Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sales, Price Matching, and Coupons, OH MY!

So, it is Wednesday. And I have some assignments due for class, a messy house, and two stinky dogs.

But alas, I am not motivated to do anything today. Except gloat express great joy about my success in sales searching, coupon clipping, and price matching! Just this week, I have saved over 70% on our groceries and household items! I realize that I haven't mentioned any of this before now, and I myself am slightly baffled as to why. I guess I just feel that it is something everyone should be doing, but I've come to realize that many, many people are not even aware of how to start the adventure into the 'couponing' world. So, I am here today to start a '12 step program' of sorts as to how I have come to learn this art and hope that you all will start as well!

First, let me share this weeks load!

Love my coupons and price matching!

I got this entire table of groceries and toiletries for just $34!! Thanks to price matching, freebies, and coupons! My mom and I are lucky to have the few hours a week it takes to plan out the shopping trips. Now, don't get me wrong, we are not those crazy 'experienced' people on tv that have rooms full of so much food and toiletries that there is no way they will ever use them up. We stock up for a few weeks or months at a time when good sales go on. We then try to use through what we have, or give away some products to friends and family. My mom has also started a tradition of letting my husband and I, and my brother and his girlfriend (hopefully soon to be sister-in-law!) to go on 'shopping trips.' She will set up her mudroom with all of her free products, (mostly cereals, boxed mac-n-cheese, deodorants, razors, shaving creams, body washes, shampoo/conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.) We each get a list of how many of each item we are entitled to, then we get to it! It is a blast!! I usually let my brother and his gf have most of the toiletries, because we already have a nice 'stock' as it is. And, they both work full time and go to school full time, so neither of them really has the time to look for good sales and coupons. But, we do have fun helping them shop, (and adding more things to their bags w/o their knowledge!) My brother has always been a 'no, I'll do it on my own' kinda guy, but his gf is helping him to relax a litte and understand that mom and I take the time to do this to help them and other family and friends!

ANYWAY!! Getting to why you are here.... In order to begin this adventure, you must either buy or sign up to receive Sunday papers. Usually the big city papers work the best because they have more coupons and ads. You then have to set aside about 2 hours a week, (or 2 or 3 weeks depending on how often you shop,) to clip out your coupons, go through the ads, and even check some websites for deals. This can be very daunting at first, and believe me, I went through many headache filled Sundays before getting the hang of it, but it is worth it! So, you start with your coupons, clip them out, keeping in mind what you are clipping. I then organize mine into my coupon binder (yes, I'm one of those nerds that you see in Wal Mart with my big coupon binder!) by category, i.e. dry foods, canned foods, cold foods, frozen foods, cleaning/laundry, air fresheners, vitamins/pain pills, shaving, oral products, shampoo/conditioner, body wash/soaps, etc, etc.... This can take some extra time, also, but is totally worth it to not have to dig for a specific coupon at the checkout while the rude couple behind you huffs and puffs and taps their feet. JUST DO IT!

The next step is to look through your ads, find out what is on sale where. If there are good deals, and especially if you have coupons, start making your list. Match up your coupons with your list, and make sure to make a note on your list for which items you have coupons, (I always put a small 'c' next to the item to remember.) Also, I make separate lists on one piece of paper for the two different store we visit weekly, keeping my coupons for each separate and paper clipped. Make sure that for your price matching store list, you write down the exact price to match, and from which store the price comes. Keep in mind which stores double coupons, and to what extent, such as 'doubling up to a dollar,' so you know you can use any coupon valued between 50 cents and 99 cents to round to a dollar savings. Keep in mind that not every week is worth shopping, there are off weeks. After looking through the ads for a few weeks, you will start to catch on to the 'normal' sales that occur often, and the 'wow' sales that only occur about once a month.

Now that you have looked through the ads and checked prices, it's time to start planning your shopping trip! Remember that there are stores (such as Wal Mart,) that price match any competitors advertised price. This can make a HUGE difference in your total! I know that our Wal Mart is generally very accomidating to our crazy coupon and price matching, but I always take my ads in with me just in case the cashier we get is a little miss cranky pants, and wants to question every price match. The policy states that they will price match any exact item without the ad, but some of the cashiers choose to be snoots, and request the ads, which wouldn't bother me if there wasn't a freaking line of like 4 people waiting for my crazy coupon ass to get through this transaction so they can just buy their Mountain Dews and beef jerky!! But, whatever, I oblige with a big 'eff you' smile on my face.

We almost always go to at least two stores, one (Kroger) for meat, and deals requiring double coupons (and the Starbuck's in the store doesn't hurt,) and the price matching store (Wal Mart) to avoid having to go to umpteen other stores for the deals. While it does slightly suck having to go to 2 different stores, I'd rather do that than have to go to 6 or 7. So, make sure that you take your LIST AND COUPONS with you! (Been there, done that, spent way to much, and forgot way too many things...) If you have to buy a small organizer, or even a binder like me, thatn so be it. Who cares what other people think? You are saving bookoo bucks and they are paying full price... Make sure before you go to check out that you have each item you wanted to purchase, and that all of your coupons are present and accounted for. Then, head for the check out, and apologize to the cashier because you will have coupons/price matching. But, assure them you will make it quick and painless. Also, keep in mind that some people who get into line behind you may get impatient, FORGET THEM. If you feel the need, you can apologize, but they can suck it up. If they were in that big of a hurry, they should have gone to 'self-checkout.' Don't let it frazzle you! When you start to line the items up on the belt, try to keep them organized. I have a tendency to put the items for which I do not have a coupon or price match first, then leave a slight gap and put the coupon/price match items after. It just makes life easier on you and the cashier. You then start price matching, make sure to tell the cashier the exact price to match, and the competetor matching. Hand the coupons over last, you can hand them all over, most cashiers prefer so. But, if you feel more comfortable handing them individually, that's up to you. Next, be shocked at how much you saved and how low your total is! Celebrate!

Now, I know this is A LOT of information to take in, and I am here to take any questions you have. Please feel free to comment with any concerns and I will respond! I will also continue writing about our successful shopping trips, and future helpful tips, but just get started, and then we will get to all of that!! Thanks for reading!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Florida & Peanut Butter Blossoms W/ FULL SIZED Reese's Cups!

Hello my loves! Sorry it's been a while! Busy, crazy life!! We got back from our amazing trip to Florida, (thanks to my amazing in-laws) with our new vehicle!! Yay!! It was so cool, being a girl from a small town in Ohio, and never having seen palm trees in person, it was amazing!

The first night, we visited Downtown Disney, which is like a huge strip mall of all Disney stores. It was pretty amazing!! They have a store just for Christmas stuff, a candy store, a store with different sports team stuff, but with Disney characters, A Ghiardelli store--we didn't go in there, mainly because I would have spent 99% of our money just in that store... And, the most amazing place was the Lego store--which had every lego kit immaginable, and a 'bar' in which you could buy any particular color, shape, and size of lego you choose, by the pound. AMAZING!

Inside Goofy's Candy Co.--they had some amazing baked good, some of which I will be trying...

Outside the Lego store--completely made of Legos--so cool!!
The second day was the Universal Day, we spent the whole day there! If you ever get the chance to go to Universal Studios, do it, you WILL NOT regret it! We only went to the Islands of Adventure side, but it was enough to fill an entire day! We saw the Super Hero place, which had all the super heros....
The Universal Globe!
My hubby and Cyclops!!
Then, there is Toon Lagoon, which has all the cartoon characters in the paper cartoons! It was pretty cool!
Then, Jurassic Park, which was awesome! The vegetation and the different vehicles and dinosaurs.... The ride was pretty cool, too, but be prepared to get SOAKED!!
Then, the part that my hubby and I were most excited about--Harry Potter!! It was so amazing, just like being in the movie! There was Honeydukes Candy store, Puking Pastilles (the joke shop from the movies,) and the Hogwarts express train! We even got to eat at the Three Broomsticks!!
The entrance to Hogsmeade!!
Then, there is the Arabian Nights sections, which is all set in the Arabian, with gods and stuff. Poseidon's Fury was pretty awesome! Then, what I was super excited about was the Dr. Seuss part of the park--Suess Landing!! I know, I'm like a 5 year old in a 25 year olds body! But, my husband and I have decided that when we have kids, there 'themes' will be Dr. Suess!!
I can't even tell you how amazing this whole section was! Everything there was 'Suess-ified!' Even the light poles, signs, etc. It was the most fun I've had in a very long time!!
But, anyways!! Now we are back, and the holiday season is in full swing! Thnaksgiving is around the corner (LITERALLY, it's next week....) And then, Christmas will be here before we know it. With all the amaizing baked good we saw in Florida, both at Downtown Disney and Universal, I've decided to have a Cookie Exchange party in early December. And I've been looking for recipes to include in this party. So, I've been baking, baking, baking... And, today I decided to make an 'oldie-but a goodie!' The Peanut Butter Blossom....But, mine are slightly different... I have always used Pillsbury's peanut blossom recipe, found here, but with my own few twists. I add butter extract, and instead of Kisses, I put whole Reese's Cups on the top, just to make them that much more delicious!!!!  They always turn out amazing, and seem to be one of my most requested cookies, so I thought I would share with you all today!!
Peanut Butter Blossoms (With WHOLE Reese's Cups!)
1 1/3 C Flour
1/2 C Sugar
1/2 C Packed brown sugar
1 t Baking soda
1/2 t Salt
1/2 C (half stick) of Crisco
2 T Milk
1 t Vanilla extract
1/2 t Butter extract
1 Egg
Extra sugar to roll in
1 Bag of full sized Reese's Cups & Hershey Kisses (if wanted)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (except extra sugar for rolling) with electric mixer until mixed, it will form a stiff dough. Roll by the scant T into balls, roll into sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, mine always come out perfect at 11 min, but ovens can vary. As soon as you take them out of the oven, press a Reese's cup on top of each cookie, if you are lucky, the chocolate will melt and cover the top of the cookie, which makes them even more amazing!! Let cool (if you last that long,) and enjoy!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Alternatives to Candy for Trick or Treat (Don't worry, no apples or toothbrushes involved!)

Soooooo…..Fall is looming, which means that Halloween is just around the corner!! Trick-or-treating has always been a big deal in our house! I love coming up with creative ideas for our give-outs, such as these so easy and adorable “Spider Pops!” (All the way at the bottom of the page, she also has some other great ideas for Halloween on that page.) But, this year, I’ve decided that we are going to try some alternatives to sugar filled candies and chocolates! I found some of my ideas here.

First, I’ve decided that we will be giving out small goody-bags, cheap cellophane bags are the easiest and least expensive options. I will be purchasing mine from Oriental Trading, and I’ve chose two different kinds, these and these, but they have many other fall and Halloween options, too. Obviously, you don’t need both kinds, I’m just one of those people that doesn’t like to give the same thing to every kid.

Inside those goody-bags, we will be giving out Halloween stickers (these you can buy on a roll, cheap for the amount that you get!) and Halloween glow-in-the-dark tattoos, both also purchased from Oriental Trading. We will also include a bag of fruit snacks, lower sugar content than candy and the added bonus of vitamins! Plus, many of them are gluten free, so gluten free families can enjoy them. I’ve also decided that we will be including mini glow-in-the-dark Halloween rubber duckies, which can be purchased from the link, or from Oriental Trading! We are going all out this year, mostly because we can afford to this year, but obviously you don’t need to include all of these things in your give-outs, but anything alternative to candy is something I’m sure parents will appreciate.

I will update the week of Halloween with pictures of our goody-bags and info on the response from parents and kids!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Goin' Through Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

My husband and I recently decided to give up my car. We purchased it just over a year ago, and have had nothing but problems with it since day one. It needs so much work at this point, that the cost of the work would out-value the car. So I'm calling this a "strategic  repossession." The company that we purchased the vehicle from has been all but empathetic to our situation. We have informed them many-a-times the issues that we've had with the car from the minute we drove it off of the lot. They actually told us last month that if we pay to have all the issues with the car fixed, then they would be willing to trade us for a different vehicle. HA! So, yeah, then we would not only be out the $5000 that we still owe (Yeah, the car blue-books for $3200,) we would also be out the $4000 to fix it. After that, then they would gladly charge us another $7500 for another vehicle. So we would be in debt $16,500, and they would be whistling dixie all the way to the bank...... UGH NO! So we are calling them next week and telling them that we will stop making payments on the car, and they can come tow it from the house (because it doesn't run...)

Now, my oh-so-gracious mother-in-law is selling us her '98 Tahoe for $3000, which is less than blue book. The catch is that we have to go to Florida, where she and her husband live, to pick it up. So, we are taking a trip!!! YAY FOR VACAYS!!! The end of October we will be flying down, staying for a few days, sunbathing, shopping, and going to Universal!! Woot, woot! Then we will be driving the Tahoe back up here to Ohio. My poor parents, in the midst of this, have the undeniable pleasure of babysitting our three heathen dogs (okay, two heathen dogs and a large lump of a lab that just needs a cookie to get through the day.) Needless to say, we are extremely thankful to be blessed with the great family that both my husband and I have.

Anyways, now onto the real reason I'm posting today. With all of these changes, I've decided that we must paint!!! And, yes, it's just me, my husband is all, "really, why do we need to paint a rental???" Well, my loving, caring, yielding (but only to me because I'm so convincing!!) husband, we must paint because it is time for a change!! We need some color! (Well, actually we need an ecru, or vanilla, so we don't give our landlord a heart attack.) Nevertheless it's time for a change, a teeny, weeny change. But hey, change is change, right? I mean, you wouldn't throw away a penny anymore than you would a quarter!! So now, we are in the stage of choosing a color (aka shade of white) to paint our living room, hallway, and bathroom. I've also thought of doing the kitchen, but our kitchen is coffee themed, and I'd like to do a brown base, like latte or something in there, and that may be too far out of the realm of white our landlord is keen to (I think he may own share in the "White Shade Paint Stock.") I will try to reveal this HUGE change in the next few weeks. Prepare to be blown away by all the shades of white you will be seeing!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Period Envy--it's a real thing!! (According to me...)

So, my husband has been SUPER moody lately. Like, "take a pill" moody. So, I've decided to do some research about his chicky moodiness, and I've come to find out that males can suffer from a condition similar to PMS, it's called IMS or Irritable Male Syndrome. (Yes, men have actually come up with something to try to trump our PMS-ing.) It is a "medical condition" in which males experience a drop of testosterone. This drop in the male hormone can cause mood swings, anger, anxiety, and yes, even stomach cramps. But, to make this anomaly even more convenient for guys, they can experience this condition at any point in the month, even every day!

I'm not even joking.

What's next? Are men going to start bleeding from some orphis once a month, like an ear or their belly button? You've heard the theory of women having "Penis Envy" right? Well, apparently now men have "period envy." Mmmhmm, that's right ladies, men are indubitably envious of those 5-7 days a month in which we experience mood swings, nausea, stomach pains beyond all belief, out of control chocolate cravings, and the superfluous need to watch sappy chick flicks and cry about the nonsensical happy endings. Well, if they want to "outshine" us in this, than they need to experience every aspect of it.

So, I've decided to create something, I don't know what it's going to be yet, but something. This something will help men experience the sprinkles and unicorns that we experience once a month. They can have  all the fun, including: the bloating, breast sensitivity, stomach gymnastics, junk food binging, sporadic crying (you know, when you forgot to pull the laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer, so you burst into tears,) the "I love you, I need a hug, now I hate you and I'm yelling at you, why are you walking away from me, I just wanted a hug," mere exhaustion at the thought of even moving, and the "fun-house mirror effect" when all of the mirrors in your house are redesigned to make us look fat and ugly. I haven't decided whether I would like this something to take these symptoms from us and give them to the men, or if we would just like them to experience them as well as us??

So, I'm here to ask for your opinion, knowing that most of us women in a serious relationship, or marriage have experienced this "IMS" in our boyfriends/husbands. Do you think this is all a ploy for men to have an excuse to be moody and grumpy just to show us up for our once-a-month-mood-a-thon? Or do you actually believe that this is a medical condition?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rainy, Dreary Day = Baking Day!

It's a rainy, dreary day today in Ohio. And, something about today is just making me upset. So, what is a girl to do on a rainy, upset kind of day? Why, bake of course! And listen to some good ol' tunes in the process (Awolnation & Yellowcard, YUP!)

A few months back, I found a post on Pinterest, my secret addiction, for Pillsbury's Rainbow Cookies, and they just screamed, make me! So, I attempted it, but of course it was around 90 degrees that day, and they turned out absolutely horrible. I'm ashamed to call those cookies mine. Buuuuttt, I've come to learn from my mistakes, and sometimes embrace them. So now I make these:

I like to call them Tie Dye Cookies. They are simply roll-out sugar cookies that you color with the food coloring of choice and roll together just enough to marble. I like using the pink and purple, just because I'm a girly-girl. But I've used purple and turquoise and they've turned out pretty cool, too. Now, onto my Mom's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Seriously, who doesn't love cookie dough??

These have been the faves of many of my friends since high school. And, of course, now my husband insists that I make them any chance I get. They are chewy, gooey deliciousness! Try them, believe me, they won't disappoint. I almost always add mini M&M's, just because I like them that way, but the recipe just calls for chocolate chips. The trick is adding the flour last, and when you take them out, be sure to drop them onto your pot-holder from about 3 inches up, makes them fall!

I use M&M's just for the color!

Mom's Famous Chocolate Chips Cookies

1/2 Stick Crisco (I prefer Butter flavored)
1 Stick butter, softened
1 C White Sugar
1 C Packed Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp Baking Soda
3/4 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Flavor Extract (I use 1 Tbsp vanilla extract, 1/2 Tbsp butter extract)
2 1/4 C Flour
2 C Chocolate Chips (I use 1 c chocolate chips, 1 c mini M&M's)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter and Crisco until blended. Add Sugars, eggs, baking soda, salt, and extracts, beat until fluffy.
Slowly add flour, mix by hand just until blended.
Add chocolate chips, mix.
Drop onto cookie sheets, bake 9-11 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you want them. When you remove from the over, drop from a few inches above pot holder so cookies fall.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Fur was Flying

Today was haircuttin' day for the dogs. The boys and I took a drive to my mom's house so her dogs could join in on the fun. After the first unsuccessful attempt at shaving her pup, including excessive fidgeting, nosiness, and nipping, mom decided that she knew just what would solve all of our problems. She ran into the house to retrieve the solution to our dilemma and came back heavily armed with 4 plastic spoons completely engrossed by peanut butter. Turns out peanut butter is "dog crack" and the next time you need to distract your fuzzy friend for nail clipping, hair cutting, or just to keep them occupied for a period of time, good ol' pb could just be your answer. So anyway...we get her pup, Judy, distracted long enough to finish the fur-cut. Then we moved on to my two boys, Comet and Koda:

"Aww, look how cute they are."They have you all fooled.

Now the thing about my dogs is that when you are doing something like cutting their fur, or giving them a bath, or clipping their nails, they are super well behaved. Any other time, they bare a close resemblance to the spawn of satan. Let me tell you, the fluff from toys is flying in our house at any given time on any given day. After finishing my boys, we decided to move on to mom's baby-girl Sophie:


Now, Sophie is the neediest, nosiest, prissiest dog I've ever seen. She has to be by mom's side 24 hours a day, requires that you pick her up and put her on the bed when it's bed time, (just to jump back down approximately 12 minutes later,) and gets fed anything that mom is eating (though mom will never admit that.) She also hates to be touched near her face or her rear. She's also moody, and today was not a good mood day. I'm pretty sure that cutting Sophie's fur took about as long as cutting all the other dogs combined. And it was still horribly uneven. Even with peanut butter... Cutting mom's big dog Marley, a shepard mix, was the last, and the easiest. After finishing all of the fun, this is what was left:
 Don't mind mom's foot, she felt it was needed for accurate sizing.

You've seen that "doggy dentures" commercial right. Well, I've come up with a new product. Yup, about doggy toupees... Anyone in need??