Friday, February 27, 2009
Welcome to the dark side ... come in, come in if you dare ... and join the world of couponers!!!!!
Yup -- I'm a coupon queen. It's like my hobby. Some people knit, others play tennis -- I coupon.
And before I get a bazillion comments giving me websites that can do what I do, first -- you've got to pay for them! Second, where's the fun in that? Having someone else find a THE deal is a total thrill killer. I bet the same people who use those sites read the last page of a book first (a la When Harry met Sally).
Okay ... I am such a cheap skate with money. Dan’s nickname for me is "Scammy" because I get some many things free or reduced -- so please don't think any less of me for some of my tactics. I figure the companies are getting a HUGE mark-up on their product anyway, so what does my coupon really hurt them in the end?
I am usually around $250/month for grocery and about $25/month for beauty, cleaning supplies, household paper items, diapers, etc.
So, without further ado, here are my "Top 20" coupon hints and helps:
1) I call companies and give testimonials about their products. However, you can only do this about twice a year.
Almost every company loves to hear from consumers and will reward you will free coupons or major $$ of coupons. For example, I have called Huggies to tell them how much I like their disposable washcloths -- they sent me 3 coupons for free washcloths and another booklet of 5 coupons good for $3.00 off any Huggies product. I have gotten a ton of free stuff this way -- Pampers diapers, OFF! lanterns, Grate-It-Fresh, Resolve carpet cleaner, Motts applesauce, etc.
And, I sometimes call companies that I have never used the product to get a couple of free coupons. I tell them I've heard great things about their product and would like to try it and then I ask them for a coupon. Every company I have asked has sent me one.
2) This may sound really low, but I go to a nursing home in my area every Sunday on the way home from church and collect all off the coupon packets from their papers. Okay, okay -- I know it sounds bad, but they aren't going to be using them!! So, I can get 10+ of the same coupon.
My MIL and my Mom also cut out coupons for me!
3) I only shop at Krogers that does unlimited double coupons -- every coupon is doubled up to $1.00 ... so my $0.50 coupons are a $1.00, $0.75 coupons are $1.00, etc. Also, twice a year, Krogers does super double coupons where coupons are doubled up to $2.00. Some times they don't advertise that they do this, so you may need to ask the manager.
4) I wait until the product I have a coupon for is on sale.
For example, I recently saved a ton at Target because Huggies products were on sale. I had 6 coupons for $1.00 manufacture off disposable washcloths and 6 Target store coupons for $2.00 off when you buy both a Huggies wipes and a Huggies bath product. Well, the Huggies Washcloths were on sale for $1.89 each and wipes were 2 for $4.00. So, I got 6 washcloths and 6 wipes that totaled $23.34 ... then I used my coupons and that brought my total down to only $5.34 (for 6 boxes of wipes and 6 boxes of washcloths)!
Yes, you CAN pair manufacture coupons with store coupons. If you layer that with a sale, it’s almost free.
5) With coupons you have to be careful that you are buying a product you really need. It is only a deal if you will use it!
6) You also have to know the secret code of coupons. The newer coupons don't have this code, but the older style with the two bar codes in a row do. Look at the bar code under the second bar -- you should see four numbers starting with an "8" in parentheses.
If it is (8000), you can use the coupon for ANY product by that company. For example, you can buy Pampers with a Febreeze coupon. These are VERY rare! I look for them on eBay and buy them up when I find them.
If it is (8100), you can use the coupon for any product in that category. For example, the coupons may say "$1.00 off any of the following General Mills cereals" and then give a list of certain cereals, but you can buy ANY General Mills cereal.
If it is (8101), you can only use the coupon for the product listed EXACTLY on the coupon. For example, if the coupons says "Whole Grain Triscuits", then that is the only items that the coupons will ring on. If you try and get Reduced Fat Triscuits, the coupon will not ring through.
7) Sometimes coupons still aren't the best deal! I carry my calculator with me in my purse. I will end up buying a different brand or the store brand of some products because even with a double coupon, it is still cheaper!
You cannot be brand loyal – and you have to be willing to buy the store brand.
8) We've gotten to the point where we really don't buy anything (except for staples like bread, milk, produce or things we need for a specific recipe) that we don't have a coupon for or that isn't on sale. I've keep a list of meals that I can make with each coupon item, so I know how to use it to make a new and interesting meal with the same thing over and over again.
I also never buy milk unless it is on sale. Krogers has milk on sale every other week. So I make sure I stock up on enough to last me the week it is not on sale (shop Saturday for the longest expiration dates).
9) Don't be too proud to get a raincheck. If I have 15 coupons for Balmex and the store has it on sale but only has 5 tubes left, I go to the front counter and get a raincheck for 10 of them. I also make them verify my coupon (if it is expiring soon), so that I can still use it with the raincheck when the item comes back in.
10) Hunt through the "expiring" meat section. Trust me, this is okay as long as you take it home and freeze it right away. I was a health inspector for 10 years and am an epidemiologist by trade, so you won't get sick if you handle it correctly and it is a real bargain! I get a ton of Laura's beef products for next to nothing by digging through that bin!
I also hit the Manager’s Specials for produce and dry goods. You do need to check expiration dates, but the dry goods are usually items that are being discontinued or are having a marketing change.
Example: I got a Mrs. Grass Minestrone Soup mix on Manager’s Special for $1.59 … a package of Smithfield’s ground pork for $0.59 (Manager’s Special $1.50 plus $1.00 coupon) … Fresh Express salad mix for $0.89 (Manager’s Special $1.89 plus $1.00 coupon) … bake-at-home loaf of French bread for $1.00 = dinner for the family for only $4.07!
11) Organize, organize, organize! I have a coupon organizer that I bought and I separate my coupons out in to different categories. So when I make my shopping list, I make it by category and then list out all the coupons I will be using on that trip. I pull out those coupons and put them in a special section of the organizer.
And this is really dorky, and I haven't done it since the boys came -- I kept an excel spread sheet of all my coupons that lists the coupon, the category, the amount savings, and how many I have of each coupon. That way if I am going through the store and see an item on sale that is not on my list, I can check and see if I have any coupons for it in my organizer.
My organizer I got from a mail in company. It is great! It has a Velcro tab that fastens onto the shopping cart so I can flip through it as I shop!
12) Give yourself time -- it takes awhile to go through the store, price compare, and figure out if you should use your coupons.
I usually shop Krogers three times a week. Monday and Fridays are GREAT for Manager’s Specials and Meat Clearance! I usually go in only for those items – my shopping trip takes about 15-30 minutes. On Wednesdays, I do my weekly shopping trip – it takes about 1-1.5 hours.
13) I also go through the flyers each Sunday to see if certain products that I have coupons for are on sale at different stores. You have to be careful here! You don't want to waste more time and gas going to several different stores if it is not really worth it.
But I always get my health and beauty items from Walgreens and CVS – they have such great reward programs that I have not paid for a razor, shampoo, lotion, shaving cream, etc for YEARS.
When you pair up your coupons with their Extra Care Bucks (CVS) or Register Rewards (Walgreens), you end up paying $0.00! Plus, Walgreens has a catalog each month that has at least 3-4 FREE items each month by mail-in rebate!
14) Speaking of Walgreens and CVS, I never fill prescriptions at the same store back-to-back. Every store will give you some kind of gift card for transferring a prescription – Target has $10 cards, Walgreens does $25 cards, and CVS and Kmart will also sometimes do it for various amounts.
15) We bulk shop items at Sam's -- you do need to be careful here as some items can be cheaper at Krogers, etc when on sale and you have a coupon. But certain staples in our house are cheaper at Sams … Sun Chips, Tyson Chicken Breast, Salmon Fillets, Pancakes on a Stick, Kitty Litter, etc.
16) Get to know your cashiers. Steer clear from the ones that question EVERY COUPON you use. I like to get into line with the young teenage boy as my cashier -- they usually have no clue and will push through any coupon you throw at them.
17) Watch that register as it ticks through your purchases. Most stores have a price guarantee thingy -- if the price the product is advertised at is not what it rings up at, then you get it FOR FREE plus your coupon value. Ahhhh ... it is a beautiful thing to get a free 6-pack of yogurt plus a $1.00 taken-off your grocery bill!
18) Here are some websites that are good and FREE to use to help with grocery shopping and online shopping. How else do you think I can get 14 pairs of Crocs for only $76.13, and Gymboree boys blazers that are normally $89.00/jacket for only $4.99/jacket plus free shipping?
www.Retailmenot.com ... shopping online coupons
www.coupons.com ... grocery store coupons ... you can match up to your zip code!
www.couponcabin.com ... shopping online coupons
www.couponmom.com ... shopping online coupons, grocery coupons, free sample heads-up
www.smartsource.com ... grocery store match-up deals -- matched to your zip code, too!
www.thecouponclippers.com ... grocery store coupons (you do pay for each coupon, but if you can get a (8000) code coupon, it is worth it!
www.couponmountain.com ... shopping online coupons
19) "Good deals, good cause, Goodwill!" Sing it, sista! I love Goodwill. I haven't paid more than $0.99 for a pair of pants, skirt, blouse, or sweater in over two years! I get the Goodwill calendar and shop on the sale days.
I've also gotten great toys for the boys for only $0.99 that are in perfect condition and retail for well over $75.00. It's where we got our Fisher Price Learning House!
20) Finally, when eating out, we only go to where "Kids Eat Free". I keep a list of all the restaurants in our town that offer free kid's meals ... it is categorized by days of the week.
Yes, all of this may seem like a lot of work, but I do save a lot (and I mean A LOT) of money doing it. And I don't mind it since it is giving my family extra money to buy that season pass to the Children's Museum Center ... or for Dan and I to go out for a "Date Night".
Couponing is not for the faint of heart, but you might want to give it a try. But watch out ... It's is addicting!!
Now go put on your black shirts and sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike athletic shoes, and armband patches reading "Heaven's Gate", and let's start couponing!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
No, I'm not Catholic, but I think there is a virtue to trying to do less, and a period of self examination like lent, where we deny ourselves something, makes us appreciate things we have more.
Not that I think God will let me into heaven quicker just because I didn't eat chocolate for 40 days ...
Anyway, here is the schedule and "rules". None of this is sanctioned by the Catholic Church (or any church for that matter). I just made it up after hearing about something similar from a friend.
Good Luck to all ... I've done this for fourteen years now and have only made it through the whole thing one time.
February 25th – March 3rd … Give Up Desserts, Sweets, & Candy
March 4th – March 10th … Add Giving Up Pork
March 11th – March 17th … Add Giving Up Beef
March 18th – March 24th … Add Giving Up Poultry
March 25th – March 31st … Add Giving Up Fish & Seafood
April 1st – April 7th … Add Giving Up Eggs & Dairy
April 9th – April 12th … From the evening after Holy Thursday service until the morning after Easter service, you are allowed only bread and water.
· You are allowed to eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, breads, rice, and potatoes the whole time.
· You are allowed to eat fish or seafood every Friday except for Good Friday when you are fasting on bread and water.
· You are allowed to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day.
· If you find that holding your fast would embarrass or inconvenient others, you may eat the food you have given up, BUT you must give $5 to the mite box/offering plate/charity for each incident.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Thinking somehow a radio had been left on, I snuck down the hallway only to realize it was Tanner taking to himself -- actually, it was more like he was doing an interview.
"Ohhhhh, Elmo. You okay? You ouchie? We help, Elmo!"
"Noel! Hayden! Help Elmo!"
"Okay, Elmo! Bye! See you! Have a good day!"
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
So, our goal is completion by April 1st -- yes, on April Fools Day because we are fooling ourselves if we really think we are going to get it all done.
So, to motivate my husband to get his booty shaking in the basement organization effort, I am bribing him. I am giving him a free, no questions asked, no strings attached $500 to spend on his pride and joy (the garage workbench where he has every tool ever invented) if we get the basement storage organized by April 1st.
I spent this weekend doing my part -- I have completely organized all the boys clothes, books, holiday decorations, educational toys, pool toys, future advent gifts, etc, etc, etc. It looks pretty good if I may say so myself.
I still have to the boys toys and all the wrapping paper/gift bags to organize, but after that I am D-O-N-E.
OH -- and a shout out to the inventor of the label maker! That thing is AWESOME!!
Here is what my masterpiece looks like ... though pictures just don't do it justice:
Friday, February 13, 2009
Now, I hate to say it, but I was kinda waiting for it.
Why? Because as a pilot's daughter, we all know these things come in threes. First, the water ditch on the Hudson ... now the crash in Buffalo. Tragically, I'm waiting anxiously for the third crash to happen before Dan goes on a business trip next week.
I don't really consider myself a superstitious person ... check out one of our cats:
As my husband says, "When a black cat crosses your path, kick it." (But I think he is more superstitious than me ...)
But I do some strange stuff in the hopes to avoid the wrath of Khan (or whatever is the root of all evil).
For example, I always throw spilled salt over my left shoulder ... I still hold my breath when traveling past a graveyard ... I have not one, but TWO golden crickets by my fireplace ... I never pick up a penny if it is tails up ... and I never, ever rock an empty rocking chair!
I was told once that being superstitious is just an extension of having OCD. Well, considering this picture really, really does bother me, I'm definitely OCD! So, by default, I guess I'm superstitious, too.
Happy Friday the 13th, Everyone!
Friday, February 6, 2009
All three boys have double ear infections. Acute double ear infections.
Oh, and Hayden has bronchitis.
And Noel has pneumonia in his left lung.
Overall, I'm feeling like a pretty schmucky Mommy right now. I feel like I should have known just how bad my boys were.
However, I was asymptomatic as a kid for ear infections ... I guess my boys are, too!
So, we are on strong doses of amoxicillin for the next ten days. They also recommended Motrin every six hours. Hopefully, we should see some improvement in 24-48 hours.
Ugh ... this weekend should be interesting.
When I went out to fill the boys' prescriptions, I got a bunch of their favorite foods -- watermelon, cranberry/pineapple salad stuff, mozzarella sticks, orange sherbet push-ups -- in hopes that I can tempt them to eat something. I think half the reason they feel so crappy is they haven't eaten more than a couple crackers in the past two days.
So, that's the update. Hopefully, my next post will bring good, healthy news!
Essentially, the boys have had yucky colds since the second week of January. But now they are having coughing fits that are so bad that they gag and throw up. During the coughing fits, they can't breathe.
Today, Noel stopped eating and drinking and is lethargic like I've never seen him before. So, no more playing around. It's time to get a professional opinion.I'll update on everyone after we get back.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
My original due date with the boys was February 19th, but due to several acronyms (PPROM and HELLP), I delivered a little over 10 weeks early on December 7th.
It's no secret that I beat myself up (and still do) because I felt like I let my boys down when my body failed to carry them longer. I find myself getting fussy and bummed around mid-February, when I should have been having my boys.
We are so blessed the boys were so healthy after being born at only 29 weeks -- all breathing room air, no NEC, no brain bleeds, closed PDA, no retinophathy, really no issues what-so-ever. Truly miraculous.Flash forward to today when I got a call from our local blood donation center asking for me to set up my next appointment.
I'm very lucky to have a universal blood type AND be negative for a virus called CMV. Almost 90% of the population tests positive for CMV ... it's very rare not to ever get infected. CMV infection is usually mild, but it may be serious or fatal in those who are immunocompromised. Particularly at risk are low-birth weight infants and bone marrow and organ transplant patients.
For years, I have always donated blood every eight weeks, and every time I donate, my blood gets marked with a special sticker and a call is made to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Before I have even finished donating, a messenger is there from the hospital with a cooler waiting for my blood.
I'm thrilled that I am helping some child every time I donate. But, in light of Brady's diagnosis and other dear friends that are battling cancer right now, I have decided it is time to list myself on the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.
I asked the blood donation bank to do a tissue test for bone marrow registry while I was there giving blood.
The date of my appointment ... February 19th. To clarify, I didn't request that date. It was what was given to me.
Everything happens for a reason ...
Monday, February 2, 2009
It is a site about a fellow triplet mom's little boy, Brady, who at 21 months old was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a serious form of cancer.
Her blog speaks to the courage and conviction of this mother of four children under the age of two, the miracles of God's plan in our lives, and the need to live every day of our lives like it is the last.
I ask for your prayers for this family ... for Megan and Matt to be strong in their faith and resolve for their son ... for Cara and Eli who miss their "third half" ... for little baby Allison who completes Megan's heart.
And I ask you to lift little Brady up in prayer ... to ease his pain, to give him comfort, to heal him. May he be a living testimony to God's loving miracles. Our hopes and prayers are with him.
To Megan and Matt -- We are unified in our hope for Brady, and ask God for courage for your whole family, whose faith is unshakable and firm. We ask for blessings on Brady's doctors and nurses, who are caring for him. We pray for Brady to have strength and prosper. We humbly ask for a miracle of faith and light, of hope and new beginnings. Lord, hear the prayers for this sweet, loving child. Bless Brady and help him and his family at this time of need. May Brady be a beacon for Your love and light, and be cured of his illness.