Monday, May 31, 2010

Holy Cheese!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheese is one of those things that I lay awake at night worrying about; do we have enough? Is it on sale anywhere? So I was super pumped to see a sale at FTC this week for block or shredded, 8oz at .99/ea, which you can combine with the in-ad coupon for $2 off any 3 FTC dairy products! 1 1/2 pounds of cheese for .97, I'm on my way right now!

The coupon is on the inside front flap thing, and you better believe I will be picking up some more copies of the ad when I get to the store.

The potential for this coupons is just starting to sink in. I ran in this morning to grab 3 blocks of cheese, for which I paid $1.15 with tax, and grabbed a few more copies of the ad, and it occurred to me after I left that this will make a great deal on milk too. I think the store brand milk is $2.50/gallon, so $5.50/3 gallons! I'm still stocked from the Wags sale that ended Saturday, but I'll be loading up on this at the end of the week. The Our Family yogurt is a dairy product too, so you could use that as a filler, for example;

2 8oz cheese at .99
1 yogurt at .40
minus $2 coupon equals .38 + tax!

2 gallons milk at 2.49
1 yogurt at .40
minus $2 coupon equals 3.38 + tax!

This coupon has serious potential! I'm going to make room in the freezer!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Trails

I wanted to share what I did with you today, even though I really want to crash into bed right now! We had an awesome day, thanks to the beautiful weather and a tip from my big sis. I have been wanting to get a little more serious about hiking, because we'd like to climb Bear Butte this year, and maybe Harney, but I have been worried about my ability to complete this mission, thanks in part to my unwillingness to do anything that feels like just exercise. You know what I mean? I don't mind doing it if it's fun, but otherwise I'll be in the kitchen, knock yourself out. So anyway, we strapped on our kiddo (actually I strapped him on), with the Infantino wrap and tie carrier that I just got because the previous infant carrier I had got recalled. And thank the heavens that it did, because it was unusable, whereas this one isn't bad. Anyway (sorry I get so off track), we went on a really nice hike from some randon trail that my sister encountered in a Cub Scout activity. If you're interested in the details, comment on this post, I am crap at giving instructions but we'll work it out. We had sunshine, fresh air, a little weather scare in the form of a brief bout of hail, and I am now pretty dang tired. The best part is that it's free! Isn't it great to live here?

So this evening, I drug myself into Safeway, because there is no way I am going on a holiday, especially a holiday that is so food driven. I didn't come up with any deals that were mindblowingly outrageously good, but I did want to point out one of my favorite coupon tricks. There are so many places to get coupons, and it's okay to think outside the box about how to use them. So for example, Safeway had Kraft Mayo on sale with an in-ad coupon, that brought the 30oz jar down to $1.99. Mayo is one of those things that have been on my stock up list, meaning I have it, but not in great quantity, so the sale caught my eye. One thing to understand about Safeway in-ad coupons is that they're not really coupons (at least as I define them), but really what they are is a sale that Safeway makes you work for. So you CAN use a manufacturer coupon in addition to the Safeway coupon. I know some people in other, more populous states have probably had trouble with this, just like they have trouble with everything they try to do involving coupons, and I feel sorry for them. But here in South Dakota, the grocery stores are usually pretty easy to get along with, and if not I kill them with kindness. Sooooo, I remembered that the recent FTC ad had some mayo coupons in it, and guess what, they are manufacturers coupons! Yeah! Now you'll note that they say redeem at Nash Finch stores, or something like that, BUT they don't say redeem only at..., so I used 2 of them, and they worked just great! I realize some people may think this is questionable, but the store will get reimbursed for them, just like they would any other coupon, so don't sweat it. So I got 2 jars of mayo for .99/ea, and I am a happy girl.

The point I'm making is that just because a coupon is associated in some way with a store, it doesn't mean you have to use it there. As long as it's a manufacturer's coupon, you can use it anywhere you want, so maximize your savings!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And I've accomplished nothing today....

So my goal with this blogging thing is to get used to writing, something I've always wanted to work on, organize my recipes, and have a little Momma project to give me something to think about. Other than whether I have to wash diapers today, or if I can make it till tomorrow.

I hope to get into a routine of posting once every day or thereabouts, and what little I've done I really enjoy. But I'm quickly realizing that I'm going to have to fit it into my day a little better, so I'll be working on that. I have some ideas rattling around for near future posts, but today I just wanted to comment that I haven't seen a lot of smoking hot deals, but for one Walgreens deal that made me happy. I mentioned that Wags has milk on sale at 1.99/gallon, which is my goal price. But what makes it even better is that when I stopped in, it was Land O' Lakes milk, and if you are a couponer, you may have a coupon for .55/2. Yeah, that's a great price for milk that's NOT near sell-by (I pay 1.25/gallong when I find that). Not sure if you'll see this deal, as that isn't the brand they usually have, but worth checking out if you're stopping for a good milk price anyway!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

5-20-10; $17.77

Depending on how long my kiddo sleeps, I have a sermon to deliver. Not really, but I do want to talk about something that is super important to the frugal lifestyle. Please, please check your receipts! At least 3 times a month I would say, I get overcharged for something. Usually it's not by much, but the amounts seriously add up! Starting in March, I began saving all the money I got back from being overcharged, and I plan to continue to do so until March of 2011. And then I will either use the cash to go on a Vegas bender, or I will see if I can buy my entire months worth of groceries on that money alone. And I know I can do it (the groceries, probably not the Vegas trip)! So far, I have almost $20 in a beer stein in my computer room, and there's another $5 in receipts in my wallet to contend with.

I think the point of this exercise for me is twofold. It used to be an annoyance when I noticed that I got overcharged, but in all likelihood I wouldn't have waited at Customer Service to deal with it. Really though, I probably just wouldn't have noticed in the first place. So I am demonstrating to myself that those small amounts are important, and also that I should and will stand up the Assistant Manager. I honestly don't think that the vast majority of stores overcharge intentionally, they have thousands of items and they are bound to make some mistakes in coding them. But I still think they should be accountable for the prices that they advertise, so I will continue with my mission! And I'll update you as I go!

Please note that not all my overcharges are at the grocery store, one of the recent ones was on some pants I bought my husband, and that little $2 will go in the jar too. Also, I do report when I am undercharged on an item, just to be fair. This doesn't happen often, and when it does it comes out of my regular grocery budget.

Wish me luck, and feel free to invite us over for dinner next March if you don't see the number climbing...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday, Wednesday

So I look forward to Wednesday like some people look forward to Friday. Wednesday is my day to work outside my home, you know like where I actually get paid for the work I do? So, on Wednesday morning, I drop Junior off at Grandma's (I know I'm ridiculously lucky, my mom in law watches my kiddo), and then I stop at the gas station for 2 fabulous things; gas station cappucino (I'm not a Starbucks kind of girl, plus if you get a punch card you get your 10th one free!), and the Wednesday paper.

Just to clarify, I look forward to Wednesday not because I go to work, but because the grocery store ads come out! The anticipation is brutal, I'm telling you. But some weeks, the coffee ends up being the highlight, and this week is one of them. There are only a small handful of sales that I'll be taking advantage of, and I definitely won't be using too many coupons.

Sanderson Farms Whole Chicken; .79/lb (I just pulled a chicken out of the freezer from the last good sale, .69/lb in Feb.)
Green Peppers; .50/each (I stick with frozen pepper strips, unless I'm making stuffed peppers, and this is a decent price)
Fresh Express salad mix; 1.00/bag, and there's an e-coupon that I think you can still load here.

I was really hoping for a good sale on grapes or strawberries, but it wasn't to be. Don's didn't have anything I was excited about, and FTC has a couple of things I'll pick up, but again nothing fab. I think this is a good week to stop at Sam's for produce, since I won't be spending much of my grocery budget otherwise! That's why I stockpile, so that when there aren't any good sales, I can minimize my shopping and eat from the stash.

One thing I am definitely excited about is that Walgreens should have milk at 1.99/gallon starting Sunday. I try to plan for this, and hopefully be about out of milk on Sunday, buy 2 gallons for the week, and then stop in Saturday and buy 2 or 3 gallons to last the next week and a half or so. I don't like to freeze gallons of milk because it takes up so much space, but planning to buy as much as possible when it's on sale definitely helps stretch the budget.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cooking from the freezer

So I was excited to write a guest blog about freezer cooking over at Little House on the Praire Living, look for it sometime this week! And on that theme, I thought I had better start sharing some meal ideas, since that was the point of this blog!

Our menu plan got waaaay off track this week, as there was a particularly unpleasant bug that passed through our home, completely killing any appetite that we might have had. Now that we are all healthy, we are back to eating more than yogurt and popcorn. Tonight, we came home hungry from a Sunday afternoon drive, during which we salivated over beautiful new houses. When we came back to reality, and remembered how much we dislike cleaning what we have now, forget about 4,000 square feet (!), I needed to get some food on the table. And it couldn't have been easier. Not even if I had a giant, designer kitchen!

So I made chicken burritos and refried beans, and most of the food came from the freezer in some way. The cheese and tortillas I load up on when they are super cheap, both freeze well. I would recommend shredding the cheese before you freeze it, it changes texture a bit. The chicken came from a source that I used to throw away; chicken bones. I love to make soup, and when I went frugal I started to get really annoyed with buying stock in boxes at $3 a pop. So I started making it, and it really is as easy as they say. Save all your chicken bones in a freezer bag, most of mine come from roast chicken, but I also get leg quarters when they're on sale. When you have a gallon sized bag full, throw them in a stock pot with some celery, onion, carrot, water to cover and simmer for about 5 hours. Or put it in the crockpot, on low for say 10 hours. I remember reading that you should remove the veg when it's done, but after five hours it's so soft that I don't bother (cause I'm lazy). I strain off the stock and freeze it in 1 or 2 cup portions, and then I freeze the chicken meat that I have scrounged in another container. For my burritos tonight, I dumped the chicken in my biggest pan, added some homemade chicken taco seasoning (I'll post that another time), and let it simmer for a few minutes while I made the beans. The beans came out of the freezer too; soak a pound of beans overnight (that would be whatever variety is on sale, I like black beans), drain off the water, and then simmer them for an hour, again water to cover. To store, divide equally into 5 freezer containers, include the liquid. One pound of dried beans makes roughly the equivelent of 5 cans of beans, and I pay $1/lb of dried beans, vs. .79 on sale for canned. For refried, I saute 2 cloves of garlic, minced, in some canola, throw in the beans with the cooking liquid, let them go for a couple of minutes, mash them with a potato masher, add some cumin, maybe some onion powder, a bit of chicken stock if they look dry.

We made our own burritos, I love the make it yourself approach to Mexican. Put out the fixings, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, a bit of rice I had leftover, and go for it. It took one heck of a lot longer to write this post than it did to make supper, and that's why having meal components in the freezer is awesome!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


This is a love letter. E-Coupons are the most wonderful thing that ever happened to coupons. Seriously, if you don't currently cut coupons and have no desire to, you can still hop on the e-coupon train and save money with minimal effort. And for anyone who has ever bothered to cut coupons, prance into the store, and end up arguing with some teenage cashier, e-coupons will change your life. So anyway, on to the details.

There is only one local store where you can use E-Coupons, my beloved Safeway. (I seem to be a bit melodramatic today, sorry about that). Of course you already have a Safeway club card, right? All you have to do is create an account at the 3 websites where you load e-coupons, enter in your Safeway club card info, and away you go.

Cellfire is my favorite site. Once you have created an account and entered your Safeway card info, you can load coupons to your card. I love Cellfire, because they are very consistent in how they make new coupons available; every other Tuesday, there is a new batch available to load, and the oldest batch that you have loaded expires the day before. So for example, right now I have a coupon for Nature Valley granola bars, $1 off 2 boxes, and it expires on 5/17/10. The coupon had to be saved by 5/3/10, so it is no longer available, but there's a good chance that the same coupon will be available to load on 5/18/10. I brought up the granola bars because they coincide with a sale at Safeway right now, but a better example might be Bisquick; I have 2 cellfire coupons for Bisquick right now, both for "Save $0.75 when you buy 20 OZ. OR LARGER Original Bisquick® OR Bisquick Heart Smart® Baking Mix, OR 10.6 OZ. Bisquick® Shake n Pour® Pancake Mix." One expires on 5/17, the other on 5/31. If I buy this product, BOTH of these coupons will come off when I enter my Safeway card at the store. Like magic! The cashier doesn't even know that you have e-coupons, they don't have to approve it or anything. So what follows is that you can use a paper coupon on this product too, and it will work without any problems. My disclaimer on this is that I can't imagine it will be like this forever, the savings are too ridculous, but for now I am using e-coupons like crazy! So now that you've set up a Cellfire account, move on to Shortcuts here, and then P&GeSaver here.

So here's how I keep the e-coupons straight; when I get the Wednesday grocery ads, I make sure to check Cellfire and Shortcuts to see that I have added all of the available coupons. Like I said, Cellfire makes new coupons available every other Tuesday, but Shortcuts does it randomly, and P&G coupons are good for a lot longer, maybe a quarter (they all expire at the same time, and then a whole new batch becomes available). Because I am a super organized couponer, I enter all my e-coupons into a spreadsheet, so that I can look accross the list and see what items I have multiple coupons for. There are plenty of e-coupons for things I don't buy, but I still record all of them, because when food items become free, even if I don't want them, I buy them and donate. I know people criticize coupons as being for only processed food, and there are definitely plenty of those available, but someone in our area is hungry and if you can help while saving money, I bet that you will. I keep a donation bag hanging in the garage, and when I bring something home for donation, it goes straight into the bag.

So here's an example of a transaction that I will be doing this weekend, based on the current Safeway add. They have a buy 4, save $4 deal on cereal and granola bars, and this is one they have pretty often. The prices I am listing are AFTER the promotional savings. I will buy 3 boxes of Nature Valley granola bars, which are $1.50/box, and use a paper coupon for $1 off 2 boxes that I got in a mailer, and another paper coupon for .40 off 1 box from here. Once that is doubled, I will have saved 1.80 off a $4.50 purchase, but then my e-coupons come off, and I currently have $1 from Cellfire, and .40 from Shortcuts. So, after that I end up spending 1.30 on 3 boxes of granola bars, or .43/box. I have to buy 4 (or more) items to get the promotional pricing, so I will also buy 2 boxes of Cheerios, also at $1.50 each. I have a Cellfire coupon for $1 off 2 boxes, and I will use 2 paper coupons for .55 off each from here, which will double to $1. So after that I end up spending only tax on 2 boxes of Cheerios, yeah! By the way, it's been confirmed that you don't have to buy in multiples of 4 to get the promotional pricing, as long as you have at least 4 you'll be fine, up to a limit of 20 items.

So, I know that all seems a bit complicated, but once you start doing it, it will get easy, I promise! Using coupons is a skill, and you have to develop it just like any other skill, so if you want to learn how to get 3 boxes of granola bars, and 2 boxes of Cheerios for $1.30, just stick with it, ask questions, and keep reading my blog! My other comment on using coupons is that I think it's fun, which may sound weird, but really makes it easier to approach, like a game. If you don't enjoy it, there are other ways to save money on groceries, and I definitely don't use a coupon for everything that I buy, so stay tuned and we'll cover other techniques too!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Free fun for little kiddos!

My son is 13 months old, and when I decided I wanted to stay home with him, I knew I was going to need a weekly routine, including outings out of the house. Happily, we found a great program at the Rapid City pulic library that has become our Thursday outing! Every Thursday at 9:30am and again at 10:00am, you can attend Baby Bookworms, which is geared towards the little kids. If your kids are a bit bigger but still not in school, they have another session on Tuesdays, I believe the times are the same, geared for the older kiddos. If you work during the day, there is a monthly story time in the evening, and I know they have pizza at that one so you don't have to scramble to get supper.

Anyway, they recently started a punch card program when you attend any of these story times. Once you get 10 punches, you get to pick a free book! My guy doesn't get the concept of this yet, but I see the bigger kids get very excited to get "their library card punched". Today we got our 10th punch, so we got to pick out a Sandra Boynton book, which are super popular around here! What a fun program, and a great incentive to read with your kids, we will definitely be attending for a long time to come! For more details, check out the RCPL web site.

I did make a couple of stops after story time;

At Walgreens I picked up the EOS shaving lotion that has a RR this week. I had an old RR about to expire, so I was happy to trade it in, and I am totally stocked up on shaving cream for a while, thanks to the recent Skintimate RR that Wags had. I used the Wags brand candy at .39 as my filler, and I would definitely recommend that you avoid the caramel creams, unless you have really good dental coverage; they were harder than hard!

At Target, I grabbed some C&H sugar, on sale for 2.39/5lb, and used a coupon from Red Plum, still available at so that brought it under my buy price of .40/lb. I also got some Pure & Natural hand soap, pricey at 1.49 after a $2 coupon, but it will look nice in a gift basket. I was really pleased to get a bottle of Coppertone sun block, on sale for $6, and I used a $2 coupon from the May Safeway coupon book, which you should be able to find in one of the Health and Beauty aisles at Safeway. Finally, Oscar Mayer turkey bacon is on sale for $1.99/lb, which isn't bad to start with, and then I used a $1.50 coupon from First Taste, so that was a nice deal.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I am assuming you know some things about couponing, and that may not be the case. I will be posting more coupon 101 tips as we go, and in the meantime, there are lots of bloggers who have been doing this for a long time, and are better teachers than me anyway! Find one of them (for now)!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Praire Market, 5/12/10-5/18/10

I don't stop at Prairie Market often, again they're a bit out of my way, but they do have some nice prices at times, so if you're in the neighborhood;

Red grapes; 1.49/lb (I prefer to pay 1/lb, but this is the best price in the area right now)
Graham crackers, Our Family; 1.59/box (this is a buy price for me)

Another note on Praire Market; I have never used coupons there, but I would assume they accept internet coupons, as they are Nash Finch operated just like Family Thrift. Make sure to check out the coupons for Our Family brand items, which is the store brand at FTC and PM, here's the link;

Regionally, these coupons should work at any Nash Finch store, like Econofoods.

Don's Valley Market Deals, 5/12/10-5/18/10

So I decided I would post deals for a store that I love but don't go to often because it's a bit out of my way. This is a test run, so we'll see how I do! It helps that they have a short ad :)

1 doz. eggs, Shurfresh; .77
4lb Shurfine granulated sugar; 1.88
Cabbage; .39/lb
Bakery Fresh Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake; 3.99 (I'm sorry this caught my eye, and now I'm a bit fixated on it! I make cheesecake often, and I usually pay $4 for the cream cheese alone, so this might be a good deal if you have company coming, looks like it serves 12)

Don's also has their own store brand interent coupons;

They are released to correlate with the new ad, so look for new ones every Wednesday. This week, I'll be using the one for

Shurfresh butter, 1.59/lb, limit 1.

The prices I like best are in italics. Don's also accepts manufacturer coupon, including internet printed coupons. However, I didn't see any coupon match-ups that I was excited about this week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making a Price Book

I am a huge believer in using a price book to help me remember and track prices on food items. When I started learning how to save money on groceries, I didn't think too much of this suggestion, even though every resource suggested it in some form or another. After a while, I realized that I may remember a good price on boneless chicken breasts and butter, but there's no way I can remember prices for everything that I may need or want.

My price book is really casual, basically I am just interested in recording the lowest price that I have seen or paid for an item. Some folks are really into figuring out the sale patterns at the stores they frequent, meaning how often will those chicken breasts be at the lowest price? Most stores have a sale pattern of 6-8 weeks, so I just buy whatever quantity I think I will need for that period of time, considering how much storage space I have. I don't worry too much about trying to guess when an item will go on sale again, because if I run out before it goes on sale, as a rule we just don't eat it. I'll talk more about menu planning in a later post, but my basic approach is buy what's on the best sale, add it to your stockpile, and "shop" what you have when you are deciding what to make for supper.

So, on to the numbers. Keep in mind that these are the prices I have found locally, and your prices will vary. Another thing to consider is that at times you find items for so ridiculously cheap that you think you're in frugal heaven, but those savings aren't sustainable, meaning, you're not going to see that item that cheap again for a long time. Stock up when you see the chance, but don't feel terrible if you have to pay a bit more next time. Just don't pay the regular price! I absolutely encourage you to develop your own price book, and if you know of a local price that's better than these, I really want to hear about it! I'll just cover some staples in this post, more to come!

Eggs; .06 cents or less per egg
Butter; less than 1.75/lb (best I've paid is 1.29, but that's rare)
Whole Wheat bread; 1/loaf (best I've paid is .25/loaf, but you gotta get lucky at the bakery thrift store, and then load up!)
Cheese; less than 2/lb, I don't care if it's shredded or block
Milk; 2/gallon, as low as 1.25 when near sell by, in which case freeze it!
Flour; 1/lb
Sugar; .40/lb

Flour and sugar are two items I am looking for better prices on.

To coupon or not to coupon....

One of the first steps in deciding to adjust your spending is to decide how much time and effort you are able and willing to commit to the agenda. If you want to spend most of your waking hours searching deals on the internet, you can. Not that I would ever waste my time that way....

Really though, shopping sales and using coupons is a great way to immediately shave your expenses, but the best approach to saving money is to look at your biggest expenses first, and see what you can do about them. I am definitely not a financial expert in any way, but anyone with a basic understanding of math knows that big numbers add up quicker than small numbers. You certainly spend more on housing than on shampoo, right? So free shampoo is fabulous, but not much help if you can't afford the mortgage.

This blog will be primarily focused on feeding your people for less, whether there are just a couple of you, or a bunch. But I would encourage you, whether you are in trouble financially or just trying to be more thrifty, to look at the big picture first. You get to decide how to spend your money, and I'm not interested in preaching to the uninterested, but I'd love to spark your interest in being more frugal, and I'm challenging myself by starting this blog to do the same.

If you decide to coupon, or if you are already doing it, how much time do you have to devote to it?
Hi, welcome to my blog! I am excited to share my ideas on living frugally, particularly for local folks here in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. I am lucky to be a stay at home mom to my son, though I do work one day a week as a nurse. My financial goals include being able to buy a bigger house for our growing family, on my husband's salary alone. I have been honing my frugal skills for about 1 year, and I'm looking forward to helping others save time, money, and maybe even some sanity, using techniques like couponing, menu planning, homemade cleaning solutions, and more. Thanks for checking in with me, and watch for great things to come!