SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{December 29, 2014}   The Clearance Buggy

Some women love shopping for clothes, shoes, make up.  I love shopping for food and toilet seats.  If I could spend half the day at the home improvement store, I’d be one happy mama.  If I could spend an entire day grocery shopping – oh my!  Are you familiar with the saying about a pig in slop?  Yep, that would be me. 

Groceries are a game, a challenge.  How do I get the most yummy/useful stuff for the least amount of money and still stay within my miniscule budget?  I love it.  I’m always looking for a new way to squeeze extra pennies into my buggy.  The latest trick?  The clearance cart in the produce section.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are really pricey.  I try to buy things that are in season, buying extra on the cheap to can or freeze for later. Recently, I saw a cart at the back of the produce department in my local Brookshire’s, full of produce bags.  Upon closer inspection, I found every bag was marked $2!  Extra ripe bananas, apples, and oranges were my very first haul.

I often tell people Monkey #2 can eat 5 pounds in a sitting. For once, this was a bit of an exaggeration. Banana bread, banana muffins, and applesauce were side benefits of the clearance buggy. Anything to pack the freezer!

Now when we go to the grocery, the monkeys make a beeline for that back corner. They know if the price is right, mommy will bake.

What’s your favorite grocery trick?

~ Katie

Posted from WordPress for Android

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{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.

Hmmm.

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

Posted from WordPress for Android



{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



{November 23, 2012}   The Method to My (Coupon) Madness

Coupons Ecover

It started with that crazy show.  That Sunday, I bought 3 newspapers.  And I clipped and clipped and clipped. And I used coupons.  Some of them.

And I’ve learned a few things since then.

Recruit a Money-Saving Buddy

My friend Stephanie started couponing about the time I did.  We traded coupons, alerted each other to amazing deals, and kept each other motivated.  When you’re on a tight budget like I am, every little bit helps!

Coupons from the Sunday Paper

I only purchase one paper on Sundays.  If someone gives me their inserts, I graciously accept them (Thank You, Dad & JB!), but why am I going to spend $10 on papers to save a few dollars with coupons?  It makes no sense to me.

As I’m clipping, if I spot something awesome that I don’t see often, I may go back for more papers.  $1 off Dog Chow is great for me and worth another paper.  Apart from that…..

Printable Coupons

I do use printable coupons.  A lot of products have FaceBook pages that you can “like” and get a coupon.  That’s how I stockpiled my Kool-Aid!  The website I use most for coupons is probably http://www.coupons.com.  In addition, you can sometimes go right to the brand’s site and print coupons.  Google for free coupon sites and you’ll be amazed at what you find.  Be careful, though, because some links that will show up are virus-ridden (thank you, White Rain Kids’ Shampoo).

Loadable Coupons

If you use store loyalty cards, a lot of times you can load the savings right to your card and not have to think about it. This is fabulous!  Both of the groceries that I frequent (Brookshire’s and Kroger) have this option.  However, both of these stores triple hard copy coupons up to 35 cents and double up to 50 cents.  Preloaded coupons do NOT double or triple at these stores.  I only load higher value coupons to my store cards.

Clip What You’ll Use

My Rhonda Belle and I had this conversation today.  She is enjoying clipping coupons but says she’s stopped clipping things she doesn’t use.  This makes sense.  Our time is valuable.  I don’t color my hair so why clip a Clairol coupon?

On the flip side of this, I don’t clip based on brand.  Right now I use the store brand dishwasher soap, but I’ll still clip Cascade or Finish coupons.  Why?  It might save me money!  If I see a coupon for something we use – deodorant, pasta, etc. – I’m not brand-limited.  Clip it and keep it!

Matching Coupons to Sales

It is a rare occasion that I use a coupon right when I clip it.  I know that after X number of weeks, Totino’s pizzas should be going on sale at Brookshire’s.  I pour over the sales ads when they come in and match up the deals to my coupons.  If my family’s beloved frozen pizzas are 4/$5 this week and I have a coupon for $1 off 4, then it goes on my grocery list.  I try to match the coupons to the ads to maximize my savings.

Coupon Match Ups

Don’t pay for your coupon match ups.  There are websites where this is available for free and many SmartPhone apps.  Personally, I check my GrocerySmarts app every Sunday morning to check on deals at my CVS (my other favorite place to shop!).  This app creates a coupon match, lists sales prices, and shows which items are generating Extra Bucks.  I have the free version, which shows one store at a time, and I refuse to upgrade just to compare stores – I don’t shop Wal Mart, Target, Rite Aid, or Walgreen’s often.  There is a GrocerySmarts website where you can see it all and create a printable shopping list.

Organizing Coupons

I used to love the little coupon wallets you can order through the newspaper or buy at the store.  They’re so cute – and collect dust on my shelf.

Coupon wallets and envelopes are not helpful for me.  I end up with expired coupons.  I can’t find the specific coupon that I know is in there somewhere. It’s more frustration and just not worth it for me.

When I first got into couponing, I went to a class (Duh, I’m a teacher). It cost $5 and I didn’t learn much, but it was interesting.  At this class, the instructor was SELLING coupon binders for $20 each.

Really?  I know you need to spend money to make money, but I’m not going to spend money to SAVE money.

I’m a teacher.  I have a ton of empty binders. If you spend $20 on some coupon binder, please do not let me know about it.

  • Supplies for Your Coupon Binder
  • 3 ring binder of your choice
  • trading card binder pages
  • dividers
  • pencil pouch

Like I said, I already had binders on hand and I’m not picky.  The trading card pages I bought at Hobby Lobby ($7.99 for a package of 30 and I used a 40% off coupon – on my phone – so it was under $5), but a quick Google search a minute ago and I found good prices from Amazon.com.  Dividers I also had on hand, but I printed my own on pretty paper from Dollar Tree and slid into page protectors.  My binder is sorted into store areas (pantry, beverages, freezer, baking, feminine supplies, etc.) and in order of my grocery.

There are 9 pockets on each of my pocket pages.  I slide the coupons in, with the soonest expiration at the front.

The pencil pouch holds my store cards, any extrabucks, maybe the coupons I’m already planning to use, a calculator, some cash…..

I use a binder clip to clip my list to the front of my binder.

I’ve heard people say they can’t remember what is in their binder.  For me, this isn’t a problem.  If you spend an hour or two loading your binder each week and cleaning out expired coupons, you’ll get familiar with the contents.

Again, this is just what works for me.  I never see 99.5% savings like the ladies on “that show.”  I’m just not that good, I work too many hours, and if I can stay within $50/week for my family of 4, I’m a happy couponer.  I have seen over 50% savings with my system.  It doesn’t happen really often, because we go through a LOT of milk and meat, but I’m usually at 30-35% saving between my store card and coupons.  And we eat REALLY well on a shoestring budget!

Again, I encourage you to search around the web and see what other people are doing.  Find a method you think will work and try it out.  Modify it.  Make your couponing system your own.

And let me know what you figure out!  Happy Shopping!

~ Katie



et cetera
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