Coupon Haul 1/14/16

Hello everyone!

I’m trying to get back into couponing more this year– not that I’ve paused in deal-finding, but I haven’t been focusing on getting the best bang for my buck through coupons since most of what I buy, especially groceries, are off-brand.

However, January is a great opportunity to snag more health & wellness coupons than usual, so I wanted to take advantage of that by hitting up Walgreens this week. Now, I did pretty darn good, slashing my OOP cost by over 50%, but I hadn’t done my research to learn that Walgreens only accepts four coupons, period, per transaction. Had I known, I would have split up my purchase and saved more– but lesson learned!

I went in on a mission to get more lotion (winter skin–ick!) and they had a deal in their January Savings book for $2.00 off of one CeraVe product. PLUS the CeraVe products are on sale this week buy one, get one 50% off. Considering the 12 oz. lotions are 14.99 regular price that was pretty enticing… but throw in a manufacturer’s online coupon and a sunday paper one, and I’m sold!!!

So here’s how it went down:

One CeraVe lotion pump bottle: 14.99

One CeraVe lotion pump bottle (50% off): 7.39

Minus 2.00 per item Walgreens coupon, and 2.00 and 3.00 clipped coupons= $6.69 per bottle ($13.38 total, less than one REGULAR priced bottle costs!)

I also grabbed a bottle of Aveeno body wash since it was on sale for $5.46 from $7.29; and I had a dollar off clipped coupon!

So, total expenditure: $17.84 before tax.

Not too shabby. How are your coupon adventures going? 🙂

 

 

 

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The Necklace That Ruined My Day

Hi all!!!

I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving this weekend had a wonderful holiday, and I hope you caught some great deals on gifts for your loved ones! In the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share how I find bargain deals year round. I’ve seen a few “get the look for less” posts, and thought it’d be fun to try one. I found an awesome, yet terribly overpriced CZ necklace I thought would be an easy candidate:

Classic hollywood chic, this necklace was priced at $200, ON SALE! (Whew, mama may like the glam, but she ain’t paying that for glass.) So the first thing I did, aside from memorize what the necklace looked like, was settle on the budget I was willing to spend on a copycat piece. Since this was just a trial run, I wanted to keep it under $20….

90% price cut from the original, what could go wrong?

Well, naturally, everything. What was supposedly to be a fairly simple and quick example of my normal bargain hunting turned into a search and rescue nightmare on eBay that quickly consumed hours. Take this as a warning: sometimes, the bargains come easy; sometimes it’s a long, hard search. That’s the first lesson of frugal shopping, really. If you don’t like the price, wait. Retailers have sales and mail out coupons all the time. Chances are you can still get the item you want if you’re patient.

The second lesson is: shop around. Online shoppers know this lesson all too well. If you get an email with a bargain deal on say, a rice cooker. You’re first action should be to checkout your favorite retailer’s site, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or wherever you feel you find the best deals, to price comparison. If you don’t know where to start, just input the item into google and check the shopping results.

Okay, so back to this necklace: after a couple hours of searching, I definitely would have applied the patience rule to this case, but since I really wanted to find a affordable, nay– cheap alternative, I pushed forward until I was just about to lose hope. Not that there weren’t contenders along the way, but the first look-alike I came across on ebay was still $45:

s-l500 (1)

Aside from the metal color, this really is a close mimic of the original!

Okay, so from there, you think it’s be easy to find the goal. Reset search parameters to price low-high….. and there was nothing. Tweak the words in the search…. and nothing. I probably went through everything you could call this necklace until I hit on one that resembled the look-alike, and it was priced slightly better at $30.

s-l500 (2)

YES!!! This necklace listing mentioned it was made by J.Crew, so cue the J. Crew necklace search…. and BINGO! Here’s something similar for under $10:

s-l500 (3)

But, wait…. it’s a really more of a look-alike of a look-alike, and we’ve lost the nice clear-cut cz’s that add glamor to the piece. We’ve found our bargain, but I think we’ve lost too much of the look.

On the search goes! We can do better!

Or so I thought… but after a couple more hours of blurring rhinestone pieces, halo and tennis-style necklaces, and exhausting pages of “Statement bib” necklaces, the best I could come up with, under $50, was this:

s-l500 (4)

Still at the $30 mark (with shipping) this is the most visually similar to the original I could uncover right now; and at that price point, I felt the necklace looked more chunky and fake than I was really hoping for. This hunt felt like a bust.

I decided to finish up the one search window I had opened before stumbling across this last rhinestone necklace, and a thought popped into my head. I had liked the j.crew necklace, even if it didn’t look identical to the original, it had that same kind of elegant appeal. Maybe I should retry looking for a cheaper version of that necklace…..

and Ba-Ba-Ba Dum!!!

I FOUND IT! *cue the omni spotlight and angels singing* For under $10, I found a mimic cz necklace that still had the feel of the original, even if the metal color is different. *WHEW!* It was a long ride, but my stubbornness prevailed! From $200 to less than $10, I have done it for you guys.

And as an added bonus for you lovely people out there, if you like the look of this necklace but think you’d want an even better deal, in my long search I also found one other piece for under $5 that I think would work:

Well, it was a long ride, but I hope that helps some of you bargain hunters out there with your holiday shopping. Remember, account for shipping times!

Good hunting to all!

FINAL WEEK: $50 in Groceries

(If you’d like to read this challenge from the beginning, please check out: https://mamanthems.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/could-you-survive-a-month-with-only-50-in-groceries/)


So sorry for the late post; but I had to finish this chronicle of limiting myself to a budget of $50 a week for groceries. There were ups and downs along the way, but overall I think I discovered a new way of thinking about how I shop– and I found renewed respect for those who make it through with even less to spend on food. I will make sure to donate more to my local food bank after this experiment, every year. If you’re up to the challenge, I highly encourage it– and I hope sharing my experience has at least laid the groundwork for a plan you can use. 🙂

This Week’s Menu:

(Lunches: tuna and mac, a pasta salad)

Monday: N/A

Tuesday: Pantry

Wednesday: Slow-Cooker pork & rice

Thursday: Beans & rice

Friday: amethyst chicken (Chicken cooked in wine with onions)

Saturday: Dinner at a friend’s

Sun: Turkey burgers


Groceries 

Kidney Beans 1.99
Milk 1.99
Cereal 5.00
Bottle water 2.99
Ground turkey 3.21
Cheddar Cheese 2.49
Crushed Tomatoes 3.00
Sweet relish 1.49
Hamburger buns 1.99
Chicken thighs 6.71
Celery 1.29
Onions 1.69

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $33.84

$50 in Groceries Week 4

(If you’d like to read this challenge from the beginning, please check out: https://mamanthems.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/could-you-survive-a-month-with-only-50-in-groceries/)


This week will be lighter, since we’re travelling for our one year anniversary during memorial day weekend…. so one more week on this challenge to go to finish the month of May! Woot!

This Week’s Menu:

Monday: Potato pie (with leftover curried mashed potatoes)

Tuesday: Pantry

Wednesday: orecchiette with sausage & rappi

Thursday-Sunday: N/A


Groceries 

Eggs 1.99
Milk 1.99
cereal 4.00
Bottle water 2.99
Ground Beef 4.09
Low sodium bacon 3.99
Sausage (on sale) 2.99
White mushrooms 3.99
Rappi (broccoli raab) 2.27

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $29.44

$50 in Groceries Week 3

(If you’d like to read this challenge from the beginning, please check out: https://mamanthems.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/could-you-survive-a-month-with-only-50-in-groceries/)


Well, I’m happy to report this seems to be getting easier to figure out as we go. We have some leftover food items (like cereal from buying it two weeks in a row) and budget from last week that I am going to incorporate into this week’s plan, so even though we went a couple dollars over budget, I had the cash.

I was so nervous starting this challenge, but it’s really been just working on focusing on what we need and paying attention to prices. If I apply this concept to my grocery shopping all the time; then when I go back to pantry stocking, I should be able to adhere to my grocery budget a whole lot better than I have. 🙂

For this week my husband will be out of town for a few days, so I shifted my focus to more multi-meal dishes, like pasta salad to get through the odd days, and this week’s lunches are sandwiches (which I actually spent more trying to buy meat/cheese per pound than the deli packages we usually get, so I’m really not sure how to make that any cheaper other than getting a deal on the bread).

This Week’s Menu:

Monday: Spinach Pasta salad

Tuesday: Pantry

Wednesday: Egg-macaroni salad

Thursday: ham quiche

Friday: curried empanadas

Saturday: -Pantry/grill night-

Sunday: spaghetti with meat sauce


Groceries 

Wheat Bread– Double pack 4.00
tomato paste (2) 1.34
Milk 1.99
Shredded Cheddar cheese 3.99
Margarine .99
Bottle water 2.99
eggs (18 pk) 2.98
crackers 2.50
Minced garlic 4.99
Can of Canneli beans .99
Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup (2) 1.98
sliced provolone 5.24
Sliced Ham 8.23
Feta cheese 4.49
Strawberries 3.99
Spinach 1.77

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $52.36

$50 in Groceries Week 2

So, this week’s menu went smoothly until the weekend, which I forgot was a conference that would take me out of town, so we had to fudge and improvise a little bit (two nights of pantry goodies instead of some of the menu meals). Also, something special about this week’s grocery trip; since I’m away, hubby did the grocery shopping! I admit, I was a little nervous– but with cash in hand and instructions to “stick to the list!” he did an amazing job!

Monday: Lasagna (since we fudged the menu a bit.)

Tuesday: Tofu-fried rice

Wednesday: BBQ ribs and vegetables

Thursday: Bean salad

Friday: kimchi fried rice

Saturday: -Pantry/grill night-

Sunday: chicken & rice


Groceries 

Tofu 1.99
ricotta cheese 2.39
Milk 1.99
Shredded cheese ( 2 bags) 4.98
Cereal 4.00
Bottle water 1.99
BBQ Sauce 2.29
Lasagna pasta 1.99
Tomato Sauce/Crushed tomatoes 1.69
Ground beef 4.13
Green onions 2.18
Red onion 1.37
Grape tomatoes 2.99
Nappa cabbage 1.20
Basil 1.29
Spinach salad mix 3.99

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $47.33

Could You Survive a Month with only $50 in Groceries?

My college days of living on ramen and instant mac and cheese are far behind me, so it’s not that kind of question– but rather, if you were to limit your budget to $50 a week, could you eat 3 square meals a day, and eat well? “Eating well” to me, is natural food, meat, grain, vegetables… I realize this is not a new concept. People have been doing the Food Stamp challenge for a while now, in fact an article last year on it inspired me to purchase this book, but at the time I was more interested in the principles of the high fiber diet than actually adhering to the fiscal budgeting. What’s changed since then? Not much, besides a hefty car repair bill and the news spewing over Gwyneth Paltrow’s Food Stamp Challenge failure. The two thoughts combined in my brain last night, and I turned to my husband to ask his thoughts on taking the month of May and limiting ourselves to $50 a week in groceries. I could see the saver’s gleam in his eye as he asked “Sure. On the bean diet?” I glanced at my beloved diet-changing inspiration laying on the coffee table, and thought ‘Maybe…. but most people wouldn’t have this resource, or people like my mother avoid beans like the plague– either through dislike or the concept that there would be excessive flatulence on such a diet (there isn’t, by the way). The average American would require meat and bread– so maybe we should try that.’ Now, I’m not going to wreck my personal diet of low-gluten pseudo-vegetarianism, because my body would absolutely rebel if I flooded my system with gluten– but with the advent of grilling season, it makes sense to round out the diet a little with more meat…. and maybe we’ll throw bread in a little more, no promises. So! We have the concept…. and after sleeping on it, I’m totally pumped to get started! Next step: GOOGLE! For those of you who don’t know, I am a total google-junkie. If I have enough free time I will sit and think of random things to search, just to explore the wonderful, zany internet. So, with my two budget cookbooks on hand (“Wildly Affordable Organic” and “$7 A Meal Cookbook”) I perused the interwebs for menu inspiration; and it did not disappoint. In fact, one of the first sites I found has a week-to-week grocery purchase and menu update: grocerybudget101.com.


All right, with that inspiration, let’s draw up a menu for next week…. (Note, everything I’ve seen incorporates things that are already in your pantry– cooking basic staples, and spices. Everyone’s pantry is different, and if you find you don’t have a lot of things you’re seeing in the recipes you want to make, make a staples list and purchase those items as extras when you can afford them.)

Menu (For breakfast, we eat cereal, and we have leftovers/sandwiches planned for lunches, so my menu plan is dinner-specific)

Monday: Red bean Chili with cornbread

Tuesday: Roast chicken thighs with caribbean rice & green beans

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Spaghetti-Os

Thursday: Red bean Chili casserole

Friday: tofu-fried rice

Saturday: -Pantry/grill night-

Sunday: Lasagna


Groceries 

Sharp Cheddar 2.49
Chicken thighs 3.11
Gluten-free cornbread mix 3.49
Meat & cheese for sandwiches 12.81
Cereal 4.00
Milk 1.99
Half & Half 2.69
Parmesean Cheese 2.99
Tomato Sauce/Crushed tomatoes .99
Penut butter crackers 2.50
Bottled Water 2.99
Onions 1.69
Potatoes 1.99
Carrots 1.29
Celery 1.29
Peppers 5.49

 Grand Total:                                                                                                                              $51.80


So, we went over goal by $1.80… but not too shabby for the first week. It was definitely a challenge, and I can already see areas where we could improve to save more money– like scouring for a better deal on lunch meats, but it’s a good start. Woot!

Beat the hot Prices: Make Your own Bug Repellent!

Beat the hot Prices: Make Your own Bug Repellent!

Summertime means outdoor living—and outdoor living often means putting up with mosquitoes. For many people, the only way to deal with mosquitoes is to use a DEET-based repellent. While the EPA has deemed DEET safe if “used as directed,” this chemical pesticide carries a number of risks with it. Some studies have found DEET to be toxic in excessive doses, and a 2001 review of 17 cases of suspected DEET toxicity in children concluded that the chemical should be avoided on children’s skin.

Instead of slathering your skin in neurotoxins, opt for a safer, natural approach to fending off mosquitoes. In this video, Mother Earth Living Editor-in-Chief Jessica Kellner demonstrates how to make a bug-repellent spray using essential oils know to repel mosquitoes, such as citronella, as well as a few tips on choosing carrier oils and where to find good spray bottles.

For a full list of bug-repellent essential oils, plus more tips on how to ward off mosquitoes, check out the article Natural Mosquito Control Methods.

Read more: http://www.motherearthliving.com/in-the-garden/homemade-bug-repellent-spray.aspx#ixzz35lL3RdyJ

DIY Crafts

This past weekend was a nice, relaxing opportunity… to dust off my sewing machine!

For an at-home weekend, nothing beats a good book or crafts. Here’s a couple of shots of what I got done:

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I’ve also been expirementing with hacking/slashing up T-shirts to upcycle them into cool design tees and decorating mason jars. Soon, I think I’ll be confident enough to try a tutorial! Stay tuned! XD

DIY Goodies

Hello everyone! Summer is finally here and my palms are itch’n do do some crafts! I’ve scoured the web for projects, and I’ve found a few that look very fun:

 

http://thatmoxiegirl.blogspot.com/2014/03/quilted-burp-cloth-cotton-diapers.html

http://www.projectwedding.com/ideas/309963/diy-mirrored-glass-favor-jars

http://chemistry.about.com/od/demonstrationsexperiments/ss/bounceball.htm

http://www.projectwedding.com/ideas/309963/diy-confetti-chandelier