Monday, February 28, 2011

Superhero

Lately getting Kaiden dressed has been darn near impossible. Getting out the door without a meltdown was nearly never happening all because his Mee-ma and P-pa bought him a Superman shirt for Christmas. All of a sudden that is ALL he wants to wear every morning when getting dressed.

In an effort to prevent the meltdowns I would prep him each day by telling him, "your Spiderman shirt is dirty right now, so we need to pick a different shirt to wear today." Most of the time he was in agreement and seemed like we would be successful in picking a different shirt. But, when it came down to actually dressing him...all. out. war.

So, my mom was in town last week visiting for a few days. Since she is the one that put us in this predicament in the first place :), she volunteered to help out our cause a bit by purchasing a week's worth of superhero t-shirts. We headed to Target to see what we could find. Two Targets and a Walmart later we had our stash in place.
So far it seems to be working. He wears one of these every. single. day. Except this past Saturday when I actually got him to wear a plain white long sleeve shirt for his T-ball game. Don't ask. I have no clue how I pulled that off.

He is still a little unsure of the red Spiderman shirt and Batman T. So while it took a little convincing for him to wear the red Spider man t-shirt over the blue one (that was in the wash) he did cooperate and got through the day without mishaps. He has yet to wear the Batman t-shirt.

But the Superman t-shirt is, by far, his fav....good thing we bought two.
Hopefully this will end the dressing war!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blog to Print

My SIL gave me a magazine page of a cool idea for all you bloggers out there that are interested in saving your blog in print. This allows you to take all your favorite posts and turn it into a book for you to visit your most treasured memories for years to come. I, for one, may look at this in the future to give the kids a collection of my most favorite posts of them. Check it out here!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meal Plan-2/22/11

I am a little late to the menu planning party for this week. But, you know what they say, better late then never.

My mom was here for a better part of last week and into the weekend and just left today. The kids are sick and I am back to being crazy lady running around like a chicken with my head cut off. All in a day. All in a day.

So, I planned a few meals for this week but will find myself hitting up a few grocery stores tonight to make sure I have everything I need on hand to finish off the meals this week. Hubs' birthday is this Saturday, so I still need to go to the store and pick up my FREE brownie mixes so I can whip up a yummy brownie bottom sundae.

Which reminds me, if I may brag for a second, this was the first month that I gave myself a grocery budget of $20/person/week and looks like I may just be able to stick to it and didn't find it very hard at all! The first two weeks I only spend about $50/week on groceries. I do have to make a run to Costco which will bring me right up to hitting the total I set aside for the month. YAY ME!

Tuesday-Corn chowder with salad and bread (kids are sick and aren't eating much at all so they will most likely eat crackers if I can even get them to eat that)
Wednesday-Pazole Casserole
Thursday-Quiche
Friday-White Chicken Chili
Saturday-Out to dinner. Compliments of my mommy!

Happy planning!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Melt My Heart

Saturday I ran to a meeting and came home just in time to get changed and back in the car to get off to church. I put on a different shirt, touched up my make-up slightly and put on a necklace while hubs buckled the kids in the car. When I got in the car I was greeted by little man when he said this:

Kaiden: "Mommy, you look pretty!"
Me: "Oh, thank you buddy."
Kaiden: "Is that your new necklace?"
Me: "It's not new, but I just put it on while I was inside. Do you like it?"
Kaiden: "Yes! Did you put on your pretty dress? Mommy, can I dance with you? Can I dance with you on the sidewalk when we get to church?"
Me: "Kaiden, you are such a sweet boy. Of course I will dance with you."
Kaiden: "Mommy, you look pretty"

Then, of course, my heart melted into a pool of mush on the car floor. My sweet boy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy 4th Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to my loving husband! It has been an amazing 4 years filled with ups, downs and a whole lot of chaos. But I wouldn't change one second of it and truly love the little life that we have built for ourselves.

Thank you for loving me even in the times when I can be unlovable. Thank you for being my rock in times when the weight of the world seems to crash down on me. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for making me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. Thank you for your devotion to your family. Thank you for always being by my side.

I love you today more than I did yesterday and look forward to a lifetime full of adventures!




Here's to the best 4 years of my life! Love you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

3-4 Year Old T-ball

My little boy is growing up. I getting a little emotional. I am feeling a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves for minute. Topic: Where do flies go in the winter? Do they die, fly to warmer climates, or hibernate?

Okay. I think I am better now. So anyways, Kaiden started playing T-ball and last week was his first game. Let me just back up and say that Kaiden LOVES baseball. He and hubs play all. the. time with his T-ball stand in the house. So when we had a chance to play 3-4 year old T-ball, sign us up!

Kaiden is sooo intense when he plays, but has a blast! Here are some moments captured by a friend of mine who has a son on Kaiden's team. Love it!

Here's Mommy cheering him on!
Notice the gloves that he wanted to wear because, "the football players and baseball players on TV wear them."
Such intensity!

Here starts our running to weekly practices and/or games! So fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tutu Cute

A gal from my mom's group, who is a photographer, was hired by a local woman to photograph tutu's for her Etsy shop. I had wanted to get some "tutu" pictures done when Madelyn turned one and just never got around to it. So this opportunity came along and I jumped on it. Miss Maddey is always eager to get her photo taken! They came out great despite her being a little shy in the beginning.

This is my favorite. Do you think I have to start worrying about those teenage years?!?!






You can check out the Etsy shop here. And Bre's photography page here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Couponing 101 Final Lesson: Examples of Deals

Are you totally confused yet?!?!? Well, lemme give it to you straight. I am 3-4 months in and I still get confused. A LOT! Just start small. A coupon here and there at your local grocery store. Try going to CVS and buy one item that will earn you some ECB's. Before you know it you will be feeling more confident. Just the other day I was telling the cashier how to ring in my coupons!

If you are just visiting and want to see my series on coupons read post one, two & three.

Let me give you some examples of some items that I recently bought and how I used the sales and coupons to snag pretty amazing deals. Hopefully it will make it a little easier to figure out.

CVS was running a sale on Tom's of Maine products about a month ago. All the toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash was on sale and then you could earn ECB's on top of it. So, here is what my purchase looked like:
Tom's of Maine $3.99 w/$3 ECB (limit 2)
$2/1 Tom's of Maine (coupons found on a tear page at Albertson's)
=$1.99 out of pocket/Receive $3 ECB (I had $6 in ECB's from a previous purchase so I didn't have to pay anything out of pocket except tax. I also had to do two separate transactions so I could earn all my ECB)
Final cost? $1.01 MM after coupons and ECB! Can you believe they actually "paid" me to buy Tom's products!?!?!?

I have been wanting to start making my own rolls and pizza dough for awhile now. What kind of threw me into it a little earlier than expected was some FREE yeast that I scored at Fry's a couple months ago!
Fleischmann's active or pizza crust yeast on sale for $1
$.50/1 Fleischmann's yeast product (I printed off their website)
Final cost? FREE since my store doubles coupons to $1.00!

We were all out of sour cream last week and I was making Sweet Potato Enchiladas so I needed to get some. And quick! Thank goodness Fry's had their Shamrock Farms Organic Sour cream on sale!
Shamrock Organic Sour cream $2.49
$.50/1 Shamrock Farms
=$1.49 (since my store doubles coupons up to $1.00)

I showed this in my previous post, but here it is again. I had a MaraNatha coupon that I had printed a couple months ago that was burning a hole in my coupon binder. Luckily I found a great use for it last week at Fry's!
MaraNatha Almond Butter sale $4.89
$2/1 MaraNatha product (online coupon)
stacked with $1/1 MaraNatha Whole Foods coupon
=$1.89! (My store is now taking competitors coupons so I can stack a manufacturer's coupon with a competitor store coupon)

I also LOVE to check out the little shelves for those little "manager special" stickers. Here I scored one on Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade. Again at Fry's.
Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade $1.49 (on manager's special)
$1/1 Santa Cruz (found in SS or RP 1/30-I can't remember which one)
=$.50

Just last week I made a trip to Fry's for their MEGA sale. A MEGA sale is when they have a list of "participating items" that are on sale. When you buy 10 of those participating items (you can mix and match) you get $5.00 off your order. Essentially $.50 off each participating items. They often have organic items in the sale so I scored pretty big with the sale and coupons!
Garden of Eden chips $1.79 wyb 10 (these will go great with the FREE Wholly Guacamole that I just scored!)
$1/1 Whole Foods printable coupon
=$.79/bag

We LOVE Barbara's cereal. A box doesn't last long in this house so when it's on sale I try and STOCK UP! Luckily for us it was part of the MEGA and Barbara's must have reset their website coupons.
Barbara's cereal $1.99 wyb 10
$1/1 Barbara's cereal printable on their website
=$.99 each!

If it's one thing that I definitely know about couponing, it's NEVER pay for a toothbrush! There are always deals for free toothbrushes and now that you know how to stockpile you will never run out of them again!
Reach Toothbrush $1.00 wyb 10
$2/2 Reach printable
=FREE!

Hopefully this makes it easier to put the deals together. I tried to show you some items that I stacked coupons on and some that I used competitors coupons with and also a CVS deal where I used ECB's. Here is another post that shows some more deals from a couple months ago that I scored.

There are also some really great websites out there that have some great deals. Some also allow you to earn points. Those points can be used towards products, coupons, or gift cards, etc. Check them out when at your leisure:

Pampers Points-earn points towards gifts when you buy Pampers
Swagbucks-This site is best described as a search engine site. You search the internet like you would at google, but sometimes when you search you earn points. Those point can be redeemed in the "swag store" for a bunch of different things like Amazon.com gift cards, Starbucks cards, etc. I use it every every now and again to search even for things like "hotmail.com" or "google.com." I already have 500 points and have only been using it since December.
Groupon-You can sign up for deals going on in your city. They have deals for everything from restuarants to spas to book stores to hotels, etc.
Mamapedia-I haven't signed up for this yet, but I think it's like Groupon.
Vitacost-I LOVE this site for all my organic/natural needs. Essential oils, honey, vitamins, make-up, even food items like organic popcorn, crackers, protein powder, protein bars, etc. This site has a HUGE selection. And, find a friend to split the shipping (which is $4.99 on all orders) like I just did last week!
Recyclebank-I just started using this site so don't know a whole lot about it. From what I can gather so far, there are certain areas that allow you to earn points when you recycle at your home. My area of Phoenix doesn't allow me to do this. Yet. But, I can earn points by playing "games" or completing surveys on the site and also by entering codes from brands I buy like Kashi. Then you can redeem those points for things like coupons for Naked juice or Kashi. I already earned 2/$2 coupons for Naked products in which I "bought" coconut water for hubs. I actually scored 2 of them for FREE!
Starbucks-get a Starbucks gift card and register it on their site. Just for registering your card on there you get a free coffee on your birthday. When you buy coffee with your card (just load a little on there at a time if you want) you will earn one star each time you pay with your card. With each star earned you will receive different perks such as free add on syrup flavors, free soy milk add on, etc.
Coldstone Creamery-Register you and your family's birthdays on here and receive a free ice cream on your birthday.

The last bit of advice that I can give you is to take reusable bags with you to the store. You will actually make money before you even walk in! Most stores are now paying you $.05/bag! Not much, but every cent counts. Not to mention you will be helping Mother Earth!

So, there you have it! All the in's and out's of saving a penny that I have learned over the past few months. Remember, start slow. It just takes a lot of practice and eventually you will be so excited to go grocery shopping that nothing will stop you!

Happy Saving!

*This concludes my class on couponing. I will accept cash or a check in the amount of $100.00 for my services. Please mail this to me at your earliest convenience. Or, if you prefer, email me a picture and breakdown of your biggest deal that you score on your next shopping trip and I will waive your class fee! :)*

Monday, February 7, 2011

Couponing 101 Part 3: Putting it All Together

Okay now we are getting to the fun stuff. Let's finally talk about using those coupons and watching the price on the register go down, down, down! It's the best part of grocery shopping and I always feel my palms getting a little sweaty watching all my items getting rung up. But as they start by first swiping that club card and then swiping your coupons you get this rush of excitement inside! Oh, so fun!

If you are just tuning in now and want to read the first two introduction posts to couponing, read post one and post two. Again, I am going to reiterate that I am NOT a couponing expert. But I have recently gotten so many questions about it that I thought I would, at least, give you an introduction. Some of my facts may be off a little here and there, but we are all learning so let's navigate this new world of coupons together!

What should my goal be when using coupons?
Your goal to getting the best deal on your groceries is to never buy things at full price. Patience is golden when trying to maximize your dollar. Then when you see something go on sale for a great price that's when it is time to buy it, using a coupon getting it for free or extremely cheap. When that happens you want to STOCK UP. The key to saving big is buying cheap, buying a lot at one time and creating a stockpile. That way you will never find yourself having to run out and buy something at full price since you always have your staples on hand. And you got them for virtually nothing!

Remember when I told you that there are people that subscribe to more than one Sunday paper? Or people that actually "buy" coupons? Well, this is exactly why. When you see something at rock bottom prices you want to buy as much of that item as you can to add to your stockpile. Most things have a pretty decent shelf life like cereal, pasta, pasta sauce, juices, not to mention toothbrushes, pads, soap, diapers, etc. You can freeze practically everything as well. Buy as much as you can when it's super cheap and you'll never have to pay full price ever again!

From what I understand, things go on sale cycles. One week it may be cereals, the next it's pasta ingredients, the next it's beauty stuff, etc. These cycles, from what I have read, go in 4-6 week spaces. When you see cereal on sale, stock up on enough to last you 4-6 weeks before it goes on sale again.

One thing I have learned is that you NEVER have to pay for toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, floss & body wash. It is sooo easy to get those items for FREE, it's ridiculous. I already have a stockpile of probably 10 toothbrushes.

What are the rules when using coupons?
Okay, coupon rules will vary from store to store. You just need to check their coupon policy. This can usually be found on their website or calling their corporate office. Sometimes even the, so called, managers in the actual store seem to get it wrong. So, for the "official" policy check one of the places I mentioned.

Generally, the rule is that you can use ONE MFR coupon per item. That being said, there are ways to use two coupons on one single item. This is called "stacking" a coupon. You may use one manufacturer's coupon + one store coupon to maximize your savings! Here is an example below of how I did this on some Almond Butter that I recently purchased.


MaraNatha Almond Butter on sale for $4.89 (originally $6.29)
$2/1 MaraNatha product (MFR printable) +
$1/1 Whole Foods printable
Final cost? $1.89!

Now the only way you can't use one coupon per item would be if the coupon specifically says something like this: $1/2 Philadelphia Cream Cheese. That means you get $1.00 off wyb 2 of them. So you can only use one coupon for the two packages that you will be buying. UNLESS you have a store coupon to stack with it! Lucky for you I recently bought some Philadelphia Cream Cheese and can give you and example. *Note* My store was doing a MEGA sale which means that you got an extra $5.00 (essentially $.50/item) off your transaction wyb 10 "participating" items included in the sale. So I will include that in my breakdown below.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese $.99 wyb 10 (originally $2.29)
used a $.50/2 Philadelphia Cream Cheese printable (which doubled to $1.00 since my store's policy right now is that they are doubling all manufacturer coupons up to $1.00) +
$.50/2 Target printable (since my store is accepting competitor coupons which are only worth face value)
Final price? $.25 for each wyb 2!

You will also come across some buy one, get one (BOGO) coupons out there that can be a lot of fun to use as well. I can't explain it any better than this post, so happy reading!

What about those organic coupons you keep talking about?
Believe it or not, I still buy a bunch of organic items at Costco. They have organic bread, organic blocks of cheese for like $7 (which I shred in my food processor and freeze in ziploc bags), organic apples, organic ground meat and chicken for like $4.00/lb, organic olive oil, etc. On those items I haven't been able to beat some of their prices even with coupons at the regular grocery stores. But, guess what? Organic coupons are out there. More than you would think. I was originally so hesitant to even try coupons because I buy a lot of organic items, but I soon found out that they are everywhere!

Muir Glen has coupons out there all the time on coupons.com which will get you pasta sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes for really cheap. Especially if you can stack those with a store coupon like Whole Foods. I stocked up a few months back.

I scored a couple Applegate Farms coupons (a very rare find) a month or two ago and I am just waiting for their organic sausage (my kids love their sausage for pancake breakfasts!), chicken nuggets, lunchmeat or hot dogs to go on sale.

Horizondairy.com always has coupons on their site. They don't reset their coupons very often, but it's worth the print. I just scored a 3-pack of organic milk singles at the store last week for .$99!

Alexia products had a Facebook offer not that long ago where you could print a few coupons for "liking" them. We stacked those with Whole Foods coupons at Fry's when they had a sale on their french fries and scored about 5 bags for FREE!

Target, in the past, has had some coupons for "$1.00 off produce" which we then printed and took to Fry's (since they accepted competitor coupons at the time) and bought some organic produce.

Keep in mind, too, that many brands make an organic version of their product. Most coupons will work on these even if the coupon doesn't show that organic version in the picture unless the small print says otherwise. Just last week I had a coupon for $.50/1 Shamrock Farm. Knowing that they make an organic sour cream I used that coupon for that variety because the coupons stated "off ANY Shamrock Farms 16 oz or larger...". Keep your eyes peeled!

Do the coupon policies change?
YES. They are different from store to store and change frequently. When I first started, my main grocer (Fry's) was doubling or tripling all manufacturer coupons up to $1.00 and accepting competitor coupons as well (at face value). That went away right after the holidays for about a month but then it just came back a couple weeks ago. Some stores may only take coupons at face value (like Walmart which is why I hardly ever step foot in there anymore for groceries) or only double them (making a .$25 coupon worth $.50). So you need to read their policies...usually stated on the front of their weekly ads.

What about CVS and those ECB's?
Ahhh, yes, CVS. I was sooo intimidated by CVS when I first started out that I never went in there. I just couldn't figure it out to save my life! But, I pulled myself together one day, put on my big girl panties, gathered up my coupons and made a fantastic purchase on diapers, pads and toilet paper earning me $9.00 in ECB (which are essentially free cash to use at CVS)! I then went back about a month ago and got some Tom's of Maine products (I'll show you that break down in another post) using my ECB (and earned more ECB!) and didn't have to pay anything OOP (out of pocket) except for tax! In fact, they actually "paid me" to buy it! That place is my new best friend.

Read about CVS's game here.

Now what?
Okay, now's the time to get out there and start using your coupons! Don't feel like you have to know everything all at once. I made the big mistake of thinking that I had to buy everything that I saw when it was on sale. And, in turn, I spent WAAAAY too much time focused on couponing. I can't stress this enough-start out slow. Buy a thing or two here and there for really cheap (or even better, FREE!) and before you know it you will be creating your stockpile. I am already at the point where I can pretty much live on what I have for the next month or so without going to the grocery store for things other than milk, bread, fruits/veggies (unless I see a super fantastic deal that I can't pass up). It doesn't take long so don't overwhelm yourself early on.


If you want a deal that is super easy to practice with try this (for those of you with a Fry's nearby). Fry's has Wholly Guacamole on sale until Tuesday 2/8 for $1.00! Print two of these coupons (for more print from another computer in your home as well) and get them for FREE! *Because the coupon is more than the price of the item they will (more than likely) adjust the coupon down to $1.00. But that's okay! You'll still get it for free and you can freeze these babies!


I will post one more post with a few examples of things that I recently bought using coupons. Hopefully this will help you see how to use the sale price and coupons, including stacking them, to get some killer deals. I will also include a CVS purchase that I made to give you an idea of those ECB's at work. I'll post some other websites that are great for deals and earning "points" towards coupons and free stuff as well as some tips that I have learned along the way.

Good luck, have fun and save big!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Meal Plan-2/6/11

Happy Superbowl Sunday! Although, this year I really have no interest in watching a game between my beloved Eagle's rivals, the Steelers, and a bunch of clowns that wear cheese on their heads. I don't know. Call me crazy. Really, I used to love football. When I actually had an opportunity to sit down and watch a full game. UNINTERRUPTED! Those days are LONG over. So, moving on.

Last week I substituted a few meals out for different ones so I will probably repeat a couple this week. Although I did make my sweet potato enchiladas and oh. my. They really are a sweet slice of heaven on your plate. Mmmm....so good. We have another extremely busy week this week so, again, I am going for simplicity here.

Monday-Burgers on the grill (veggie burger for me) with homemade sweet potato fries.
Tuesday-Crockpot Refried Beans on tostadas.
Wednesday-Falafel pitas
Thursday-Quinoa Waldorf Salad
Friday-Lasagna roll-ups
Saturday-Probably crockpot Mac 'n cheese with Brats for a quick meal after church.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Interview With a 3 Year Old

Last night hubs took Kaiden to "Dad's Night" at his preschool. It was a camping theme so sounded pretty fun when they told me that they made smores, read books inside tents, went "fishing" and caught a craft fishy that Kaiden had made and went on a canoe ride.

This morning I found a sheet of paper with some questions that Kaiden had answered entitled "All About Kaiden's Dad." Here's what he filled into the blanks when questioned:

My Daddy is 3 years old.
He weighs 5 lbs. and is 2 ft. tall.
His hair is is brown and his eyes are brown.
My dad likes to relax by reading books.
He likes to wear shirts and his favorite thing to cook is chicken nuggets.
His favorite household chore is vacuum.
He loves to watch movies on tv.
My Daddy's favorite song is ABC's.
Daddy always tells me Kaiden I love you.
When my Dad shops he likes to buy chicken nuggets.
If he could go on a trip, he would go to the airport, and he would take bananas.
I really love it when my Dad goes to the park with me.

I love my Daddy!

Some observations:
-Apparently he thinks hubs is the size of my Chihuahua at only 2ft tall and 5lbs.
-My son must think that all we feed him is chicken nuggets.
-I am glad my son thinks his daddy likes to vacuum. I would like to someday see that happen.
-My hubby loves his son and am so glad that Kaiden knows it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Couponing 101 Part 2: Where to Find Coupons

Congratulations! You've made it to the next step to couponing! If you are just tuning in today and want to read the first steps to saving a buck with your coupons then read here.

Now that you have your coupon binder with category dividers and baseball card holders all ready to store your coupons in and you have successfully subscribed to the Sunday paper let's learn about the different types of coupons out there and exactly where to get them.

What are the different types of coupons?
Manufacturer's coupon-This is probably the most commonly found coupon. It is put out by the manufacturer and can be used at all stores that accept manufacturer's coupons. Most commonly these are the one's found in your Sunday paper.

Store coupon-This is a coupon that is put out by the store but can only be used at that particular store. (Exceptions will apply-such as when a store's policy says "accepts competitor's coupons").

eCoupons-In my previous post I talked about registering your grocery cards on cellfire.com, shortcuts.com and your local grocer's site. Ecoupons are the coupons that you electronically load to this card. They are automatically taken off at the register. *Note: they are sometimes unreliable. There are often times when the grocery store's register doesn't take it off for whatever reason. They will tell you that they can't control it and they are not responsible for the eCoupons. So, if it is taken off, then BONUS, but don't count on it 100%.

Catalinas-Often referred to as a "CAT" in the couponing world, these little gems are printed after you check out. They are often triggered by something you purchased and will produce a "like" catalina (or a CAT) for the same item that you bought. Other times they seem to have no relevance to anything you buy. And even sometimes it will produce a CAT that says, "$1.00 off OYNO (on your next order). I even got a CAT the other day for a free Redbox rental! Often times you don't know when they will print, BUT, if you follow the couponing world then you can get the inside scoop of what, and how many, products will produce a particular catalina. These are usable at the store in which they are printed at. Unless a store advertises that they take competitors coupons you may be able to use them elsewhere. And even can sometimes get a manufacturer's CAT that can be used anywhere!

Peelies-These coupons are found directly on the product that you are buying. They are meant to be peeled off and used at that visit. These fall under the category of a manufacturer coupon. I don't know the exact etiquette, but I believe it very much frowned upon to peel peelies off of other packages that you don't intend to buy to use at a later time. So, just peel off the coupon of the item that you are buying that day.

Blinkies-These are manufacturer's coupons that are located right near the particular item that the coupon is for. It is usually in a small machine looking deal that has a blinking light (sometimes). You can pull out a coupon for the item and use it at that time. I believe, and don't quote me on this cause, like I said, I am new to all this, you can take a few extra for later use on the product.

Tear pads-These are the same idea as a blinkie, but it's just a pad of coupons for a particular item that you can tear off a coupon (or two or three or, well, you get the point) to use.

Where else can I find coupons?
Stores take coupons from all the different places that I listed above but you can also get and print coupons on the internet. There are MANY sites to find internet coupons:
Some places to start are:
-Smartsource.com
-Redplum.com
-coupons.com

In addition you can visit your favorite stores and brands websites to obtain coupons. These would include:
-Target
-Wholefoods
-Fresh & Easy
-Fry's
-Horizon
-Stoneyfield
-Aquafresh
-Barbara's
etc, etc., etc. You get the point. Just get out there on the Internet and search the brands websites that you buy the most. Most of them will have coupons. Keep in mind though, when printing coupons, each computer is allowed to print 2 of the same coupon and that's it. So if you go to Horizon.com and print a coupon for $.50 off milk you will only be able to print that coupon twice from each computer in your home until the site "resets" the coupons. Once they reset the coupons (which can happen often on some sites and not-so-often on other sites) then you can print 2 again. Exception to the "2 print rule" is a store coupon. Ex: Whole foods. All the coupons on their site can be printed as many times as you want because it is not a manufacturer's coupon. Note: YOU MAY NOT MAKE PHOTOCOPIES OF COUPONS! This is fraudulent and could possibly make stores change their coupon policies because they will not get reimbursed for these coupons. DO NOT MAKE COPIES!

I would also advise you not to print all the coupons that you *think* you might use right away. Coupons have expiration dates. Some expire within 30 days and some expire a few months out. So, because you only have a 2 print maximum, only print them around the time you will be using them to ensure that they will still be usable. *Exception* Sometimes there are coupons that are rare and the manufacturer only puts out a certain amount of and once that number is reached then they are no longer available. These you need to print right away. You will get to know the ones that you don't see very often and which ones come around all the time. Most of the couponing sites will tell you this upfront. A good example is that yesterday I saw a coupon for $1/1 Mission brand tortilla package. I wasn't at a printer at the time of seeing it on the site I follow so I just went to print it now and it is no longer available. Booo Hoooo!!!!

Also, hook up with some couponing friends and trade coupons. If a friend of yours is loyal to, let's say, Crest toothpaste and you won't touch that stuff see if you can trade him/her for his/her Colgate toothpaste coupons instead.

Look at the store! May stores offer coupon booklets full of excellent coupons. Some are store specific but many have manufacturer coupons that you can use at numerous stores. Check displays near the entrance or ask at the customer service desk.

There are also people out there that "sell" coupons for a small fee. That's probably the wrong way for me to say it because they aren't allowed to "sell" coupons per se. You will see it worded that they are giving you coupons for, let's say, $.05/coupon and selling their time of gathering, clipping and sending you the coupons. I haven't tried this, but have only heard about it through the couponing grapevine. Why would you buy a coupon if you are trying to save money you ask? Well, if you pay only $.05 for a coupon on a product that you can then turn around and get for FREE with that coupon it is a very nominal fee to get something for nothing.

The last way (that I can think of) to get coupons is to email, call or write letters to your favorite brands. If you never see a coupon for a particular items or brand, email them. Most companies are more than happy to send you some in the mail so that you keep buying their products. I never hurts to try! They may even send you some free samples along with those coupons!

Are there coupon blogging websites I should be following?
There are an enormous amount of couponing blog sites that help you navigate your way through the weekly deals at different stores. These are imperative for any good couponer to follow unless you make it your full time job to do it on your own. There are just sooo many coupons out there, so many sales and so many deals that you just can't keep up with them all on your own. I follow 3 pretty religiously.

I would also suggest finding a coupon blogging site that is in your area. Many sales are different from region to region and this will help you stay on top of the sales/coupons available in your town. There are even different sales within the same affiliate (i.e Kroger) within the same city. There have been times when I go to Fry's here in Phoenix thinking that something will be on sale (like the website said) only to find out it isn't going on at my store. Most of these sites also include organic deals going on too!

The Cents'able Shoppin'-Sheryl is here in Mesa, AZ so most (if not all) of her coupons/sales match up with the stores that I shop at. She is soooo on top of it all and a wealth of couponing knowledge. I visit her site daily just to see if there is anything that is of interest to me.

Money Saving Mom-Crystal (and her team) are like the coupon queens! She has excellent coupon information as well as many other posts on frugal living. I check in on her site maybe twice a week just to see what good info she has.

Organic Deals-I LOVE this for all my organic needs. I think this is based in CA, so sometimes the deals don't match my stores (like Whole Foods) but there are still links to some great organic coupons!

Other sites that I visit occasionally:
Saving Naturally
The Krazy Coupon Lady (she was featured on TLC's Extreme Couponing)

What is all those crazy couponing terms that I see on those sites?
SS=Smart Source. This is a couponing book that comes in your Sunday paper. On your favorite couponing sites you will see coupons referred to like this: $2/1 Colgate toothpaste (SS 1/30) That means that there is a $2.00 off one Colgate toothpaste coupon in the Smart Source that came in your 1/30/11 Sunday paper insert. If you didn't cut that coupon but want to use it now you know exactly where to go in your file cabinet since you filed them like I showed you in my previous post.
RP=Red Plum. This is also a couponing booklet that comes in your Sunday paper.
PG=Proctor & Gamble. These usually come in you Sunday paper and are filled with coupons of Proctor & Gamble products.
ECB=Extra Care Bucks. These are the coupon type things that you can earn at CVS. (See their game here)
RR=Register Rewards @ Walgreens (see their game here)
OYNO=On your next offer (ex: $1 off oyno)
WYB=when you buy (ex: $1 off wyb 2)
BOGO/B1G1=Buy one, get one
MFG/MFR=Manufacturer
OOP=Out of pocket
MM-Money Maker. This is when the item priced low enough for you to use a coupon and actually make money on it. Can you imagine?!?! The store "paying" you to shop there! It happens and when it does it's so exciting!

Great job on step #2. You're homework is to poke around the internet a little and see the different sites that I listed. Get familiar with some of the terms and maybe even sign up for a few websites so that you can print their coupons. Next I will help you put all those coupons to good use. We will learn about when you can (and can't) use a coupon, stacking, competitor's coupons, etc in lesson #3. Stay tuned!

Couponing 101: Getting Started

Last night after I came home from a grocery shopping trip I posted on my facebook page, "I am totally on a couponing high. I paid $50.83 for $135.00 worth of groceries. Saving me $84.17 all thanks to shopping the sale and using coupons! Score!" From that I got many questions of "how did you do that?" "Where do you get your coupons at?" "Maybe I should give this a try, where do I start?" I had no idea that such a innocent status update would create such a buzz. Because of all your questions I've decided that I would do a series of posts to answer some of your questions and hopefully make the couponing world a little less intimidating.

Let me first start off by saying that I am NOT a couponing expert. Back in October or so a group of ladies from my mom's group got together to learn more about couponing. There were some extreamly seasoned couponers there, some beginner couponers there and even some that had never clipped a coupon in their life. From that meeting we all entered into the couponing world with high hopes in reducing our grocery budgets and saving our family a few bucks along the way. Over the past few months we have helped and guided each other, shared some tips and strategies in hopes of maximizing our mighty dollar. Through those people I have begun to develop a bit of knowledge of the couponing world. But, I assure you that I am no where near the expertise of some couponers out there. So, I am going to just use these posts as a starting off point to get you going in the right direction. There is a lot to learn (and I will join you on the ride), but the good thing is that with a little time, effort, research and practice you, too, can become a couponing extraodinaire!

So, like I said, I have been couponing since about October. Since we buy many things that are organic I thought that couponing would never be for me. After all, coupons are just for junk foods like chips, dip, and a whole bunch of over processed foods, right? WRONG! After doing some research I have found that even someone who wants to eat organically can use coupons too! There are MANY to be had if you just know where to look and how to shop the sales. I can't tell you the amount of things that I have gotten for FREE or next to nothing...even on ORGANIC and GREEN items! So sit back, grab a pen and a (free) organic Honest Tea (that you recently got at your Fry's MEGA sale) and lets begin, shall we?

Where do I start?
First you will want to start by subscribing to the Sunday paper. It is filled with weekly coupon books and ads for stores that are advertising their sale items. But isn't spending money on a weekly paper counter-productive you ask? The answer is "No." Here in Arizona I get my paper for $1.00/week. This gets me the Sunday paper and the Wednesday paper (for free). The Wednesday paper is important because in that comes the ads for most grocery stores since their new sales usually start on Wednesday. I save well over a $1.00/week with coupons so in my opinion it is well worth the investment. The coupons in the paper are mostly for mainstream items, but with organics becoming more of a demand there are more often then not at least a few in there from time to time. Plus, you get coupons for toothbrushes, toothpaste, pads, tampons, razors, toilet paper, etc. We all need those right?! If you can, a lot of "expert" couponers get more than one Sunday paper. If they don't allow more than one (or two-sign up in your hubby's name as well) then have your family sign up and give you theirs. You'll see why later.

I have my paper so what next?
Now that you have your paper don't sit down and clip every single coupon in there. It's not necessary. Look through and clip the ones that you pretty much think you will use right away or in the very near future. The rest of the coupon book should be filed. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! You may find yourself going back to them and clipping something that you didn't think to clip before (or you can trade them). I stick a sticky on the front with the Sunday date that I got it and paperclip all my coupon books that I got that particular week together. I then file them in my drawer for later use.
You will want to go and buy (or if you have some laying around, even better!) a 3 ring binder. This is the best way to keep coupons (in my non-expert opinion!). I like the ones that have a flap in the front so that you can slide envelopes in there, but it's up to you. Here you can see that I have a cover sheet with all the coupon categories. I printed them here. I didn't orginally have the dividers for the categories but just recently started using them. They are a life saver and make my binder so much more organized. I say, IT'S A MUST!

Here you can see one of the category dividers up close. I bought the clear page protectors to insert them into for easy turning. Cause your pages will do a lot of turning!

Next, you will want to buy some baseball card holders for your binder. This allows you to put one coupon in each slot for easy veiwing. I got mine at Walmart, but I am sure many stores sell them. Start off with at least 50. I already need to go buy another pack since all of mine are used up.

I also keep envelopes in the front of my binder with each store's name written on it. When I am planning a trip to that particular store, I pull my coupons that I need and keep them in the envelope for easy access. I also store catalinas (we will get to those later), rain checks, Extra Care Bucks (which I will now refer to as ECB's) in there so I don't lose them.

Wait, is there still more prep work?
Yes, there is! I promise we will get to the fun part of saving a dollar, but there is still more work that needs to be done before we get there.

I set up some accounts that were just devoted to my couponing. A couponing email account and a couponing facebook account where I don't have "friends" on it (yes there are coupons on FB!). I would advise doing this cause as you get going you will be signing up for a lot of websites that send you stuff through email. Don't bog down your main email with all this junk. You will also need this for logging in to many websites to get coupons.

Next you will want to get grocery store club cards. You know those credit card looking things that they ask you for every time you check out? Not only do those little cards allow you to get the "sale" price on items, but you can also electronically load coupons to those cards! So, when you check out, if you have an ecoupon (as they are called) for that item it will automatically be deducted at the register! How easy is that?!?!? I would also advise you to get a CVS card as well to earn your Extra Care Bucks (ECB). CVS and Walgreens (which you don't need a card for) are the two biggest pharmacy's here in AZ that I shop, so I can only offer information about those in particular.

Now that you have your grocery cards you will need to register them on the websites. Go to cellfire.com, shortcuts.com & PGesaver.com. Also the grocery store website, like Fry's here in AZ or CVS.

Phew! That's a lot of information! Now that you have some homework to do get that all completed and check back with me tomorrow for lesson #2!