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Monday, November 1, 2010

Forming the Battleplan

People complain that they don't have time to coupon or they don't understand the process, that it's too hard or too confusing to learn. So I decided to write down the steps I take as I take them. It's by no means perfect and I'm not saying it's the fastest or best way to do it but it works for me and I thought I'd share.

First the time it takes. I take about an hour each Sunday afternoon to go through he Sunday paper and cut out the coupons I want (and those I want to trade), sort them, slip them into the coupon binder and remove the expired ones.

I also send a few minutes throughout the week here and there finding and printing online printables, cutting coupons off food boxes or from things I get in the mail. I usually don't cut the printables out as I print them. I slip them into a pocket in my binder and cut when I'm making my list for the week.

I spend about an hour, maybe a little more making my shopping list. The more coupons you have and the more stores you're looking to shop the more time it will take. I'm going to focus on the grocery stores for this post to simplify things.

To begin I gather everything I'll need. I like the computer a lot but for lists I like to use real paper and a pen. So I gather paper, pen, calculator, the sales fliers of the stores I may visit and the binder.

The first thing I do is go through the store's sales fliers and write down what I feel are the best sales for me. I divide this list by store and leave room to the side of each item. When writing the sales I make sure to note the brand, the size and quantity, the variety included in the sale and the price after the sale is applied. If there is a BOGO sale I'll write the before and after price.

Post kid's cereal 10-14 oz 2/$4 = $2.00 each
Haas Avocados - 2/$3 = $1.50 each
3lb bag Green Giant rose potatoes - $1.98 each

I do this for each store.

I keep in mind the coupons I know I have and if I see one of those things on sale I definitely write that one down. If two stores have the same item on sale I choose whichever is the best deal. This could be the closet store or the one that doubles coupons.

With this list and the coupons I know I have in mind. I check the pantry and the fridge to see what i have in stock and what I might need more of and plan a menu. After I've decide which meals to make for the week I write any extra ingredients at the bottom of my grocery sales list so I'll remember to look for coupons for them too.

Now is the time to go through the coupons and find those that match the sales. This is where I'm really glad I switched to the binder method. It's so much easier for me to see what I have and go through it.

The first page in my binder is 'Soup'. I have a coupon for 50 cents off 2 Campbell's Select Harvest soups. Ingles has them on sale for $1.22 each and they'll double that coupon so it will be $1.00 off 2. I write this beside the item on my grocery sales list.

Campbell's Select Harvest Soup - BOGO - $1.22 each - 50/2 coupon (doubled) = $1.44 for 2 X3
I have three of these coupons so the X3 at the end of the line reminds me to take advantage of this deal 3 times.

Now I circle this deal on my grocery sales list so I'll know I've already checked it. I slide those 3 coupons into the 'This Trip" sheet protector. If I don't find a coupon to go with the sale or the deal isn't good enough and I want to save the coupon for another time I mark through that item on the grocery sales list. I also mark through if another store has a better deal. Now I just repeat that until I've gone through the list and stack of coupons. Keeping the grocery fliers close in case I need to check the details of a certain sale item.

When my grocery deals list and my coupons are all matched up I write out a grocery list (wow I do make lots of lists) I divide it by store as well and try to write it in order by the store's layout, produce, deli, bakery, etc. Once that's done I can head to the store!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Maxwell House and Nilla Wafers House Party

Look what the FedEx man brought today!

No not the cat, this

19 boxes of Nilla Wafers and 3 cans of Maxwell House International Cafe! They also included magnets, magnetic message pads, recipe cards, and coupons to share with my guests.

Making the switch

OK I'm admit it.

I have converted to the binder method of organizing my coupons.

I know I said the binder was only for the hardcore and I'm not hardcore (but I'm blogging about coupons so I might be getting there). But I was perfectly happy with my expandable envelope sized coupon organizer. Yes, I did have two and yes I was changing the category headers constantly to try to make it easier to find things.

It was getting hard to find expired coupons and remove them, or to even find the things I was looking for. If I wanted a coupon fro Progresso soup I had to pull the whole stack from the "canned food" section and sort through them all to find what I wanted.

I missed deals because I didn't know what coupons I had, I pulled coupons that I thought were for great deals only to find they'd expired!

Don't get me wrong, I think the expandable coupon file is great for those new to coupons. It allowed me to keep my coupons all in one place, before it they were crammed in my wallet (or left at home altogether) and I really didn't know what I had. I could begin to organize them and since it was small and could be hidden in my purse it wasn't intimidating to take into the stores with me.

But the more I gathered coupons, the better deals I found, I realized my slandered coupon organizer wasn't enough anymore. I had outgrown it.

So I bit the bullet and switched to the binder method. I found an old binder, and some old collectors card sheets at home. I went out and bought a few more baseball card holding sheets and some sheet protectors and file tab dividers.

I started slipping my coupons into the slots and realized I was going to have a lot more room to organize! Some people don't like the baseball card sheets because most coupons have to be folded to fit into them but I was folding things to fit into my old organizer sometimes anyway and I really don't mind. I just have to make sure they're folded so that I can see the product.

If it bothers you and you're thinking of switching they sell all sizes of sheet protectors for photos so I'm sure you can find something to suit your coupon sizes. I have some of my thick paper or cardboard coupons in a sheet protector.

As I slipped my coupons into the sheets I was creating new categories. Now instead of having a section of canned foods with everything thrown in together I have a folder tab labeled 'canned food' and behind it separate sheets for soup, pasta, canned vegetables, etc.

Now if I'm looking for that Progresso soup coupon I can turn to the soup page and find all the Progresso brand coupons in one pocket. Easily pulled out and looked through. I put the newer ones at the back so the older ones that will expire soon are nearer the front of the stack.

I use my sheet protectors to hold rebate forms, coupons for free items, and oddly shaped coupons. I also have one marked 'This Trip'. When I'm making my list I slip coupons I expect to use into this sheet protector so they'll be easy to grab at the register.

There are pockets in the binders front and back covers also. I use these to store this weeks sales fliers, printable coupons that haven't been cut out yet and paper for making lists. You could also keep a pen, small pair of scissors, and calculator in there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

An addition to my The store is not your friend post

I'm going to edit the The store is not your friend post to include this section but I wanted to post it her so those who have already read the other post wouldn't miss it.

Another trick stores use is a limited time sale. Sometimes they use the wording "2 days only" or "3 days only" Sometimes it's "Hurry in! Sale prices are good only for a limited time!" or "Limited quantities!"
The point with these types of sale is to encourage you to make an impulse buy without taking the time to think it through as you would before making a normal purchase. By using these wordings they are creating a sense of urgency, "Buy it now!) But remember to pause, decide if the 'deal' is really a deal, check the competition's prices and look for coupons to combine with the sale for a truly good deal!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The store is not your friend

Yes it may seem that they're having sales and accepting coupons to help you save money but really, they only want to help you part with your money. Not to say that's bad, mind you. Everyone has to make a living but it's something you should be aware of that's easy to forget.

Stores, and I'm going to focus on grocery stores from here out to simplify things, have sales to get you in the door. They figure they can absorb a little loss on a few products if it gets you in the door where they can entice you to buy more things.

I feel I should mention that the store isn't doing you any favors by accepting coupons. The store is reimbursed the full face value of the coupon by the manufacturer plus 8 cents more. It's all right there on your coupons if you want to read the fine print. And while 8 cents doesn't sound like a lot think about how many coupons that store takes in every week. If your store doubles or triples coupons they're usually taking a loss but if it gets you in the door or keeps you loyal they figure it's worth it.

Some sales are great for the shopper, especially if you go in and buy just the things on sale. It's perfectly OK to do that, by the way. But stores use a lot of tricky pricing games and even organize the store to try to get you to spend more.

First let’s talk about the layout of the store. Items you need are often at the back. You have to walk past aisles of prepackaged high priced snack foods to get to the milk for instance. You can combat this by sticking to the outer ring of the store, produce, meat, bakery, dairy are usually along the edges.

Grocery stores often place higher priced items on the end caps. Those are the ends of the aisles. For instance the name brand boxed oatmeal may be on the end cap but it you take the time to go down the aisle you'll see the store brand is cheaper. The store counts on you either grabbing it as you go by the end cap and not going down the aisle at all or ignoring the other options down the aisle because you've already got your oatmeal in the cart, why look for more?

Stores also put items that appeal to kids on lower shelves where they can easily been seen by children and they can talk you into getting it. Higher priced items are on your eye level with the lower priced versions being on the shelves above and below. Often they also mix store brand in with name brand. You may see the cheaper store brand price but accidentally grab the name brand item. Also items that are on sale are mixed in with items that are full price, this is especially tricky if only certain "selected varieties" of one type of product are on sale. You might grab the green box of jiggle blobs when only the red boxes are on sale. The store is counting on you being too rushed or too embarrassed to ask that the item be removed for your order and replaced with the version that was on sale.

Ever notice that the store smells wonderful? Stores often have bread baking or popcorn popping. Anything that smells good and makes you hungry will make you buy more food. Ever notice the store's music selection? It's usually slow paced, not because more people enjoy that type of music but because it causes you to subconsciously slow your pace. The slower you're walking the more time you have to notice the great products they have for sale! This is also why stores don't have windows. It's not a space saving or security feature, it so you'll lose track of how long you've been in the store.

Impulse items, "things you didn't know you needed", are at the register or near the front door. At the register you're tired and rushed and ready to be done with shopping so you'll by anything that looks interesting or might perk you up. Candy bar and a soda anyone? Items at the front door are designed to catch you as you walk in. You figuratively have all your cash in hand so you feel you can afford a little splurge you hadn't planned on.

Another trick stores use is a limited time sale. Sometimes they use the wording "2 days only" or "3 days only" Sometimes it's "Hurry in! Sale prices are good only for a limited time!" or "Limited quantities!"
The point with these types of sale is to encourage you to make an impulse buy without taking the time to think it through as you would before making a normal purchase. By using these wordings they are creating a sense of urgency, "Buy it now!) But remember to pause, decide if the 'deal' is really a deal, check the competition's prices and look for coupons to combine with the sale for a truly good deal!

The problem with fighting these tactics is that they take advantage of human nature. We don't even realize we're being tricked. It seems like our idea but it's designed to make us feel that way.

The best way to avoid these tricks is to make a list and stick to it! Yes you may find some produce that's being marked down that you hadn't expected or some meat that will expire tomorrow if it's not frozen and has been marked down and there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of those deals, just be mindful of the impulse buys and take the time to go down the aisle to find what you need and make sure you're getting the best value for your cash. If you always fall into the soda and a candy bar trap at the register, hit up the store water fountain (if they offer a bathroom, they'll have one) before you hit the registers. Sometimes just being thirsty can make you feel hungry.

Ever notice those cute little child sized carts? The store knows if the child is pushing a cart around they're bound to put some items in and when they do you'll be to distracted to notice until you're at the register or you'll think it's cute that they've done their shopping and buy the items they've selected. Those cute mascots, balloons, coloring pages, free cookie samples and cute race car carts are all designed to make your kids want to come to the store with you and, once there, talk you into buying things, and keep them happy while you're there. If the kids are fussing, you'll leave early or be too distracted to fall for all the carefully arranged traps. Another plus of these kid friendly items is if a child has always been to X store and has happy memories of going there as a child they're more likely to return there when their grown and spend their money. "Get 'em while they're young" build store loyalty early and it will last.

Now let's talk about those tricky sales. The sales listed on the front page of the grocery store sale fliers are called 'Loss Leaders'. The grocery store is taking a loss on these items to get you in the door. As I said before, once you're in they figure your theirs and you'll leave with lots more items than those listed on the sales page.

Sale prices are often written in a way to make them harder to understand as well. Everyone knows that 2 for $5 means that each one is $2.50 but what about 3 for $5 or 5 for $8? Grocery stores count on you not carrying a calculator and not knowing exactly how much you're spending. The easy way to combat this is to in fact carry a calculator with you, your cell phone probably has one, or make a list of common sale price combos to keep in your wallet or coupon file.

Another method they use is the 10 for $10 or 5 for $5 sales. You might be thinking "That's easy math! They're a dollar each!" But the store is counting on your buying multiples. Because it's 10 for $10 you might feel you need to actually buy all 10 even if you only need 2. Resist the urge to buy multiples (unless you actually need them or have a wicked coupon deal)

Stores also use buy one get one free sales in this same way. At most stores BOGO items ring up at half price. So if the sale is Buy one box of cereal for $3.00 and get one free and you only buy one you're actually getting it for $1.50. You don't have to buy two just because the sale is worded that way. Some stores have their registers set up to ring the first item at full price and the second one as free, so you'll need to check your stores policies to find out. Check their website, sometimes the actual sales paper will say "Item rings at half price". Also if you take advantage of a BOGO sale and decide to get both items you can use two coupons because technically you're still buying two items.

Did you know that four for a dollar is cheaper than 25 cents each? I used to work in retail, setting prices and sales and once I did an experiment. Completely non scientific of course but I had some little Christmas tree ornaments. I priced them at 25 cents each and made a sign. After a week I'd sold just a few. I changed the sale sign to say "Four for One dollar" and they sold much better! Even though $1.99 is just a penny cheaper than $2.00 we've been trained to see it as a much better deal. Be mindful of that.

Going back to those sales fliers, have you ever noticed that sometimes the sale price isn't listed? Sometimes it says "Without card item rings at regular retail" or "50% off" but they never tell you what regular retail is or 50% off of what. You have to go into the store to find out. It makes it harder to comparison shop between stores and once again gets you in the door and in their web. This is where have a price book comes in handy.

I hope you can be mindful or these tricks and get out of the store with the items you need and some money left over.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Bzz on Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner


My latest BzzAgent campaign was Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner.

I've been tempted to buy on of these for awhile but never did because I wasn't sure it would work and therefore be worth the money. But while I was on Spring Break (and spring cleaning) my Bzzkit arrived in the mail. Since cleaning the tub was obviously on the list of hated cleaning projects, I immediately installed the cleaner! (I didn't even clean the shower first)

The cleaner works by spinning 360 degrees and spraying the shower with a cleaning solution. It's 40% more powerful than they're original formula. There are actually two sprayers, one focuses on the "grime zone" the corners where yuckiness collects. After the last shower of the day you simply close the shower curtain or door and press a button. 15 seconds later, there is a beep to let you know it's coming, the sprayer starts. The cleaner combines with the water left on your shower walls to create a sheeting action and clean your tub.

Then it protects and lets water sheet off rather than beading up and leaving ugly water spots. It's clear so it won't leave visible residue on colored times and it even smells nice.


They've sent along some coupons so let me know if you'd like one for 3 dollars off a Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting Free Stuff

There are lots of ways to get free things.

Companies offer free samples of their products regularly. These are often single use sample size but occasionally a company will send a full sized product. These samples most always require you to request them. The easiest way to see if a company is currently offering a freebie is to visit their website. Often there will be a link marked "Promotions" that will take you to a page to leave your information. I recommend visiting the websites of products you really like often to see what freebies or printable coupons they're offering. Many companies have Facebook pages now. When you become a fan through facebook you may bet a freebie or a coupon for a free item.

Occasionally a store's website will offer a free sample of a product they sell. Walmart, Sam's Club, and BJ's Whosesale do this often.

Another way to get free stuff from manufacturers is to share your feedback on their products. Visit a company's website and click "Contact Us" to leave you positive or negative thoughts. I've received free products for contacting a company about expired coupons in the packaging, and when I shared my negative opinion of a new flavor. You could also write to or call the companies. They're contact information is always on the can, bottle, box, or bag. It's been suggested that you attempt contact every 6 months, although I usually only contact them when I have something to share.

Sometimes a new business, or an established business looking for new customers, will offer give-a-way freebies. Things like magnets, baseball caps, travel mugs, etc. Finding these is basically just luck or being at the right place at the right time.

Of course there are coupons for free products in the Sunday paper. Sometimes there are buy one get one free coupons that can be combined with sales and other coupons to get both items free.

Let's say an item is regularly priced at $1.50 and on sale for $1.00. You have a buy one get one free coupon and a coupon for $1.00 off one. If you use both these coupons, you'll get both items free.

If your store doubles or triple coupons and you catch an item on sale it could be free. You're price book will help you decide which store to use which coupon.

You could join a survey or opinion groups and get free things in exchange for sharing your opinion and telling your friends. BzzAgent, General Mills Pssst . . ., Kraft 1st Taste, House Party and SheSpeaks are just a few of these programs.

Before you start signing up for company newsletters, sending away for freebies and joining survey panels consider creating a alternate email address for yourself. Sometime companies sell your email address or a freebie that seems to good to be true is and having a separate email address will save you're having to wade through all that spam.

Another place to get free items is a program called Freecycle. Freecyle is made up of many community based groups and it's purpose is to keep usable but unwanted items out of the landfill.

One last place for freebies is blogs and message boards. Often bloggers and members of certain message boards pass along info on freebies they've found. Check back here every Sunday for a couple of freebies I've found.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are coupons only for junk?

You can't buy healthy foods with coupons, right?


When you try to eat a healthier diet you try to stay away from prepackaged foods. You try to eat more whole foods. You try to stay on the outside edges of the grocery store. Sometimes it seems all the coupons are for the not so healthy foods.

You can eat well and still use coupons. The first thing you have to remember is coupons are not just for food and not just for the grocery store. Take those coupons to your favorite mass retailer (Target) or drug store and don't forget the health & beauty, paper products, and pet aisles at the grocery store.

With coupons you can save money on everything from toilet tissue to band aids, cough syrup to shampoo, pet food to charcoal. The money you save there can go toward healthier food.

Also don't forget about other uses for grocery items. Vinegar makes an excellent cleaner, honey will soothe a sore throat, Epsom salt will ease aching muscles, oatmeal will help the itch of poison ivy, and olive oil and a little salt is great for scrubbing off dead skin.

Also look for coupons on produce. One of my local stores often offers cents off coupons on your fresh produce order. Many manufacturers of organic products have coupons available for their products as well (Earthbound Farms and Stoneyfield Farms spring to mind).

Please don't decide coupons are not for you just because you don't eat processed or prepackaged food.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Making a Plan

Now it’s time to create a battle plan.

Gather the sales fliers of the stores in which you wish to shop

They may come to your mailbox, arrive in your local newspaper, be part of an email, be available on the store’s website, or you can pick on up at the store itself.

If your going to get your copy of the sales flier from the store, I suggest you drop by and pick it up some day before you intend to shop. If you try to shop will a stack of coupons and an open sales paper you’ll miss deals, fall for sales that aren’t really sales, and generally not use your coupons to their greatest advantage.

You might also want to consider shopping at more than one store, especially if you pass several stores on your way home. Yes, shopping at more than one store takes more time and yes, it could use more gas if you go out of your way to a sale, but it will allow you to take full advantage of sales and your coupons.

Make a menu

Planning your family’s meals may be a new concept to you but it will really allow you to make the most of what you have on hand and control what you buy. Decide how many days you’re going to shop for at a time. (One week at a time will allow you to take advantage of weekly sales.) Write down what you want to make during the chosen time period, glance through the sales fliers and your cabinets to get inspiration. Make a list of ingredients you need to make these meals and snacks. Leave things you have in the pantry off the list.

For Example:

Dinner Things I Need

1. Fajitas Tortillas, chicken, bell pepper (I have onion & spices)

2. Hamburgers Ground Beef, Hamburger buns ( I have fixing’s)

3. Sub Sandwiches Sub Rolls, chips, meats (I have cheese and toppings)

4. Homemade Pizza Bell Pepper, mushrooms (I have dough, sauce & cheese)

My grocery list, which I try to organize buy department might look like this:

3 Bell peppers



Hamburger buns

Sub rolls


Ground beef 2lbs

Chicken 1 lb

Sandwich meats

Check the sales and your coupons

Now it’s time to really look through the papers and see what the sales are. I like to sit down with a piece of paper and the write down the sale items that look interesting to me. Also make a note if that store is having a double or triple coupon sale or a 3 day only sale that week.

Lets say after looking through my papers my list might look like this:

Store 1 (doubles up to 50 cents)

Canned cat food 2/1

chips (select varieties) 1.50

Milk BOGO (normally 3.50 according to my price book)

Store 2 (doubles up to 99 cents)

Can soup 2/3

Milk 2.99

Hamburger buns 75 cents

Store 3 (face value)

Can soup 2/3

Chips 1.00

Canned cat food 2/1

Now I look through my coupons and see if I have any match ups. Don’t forget to check the printables sites.

Store 1 (doubles up to 50 cents)

Canned cat food 2/1 .50/2 (doubled to 1.00/2)

chips (select varieties) 1.50

Milk BOGO (normally 3.50 according to my price book)

Store 2 (doubles up to 99 cents)

Can soup 2/3 .55/2 (doubled to 1.10/2)

Milk 2.99

Hamburger buns 75 cents

Store 3 (face value)

Can soup 2/3 .55/2

Chips 1.00

Canned cat food 2/.50 .50/2

Looking at this list we can see that even though canned soup is the same price at stores 2 and 3 we should buy it at store 2 because they will double our coupon. Store 1 will double our cat food coupon but we will still get it cheaper at Store 3. As for the milk, Store 2 has it on sale for 2.99 and Store 1 has BOGO. We’ve checked our store’s coupon policy and so we know that BOGO rings at half price. The milk at store 1, normally 3.50 is on sale for 1.75, so that’s the one we’d pick.

Decide which items you’ll buy at which store then go back over your ingredients list to see if anything that wasn’t on sale has a matching coupon. Look through your price book to decide which store you should visit for that item. Make sure to double check that you have the correct size, brand, flavor, etc. required for the coupon.

There are many websites which offer coupon matchups. Essentially they’ve done all the sales paper rummaging and coupon sifting for you so they can tell you which stores you should visit for which items and which coupons you should use. The only problems with that is prices, coupon distribution, and store variety varies by region so you need to check your price book to make sure you’re getting the right deals.

Make sure you take all your coupons with you in case you stumble upon an unadvertised deal.

Making a Pricebook

A price book is a list of the prices of various items and various stores. As with coupon organizing there are many ways to make a price book. A price book doesn’t have to be in book form. It can be a notebook, a spreadsheet, a stack of index cards, or whatever works for you.

To start gathering your price info you can check your recent receipts, check the sales paper for the regular prices or sometimes visit the store’s website. Harris Teeter has a feature called Fast Lane and while it’s designed to let you order groceries online and then stop to pick them up, couponers can use it to get the prices of items they’re thinking of buying.

Your price book page might look like this:

CerealStore 1Store 2Store 3
Brand A2.503.002.00
Brand B2.003.503.00

The price book is a work in progress. You’ll keep adding to it as you shop.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Changes in the way you shop

In order to get the most savings possible you may need to change a few things. You may decide to shop at a store that doubles coupons instead of the store you’ve always used. Taking full advantage of coupons and be brand loyal is also a bit difficult. If you need flour and your preferred brand is full price but the competition is on sale and you have a coupon you might want to switch brands, at least temporarily.

The problem with switching brands and trying new things is that you’re almost sure to buy something that no one in your house will eat. To avoid this buy only one of a new thing to test. If it’s a hit go back and use those duplicate coupons and stock up. If you weren’t able to walk by that sale and you bought 10 boxes of something no one likes consider donating it to a local food bank.

Another thing that might be new to you is stockpiling. This means when there is a sale plus coupons (especially tripled coupons or super doubles) you buy more than you need for that week’s menu. When there are good sales and tripled or super doubled coupons you can often get staple items for free or for a few cents each. Learn your store’s habits, usually these super sales happen at the same times each year and if you know one is coming you can stock up on those coupons and be prepared.

Shelf stable foods, bath and body products, paper products, and cleaning supplies all have really long shelf lives and if you stock up on it while you can get it free or nearly free it will be there waiting for you when everyone else is paying full price. If you have the freezer space you can treat some perishables in the same way. If you don’t have the space or the appetite don’t buy more than you can use. You’re not saving any money at all if you’re throwing away partially used or unopened items because they’ve spoiled.

Visit for a list of how long to keep things before tossing them.

When you stock pile you can take advantage of seasonal sales. Stores regularly put certain items on sale, BBQ sauce, ketchup, paper plate and meats Memorial day weekend, baking supplies during the holidays, diets foods in January, etc. If you stock up then you’ll have them when you need them and they’re only available at full price.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Have Unwanted or Expired Coupons?

What to do with unwanted and expired coupons? Unwanted coupons can be traded with friends or family members, sent along on coupon trades or trains, or simply left on the shelf next to a product at the store for someone else to find.

But what about those expired coupons?

Expired coupons can be mailed to military bases overseas. They can still use recently expired coupons at on base grocery stores. Visit here for info on what, how and where to send your coupons.

You could also donate unwanted coupons to a local school or daycare. The coupons can be used to teach economics, counting, or adding and subtracting. Senior centers, assisted living communities, churches and shelters may also accept your unwanted coupons to help with their charitable works.

If you have a lot of unwanted coupons look around your neighborhood and see what good you can do with them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Organizing those coupons!

Now that your gathering all these coupons you have to figure out how to organize them. There are lots of ways to do this, experiment with a few and find what works best for you.

First up, the flier method. People who use this method keep their Sunday paper coupons in flier form, they don't cut them out. This allows them to reference which paper which coupon was in and which week it was. They don't have a lot of little bits of randomly sized paper to deal with. I'm not a fan of this method because I need to actually handle each coupon to easily remember what I have.

The second method is the envelope method. This requires cutting all your coupons, and organizing them into categories (dairy, meat, pets, etc) by manufacturer (Kraft, Conagra, P&G, etc) or by store. Labeling envelopes with your chosen categories and tucking coupons inside.

A similar method is to use an expandable file folder, they make coupon sized ones. and labeling it similarly. This is the method I use and my category names are always evolving as we change the way we shop. This method works for me because the file folders are small and I feel comfortable carrying them around with me. I also find it easy to get the coupons in and out of the sections and I don't have to carry scissors. The downside is that i do have to sort through a stack of loose papers to find what i need within the category.

A third method is the binder method. Loose leaf binders are filled with trading card sheets and those sheets are filled with coupons. Each sheet can be labeled with a category name. Full page sheets can hold large coupons or full flier pages. Other folders in the binder can hold sales papers, receipts, and shopping lists. The downside of this method is the binders are usually bigger. It's sometimes intimidating to walk into a store and spread a full sized binder out over the child seat are of your shopping cart.

Whether you pick one of these or make up your own organize your organizer buy your store's layout.

Possible category headers:

fresh produce, bread, cereal, snacks, meat, canned goods, dry goods, staples, baking, frozen foods, dairy, meat, pet food, baby it6ems, magazines and books, paper products, cleaning supplies, medicine, hygiene, office supplies, beverages, candy, ethnic foods, store specific, freebies, rebates, etc . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding Coupons - At the Store

When you're actually at the store keep your eyes open.You may find peelies, blinkies, tearpads, winetags, booklets, and catalinas.

Peelies are those coupons that are stuck to a product. They usually say something like "Save Now". If you don't peel them off yourself, make sure the cashier notices and peels them. Sometimes it better to save them for use another day, especially if you already have a good coupon/sale deal on that product and the cents off on the peelie is less than your coupon.

Blinkies are the coupons in those little machines that stick out from the shelves. Usually you pull a coupon free and another pops into it's place. They're called blinkies because those machines often blink occasionally they even make a noise or sing a jingle as you walk by.

Tearpads are just what they sound like. Pads of coupons usually stuck to a cardboard display that you peel away. If it's a good deal, don't be afraid to take a couple.

Wine tags are not available everywhere but they are coupons that hang from the necks of wine bottles. Usually they're coupons for meat to go along with your wine. They may also take the form of a cardboard wine carrier with deals like "Buy 4 bottles of wine and get $10.00 off your order"

Also keep your eyes open for idea and recipe booklets. These are often free and almost always include coupons.

Catalinas are those coupons that print when you check out. They're called catalinas because that's the company that makes the printers. They're usually aimed specifically toward you based on something you just bought. Some can be used buy anyone so feel free to trade them, others are tied to your shopper card and can only be used along with it. Some catalina's have an area to write you name and address, do this and you may receive coupons in the mail. Usually catalinas are store coupons and have to be used at the store you relieved them.

Sometimes there are even coupons loose on the shelves. These are placed there buy the store to encourage you to buy a product, by reps coming in to replenish stock and even generously left there by other customers.

Store coupons come in the form of catalinas, are printed from the store's website, come to you in the mail, or are sometimes tucked into a sales paper. They vary from manufacturer's coupons in that they can only be used at the store they're connected to (unless you're lucky enough to have a local store that honors competitors coupons). A plus with store coupons is that sometimes they can be stacked with manufacturer's coupons. This means if you have a coupon from the Sunday paper for 25 cents off Coke products and your grocery store mailed a coupon for 50 cents off Coke products, you can use both and get 75 cents off.

Rain checks aren't really coupons but I'm going to include them here anyway. If you visit your store planning to take advantage of a sale only to find they're sold out of that product you can visit customer service and request a rain check. The rain check can be used at a later date when the item is back in stock to allow you to get the sale price even though the item is now full price again. Rain check expiration dates vary from store to store, some are honored forever, some only for a month. Some stores don't issue rain checks at all and some stores restrict them during especially good sales. You'll have to check your favorite store's policies to find out how they handle it.

Find Coupons - A Few More Places

Another place to find coupons is inside the packages themselves. Companies often include these. Sometimes the included coupon is advertised on the outside packaging but most of the time it's not. These coupons are a bit like finding the prize in the cereal box.

Sometimes coupons are printed on the box to be cut out. These are easy to overlook if you're hurriedly preparing dinner so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

Coupons almost always come with free products you receive in the mail.

A newer place to get coupons is electronically. Coupons codes can be typed in online, attached to a store's member card, or sent to your cell phone to be shown to the cashier at the register.

You could also gather those coupons is through trading. There are lots of people out there using coupons and it's inevitable that you'll get some you just can't use. If a friend has a baby and you have a dog you could trade your baby items coupons for their pet items coupons.

There are also coupon trains. In a train an envelope is mailed or passed from person to person. You take out the coupons you would like to keep, replace them with a like value of coupons you don't want and pass it along to the next person in line. Be wary of expired coupons if you decide to try trading.

You could also take advantage of a coupon clipping service. These are organizations that gather and clip coupons then sale you the ones you want.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finding Coupons - Company Websites and Online Printables

Another place to find coupons is on the web. Go to the websites of your favorite companies and stores. They may have an email newsletter or mailing list that you can join. If so, they may email you links to printable coupons, reminder of upcoming sales or when coupons for their products will be in the Sunday paper, or even send you coupons in the mail.

You might also want to use the "Contact Us" link at their site to tell them how much you enjoy their products. Be sure to include your name and address and you may be thanked with coupons in the mail.

On the other hand, if you've had a disappointing experience with one of their products sharing your thoughts might also get you a free item coupon. Recently I bought a product that had a coupon inside but that coupon was expired. I contacted the company and they sent a duplicate coupon with a later expiration date as well as a coupon for a free product.

While you're online check out SmartSource, Red Plum and You can pick and choose coupons from these sites to print. You may have to download and install something. These three sites a reputable sites that don't include spy ware with those downloads. Be wary of other coupon printing sites that want you to download something and use at your own risk.

Remember to make sure your favorite stores accept "Internet Printables". Due to some people abusing the printables (printing massive amounts of the same coupon or using a graphics program to change it to suit them) some stores no longer accept any printed coupons. Some stores only allow a set number of printed coupons per transaction.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding Coupons - Newspapers and Magazines

Most everyone knows that at least one Sunday paper in your area will have coupon inserts. Find out which of your local papers include them and buy those papers, subscribe to a full week, just the Sunday edition or just run out and buy one Sunday morning. If you subscribe to a Sunday paper from outside your area that's mailed to you, coupons won't be included as they're regionally based.

If more than one paper in your area has Sunday Inserts you may consider buying it too. Sometimes the coupons are slightly different, sometimes you'll want more than one copy of a coupon for a really good deal. You could of course buy multiple copies of the same paper also.

Some people ask the stores what happens to the unsold papers and make deals with them to get those papers. If one of your friends or a family member regularly gets the paper but doesn't coupon, you can arrange to get their coupons.

On the first Sunday of each month, in addition to the usual Smartsource and RedPlum inserts, Proctor and Gamble usually adds one packed with coupons for their products (Always, Bold, Bounce, Bounty, Cascade, Charmin, Cheer, Clairol, Comet, Cover Girl, Crest, Dawn, Downy, Duracell, Dryel, Eukanuba, Febreeze, Fixodent, Folgers, Gain, Gillette, Head &Shoulders, Herbal Essence, Iams, Ivory, Joy, Luvs, Millstone, Mr. Clean, Pampers, Pepto- Bismol, Pringles, Puffs, Scope, Tide, and Zest just to name a few.)

On holiday weekends, the Sunday before Memorial Day of the Sunday after Thanksgiving for example, there are no inserts. So if you're buying the paper strictly for the coupons don't bother on those days. The planned shedule for the rest of 2010:


4 – No Inserts

11 – Smart Source & RedPlum

18 – Smart Source & RedPlum

25 – Smart Source & (2) RedPlum


2 – Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter &Gamble

9 – Smart Source

16 – Smart Source & RedPlum

23 – Smart Source & RedPlum

30 – No Inserts


6 – (2) Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble

13 – Smart Source

20 – (2) Smart Source & RedPlum

27 – Smart Source & RedPlum


4 – Procter and Gamble

11 – Smart Source & RedPlum

18 – Smart Source

25 – Smart Source & RedPlum


1 – Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble

8 – (2) Smart Source & RedPlum

15 – Smart Source & RedPlum

22 – (2) Smart Source

29 – Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble


5 – No Inserts

12 – Smart Source & 2 RedPlum

19 – Smart Source & RedPlum

26 – Smart Source & RedPlum


3 – Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble

10 – Smart Source & RedPlum

17 – Smart Source & RedPlum

24 – Smart Source & RedPlum

31 – Smart Source & RedPlum


7 – (2) Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble

14 – Smart Source & RedPlum

21 – Smart Source

28 – No Inserts


5 – Smart Source & RedPlum & Procter and Gamble

12 – Smart Source & RedPlum

19 – No Inserts

26- No Inserts

Also don't forget to check any "magazines" included in your Sunday paper. Often there will be coupons tucked inside.

Another place to get coupons is your favorite magazine. There may be a tearaway insert or coupons printed on the pages. These coupons are geared toward the target audience of the magazine so look for beauty coupons in Cosmo, Diaper coupons in Parents, and food coupons in Ladies Home Journal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why Bother Using Coupons?

A lot of people think that they won't save money using coupons. I used to be one of them. I would see coupons for name brand things and think to myself " I could just buy the store brand and it would be cheaper". Or I'd look at the coupons available and not find any for the brands I preferred.

But then I started making changes. Everyone is looking to save a little money these days so I thought I'd share. Yes, it's a little work and yes it takes a little time, but if it was easy everyone would do it.

I'm going to post a series of blog posts with some couponing basics and tips. I'll write about the different types of coupons and where to find them, making a price book, checking your stores policies on coupons, taking advantage of seasonal sales, double and triple coupon days, getting freebies, planning for your shopping trip, donating food and coupons, keeping your coupons organized, and how not to scare the cashier.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Church lady Recipes

In my quest to learn about food preservation I've been looking through some old cook books of the type where all the church's ladies submit recipes, someone has them bound into a book, and it's then sold to raise funds.

Most of the recipes are old fashioned, simple and quick which is to be expected. However there are tons of "recipes" that call for pouring Jello pudding into a store bought graham cracker crust and then topping with Cool Whip.

Is it just me, or is this not a recipe?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Learning to Can and Freeze

One of the things I resolved to do this year was learn to use canning and freezing and other food preservation methods. The lack of knowledge I have about these things is frustrating!

Cooking shows and cookbooks these days don't even mention these things. No one does them anymore. It's really annoying. I wish there was some one around her that could teach me these things. L talks a lot about canning and such when she was younger but with her memory loss she's not exactly a reliable source of information.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

By the Hairs of My Chiny-chin-chin

Yesterday while looking closely at a blackhead (!) in the bathroom mirror, I noticed some hairs around my upper lip.

Today I noticed fine hairs on my chin and along my cheek bones. And one, promptly picked, dark one on my chin!

I've never been terribly vain. I don't even wear makeup the majority of the time and i like my gray hairs. I've always said that we should look older when we're older. Youth isn't meant to last forever and wrinkles should be a badge of honor. Maiden, mother, crone.

But I'm not ready to move on to crone just yet.

I'm certainly not ready to shave side by side with Boo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Beauty Shop

Sitting in the beauty Shop with L (we go every Thursday) listening to the gossip. And boy do those ladies gossip. It's the same set of older ladies every week. There are a few elderly ladies who need helpers like L. Today a lady I've not seen before (found out later that her usual day is Friday) came in with her daughter. We'll call the mother Martha and the daughter Maggie.

L was under the dryer at the time.

The stylist asked Marta how her Dr. appt. that morning went. She said "I didn't go tot he Dr." Maggie said "yes you did!" which led to a big argument between the two. When it was over, the stylist looking very sorry she'd asked, they headed back to the sinks to wash Martha's hair. L turned to me and sighed and said "Those days are coming for all of us"


They're already here lady. We just this morning had the same argument for the fourth day in a row about where her blue jeans are, who took/stole/borrowed and didn't return them. . . Made worse by the fact that there were never any blue jeans to begin with!

My New Pastime

My new favorite pastime is very enjoyable.

If you want to try it, you'll need the following:

one elven year old
one cat who is vocal
one bedroom door
one couch

Bam goes into her room to read (her favorite pastime) closing the door the behind her. Frisky waits just long enough for Bam to get comfortable with her book and then she goes to the bedroom door and meows. Next, an exasperated sigh is heard through the door. Bam stomps over, opens it, Frisky shoots though.

Sam closes the door and settles down again. In a few minutes you hear the sigh again, some stomping and then the door jerks open and she shoos the cat out.

It's hilarious!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Waking up in the Morning

The cats know what my alarm clock means. Lately they've slept (or at least lain quietly) until it goes off. Even this morning when I woke up before it rang and went where everyone goes when they first wake up, they stayed still.

Once it rings, though they're right there butting me with their heads, helping me get dressed by grabbing the ends of my socks, sitting on the pants i want to wear, and pawing at the bedroom door.

As soon as I open our door Bella is off like a rocket to Sam's door. The cats are slightly irritated that she has started sleeping on the top bunk and they can't reach her.

Maybe I'll build them a ladder.

Monday, February 22, 2010

86 or 4?

I've always heard older age referred to as a second childhood. I never knew how true that was until L.

There are cookies crumbs all over the counter ans I ask "Hmm, I wonder who has been in the cookie jar?" What do I hear? "Not me!" It doesn't matter to me if she ate a cookie, but she seems to think she'll get in trouble for having done so.

"Who spread the sales papers all over the couch?" "I didn't do it!"

"Why are you sitting at the kitchen table with your teeth out picking little bits of food out?" "I don't know."

Just like a 4 year old.

Well, almost.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Argh memory loss

They always say that it's wonderful to experience things again through someone else's eyes.

That first time you take your daughter to the movies. You're standing there annoyed by the line at the snack counter. Then you look down at the wonder on her face as she takes in the smells the sights, the sounds and yes even the interested pattern on the carpet. To her everything is exciting and enjoyable.

There is a flip side though. Spending time with someone with memory loss means every time they see something, it's the first time they've seen it. This can be cute when they rediscover the stray cat on the back porch or the neighbor's flowers. But when every commercial is the first time it came be tiring.

Sure, that baby is cute the first 12 times you see it, but then it's just "that baby" again. To L every time is the first time and she expects me to match her enthusiasm. Why aren't I saying "AWWW" along with her? Because I've seen that same child make that same peanut butter sandwich and then wave as he gets on the bus approximately four thousand, two hundred, fifty million times!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Waking up in the Morning

The cats know what my alarm clock means. lately they've slept (or at least lain quietly) until it goes off. Even this morning when I woke up before it rang and went where everyone goes when they first wake up, they stayed still.

Once it rings, though they're right there butting me with their heads, helping me get dressed by grabbing the ends of my socks, sitting on the pants i want to wear, and pawing at the bedroom door.

As soon as I open our door Bella is off like a rocket to Bam's door. The cats are slightly irritated that she has started sleeping on the top bunk and they can't reach her.

Maybe I'll build them a ladder.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kids and Cats

When Bam was very small I could never go to the bathroom alone. She would always follow me. Now when i shut the bathroom door, it's a little white paw that comes under.

Lucky for me Frisky isn't tall enough to reach the doorknob.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shifts in Perspective (and a small vent)

A lot has happened in my life over the last year. Some good some Bad. Some starting out as one and ending as the other. Even though it's cliche I have found myself stronger on the other side.

Another thing that has changed is my perspective. When John's sight started to go things had to change. I never noticed how many step ups from parking lot to curb there were until i was pointing each one out.

I never noticed how many signs there were, how many little bits of information need to be read until I was helping him read them.

Now that he's had surgeries and the vision has improved in his left eye it's nice that he doesn't need as much help. I know he feels better being more self sufficient but I have to admit to missing laying in bed at night reading aloud for both of us to enjoy.

There is a commercial running right now for Aleve. in it a woman in a drug store decides to buy Aleve instead of several boxes of Tylenol. When she makes this decision she drops her shopping basket in the middle of the aisle and walks away. That irritates me, perhaps irrationally. After all it's just a commercial, but I can't help thinking of the visually challenged person coming down that aisle and falling because some careless sighted person left her crap there.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Power Outage

We lost power for awhile recently. Luckily we had the grill for cooking and the fireplace for warmth.

John grilled some steak and peppers for dinner the first night. We ate dinner and played Uno and Scrabble by flash light. We dragged out mattress into the living room and set Sam up to sleep on the couch and we were ready to camp out.

John roasted marshmallows in the fireplace while I read aloud to us all. That night everyone snuzzled down under quilts John's grandmother made while we listened to the fire crackle.

Later, with the cats fast asleep in their basket and John and Sam sleeping soundly on either side of me I couldn't help but think of our situation. We don't have a lot of luxuries, things are super tight and we didn't have power, but we have each other.

Really, deeply, I am content.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cats, the anti-awake

This morning when the alarm went off there were no cats in the bed. (I know because I was enjoying the freedom of being able to move my feet.) Bella came up and lay along the bottom of my foot and started purring.

How am I supposed to make myself get out of bed with that kinda anti awake thing happening?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Bzz on Ultracept Antiseptic Hand wash

I recently received a free sample of Ultracept Antiseptic hand wash to try and then tell people about.

It's a brand new product, it's only been on the market since November. So it was great to be one of the first to try it.

I really like the way it feels on my hands. It's not greasy or sticky, it's more liquid which makes it feel cleaner to me. It also doesn't dry out my skin which is a real problem for me.

Best of all is that it can last up to 6 hours on your skin with repeated use. So you don't have to reapply every time you touch something new. It kills 99.99% germs instantly.

Ultracept Antiseptic hand wash is only available at Be sure to enter the code "ULTRABZZ" when you order for 10% off your order!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I want to start my couponing again. I heard of a program that allows you to send expired coupons to military bases overseas. They can still use them for awhile apparently. I'm going to do that but I'd like to find someone to trade in date coupons with. Someone local or even someone to do it via mail. If I have diaper coupons that I'm not using and I need more cat food coupons . . .I really need to carve out enough time online to get this stuff organized and get going again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eating Local

I haven't done anything at all toward my new years resolutions.

I'd love to start eating locally but finding sources is a problem. Sure we have a farmer's market but they're only open in the summer and even then it's mostly tomatoes.

We don't eat tomatoes.

The next town's farmer's market has some meat sometimes i think. I'd love to find something local for meat, eggs, milk, and even flour. Maybe just a farmer's market that's open more than three months a year. One that has winter squash, cabbage and other things that like the fall weather.

I guess I could take care of the vegetable stuff myself and plant a garden this year. i don't know how much sun the yard gets though since we've only been here while the trees have been bare. I'm also concerned about keeping the neighbor's chickens out of it.

I wonder what he does with those chickens. . .

Monday, January 18, 2010

Frisky and Bella

The day the cats joined our household we bought them some little cat nip mice. At first they wanted absolutely nothing to do with them but as they've grown up a bit they've decide that cat nip mice are the best thing since sliced bread (or maybe that should be sliced tuna).

I often see Frisky stalking through the house in a semi crouch with a mouse in her mouth. Is it weird that it makes me a little proud of my little mouser?