Archive for January, 2012


Our garden project has been on my mind a lot lately, with our goals of eating better and saving money. I touched on several gardening topics in my post Planning A Garden. After deciding to make it a pet project I divided it into a ten part series so that I may share our progress as our garden grows, as well as any problems that may arise. I hope it to be a learning experience for all. Our adventure will included:

Research

Planning

Site prep

Planting Seeds and seedlings

Tending the plants

Harvesting

Preserving

Saving seed

Garden cleanup

What I have learned

We have begun our research and know some questions to ask ourselves from my previous post. There are some other things to consider during the research phase.

Which zone am I in? You’ll want to find your location on the Hardiness Zone Map. You will find this map in your seed catalog or on some individual seed packets. I found the map on my seed catalog order form. I live in Pennsylvania and know I am in hardiness zone six. At the end of a plant description it will tell you appropriate zones for the plant to flourish.  Most plants are able to be grown in multiple zones. Knowing your zone will help you find out how long your growing season is so you will be able to better follow the directions that come with your plants or seeds. I know not to set out any tender plants before Memorial Day without some kind of cover. You many get tons of nice weather and then boom, your plants are shriveled and useless.

What should I grow? This may be a question you thought about if you read Planning a Garden. You will want to grow what your family will eat. Most parents already know the answer to that one. You may also want to consider getting the children involved. They may eat a vegetable they have grown themselves just because they had a part in it and want to carry that through. Browse the seed catalogs with your kids. Make sure you will have room for the plants or think of alternate ways you can make room, such as containers, or hanging baskets. Look for varieties suited for small gardens. That information will be listed in the catalog or on the seed packets. If you are able, grow what is more expensive to buy in your area. This will save you the most money, unless it is something that’s care requires a large outlay of cash, such as rediculous soil amendents or constant watering. That just would not be worth the trouble.

What kind of seed should I buy and where should I get it? You can go with regular seed or organic. This is a personal choice, just as your choice for what food you eat. We found some seed packets last night that were organic and I noticed they were less expensive than what was in the regular seed catalog. We decided on those. Your seed supplier might depend on who came up on your internet search first or whoever friends and family recommend. If you know someone who has a garden ask where they get their seeds or plants and what they have had luck with.

Should I buy seed or plants? This is another personal choice and you will need to take a few things into consideration. Do you have the time and space to start seed indoors? The seeds will need to be kept warm and in a sunny location when they start to grow. They most likely will need daily care. Small seedlings can dry out quickly. They would need to be kept up out of the reach of pets and small children. Is your growing season long enough to direct sow, or sow right into the garden and produce before the first frost? You can always purchase plants from a plant nursery or garden center if you have any concerns. Most gardeners I know buy both.

Where will I put the garden? Walk around your yard and pick a site with at least six hours of sunlight but hopefully more. It should have good drainage and air flow.  It should not be near any huge, water guzzling trees or in a rocky area. It should be close enough to your house so that you can easily tend it. It should also have a reliable water source nearby.

Is my soil suitable for a garden? If your neighbors are successful without amending their soil very much you should be too. You want rich, loamy soil and you can amend your soil if necessary with homemade compost and other items from the garden center. You can also build raised beds or use containers.

What kind of tools will I need? A few basic tools would work just fine for a beginner gardener. A spade, fork, rake, hoe and small shovel or trowel would be enough. I started with only a spade and made do.

Now we have something to think about and options to explore.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about planning.

Where are you in your gardening adventure?

Organic Meats and Dairy

Almost a year ago my family switched to organic milk. I have always had problems with my skin, and it is painful to watch my teenage daughter struggle with the same. We tried the over-the-counter stuff, the trips to the dermatologist and all of the creams and antibiotics that were prescribed. Nothing seemed to work.

I read a lot. If there is a book about health that has to do with food I’ve probably glanced through it once or twice. I devour magazine articles like you’d think I get a prize of dark chocolate when I’m finished. I also watch a lot of documentaries. One day, and I do not remember exactly where, I came across some information about the hormones, antibiotics and other nasties in the milk that we consume. It went on about skin problems and even mentioned reproductive issues for young girls. I was astonished, the protective mom in me took over, and I decided to only buy organic. It is worth the couple extra dollars and is better for the environment too.

At my yearly physical appointment just a few weeks ago the physician’s assistant I see commented on how much my skin had improved. I told her we switched to organic milk, she applauded, asked if I saw certain documentaries and if I had a garden. We all know that it has not been proven that conventional milk does any harm but our skin has improved. Yes it has.

I have always struggled with my weight. I’m always striving to get more veg and fiber into our diets. I worry about what is in the foods we eat. Money is tight and as much as I would like to go completely organic it is simply not possible right now. I did go to my favorite grocery store’s web site and do a little research. I compiled a list of meals for the week that were completely organic. My grocery bill would double, even with all of the strategies I already use to keep it low. I will keep trying and looking for ways to do this. I will not give up, but for now we need to concentrate on what is doable. We will buy only organic dairy products and grass-fed, organic meats. We also have a goal of eating less meat and because grass-fed meat is more pricey this will all work out wonderfully. I have many ideas on how to stretch the meat and will share them in future posts. I find many organic dairy coupons, and we are going to check out a local organic poultry farm. Our journey begins this week and I will update our progress on this endeavour.

How do you make organic choices more affordable?

It’s Sunday, the first day of the week and a day of rest to me. I usually scan the store flyers and attempt the crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper. It’s a day to recoup, visit family, maybe watch a movie and recharge for the week ahead. I had not planned to write any new posts on Sundays and then I thought – a day to visit with family. My blog family is family and they deserve a little visiting too… Most Sunday’s you will find a post, and when you don’t you’ll know I was a little too sleepy and to check back on Monday.

Today I took a peek out in the yard around back. We’ve had a relatively mild winter and there is still a little green here and there. I went for my camera to document it and found my camera missing so I checked out my garden site without it. It started the wheels turning so I headed back into the house, found the graph paper and the seed catalog.

I sat at the dining room table and decided what to plant this year. I came up with four varieties of tomatoes – one heirloom for fresh eating and sauce, another for fresh eating and salsa, a plum tomato that can be used fresh but is bred for sauce and also a cute little cherry tomato. I am going to try a banana pepper to pickle whole like my pop pop used to and a bell pepper with a little bite that I can use in salsa that I plan to make. It can’t be too hot or my husband will not eat it, and salsa is one of his favorite snacks. There will be pole beans, cucumbers, cabbage, and squash. We love fresh salads so I decided on a mild mesclun mix, buttercrunch and spinach. I plan to place onion and garlic plants here and there because they make wonderful companions for most plants. I will however keep them away from the pole beans or they would stunt the beans’ growth.

My plan is down on paper and my seed catalog order is ready to go. I can’t wait for spring. My garden will be sprouting fresh produce in no time and I’ll have extra to preserve for later on.

What do you plan to plant in your garden this year?

CVS Extrabucks

It’s Savings Saturday again. What a great day to talk about my favorite way to save – extrabucks from CVS.

Extrabuck rewards print out at the bottom of your cash register receipt. You can also print out any extrabucks you might accumulate by signing in to your CVS account online. You can use these like you would use cash at CVS.

Keep in mind that you do have to have a CVS card to earn extrabucks and this ties in with yesterdays post. If you missed that you may want to go back and take a look at all of the savings you can reap from rewards cards.

If you have a CVS in your neighborhood I extremely recommend you learn all you can about this savings opportunity. This fits in with being healthful too, as many times extrabuck rewards are given for purchasing vitamins and supplements. Please remember to discuss any new supplements with your doctor as some can interfere with medications or conditions that you may have.

Grab your CVS flyer tomorrow and start scanning the pages for extrabuck rewards. When you see one, and it doesn’t matter if you use the product or not, make a note of it and see if you have a manufacturer or store coupon for that item. If you do have one or can locate a coupon to use with that product add it to your list.

The idea is to purchase the item as cheaply as possible while earning extrabuck rewards to use for future purchases. Often you can “make money” this way to use towards those future purchases. Occasionally you will see that you can purchase an item and get the full purchase price back in extrabucks. If you use extrabucks to make the purchase in the first place, have a manufacturer coupon to use for the product, and get the full purchase price back in extrabucks, you can see how this can be profitable to you. Even if you don’t use the product, you can donate it. You can also do this to purchase products you might not need now but will definitely need in the future, like toothpaste. You will be getting it essentially free and you will never have to pay full price again.

The key is to rollover your extrabucks for future purchases so that you have to use the least amount of cash possible, and hopefully none of your own cash.

You do have to spend some of your own money to get started, and to be brutally honest I do not find something to buy each and every week. The plus is that your extrabucks don’t expire for several weeks. Check the date at the bottom and organize them by date.

I have had to occasionally use all of my extrabucks to purchase something I needed and did not have any left to rollover. The good part about that – I didn’t have to use my own money to buy that thing that I needed. I did have to “start over” again, but it was nice to have the extrabucks available to use when I was short on cash.

Try it out and see how it works for you.

That wraps up my Savings Saturday series. I hope it was as helpful and informative as I intended it to be. Now let’s see what we can get into next week.

Have a frugal and healthful weekend.

How do you save while also being concerned with healthful choices?

Store Loyalty Cards/Promotions

How many cards are in your wallet?

I’m not talking credit cards. We all have our own opinion about those, and I can bet that they won’t save you any money.

If you have a store’s loyalty card you are sure to get some savings. Sometimes these are called reward cards and you don’t want to miss out on the perks. I have the following store cards and use them every time I shop, of course.

Wegmans

Giant

Weis

CVS

Rite Aid

Pet Smart

Petco

Hallmark

Staples

Best Buy

If you are unfamiliar with store loyalty cards or if you are not sure your favorite grocery or other store has one, ask at the customer service desk and sign up to take advantage of the deals.

Most stores advertise these deals in their weekly flyer. Sometimes you will find unadvertised deals by looking at the tags on the shelves. Of course manufacturer’s coupons may be combined with the store deals. At least that is how it works for all of the stores on my list. As always, be aware of your store’s coupon policy before you shop.

Another perk you may get is a special “heads up” about deals they will be offering. They may mail coupons to your home or email you about upcoming savings opportunities. Yes I realize these are mainly to get you into the store, but with some careful planning and coupon combining I know I have saved a ton. This is especially true for me with pet products lately.

Some loyalty cards allow you to accumulate points periodically to use for percentages off future purchases, to earn a holiday turkey, or cents off gallons of gas. I’ve also seen coupons to transfer pharmacy prescriptions to get a dollar off gallons of gas. You have to have a card to take advantage. Always read the fine print.

Store promotions are another of my savings tactics. I’ll cover CVS in a different post. It’s one of my absolute favorites. Yes indeedy. I love introducing everyone to extrabucks.

I like to take advantage of the grocery store promotions that offer dollars off instantly or dollars off of your next shopping trip for buying a group of certain products in one transaction. Some offer gift cards for future purchases, like Target. You don’t need a card to get that particular deal at Target. I immediately go looking for coupons to match up for these deals. Occasionally I can get the dollars off without having to spend anything out of pocket. If it’s dollars off your next order make sure you receive that coupon at checkout and keep track of it until your next shopping trip. Also watch the expiration date on those types of coupons. They usually expire within a week or two. Keep in mind to only do this for products you use, plan to donate, or get for free, in order to experience true savings.

One last tip for today. Always look at your receipt. Everyone has bad days and can make mistakes, even computers. Make sure you get all of your items too. Don’t leave bags behind by mistake. I recently left an item behind. It really “burned  my potatoes” when I got home and found I didn’t have it but had paid for it. Yes, I always check my receipt before I leave the parking lot, in addition to watching every transaction and coupon come off on the screen. I had bagged most of my groceries that day. The checker bagged too and didn’t give me that bag. Shame on me for not paying attention. I did call customer service. No one had turned in that item. They did offer to give me the item if I’d come back to the store. It just wasn’t worth the gas. Be alert. It’s your money.

I cannot imagine living in a climate where you miss the changing of the seasons. I look forward to the change. With the changing of the seasons comes great opportunities for savings.

My favorite seasonal saver is buying produce in season. Farmers’ markets in the summer can’t be beat, but you can find savings at the supermarket as well. If you need something special and just can’t live without it until it comes into season try to find it in frozen or canned. You could also buy all you can while it is in season and preserve it so it will be ready for you in the off season. This is better for you and the environment. Try to buy local whenever possible. If you visit a farmers’ market later in the day you may find even more deals as the farmers may rather sell at a lower price than pack it all back up and haul it home. You can increase your savings by buying “seconds” at the market. If you are going to process it anyway, it doesn’t need to look perfect. Some ideas for veg and fruit to preserve are:

Tomatoes – Make your own canned crushed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and salsa

Corn – Freeze or can

Green Beans – Freeze or can

Apples – Make your own applesauce and applebutter

Strawberries (or any berries) – Freeze or make jam

Grapes – Make your own grape juice or jelly

Check out a book from your local public library for instructions and more ideas, or consult a pro. Please be aware that nonacidic veg require a pressure canner for safety. If you don’t own one and are not quite sure about canning yet, borrow one and “borrow” it’s owner for a tutorial. Offer some of your canned produce as a thank you. Most people enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Savings run in cycles. You can ususually find that certain products, meats, etc. go on sale around every six weeks. Start to notice when these items go on sale and plan to buy enough to hold you over until the next cycle.

Buy this season’s clearanced items to use for next season. Where clothing is concerned this may not suit you if you are a fashion diva. I always buy classic pieces anyway. Staying away from fads is a moneysaver. Winter coats are always marked down well below 50% off in my neck of the woods. Stores typically mark clothing down even more as the season comes to a close.  Other items to snap are:

Holiday decorations/wrapping papper/greeting cards/etc.

Food/candy that is packaged for the holiday

Lawn furniture/Pool items

Air conditioners/fans

Gas grills

Lawn care/mowers/trimmers

Linens (flannel sheets with snowmen or holly berries are just as warm as plain sheets)

Keep your eyes open for seasonal savings. Winter is halfway gone.

Not Wasting/Being Frugal

Most everyone comes to a point where they are unhappy with the amount of their hard-earned money that is flying out the door month in and month out. I happen to be one of “those” types. I’ve been one for a long, long time. I’m always searching for a new way to stretch a dollar. Let’s go room by room and see just how much we can save.

Bathroom

What’s most wasted in this area of the home? Water. Do you pay for your water? I do. Install that low flow shower head. Yes, they make better ones now so you don’t end up with classic hotel flat hair. Time your showers. Showers use less water than filling up a tub for a bath, if it’s a quick one. You can also turn off the water when you are deep conditioning your hair or shaving. Turn off that water while you are brushing your teeth.

Flushing. Do you know how much water is used per flush. If you have an older commode you could be wasting a lot of water. Yes they make water saving toilets that flush much better than the old ones used to.

Shampoo/Conditioner/Body wash can all be transferred to a pump bottle. Do you notice how fast these products pour out? Adults even have a hard time being frugal when using these products. Children need to learn to save too. If you explain to them that a nickle or quarter sized amount is enough they may get it the first few times but will most likely forget or their quarter will grow into a half dollar. Might be best to use a pump.

Bedrooms

Did you know it’s best to sleep in a cool room. If you have individual thermostats it’s a good idea to turn them down in these rooms. Down comforters are great for especially chilly nights. Usually clothing is kept in these rooms. Have some great clothes that you no longer wear? Sell them on eBay and use the money to buy clothes you will wear, or something you need. You can also donate to charity. Ask for a receipt and write that amount off on your taxes. Ask your tax preparer about rules regarding donations.

Living Room

Keep your heat down and provide throw blankets for chilly nights. No one watching tv? Turn it off. Family time? Think of ways to keep the power-sucking electronics off. Play a game, read a book aloud, or do puzzles together. Even if you do this once a week, imagine how much you could save over a year, and get closer as a family too. Won’t it be great if everyone starts to look forward to this time together?

Computer Room

Shut the computer down at night. Just by doing this we saw a $10 a month savings on our electric bill. I’m sure this will vary. Consider moving the computer into a main area of the house. This is a good idea for households with children anyway, and it will be one more room you can choose not to have to heat.

Kitchen

Save water when washing dishes by rinsing in a dish pan.  Make sure your dishwasher is full before running it. Start a compost pile to use for your garden this year. It will save on your garbage bill, save you from having to buy fertilizer and will be better for the environment. Check your refrigerator’s seal. Put a dollar bill in and close the door on it. If you can pull it out easily, you need a new seal.

Laundry Room

Make sure you have a full load before washing clothes. Hang your clothes to dry, or at least some of them. Each load you do not dry in the dryer saves energy. If you don’t have a clothesline outside or if the weather is bad, use a clothes rack or a retractable line in a spare bedroom or sunporch. You don’t have to use all of the laundry detergent called for on the cap. Use a little less and you will get the same results. I even hear it’s better for your washing machine. Use mostly cold water washes.

Over all

Install energy saving lightbulbs. Again, this switch saved us $10 off of our light bill. Some electric companies offer to send some to you free of charge just to get you to switch and save energy. Check with yours to see if they have this type of program. Turn off any lights when not in use. Unplug appliances and electronics that are not in use. Some use electricity even when not on.

Turn down your thermostat and just heat the area where you spend most of your time. Please keep in mind that you have to keep your heat above 55 to keep your pipes from freezing and there are different guidelines for homes with small children or the elderly. We keep our heat at 60 at night and increase it gradually when we get up or come home from work or school. An electronic programmable thermostat would work wonderfully. Also keep in mind that you can only close so many vents before causing a problem with your furnace. A certain percentage need to be open. Contact whoever cleans your furnace for you to help you figure this out. Having your furnace cleaned every year and changing filters also helps keep your heating bill down. If you use alternative heat such as space heaters be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep away from children and pets. We have gas heat and this works for us. If anyone has a different type of heat please comment with any ideas on how you save.

Use the last bit of detergent, dish soap, shampoo, etc. by running a little water in the bottle and shaking. You can get several more uses out of it. Add that up over a year’s time to see how much you could save.

What do you do to use less and be frugal?

Freezer Cooking/Cooking Ahead

One of my favorite things to do is cook ahead for the week or freeze meals to have handy in the months to come. I do several of these throughout the year and several mini sessions as well.

How I Plan My Freezer Cooking Day

Start with a list of your favorite meals and produce in season or on sale.

I notice our tastes change often, so I usually begin by asking my husband and teen daughter a few of their current favorites and then decide if those are freezer friendly. I start a list and include a few old standbys.

I take into consideration what is available from the garden, what is on sale that week, or what is in season and I can count on getting it as cheaply as possible. When I was working outside the home we planned a huge cooking day over Labor Day weekend to carry us a few months into the school year. That sure was a lifesaver when you are getting back into the swing of things after a somewhat lazy summer. Here we are in January and that supply would have run out by now. So what to cook? My list might look something like this:

Stuffed cabbage rolls in tomato sauce

Filled peppers

Italian Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

Tatertot Casserole

Vegetable Beef Soup

Chili

Chicken Corn Soup

Ham and Bean Soup

Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans)

Chicken Stock for gravy and for soup

Chicken for Chicken and Waffles (on a week night? YUM)

Chicken for Chicken Noodle/Rice Soup

Chicken with onions and peppers for fajitas

Chicken, Broccoli, Rice and Cheese Casserole

Green Beans with garlic and olive oil

Waffles

Consider storage options and don’t forget about storage space. You might use plastic containers or ziplock freezer bags. The bags work well for me. I fill them and store them flat. Thaw them in frig and pour into pan and reheat. Set them on a plate in frig to thaw. You can foil line your casserole dishes and pour in, and freeze. Take the frozen block out of the casserole and put it in the freezer. Just place it back into the same casserole dish when you thaw and bake. You can even use foil pans to help with clean up. I know that is not best for the environment, but how much trash would you accumulate if you had to run out to get take out food due to no time to cook? If anyone has a more “green” approach, we are all learning and any comments on that subject are surely welcome.

When you have figured out how many meals of each recipe you would like and which storage items you will need, start your grocerly list. I usually triple or quadruple each recipe. Keep in mind not to do this for baked goods. Your results will not be the same. When I do multiple baked good recipes I set up my bowls like an assembly line and speed up the process that way, making each individual recipe. Trust me.

At this point I also start to think about how I can healthify each recipe. Some suggestions might be to use ground turkey instead of beef for the Tatertot casserole and chili. Make sure it is lean breast meat turkey though as poultry skin is just as fatty as hamburger. You could use grass fed lean beef and add beans to stretch it if you’re making sloppy joes. Adding oatmeal to meatloaves is also a great idea. I pack all the vegies into soups that I can and when I’m heating them up I add a handful or two of greens such as spinach or kale. My family will not eat plain greens but I know they will eat them if they are in soup or mixed into a salad of more recognizable greens.

Your Grocery List

Yes this will look like a lot, but it will save you a ton of money in the long run. Look down through each recipe and write down all of the ingredients you need. If you need an onion for 3 different recipes and you are tripling all three make hash marks beside onion so you know how many you will need. You can go back and write “9” beside it when you are done to make things easier while shopping. Do this for each ingredient. I rarely put all of the meat called for into soups – no one notices. You can do this for casseroles too. Increase the veg and take out some of the meat. Better for you and your pocketbook.

I usually plan my list throughout the week. Our grocery store flyers come out on Sunday. I shop on Friday and do some veg prep, like chop all of those onions. Pull out your food processor for this one or get some help from your husband or friends. This is great to do with friends and then split the recipes. On Saturday I finish prep and start cooking. It’s a good idea to plan to eat one of your finished dishes on this day. Wear comfortable shoes and take breaks. Again, enlist help from other household members. Many hands make light work.

The Cooking Day

Plan out how you will handle each recipe before the actual cooking day. I always put my chicken stock on first so it has plenty of time to cook. This way I know I will be able to take the chicken out to cool, shred or cut it up and have time to make the chicken recipes before the day is over. I mix up my meatballs and put them in the oven in batches of around 25. While those things are on I brown my other meats and get soups going in crock pots or on top of the stove. Once the cabbage roll recipe tripped me up because I forgot I had to steam the cabbage ahead. It all turned out well. Be flexible and keep going. It is so worth it when you have a freezer full of food ready to go. Soups, chili, cabbage rolls, etc. all taste even better reheated too!

Remember to cool your items before storing. It’s not good to let things hang out for more than two hours. I usually fill my sink with ice water and ice and plunge a bowl of soup in there and then stir and ladel it into bags once is it cool. Probably not a good idea to bag up your food while hot.

Other good things to make ahead are:

Sloppy joes or hamburg bar b que

Pulled pork bar b que

Meatloaves

Salisbury steaks

Taco meat

Minestrone

Panko breaded chicken breasts rolled around a stick of cheese

Even if you do not cook the item, any kind of prep work that will get supper rolling for you and make life easier is worth it. Even buying chicken in bulk, marinating it and puting it freezer bags or into a casserole dish all ready to thaw and cook is a great idea and may speed things up enough to resist throwing up your hands and ordering out. You can make an easy side such as couscous, which takes only 5 minutes, and prepare a salad. There is dinner in about 30 minutes. Your pizza wouldn’t get there that quick and you certainly couldn’t drive anywhere and get served that quick. It definitely wouldn’t be as good or as good for you. Pizza can be healthy yes. Why not whip up some pizza dough ahead, thaw and put it on your counter to rise during the day and make your own pizzas sometime. The kids will love it.

I hope you have something constructive to take away from all of these ideas. There are many more ideas, freezer cooking recipes, and help at your local public library or other places on the internet.

Rebates

When I mention rebates I tend to hear a lot of negativity. Too time consuming. How do your remember to send them in on time? Etc.

I feel they are worth the time. I use a system and keep track of which rebates are coming up that I would like to fulfill. Any old folder will do. I have a sheet of paper on the front where I keep a tally of when I sent for the rebate, what it’s for and when I should start to expect the check. I keep a copy of everything I mail in. Some rebates even list a way to track them. You have to read the fine print. Some even provide instructions on what to do if you don’t see your check by the expected date. When I do rebates I only buy items that my family uses anyway. Although I have yet to not receive a check. At least I have the peace of mind that I was going to buy and use the product anyway.

Some of my recent rebates have included:

Paper products (paper towels, tp, tissues)

Healthcare items (band aids/antibiotic ointment)

Dog food

Cat litter

Cleaning supplies

These are all items we need and use daily. I’ve even made money on several of my recent rebates because of combining with a coupon. Very exciting to be paid to buy products.

One of the strategies I use to feed my family healthful food and stay on budget is couponing.

Where to find coupons.  My main source of coupons is the Sunday paper. If I find some good ones I will buy another paper and ask around to see if friends or relatives would like me to have their coupons so I can put them to good use. There are also printable coupons on the internet. Check websites for products you like. Write manufacturers about their products. A good or bad review may score some great coupons. Peelies, which are coupons located on the products at the store, are always an exciting find.

How I use coupons to increase my savings.  I rarely buy processed products or “junk food”. I definitely will not buy either of those two types of products without a coupon. If I want to try a new product I always make sure I have a coupon. My favorite way to maximize my savings is to match sales with coupons to get the products as close to free as possible. Most of my coupon usage is for cleaning, laundry, paper, and  personal products. I also search out coupons for pet products. This strategy really saved us as one of our pets is on a special diet. One partcular manufacturer actually had several high value coupons available to print off of their website. Certain stores will allow you to stack manufacturer coupons with their store coupons. Please be sure to review the coupon policy of the store where you plan to shop before planning a trip. It’s often a good idea to bring the policy along.

I have been able to save at least fifty-percent of my grocery bill using coupons. My bill averages $50 per week for a family of three plus two cats and two dogs. I find that if I “slack off” on using coupons it runs right around $100. That is $2600 a year in savings. It takes me approximately two hours a week to look at the flyers, print, clip and organize my lists. I don’t know about you but $25 per hour pay sounds pretty good to me. Happy couponing.

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