Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drowning in groceries, SOS!

When you become serious about using coupons, you learn that you can't buy something just because you need it; you buy it when it's cheapest, and you buy enough to last until it will be that cheap again. This is a simple theory, but it can be hard to change your habits and patterns. Once you get there, pat yourself on the back. And then be afraid, because what's coming next is something I think of as "grocery stockpile craziness". This is the point at which you have so much crap in your pantry, upright freezer, and cabinets, that your small house looks like it could sustain a family of 5 through 2 years of nuclear fallout. To a point, this is okay, really. I think there is a lot to be said for preparation, in any circumstances, and it can't hurt to get to that point. The problem is that you can't keep adding more food to the stockpile than what you are eating on a regular basis, because food doesn't keep forever. Plus, giving your husband ammunition to support his claim that you are a wacko is never the right move. You gotta keep a step ahead of the men folk...

Anyway, I have decided that I'm going to stop buying groceries for a month. Of course there are things that I will have to replenish, namely fruit, veg, milk, eggs. I will also continue to buy things that are free or better than free with coupons, because I think it's silly not to, and I can just donate those items (I keep a box in the garage, and they will not even be allowed in my house). I picked July for a few reasons; we're going on vacation in August, so we might as well pare down until then, I am sick to death of shopping (hey, it happens), and if I don't defrost that upright freezer soon, bad things will come down upon my head. Not sure what things, but bad ones for sure. So I'll keep pointing out what I think are good deals, but I'm also going to keep you posted on how I'm doing limiting myself.

Just to put it in perspective, here are a few things I hope to consume without replenishing;

  • 17 boxes of cereal. I think I've mentioned we don't eat cereal.
  • 7 jars of salsa. And I have coupons for 3 more jars for free! An even 10!
  • 4 gargantuan bottles of ketchup.
  • 8+ boxes of cake mix. Guess what, I almost never use cake mix. Are you surprised?
  • I would tell you some of the contents of the freezer, but I don't have the energy to open it. I do know there are 10 pounds of butter in there, but I'm not apologizing for that! I have priorities.

If I succeed, whatever is left from my grocery budget will go to my vacation budget! Yeah!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday Top 10, 6/27-7/3

I think I'll try and run through the Sunday ads like I've been doing the Wednesday ones, and just hit the highlights.

Family Thrift Center
  • Store brand eggs are 1.39/18, if you have the fab coupon from last week's insert, only .79/18 when you buy 5.
  • If that's too many eggs for you, the ice cream novelties at 30% off might be a good filler to get you up to 5 items.
  • Chicken leg quarters are 10lbs at .49/lb, so 4.90. This is what I use to make stock.
  • Corn on the cob is 5 ears for $1, whoo-hoo!


  • Pedigree dog food is 20lbs for 10.99, get a $5 Target card when you buy 2 bags. Use 2 of the $2 coupons here, and your total out of pocket cost is 17.98 for both bags, plus the $5 gift card. Sooo, that's 32.4 cents per pound, factoring in the gift card, and I try to pay less than 40 cents.
  • A little more on the whole Target gift card thing; in order to defray the cost of these gift card promotions in the future, I always keep at least one of them to use only for a future gift card generating purchase. Does that make sense? So for the Pedigree, I will use the gift card I got from a previous similar deal (I think it was an Olay promotion), and replace it with a new one. It's kind of annoying, but it helps me figure the cost out to actually reflect a lower out of pocket, rather than a "net" cost.
  • Market Pantry pasta is .75/lb, which isn't bad for cuts other than spaghetti, which I try not to pay more than .50/lb for.


  • Milk at 1.99/gallon, again! Definitely what I prefer to pay for milk!
  • 3 Pack Act 2 mini bags popcorn are $1 each, so .60 for one, or $1 for 2 with coupon here. I usually don't buy microwave popcorn, the old fashioned stuff on the stove is so much cheaper, but these are nice for little kids who need a snack.
  • Okay, I have not felt mentally prepared to explain this yet, but I'm going to try. There are some good Register Rewards this week at Wags, so let me list them, and then I'll tell you how they work.
  • Pepsi/Mt. Dew 12 packs are 4/$13, get a $5 Register Reward (RR) back.
  • Blistex Fruit Smoothies Lip Care are $2.99, get a $3 RR back.
  • Airplus socks are $3, get a $3 RR back.

So, about the Register Reward. Here in our zip code, where we don't have CVS or RiteAid, we are forced to figure out the RR program in order to get free/cheap toiletries. It really is something you can master, but I'm not going to lie, they make it tricky. Here are the rules to understand before you start;

  1. Register rewards are like gift cards to Walgreens, with lots of little rules, that you get by purchasing certain items, which are listed in the weekly ad, or may be available for the whole month. They are a simple cash register tape type of coupon that prints after you pay for your transaction.
  2. The coupon can be used for anything in the store, of course with exceptions that are printed on them (not to be used for lottery tickets, prescriptions, stuff like that). The name of the game is to use them for items which will produce more RRs, so that you only make an initial investement in the items, and then you pay very little out of pocket for more items, continually replacing old RRs with new ones.
  3. An RR CAN be used to be for the same item that generated it in the first place, but it WILL NOT result in a new RR printing. If you use the Blistex RR to buy more Blistex, you won't get another RR. This can be tricky, because you might not realize that item A and item B are made by the same company. Most RRs say "courtesy of Blistex" or whatever, so check brands!
  4. An RR expires only 2 weeks from the date it prints.
  5. When you become a Jedi Knight couponer, and you are using coupons to pay for items that generate RRs, you need to understand that Walgreens has some weird policies. You cannot use more manufacturers coupons in a transaction than the number of items that you have. RRs are manufacturers coupons. So if you have 3 items, you can't use 4 manufacturers coupons. HOWEVER, Walgreens store coupons are not MF coupons, so you can use 100 of them per transaction and no one cares.
  6. I will be totally honest with you; if you understood all, most, or some tiny little part of the above, you probably know more about Walgreens coupon policies than the typical employee.

So, if you start with the Blistex and the socks, you will pay 6 bucks plus tax, and then have the same amount in RR. You can then buy the Pepsi, use the RR to bring your out of pocket cost down to 7 bucks, and get 5 RRs back. There are better weeks at Wags, and I will try to highlight when there are more practical items, but I wanted to just give you some insight into how it works.

Fruit deals, yeah!

Here's some miscellaneous fruit deals to be had;

Safeway has cantaloupes at $1 a piece through tomorrow only, I'm sorry I didn't tell you that sooner, I totally missed it in the ad.

Sam's has 12oz raspberries for $2.98.

And, hurray for fruit coupons, here is one for .50 off a Dole pineapple. Save this for a little while, I bet Safeway will have a good sale soon, and this will double! While you're at coupons.com, check out the 1.75 off 2 Mariani dried fruit; I'm not sure how these are priced, but this is a high value coupon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My inagural garage sale experience....

Wow, you gotta be tough for this garage sale thing! We went to the Sumerset garage sales today, and if you have kids, that is the place to go! I was most excited to get a sit & stand stroller to accomodate 2 kids, for $10, maternity jeans for $1.50/pair, and the next 2 years supply of pajamas for my son for $2.

It runs through tomorrow at 4pm I think, and there were tons of people selling today, but I bet there will be even more tomorrow. Bring sunscreen!

Any good garage sale finds you have to report?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top 10 6/23-6/29


• Safeway Select Artisan Fresh Bread is .99, load the e-coupon here and it should be free! Once you load the e-coupon, you might want to print the list of what you have loaded just in case it doesn't come off. The e-coupon is not very specific as to what is included.
• Gorton’s Large or Value pack selections at 2.49 when you buy 2 on SATURDAY AND SUNDAY ONLY with coupon here.
• Red, yellow or orange bell peppers are $1 each.
• Red or green grapes, .99/lb
• Broccoli, .99/lb
• Cauliflower, 1.69 each!
• 1 doz eggs, .79
Family Thrift (ends 6/26)
• You already know how excited I am about the $3 off 5 store brand products coupon in the ad, so I’ll just remind you of my top 3 picks for that! These prices are assuming that you buy 5 items. Pick up extra coupons to use next week!
• Brown rice, .35/lb
• Butter, 1.29/lb, limit 2
• Dried beans, .49/lb

Cauliflower Spaghetti

I read somewhere about this idea, putting plain old cauliflower in a red sauce and serving it over spaghetti, and the idea stuck with me. I promised an update once I made it, so I thought I'd try and convince you all to make it too! It's really quite easy, perfect for a busy weeknight. I would make a couple of changes to what I first did with it, and the recipe reflects that.

1/2-2/3 head of cauliflower, chop into small pieces (think meatball size or smaller)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil for the pan
1 jar marinara sauce, commercial or homemade
Red pepper flakes to taste
1lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
Cheddar and Parmesan cheese to serve

If time allows, oil, salt and roast cauliflower on a cookie sheet, in a hot oven until you get some color on it, then add to saucepan with additional olive oil and garlic, and saute until almost tender. (If you prefer, saute it in olive oil, with garlic, over medium heat in a large saucepan until it is almost tender.) Add red sauce and red pepper, and heat through while you cook pasta according to package directions. To serve, top spaghetti with sauce, cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

So this will be a regular in our meatless Monday rotation; it's really easy, and although my husband found the idea a bit odd, he thought it tasted fine. You really don't taste the cauliflower very distinctly, but it has a nice texture. I didn't add any red pepper to my first batch, but it needs it. From now on I will serve junior, and then add the pepper and cook for a couple more minutes before I serve the adults. I love pasta with cheddar on it, next time you have leftover chili, throw it on spaghetti, dump cheese over the top, and watch everyone hush up and eat. Yummy. Black olives might be a nice addition to this too, but I don't want to completely freak your family out!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quick FTC note

I stopped this morning at the Omaha/8th street store, because I wanted to see if they carry brown rice, Westside only had white rice. Score!!! The Omaha store has brown rice, 1lb for .95, so I paid less than $2 for 5lbs!

We recently had my family over for dinner, and my dad thought the rice was white (it was brown); he commented that white rice is poison. Since when is my father a flippin' dietitian? Seriously, I was expecting him to suggest that I could join him for T'ai Chi in the park at 5am the next day, after a light breakfast of miso soup. Weird.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shopping trip 6/22

I picked up some items at a variety of stores today, and I thought I would hit the highlights for you.

Safeway is actually a good place to find diaper deals, in limited quantities anyway. I have told you that we cloth diaper, right? Well, we are planning a weeklong trip this August, and as strongly as I feel about cloth, I am not hauling them, clean or dirty, on an airplane trip. Sorry mother earth. So I am on the lookout for deals, and I try to pay $4 or less per Jumbo pack. Safeway had the in-ad coupon to bring Pampers down to 7.99/pack, then I used an e-coupon from P&G esaver, which took off $2, and then a paper coupon to take off another $2. I also got a cash register tape coupon or CRT, for $3 off my next pack, so I'll hold on to that!

So at Safeway, I bought;

Wheaties Fuel (overage after e-coupons)
16oz bottle Coke (free after mycokerewards coupon, yes I have been known to pick up bottles off the side of the road, just for the code on the cap!)
Uncle Bens Rice Medley (free coupon, no longer available)
6 Yoplait yogurt (paper and e-coupons available)
4pk YoPlus yogurt (paper coupon available)
4pk Yoplait Fiber One yogurt (I previously mentioned where to find paper and e-coupons for this)
2 gallons milk (1.98/ea through today only)
Pampers diapers
2lbs red grapes at .99/lb

Total out of pocket with tax was $11.68.

Then at FTC, I did my best to find great ways to use the in-ad coupon. My son had other plans, so I didn't make it far! I bought,

2lbs black beans, 1.09/lb, so only .49 after coupon! That's a good price!
1 can sauerkraut, .09 after coupon.
2lbs of beautiful butter, 1.29 after coupon.

Total out of pocket with tax was 4.05.

Finally I ran into Haggar's for potatoes, and I grabbed some marked down ground beef too. $9.64 out of pocket, it's funny how quickly meat drives up your food costs.

So, other things I spotted at FTC that you should consider using the in-ad coupon for included white rice, 1lb at .87, pretty much all the dried beans are 1.09/lb, if you have a coukout coming up, they have lots of disposable plates, cups, cutlery, etc. that would be cheap or free, the single cups of yogurt, sorry I can't remember how much they were, small cans of fruit, can't remember the exact price on those either. I'm going to have to write things down! I'll be loading the freezer with butter, definitely will pick up some more beans, and need to check the price on slices black olives, which are often more expensive than any of the other ingredients I use for pizza.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan 6/21-6/27

I had planned to post this yesterday, but got so excited about the FTC sales, I had to get that up first! I am trying to use up some boxed meal helper type items, which I should just stop buying b/c I don't use them. Actually, I should donate them, shouldn't I. I'll work on that. I will not be sticking to my usual plan very closely this week, but that's okay.

Monday; Chicken and asparagus on the grill, some pasta mix stuff.
Tuesday; Cauliflower pasta (this is an experiment...), salad.
Wednesday; Leftovers from Father's day (pulled pork, baked beans).
Thursday; Chicken Helper.
Friday; Mom and baby play date at my lovely friend Jody's. I'll bring veggie appetizer pizza, or maybe a cheese ball?
Saturday; 4 Seasons pizza (deli ham, black olives, artichokes, and mushrooms).

Happy eating!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

FTC deals 6/20 through 6/26

Thrift has been a good place to stop lately! They are obviously promoting their store brand stuff right now, so check out the in-ad coupon for $3 off any 5 Our Family products. You can't combine this with any of their other coupons, but this will make for some great deals. When I see coupons of this sort of odd value, it helps me to think of it in terms of .60 off/item, must buy 5. Does that make sense?

So based on the ad, here are a few suggestions with this coupon, assuming that you buy 5 items;

• 1lb butter; 1.29 (!!!!!), limit 2
• White or wheat bread; .73 (not sure if this is 100% whole wheat, if so, that would be a great price)
• Chunk light tuna, 5oz; .06/ea
• Mushrooms, 4oz can; better than free, make sure you buy something to eat up the .10 overage per can!
• Sauerkraut, 14oz can; .09/ea
• Graham crackers; .90/box
Don’t let it confuse you that there are several items that show coupon savings at the website. Do the math, and you’ll see that most of them are not valued at .60 off per item or more, so the in-ad coupon is better.
I’m sure there are a bunch more store brand items that will be just about free with this coupon. I don’t usually do “scouting” trips, but I’ll try and spend a little time looking around so I can give you suggestions. One thing I’m not sure about is using more than one per transaction; I don’t see anything that suggests that you can’t use 2 coupons on 10 items, but you could be questioned if you try. I plan to give it a shot tomorrow, I’ll let you know! Regardless, you can certainly do multiple transactions if it’s an issue, but I prefer to just do one and be done.
Just like the dairy coupon, this one is good for 2 weeks, through 7/3, so grab some extras!
Here’s a potential transaction;
2 lbs butter, 2.58
8 jars mushrooms, -.80
Total out of pocket for 10 items, 1.78 +tax! That’s .89/lb butter, and 8 jars mushrooms for free!

Some things I’ll check out; drink mixes (like generic Kool-aid), paper products, and single serve type items.

There are some other good deals there too;
• Kool-aid is 10 for $1, and there is a coupon in today’s paper for $2 off C&H sugar, which I would guess is around 3.50/5lb. I also picked up a peelie coupon in the store a couple of days ago for 2 free packets of Kool-aid if you buy 10, not sure those would work together though.
• Grapes are .99/lb

Happy Father's Day!

Check out this adorable clip. I think you should just take the sweet baby to bed with you dad!

Have a great Father's day everyone!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Top 10 6/16-6/22

I thought I would try to post my favorite sales for the week at local stores, no coupons, or only coupons that you can find really easily. I know not everyone collects coupons like I do, but you don't have to in order to save money on groceries. So this list will include only in-ad coupons, or those currently available to print. Here we go!

• 10lbs potatoes for $2

• 1 gallon milk for 1.98, no minimum required purchase!
• Red grapes, .99/lb
• Fiber One yogurt, $2, plus load e-coupon here and use paper coupon here to get it free! This is a perfect way to try e-coupons for the first time.
• Frozen Safeway brand veg, 1.25/bag with in-ad coupon. Usually for corn, peas, etc. I will only pay $1/lb at most, but this should include other things, like the bell pepper strips, which is waaay cheaper than buying fresh peppers.
Starkist tuna, 5oz/.44 each, 6/19 and 6/20 only.

• Peaches, 1.39/lb (I know it’s too early for them to be good, and that’s not a great price, but I need a peach tart in my life!)
• Deli American cheese, 2.99/lb

FTC (I already mentioned these, but their silly ad schedule puts them off kilter from everyone else; these prices end 6/19)
• Eggs are .49/dozen, must buy 2 dozen, with coupon here, that's only 4 cents/egg!
• White vinegar is .99/gallon with coupon here

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Safeway trip 6/15,

I forced myself to hit Safeway today for the sales that are set to end today, and as usual when I just don't feel like it, I still ended up glad that I went. My son would rather be in the garden, but he was a good sport! I don't plan to start listing all the sales and where I get the coupons from, because I'm sorry my dears, but that would take a LONG time! So instead, I thought I should share a few of my techniques, and show you what kind of savings you can accomplish with these techniques. So I bought;

Lucky Charms (don't tell anyone, these are better than candy to me. Well, really they are candy...)
BBQ sauce
Kraft Mayo (the new flavored stuff)
2 bags Cheetos
3 bags Rold Gold pretzels
2 bags snyders pretzels
2 boxes Ritz Crackerfuls (I've been wanting to try these, they ended up tasting just okay in my opinion)
7 packages of Sargento cheese slices
1 head of Romaine
3lbs Granny Smith apples
2lbs strawberries

My total out of pocket cost was $13.94, a savings of 85% according to Safeway. I used 32.50 in coupons, including paper coupons and e-coupons. So here are my suggestions on how to start saving money like this.

1. Be flexible; you'll notice the only vegetable I bought was lettuce. We eat a lot of fruit and veg, so this is not going to be enough to get us through the week by any means, but it was the only sale price I was willing to pay. I will pick up some cauliflower at FTC on Thursday, and hope for some good prices on produce at Haggar's, but otherwise, we'll be using canned and frozen veg this week. As far as fruit, I have also bought grapes at Haggar's (1.49/lb through today only), apples at Sam's ($1/lb, which is the most I'm willing to pay), and I have some kiwis that are ripening too. If there are absolutely no good produce prices, we stick with bananas and apples.
2. Stockpile; you can't stock up on fresh produce, but you definitely can buy meat at it's cheapest, and freeze it. I don't need any meat now, nor for the next 6 months probably, so I didn't buy any.
3. Keep stockpiling; My son loves pretzels, and they are better for him than other snacks, but I have been waiting and waiting for a good sale on them. And here it came, so yes, I bought 5 bags, even though it will last him several weeks. The goal is to buy enough to last until the next good sale comes along!
4. Know what you use; it's rare that I buy cereal, basically my rule is that I absolutely only buy it when it's free. We don't eat much cereal, and I have more than enough in my stock. The cereals that I purchased today actually resulted in overage of 2.27 for me, because I had e-coupons loaded on my Safeway card, and I used paper coupons too. Overage is when your coupons take off more than the price of the items, and you need to make sure you have other items in your order to apply the overage to. Overage is the gold standard of couponing, and it helps you cut the price of things that you rarely see coupons for, like produce.
5. Look for coupons everywhere; you know all the junk that prints out from the register along with your receipt? This can be a really good source for unique coupons. For example, one of the coupons I used today was for $1 off bagged Safeway produce (the apples). I can only hope I get that one again!
6. Be willing to change your habits; the one thing I used to watch really closely for sales on was soda. When I got pregnant with my son, I stopped drinking my one Mt. Dew/day. Recently, my husband realized that his several Pepsi's a day were really tearing his stomach up. Not having to buy those items has definitely made staying within budget easier. You have to decide what works for you, but think about cutting back even if you're not willing to give it up completely. I can tell you that when the only beverage you have to buy is milk, you'll save money!
7. Last tip for today is rain checks; when something is on a really good sale, make sure you get a rain check for it if they are out of stock. The Sargento cheese slices were on sale for 2.99/package, which is not going to happen, but I had a rain check from when they were on sale for 1.49/package. I combined that with coupons from the Dairy recipe book that you can find in the store, as well as the coupon here for one of them, and I bought 7 packs for 6.38 (I think). That's more like it. I left with a rain check too, for raspberries at 2.49/pint.

So what do you think? This is a very different approach to shopping for me, compared to how I used to shop. Used to be, I wrote a list and bought anything and everything we needed, regardless of how much it was. I would try to buy whatever was on sale, but really when you shop that way, you're at the mercy of the sales cycle, and it's rare that you hit it just right without some effort. I have plenty of staples right now, so while the items I bought today do not represent a well balanced diet, I can assure you that we eat much healthier than we used to, because I cook almost all of our meals.

Monday, June 14, 2010

6-14-10; $23.00

I added the $1 that I won from the FTC millionaire game, because part of this challenge is to be assertive, right? Well I asked for a game piece, the girl gave me a wad of them, and I came out $1 richer. You gotta start somewhere....

Strange but true

I often wonder why I have a microwave. I don't think I'm a microwave snob, I just have no desire to use it. Here are the purposes it does serve;

1. Rarely used to boil water.
2. Occasionally used to melt butter.
3. Constantly used to hog counter space in my small kitchen.

But this week, it's seeing some action due to my lack of oven. And my sister, being the kind of girl that she is, sent me a recipe to make bread (yes, really) in the microwave. Let me explain that a bit; my sister is ridiculously creative, experimental, always trying new things or dreaming up new things. I don't know where she gets it, but she has a knack. So, I thought I'd give her crazy microwave bread recipe a try.

English Muffin Microwave Bread

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl;
1 TBSP yeast
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Add wet ingredients;
1 cup warm milk (I warmed it in the MICROWAVE, hah, for 45 seconds)
1/4 cup hot water

Mix well, resist the urge to knead it. Dump it into a loaf pan that you've buttered and floured. Attempt to spread evenly. Sprinkle the top with cornmeal (I'm sure you could omit this step if you want). Microwave for 6 1/2 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes before handling.

Slice, and toast, serve with whatever english muffin fixings you like, we kept it simple with butter, peanut butter would be yummy too. I would recommend that you dump it out on the counter after you've cooled it, I found the bottom of the loaf to be very moist. Be prepared for the bread to be very blond, it's not going to change color at all in the microwave so I had trouble believing it was cooked.

Thanks sis!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

FTC deals 6/13 through 6/19

As usual, there are a couple of good deals at FTC. I actually don't do much of my shopping there, but there are always one or two things that I stop in for. Our routine is to stop there after story time at the RCPL on Thursdays, while I usually do my weekly shopping trip to Safeway on Sundays. I have no desire to shop at multiple different stores all in one go!

The following are for the store brand;
Eggs are .49/dozen, must buy 2 dozen, with coupon here, that's only 4 cents/egg!
White vinegar is .99/gallon with coupon here, we use a fair amount of this for our dishwasher, which is not aging well. Just pour about 2 cups of it into some container that will stay upright, and then run the machine, empty, no soap. It definitely helps. What is it with my appliances anyway?

There are a couple of manufacturer's coupons in the front flap for canning supplies, and those can be used anywhere, so if you need canning jars, make sure you grab the ad. Cauliflower is 2.50/head, which isn't bad, I hate it when they price it by the pound!

Homemade laundry detergent ramblings

First of all, hear me out. If you don't make laundry detergent already, I am here to convince you that it is so ridiculously, stupidly easy, even I can do it. You don't need to invest more than 10 minutes, and even that's probably an exaggeration. The cost savings compared to the time investment is probably one of the absolute highest ratios I have seen, so yes it's worth 10 minutes!

I don't remember where I got this recipe from, but if you were to search for homemade laundry detergent, you would get approximately 1 bajillion hits, so I don't feel bad sharing it.

Very roughly 4 gallons water
1 bar of soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

So here are my pointers. To procure these items, I would first suggest you check out alice.com for the washing soda, cause that's going to be your toughest find (and it's not that tough, is it?). It's currently priced at 2.99/box. While you're at alice, if you don't already having some Borax, you can pick that up there too, 4.29/box. I haven't the faintest how that compares to what you'd pay at Walmart, but it might be a bit cheaper there. You will buy these two items once and have soap for at least 3 years I would guess, so I don't sweat it too much. For the bar of soap, I like to pick up Ivory when it's on sale, I know Fels Naptha is like the gold standard for this process, but I've never seen it locally, and I'm not willing to pay what Amazon wants just to give it a try. Ivory works just fine. It's nice to have a 5 gallon bucket to make the soap in, and store it, but something of a comparable size would be fine too.

So for the actual production part of things;
1. Fill your bucket with water. I try to do this the night before, so I can use cold water and it will come up to room temp.
2. Dump the soap and a couple of cups of water in a saucepan, and heat over medium until the soap has dissolved.
3. Remove from heat, add 1/2 cup each of Borax and washing soda. Stir to combine.
4. Add to bucket of water.
5. Let it sit overnight. In theory, this will solidify to some point, and become gelatinous. This has NEVER happened with my concoctions, but it still works just fine.
6. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry.

I wish I had some specifics for cost comparison, but what I remember from when I actually figured it out is that this costs less than one cent per load. I do remember that I couldn't get commercial soap for less than 11 cents per load, even with coupons and sales. A batch of this lasts me roughly 4 months, and I do laundry every day.

One thing to get used to is that your pants no longer smell like a mountain forest. I'm okay with that, but it is an adjustment. My absolute only concern is that my bath towels have gotten a bit musty smelling lately. Because of this, I no longer leave a load in the wash for any length of time, it really has to be dried pretty quickly. I washed all the musty towels in hot water, with commercial detergent, and machine dried them on hot, and that worked just fine. If I have to do that every few months, I'm okay with that!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's that smell...

So my oven died this week. I guess it didn't really die, but it started smelling like gas, and since it has not been heating well or consistently for a long time, months really, we decided that fixing both of those issues were more than we wanted to tackle, especially given its age. So, I sucked it up and bought a new oven, but it won't be here until the 17th. In the meantime, I will be attempting to creatively use my crockpot, electric grill/griddle, rice cooker, and gas grill to feed us. Thank goodness my sweet hubby likes to buy me kitchen gadgets for Christmas, I think we'll be fine! My only disappointment is that my pizza craving will not be satisfied.

Saturday; bonus date night (thanks sis!)
Sunday; beer can chicken and asparagus on the grill (whole chickens are on sale again this week at Safeway, .79/lb!)
Monday; Crock pot mac and cheese (I am perfecting this recipe, so when I get there I'll share)
Tuesday; Chicken Cesar salads (romaine lettuce is $1/head at Safeway, and I'll use leftovers from the beer can chicken)
Wednesday; Pancakes, bacon and eggs on the griddle
Thursday; Between picking up the oven and installing it, this could be a long evening. I'm thinking grilled cheese and canned soup
Friday; Pizza in my brand new oven! Yeah!
Saturday; Regularly scheduled date night (thanks mom and dad in law!)
Sunday; Father's day extravaganza, chez moi. We'll be making Cheater Barbecue Pulled Pork, which is seriously delicious and so perfect for a group. Plus all the fixings, to include cucumbers and onions marinated with vinegar and jalapenos, baked beans, potato salad, and maybe angel food cake for dessert. You know, something light after all that food we've crammed in...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, right?

People who know me well know how much I have started to HATE paying money for things that get thrown away. Disposable diapers (or landfill diapers as we call them) are not to be tolerated in my house, instead I cloth diaper. Paper towels? Not going to happen. Once in a great while, I will pick up something disposable if it will make my life easier, and I get it for free or just about free with coupons, for example paper plates for family get togethers.

So one of the things that has been driving me crazy is handsoap. You know how you have to have a cute little Bath & Body Works dispenser at every sink, with a room/mood appropriate scent? Kitchen lemon, foo-foo berry, I can't remember any of them, but I definitely used to hit the BBW sales hard to stock up on those babies. When I went frugal, I still had a supply of them, but when that dwindled, I had to come up with something else. I found a foaming hand soap dispenser at Lowe's, and though it was quite ugly, it did the job at one of our sinks for a while. Basically you put in a little bit of soap, fill it with water, and it produces foam just like you often find in public restrooms.

And then I did something really stupid. You know the BBW lotion soaps? For some reason, I swear like 20% of the soap is left when the bottle stops pumping, so silly me, I thought I would put that in my foaming dispenser. And of course, my foaming dispenser clogged up completely, never to be fixed. So I went searching for replacements for all of my sinks, not quite so unattractive this time please. This is what I found. They are a bit pricey, and I waited almost 2 months as they were back ordered, but I am so glad I got them. I like this version better than the first one I tried not only because it looks nicer, but also because it seems to hold more, is easier to clean, has lines to tell you how much soap and how much water to use, and has this really neat suction cup bottom, from which the actual bottle will easily detach if you so wish. I am very pleased with them, and as long as they hold up for a few years, by which I mean I don't break them by putting lotion soap in them, I will definitely come out better than I ever did by looking for BBW sales. Plus I will have thrown away a heck of a lot less plastic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

FTC deals 6/6 through 6/12

There were a couple of sales this week at Thrift Center that I am excited about. All of the following are for the store brand.

Sugar, 4lb; 1.39 with coupon here
Canned veg, 6 cans for 1.50 with coupon here
1 gallon ice cream; 1.50 each, limit 2, will combine with one other dairy item in order to use $2 coupon off 3 items (from last weeks ad)

It seems like there was one other thing that I can't seem to remember now....

I liked that they are advising us of which sale items can be combined with their store coupons for even better savings, though I did find some of the wording was confusing, like on the canned veg.

I just sent this comment to Safeway, I think I'm grumpy today...

I am consistently overcharged at your store, and I'm starting to wonder why I continue to shop there. As a rule, the checkers are great, very nice and friendly. However, today when I attempted to get reimbursed for an item that I was overcharged on, I found the customer service staff to be not particularly helpful. I expected to pay $1 for 2 items, between the sale price and an e-coupon that I loaded from your site, but was charged 5.98. I was told that unless I could produce a printout of the e-coupon that did not come off, I would not be reimbursed (although I was reimbursed for the remainder of the overcharge). The e-coupon has since expired, so I have no way to prove that I ever had it. Why is it that I only have trouble with Safeway e-coupons, never cellfire or shortcuts? Also, it would be nice for customer service to act a bit apologetic for the overcharge in the first place, the guy I dealt with wasn't rude necessarily, but dismissive of my issues. I'm lugging a 14 month around who doesn't want to sit still, so I don't really have the energy to make a visit to customer service every time I come to your store. I appreciate your attention to my concern, and I enjoy shopping at your store, but am getting really frustrated with being overcharged. What do you suggest I do?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

FTC dairy coupon reminder!

Don't forget to grab some extra copies of the ad by Saturday, so that you can take advantage of the dairy coupon that is good through 6/12/10! Not sure if there will be any more super good sales to pair it with, but better safe than sorry. When I ran in today for yet another batch of cheese, I got a game piece that was a $1 instant winner, so that was fun! Are you playing the game? I find it really annoying messing with all those little bits of paper, but maybe it will make me a millionaire...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Menu Plan

I want to get into the habit of posting my weekly menu plan, even though I have yet to figure out how to create a printer friendly copy of recipes, so I thought tonight I would just discuss a bit of the menu plan method I use. When I first started menu planning, I definitely sat down with the Safeway ad, checked out what was on sale, and generated my plan from that. And I think that is a really good way to start writing a menu if you have never done it before. But now, I shop completely based on the sales, stocking up my pantry and freezer so that I am prepared to make a variety of meals when they strike my fancy.

For me, I may not stick to the plan 100% of the time, but it is so helpful to have it written up when I have a couple of minutes to think, rather than trying to figure it out at 5pm. I have a master plan of the theme of each day's meal, so for example,

Monday; Meatless (I'm not sure where I first heard of meatless Monday, but I can't lay claim to the idea)
Tuesday; Ethnic (stir fry, pasta, tacos, something along those lines).
Wednesday; Crockpot or freezer meal (I don't really freezer cook like many others do, but I stash leftovers that are in adequate supply for a complete meal).
Thursday; Leftovers (this is where I use up leftovers that are hanging around the fridge because they don't freeze well or there wasn't very much of the item, I usually rework these into something new, but it depends).
Friday; Grill or soup (depending on the SD weather of course!)
Saturday; Homemade pizza, or once a month it's date night.
Sunday; Big meal (like roast chicken, pot roast).

So, when I need to write a menu, here's what I do;
1. Check out the fridge, and note meats and produce that I need to use soon.
2. Pull a couple of frozen meat items to defrost in the fridge.
3. Pull copies of any recipes that I want to try that I already have the ingredients for.
4. Think about any events that I have coming up for the week, for example my hubs is going fishing this weekend, maybe, so I probably would do better to use leftovers or something really easy if he's gone.
5. Write up my menu on the really cute Sandra Boynton calendar that I got for Christmas, which is hanging on the fridge. That way, I never have to tell anyone what's for dinner!

So this week, we skipped meatless Monday due to the holiday, when we ate at my folks house and I just had to bring a pasta salad. We moved meatless to today, and had rice and beans for supper. Tomorrow we'll have lentil soup from the freezer, and Cuban Bread from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, a rocking good book. Thursday, we'll have beef stir fry, since I won't have any leftovers to use up, and Friday, we'll grill steaks and my fab grilled potatoes. Saturday's pizza night is probably my favorite actually, because I love coming up with new toppings, and we have dough balls too, which are my answer to breadsticks (my favorite part of takeout pizza).

I promise to spend some time figuring out how to start posting recipes!