Shopping list…

Before you head out to grocery shop, take a look at the things on my list this week! 

Most grocery store  sales are from Wednesday to Tuesday.  The new circulars arrive on Tuesdays.  I’ll try to have my new shopping list up by Wednesday the 20th.

I’m also putting together a few crowd pleasers so we can throw parties on a budget!

CnC

PS… I scored a $100 wall clock for only $2 at a garage sale this weekend!!!

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Pizza

I just read that 93% of Americans eat Pizza at least once a month.  And each man, woman, and child eats an average of 46 slices of pizza per year.  That’s 23 pounds of pizza… average!

I don’t know about you, but I go into shock when I call the pizza place to find out that a large pizza with all of the toppings costs ~$25.  Even with coupons, that’s a lot of money.  If you have teenagers or husband with a big appetite, pizza is its own budget line item. 

“CnC, I love pizza, but it’s expensive.  What should I do?”  Fear not, dear reader, I am here to help.

I’m not sure who told us that we can’t make things at home, but I know many people believe it.  You can make your own marinades, salad dressings, desserts, and PIZZA.  I have a really good pizza crust recipe that I am willing to share!  A good crust is essential for a good pizza.  It is pretty easy and has many purposes.

Homemade Pizza

¾ cup lukewarm water

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 ¼ cups flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

 Directions

1. In a small bowl, stir together the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 5 minutes.  The “foam” will look like the froth on a good pour of beer but darker in color. 

2. Using a standing mixer, mix the flour and salt at low speed. Mix in the yeast mixture and olive oil until no dry four is left at the bottom of the bowl.  Change to the dough hook attachment and mix at medium speed until smooth, about 6 minutes.

3. Transfer the dough to a greased, large mixing bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Punch down the dough before using.

4.  Preheat oven to 400F.

5.  Split the dough in half (or quarters or eighths).  And roll out into the desired shape. Roll thicker for thick crust or thinner for thin crust.

6.  Top the dough with desired toppings except the cheese.

7.  Bake until golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes (watch closely if you have a thin crust).    Top with cheese and a little bit of oregano and crushed pepper flakes. 

8.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Place the pizza under your oven’s broiler to brown the cheese topping – watch closely.

NOTE: For whole wheat dough, use 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. (I’ve never tried this, so don’t blame me if it tastes healthy.)

 

If you don’t have a stand mixer, ask for one for your birthday, anniversary, or Christmas… or go get it yourself and tell him thank you for your belated Mother’s Day present.  My husband gave me mine for our 3rd anniversary, and I use it probably every other day.  The only small appliance that gets more use is my burr coffee grinder.  Coffee is a food group at our house. 

If you have more patience than I do, you can wait until Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to buy your stand mixer.  Many stores sell them at unbelievable prices 30%-50% off of their retail price. 

Let not your heart be troubled – you can still make pizza dough even if you don’t have a stand mixer.  It’s just a little more hands-on work.  You can use a hand mixer to get all of the ingredients together.  Then you’ll have to turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand 8 – 10 times.  Then pick up the directions again at step 3. 

We’ve had fun at our house experimenting with the endless possibilities of pizza dough.  Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

 

Toppings:

  • Pre-cooked Meats – pepperoni, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, chicken, bacon, etc…
  • Vegetables – onion, red and green peppers, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, etc…
  • Cheese – mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, cheddar, monterrey, etc…
  • Sauce – marinara (I use spaghetti sauce – $0.69/can at Fred Meyer), alfredo, oil and garlic, etc…

Other uses for pizza dough:

  • Dessert Pizza – brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon
  • Calzones – when you roll out the dough, put filling only on half and fold the dough over.  Pinch the dough closed.
  • Breadsticks – butter/olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese

 Fun Suggestions:

  • Hawaiian – ham and pineapple tidbits (or chunks cut in half) over red sauce.  Top with mozzarella, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
  • Mexican – refried beans, taco meat, and salsa.  Top with monterrey cheese.  Then sprinkle shredded lettuce and serve with a dollop of sour cream. 
  • Barbeque – I made BBQ Turkey Calzones with monterrey jack cheese last night.  YUMMY!  I’m glad there’s one leftover for lunch.

Have you ever noticed that you wake up in the middle of the night incredibly thirsty after eating pizza that you ordered out?  It’s all of the extra stuff they put in their sauce and meats and stuff.  When you make it at home, you don’t have to get up in the night (unless the baby needs you). 

 

The Numbers:  

If you eat pizza once a month for $25, you can save $22 or more each time you make your own pizza.  Over the course of a year, that’s $264… the cost of a stand mixer.  If you eat pizza out once a week for $25 and you save about $22 each time, over the course of a year, that’s $1144… a vacation (close to home).

We all have different situations.  Some of us want to save money.  Some of us have to save money.  Either way, the goal is to stretch the dollars we do have into more. 

Tell me in the comments what your goal is with the money you save!

Snack time…

I’m a bit of a voyeur.  If someone’s shopping cart is in plain view, I have every right to look.  Where I sometimes cross the line is by secretly judging my fellow shoppers for the junk they feed their family.  I also get a prideful feeling from knowing that I spend way less money than most people I see at the store.  Is this a punishable offense? 

Just the other day, I peered into a cart to see an over-abundance of packaged snack foods for the toddler in the cart being pushed by mommy.  I shouldn’t have looked because now this will become more of a rant than an informative posting.  I’ll try to stick to my usual format.  But I was really irked that she fed her baby that junk.

Beyond my personal conviction that children don’t need sugar, the other, and probably much stronger reason that I don’t buy packaged snacks is because I’m CHEAP.  Let me tell you, I’m REALLY CHEAP.  When I see packaged peanut butter crackers, I know that I can make my own peanut butter cracker sandwiches at home for less.  When I see string cheese sticks, I long for their ease, but I WILL NOT pay for them (unless they’re really cheap on sale… like $2.50-$3.00/lb). 

I do sometimes splurge on car-friendly snacks.  I have been known to buy small packages of things… little yellow sea creatures to be exact.  But that was only because they were on sale after Halloween.  Did you give those out at your house?  Anyway, if I buy individual servings of things it’s rare and it’s on sale and with a coupon.  I really do miss the days of buying raisins in little boxes.  My kids love getting them out and it helps their fine motor skills.  But I don’t do that anymore either because I’m cheap. 

“But CnC, what do I feed my children if not things that come in single serve packages?”  Fear not dear reader, I am here to help.

 

Snacks are not meals so I don’t feel guilty when there is just a carb.  But I usually go for carb and fruit or carb and dairy or fruit and dairy.  They’ve hit the big time when they get all three and we sometimes call that a light lunch. 

Carb snacks at our house are usually things like popcorn, pretzels, dry cereal, crackers, or toast.

  • Popcorn – It is not advised for all ages, and it is certainly not nutritionally sound enough to live on, but it’s yummy.  You can even use your new favorite room – your kitchen – and your stove to make it the old fashioned way.  I just follow the package directions.  Kids enjoy watching so pull up a chair so they can see from a distance.  Serve it in muffin tins or cups or whatever to make it more interesting.  I sometimes top the popcorn with shredded cheese and melt it in the microwave for a few seconds.  It’s a snack that I enjoy too.
  • Pretzels – I buy whatever pretzels are on sale.  Lately, I’ve been buying the $1.68/bag pretzels at Winco.  They’re not too fancy, but the kids seem to like them.   They can dip their pretzels in peanut butter or homemade hummus.  Or I serve pretzels with cheese.
  • Dry Cereal – There are cereals with less sugar than others.  I buy the ones with 3g or less/serving.  I serve dry cereal in yogurt or dry with a side of fruit.  By the way, I never pay more than about $1.50 for a box of Cheerios (see my article about Coupons).
  • Crackers – I buy crackers when they’re on sale.  This week’s $1.88/box coupon of Ritz at Albertson’s was GREAT for my snack stash.  I bought the max and it should last us until they go on sale again.   I don’t usually buy generic crackers because I, personally, can tell the difference.  If I’m going to have any crackers (and I always do), it’s the real deal.  If it’s just for them, they get generic.  I put peanut butter, cheese, tuna salad, homemade hummus, cream cheese, etc… on crackers.  They love it (and so do I).
  • Toast – I buy bread off of the day-old rack most of the time.  Other times, I stock up when it’s on sale and keep it in my freezer.  Either way, it’s better toasted.  I put peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, or I make cheese toast the way my mom did.

Dairy snacks at our house is usually cheese, yogurt, or (I know I’m going out on a limb here) milk.  And we’re going to try cottage cheese soon.

  • Cheese – I buy it at Costco.  Shredded cheddar is ~$2.19/lb (the cheapest around) or in 2lb blocks for ~$2.50/lb.  I really like Tillamook and will sometimes pay extra to have it around.  The kids either get a handful of shredded or I slice it off the block and give it to them… even if the slices are ugly.  Have a little fun and help them learn their shapes by cutting their cheese into those shapes… it’ll make you not resent having cheese sticks around.  Plus, scraps are always Mommy’s.
  • Yogurt – I really do make my own yogurt (ask Madeleine).  For the kids, I mix it with fruit or muesli (that I bought in the bulk section at Winco).  I also make smoothies.  This morning, it was a pineapple banana smoothie.  I had a few chunks of pineapple leftover from pizza night and it tasted good with the really ripe banana.  Get creative, you won’t go wrong.
  • Cream cheese – I really like cream cheese and I buy it in the 3lb block at Costco (~$0.77 for 8oz).  If you don’t like cream cheese that much, don’t buy it that way.  It’s really good as an occasional sandwich spread and with scrambled eggs and sausage.  But I’m contemplating making homemade cream cheese too.  I hate throwing out expired milk so why not give it a go. 

 Fruit is important at our house.  The kids love it and they will ALWAYS eat it

  • Fresh Fruit – My kids eat what’s in season or on sale.

Watermelon – less then $0.30/lb

Canteloupe/Honeydew – less than $0.50/lb

Bananas – less than $0.60/lb (Costco has them for $0.48/lb all of the time)

Strawberries – less than $1.25/lb (you can pick your own for about $0.70/lb in my area)

Fuji Apples – less than $1.00/lb

Pears – less than $1.00/lb

Oranges – less than $0.50/lb

Satsuma/Mandarin Oranges – around $1/lb (so wonderful… I love Satsuma season)

I usually only buy frozen Blueberries and Raspberries because fresh ones are too expensive for me.  Of course, if you have access to fresh fruits at farmers’ markets and u-pick farms, you’re way better off.  You can freeze in-season berries on a cookie sheet and then put them in small bags for long term storage.  I also make freezer jam… we’ll talk about that later.

 

 

  • Dried Fruit – I like dried fruit because it’s nutritious and always enjoyed by my toddlers… but most importantly it’s car-friendly.  I try to make sure that the dried fruit isn’t artificially sweetened, but that’s my own bias.  We eat a lot of raisins, but my kids like prunes too… in moderation.

 

On the Go.  When we’re out and about, all bets are off.  I figure if we eat a good breakfast and a balanced dinner, we can just sort of eat what’s available at lunch.  I try to leave snacks in the car at all times… in case I’m out the door in a hurry.  You’ll find gallon sized freezer bags full of raisins, dry cereal, and pretzels.  For snacks in the car, we have Gerber’s Snack Bowls.  They do not prevent messes, but they limit the mess to a smaller radius. 

I also try to keep a bottle of water in the car to refill their water-only sippy cups which also reside in the car.  I change those out at least once a week… just in case.

While we’re on the subject, I also have a box of multiple diapers and a package of wipes.  This is my “sanity box”… because you sometimes just need to get out in a hurry.  Sometimes, it takes everything in me just to get matching shoes on everyone.  This box helps me get out the door quickly.  I always have backups!

 

More often than not, I feel like I spend my life in the kitchen.  We eat our vegetables at meal times and snacks are pretty easy (because I make my yogurt in big batches).  If I’m feeling particularly generous, the kids get special treats.  At our house Peanut Butter Balls and Roasted Chickpeas are greatly appreciated.

Check it out…

 I added a little feature for those of you who are curious what’s on my shopping list!  It’s my bargain Journal

I bought the max of Ground Turkey at Albertson’s today… 6 – 20oz packages for $1.88 ea w/ coupon.  It’s a great alternative to beef and just as cheap!

Treasure Hunting

You already know that my favorite season is Garage Sale season and my favorite room in the house is my kitchen and that one of my favorite foods is fried chicken. But did you know that my favorite day is MONDAY?

I’m probably the only person in the western world who likes the day we all go back to work. Don’t get me wrong, Mondays at my house are full. The house is beyond messy – it’s downright dirty. Laundry has been neglected – it’s taking over the whole house. And the refrigerator is looking not so full – it’s time to go shopping.

But everything gets put on hold. The kids wear whatever is left in their closet (or something dirty). Dishes pile up. And dinner is less complex than usual. Why? Because the clearance sales at my favorite Thrift Stores are calling my name!

Sure, it may smell funny. Sometimes the stuff is trash with price tags. But oh the treasures you’ll find if you’re patient.

I have in my possession a pair of Silver Blue Jeans for which I paid… are you ready for this… $0.99 (retail $80). Really! I am also the proud owner of an Ikea metal bunk bed that cost me only $24.99 (retail $179). Then there’s the $9.99 (retail ~$50) Gap Jeans for my husband and the $0.99 (retail ~$30) Nautica dress shirt for my son. I found a steam canner for $10 (retail $25 + shipping).

I have JCrew jeans and Style&Co shirts, and almost everything decorating my house is from a thrift store. And the list goes on!

“But CnC, I’m overwhelmed by the endless racks of geriatric junk.” Fear not, dear reader, I can help you tame the beast.

Know what you want. If I walk into a Thrift Store with nothing in particular in mind to buy, I, too, am overwhelmed with the volume of seemingly unorganized items. But if I know I’m looking for a black t-shirt, I head to the black t-shirt section…seriously.

Know their “organization” style. Most stores around here are organized by type then size then color. For example, there is a short sleeved knit shirt section, a tank top section, a sweater section, etc… Then they’re often broken up into sizes S, M, L, and XL. Then they’re organized by color… really. All of the primarily white shirts are together, the green shirts, the yellow shirts, etc… They’re sometimes broken down by prints and solids.

If you’re limited on time, don’t even look through the brown shirts if you like wearing blue. And you probably don’t want to look for sweaters in July. If you have the time, you can really come away with some wonderful items that are sometimes mis-filed.

Keep in mind that the employees at the local thrift store are not necessarily paid very much. Don’t be surprised when you find an XXXL shirt in the “small” section.

Location location location. This will save you some heartache. In small towns with limited income possibilities, you may find an excess of … less than brand name items. But in OperatingSystem Land, you may really find some nice things. Find the nice neighborhoods, and then find the nearest donation center. If you don’t live in that area, go on some scouting trips and leave the kiddos in the car with daddy. If you find a Thrift Store that is worthwhile, find out their specials and come back later to do the serious shopping.

A worthwhile thrift store will be well organized with signage and size tags on the racks. The shoes will be on the shoe racks and not in bins. There will be distinct houseware and furniture sections.

Price matters. Items at thrift stores should be 1/3 or less of the retail price. Items that are in higher demand or that are difficult to find will likely cost more.

Keep a list. As with garage sales, know what items you want or need. My garage sale list and my thrift store list are one in the same.

Shop the specials. Most thrift stores rotate their inventory. First in is first out. Items that were donated 6 weeks ago will be on sale right now. These specials are publicized with flyers or you can ask an employee or a manager.

Around here, items are 50% of Thursday – Sunday and on Monday they’re only $0.99 (or $1.29)… even if the original price was $30. Bank holidays are often 50% off THE WHOLE STORE… every item. Memorial Day is coming up… could be fun.

Know the policies. The stores locally allow returns or exchanges within 7 days of purchase. If you get an item home and find a major flaw or that it doesn’t fit as well as you thought, return it or exchange it (or re-donate it). I’m cheap, I return or exchange.

No snobbery allowed. Just as with garage sale shopping, you will find items in less than new condition. If you’re good at getting stains out of laundry, buy that Banana Republic shirt for $3.99.

Little ones allowed. If your kids can handle it, take them with you. Mine don’t mind too much… but I bribe them with Dum Dums sometimes. Other times I let them play with random toys from the store or flip through board books. You can always exchange babysitting. You may love thrift stores, and your friend loves pedicures. Swap and help a girl out!

Grab now, decide later. When I go through a section, I pick out all of the potentials. I don’t ruminate in the middle of the aisle usually. When I get enough to choose from, I stand in front of a mirror and decide which ones I want to try on. I try on the ones I am pretty sure of (I layer so I can do this without going in the dressing rooms sometimes).

This sounds like it takes a long time, but it takes less time than going back to the same section 8 times to find the right shirt. It sometimes happens that I only get 1 or 2 out of 10 or 15, but when you check out and 2 shirts cost you only $5… it’s worth it.

Don’t delay. Just because you’re not willing to pay $7.99 for that Ralph Lauren shirt doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. Don’t wait for $0.99 day. If you want it, buy it.

 

As with all of my posts, I want to help you save money. Some of you want to. Some of you have to. Either way, it’s fun coming away with treasures at a fraction of their retail price.

Make a comment!  If you have a thrift store find you want to brag about, here’s your chance.

Beyond this week…

I have a confession to make: I don’t make a weekly meal plan.  It’s after 2pm at my house right now and I still don’t know what we’re having for dinner tonight.  But I’m not panicked because my freezer is stocked, and my microwave’s defrost button works rather well.

Instead of a meal plan, I have everything on hand I need to make pretty much any recipe that we make regularly.  Is that strange?  I would be upset if I had only one week’s worth of food to choose from.  I’m way too spontaneous to eat something that I planned to eat a week ago.  Sounds boring to me!  I know that the “experts” say to make a weekly meal plan (and I’m even developing a monthly meal plan).  But let’s move beyond that to the “whatever we may be hungry for” plan. 

This is what I do: make a list (mental or otherwise) of my family’s favorite meals and stock up on the ingredients – that is, the ones that don’t spoil – when they’re on sale.  It’s like this… if you know you cook chicken pot pie every Tuesday and your family expects it like clockwork, you may want to stock up on the ingredients when they’re at the lowest price.  That way, you have what you need to make your Tuesday Night meal every Tuesday for the next 6 or 8 weeks (and you’re not running to the store on the day of to buy a main ingredient at full price).

Truly, I could go into my kitchen at almost any given moment and make most any recipe that is made with standard spices and typical ingredients.  No, REALLY. 

  • I always have pasta, potatoes, and rice. 
  • I always have ground beef and chicken in various forms. 
  • I always have cream of mushroom soup and canned tomato products. 
  • I always have a variety of cheeses.  
  • I always have frozen vegetables.
  • I always have flour, sugar, and eggs. 
  • And do I need to say that I always have milk?  I do.  I have 3 under 3 after all. 

So… what’s for dinner at our house?  Chicken probably.  I like chicken because you can fry it, boil it, grill it, or bake it.  My favorite is probably fried, but that’s just the Southerner in me. 

When do I know to stock up?  What is the lowest price on chicken?  Well, here’s what I’ve found in my area…

Whole Chicken – $0.79/lb

Breast w/ Bone – $1.49/lb

Boneless Skinless Breast (fresh) – $1.79/lb

Boneless Skinless Breast (frozen) – $1.49/lb

Chicken Tenderloins – $1.99/lb

Legs/Thighs – $0.99/lb

How much should I buy?  That would totally depend on your family’s appetite and which cuts of meat they like.  For example: my husband eats 2 – 3 legs or thighs for dinner, I eat 1 usually or 2 if I’m breastfeeding or pregnant (which is all the time) and 1 for each of the 2 toddlers.  So I will put 7 or 8 legs or thighs in a freezer bag so dinner is at my fingertips.  I have two meals from each cut available most of the time (unless it’s time to go shopping).  So right this minute, I have 2 bags of 7 legs, 2 bags of 8 thighs, 2 bags of 2 breasts, and 2 whole chickens in my freezer.  My inventory is in my head.  I just know it’s there, but if you need to write it down, do so!

Let’s get something straight.  I do not consider breaded, cooked, frozen chicken tenders food.  I don’t always recognize the ingredients that Bo pridefully puts in his chicken so I don’t waste my money.  I cook real food at my house.

Some of you may not like cooking so I’ve put together some of the easiest things to do with each the aforementioned cuts of meat.  If you have an oven, I know you can do this.  I will eventually write a post just about Whole Chickens and the wonders thereof.  But for now…

Roasted Chicken

Chicken and Rice

Chicken Parmesan (a little more complicated)

Fried Chicken Tenders (HOMEMADE)

Oven Fried Chicken (Legs/Thighs)

I hope that these ideas can help you not only save money, but feel better because you’re eating not-so-processed foods.  My kitchen is my favorite room in the house.  I hope you learn to love your kitchen too.  It will save you a lot of money in the long run!

Coupons

What a joyful day when I discovered the wonders of coupon clipping at MOPS!  Spaghetti sauce for $0.75.  Hamburger meals for $0.80.  Granola bars for $1.  But I quickly realized that this was just a dirty little trap.   Betty and her cronies the Dough Boy and that Quaker dude give you $0.35 off of items you don’t like, don’t need, and won’t eat.  Just because it’s cheap does not mean you should buy it.

While we’re discussing traps, let me also mention this: items available at warehouse stores are not necessarily cheaper.  Unfortunately, we as shoppers have to use our fertile little minds to find the best price.  And when we’ve found it, buy it!

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way…

  • Grocery store prices go in cycles.  Items are on sale roughly every 6 weeks or 3 months.  When your family’s favorites go on sale, that’s when you stock up.  If you’re buying only your weekly meal plan, you’re spending too much.   I will elaborate on this principle further as I put together 30 days for $300.
  • There are supplemental books of coupons in your Sunday newspaper.  The two most common are SmartSource and Valassis.  And from time to time you’ll even find exclusively Proctor and Gamble (P&G) coupon books.
  • Printable coupons are available online.  You can find these coupons on manufacturer websites, grocery chain websites, and coupon websites.  Since none of them are paying me, I’m going to let you do your own research for good coupons.  Don’t go shopping without doing your due diligence.  It really adds up at the end of the month… how else do you think I justify my weekly double tall white mocha?
  • Save your cash register receipt coupons.  Sometimes they will target you at the grocery store and give you coupons to match or compete with items you just purchased.  Don’t throw these away.  Some of them are really worthwhile.
  •  Professional coupon clipping is good business.  You can order multiple coupons of items you know you use and would like to stock up on.  Though they are not paying me, I will tell you that I’ve had good experience with The Coupon Clippers.
  • Use multiple coupons when items are on sale.  For big savings, save all of your coupons for a particular item and wait until an item goes on sale and stock up.  Cereal is a good example of this.  When they’re five boxes for $10, use your “$1.50 off of 3” and two “$0.75 off of 1” coupons.   You’ll get 5 boxes of cereal for $7… just $1.40/box. 
  • There are sometimes limits or restrictions imposed by the store.  Be sure to follow those to avoid frustration.  This doesn’t mean you can’t send your husband later or make an additinal trip yourself.
  • Watch out for coupon nuances.  They’ll tell you in big letters “$2 off” but when you read the fine print, you realize you have to buy 8.  Those coupons aren’t necessarily going to save you any money.
  •  Don’t buy what you don’t like, don’t need, or won’t eat!!!

I soon found that my Sunday-only subscription to the floundering big city newspaper was more of an annoyance than a benefit.  They signed me up at a promotional rate and then my price went up.  Then they called me to insist I accept their daily free papers (my husband got that call once and we wound up with dozens of wet newspapers on our front lawn).  So now, I go to the aforementioned Coupon Clippers’ calendar page to find out what is coming out in Sunday’s paper.  If there’s not at least $1.50 worth of good coupons, I don’t bother.  If there are good coupons, I go get the paper at the convenience store up the street.  If they’re really good, I buy two or three papers or I order extras online.

True confessions:  I’ve also been known to raid the recycle basket at local coffee establishments on Sunday.  I made out like a bandit one time with 3 copies of each of the 3 supplemental coupon inserts… all for free.  That week there was a $10 off home improvement store coupon… SCORE!  But my husband gets embarrassed watching me light up as I go through other people’s trash so I don’t get to do that very often.

Where I have benefitted most from coupons is on personal care items.  The $4 off coupon for razor blade refills really helps.  And the Buy One Get One (BOGO) toothbrushes work really well.  Just today, I bought $0.99 deodorant.  Frequently, the sale price less your coupon makes these items significantly less expensive than warehouse store prices.  So before you buy a 20 pack of dental floss, check your coupons.

I also really like the “free” items where you buy the item then send off for your rebate. Hang on to your receipt and UPC.  And look out for purchase dates and post mark dates.  “Free” = envelope + stamp * time.

One more thing, with the coupons that are left over and/or expired, you can send them to our military serving overseas.  Organizations like the Overseas Coupon Program are worthy of our support.  They will likely receive my support as soon as I’m not pregnant and/or breastfeeding. 

Happy clipping!  And happy garage sale-ing this weekend!  Next up… CHICKEN!!!

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In or Out?

When we were first married and we both had good jobs, we ate out entirely too much. We brought home pizza several times a month and ate at restaurants two or three times a week. We hated our little kitchen in our little house so we just avoided it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have more money to spend at Garage Sales.

When our son was born, we still ate out once or twice a week so that I could get out. But when we had our second child and now our third, eating out became a bigger chore than joy.

After a long day with little people or at work, most of us still ask that question “in or out”? I think I have found something in between. I have 5 ideas that are less expensive than traditional eating out. You still have a small amount of prep and clean up, but it saves loads of cash. And maybe it’s alright to eat off of paper plates occasionally. With all of the money you save, you can go out to eat once a month at a really nice place… if you get a babysitter.

If you are just not going to eat in, here are a few things we do to save a few bucks when we’re out…

Drink water. Most restaurants around here charge $2+ for iced tea and soda. With the money you save, you can buy a 12 pack of soda when it’s on sale.

Happy Hour. A lot of restaurants have happy hour. Call ahead to see what some of those specials are and if children are allowed in that seating area. Often you have to order a beverage, but you still save a lot of money on those half price nachos and that $2 salmon burger.

Small Orders. We’ll sometimes get one entrée to share between adults and one kid meal to share between the kids. If we’re still hungry, we’ll order a cup of soup, a basket of fries, or dessert. Usually, we find we aren’t that hungry and restaurant portions are big enough to feed a few more people.

It is pretty easy to drop $50 or more at a restaurant especially if you order adult beverages. So here are a few easy meals you can do at home for around $10. They’re not fancy or award worthy, but they’re not too bad either…

1 – Roasted Chicken ($5.99), Deli Salad ($2.99), and bread from the bakery ($1.19). Total: $10.17

2 – Frozen Lasagna ($4.79), bagged Caesar Salad ($3.99), and bread from bakery ($1.19). Total: $9.97

3 – Microwave Baked Potato (2lbs @ 0.85/lb – $1.70), Canned Chili ($1.99), bag of Mexi-Salad ($3.99), and Shredded Cheese (8oz – $2.49). Total: $10.17

4 – Salad Greens ($2.99), Canned Beans (black or pinto) ($1.29), Canned Whole Kernal Corn or Sliced Black Olives ($1.35), Shredded Cheese ($2.49), Ranch Dressing (on hand), Corn Chips ($2.00). Total: $10.12

5 – Fresh Pasta (refrigerator section) ($4.69), Pasta Sauce ($3.69), and microwaved Frozen Peas ($2.29). Total: $10.67

 (*Note* Prices are NON-sale prices. If you buy generic and on sale, you can save even more.)

Now, I know that some of these meals require a little bit of preparation, but just think of what is involved in eating out. You strap everyone into their car seats, drive to the restaurant amidst screaming, order, prevent near disaster with the salt and pepper shaker, receive your food, stop your children from throwing said food at the table next to you, “enjoy” your meal, and then pay out the nose for mediocre food.

In that same time and for a lot less money, you could have gone to the store, picked up the necessary items, returned home to prepare the meal, opened a few cans, pushed a few buttons on the microwave, eaten hot food, and cleaned up. All while wearing sweats and without any embarrassing toddler stories tell (like mine with the projectile vomit at the burger joint)!

BonusCozi allows you to put together shopping lists and text message them to yourself OR text them to your husband on his way home from work.

What is this?

My name is Clara, and I started this Blog help others.  I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who would like to save money, but they just don’t know where to start.  I would like to help! 

In addition to being just downright cheap, I’d like to think I do so with a certain amount of charm.  My children are fashionably dressed and my house is decorated simply and intentionally.  When you visit, there’s almost always something yummy to eat and the house is reasonably clean… considering I have 3 under 3.  I’ll share some of those ideas with you as well.

What to look for:  In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting 30 days for $300.  I want to give you a realistic meal plan (3 meals/day plus snacks) and a shopping list to boot.  I have recipes to share and I think I can do it (if you can handle eating a lot of chicken and ground beef).

I’ll also share with you other ways I save my family thousands of dollars every year.   From thrift store shopping to making my own cleaning products I can help you save hundreds and thousands of dollars without sacrificing too much.

Believe me, I am no superwoman, but I have a goal… to save my family loads of cash.  I hope I can help you do the same if you are looking to do so. 

 

Requests?:  In the comments, please give me any requests on money saving ideas.  I’ll share with you what I do to make my house as thrifty… er, CHEAP as possible.

Subscribe:  I’m set up on Feedburner and you can put my blog on your RSS feed.  If this doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not alone so I’m working on a way to sign up for an email letting you know that I’ve got a new post up.  For now, just check back every few days.  I hope to post 3 times/week.

Thank you for your encouragment so far.  I hope you enjoy this little venture of mine.  And please pass it on.  These ideas are meant for sharing!

 

Charming and Cheap,

Clara

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