Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Back.

After a glorious holiday and a few weeks of computer woes, I am back.  Things have been pretty slow in the couponing world so it was probably a good time for both of our family computers to go on the fritz (if there is anything as a 'good time' for that).
So my thought this week is:  What to do when nothing good seems to be on sale?
This happens from time to time.  Usually at least one week of the month.  Lately it seems to be happening a lot.  It seems like sales are slim on the ground.  I am hoping this is the calm before the storm and that I will see some good sales in the run up to Christmas.  But in order to stay postive, I am telling myself that it is much easier to stay on budget if there is nothing to buy.
So this is what I do when I am not letting the ads dicatate what I buy:  I make a list of the items that I need for the next weeks meals.  It is usually a small list since I try to keep lots of staples and all of my meats in stock at home.  Now this is the tricky part.  Everyone has a different opinion on where is the least expensive place to shop in general.  Some say Wal-Mart.  Some Fry's (Kroger).  And I personally like Winco.  Winco doesn't have ads and you have to bag your own groceries to help keep costs down.  I like it, but it's not for everyone. 
So my little shopping partner, Brisbane (he's one and a half), are off to Winco for a little shopping trip tomorrow.  I will post my trip from tomorrow after we get back to show a trip that is more than just Hamburger Helper and chocolate chips (although is that really such a bad thing?).

Friday, November 16, 2012

November--Week 3

Another week of shopping has come and gone.  This was a bit of an off week for me, I had such high hopes, and then when I got to the store nothing seemed to go right.  That just happens sometimes.  We are also going out of town for Thanksgiving and so I didn't need much for meals and whatnot.  But here is what I got:
2 boxes Ritz crackers
2 boxes Onion Soup mix
2 stalks celery (preschool snacks)
1 loaf of bread
1 carton whipping cream
1 4-cup bag of walnuts
1 jar pasta sauce
1 jar kalamata olives
1 bag carrots
1.5 pounds oranges
1.5 pounds apples
5 pounds bananas
2 packs batteries
1 package sliced cheese
1 pack Alexia sweet potato fries
1 pack Alexia seasoned fries
1 pack Alexia garlic bread

My total out of pocket was $23.05 and I saved $52.86.  I had another ecoupon that did not come off for my produce.  So next time I am at Fry's I will just swing by customer service and get those $2 back.  No biggie.
All of the Alexia products, in addition to the pasta sauce, olives, and cheese, I got for free from a BzzKit (I have posted about being a BzzAgent before).
I came in way under budget this week.  I had to swing by Safeway to get some milk (2 gallons) and some eggs.  Since I learned that Hostess is going out of business, and I am a snack cake fanatic, we got 2 bags of Donettes (Reese wanted to try to 'white ones') and a box of Ding Dongs.  That trip was obviously a total splurge, but it only cost $12.25.  So even with that little trip I was still under budget this week <sigh of relief>.
I am glad this one is over and am looking forward to a better trip after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012


What do couponers eat all day?  When I first started couponing, I was worried that all I would be feeding my family was hot sauce and potato chips.  Doesn't sound incredibly healthy...or even all that tasty.
I will admit that back before my husband and I had children we ate a lot healthier and I cooked things from scratch a lot more.  But eating like that is very expensive.  My kids still get fruits and vegetables with every meal (minus breakfast) but I certainly don't make everything from scratch.
Each Monday I am going to attempt to post what we are eating that week for dinner, just so people have an idea (but please don't judge me if you are a health nut).  Keep in mind that I did not necessarily purchase the items for this weeks meals in my last shopping trip, a lot of it comes from what I already had on hand from pervious sales.

(I plan my meals Friday to Friday.  It's strange, but just works that way with the days that I shop.)

Friday:  Frozen Pizza & Green Salad.  We are attempting to eat our way through our freezer since I had to cram all of my chest freezer stuff into my side by side combo when the freezer died a few weeks ago.  Hopefully I will be able to fit the ice maker back in soon.  Plus, who doesn't love Friday Night Pizza?

Saturday:  Hawaiian Haystack Leftovers.  I had some chicken and rice leftover from meals last week and so we just ate naked Hawaiian Haystacks.  The kids LOVE chicken and rice.

Sunday:  Vegetable Soup.  This was Mack's request for the week.  I found a recipe on pinterest and it was totally easy and delicious.  A great mix of canned vegetables and broths, fresh celery and carrots, and frozen peas.  The kids even liked it, I was shocked!

Monday:  Pigs in a Blanket.  We got free hot dogs a few months ago that have been in the freezer.  I am wrapping those in Grands Pillsbury Biscuits (the canned ones) that I have had in the freezer for a while (yes, they freeze fine).  I got the hot dogs and biscuits for free, so this meal is bound to taste great tonight.

Tuesday:  Bean Burritos.  Black Beans.  Cheese.  Salsa.  Tortilla.  Easy.  Delicious.

Wednesday:  Spaghetti & Sausage.  Spaghetti is every frugal persons go to meal.  Plus kids love it.  We don't have spaghetti super often because it is something that I don't love.  But I have some free chicken sausage in the freezer and I love to slice it up with spaghetti.  YUM!

Thursday:  Pasta Salad.  Is that two pasta dishes in a row?  I am losing my touch.  Most families wouldn't consider this a meal.  But it is still pretty warm here in AZ, and this is a light meal that everyone in our family loves.

I always have sides.  A fruit and a vegetable, but I don't plan those out, I just use what I have on hand.  It is certainly nothing gourmet, but it sure is cheap.  The vegetable soup we had last night couldn't have cost more than $2 for the whole pot.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November--Week 2 (Produce)

I went to two stores this week.  It was a produce week, meaning the sales weren't all that great (basically the same as last week) and we needed produce.  On slow weeks like that I like to get some fruits and veggies to last us a week (and sometimes beyond).  Weeks like this make me feel good about what I am feeding my family, especially since we all love fresh fruits and veggies.  But it can be very expensive to eat fresh produce (especially since Reese considers a bunch of bananas and two apples a snack...yes...he's four) so we also eat canned fruits and veggies when necessary.
Here is what I got at the first store.
4 boxes macaroni and cheese
1 deodorant
1 chapstick
1 eye shadow
2 packs of wipes
1 package chocolate chips
1 pouch ketchup
1 pack of panty-liners

12 items.  I paid $1.32.  That's 11 cents an item.  I was in the express lane since I had less than 15 items.  I usually don't go in the express lane with coupons because if you have a snafu with a coupon or two I feel like it is rude to hold up the 'express' customers behind you.  But all the regular lines were heinous and so I made an exception.  The cashier was great but I was nervous the guy behind me was annoyed.  At the end he said, "If my wife shopped like that, I would take out the garbage without her asking. <pause> Heck, I would take it out twice."  HIRED!
Here is what I got at both stores combined:
What I listed above, plus:
3 bags of flour
2 bags brown sugar
1 bag powdered sugar
3 bags chocolate chips
1 bag tortillas
1 carton of eggs
1 cucumber
2 green peppers
12 yogurts
3 pounds oranges
3.69 pounds bananas
1 bunch green onions
1 stalk of celery
1 head of romaine lettuce
2.76 pounds apples

I paid $26.59 for the items at the second store.  So my total this week was $27.91.  I had a coupon for the tortillas loaded to my Safeway card that didn't come off, so I need to go back in with my receipt and the printout of my ecoupons and get my $2 back, plus tax.  So I actually spent a few dollars less this week.  (TIP:  Always check your receipt!  Do it in the store if you hate going back or when you get home.  Just to make sure all of your coupons came off.)
If you remember last week, I went over my $40 budget by about $5, so I was trying to stay under $35 this week.  Obviously, I succeeded.  I don't feel like it is necessary to spend every penny of my budget, every week.  Especially since there could be a sale lurking just around the corner on something I really would like to stock up on.
Another tip:  When I shop produce I always weigh my produce as I go.  It is easy for me to grab five bunches of bananas (yes, Mack and Reese would eat them in two days if they were sitting around.) but I have no idea how much that will cost me at the checkout.  I like to have produce goals worked out before I go to the store and then weigh as I go to make sure I am sticking within my budget.  I knew I had $3 to spend on apples this week.  Apples were .99/lb. and so I weighed it at the store to make sure I was under 3 pounds.
I love looking at my receipt, at the bottom where it says how much I saved with sales and coupons combined.  This week I saved, $57.01.  That means I would have paid over $80 on the above groceries if I hadn't bought them on sale and used a coupon.  That would have been half my monthly budget.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where's the Meat?

If you look at the pictures I have posted below, you notice that there is no meat.  We are not vegetarians (far from it), and I do buy meat.  The two meats that we primarily eat at our house are ground beef and chicken.  I stumbled across a company about a year ago who sells these meats in bulk and that is where I get our meat.
The name of the company is Zaycon Foods and their website is
This is how it works.  You create an account on Zaycon Foods' website and you will be notified via email and under the "View My Account" tab it will list any "Upcoming Events" that will be in your area.  If there is nothing listed under "Upcoming Events" than there are no current items that can be purchased near where you live.  You place an order at a specific location for pickup.  Mine is at a church.  Make sure that you can actually pick up your order on the date and time that it is to be delivered.
When it is time to pickup, you drive into the parking lot.  Get into the 'drive-thru' line.  They ask your name, give you a card with how many boxes you ordered and you drive thru.  The next people take your card and then line your trunk/back seat (where ever you want) with plastic and put your oder in your car.  Then you drive away.  You don't even have to get out of your car!  It is amazing!
So what's the catch?  You are ordering your meat in bulk and so you need to be prepared to deal with 40 pounds of chicken breast or 40 pounds of ground beef.  I trim the chicken breasts (which are huge, we call them dinosaur breasts) and put three in a freezer bag and freeze them flat.  I weigh the ground beef into one pound patties, wrap them in wax paper, and put three pounds in a freezer bag and freeze them flat.  Then whenever I need chicken or ground beef, I just pull them out of the freezer and I don't have to worry about having meat for meals.  It is dreamy.
40 pounds seems like a lot, but it isn't too bad.  If you have a chest freezer you have plenty of room.  We used to have a chest freezer, that busted a few weeks ago, and our chicken doesn't even fill up a whole shelf of our side by side fridge/freezer combo.  So it really isn't as much as it seems.
How much does it cost, you ask?  I don't know if prices vary by location.  But for us in Arizona, the most current rates (which can change event to event) were $1.69 per pound of chicken and $3.29 per pound of 90/10 lean ground beef.  Those are good rates for us here in the Valley, but maybe not for you.  It just depends.
Doesn't that blow your $160 a month budget?  I know that the chicken lasts our family about four months and the ground beef lasts us about 9 months.  So I just take the total: $1.69 x 40 pounds = $67.60 and divide it by four months (for chicken).  That is $16.90. I subtract $16.90 from the food budget for each of the next four months.  That way the meat costs are evenly distributed over the months it is being eaten.  Obviously you do have to have the money up front though (aka short tern savings).
I hope that explained it all pretty well.  Let me know if you have any other questions about it.  I was nervous the first time I ordered but we have been thrilled with the quality and the service.  I know there is information about how the meat is 'natural' and things like that on their website that you can look into if that is a concern of yours.

And now for my shameless plug:  If you do decide you are interested in ordering feel free to use my referral link when you create your account:
I get a dollar off my next order for every order that you make.  It's not much but for a couponer, every dollar counts. :)

How Do I Do It?

I wish I could say that I am some genius couponer that has all of her coupons organized in such a way that as soon as a deal happens I can immediately bring the coupon to the forefront of my mind and match it with the awesome deal.  But alas, that is not the case.
I live in the Phoenix, Arizona area and am fortunate that there is a local blogger who does all the coupon matchups for the local grocery stores.  That means she takes all of the current sales and matches them with coupons in the newspaper and even coupons that you can print at home.  She also posts other deals from Amazon and for local restaurants.  The web address is:
So basically each week I take the grocery store matchups that she posts, and decide what items I would like to purchase.  I cut the coupons that I need from the newspaper, print them, order them from a clipping service, or trade for them with people on the Cents'able Shoppin facebook page.  Then I go shopping.
It takes quite a bit of time to do all of the things that I listed in the short paragraph above.  I miss a lot of deals too because I have three small children and don't have the time to run to the store every time a deal is posted and get there before all the other couponers.  One thing I have learned, couponing in Arizona is competitive, so don't be too disappointed if someone beat you to it.
I will try to do another post sometime about a Day/Week in the Life of a Couponer to explain how I do it with three little kids at home.  But I hope this helps some people who are just getting started and had questions.  Always comment if you have a question and I will be happy to answer it.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Week

Fall/Winter is my favorite time of year to coupon.  This is when canned goods (i.e. soups, broths, veggies) plus baking supplies (i.e. sugar, flour, etc.) are at their lowest prices of the year.  So this is my time to stock up.  I try to get a good sense of how much I used from the year before, what things I ran out of, what things I didn't have enough of, so that I know how much to stock up on.  I also like to have  some extras in case we find a family in need or want to donate some.
This shopping trip I spent $30.11 and this is what I got:
4 bags marshmallows
1 loaf of bread
2 packets muffin mix
2 boxes Pop-Tarts
9 cans cream of mushroom soup
9 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans chili
2 bags potato chips
2 men's body washes
4 frozen juice concentrates
2 yogurts
4 boxes of stuffing
1 bottle fabric softener
3 boxes of butter
2 packages of pasta
3 boxes of oatmeal
2 toothbrushes

A few notes:
I do not pay for toothbrushes.  I have bajillions of toothbrushes that I have paid nothing for. I got the two above because the store actually paid me $1 to take them off their hands (coupons combined with catalinas) and I almost always take things that the store will pay me for.  I can then donate them next time Mack volunteers in a shelter or something.
Pop-Tarts and potato chips are luxury items.  They are not things we buy on any sort of regular basis or that I include in meal plans.  But for 50 cents a box/bag, I couldn't resist.  As a teenager, I lived off of Pop-Tarts (I was a super picky eater).  I love that because I coupon, we can have a few little extras like these, just for fun.
I paid $2.50 for that loaf of bread.  I am a bit of a bread snob.  If we really don't have any money, I will buy the $1 a loaf store brand.  But I try to avoid it.  The kids like the good stuff more, and I can barely stomach the $1 loaf.  I am not a snob about most things and am certainly not brand loyal in the slightest (except Crest toothpaste, which I can get free) but good bread is one thing I enjoy.
The above trip was last Friday.  Brisbane and I did run to the store again today to get milk, more butter, jello pudding (I needed a cheap filler), crescent rolls, shredded cheese, another bag of potato chips (another filler), and tortilla chips (for pile-ups).  We spent $15.51 today and got back $3 in catalinas.
So our out of pocket was $45.62 this week.  My budget is $40 a week, so I went a bit over.  I will make up for it next week though.  Stay tuned.