsoap coupon prints at the kiosk.


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

  • Applied Nutrition anti-aging total body defense 50ct ($10, get $10RR=FREE)
  • Aquafor lip repair .35 oz ($4.99, get $4RR, use $1 printable=FREE)
  • Baby Magic lotion or hair & body wash 16.5oz ($3, get $3RR=FREE)
  • Colgate Total 4oz ($3, get $3RR, use $1MC=$1MM)
  • Motrin IB pain relief 20ct ($3, get $3RR; use $6/2 MC=$3MM)
  • Nasogel Drip-free gel spray 1oz ($5, get $5RR=FREE)
  • Super Poligrip Free .75oz ($2, get $2RR, use $1 printable = $1MM)
  • Listerine Zero ($2.99, get $1RR, use $2 MC=FREE)
  • Huggies diapers or pull-ups ($9, get $2RR, use $2MC=$5 each--not free but a decent price)

I'll probably go for most of these deals except the anti-aging product. Coupon Katie gave a good deal scenario to minimize your OOP.

For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie here and here and here.

Last week I got the free ibuprofin, $.14 pantyliners, $.37 mouthwash, $.47 bleach, and $.69 Seventh Generation dish soap. I couldn't find any jeans on clearance for $4.98 but I'll check again next trip. You can also get free Benefiber, Excedrin, and Prevacid, but I'll pass.

I didn't see any freebies at Kroger this week, but there are a few good deals. I may skip grocery shopping this week.

MOST RECENT ADDITIONS TO DONATE: 2 pantyliners ($.89 each, $.14 after coupons, 2 ibuprofin ($.99 each, FREE with coupons), 2 power toothbrushes ($8.99 each, $3MM for both) 4 toothpastes (2 Colgate $2.69, Free with coupons and 2 Crest $3.79, $1.50MM for both), 2 Mentos gum ($1.59 each, Free with coupons), 2 Lipton cup o soups ($1.28 each, $.44MM after coupons), 1 Revitalens ($5.99, Free after ECB)
MONEY SPENT: -$4.66 (that's a $4.66 money maker)

TOTAL ITEMS DONATING TO DATE: 1 box of pain patches, 2 heat wraps, 10 toothpaste, 4 containers of hummus, 1 trial size laundry, 8 toothbrushes, 1 baby wipes, 24 post-it's, 3 eye drops, 3 cans soup, 2 boxes soup, 1 body wash, 3 gum, 3 feminine hygiene, 4 knee hi's, 1 deodorant, 2 ibuprofin
MONEY SPENT: -$10.71

What freebies did I miss? Which are your favorite deals?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Art of FREE: Pay it Forward

To those I met at the coupon fair this morning, welcome to my blog! To those bargain bloodhounds who sniffed it out because of the word FREE, welcome as well. I just returned from the Second Annual Knoxville Coupon Fair, and I'm pumped up. The crowd doubled from last year (around 600)! I barely had a moment between breaths, but that made it more fun.

As I reflect on how much has changed from my Coupon Fair experience last year, the phrase PAY IT FORWARD resonates in my mind. I didn't even know there were deals at pharmacies until Coupon Katie shared her knowledge with me a year and a half ago. And it was here last year that I first met Gabrielle from Couponing in Critical Times, who inspired me to start Couponing for Charity. In a few weeks I will take my fourth batch of freebies to a local non-profit, and the annual total value of my contributions alone will be about $650 of goods. Wow!

That's why today my topic to share with folks was "The Art of Free." The goal was to give the basic tools to acquire these freebies themselves but more importantly to inspire them to share a portion of their good deals with others. PAY IT FORWARD. Whether you share them with your mom, your church, or the food bank, I challenge you to find some way to spread the good coupon karma. I hope that you will accept this challenge and share with me how I've inspired you in the months ahead. You never know the impact you could have. Gabrielle has impacted mine as a mentor, confidant, and friend. ;-)

If you didn't make it to the fair today, here's part of my hand-out:

The most beautiful word to any couponer is FREE. I smile every time I say it. But there is an art to attaining freebies. Here are a few tips.

  1. Know what to look for. Items you can usually get for free are:
  • Hygiene: toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, body wash, razors, shaving cream, feminine products, deodorant, shampoo, lip balm, eye solution, and travel first aid kids.
  • Medicine: I haven’t paid for pain relievers or cold medicines all year.
  • Candy: You can usually get candy bars for $.25 or free and bagged candy for $1 or less through pharmacy deals. Great for holidays.
  • Food: Free pasta, canned soup, brownie mix, tuna packets, snack mix, energy bars, and granola bars for $.50 a box or less are typical.

  1. Know where to go.
  • There are weekly freebies through the rewards programs at CVS and Walgreen’s.
  • Kroger doubles coupons up to $.50, making many “10 for $10” items free.
  • Target allows you to stack manufacturer’s and Target coupons on the same item.
  • Staples often has “easy rebates” or rewards deals that mean free office supplies.
  • Earthfare sends out weekly email promotions for free items when you spend $5.

  1. Sign up for free sample email alerts. sends emails with the free sample of the day. These are good on items I don’t use regularly, and they often come with a coupon for future savings.

  1. Know which coupons are worth clipping / printing. When in doubt, clip. That’s good advice when getting started, but there are some coupons to specifically look out for.
  • $1 off any Tide product gets a free travel size Tide at Target. I’ve also gotten several free travel first aid kits with $3/3 J&J when they’re a dollar each.
  • A $.50/1 coupon for Colgate, Crest, Reach, Speed Stick, Duncan Hines, Star Kist, Pillsbury, Green Giant, or Ronzoni will usually mean free products on sale at Kroger.
  • Cereal can be tough to get totally free but if you’re patient, you should never pay more than $1.50 a box. Coupons for cereal range from $.33 to B1G1.

  1. Know the rules of B1G1.
  • In most stores, you don’t actually have to buy 2 items to get an advertised B1G1 deal. If vitamins are B1G1 at $8, you can buy 1 for just $4 and if you have a $2/1 coupon, you only pay $2.
  • If you have a B1G1 coupon for an item, you can also use another coupon for money off the one you’re “buying.” Say deodorant is on sale for $1 each; you have a B1G1 and $1/1 for that brand. You can use both coupons to get two free.

  1. Even if you have a FREE coupon for an item, it’s wise to wait for a sale.
  • Kroger sends targeted free coupons based on your spending habits. Waiting for a mega sale when I buy multiple boxes of granola bars helps bring down the total price per box.
  • Since you usually pay tax, even on coupons that say “free,” it’s better to pay tax when it costs $3 as opposed to $5.
  • Read the fine print on free coupons. Sometimes it’s up to a certain value. I was able to get Cottonelle wipes for free at Kroger – not so at Walgreen’s or CVS.

Thank you to Gabrielle and Christy for the photos.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Knoxville Coupon Fair: This Saturday! Don't Miss it!

Do yo have plans for this Saturday, February 26, from 9am to noon? Sure you do! You'll be joining me at the Second Annual Knoxville Coupon Fair at Faith United Methodist Church in Knoxville. I will be sharing some tips and suggestions for Couponing for Charity with a hand-out called, "The Art of Free." The event is FREE and childcare will be provided. You don't have to stay the whole time.

There will be tables to swap coupons and freebies, but we're also asking those who can to donate one free item they've gotten through couponing to charity. Here are tips for freebies you could get tomorrow! I've already compiled a list for next week (lots of freebies and money makers); see them first at the fair.

Here are more details: Local coupon and money saving experts will be present to give one-on-one attention to participants. Attendees can browse the booths, ask couponing questions, and hone their money saving skills. People new to couponing will especially benefit from the many instructional handouts that experts will provide. Participants are encouraged to bring extra coupons and “freebies” to trade.

Coupon Bloggers and Resource Booths participating in this year’s event—Margaret of Blue Frog Creations, Gabrielle ofCouponing in Critical Times, Jennifer of Coupon Mommie, Christy of Coupons are Money, Melissa of Frugalissa Finds, Hannah of Frugally Farming Family, Isha of Knoxville Mamabelle, Kathryn of Knoxville on a Dime, Julie of Sharing Savings with You, Earth Fare, KARM Thrift Stores, Knoxmoms, Kroger of Fountain City, One Call Club for Seniors, Rebecca’s Coupons and Forms, Regions Bank, Silver Lining Quality Children’s Consignment, and Three Rivers Market.

Topics to be addressed—Organizing your coupons, Learning the Coupon Lingo, Shopping at Walgreens and CVS, Couponing at Target, Saving Money on Organics, Meal Planning, Growing and Preserving Your Own Foods, Healthy Lunch Options, Saving Money on Items for Babies and Children, Learning New Coupon Technology, Group Buying Sites, Couponing for Charity, Thrift Store Shopping, Consignment Shopping, and Saving Seniors Money.

Faith United Methodist Church is located on the corner of Dry Gap Pike and Rifle Range Road at 1120 Dry Gap Pike, Knoxville, TN 37918. For more information, contact Gabrielle Blake at or phone Faith United Methodist Church at 865-688-1000.

Still have questions? Gabrielle probably answered them in this post. Will you be there? Leave a comment and let me know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Couponing for Charity 2/20-26

Before I get started, let me remind you about the Knoxville Coupon Fair this Saturday, February 26 from 9am to noon. It's a drop-in, walk-around set-up. So you don't have to be there the whole time. You will have access to some of the savviest coupon bloggers in Knoxville, and they will all be distributing informative hand-outs. I will be sharing tips for the "Art of Free." If you can spare one of the freebies I've helped you get, please bring it to donate. Come armed with your questions, because this is the only day of the year we're all in one room. Best part: IT'S FREE!!!! Still have questions? Gabrielle probably answered them in this post.

Can you believe it's only Sunday and I've already done my shopping for the week?! I shopped at CVS on Saturday to pick up deals from both weeks, stopped by for some essentials at Kroger yesterday, and ran into Walgreen's and Staples today. There are some good deals for sure!

I just saw a series of deals at Target on Coupon Katie's site. Check posts here, here, and here. I'm hoping to get a few of these deals tomorrow:
  • Finish Quantum 10ct ($2.50, $1.50 Target coupon, $1 MC=Free)
  • Up & Up dental floss-50 yds ($.89, $1 TC=Free) Tip: If it beeps, have the cashier type in $.89.
  • Up & Up mouthwash-16.9oz ($1.37, $1 TC=$.37)
  • Up & Up pantyliners ($.87, $.75 TC=$.12)
  • Up & Up ibuprofen-24ct ($.99, $1 TC=Free)
  • Up & Up all purpose cleaner with bleach ($1.37, $1 TC=$.37)
  • Up & Up bleach ($1.47, $1 TC=$.47)
  • Up & Up dryer sheets-40ct ($1.37, $1 TC=$.37)
  • Seventh Generation dish soap ($2.79, $1TC, $1MC =$.79). Using both a Target coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on the same item is called "stacking."
  • Jeans (several on clearance marked $4.98, $5 TC=Free)
  • There's also free Wolfgang Puck soup but I'd already printed and used that coupon.

If you have chance to go shopping tomorrow, 2/21, head to Staples for these freebies after easy rebates. It's a "pay now, save later" scenario but it's even better than the rewards deals because they send a check you turn into cash--not store rewards. And the rebates are all done online.

For a complete list of freebies, go to MoJo Savings. Here's what I bought:
  • 2 packs multi-purpose paper ($5.99 each, FREE after rebate)
  • 2 packs photo paper ($9.99 each, FREE after rebate)
  • 2 Avery address labels (normally $11.99 each, $4.99 for rewards members, should get $9.99 for each, making this a $10MM)
  • 1 Pentel pack of pens ($3.79, FREE after rebate)
  • 1 Staples mini post-its (normally $5.29, $4.00 for rewards members, FREE after rebate)
  • 1 50 pack HP DVDs (normally $28.99, $9.99 for rewards members, $4.99 after rebate)
Total value: $94.01
Total OOP: $65.54 (remember you're still paying tax)
I will receive rebates for $64.73
I'm going to hang onto all this for now; I may donate some at a later time if I see a charity has a specific need.

It's a toss-up for which is the better pharmacy this week. So I'll start with:

For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For pared down lists, go to Coupon Katie or Coupon Mommie.

Since I bought goods for two different weeks, I won't confuse you with my scenario specifics, but here are the best deals this week:
  • 2 Colgate Maxfresh or Total Advanced ($2.99, get $2ECB, use $1MC from All You=FREE)
  • 1 Gold Emblem jelly beans ($.99, get $.99ECB=FREE)
  • 1 Cadbury egg ($.75, get $.75ECB=FREE); valid through 2/22 only
  • 4 Mars bars; selected varieties ($.50 each, get $1ECB wyb 4; I used a B1G1 MC which expires today and a CVS B1G1 coupon from the kiosk that took off $.89. So my four were a $.39MM. Even without coupons, they are $.25 each)
For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie.

Here's what I bought:
  • 1 RepHresh box of tampons (normally $6.99, on sale for $5.99, get $5, used $1 printable=FREE)
  • 1 Dove deodorant ($2.99, $1.99 with ad coupon, used $2 MC=FREE)
  • 4 knee highs (normally $.50 each, $.25 each with in ad coupon, total=$1) I bought these as filler items to make the product / coupon ratio.
  • Used 2 $2RRs from last week
Total OOP: $2.86
RRs for next time: $5
Total savings: $10

For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Mommie.

Due to my Eat from the Pantry challenge, I may not make it in this week, but there are a few freebies to grab if you have the coupons: Voskos yogurt, Horizon milk, Colgate toothpaste, Starkist tuna, Mentos gum, and Land of Lakes spread.

The past few weeks have been primarily deals for our family, but here are some items I've added to the stash to donate: 1 pack gum ($1.49, Free after ECB), 4 tubes toothpaste ($15.96, after coupons and ECBs=$2.50MM), 1 feminine hygiene ($6.99, Free after RR and coupon), 4 knee hi's ($2, $1 after coupon), 1 deodorant ($2.99, $.01MM after coupons).
MONEY SPENT: -$1.51 (that's negative $1.51)

TOTAL ITEMS DONATING TO DATE: 1 box of pain patches, 2 heat wraps, 6 toothpaste, 4 containers of hummus, 1 trial size laundry, 6 toothbrushes, 1 baby wipes, 24 post-it's, 2 eye drops, 3 cans soup, 1 body wash, 1 gum, 1 feminine hygiene, 4 knee hi's, 1 deodorant

See you at the Coupon Fair!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Party from the Pantry

We're on the downhill slide of the February Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and I thought I'd share some ways I've been able to stay on course and still be prepared for various celebrations. It's helped me know what to keep on hand in a pinch and how to get creative when necessary.

Valentine's Day means several parties for the kids. The first was with our MOMS Club chapter where everyone brought something sweet to share. I had thought about rice krispy treats but someone had already planned on that. So I settled on homemade granola bars. I chose this recipe because it didn't call for wheat germ (like many recipes online) which I didn't have. I wanted to use up some oats, honey, coconut, and dried fruit. It was simple enough to make but in my haste of multi-tasking, I forgot the sugar. Who forgets the sugar?!

Rather than scratch the whole batch, I decided to get creative. I'll just use another ingredient in abundance in my pantry: prepared icing! I had gotten several for free awhile back and forgot about them. So I broke up the granola, took a small dollop of icing and rolled it in the granola. Not surprising--they were delicious! How could they not be? I know they're not healthy, but they made for a yummy treat. When I ran out of the icing, I used peanut butter to do the same thing--also tasty. I plan to make another batch correctly soon.

Continuing on valentines parties, both boys had celebrations at school. Bobby needed to bring "something salty;" he was thrilled with a can of multi-grain Pringles nearing their expiration. Devin brought apples and grapes, which I'd bought a lot of the week prior. Both boys took valentines with Hershey kisses taped to them (another deal I had in abundance).

Our party scene continued with Brooke's second birthday party. I kept it very low-key at home with three of her friends. We played Elefun, Hullabaloo, and built towers out of our eco blocks. They had a great time. I served apples, grapes, and pretzyls for a snack and then cupcakes on reusable plates. I had the cake mix and frosting in the pantry already. My only costs were $1 for balloons (which I forgot to blow up), $1 for streamers, and $1 each for the balls I gave as party favors. Devin and Brooke helped me make a sign from poster board and stickers we had on hand; I even re-used the 2 candle and hats from previous birthdays. Hey, why not? A two-year-old doesn't care! What she did notice was that for a small period of time, she was the queen bee and garnered attention and presents.

Lastly, I planned two special valentine dinners: one with our family and one as a couple. The family dinner was steamed crabs I'd picked up at Sam's Club a few weeks ago, scalloped potatoes (AMAZING recipe!) that were starting to spud with heavy cream I needed to use, and steamed broccoli. We ended the meal with our favorite dessert: the chocolate fountain. I had the chocolate, marshmellows, and pirouette cookies in the pantry. The bananas and organic strawberries I'd bought fresh that day.

The special couple meal was supposed to be a dinner out at The Melting Pot (where I of course have a half off certificate), but kids' illnesses have put that plan on hold. So tonight I'm going to use the rest of the crab to make crab cakes and have a candlelight dinner with just the two of us after they go to bed. Plan B's not so bad!

If you ask my hubby if this challenge has been terrible, he might respond, "What challenge?" I haven't changed my habits greatly and have added some fresh fruit, bread, and veggies to balance our diet. I've saved a TON of money by simply not going to the store as often or buying only selective items. I may have to break down and pick up some cinnamon to keep the peace, but I'd say this has been a good experience. Thank you, Couponing in Critical Times, for suggesting it. I'm hoping to win that $5 gift card to Walgreen's to see how far I can make it go!

What has been your most creative use of items in your pantry?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Couponing for Charity 2/13-19

Sorry for the delay in this post. I'll get to it. If you're going to pick just one pharmacy this week, head to CVS.

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie or Coupon Mommie.

Since I used all my ECBs on toilet paper last week, I'm starting from scratch. Here's my plan:

  • 2 Colgate Sensitive ($3.80 each, get $3.80 ECB, use 1 $1.50 and 1 $1 MC=$2.50MM); limit 2
  • 2 Listerine ($4 each, get $2ECB, use 2 $2/1 MC=FREE); limit 2
  • 2 Pull-ups ($9 each, $4ECB when you buy 2, use 2 $2/1 MC=$5 each); limit 2
  • I also just received a 20% off coupon via email because I registered for their Facebook promotion last week. It says it's valid on non-sale items only and expires 2/16. So we'll see if it takes off anything for these purchases.)
Total OOP: $23.10 (unless the coupon takes off more)
RR's good for 4 weeks: $15.60

Since I have a $5RR expiring tomorrow, I'll also be going to Walgreen's.

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie or Coupon Mommie.

Here's my plan:
  • 1 Reach floss ($3, get $2RR, use $1 MC=FREE)
  • 1 Triaminic fever reducer ($5, use $3 Walgreen's catalina that printed a few weeks ago=$2)
  • 2 packs Walgreen's diapers (hoping to find a night-time pull-up version; buy 1 at $9, get 1 free, use 1 $2/1 coupon from new infant care coupon booklet--will deduct $4=$2.50 each)
  • Use $5RR from previous visit.
Total OOP: $4 plus tax
RR's for next time: $2

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down list, go to Coupon Katie or Coupon Mommie.

Though the word "mega sale" gets me all excited inside, I think I will pass this week and just get our milk at Weigel's. I'm trying hard to stick to the Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and the best way to do that is to not step into the store. Plus, I got some great deals at Earthfare to carry me through the week. If you're looking for freebies at Kroger, I recommend picking up Odwalla and Colgate.
What great deals did I miss this week?

Earthfare: $44.16 of goods for $11.54

Today was a great shopping day at Earthfare! They are so generous with their freebies and willingness to work with us crazy couponers. I just got $44.16 of goods for just $11.54 (and that includes tax). For the best savings, make sure you shop TODAY, 2/14.

Here's what I bought & how I saved:
  • 1 all natural whole chicken ($7.67; FREE with dinner promotion expiring 2/16)
  • 1 16oz bag of baby carrots ($2.49; FREE with dinner promotion expiring 2/16)
  • 1 container of mashed potatoes ($5.34; FREE with dinner promotion expiring 2/16)
  • 1 box of organic chocolate truffles ($5.98; FREE with coupon expiring 2/14)
  • 1 box Nature's Gate toothpaste ($4.99; on sale for $3.99; FREE with take the boot challenge coupon)
  • 2 bags Cascadian Farm edamame ($2.69 each, on sale for $2.19, used 2 $.75 printables=$1.44 each)
  • 2 cans Muir Glen tomatoes with chilis ($1.68 each, on sale for $1.50, used 2 $.75 printables=$.75 each)
  • 2 bags Arrow Head puffed cereal ($1.99 each, on sale for $1.50, used 2 $1/1 printables=$.50 each)
  • 1 16 oz container organic strawberries--our treat for tonight's chocolate fountain--$4.97
Total after coupons: $10.35; $11.54 with tax. Since you had to spend $10 to get the free dinner items, that's about as close as you get. Go green, save green!

For all the links to printable coupons, check out Hannah from Frugally Farming Family.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How I'm feeding others from the pantry

I was a bit concerned when I took on the February Eat from the Pantry Challenge, that I would not be able to find meals suitable for giving away. I often take food to others in need because it gives me joy: the mother who just had a baby, the neighbor who broke her arm, the friend I've been meaning to invite to dinner. With a little creativity, I haven't missed a beat.

We invited the friends to dinner just as Bob made a big batch of chili. There was plenty to share and freeze for later. Fresh bread and salad made it more nutritious.

I did the same thing with a big batch of stew for my neighbor. I also made homemade cornbread and fresh brownies.

Yesterday I took tuna noodle casserole, fresh bread, and chocolate pudding to a new mom. Thanks to matching coupons to sales, I got most of the ingredients for free or under a dollar.
  • The pudding I made from a box in the pantry (got it on sale for $.50).
  • The tuna I got for free.
  • The pasta was free.
  • The can of cream of chicken soup was free.
  • The homemade breadcrumbs I added on top were free.
  • The frozen peas I added were $.50.
  • The most expensive item was half a loaf of fresh bread that I allowed myself to buy through perimeter shopping: $1.25.
And the best part was that I had all the ingredients on hand, I wanted to use them up, and it was easy enough to double so that I had dinner for my family too with no extra effort.

How are you getting creative with eating from the pantry?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Perimeter Shopping: How did I do?

Since joining the February Eat from the Pantry challenge, I have been doing well with intentionally eating what we have on hand. Saturday night we had steak, baked potatoes, and roasted winter squash. Sunday was pizza for the Super Bowl. Tonight was mahi mahi with homemade frozen pesto, penne pasta, and steamed broccoli. We had smoothies with frozen fruit and fresh yogurt and toasted zucchini bread for breakfast. Kids usually prefer toast or cereal. Lunches are left-overs or soup.

It had been 11 days since I visited the grocery store and we were low on milk. So off to Kroger I went with my plan to stick to Perimeter Shopping. Just like it sounds, you only buy goods along the perimeter of the store and don't walk down any aisles. Generally, that's a healthier way to shop. My one exception was one loaf of whole wheat bread.

I've given myself the leeway in this challenge to include fresh fruit & veggies, milk, bread, eggs, cheese, and deli meat because this is a priority for my family. I'm not going to deny them fresh food because I'm trying to make a point. I also find that mixing in steamed veggies with meat I pull from the freezer or fresh bread with stew makes it all taste so much better.

So how did I do? Pretty well for me: I spent $56.01 and saved $31.29 (37%)--proving that you can still coupon on the good stuff.
  • PRODUCE: I saved on produce by buying what was on sale: red peppers, broccoli, red grapes, asparagus, mushrooms, and bananas.
  • BREAD: I saved on fresh ciabatta bread with a $2 off $7 at the bakery coupon from Kroger's home mailer. Yes, there are cheaper breads but I won't buy crap bread. My sandwich bread would have been an awesome deal if they hadn't over-charged me. Nature Pride was on sale for $2.19 and I had a $1 coupon from the Kroger home mailer. Anyone know their policy for when they make a mistake?
  • DAIRY: I got one Voskos yogurt free with a coupon and a 4 pack of Activia for just $.88 with a $1 coupon from again, the Kroger home mailer. I got two blocks of Kraft cheese for $1.17 each and some shredded Kraft cheese for $.67 after coupons. The milk, half & half, and sour cream were just on sale.
  • DELI MEAT: I wasn't going to buy any deli meat, but HIllshire Farm was $3 each and I had 2 $1/1 printables, making them $2 each. I decided not to pass it up.
  • FREEBIES: I grabbed a treat for the kids: two Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, on sale for $1 each. I had 2 $.50 coupons (which were doubled). An e-saver took another $.40 off, making it a $.40 money maker. I did not get the Dove or Colgate freebies because the Dove deodorant was not marked as $2 and my coupon was for Colgate Total. It might have worked, but I wasn't going to push it.
My goal is to make it another 10 or 11 days before returning to the store. I'm hoping not exceed $200 in grocery or pharmacy shopping for all of February. So far I'm under $60. We'll see!

What are your tricks to surviving a Eat from the Pantry challenge?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Couponing for Charity 2/6-12

It's decent but not great in the land of freebies this week; so let's get to it. If I were to pick just one pharmacy, I'd go to Walgreen's because of the free hand sanitizer.

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down version, go to Coupon Katie.
For Jennifer's picks, go to Coupon Mommie.

Last week I left with $13 in RR, but when my son became completely congested, I had to get him some relief. Here's an example of why it's good to have RRs on hand--so that you don't feel guilty about paying full-price. With coupons and a RR, I was able to pay just tax for 2 Breathe Rite strips for Kids and 1 bottle of Sudafed.

This week I'm going to buy something that's not a freebie because it lines up with a charitable need. Devin's MDO program is collecting individual snacks for an after school program at a local school we support. I don't typically buy individual snacks because of the wasteful packaging (except granola bars and Chex Mix--both of which I will be donating). But I decided this would be good to add to the mix.

Here is my plan this week:
Transaction #1
  • 3 Planters trail mix ($1.67 each; get $2RR when you buy 3=$1 each)
  • Use $5RR from last week
Total Due: $.01 plus tax
RR's earned: $2

Transaction #2
  • 1 Veripur hand sanitizer (an excellent item to donate)--$4, get $4RR=FREE
  • Use $2RR
Total Due: $2 plus tax
RR's earned: $4

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down version, go to Coupon Katie.
For Jennifer's picks, go to Coupon Mommie.

I'm not very inspired by this ad, but I was actually excited to see the CVS Earth Essentials 100% recycled toilet paper was on sale. We've committed to buying primarily TP from recycled products to support the entire recycling system, and this RARELY goes on sale. So here's my plan:

  • 1 Trident Vitality or Stride Spark gum ($.99, get $.99=FREE)
  • 1 Tums 60-150 count ($4, get $1ECB, use $1MC printable and $3 printed at CVS kiosk. If the $3 coupon does not print, I will not buy this.=$1MM)
  • 1 CVS Earth Essentials TP-12 pack ($5.49)
  • Use $2 and $4 ECBs from previous weeks
Total Due: $.48 plus tax
ECBs earned: $1.99

For a complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For a pared down version, go to Coupon Katie.
For Jennifer's picks, go to Coupon Mommie.

My Kroger list will be minimal this week since I've joined the February Eat from the Pantry Challenge: just "perimeter shopping" of fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, cheese, milk, sour cream, and yogurt. However, I will be getting three freebies if the coupons match-up:
  • 1 Degree deodorant (on sale for $2, use $2 MC=FREE)
  • 1 Colgate (on sale for $.98, use $1MC=$.02MM) Note: We received the $.75 coupon last week but I have $1 off Colgate Total; not sure it will work.
  • 2 Pillsbury cinnamon rolls 5 ct (on sale for $1, use 2 $.50/1 coupons and 1 $.40 e-saver=$.40MM)
Though this week is not very exciting, I hope you will pick up one thing for charity. We will be accepting donations of freebies for charity at the Knoxville Coupon Fair Feb. 26.

Now for my totals from LAST WEEK:

ITEMS I'M DONATING FROM LAST WEEK: 24 post-it notes (normally $21.98; completely FREE even tax with coupons at Staples), 2 Blink eye drops ($7.99, $1MM after coupon and RR), 3 cans soup (normally $3.37, on sale for $.50 each, helped me use up an expiring ECB; so I'll consider these FREE), 1 Olay body wash (normally $3, FREE with coupon; I kept the moisturizer.)
MONEY SPENT: -$2 (that's negative two bucks)

TOTAL ITEMS DONATING TO DATE: 1 box of pain patches, 2 heat wraps, 2 toothpaste, 4 containers of hummus, 1 trial size laundry, 6 toothbrushes, 1 baby wipes, 24 post-it's, 2 eye drops, 3 cans soup, 1 body wash

Friday, February 4, 2011

February Eat from the Pantry Challenge

Maybe I'm crazy; maybe I just can't turn down a challenge. When my friend Gabrielle from Couponing in Critical Times set a challenge that she was going to "eat from the pantry/freezer/fridge"--aka, her stockpile--for the entire month of February, I decided to join her. I believe there are at least five of us actively trying to do this for two main reasons: save money and reduce waste. This is the ultimate in green living.

So often we buy things because they're a good deal and then they get shoved out of sight and we forget about them. Throwing away spoiled or expired food is just like throwing money in the trash; I can't stand it. So this weekend I took an inventory of everything in my stockpile to see where I could get creative with what I already have on hand. I have way too many cans of frosting, enough cereal for months, more beef than I know what to do with, and several goods nearing or just past their expiration dates. It's a good time for this challenge.

Each of us have set our own exceptions that work for our families. Personally, I'm allowing myself to buy fresh milk, bread, eggs, fruit, and a few veggies. I can't stand the idea of eating just canned or frozen veggies for a month, and I will not deny my family bananas and milk. I usually spend $500 on food every month. For February, I've set my limit to $200 for groceries and pharmacy deals. Also, if it's truly a freebie, I can get it. I think I'll come way under, but I'd rather give myself some buffer. We'll probably spend $36 on milk alone.

It's Day 4 of the challenge and so far, so good. I went to Kroger Jan. 27 and did my Walgreen's and CVS runs Jan. 31. Since then, I bought some bananas for $1.13 and had to stop in to Walgreen's for some decongestant and breathe right strips for Bobby. Thanks to register rewards and coupons, I saved $20.28 and only spent $2.26.

We've eaten lasagna and frozen peas, duck gumbo with shrimp and salad, stir-fry with pork loin and rice left-overs, and tacos. We'll probably have steak, potatoes, and broccoli tomorrow night. I'm not feeling deprived yet. We'll see how it goes. I think the hardest part will be telling my kids they can't eat something because we're out of it. However, I'll have what they need for healthy meals--just not some of the extra treats. They'll get over it.

Would you consider doing a challenge like this?

Potty training regression & rebound

It's been about a month since our soon to be 2-year-old Brooke began potty training. It was her idea, not mine. We've had some set-backs (usually at least one accident a day) but generally we're moving in the right direction.

Then two days ago, she had nothing but accidents. The first was in Chick Fil-A. The second was in her carseat driving from Chick Fil-A. Since she was on the last pair of clean pants I had with me, I resorted to a pull-up for an hour before we could get home. That too was wet.

Once home I figured, she'd be fine. Wrong. I think I cleaned up seven, count 'em SEVEN, spots with the shop vac. By 5pm, I was so frustrated, I put her back in a cloth diaper. I felt like such a failure.

Yesterday was hit or miss, but last night she developed a fever. Home bound we were. I let her wear her favorite two piece pajamas without undies and she managed to have her FIRST full day of no accidents. Here she is feeling crappy, me holding her probably four hours of the day, and she made a point to get to the potty in time. Maybe she just didn't want to dirty her P.J.s. If that's the case, she'll be wearing those P.J.s everywhere we go for weeks! JK.

Remind me, oh wise ones, is this regression and rebounding normal? What potty training memories stand out for you?

Shopping United Grocery Outlet: my experience

For the past year, I've been planning to check out one of the United Grocery Outlets, a discount grocery chain, because I heard they sometimes have great deals on organic food. There are stores in Halls, Alcoa, Chapman Highway, Lenoir City, and Oak Ridge. Since I was already planning to go to Mother Goose on Thursday in Oak Ridge and it's right down the road, I decided today was the day.

First impressions can be hard to shake. So if you walk in, take one look and turn around, I don't blame you. The nicest way I can put it is that it doesn't give you the warm and fuzzies. That's ok. I'm here for deals. Keep walking.

It's a small store and within 10 minutes, I'd scanned every shelf. I will say that if you're not interested in clipping coupons or waiting for sales, the prices are reasonable. But almost every item I saw, I thought, "I can do better." I think it's one of those hit or miss experiences and it depends on the most recent shipment.

The produce looked abysmal, and I didn't trust the freshness of the meat. The best deal I could find was Breyers ice cream for $1.99, but I wasn't in the market for ice cream. I bought a bunch of bananas (only because we're low and I'm not going to Kroger for 4 more days) for $1.13. Good thing it wasn't out of my way. I doubt I'll be heading back any time soon.

Have you shopped at United Grocery Outlets? Which ones? What did you think?