Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Menu Plan

I have gotten many requests to post what my menu plan is for the week.  So, I intend to start doing a weekly post about my menu plan and participating in Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. The way I plan my menus is based on what I already have on hand and what I find are the best deals in the weekly grocery ads.  I usually limit my budget to $40/week and my menu is for 2 adults and 1 toddler.  My menu plan is below.

Breakfast: Unfortunately in this house there are not many options.  
Frozen pancakes (made from scratch and then frozen) and fruit (whatever I bought for the wee
Oatmeal with fruit
Cold cereal (if you coupon long enough you will never run out of cereal!)

Meat and cheese sandwhich 
Grilled cheese sandwhich
PB & J sandwhich
All lunches are usually served with raw veggies (whatever was on sale for the week), fruit, and crackers/chips (again whatever is on sale/in the house)

Sunday: biscuits and gravy/fruit
Monday: Beef and Potato casserole/bread/steamed broccoli (frozen)
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes/ baked beans/roasted potatoes with peas on the grill (slice up some potatoes and put them on some foil.  Add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter/margarine on top with some frozen peas, cover with foil to make a packet and throw on the grill at medium heat for about 30-40 minutes or in the oven at 350 degrees for same amount time.)
Wednesday: Cheesy chicken and rice casserole/bread/fruit
Thursday:  Steak fajitas/chips and salsa/corn
Friday: Always homeade pizza!  This week it will probably be sausage
Saturday:  I never plan for Saturday because this is usually the night we do something with friends/family.  And let's face it... even when you are frugal you figure out a "frugal way" to eat out!

You will notice my menus for this week don't necessarily correspond with what I bought in my weekly shopping trip.   This is due to the fact that our week was a little crazy and we didn't eat at home much.  Not that we ate out, but we had dinner at a friend's house, we were out of town, had our anniversary- 3 years, and ate dinner at my parent's house.  So the menu plan from last week became the one for this week.  

If you want a specific recipe I mentioned above let me know, but for now I am going to give a list of what goes into the meals I mentioned.  I intend to post some of our favorite recipes at a later time.

Beef potato casserole: 1 lb. ground beef, 2 pounds of potatoes, sour-cream, cream of mush soup, shredded cheese
Chicken and Rice casserole: 2 chicken breasts (cubed and cooked), 2 c. rice, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, shredded cheese, bag of frozen veggies.
Sloppy Joes: 1 lb. ground beef and 1 can of Manwich
Steak Fajitas: 1 package of flank stank grilled/broiled and sliced, cooked and sliced peppers an onions, salsa, sour cream and tortillas.
Pizza:  That is an easy one!  I do make a homemade crust and then make a 1 topping pizza. This usually makes 8 slices.

One last note:  We tend to only drink water or milk, unless I get juice or soda for a good deal.

Friday, May 30, 2008

My Weekly Trip

I only shopped at Dillon's this week because we didn't need much.  I am pretty well stocked from great sales in previous weeks,  so I already had most everything on hand for the meals I am going to make.  Look for a post about my menu plan for the week to come soon!  Here is what I bought today.  
Take note:  MS means manager special.  These are the orange/red tags you will find on things that have been marked down due to various reasons... usually because the expiration date is nearing.
  • Kroger Grape tomatoes on MS= .99 (regularly 2.99)
  • Kroger Coffee Creamer=1.98
  • Carol Budding lunch meat 2.00-1/1 coupon=1.00
  • 6 pack of Yoplait Dora yogurt - 2.50- .40/1 coupon from .50/1 coupon doubled to 1.00= 1.10
  • Dillon's 8 pack of buns=.98
  • 2 loaves of Dillon's cracked wheat bread marked down to .89/1= 1.78 for 2 (these are usually 1.50 or more per loaf)
  • Kroger 39 oz coffee=5.99
  • 1/2 gallon buttermilk on MS=1.00 (regular price is usually 1.70 or more)(I like to make homeade pancakes and freeze them for breakfast- they are the best with buttermilk)
  • Cauliflower on MS=.99 (regular price is usually 1.60 or more)
  • 2 Farmland sausage rolls=2.00- 2 1/1 coupons makes them FREE
  • 1 bag of Fiji apples on MS =.99/bag  (regular price is usually 3.99/bag)
  • 1 bag of mixed fruit on MS= .99/bag (regular price is usually 3.99/bag)
  • 1 2.5lb bag of russet potatoes on MS=.99/bag (regular price is 2.50/bag)
  • I bunch of green onions=.79
  • 4 cambell's soups marked at .49/1=1.96- .40/4 coupon doubled to .80/4=1.16 or .29/can
  • I Brita slim pitcher=10.99  (I had a rain check to make this 4.99 and then a 5/1 coupon so this was FREE)
My total before coupons was 34.03,  after coupons it was 22.85.  Total savings from MF coupons, doubled coupons and store coupons was 17.18, that is 44%!  I bought 21 items so I paid roughly about 1.08 per item if you average it out. 

Now for the real math geek in me:  If you total up what I should have paid for everything before Manager Special, my total should have been around $45.00 ( saved about $11.00 on my ms items).  But because I was willing to buy things on ms I ended up saving even more... so technically I saved about 64% after you calculate all my coupons/store savings (17.18) and the $11.00 I saved for buying things on MS

I am kind of a math geek, but what do you expect- I am married to a math teacher!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Organizing coupons

My first suggestion when it comes to coupons is always to start accumulating and organizing them.  As I have talked about, you can get most of your coupons from the Sunday paper along with printing them from many coupon sites (note: see side bar on blog for list).  If you don't want to buy the paper you could ask neighbors, friends and family for their coupons. I personally get coupons from 3 different family members along with the coupons from the paper I buy.  That amount of coupons is almost to much to handle sometimes!

Fact: Only roughly 2% people actually cut coupons from the Sunday paper... so chances are you know somebody who will gladly give you their coupons. 

As for organizing there are several ways to do this... it just depends on what works best for you. If you are in my MOPS group and were there when Blaire shared about coupons you saw a big coupon binder for the very meticulous couponer.   That binder actually belonged to me. Another fellow MOPS gal has a binder much the same.  I must admit I learned everything about the coupon binder from her.  You can check out the binder here

Now if that is overwhelming you can do a simple envelope method that Crystal does a good job of talking about here  Crystal also links to some other blogs and sites that have other ideas as well.

As for restaurant coupons (usually you find these in postal mailings or the Wednesday paper) and store coupons (like Jc Penny's, Home Depot, JoAnn's, etc.)  I have a big according style binder that I keep these in.  I organize them buy the type of store/restaurant.  

How much time does this take?  It depends on how many coupons you have and your organizational method.  When I first started it took a lot longer than it does now.  The longer you do it, the quicker you get.  My binder takes a good amount of time (roughly 1-2 hours/week)... however it is worth it when it comes time to look for a coupon- AKA- I am not shuffling through 100 coupons in an envelop looking for those 3 Cover Girl coupons I just know I have somewhere!  I usually try and cut my coupons and organize them in 1 sitting (often during the kiddo's nap time).  

One other note about the time it takes.  Figure what you save in a week and divide it by the hours you put into couponing... you will find that you get paid well to coupon! For example last week I spent 48$ on groceries and my savings was around 50%.  So that means I should have spent $96 but because of my planning and couponing I saved $48 (50%).  If I spent a total of 4 hours last week between planning/cutting/ and organizing coupons,  I technically made about 12$ and hour... not bad for a part time job eh?

If you have a way that you organize your coupons and would like to share about it, please do so in the comments section!

For those of you who love downloading coupons to your shopper's card I just learned this morning of (here
This is a coupon site where you can download coupons to your shopper's card for your grocery store.  Dillons is one of the stores in which this site partners with!  There aren't very many coupons that you can download, but they are coupons none the less!  The sign up is very easy and so is loading the coupons.  

Have you heard of the site?  If so let us know your experience and if you like the service.

Reader Q&A

I had a reader write me and ask some great questions, so I thought I would post my answers here:

What does "recent inserts" mean and where do I find these inserts?
Answer:  When I talk about recent inserts or inserts I am referring to the coupons found in the Sunday paper.  There are 3 inserts that may appear in your paper and they are titled Smart Source, Red Plum, and the P&G brand saver.  Take note that the P&G brand saver usually only comes out in the paper on the 1st Sunday of the month.  On occasion they will have another one in the middle of the month, but this is not often.  Remember that you are not likely to find coupons in "holiday weekend" papers.  Another item of note is that I get all my coupons from the KC star, so if you only get the Topeka Capitol Journal you are not likely to have all the coupons I refer to because the inserts that come in the star ALWAYS have more coupons.

The coupons that you describe in your blog-where do you get these from?  Take for example-the Pringles coupon or the can of soups coupons, are they also from the Sunday paper?
Answer:  Most of the coupons I refer to in my blog are from the Sunday inserts.  If they are from an online source I will always link you to that coupon.

What do you mean by loading coupons to your Dillon's card?
Answer:  If you go to customer service at most stores you will find they have a card for their store that allows you to get discounts on prices in that store.  Well Dillon's has teamed up Proctor and Gamble (makers of the P&G brand saver) to have online coupons available for you to download onto your Dillon's card.  Then when you go into the store and buy that item you downloaded a coupon for the amount the coupon was for will be deducted from your total.  This is a way to not have to cut paper coupons and take them with you to the store. You can go here to read more about how the program works.  To be honest this is hard to explain so if any other coupon pros out there want to go into further detail feel free to comment!  I would suggest that if you are new to couponing to not use this option just yet.  Get to know your way around "coupon world" and then maybe tackle this option:)  It will make more sense with time- I promise!

One other item of note is that if you are new to couponing you will likely not have all the coupons just yet that I refer to.  I often have about 2-3 months worth of coupon inserts cut up and organized that I pull from.  I say 2-3 months because most coupons expire in that amount time.  So your 1st task is to start collecting and organizing coupons- look for a post about this to come!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Still think coupons aren't worth it?

Well then check out Crystal's guest post here 
Here are 9 myths about couponing that will surely prove why taking the time to use coupons is worth it

Hy-Vee 5/28-6/3

This week I am participating in Shannon's Works for me Wednesday carnival you can find here.  Hy-Vee will most certainly work for me this week since they have some great deals!  Be sure to also check out the wealth of knowledge others have posted about what works for them!
  • Hy-vee fresh single 3.75 oz brats or italian sausage are 10/6.  Most packaged brats come in a packge of 5 usually around 3$ or higher so this is an okay deal
  • 1lb. package of Hy-Vee butter- 1.59
  • Hy-Vee selected varieties of frozen 16 oz veggies are .77/1
  • California red seedless grapes are 1.49/lb.  (beats the Dillons price at 1.99/lb)
  • Country fair soups (cream of soups and chicken noodle) are 3/1 making them .33/can (beats the aldi price!)
  • Country fair brown or powdered sugar-.99/bag (matches the Aldi price)
  • Hy-Vee canned pinapple-.88/can  
  • Pillsbury muffin mixes are 5/$4
  • Kellogs cereals are 5/$10 (I am personally not aware of any Kellogs coupons, so if  you know of some please comment and let us know where to find them, otherwise I would stick to Dillon's for cereal this week)
  • Hy-Vee 16 oz tubs of sour cream are .99/1 (matches the Aldi price)
  • Danon light and fit single 8 oz. cubs of yogurt are 5/10 (I don't have coupons, but I think there are some- if you find one let us know!)
  • Hy-Vee Jumbo biscuits are 5/5 (beats or matches the Aldi price)
  • Dole classic salad/cole slaw -.97/bag (beats or matches Aldi price)
  • Dole Celery .99/1 (matches Aldi price)
  • Hy-vee 5lb bag of russet potatoes are 1.48 (you can usually get 10lb bag at Aldi for around $2)
  • Mangos are 2/1 (beats the Aldi price)
  • Vidilla sweet onions are .69/lb
  • Hy-Vee cream cheese .99/1 bar (matches Aldi price)
  • Tony's Pizzas or Asian Sensations are 5/10- use a 1/1  coupon for Asian sensations found in recent coupon inserts to make these $1!
  • Hy-Vee frozen dinner rolls (12 count package) are 3/3
  • Hy-Vee 6 count pack of paper towels are 3.77
  • Hy-Vee 3 count pack of romaine hearts 10/10 (matches Aldi price)
  • Hy-Vee tortilla chips 10/10 (matches Aldi price
  • Hy-Vee cheese or wheat crackers 10/10-off brand of wheat things or cheeze its (beats Aldi price)
As always please let me know if I missed something.  You can also find the weekly add for Hy-Vee here

Dillons 5/28-6/3

Here are the best deals at the Topeka Dillon's this week
  • California sweet red cherries-2.99/lb. (good only at 29th and urish, 21st and belle, and 21st and fairlawn)
  • Dillon's milk- 2.79
  • Fresh ground round 1.77/lb.  check my post here on how to save money on meat
  • General Mills/Quaker/Kroger cereals (selected varieties)-1.98/box  go here to get a .75/1 coupon on multi grain cheerios- I don't know if this coupon is for one of the selected varieties.  There are also a lot of $1/2 cereal coupons from recent inserts.  If you have these it would make the boxes 1.50/box... this actually beats the Aldi price
  • Pringles-.88/can (this is the price you can find them for at Aldi)  buy 3 and use .30/3 coupon doubled to .60 and get 3 cans for 2.04 or .68/1
  • Cambell's chicken noodle or tomatoe soup-.49/can- you can almost always have .40/4 coupons for these soups... if you have this coupon it would be .29/can!
  • Kroger Coffee is 5.99/39 oz can
  • Kraft BBQ sauce-.99/1
  • Kroger whole chicken fryers are .69/lb.
  • Kroger cheese is on sale- the best buy is the 240z variety for 4.99/1  (this is 6 cups)  I base my cheese price off of Aldi of course and you can get 3 cup packages there for 2.79, so 6 cups at Aldi would be 5.58
  • Cottonelle 4 roll packs are .99/1 use .25/1 coupon doubled to .50/1 to make them .49!
  • Kroger every day paper towels are .99/1
  • Kroger canned veggies are .55/can (good price for Kroger, but remember that most Aldi canned veggies are under .40/can and are great quality!
  • Carol Budding 10 oz tubs of lunch meat are 5/10.  Some packages come with 1/1 coupons on them making them 1/tub!
  • Honey Suckel frozen white ground turkey is 4/5 making them 1.25/1  
  • Farmland link or roll sausage is 10/10  there were 1/2 coupons out there and 1/1 coupons.  So you can get these for either .50/1 or for free depending on which coupons you have
These are the best buys I see... as always let me know what I missed! Blessings on your shopping this week!

Also Don't forget you can go here to get the ad and here to load other coupons onto your Dillon's card

Monday, May 26, 2008

How do you pay 1.72 for diapers and wipes?

Answer:  Shop at CVS!

Along with grocery shopping I also shop at CVS and Walgreens regularly for our other household items.  So if you notice I don't post about good deals on toiletry items and paper goods at grocery stores it is because I get them for pennies at CVS and Walgreens.

I am participating this week in Crystal's deal scenarios for CVS.    If you are not familiar with CVS be sure to check out Crystal's wealth of knowledge about shopping there.  Here is what I got at CVS this week:

Transaction 1:
1 Tide laundry detergent- 5.99 (got back 2 EB)
3 Revelon nail polishes -3.99 each (got back 3 EB per polish)
1 pack of 46 ct playskool diapers -10.99
3 CVS rolls of paper towels- .99 each (on sale buy 2 get 1 free) so I paid 1.98
1 pack of rolaids- 2.19 (got back 2 EB)
Total before coupons was 33.12
-1.25/1 Tide coupon
-2 1/1 Revelon coupons
-2/1 Playskool coupon
-3/15$ CVS purchase coupon
-3/$10 in CVS product coupon (playskool is considered a CVS brand)
-21 in EB (extra bucks)
Paid .93 cents out of pocket and got back 13$ in EB

Transaction 2 
4 80 ct packs of play skool wipes- 2/5 = 10$
1 24ct Excedrin-1.99
4 bottles of sierra mist 1.49/1 but on sale for Buy get 1 free 
1 pack of rolaids 2.19
total before coupons was 17.16
-4 1/1 coupons for wipes
-2/1 excedrin coupon
-2 BIGI free Sierra mist coupons
-3/15$ CVS  purchase coupon
-3/$10 CVS brand purchase coupon (playskool wipes count for this)
Paid with 2$ in EB and spent .79 cents out of pocket and got back 7$ in EB

Between both transactions I paid with 23$ in extra bucks, but got back 20$!  it was a good trip today!