Thursday, October 30, 2008

Coupons, revisited

A couple of friends have asked me some questions about coupons, so I thought I'd repeat the questions and answers here. 

How do you organize your coupons? 
Well, I have an accordion binder, labeled with all the letters (XYZ are on one slot), and a few extra slots, labeled "Store Specific, Catalinas, Rainchecks, and Last Chance." In the "store specific" spot, I have coupons that are specific to a particular store (Wags coupons for Walgreens, Kroger coupons for Kroger, etc.) Catalina's slot is for catalina coupons (you know, the ones that print out at the register, at the end of your transaction?) Rainchecks - I live by rainchecks!! And Last Chance is for coupons that are about to expire. That doesn't mean I have to use them, but it does make me a bit more mindful of them. 
When shopping, I paperclip my coupons to my list, in the same order as my grocery list. If I decide not to use a coupon during my trip, then I drop it back into my binder. I put coupons in their alphabetical slot by how I do my list - all toothpastes, for example, go under "T" - not "C" for Crest or "A" for Aquafresh. 

Do you go through your coupons regularly for expireds?
No, not regularly. Usually, I just pull expireds out as I come across them. And if I'm making a grocery list, I'm going through my stash anyway, so I pull the expireds then. (and I pull and re-file the "Last Chance" at the same time.)

How do you decide what to clip? 
I ask myself, "If I could get this for free, would I bring it home?" If the answer is yes, then I clip the coupon. Believe it or not, there are some things that I wouldn't get, even if they were free. (Cleaning products and diapers come to mind, but that's for another post.) 

How do you make a grocery list? 
1. I look at my kitchen inventory, and see what I already have. Shop at home first! 
3. I look through my sale flyers from my local grocery stores and write down anything that looks like it may be a good deal. This isn't a shopping list, just a highlight list of the ads. 
4. Now that I know what the sales are, and I have a good idea of my coupon stash (from the ads and HCW), I start throwing breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack ideas around.  And then I start my list. After it's all on paper, I... 
5. Put my list in order by the store layout, and organize the coupons I'll use. 

Where do you get your circulars or inserts?
My mom saves hers for me, and gets some from her neighbors and friends. I buy a paper most Sundays, and sometimes my neighbors give me theirs. If I'm out and I see inserts (at the recycling bin, at the library, restaurants) then I'll snag them. Hey, the librarians aren't going to use the coupons - if they were, they'd have already pulled them! Finders keepers! 

What's the best deal you've gotten? 
Welllllll... I get things for free pretty often (toothpaste, shampoo), but right now I'm working a Johnson & Johnson's Buddy Bar deal. If you've got a Meijer nearby, go buy 3 Buddy Bars and you'll figure it out pretty quickly. Right now, I've stockpiled 30 Buddy Bars. I'm going to start buying them to donate to our church's food pantry, since I obviously have enough. 

Any tips? 
Look at travel size toiletries, and always check the clearance tables at the grocery store. Don't be brand loyal. Just because it's cheap doesn't mean that you need it. (Yes, I do have 2 dozen or so bottles of glue. No, I don't need them, even though they were free.) 

I am by no means a coupon pro, but I do have the basics down. There are women out there who are serious, SERIOUS, about their coupons. I like to play a coupon game with myself - I like to see how little I can spend at the grocery store, so I challenge myself to do a little better every week. Hubby likes to tease me about how excited I get when I find a good deal. 

Happy Couponing! 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Batten down the hatches!

Winter is coming here in the Midwest. We went for a walk this evening, and even in my trusty fleece pullover (a big SCORE from Goodwill) I was chilled. November is just around the corner - less than a week, in fact. So what do we do here to keep warm and be frugal? 

Glad you asked. 

First, we keep the thermostat low. I try to keep the thermostat at 66, but sometimes we (*cough* Hubby) turn it up to 68. We wear layers in the house - jeans, long socks, slippers (a MUST on hardwood floors), t-shirt, and sweater or sweatshirt. Bedtime means legwarmers, flannel pants, and a bed dressed with several good blankets and flannel sheets. The layers of clothing have to be just a bit loose: enough that body heat can get trapped between your body and the clothing. (Well, except for the socks, of course.) We also keep a couple of throws in the living room, for snuggling under during TV watching. I'm working on a denim and flannel throw, but since the sewing machine needs a tune up, that's a project that's currently on hold. 

We replaced our windows in the summer of 2007; the windows we had before that were original to the house, circa 1946. Our current windows are low-e, and I. Love. Them. I also made some draft stoppers for the base of our outside doors. They're just tubes of clearance fleece, filled with beans. We need to replace the weatherstripping around two of the outside doors. That's a cheap fix that will reap benefits. 

Lastly, we make lots of soups and stews, bake homemade bread and goodies, and drink hot tea, coffee, and cocoa in the winter. It makes the house smell good and warms us up from the inside. 

For future projects, I would really like to divert our dryer vent back into the basement (we have an electric dryer, I've heard one shouldn't try this with a gas dryer) for those rare times that I don't hang laundry to dry. Our home needs humidified in the winter, so I doubt redirecting our dryer will create a humidity problem. I think that it'll actually help. 

Another project I'd like to try is to make fleece curtains for our bedroom. Our room is the top floor of the house (it's a dormer room), and gets pretty darn cold. Since no one is up there during the day (and it doesn't need to look pretty) I'm thinking of hanging some clearance fleece (leftovers from my draft stopper project) in front of the windows to further insulate them. 

Winter is my very favorite season. There's something about the coziness of our home in winter, all the fuzzy fabrics, the cuddling on the couch to read or sew or watch TV, the warm  and aromatic food and drink, that appeals to me. I love looking out my window at our snow-covered yard, unmarred by footprints. I love the winter holidays. I find summer oppressive; all that heat and humidity, the bugs... and let's face it: being fair-skinned doesn't help my phobia of the August sun. So bring on the snow! I'm ready for some hot chocolate! 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autumn is so pretty!

We're very fortunate to live in a little Catholic triangle: we live between a monastery, a church with attached school, and a Catholic hospital. So many chapels within easy walking distance! So many bells, ringing out the hours of every day! (Yes, I know I should be praying the Angelus! I know! I know!) 

We regularly stroll over to the monastery, and enjoy the park-like grounds. The monastery's campus also houses a conference center and convalescent home for lay people and retired religious. (Let me tell you - the Sisters really know how to complement a mom. They just LOVE babies!) As with so many Catholic campuses, it is beautiful with its trees and flowers and sweeping lawns. In autumn, it is especially beautiful. Here are some pictures we took on a recent nature walk on the grounds. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Camping in the backyard

The boys (Hubby included) did a little camping in the backyard Sunday night. We have a very large, multi-room tent. Fortunately it's modular, so Hubby was able to separate the center module from the other compartments, and squeeeeeeze it into the backyard.  (Have I mentioned we have a postage stamp for a backyard?) Here's a picture of the tent, sandwiched between our perfect tree, the garage, and the playset. Note the clothesline, complete with cloth diapers, and garden in the background. 

We carted the air mattress and lots of blankets and pillows to the tent and set up shop. Hubby made a campfire and we all roasted marshmallows and made smores. YUM! I tried to take pictures of the little dears, but they




So you'll just have to photoshop this series in your head and imagine how cute they were, swatting away mosquitos.

After sundown, Hubby got out the telescope and got some excellent views of the moon. One of these days we'll have to figure out something else to point at, since it's a very nice telescope and it'd be a shame to waste all that spying power on something we can see with a decent pair of binoculars. My father-in-law regifted the telescope to us a couple of summers ago, after it was given to him as an anniversary gift from his employer. Hubby and I have promised each other multiple times that we'll make sure to get it out more often. The instruction book says that if you know where to look, our telescope can pick up the rings on Saturn! 

So there's my little frugal tip of the day - go camping in your backyard. The kids loved it, and when they're "done" camping at 10pm, you can shuttle them inside the house and sleep in a comfortable bed, instead of on an air mattress. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


A few weeks ago, Hubby & I were having our brains sucked out by the television when one of those inane commercials about high fructose corn syrup appeared. You know the one - two folks are sitting in a park, She offers Him a bite of her popsicle, they have a discussion about how "natural" high fructose corn syrup is. ("It's made from corn!") My jaw hit the floor upon seeing the commercial, and I think I said something like, "Oh no they DIDN'T!"

Well, I've just seen the perfect response on YouTube. And here it is. Enjoy! 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pictures of last weekend

Joey, after he insisted he needed a band-aid on his nose:

Adam, in his Cub Scout uniform: 

Luke roasting a marshmallow at the cookout: 

Grace, practicing her Bambi eyes: