Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stage of Life

I wanted to also share a new website with you called STAGE OF LIFE (link on side bar). It is free to join and is packed with some great stuff for everyone. There is something there for singles, planning a wedding, married with kids, married without kids, college and high school students as well as retirees. It consists of great articles, tips, and coupons for savings. Check it out. It is absolutely free to join and you can even contribute your own blogs and articles for whatever stage of life you find yourself in. Check out my article on teenagers. Just click on "Raising a Family." Enjoy!

Catching Up!

We had two birthdays this month in our family. One of our sons turned 8 and another turned 15. They were a week a part. So I want to share a couple of ways we save money for birthdays.

First of all my husband and I set a budget as to how much we will spend on each child. Sticking to this amount has helped to keep things in order and enables us to plan ahead.

Secondly, my children do not care for cakes.When I have purchased bakery cakes, I ended up throwing a good portion away. They look cute. But that is about it.
So we started making ice cream cakes. I can make this cake for about 6 dollars and there is hardly any waste.

Each child picks two flavors of ice cream. I usually stick to the cartons that are no more than 2 dollars. I also allow them to choose two types of candy such as M&Ms, Hershey's, Twix bars, Three Musketeers, or any other flavors of their choice. These can be purchased at Walmart or the dollar store for 1 dollar per package.

Melt the ice cream until softened. In a 9x13 dish, spread one flavor, then the second. Chop all candy pieces and sprinkle over top. Refreeze until firm. This works really well to make a day ahead.

My 8 year old (above)chose peanut butter ice cream sandwiches for the bottom layer (purchased at Walmart). The second layer was vanilla ice cream. For the toppings, he chose M&Ms and Three Musketeers. Yummy!

The ice cream cake for my 15 year old son was made from coffee ice cream (bottom layer) and vanilla (top layer). The toppings included Twix and Hershey bars. For an extra he wanted caramel topping so we added that to each serving for those who wanted it.

Walmart's Bryers ice cream is $2.75 a carton. With the .75 coupons, you can purchase them for 2 dollars a container.

Another way I saved this month was I gave my husband and three of my little ones haircuts. I saved about 50 dollars I would have spent in a Salon for 4 people. This really helped considering we have two birthdays this month.

I also saved about 60% on my food bill last night at Fry's grocery store. For those of you back East, Fry's is a sister store of Kroger. So many of their brands are actually Kroger.

All of the items I could have gotten free were wiped out. So I will be going back. However, here are a few of my savings.

3 Suave Shampoo .50 each
3 Suave Conditioner .50 each
6 boxes Betty Crocker Potatoes .60 each
6 bottles Lawry's Marinade .50 each
6 packages of Knorrs Rice .50 each
3 Soft Soap Hand Soap .30 each
3 bags Dole Salad 1.00 each
5 packages Gold Fish 1.00 each
2 packages bagels 1.00 each
20 boxes of frozen Banquet dinners .80 each (great for lunches or snacks for teenagers!)
8 packages Kroger grated cheese 1.00 each

WE also purchased fruit, meat,bread, breakfast food, etc. and still saved a lot of money. We did two transactions. The larger one totaled 93.60. We saved 111.39. The second transaction was 10.40. We saved 21.53! Not bad for our army!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Cents" of Accomplishment

It has become a funny little game at our house. It is funny because it makes us happy! As soon as we walk out of the grocery store door I look at my husband and ask, "How much did you save?". Last night he replied, "86 dollars and 13 cents!" Then asking me the same question, I answered, "117 dollars and 7 cents!"

We cannot even make it to the van without comparing the savings! We are saving so much money on food. We have 3 teenagers that live at home as well 4 smaller growing boys and a little blossoming 4 year old girl. They play outside so much and they are always hungry. So we try to keep as many healthy foods and snacks around as possible.

Before we moved to AZ last year, I considered myself to be rather thrifty. I would shop by the sales and would purchase as many store brands as possible. We still spent close to 400 dollars a week in food, household supplies, toiletries, diapers and wipes. We would even have friends who had smaller families tell us that was pretty good for the size family we have. However, I always felt there must be a way to save more.

My husband lost his job in December of 2007. For nine months we had no steady income. At one point, things were so lean that we had to get food from the local food pantry where I was volunteering. It was heartbreaking to serve there and listen to so many stories about people losing their jobs and the concerns they had as to how they would have food for the next day.

My heart was changed during that time as I would take people back to the pantry room and watch tears run down their faces as they picked out the food they would need to sustain them for the next week. Then I found myself in their place. It is a difficult situation when you know you will not be getting a paycheck, thus not knowing how you will feed your family. However, the Lord provided and He gave me a bigger heart for people who are struggling through hard times.

Also, through that situation I became more appreciative of everything. Now that we are in AZ and my husband has been blessed with a wonderful job, I find myself more and more conscious of money spent and how to make the most of it. We are doing the CouponSense program and it has become very rewarding for our entire family.

It is amazing how little coupons can get you so excited! But you know it is like having cash in your hand! I love to write down my savings here as I can go back and read them and encourage myself that I am doing something worthwhile to help my family. At the same time, I hope someone else will read and be encouraged or glean ideas from what we have learned and are still learning.

My dear hubby and I went shopping at Safeway together last night and here are some things we purchased. We felt a real "cents" of accomplishment or should I say "dollars" of accomplishment!

24 boxes of Rice-a-Roni .50 each
6 boxes Hefty Storage Bags 1.00 each
12 (4 packs) of Snack Pack Puddings .25 each
2 free packs of gum
3 Dial Handsoaps .80 each
6 Hillshire Farm Deli lunch meat .95 each
30 cans Chef Boyardee Pasta .55 each
4 boxes Huggies baby wipes 1.00 each
12 cans Del Monte Vegetables .67 each

On one of transactions, our savings was 61%. And the other was 53%. Now that give me some "dollars" worth of accomplishment!

By now you know that I am a crock pot junkie. I believe that thriftiness is more than saving money, but it is mostly about making the most of your time. Too much time in my kitchen keeps me from my family. So here a macaroni and cheese recipe that will feed any size crowd. The left overs are just as yummy!

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

8 oz. of macaroni (cooked)
4-5 cups of milk
1 egg
1 can Campbells cheddar cheese soup
3-4 cups sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni until tender. Spray a little non stick spray into crock pot.
Mix milk, egg, and soup.
Begin to layer the macaroni, milk mixture and cheese. Save at least a half cup of cheese to sprinkle on top.
Pour in milk mixture. This should reach top of macaroni. If not, add more milk.
Add a little salt and pepper to top and dot with a little butter or margarine.
Cook in crock pot on high for 3 hours.

You can also add ham chunks or other meat of your choice. Serve with veggie and rolls. There is your easy meal. Enjoy your family at the table!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Treasure Hunt with Coupons

Today was a treasure hunt of sorts as I am not usually one to hop around to more than one store at a time. However, this afternoon I went to Frys and Albertsons. I am feeling very happy about my savings! First I went to Albertsons to use coupons as well as catch some savings on other items.

Here are the items I saved with coupons

3 loaves Oroweat Bread .88 per loaf
3 boxes Post Honey Com Cereal .95 per box
4 boxes Post Cereal 1.00 per box
3 Packs of Gum Free
Jimmy Dean Bacon by 1 get 2 free 4.49 for all 3 (saved 8.98)

I also purchased a few other items such as their London Broil for 1.88 per pound and a whole fryer for .99 per pound. There were also some miscellaneous items I purchased on sale without a coupon. I still saved 60%.

I spent 49.35 and saved 74.00.

Since our Frys was out of some of the items I wanted on Wednesday, I dropped back by there today and purchased all of what I did not get earlier in the week. Here is what I purchased with coupons.

3 packages of Dixie Paper Plates .80 each
3 boxes Ziplock Bags .70 each
Irish Spring Soap .50 per 3 bar package
3 boxes Colgate toothpaste free
6 boxes Gushers and Fruit Roll Ups

My total order was 13.48. I saved 47.20. That is a 79% savings.

The children were so excited when I returned home with all of the fruit snacks. My 14 year old son ripped into all of the boxes to see if we have won one of the 5 dollar gift cards. And we did! So I consider that another 5 dollars off of the shopping today.

Between the 2 stores I saved 69.5 % on my purchases.

Here is a great recipe for London Broil in the Crock Pot.

Place London Broil in Crock Pot. Season with a packet of Onion Soup Mix or seasonings of your choice.Open large can of Cream of Mushroom soup. Spread on top of meat. Cook on high for about 4-5 hours or on low for about 7 hours. Meat will be very tender. Serve with rice and veggie.

We are having this for dinner tonight with salad,french bread, and rice. The cost of this meal will cost 9 dollars. Since we have 10 people that will be less that a dollar per person. It is a great feeling!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Berry Fruitful

I always look forward to Wednesday mornings when the new store adds come out. It is quite funny how one can get so excited about a sale ad! It is kind of like a matching game as well as a contest to see which grocery store has the best sales. Frys seems to be the winner most of the time.

I usually set up two grocery lists. One for me and one for my husband. I paper clip the coupons to the lists. Then we go to the store and take off in separate directions to save time as well as get the most use out of our coupons. He is so sweet to be willing to do this. I know he appreciates the savings so he is always willing to help.

My teenagers are so great too. Their willingness to watch the younger children while we go shopping. Needless to say, it is worth it to them to see all the snacks coming through the door.

We had a great time last night at Frys. Here are some of our coupon deals.

6 boxes of Fiber One Bars.50 each
6 boxes of Fruit Gushers 1.00 each
6 boxes Nature Valley Trail Mix Bars .50 each
6 Rubbermaid Easy Find Containers 1.00 each
5 Sargento Salad Finishers 1.00 each
Dannon Yogurt (Free 6 Pack) Regularly 2.29
2 free boxes Ritz Crackers with purchase of 3 12 packs of coke. 7.99 with 2 dollar coupon ( I saved 17.88 on that little deal)

I wanted to get the Dixie Plates and the free Irish Spring Soap but our store was wiped clean last night.

Anyway, my favorite deal was not even with a coupon. Frys has some beautiful strawberries. They have 2 deals. Buy 2 lbs for 4 dollars or buy 4 lbs for 4.77. All of our children love strawberries and the 4 lb deal was the best. So I purchased two of these. WE will be popping berries everyday for a few days!

This is one of the things I absolutely love about Couponsense. I can grab all the deals on snacks such as the granola bars, fruit gushers, and rice cakes. That frees up the money for the fruits and veggies. So everyone is happy and my pocket book is smiling.

Here is an easy recipe with strawberries.

1 pre-baked sponge cake.(can usually find these in bakery)
1 large tub Cool Whip
3-4 cups of sliced strawberries or more if desired.
About 1/4 cup sugar

Rinse strawberries. Mix with sugar in bowl. Tear sponge cake into pieces. In glass dessert bowl (I use a large glass bowl)create layers. Start with sponge cake pieces, then strawberries and lastly Cool Whip. Repeat layers and garnish with a few strawberry slices. Chill overnight or for several hours so flavor will set. Makes a great spring dessert or Easter dessert.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Coupons Overflow

This weekend was spent very frugally.It was simple and restful. I was "up and at em" Saturday morning with plans to go to Frys to use the remaining coupons for their "ten item mega event". My plans were pleasantly interrupted as I ended up on the phone with a close childhood friend who now lives in California. However, I was able to make my trip out and make it back home by lunch. Here are some of the items I picked up on this trip.

2 Colgate Toothpastes FREE
2 Ken's Salad Dressing .50
County Crock Shedd's Spread FREE
Cottonelle toilet tissue (4 4 packs).50 each
American Beauty Pasta .75
3 Ziplock Storage bags .50
6 Dole Fruitbowls (4 pack) 1.00 each
2 Pepperidge Farm Garlic Toast .75 each

Also for dinner Saturday evening, we grilled out fresh seasoned chicken tenderloins which I purchased at Frys along with scalloped cheese potatoes, salad, and the Pepperidge Farm bread. I calculated the cost per person for this meal was 90 cents. Not bad for a large family. The total cost for the meal was 9 dollars.

Afterwards my husband surprised everyone and said he was taking us for ice cream. We grabbed our "buy one get one free" coupons to Baskin Robbins and purchased Sundaes for half price.

Thriftiness is more than saving money though. I think it is also a lot about making the most of your time and reserving it for the most important things in life. The weekend was simply just spent at home with the family. My husband John, took most of the children to the library for the first time. We have only lived here 5 months. They had a blast. It is so rewarding to see your children excited about simple things such as trips to the library, snuggling with Daddy, getting an occasional ice cream, eating meals together, and reading stories as a family.

The weekend has been great. Simply great!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thank"full" for Coupons

For the last 5 months cutting coupons has become a very major part of our lives. I used to get irritated thinking about the extra stress and burden of using coupons. Since our family has continued to grow for the past 19 years, I have had to learn to be thrifty. But is was not until we moved to Arizona that my mind was opened to the value of using coupons. Now I consider it to be a fun adventure! And most of all I am "full of thanks" for coupons!

I am so grateful to my husband. He cuts the coupons and goes to the store with me every week to help. Many times he and one of the teenagers will go and use the coupons. Teamwork is essential for our family since we have a large crew.

Last night John and I went to Frys while the teenagers held down the fort. Here are some of the items we purchased and saved money on with coupons.

3 Colgate toothbrushes FREE
3 Suave deodorant FREE
5 Ken's Salad Dressing .50 each
6 packs Quaker mini rice cakes FREE
4 boxes of Kellogg's breakfast bars .50 each
4 boxes Kellogg's Fruit Loops 1.00 each
2 cantaloupes .50 each
4 packages of yogurt(Dannon and Activa) 1.00 each

We also purchased other items on sale but we had coupons for the majority of our items. My husband and I did two different transactions.

He paid 32.42 and and saved 71.64
I paid 83.84 and saved 94.63

My bill was a bit higher because I purchased all of the fresh fruits and veggies on mine which included fresh lettuce, strawberries, bananas, cantaloupe, grapes, and dole fruit bowls. We try to keep all of our meals balanced with fruits and veggies, but we always purchase those on sale too.

I feel like I accomplished a lot this week in saving so much money. We were able to purchase nutritional items as well as treats for the family!