Friday, June 3, 2011


I love coupons just as much as the next person - though not as much as the crazy people on Extreme Couponing. Saving money is fun.

Today, I had looked something up on line, and the website offered me a coupon that would basically entitle me to a free can of Chef Boyardee. Unfortunately, I would have to download the coupon printer.

I'm leery of downloading stuff off the Internet for fear of viruses. But it seems like every coupon I'm interested in requires a download. Why can't they just allow me to print the darn coupon off? But no if I want to save money, I have to spend time. Time downloading programs. Time searching for coupons on different sites. Time that I just don't have.

For now, I'll stick with the coupons that come in the mail or the ones that are emailed to me. Today I got an email from my local supermarket for $5 off a purchase of $50 or more. Score! I spend $50 easily on weekly groceries. My mom has also started to set aside her coupons from her paper (after my brother who lives with her cherry-picks his favorites). I've found some good ones in her paper, and since my store doubles coupons up to a dollar, I can get some stuff for free. BONUS!

But what are some other ways to find coupons, cause I need some help!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Be wary of coupons...

Recently I received a catalog advertisement from Fashion Bug. Being plus sized in the area I live means that I have to do my shopping online unfortunately. That is if I want anything that is fashionable. I was happy to see that there was a $10 coupon attached to the flyer. I was about to go to the online website to look for clothing when I spyed that the coupon did not apply to online merchandise.

The moral of the story? make sure to read the fine print in your coupons BEFORE you shop. Finding out a the register that your coupon is not good is embarrassing and will cost you money. Whether you are at the clothing store or the food store.

I think a lot of companies who offer coupons do it misleadingly. I can't tell you how many times I've misread a coupon thinking I only had to buy 1 product when in reality I had to buy 2 products. Careless coupon shopping will cost you money from your food budget. Coupons are great, if they apply. Oh, and check expiration dates too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fresh Fruits and Veggies

How does one solve the problem of getting fresh fruit and veggies when they are super expensive? As you can see from the picture, my children LOVE fresh fruits and veggies. But when I go to the grocery store, at least a quarter of my bill is spent on fruits and veggies. I know they say that frozen veggies are just as good, which is fine when you are cooking them, but my kids like to snack all day long. They will often pull stuff out of the fridge without me knowing. (it's a sore spot for us, and they often get punished for it)

So what to do? I usually will stock up on fruits and veg when they are on sale (IE my carrot purchase) but that doesn't always do the trick. I'm at a loss here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

You can take my life, but you'll never take my pizza!

Ok. I'm sure that's a bit over dramatic, but I loves me some pizza. Like a whole lot. And yes, it does cost money out of a food budget to order said pizza. I've tried making it at home to save money, it just isn't the same unless it's cooked in a pizza oven. MMMMMM....oveny goooodnesss...

In my house growing up we had pizza once a week. Even when my parents were on that awful think thin diet we still had pizza. We didn't have a lot of extra money, so getting toppings was usually a no go for us. My parents found ways to get the pizza they loved and still save some money. So here are my family secrets to getting pizza, but keeping the cost to a minimum:

  • Make your toppings at home - My mother would cut up some green peppers (or red if we had them) and some onions, fry them up in a pan with a little Kitchen Bouquet (that's her secret to everything) and we'd have green peppers and onions on our pizza. It's a great way to add veggies to your dinner as well. You can do this with almost anything, say like some leftover ham from dinner a few nights ago, or some pineapples (ewwww) You'll save at least $1.50 for each different topping you put on your pie and you can control what you want without having to split toppings on a pie.

  • Eat a salad - I'm a huge fan of salads from the pizza place, mostly cause I'm lazy and don't want to make my own salad. But, if you are in a money crunch, best thing to do is buy a head of lettuce and make a tossed salad to keep in your fridge. You can probably, if your good and lucky, get a few days worth of dinner salads out of 1 head of lettuce, a cucumber, some onions and maybe even some tomatoes if you are inclined. Doing this saves money on the salad and again, you control the freshness of ingredients.

  • Pick up your pie - My local (and remember, I'm rural) delivery place charges 3 bucks to deliver to me. That's before tip and cost of the meal. Instead of spending that money for convenience, plan a pizza night when you'll be close to the pizza parlor and pick up a pie on your way home. It's worth saving the delivery charge.

  • Look for coupons - On Long Island, each week there are the Pennysaver and the other local mini-publications that come out. Each week you'll see various specials for pies and combos. WE don't' get a lot of those up here, but I will always ask what the weekly special is for pizza. Generally they offer a discount on a pie, which is great. It doesn't hurt to ask your pizza guy what he's doing for specials this week. Also check out the Internet for specials and coupons. Domino's will often send fliers in the mail with coupons and their website offers online ordering. Pizza Hut is another chain restaurant that offers deals.

Happy pizza hunting! And do save a slice for me!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saving but spending in the long run...

Today we did our grocery shopping at a warehouse-related chain store that I won't mention but it very popular in rural communities. This store offers all types of items from clothes to bath soaps, bananas to building materials. I've heard many people extoll the virtues of this store, claiming the products are cheaper. But here's the catch, and this happens to me every time, you end up buying more than you need because you think you are spending less.

I chose to shop there today because we needed paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo and some cleaning products. If I didn't need all those things, I'd have shopped at my supermarket since they offer 10 cents off per gallon of gas with every $50 spent. But I went big today, thinking I would get a deal. But once you hit the aisles, you are thinking "hey, do I need another tube of toothpaste?" or "Should I pick up those water filters?" Or, "How can you pass up pants for a buck ninety-nine?"

So I went about my shopping and added some extra items I did not at all need. But the really strange thing is that I didn't get half the items on my list. Some products, like the cleaning products I specifically went to this store for, were not on the shelves. There wasn't even anything remotely close to what I need. Somehow, I walked out spending 120 dollars. Granted, I bought formula and paper towels and toilet papers, which probably added up to a good 25-30 dollars worth of items, but where the hell did the rest of the money go? Beats me.

I know if I had shopped at my local supermarket, I would have checked the aisles for sales, looked for the no-name products which are just as good as name brand, and I wouldn't have been tempted to pick up unnecessary items like candy. Sure, I may have saved a few cents on some items, but is it really worth it? Plus when you figure in the savings that I get for gas, it actually cost me money to shop at the big chain store.

Unfortunately, I have to go to my supermarket tomorrow and pick up the things I forgot to get today. Lesson learned.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saving money vs value for what you pay for...

So on our quest to save money, I've been trying to cut corners in the food budget, since that's where nearly 1/4 of our money is spent each month (that includes formula, fresh fruit and veggies and various sundry items)

It's a hard thing to do, after you're used to walking into a grocery store and picking up anything and everything you want. Having to shop sales, using coupons and even buying ... less quality items. For instance meats.

I grew up eating very little chop meat. My mother is not a fan of any chopped meat, unless it was high quality. To this day I don't know the difference between chuck, ground round and sirloin. We're not big steak eaters, so it didn't really matter. Occasionally I like a nice hamburger though, so I do buy chop meat. Usually I pick up the 93 % lean meat. Now that we've started scrimping, the percent lean number is slowly decreasing. It started with 90%, then wobbled down to 85% and most recently, I bought a ginourmous package of 80%.

Spending $12 for approximately 3.25 pounds of meat, I am able to get at least 3 meals out of that price, making the grand total for meat per meal about $4 dollars per meal. Had I bought the 93%, the cost of the meat goes up a lot. The question is, do you sacrifice the quality of the food to save the money? I'd like to think not, but it isn't always the case.

The opportunity comes up occasionally to buy meat that must be used on or frozen by the date of the day you buy it. This means the meat was packaged a day or two ago and the store can't guarantee the quality of the meat. Usually they take a dollar or so off the price but I can't always find this. I dont' want to affect my family's health because we can't afford the best choices like lean mean, fresh fruit and healthy items. But it's a struggle, and I'm learning.

Tonight, I used the 80% chop mean. I added a lot of garlice, thyme and pepper. I also added a hearty serving of vegetables. They counter each other right?

Here's what I made: (this recipe at one time or another will appear in my column The Budget Chef in Jill Magazine, Check it out!)

Toni's Puttanesca Pasta
(Puttanseca comes from the word Puttana, which in Italian means "whore" pretty awesome)

1 pound ground beef
2-3 TBSP minced garlic (your taste, your choice)
1/2 onion diced
1 large carrot sliced
1 zucchini diced
1/2 parsnip
2 small cans tomato sauce
pepper and salt to taste

In a large skillet heat up garlic and onion. Brown ground beef in skillet till done. Add other veggies and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes. Add tomato sauce and simmer for a spell. Add some water to mixture if needed. If you like it thick, no water, if you want more of a sauce consistency, I'd add more tomato sauce. Serve over pasta. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wedding Bells...

Nearly ten years ago, I married my best friend. *HURL* Haha. Just kidding. Though ten years ago I did marry my husband, who for the most part is a decent guy. WE've always exchanged presents for our anniversary, but this year, considering our finances, we're both a little leery on the idea of buying presents. Though I must say, he was THINKING of buying me a tennis bracelet and the thought alone makes up for NOT having the money to get it.

We talked about possibly me getting a kindle since I love to read, and him since he loves to drum getting some drum equipment. He was hesitant and said "but we dont' have any money." I agreed and suggested we "make" each other gifts. Not like macaroni art or anything cool like that, but more like using our innate talents to come up with something cool.

He's a musician, I suggested he write me a song. I, budding literarian that I am, said that I would write him a poem. All free gifts, things we would spend time working on, but not money. I thought it was a nice idea, but he was all like " I can't write a song. I never finish them." So, instead of writing his own, I suggested he learn to play the drum part of one of my favorites, "Hotel California". This way I could have my secret fantasy of singing in front of a group of people with out the people. Stage fright sucks.

He laughed it off, but I think the idea of making gifts might stick. We had Christmas this year and went cheap for the kids, buying clothes on clearance, toys at the dollar store etc. If we are serious on this quest to get out of debt, we've got to be more creative in what we choose to give each other.

I'm going to go work on my "Ode to Derik" now...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beware of wht you pay for...

Everyone is looking to save money,(especially us!) and we all go through a variety of differnt things to get that extra bang for our buck. Using coupons, shopping on clearance ailses etc. Like most people, I like to shop at the dollar store. for the most part I am pleased with the items I've purchased. One time I got a dustpan on a stick for sweeping. I still have it, it's fabulous, I love it. But recently I purchased some pencils for my literary quests and I am not pleased.

The pencils don't seem to sharpen on both sides. It's rather annoying and a pain to write with them. No matter what I do, these pencils won't sharpen properly. Grrrr.

I expressed my frustration on Facebook and I had a good number of commenters who sympathized with my plight. Moral of the store kids? Saving money SHOULDN'T mean passing on quality. Sure, those pencils only cost me a dollar, but they were practically unusable, so what did I save?

Someone must have slapped me with the hippy stick...

So in my quest to save money, I"ve been perusing the sale flyer a lot more closely. This week, my supermarket had a 2lb bag of carrots on sale for half price, 99 cents. I had bought a bag earlier in the week and decided to pick up a few more. Then a few more. And just a few more for good measure. In total, I purchased 6 bags.

I had in my mind that I would buy this amount of carrots so that I could make my own baby food for my 6 month old. I reasoned that two servings of premade baby food cost 99 cents and that I could get at least 6 servings out of each bag., making each serving a little more than 16 cents. BIG SAVINGS! Woe to me. For years I had mocked my friends for making baby food at home. Telling them that someone had to keep the Gerber people in business. I never thought about the savings from making it myself, not to mention that I am controlling the ingredients.

This week, I took the boiled potatoes and carrots I had made with corned beef (part of a two-night meal, first night corned beef, second night corned beef chili - a recipe I plan to use in another column/blog I write) and mashed them together. The leftover veggies have fed my son for 3 nights now. And we'll definitely get a fourth out of them.

So after careful reevaluation, I am now a maker of my own baby food. Cept for the prunes, Gerber's got that covered for me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peeking out...

So, it's the new year and we're on track to getting ourselves completely out of unnecessary debt. By that, I mean credit cards. We've depended on them for a while now. Before I got married, I paid my cards off at the end month. Once we got married that changed. We began using cards and that turned ugly. It was "well I'll just charge it" and we got whatever we wanted. Now we are close to 10K in debt. We are a family of five (three of them being children under the age of 4) and it is hard to get everything we need each month without going over our salaries.

It really came to a head when we blew through about 3k in one month, that being December. We basically paid cash for Christmas presents and I sort of went on a spending spree. Luckily we have overdraft on our bank account otherwise we'd be paying a lot more in fees than the 70 bucks they took from us. So i decided no more, and now we are on a strict budget.

We spend only what we have. I've created a budget which will get all of our bills paid each month. Anything that is left over will either pay down debt or go into savings or be a cushion for expenses that I've forgotten. Keep checking back to see how we get ourselves out of debt and into savings.

Wish us luck!