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!