SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{July 30, 2014}   Kitchen Adventures

I’ve been trying for the past few weeks to get my house clean/organized enough to take the annual back to school hit.  I have huge piles of *stuff* for my garage sale this weekend. I have multiple binders started. And, as of this morning, I really needed to go to the grocery.

Monkey #2 ate sweet peas for breakfast.

The 4-legged monkey had spaghetti.

I used a paper towel as a coffee filter.


So, this morning since the fridge was mostly empty, I took all the shelves and bins out and cleaned them.  Most of the bins fit in the dishwasher. The 3 main shelves, cold cut bin, and crispers went through the kitchen sink. Dawn dish soap is amazing for degunking and defunking all of the spills “Ida Noe” creates in my fridge. The great big bottom shelf that gets so funky? It doesn’t fit anywhere and I thought I might have to clean it on the back deck. Instead, I took it to the  Monkeys’ bath. And realized they don’t have a hosey-shower head anymore. Oops. It worked, though. I love love love baking soda. And vinegar. And a clean fridge.

I’m beyond ready for a freezer session, so I pulled up a few favorite recipes and began planning.  But I knew I was low on ground meat (come on, deer season!) and wouldn’t be going to Albertsons yet (chicken breasts for CHEAP!).

Plan in place, list made, the monkeys and I loaded up, and armed with my coupon binder and reusable bags, headed out to restock some groceries. My grocery list was short and basic – focused around making breakfast ahead. My plan was instant oatmeal packets (we go through a TON of instant oatmeal!), granola bars as a healthier snack option, and breakfast burritos.

3 stores and a hundred dollars later….

My pantry and fridge are restocked.

I forgot cheese for the burritos.

I only had enough oatmeal for my oatmeal packs.

I figured out the blender does a great job of grinding oatmeal. Food processor? Not so much. I’m pretty sure my 30 snack sized baggies of instant oatmeal saved us several dollars. There are a bajillion recipes online, if you check with our good buddy, Google. I modified a recipe to fit what I had and what I wanted (no artificial sweeteners in the House of Cheaptitude!) and actually made 4 or 5 varieties as a test batch. So far, so good, considering Monkey 1 has tried them all. After a few more tweaks, I’ll post the recipe.

Breakfast burritos are also popular in my house, but it hurts my feelings to spend so much money at Sonic, especially when they jack up my order every time. It seemed like an easy enough process. A little time-consuming since people had special requests, but I put together 30 for the freezer. Again, Monkey 1 has been the official taster, and says they’re really good. He says the tortilla gets hard in the microwave but I think a damp paper towel during heating can resolve that. I think bigger shells would have been better, also, but I was taking advantage of a good sale.

And I had enough leftover fruit snacks, etc., for trail mix.

It’s not perfect, but I feel like I accomplished a little bit. With school just a few days away, at least I know everyone will have the option for hot breakfast for a while.

I still need a massive freezer day.

What new things are you trying in the kitchen this summer?

~ Katie

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{December 30, 2013}   Smart Shopping Revisited

English: A pic of an Eckerd location in Roches...


I love love love this time of the year.  I think today may be the first day I changed out of my jammies before noon. (Ok, not true, I put on clothes for Mass Christmas Day.)  The first week of Christmas break was a bit of a slack for me, but I’m feeling froggy this week.  It’s time to organize, clean, and save money!


The other day, playing on Pinterest, I realized I fall off the organization wagon every year.  I know me – I need an accountability partner.  So I created a Facebook Group, and invited some of my girls to participate.  The idea is that we’ll work on the Organized Home New Year’s Grand Plan together.


We all know that being organized and running a home efficiently goes hand in hand with saving money.  Well, PreciousKidsQuilts hit me with a question today about smart shopping.  I had great intentions of lesson planning, cleaning, putting up holiday foo fah … and I got distracted by a blog idea.


This was her question:


I was flipping through the rite aid paper yesterday. I was trying to do a few coupon matches for the best sales on hand. Normally, I don’t shop at rite aid. In fact, probably more than two years ago. But, I will make a special trip to the next town over to go to Walgreens. Rite aid is right there. I love the register rewards as part of my Walgreens shopping experience. Sometimes, I get paid to buy things and never spend anything there. I don’t know why I chose to look through the rite aid paper other than I was trying to show someone else how real deals are found. I saw these little symbols and notes in there that appeared to be like Walgreens register rewards. I decided after reading Sobo mamas blog earlier that she must know more, therefore, here I am. What can you
tell us about rite aid? One further question I have is the coupons the publish in their ad. I noticed that while they are store specific coupons, they rather slyly have ‘manufacturer coupon’ on them. This automatically voids stacking coupons, doesn’t it?


Okay, I am by no means an expert, but I feel comfortable addressing all points above.


  1. It kills me to think of driving to the next town for my shopping.  I hate driving a couple miles to shop in Shreveport, for crying out loud.  However, if there is other shopping to be done in the area, it’s okay.
  2. Walgreens does offer register rewards.  They operate similarly to the rewards programs at the other big name drug stores.  Rite Aid and CVS offer nice rewards programs, and I believe Rite Aid has the option of watching little videos to earn rewards.
  3. When shopping the drugstores, I highly recommend matching your coupons to your ads and going from there.  If I have a really good coupon for an item that is on sale at one store, but that’s the only thing I’d be going for, I’m not going to waste the gas, usually.  If I’m already in the area, it’s worth the stop.
  4. The sales and rewards for CVS and Rite Aid are often very similar, or may be about a week off from each other. You just need to watch the ads.
  5. Store-specific coupons that marked as manufacturer coupons are manufacturer coupons and cannot be stacked, unfortunately.


If you’re “trying out” a new drugstore, I suggest a price tracking for a few weeks.  If Skippy peanut butter is on 3/$5 at CVS on sale once a month but it’s always 2/$5 at your usual store, you know that CVS is worth a trip once a month.


I freely admit, I’m a lazy couponer.  I shop the dollar stores, Fred’s, Brookshire’s and CVS because they are within a few miles of my home.  I can stop by any one of them on my way home from work, karate, etc. without going out of my way.  I shop them often enough to know their sales cycles and I can get really good deals on my store-bought stuff.


I hope this was helpful.  Do you have any smarter shopping tips to share?


~ Katie





I tell you what, if you like to read my blog, you owe a big old “thank you” to the Realest Chick I Know.  Every time I turn around, I’m getting a text, “I have an idea for your blog….”  This lady is pretty smart, well-spoken, and creative, whether she wants to admit it or not, and I really think she could do this pretty handily herself.  Until she does, though, I’ll keep getting her blog requests!

Where I grew up, school won’t be starting until next month, but many schools in Louisiana are starting already.  For the past few weeks, mamas have been running from store to store, attempting to obtain the best deals on supplies and school clothes.  I, personally, haven’t been in such a big snit about it, which I’ll explain later on.  Real Chick knows how deep my cheaptitude runs, and suggested I post some back to school shopping tips.

Supply Lists

The schools my kids have attended have been ever so helpful by publishing mile-long “required” supply lists on their websites. When I’ve been pressed for time in the past, I’ve ordered supply packs through the schools. (In my experience, Kindergarten and 6th grade have actually been the most atrocious and expensive, but that’s another story.) Many of our local stores have copies of supply lists available, also.  Heaven help you if yours is one of those schools that doesn’t send a list until the first day of school!  However, as a mom and a teacher, there are a few things I suggest always keeping on hand:

  • filler paper – keep a good supply at home, also.  School supplies in the district my kids have attended become community property, which is why Monkey #1 goes through 5 packages of filler paper in the first two weeks of school.
  • pencils, pens (blue/black/red), and highlighters
  • calculator – you can get away with the cheapie $1 variety until upper elementary or middle school, I think, but I’d go on and buy the scientific calculator when the price is right.
  • ruler – I love the wooden ones, but there are also very destructo-kid-friendly bendable rulers that are well worth the cost.

Shopping the Sales

About a month before the start of school, the stores start running decent sales.  I will usually take the sales ads from all of the local stores and start price matching with my supply lists.  The stores I shop for school supplies include:

Notice I’ll shop all of the discount stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and office supply stores.  Some of the stores offer very similar deals, so I don’t go to every single one of them.  I also check the websites to see if I can get some good deals that way.


I love a good rebate on something I need to buy anyway.  Yesterday, CVS was offering Extrabucks on some of their school supplies.  SOmetimes it is worth it to spend a little more up front to save later on.  I’ll often use Extrabuck to purchase items that usually don’t offer coupons, or maybe to get an item free.

I also keep an active Paypal account.  Last year, I receved a great offer from them – spend $50 on and receive a $15 bill credit.  Did I spend more than I would have otherwise?  No.  I already planned to purchase 2 uniform bundles and a zipper binder and Walmart had the best price.  I used Paypal to make the purchase and then paid Paypal the next day.

Tax-Free Weekend

Louisiana is one of the states that holds a tax-free weekend before school starts.  You know when that weekend rolls around because Friday and Saturday, you can’t find a parking spot at Walmart, Target, Academy Sports, the malls, etc.

I actually try not to shop that weekend.

This is my thought process:  All you aren’t paying on Tax-Free Weekend is the state sales tax.  I think in Louisiana the state sales tax mght be 4%.  I have to spend $100 to save $4.  To me, it just isn’t worth the hassle.  It’s one of the rare occasions that my dislike of crowds is more important than my desire for ultimate cheaptitude.


Just like my grocery and cleaning needs, when I find a great deal on school stuff, I stockpile.  Last year, Kroger had composition books on four for a dollar and I purchased 12.  Office Max had free composition books for every $10 spent, with a limit of 3.  Not only do the monkeys use these for school, I require them for my students – and I know some families have problems getting everything, so I help when I can.  Besides being prepared for later in the year when the monkeys have used up their 60 #2 Made in the USA pencils (yes, Curtis Elementary had this on the 4th grade supply list!), I also have things on hand I won’t need to buy the next year.

Remember that some stores (i.e. Walmart) will price match. Carry your ads with you!

Shop All Year

I check the clearance sections and dollar bins wherever I go, whenever I go.  I’ve gotten pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc. nearly free by doing this.  You might be surprised at what you can find when it isn’t in “season.”


I cannot stress this enough.  Coupons are king in my school shoping strategy!  Just last weekend, there was a coupon for Georgia Pacific paper products (hello, I always need copy paper!)  Throughout the year, Bic and Sharpie have coupons.  And most school supply lists request Lysol, Clorox wipes, Ziploc Bags, paper towels, Kleenex, etc. – use your coupons!

Brand Name

I never understand the requests for specific brands.  As a teacher, I expect two particular novels, paper, and pens.  I’m not picky!  But I remember the year Monkey #1’s supply list specified brand name Play-Doh, Crayola (only) Crayons, and a specific red construction paper – that was only available at one store in Shreveport-Bossier.  If I can catch a great price on these items, I’ll send them.  Otherwise, the teachers need to get over themselves.  I will not eat Ramen Noodles in order to have name brand products in the community chest of supplies.

School Clothes

I consider myself blessed that we are in uniforms!  In the past I’ve gotten online, ordered a couple of “bundles” and been done.  When the monkeys were very little, up to size 6, I was able to go to the fake hair place and purchase 4 pairs of pants nd 4 polos for $50.

Again, you need to watch the ads.  $5 for a polo shirt is a good deal, shorts can go as low as $7, and I’ll buy pants around $10. I’ve bought uniforms from discount stores, department stores, uniform stores, sporting goods stores, etc. Last year was the Walmart bundle year in the House of Cheaptitude.

Another really good option? Hand-me-downs! For two or three years, Monkey #1 received really nice uniforms from my two younger cousins. When my sister was here, I passed our uniforms to her and she’d pass them back for Monkey #2. Now when Monkey #1 outgrows uniforms, I store them until they fit Monkey #2. Shopping that stash this week, she’s good to go for Friday Spirit shirts this year. Friends and family with same or similar dress codes are great options for school clothes.

Like so many other things, I stockpile school clothes throughout the year when I find good prices.

These tips can be applied even if you’re not in a uniform school.

Why is this year no big deal to me? A few weeks ago, Grizzly’s mom knocked out several items from Monkey #2’s list when Kroger had their big sale. I started sorting yesterday and then shopped my stockpiles. Between the two monkeys, I had to purchase maybe a half dozen items (pocket dividers, new binders, scientific calculator, art eraser), under $30.

What strategies do you use in back-to-school shopping?

~ Katie

English: Sample budget

English: Sample budget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In order for life to run smoothly, I need lots of routines and structure.  Which is why the Ducks Unlimited dinner thing tonight threw me for a loop when I learned about it at lunch time.  I’m all about Grizzly going to his hunting support group, but it wasn’t on the calendar.


Part of developing routines and structure, for me, has been setting and sticking to a budget.  Do I still splurge occasionally?  Well, yes.  But I’m proud of my shrinking debt, my developing emergency fund, and my stockpiles.


Problem:  I hate to leave my house.  My Bunco Babes are worried about agoraphobia(spelling??).  I told them I’m not scared to leave, I just prefer not to.  I like to be home.  But this is becoming an issue.


I’ve not been going to the grocery.


I can feed my family of 5 (yes, the dog counts) and take care of the house (cleaning stuff, paper goods) pretty handily for $50/week.  Between coupons, sales ads, and store loyalty cards, it’s a lot of fun for me.  But to do this, I need to keep up my stockpiles.  And they are dwindling.


Because I haven’t been shopping.


Mind you, I haven’t bought shampoo or deodorant in at least a year, and I just recently bought toilet tissue.  But my deep freeze has blank spots. My cereals, of which my comfort level is set at 12, have almost disappeared.  I’m scraping things together for dinner (easy recipe to be shared soon!) and lunch snacks are nonexistent.


When did staying home become more necessary than maintaining my tight budget?


A lesson I am learning is that to save so much money on my grocery trips, I will have to be diligent about shopping.  I have to spend that $50 each week, or else I’ll be paying much more later on.  There is an old saying that t make money, you must spend money.  Well, to save money, I have to spend money, too.


So the grocery is about to be added to the calendar every week.  This will re-establish one of my routines.  Hopefully, this hasn’t been a terribly expensive lesson!


What is your budget-buster?  Can you figure out what causes it and how to change it?


~ Katie




{February 21, 2013}   One of Those Coupon People….

Couponers! (Photo credit: Timberland Regional Library)

Grizzly is very excited to be participating in his very first grilling competition this weekend, which meant a quick trip to the grocery tonight.  I told him earlier today that he could go by himself and he paid me quite the compliment: “It’s better that we go together.  I’ll spend $100 where you’ll only spend $50 and get more stuff.”  Love love love my big redneck!

So off we went to the Brookshire’s down the street.

After poking around a few aisles together, he went off to the meat department while I started hunting for a meat-free soup for tomorrow’s dinner (Monkey 1’s request since we’re all up into Lent).  I had some fairly decent  Progresso coupons (they would double and the soup is on 2/$4 still) and was trying to locate just the right one when this familiar-looking guy comes up and says, “What’s the big seller today?”

I guess I gave him the “teacher” look, because he corrected himself, saying, “Oh, you’re a shopper.  I thought for a minute you worked here.  Wait, you’re one of those coupon people!”


  1. Turns out the guy is Jeff Ferrell from one of our local news stations.
  2. I don’t like being lumped in as any “those _____ people.”  Makes me think of the Wal-Mart people.

I clutched my precious binder to my chest, telling him kind of firmly that no, I’m not an extreme couponer.  He figured out that he’d mildly offended me and said it was a good thing, not an insult.

I might just stop watching Channel 12….

Am I embarrassed by my coupons?  By my cheaptitude?  Well, heck no.  I don’t want to belong to part of a group. Especially not the extreme couponers.  No offense, but that show is over the top. I’m as excited about a free pouch of tuna fish as the next couponista, but my toilet paper will not overrun the monkeys’ habitats.

Couponing  is not a freaking cult.  It’s a lifestyle. It’s a conscious decision to spend my money carefully and get as much as I can for as little of our hard-earned wages as possible.  Why should that classify me as “one of those coupon people?”

Unfortunately tonight, I proved how un-extreme I am.  I was only at about 25% savings, which is not great for me.  But I went without a list and without a plan (forgot the dishwasher soap) so in reality, it wasn’t the worst.  And my groceries, after coupons, were actually lower than the competition meat.

So if Jeff Ferrell talks about the crazy woman in the grocery with a beat-up binder this weekend?  Yeah, I’m that chick.

Are you embarrassed by frugality?  How much is too much?

~ Katie

Military member reunited with family


I love Sundays.  Before everyone gets up, I sit at the kitchen table with my coupon binder and start clipping the week’s goodies.  It’s one of my routines and I am definitely a creature of habit, as most of us really are.


As I put my coupons into the pages of my binder, I cull those that I know I won’t use before they expire, or pull out the ones that (gasp!) have already expired.  After so many years of working in hospital pharmacies, expired anything does not remain in the House of Cheaptitude.


But what to do with the expireds?  In the pharmacy, we’d ship them off to some company that would give us a little money in return.  That doesn’t work for coupons, and mine have hit the trash more than once since beginning the couponing game.  This seems so wasteful to me!  And a quick Google search showed me it is wasteful indeed.


Did you know that our military families overseas can use expired coupons for up to six months?  There are FaceBook pages dedicated to this very topic!  Color me shocked – and a little guilted.  For a few stamps, I could have been helping out our servicemen and women.  But I didn’t know how to get started. Checking the internet was a huge help.


Some of the sites I found had different requirements, so be sure to check several and use the one that best fits your needs.  A few I found included Troopons, where you can send both active and expired coupons; OCP, where you adopt a base; and  Operation Expiration, an organization that puts together mailings of expired coupons for military families.  I personally signed up with Coupons to Troops, an organization that connected me with a specific family overseas.  I liked the idea of sending my coupons to a specific family, rather than just a clearinghouse for redistribution.  And this way I can find out if my adopted family is looking for particular coupons (like diapers, since I don’t need them!)


I’ll be sending out my first envelope this weekend.  I’m really excited.  It’s regular postage, since it’s going to a U.S. military installation, and I’m passing on some help to another family.  My family and friends have been so supportive in hard times, it feels good to pay it forward.


So what do you do with expired coupons?  Are you adding to a landfill?  Have you thought about passing on the savings?


~ Katie




three ring binder

Couponing.  I LOVE it.  I stockpile, I shop smart, and I save money.  I’ve written before about my tight budget and my love of couponing.  One of the most important things to remember with couponing is that you must be organized or it just won’t work.

If you watch that show or if you’re an expert Googler (like me), you’ll find there are MANY ways to obtain and sort your coupons.  I’ve tried a bunch before finding what worked for me.

Couponing is not a part or full-time job for me.  I am a teacher outside the home, which often carries over into my home, and at home I am trying to run a household for four 2-legged and one four-legged individual.  Saving money is crucial, but I do not have the time to devote that you see on tv.   Nor do I want to.  I spend and hour or so each month printing coupons from the internet.  I buy 2-3 Sunday papers each month for the purpose of clipping coupons.  I’m saving money.  I’m saving a good bit of money.  But I cannot allow couponing to take away from my family.

Internet Coupons

  • I suggest sticking to well-known sites when printing coupons from the internet, such as  If you just Google for coupons, you are liable to infect your computer.  I speak from experience.
  • Many companies offer coupons through their Facebook pages.  I received a great coupon for Kool-Aid last summer by “liking” their Facebook page.
  • I personally subscribe to some “Extreme Coupon” newsletters.  The Krazy Coupon Lady is one of my favorites because she shares really good store bargains, as well as letting readers know about upcoming coupon availability and Facebook promotions.

The Sunday Paper

If you already subscribe to your local paper, good for you.  Unless you know there are some really amazing coupons that week, I would not run out and buy extra copies.  That’s your personal choice, but I coupon to save money, not spend it.

The way I know ahead of time what coupons to expect in the Sunday paper is by subscribing to The Sunday Coupon Preview.  It varies, of course, depending on region, but it’s usually very accurate.  I also know ahead of time if there will be no coupons that weekend.  This saves me $1.50-1.75.

Another thing I’ve done, if I have friends or family who will be out-of-town over a weekend, I have them pick up a paper for me.  Monkey 2’s godmother travels a lot for her job and Atlanta or Los Angeles will have different coupons (and MORE) than we have in my neck of the woods.  Someone is headed to Dallas for the Cowboys’ game?  Forget Tony Romo’s autograph.  Bring me back a paper, please!

Clipping Services

There are clipping services where you can order a bazillion Kotex coupons if you so choose.  Just kidding.  But you can order multiple coupons for a fee.

I’m in this game to save money.  I believe my sister has used a clipping service, but I do not know how that worked out for her.  I am not familiar with any in particular, and won’t recommend any.  Google is your friend.

Share and Share Alike

If you have a pile of Pampers coupons, see if you can trade with someone for the Dog Chow coupons you’re needing.  People even have “coupon trains,” where they mail each other coupons.  What a great way to get coupons without spending a bunch of extra money.  Be organized about it and kind of keep track of what you send to whom. (Sounds like a form is needed here)

Not only do you need to be organized in the acquisition of your coupons, but you need to have them  organized once they’re in your possession or they won’t be of any use in your shopping excursions.

The Envelope System

With the envelope system, you have envelopes for each major category and coupons go in the envelopes.  Within the envelopes themselves, I imagine you could sort the coupons by type or expiration.  When I used envelopes, I had to do a lot of digging to get to what I needed, coupons expired before I used them, and I couldn’t always remember what coupons I had.  Envelopes are nice because they slide into your purse.  If you use envelopes in a great way, please let me know!

The Shoebox System

This would be for your hardcore couponer, I think.  What I’ve seen is shoeboxes or those awesome photo boxes (Michael’s and Hobby Lobby often run them on sale!) with category dividers.  As long as your box isn’t cram-packed, I think this would make for easier access.  Never having so many coupons, I’ve not tried this one myself.  If you’re a box couponer, share your tips!

The Binder

I love a binder.  Even before I started teaching, I have always loved a binder.  When I was five or six, my Grandpa Lew bought me my first Trapper Keeper and I was hooked for life!

On TV, I notice they use lots of zipper binders with huge rings. Monkey 1 has to have one of these for school since they don’t have lockers.  They’re really expensive. I just recycled an old 3 ring $1 binder to use for mine.  The seams are starting to separate after almost two years of good use, but I imagine I can come up with a dollar or so for another one.

I made my own dividers.  I printed the categories on pretty paper through my computer and then put the pages into page protectors.

I have a pencil pouch at the front, to keep up with a pen, various store loyalty cards, sometimes a calculator, etc.  Some of the store cards are the small, keychain version and I keep those on a keyring.  I also have a binder clip on the front cover to hold my grocery list.

My coupons are kept in trading card pages.  Sometimes I have to fold them, but I’m ok with that. I keep like coupons together, with the newly expiring at the front.  For example, I may have a Yoplait $0.40 off 6 in the same pocket as $0.60 off 8.  Like coupons.  This is what works best for me.

Behind those trading card pockets I keep my store policies for the stores I frequent most often.

And of course there are more organizing methods out there, but I’ve really only tried the envelopes and the binder.  The box is kind of appealing.  There is also a file system but I feel like I would miss a lot of deals…..I may write about that one once I know more.

Couponing should not be excessively time-consuming, stressful, or costly.  It should be organized, or it really will not garner the results you seek.  Are you a couponer?  What works best for you?

~ Katie

Coupon Sorting Mat



Coupons Ecover


If you watch that show, you know that different stores have different policies when it comes to purchasing limits and coupons.  Some stores limit how many like items you can buy at the sale price, how many coupons will double, price matching, etc.  Before you head to the store armed with your detailed list and carefully organized coupon collection, familiarize yourself with the store’s policies.


Where can you find your store’s policies?  Most stores these days have websites.  That would be the first place I check for coupon and sale policies.  You can also enter “_____store coupon policy” into your favorite search engine.  Make sure it is as current as possible!  With the popularity of that show, stores are changing their policies a lot more frequently.  I check the internet about once a month for updated policies, as I surf for printable coupons I might need/want.  As I tend to primarily shop four stores, this doesn’t take much time.  If you can’t find the policy online, ask at the service desk when you’re at your chosen store.  They should either have hard copies available or can tell you where it can be located.


Why do you want your store’s policies on hand? I keep my store policies in sheet protectors at the back of my binder.  They are dated so I know how current they are.  Having a hardcopy of the policy in my binder backs me up if there is a misunderstanding at checkout.  For example, I had a cashier tell me that Brookshire’s does not accept internet coupons.  I was able to show him in the store policy that Brookshire’s will accept an internet coupon as long as it has a bar code and scans properly.  Most checkers are happy to make the customer happy, but they have to follow their store’s guidelines.


I think that’s all I have for store policies.  It’s important that you know them and it’s important that you have them on hand to support your successful couponing.  The better prepared you are, the more money you will save.


Do you have anything to add?


~ Katie








{December 29, 2012}   Stretching My Grocery Buck

My favorite gift for Christmas this year is a gift card to the grocery store.

Gift Card Holders

Gift Card Holders (Photo credit: campbelj45ca)

Cuckoo crazy?  Maybe.  But Visa Giftcards and cash can pay bills – and often do.  A Brookshire’s gift card is only good for my belly or my gas tank. I’ve written before about my grocery budget (this card will take care of a week) and couponing. I feel the challenge all the way to my toes now.

How am I going to stretch this money and get serious bang for my holiday buck?  I want to see if I can get two week’s worth of goodies for $50.  Here is my game plan:

  1. Match my ad to my coupons (duh).  35 cents and under will triple, 50 cents to 36 will double.
  2. Plan a 2-week menu.
  3. Bring my re-usable bags – they’ll get me 5 cents off per bag.  Right now, I have 14 bags, which is a discount of 70 cents.  I think I can come up with even more by using some of my 31 gifts totes.
  4. Use my rewards points to take 5% off my total bill.

Now, I won’t be buying meat with this gift card, unless I find an amazing deal, because we have a deer at the processor right now.  I also won’t be buying paper/plastic/cleaning foo fah because I get that at CVS (my Double Extra Bucks are coming in about 3 days!).  This will be straight food.

The hurdle I may face is that we are still on Christmas Break, meaning my monkeys are home for another week.  Those extra days when I’m back at work, they’ll be eating pb&j corndogs at PawPaw’s, but for the next 9 days, they are my little pantry raiders.  I’ll plan some fiberlicious snacks to cover that.

Do you think I can cover 2 weeks’ groceries with $50?  Any tips you want to share?  I’ll let you know how it goes.

~ Katie

Last night while DH and our friends watched the Notre Dame game, I cuddled up in my favorite chair with a blank calendar.  After all, how can I suggest menu-planning as a money-saving tip if I don’t practice it myself?  I filled in the calendar (in pencil) with family favorites and some great recipes from a wonderful website I’ve pinned (4 weeks of freezer-to-crock pot recipes and grocery lists – FREE!)  In no time, I had built a menu plan.

After planning my menu, I started putting together my grocery list.  Looking at the list, I figured it would be about $200, which is approximately what I budget, but I had no room left for cleaning supplies or toilet paper.  I justified it by telling myself 1. Most of my cleaning supplies are recipes that don’t cost much, except my Soft Scrub, to which I’m addicted, and 2. some things would last more than the month I’ve planned.

This morning, while DH and the monkeys were in the woods, I perused my Brookshire’s and CVS SmartPhone apps.  CVS has some decent deals, and I missed the good deals at Brookshire’s.  But for my groceries, I would have to go to the grocery store and save CVS (TOILET PAPER) for another day.  I cleaned out my coupon binder, as some coupons are close to expiration and some expired yesterday, and started matching coupons to my list.

Please note – If I find a better deal without the coupon, the coupon gets put away!

My original plan had been to go to the grocery when I first got up this morning, but there was frost on my car and I was feeling lazy, so I watched a movie while I double checked recipes and made breakfast for the hungry hunters.

I finally went to the store at 10:45.  And spent about and hour and a half shopping.  Partly because I love grocery shopping, and partly because I was making such a haul.  By the time it was said and done, I spent $156.21, had $7.65 in coupon savings (bought lots of off-brand today), and $33.61 in store card savings for a total of 23% savings. I did not purchase a pork roast (needed for pulled pork sandwiches) or a ham, both of which were on my list.  This was not a shining coupon day for me.


I bought a lot of things that were not on the list.  DH’s friend Jamie asked me last night to make chili today, and I had nothing but some ground antelope – no beans or seasoning.  There was a sale on yogurt that I had coupons for and the monkeys love.  We didn’t have to have blueberry pancakes, but it gives everyone a change from cereal.  I bought 7 boxes of cereal today, one off-brand, but 6 of them were 3/$6 AND I had a coupon for $1.50 off four.  My Chef Michael’s dog food coupon had expired and the canine kid loves poultry, so I used a good coupon on some canned food that was on sale.  All in all, I had 117 items on my receipt.

The way couponing works best is to match your coupons to your sales and STICK TO THE LIST.  My menu plan is only dinners, and I probably could have done the grocery trip for $60.  But it’s been a while since I’ve been to the store, so I felt like we needed the extras.  And my cereal comfort zone is 12 boxes, which I’m in the process of rebuilding…

After putting up the groceries, I started the chili.I started out with the two alarm kit from the store, but didn’t exactly follow the directions.  This is the way I made it:

  • 1 lb browned ground beef
  • 1 lb ground browned antelope
  • Two Alarm chili kit – follow the directions to begin
  • 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce – usually I use my homemade red sauce, but didn’t can any this summer 😦
  • 4 cans chili beans
  • 3 cans kidney beans

I use the biggest pot I have and let it simmer all afternoon.  After DH, Jamie, and Danna all had healthy servings, I filled 3 quart-sized freezer bags.  When I use them later on, I will add some more beans, and maybe some rice.  I can also use one of the packages for chili dogs on a Monday night!

While the chili was cooking, I also made quart packages of chicken and dumplings (2 quarts) and chicken rice casserole (3 quarts) for the crock pot.  I’ll have to add cheese to the chicken and rice when I cook it, and I’ve learned to cook the rice separately or it has the texture of grits.  The quart packages may not work really well in my crock pot, but it’s worth a try.  The recipes I started with from are just too much for my family.  They fill gallon bags to the brim and I end up with leftovers for days upon days.  Of course, she feeds a family of eight, not four.  So I’ve modified her recipes a little to suit my family.  And her recipes are terribly inexpensive to make, especially if you happen to have plenty of deer, antelope, wild hog, etc. in the freezer.  They take no time to throw together and you just dump them in the crock pot in the morning.  Easy peasy.

Another mess in the kitchen means it was another productive day.  Right?

Do you have any good freezer to crock pot recipes?  We’re having taco soup tomorrow.  And probably Tuesday. And Wednesday….darned gallon bags!

~ Katie


et cetera
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