Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Today's Frugal Failures and Successes: Tuesday 3/31/15

  • Happy Tuesday!  I'm glad it was cool again last night as I haven't had to run the AC in several days.  I wish it were like this year-round, quite honestly.

  • I stayed up too late watching a couple of episodes from the DVD of "The Middle" that I got from the library and got a late start today... I don't feel very motivated to accomplish much to tell you the truth, but I need to buckle down and get to it!

  • I took the picture of the cardinal (posted above) yesterday afternoon. I was so excited to have a cardinal on my cardinal bird feeder!  Actually it's odd as cardinals are the only ones ever to feed there... I wonder if other birds are afraid of the color red?!  Still no signs of other hummingbirds and so my homemade hummingbird feeder is a total bust. I need to rebalance it because it's tilting to a side and the nectar is dripping down.

  • I woke up to the news that Brighthouse Networks (our cable internet provider and we don't get to choose our provider) is being bought out by Charter Communications, which is in a deal with Comcast. Both Charter and Comcast have horrible reputations so it doesn't bode well for us: probably higher prices, lower quality and very poor customer service.  Arrgh.

  • As I mentioned a couple of times, I'd been wanting to get to a Trader Joe's but there's not one close to me. Greg is going to be close to one on Friday but I don't love the idea of sending him to the store because he might buy things that we don't need and will wreck my budget and he might not find exactly what I want.  Anyhoo, my Google calendar reminded me this morning that I need to get a new International Driver's License for my European trip this summer and the AAA office is in Winter Park. So at some point this month or next I'll take a trip to Winter Park and swing by Trader Joe's at the same time.  Two birds killed with the same stone!  I'll try to couple that with a "mom day out" with my daughter since we like having lunch on Park Avenue and checking out the stores.

  • I'm back to wearing my "old" glasses because the new ones keep on sliding down my nose as I was gardening and falling to the ground. I need to stop by the eye doctor in the morning and ask them to tighten them.  I did wear them most of the day yesterday and they didn't cause any blurriness when I was reading on my laptop outside in the sun but did cause blurriness when I was reading my laptop indoors.  Weird since my laptop is always the same distance from me, on my lap!

  • SavingStar credited me with the other $0.49 for the Cadbury egg from this weekend. Yippee!

  • I uploaded their "Healthy Savings of the Week" offer to my account: 20% off loose green peppers. Truth be told, I probably won't use it since it doesn't work for Aldi or Save A Lot and I do have diced green peppers in my freezer, but uploading it doesn't cost me anything and you never know!

  • My son is finally using his Kindle and is apparently downloading a bunch of free gaming apps. I'm getting all the emails from Amazon and making sure that they're all $0.00 and they are.  Good boy.

  • I reused rainwater collected in my bins to water my in-ground and potted plants today.

  • I transplanted the guest tomato plants from my bean patch into self-watering bins where I'm growing my other tomatoes.  I actually found 3 small tomato plants, 2 of them growing together so I left them together.

  • I harvested Bibb lettuce that was threatening to go to seed, I'll have it for my lunch today.  I also harvested 2 jalapeños (I will probably add to a grilled cheese sandwich later on this week) and 2 Ichiban eggplants.  Those don't grow very large but I'm never really sure when I should harvest them.  They're supposed to have some "give" under the thumb but whenever I wait until that happens, they've started to spoil.  I harvested one that had some discoloration so I'm thinking it's starting to go bad and another one that had some bird damage to it.  The plants have started flowering again so harvesting the fruit will free much needed energy to produce more! I'll use the eggplants in a stir-fry with collard greens one of these nights.

  • The library notified me that they have the "We Had Everything But Money" book waiting for me. Yippee!  I did pick it up today since I wanted to go to Racetrac and redeem my last free bakery item survey reward code.  I drove so "wasted" some gas, BUT was rewarded by finding several coupon inserts in the donation pile!  

  • I wanted to finish painting the door jamb in the door upstairs but I had forgotten that I had used up all the white paint!  Arrgh.  And of course, all the free paint samples I received this month are color paint.  Double arrgh!  I was thinking of going to Ace Hardware since today is the last day of being able to purchase paint samples for just $0.99 BUT I decided to check Greg's shed and lo and behold, he had a paint sample of pure white... I had gotten it for him last year during one of the many "free paint sample to the first 100 customers on Saturday morning!" events that Ace Hardware held last year.  Woohoo!  I saved $0.99 :)

  • My friend Jodie is trying to lower her grocery bills and her printer is on the fritz so I printed a whole bunch of coupons in case she wants to use them. I printed them via Swagbucks so if she does redeem any of them, I'll earn 10 SB per coupon. I also clipped all the coupons that were in the inserts that I still had and organized them all into 4 big categories for her.

  • We're actually meeting at Aldi tomorrow morning so I can help her. She hasn't shopped at Aldi before.  Since you don't use coupons there, it'll be an easy way for her to ease into it.

  • I had a very late lunch of leftover Crêpe Florentine and Spicy Carrot Soup.

  • I earned 100 KFR points by entering bonus code YOURKFRBONUSCODE in my Kellogg's Family Rewards account.
  • I replaced the old and huge Daewoo TV that was connected to the kids' Xbox with the smaller digital Insignia flat screen TV that Greg got from his parents' RV. I connected our old rabbit ear antenna to it and we get about 14 channels plus it works great with the Xbox.  The footprint is so much smaller!  The remotes fit on the TV stand now :)  I'll be taking the old TV, along with another one, to the dump.  They do work but the thrift stores no longer accept them and I don't know anyone who would want them.

  • My (free) Febreeze car clip had dried out.  I really enjoyed having this clipped on one of my vents, it made my car smell really good. I was thinking about getting a refill but I stopped those Glade Decor Scents refills on clearance at Publix for $2.00. I had bought 3 boxes, used (3) $1.00 coupons and submitted for a $1.00 Checkout 51 rebate so I paid $2.00 for 3 boxes. Furthermore, each box contains 2 refills so that was 6 refills for $2.00 or $0.33 per refill.  I didn't have any double-sided tape so I used a little bit of velcro that I already had on hand to attach the Glade refill to the old Febreeze car clip. The result isn't really beautiful, but as long as my car smells good, I don't care :)

  • I baked a small loaf of bread. Yum!

  • We didn't have any failures today, that I know of!

Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!

How I Plan My Weekly Shopping Trip, Part Two: My Shopping List

Yesterday, I shared how I used to "plan" my shopping and why it wasn't working for me.

Today I'm getting into the nitty-gritty of how (and why!) I plan the way I do.  I hope you find this interesting and maybe even inspirational!

These days my shopping has gotten simpler and more complicated at the same time.  I am bringing home a lot of food for much less money, and my planning doesn't take all that much time.

Last year I started keeping my shopping list in Excel and eventually migrated it to a spreadsheet on Google Drive (after the 1st time that I forgot to print the list before I left my house). We're down to just 2 kids at home, and thankfully they're my most assiduous kids so they rarely forget to tell me that we need something... they're also used to the fact that nowadays I only shop on Wednesdays so forgetting to let me know that we need something means that they'll have to wait until the following Wednesday for me to get it.  Amazingly, everyone has adapted to the once- a-week shopping strategy very well.

I also migrated my pricebook to Google Drive. This way, it's accessible to me from anywhere.

This is a screenshot of part of my Pricebook.  I used to track the sales prices and sales end dates in it, but I don't anymore since I only shop once a week anyway.
At the same time, I decided to really stick to my grocery budget this time and eventually decided to even slash my budget. Grocery shopping is the one area where most everyone overspends, and also the one area where you can also achieve the most savings.

I had been telling myself that even though 4 of our kids had left the house, I still had to spend the same amount on food because food prices were going up. And they were!  But I was just being lazy, at the same time as I was spinning my wheels trying to get to all the great deals advertised by the best coupon bloggers.

I'm also infamously forgetful, so I decided to write down everything: not only what I needed but also the price I expected to pay, as well as every coupon and rebates that I would use, and total everything up IN ADVANCE in order to ensure that I would hit my budgeted amount or lower.

I also decided to keep track of the food separately from the toiletries (we rarely buy any these days because we have a large stockpile), the cleaning products (I don't like cleaning... hahaha, but seriously, I don't buy a lot of the cleaning products that people buy so I save money that way), and the cat litter.  The cat food is prescription food and has to be bought at our vet's so it has its own line in our budget.

Here is what my shopping list looks like.  I'm showing you only 3 segments because they're the most representative, but I shop at Save A Lot, CVS, Target, Aldi, Dollar Tree, Publix and Walgreens for my groceries and they each have their own section on my list.

First off, I have 2 tabs: One for "This Week" and one for "Next Week".  This allows me to plan ahead. Since I usually do all my shopping on Wednesdays only, "This Week", for me, always means the upcoming Wednesday.  "Next Week" means Wednesday after next.  On Thursdays, I rename the tabs: "Next Week" becomes "This Week" and the old "This Week" gets zeroed out and renamed "Next Week".

Here is the Aldi section just because it's the one at the top.  I hope that you can see a larger version of it if you double-click on it... otherwise you won't really understand what I'm doing!

Obviously the coupons, Cartwheel and Redcard section is greyed out for Aldi because it's not applicable to that store.  One of the perks of shopping at Aldi is that you get low prices but also that you don't have to fuss with coupons.  That used to irk me because I really like using coupons, but once I realized that I could get most of what I needed at Aldi, cheaper than Publix and without having to use coupons, I was hooked. Of course, if I can get a better deal somewhere else with a coupon, I will buy that item (and even stock up!) at that other store, which is why this list is even more important...

Here is the Target section:

And here is the section that I always refer to, all the way at the bottom:

As you can see, I have divided each store's shopping list into "Food" and "Non Food" expenses.  My goal for each week this month is to spend only $50 on food.  I don't have a budget for the "Non Food" expenses since the only items I buy in this category are usually cat litter, toilet paper, dishwasher or dishwashing liquid and some toiletries when we do run out or there's a money maker out there. But I still total them out to get an idea of how much I'm spending.  Believe me, seeing the big picture in writing does wonders for helping me stick to my list as close as possible!

So as I start a new week's shopping list (I add to the list every day, as I come across things we need or deals that have come up), I add the items that I buy every week: bread, yogurt, bananas, things like this.  I usually buy those at Save A Lot or Aldi as they are consistently the cheapest.  Milk and eggs might be purchased at CVS or Walgreens if they're running a special. I'll add them to the Aldi section but move them to CVS or Walgreens as the ads get published on Sundays.

As you may know, I monitor couponing blogs (IHeartPublix, SouthernSavers, TotallyTarget, CouponersUnited, CouponPro are some of the blogs that I follow on Feedly).

Those bloggers do a wonderful job of obtaining ad previews and matching the sales with available coupons. They also post as soon as they are aware of a coupon and usually indicate either the name and date of the coupon insert (although they are regional differences in coupons and also how coupons are handled so you might not get the exact same deals. For instance, Florida doesn't have double coupons so we don't get those extreme couponing deals), or give the link for the coupon (in exchange of you using their link, they get a kickback from the coupon company).

I'm not going to lie: if a link is a Coupons.com link, I won't use the blogger's link.  I will do a Swagbucks search for Swagbucks coupons (might as well try to earn some SB getting to their coupon site!) and print the coupon from there (thus earning 10 SB for each redeemed coupon). I will also mark those coupons with an "SB" so I know to give those coupons a priority if I end up with several coupons for the same item from various websites (it happens a lot for cereals).  I want to try and use the "SB" coupons as much as possible.

Anyhoo, if a blogger puts out an alert for a great deal on an item that I know I will use, I first investigate to see if my own deal will be as good: Did their deal include doubled coupons? Did it include an Ibotta rebate? (I don't get double coupons and I don't use Ibotta). I check my pricebook, check if I have the coupons/rebates they're referring to, check if I'll be shopping prior to the deal expiring.  If it looks like a go, I add the deal to my shopping list.  Understand that my shopping list is fluid... it can get changed until the last minute!  Many times I added deals to my list only to take them off later because I wanted to stock up on a better item that came along (say, chicken breasts at $1.59/lb) but didn't want to go over the $50 budget. I'm not trying to spend as little as possible, I'm trying to stick to my $50 weekly budget.  Obviously, if your goal is to stay out of debt and reduce your groceries expenses as much as possible, your priority might be to get as close as possible to zero dollars spent per week!

If I'm not sure of the price, I'll italicize it.  This lets me know to be super vigilant in the store because if the price is that or lower, I might not want to buy the item, regardless of the deal. For instance, Southern Savers puts out an Aldi weekly ad preview on Mondays but Aldi's produce deals are very regional and I won't know for sure what my own area's pricing will be until Wednesday morning when Aldi publishes their weekly ad online. So on Mondays I add the produce that I might buy and put the price in italics. Then, when I confirm the price on Wednesday mornings before leaving, I either take off the italics and change the quantities, or delete it if a better deal might be found at Save A Lot or I decide not to purchase that item at that price.

For Publix, there are so many deals in their ad every week, that I keep a "Publix wish list" in a notepad document on my desktop. Every Monday, Michele from I Heart Publix posts the weekly ad preview with coupons. I look at it, and only copy into my Notepad document those items that I would definitely use and that are at stocking-up price.  Then, once I'm done with my shopping list for Save A Lot and Aldi, I go back to my Publix Wishlist document and truly decide what I'm going to buy, based on the coupon availability and how much money I have left to spend that week. Many times, I decide to just not buy much of anything.  Gone are the days when I had 20+ bottles of Ken's salad dressing in my pantry!  You need to recognize that those sales are cyclical... they come back at regular intervals!  If you miss a cycle, it'll be back in a few short weeks.

This is a partial list of Publix sales through 4/4  - I look through the weekly sales ad preview post from IHeartPublix and only
copy and paste those deals that I *might* be interested in. Then when I work on my actual shopping list, I look at that Notepad document again and see if I have money left to spend, if anything is cheaper at Publix (after sale and coupons) than at Aldi/Save A Lot/Target/CVS and then decide what/if I'll buy from Publix that week.

So I've added the name of the item, quantity that I want, price per unit... now it's time to add the coupons.  I have different columns for store and manufacturer coupons.  I input the coupon values as a negative value so they get deducted from the totals columns.  If I'm using 2 $0.50 coupons, I'll input "-$1.00".  If I'm planning on using a digital coupon, I made a note next to the name of the items so I don't forget to get my app scanned or input my home phone number at checkout.

If I'm adding items to my Target shopping list, I always check my Target app for whatever digital coupons I might have and also the Cartwheel app.  I love that app because I can change my Cartwheel offers right in the store if I see something on clearance that I decide to buy and it also has a Cartwheel offer.  It's very versatile, unlike rebate apps where you have to chose in advance which offer you might want to redeem (I'm looking at you, SavingStar/Upromise!).  If an item has a Cartwheel offer, I put down the percentage in the Cartwheel column.  The way I have set it up, the spreadsheet calculates the amount to be deducted and my total cost after all coupons and discounts.

You don't need a smartphone to use the Target Cartwheel program. You can sign up on their website, add the offers that you want from your computer and print your barcode.  You only need to print it ONCE.  As you change the offers in your Cartwheel, the bar code remains the same.  I printed mine over a year ago and I still use the same printout.  Yes, I could get them to scan the bar code on my phone, but sometimes there's a glitch and I can't access the Cartwheel app so I prefer showing them the printed bar code.

To the right side of the Total at Checkout column, are the various rebate/Customer Loyalty programs that I use.  Those columns are to remind me that I will be needing to claim a rebate or that I should make sure that Extracare bucks or Register Rewards will print at checkout.

Here is my CVS section.  I added a line to reflect which ECBs I expect to redeem that week:

In this instance, I bought 6 boxes of Special K at $2.50 a box and redeemed (6) $0.50 coupons (so total of $3.00 in manufacturer coupons) for a Total at Register of $12.  However, I also had a CVS coupon for $5/$15.  I could have entered it as a store coupon for $5, but for some reason I decided to enter is at a $5 ECB redemption. In this instance, it really doesn't matter as long as I remember to redeem everything AND IN THE RIGHT ORDER (i.e. hand the $5/$15 coupon first and then the manufacturer coupons).  My Total at Register thus ended up being $7.00

(Side note: I don't account for sales tax on this shopping list. Some items might be taxed at 7%, most notably snacks and prepared foods, and then also non-food items. I've decided not to be too anal at this point! Since the very vast majority of the foods that I buy are non taxable, I decided to forego this.)

Here is my Walgreens section.  I had to do this since their coupon rules are so INANE.  For instance, just by typing up the explanation for this screenshot, I realize that I would have had a problem at the register because I was buying 2 boxes of cereal with (2) $0.75 manufacturer coupons and also redeeming a $2.50 Register Reward.  Walgreens will not allow you to redeem more coupons+ RR than the number of items you're buying (Walgreens coupons don't count) so in this instance I was buying 2 items but redeeming 3 "coupons".  I had to add a 3rd item to my list in order to be able to use the Register Reward... I had the choice between a $0.49 candy bar or a $0.50 can of chicken broth (well, $0.50 after in-ad Walgreens coupon which I clipped digitally and which doesn't "count" for this particular situation).  The candy bar was taxable and, frankly, I could eat less chocolate (!) whereas the can of chicken broth wasn't taxable and I can always use chicken broth. Note that at the far right, I noted that I should get 1,000 Balance Reward points for my purchase of the 2 boxes of cereal. I will know to check my receipt for this before I leave the store.

So as I add items to my list, I check my running total at the bottom. I tried not to get too close to $50 because last minute deals appear in stores: meat on clearance, unadvertised specials, etc.  However, I'm not in debt and my actual budgeted amount in my official budget is $100 a week. So if I go over $50, I really don't sweat it.

For this reason, you won't see me in the store with my calculator anymore.  I print the list before I leave and I have a pen on me at all times. I cross out items as I put them in my cart, and try very hard to stick to my list.  If I notice a price had gone up or down, I either snap a photo of the price tag with my phone or write down the new price on the list, and then I change my pricebook when I get home.

Scribbled on list from last week
Speaking of printing the list... if you're like me and you shop at a lot of stores, this list can be long (albeit long with empty rows) and print over several pages. (But, Nathalie, you say, why do you print it since you have a Smartphone and it's on Google Drive? Well, because my iPhone 4 has a comparatively small screen and my eyesight is pretty bad. Plus, I like crossing off items from my list with a pen. The Google Drive aspect of it is a "what if" precaution as in "what if I leave and forgot my list?" or "what if I'm close to a store on a different day than Wednesday and decide to do my shopping then?".  I would still be able to see what I was planning on buying.  My coupon organizer comes with me everywhere even if I think I won't need it, so I'm almost always ready to shop!)

Anyway, back to printing the list: I use the "hide/unhide rows" functionality quite a bit.  Instead of deleting empty rows, I hide them. It makes the list shorter and I don't have to recopy the formulas next time I use that specific list and I'm adding more items. I also hide the store sections if I won't be going to that store during a specific week (for instance I don't go to Dollar Tree every week).  I strive to print my list over 2 pages, double-sided (so 1 sheet of paper). I use the print preview function to make sure that it will fit that way. If not, I tweak the rows until it does :)

Next time I post in this series, I will explain how I organize my coupons.  Lastly, I will explain how I keep track of my grocery expenses for the month and if I feel up to the task, I will try to explain how I use Excel to plan our family budget 1 to 2 years out.

How do you organize your shopping list?  Do you write it down? Keep it in the computer? Use an app? Or do you tend to just fly by the seam of your pants?

My Daily Freebies: Tuesday 3/31/15

Here is what I got/found for free today!

  •  I found a penny in my front yard :)

  •  I redeemed my last Racetrac survey reward code for a free jumbo chocolate muffin (I froze it for my son to eat next week).

  • A book from the library, recommended on "The Non Consumer Advocate". Can't wait to read it.

  • Several coupon inserts from the library's donation pile.

Also... I had to go in our shed this morning and noticed several items that Greg had cleared out from his parents' RV and that they told him not to bother bringing back to them so here is part 3 of our "Free Hand-Me-Downs" series:

  • A portable radiator.  Greg might keep it for his shed for those cold, cold Florida mornings, lol.

  •  A portable heater.  Ditto :)

  •  An air compressor.

  •  An ironing board.  I moved it to our attic so it doesn't get gross and we can pass it on to one of our kids as they move into their own digs.  There is also an iron but it's still in Greg's truck.

Did you get any freebies today?

Grocery Budget Report: March 2015

I feed 2 adults and 1 teen every week, with a second teen (my daughter), being here every other week. So, in essence, I feed 3.5 people :)

My planned budget for 2015 is $100 a week FOR GROCERIES ONLY.  Due to being fully stocked and making my own products too, I rarely buy toiletries or cleaning products and they get their own budget lines.  So does pet food.

I try to mostly shop at Aldi, but I also hunt deals and use coupons at the other stores that I frequent: Save A Lot, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Publix.  I also shop for groceries at the Dollar Tree once in a while, although I haven't tried using coupons there yet.Lastly, I use apps like Checkout 51, SavingStar, and Snap by Groupon to reduce my costs, as well as manufacturer rebates and loyalty programs (CVS ExtraCare, Walgreens Balance Rewards) and special offers on my credit cards.

Here is a post where I recapped my January and February grocery expenses.

We started the month with a fully stocked pantry and freezer. Moreover, we have a small vegetable garden.  I had thus decided to try to stick to a $50 weekly budget for March.  I could have probably gone lower, but that would preclude me from stocking up on deals when I come across them so I feel comfortable with $50.

So for March, my projected budget was $200 (down from $400 as the "official budget").  I spent 199.59, after rebates.  It's a little higher than what I spent in February ($181.65) because I had less of the American Express $200 statement credit to apply this month (and now it's all gone!).

I saved about 31.20%  of my grocery bill with coupons and in-store promotions only (i.e. not including various rebates). This is markedly lower than the previous months.  I find myself using fewer coupons as I increase my Aldi shopping (they don't accept coupons).

Here is the breakdown of where You Need A Budget says I spent my grocery money this month (this doesn't include the rebates, so the total spent amount is higher than my actual total):

  •  My Aldi spending is down by 7% compared to February and Save A Lot is up by 19%. Publix is down by 4% and Target by 3%. This doesn't mean all that much, since those totals do include coupons, but it still fun for me to see where I spend the most every month and how little I spent at each store! 

I classify my groceries by categories every week, and here is the detail of how I spent that money:

and this is a January-March comparison, by category:

I like this view because I can see in which categories I spend the most and my patterns.

Here is what $199.59 got me:
Baking Supplies
1 box light brown sugar
1 bag shredded sweetened coconut
2 boxes cupcake mix
2 containers frosting
1 100-ct box green tea bags
1 12-can box ginger ale
3 boxes herbal peppermint tea
Breads/Baked Goods
5 loaves butterbread
3 loaves white bread
1 loaf rye bread
4 packages brown & serve rolls

1 canister quick oats
4 Kelloggs Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats
4 bags Malt O Meal Cocoa Dyno-Bites
2 boxes Marshmallow & Stars
2 boxes Lucky Charms

2 gallons skim milk
4 gallons whole milk
23 cups yogurt
1 16-oz container light sour cream
2 lb butter
1 margarine
1 smoked gouda
2 8-oz block Monterey Jack cheese
1 8-oz block Swiss cheese
1 8-oz block mozzarella cheese
1 8-oz block cheddar cheese
2 packages Cracker Barrel sharp Cheddar slices
2 12-oz package American cheese slices
2 packages Neufchatel cheese

Dry/Pantry/Freezer Goods
4 cans black beans
1 can refried beans
2 cans pinto beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 can no salt added corn kernels
4 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 29 oz cans Hunt's pasta sauce
1 cup microwaveable Riceroni
2 jars minced garlic
3 cans chopped green chiles
1 can Progresso soup
4 cans Carnation evaporated milk
1 jar organic coconut oil
1 box mac'n cheese
6 bottles salsa verde
1 40-ct box PureVia sweetener
1 bottle Mirin cooking wine
Fruit and Juice
1 pineapple
19 lbs apples
5 quarts strawberries
8.45 lbs bananas
8.51 lbs grapes
1 6-oz container Driscoll's raspberries
1 pint blueberries
1 cantaloupe
2 cans Dole pineapple chunks
2 46-oz can Dole pineapple juice

1 sleeve celery
2 bags spinach
1.57 lbs sweet potatoes
1 cucumber
2 green peppers
0.75 lbs green beans
1.21 lbs zucchini
0.69 lbs Roma tomatoes
2 lbs carrots
1 lb asparagus
2 bags sweet mini peppers
1 bunch cilantro
1 package baby Bella mushrooms
2 lbs sweet onions
9 dozen eggs
3 smoked turkey sausages
1 12-oz package bacon
1 pork and bacon ground sausage roll
2 20-oz packages ground turkey
0.29 lbs beef bottom round steak
2 packages JustBARE chicken drumsticks
1 lb frozen salmon fillets
0.51 lbs beef tip minute steak
4 packages Maple Turkey Breast
3 packages Black Forest Ham
1 container ham
3 bags tortilla chips
1 23.75 oz whole natural almonds
2 10-oz containers roasted almonds with sea salt
2 jars chocolate hazelnut spread
1 candy bar
3 chocolate cream donuts
2 boxes vanilla wafers
4 packages peanut butter and cheese crackers
6 packages peanut butter crackers
2 2-ct packages Altoid mints
1 single package gum

I also got the following food for free this month (in addition to other coupon freebies already included above), either because of codes being redeemed or because Greg brought it back from his parents' RV:

1 large croissant (Racetrac survey code)
12 jumbo chocolate muffins (Racetrac survey codes)
1 jumbo blueberry muffin (Racetrac survey code)
2 cans garbanzo beans (Greg's parents' RV)
1 can black eyed peas (Greg's parents' RV)
1 can black beans (Greg's parents' RV)
2 cans chicken broth (Greg's parents' RV)
1 large can tuna (Greg's parents' RV)
1 small bag flavored coffee (Greg's parents' RV)
1 pepper grinder (Greg's parents' RV)
1 container red pepper flakes (Greg's parents' RV)
1 bottle Colavita EVOO (Greg's parents' RV)
1 box organic Chai tea bags (Greg's parents' RV)


  • This month, my protein expenses were higher because I stocked up on several meat clearance items and also Greg started eating more eggs. 

  • I continue to be dismayed at how much I spend on "snacks".  This is really something that I can get under control as I'm home all day and I can easily bake. However, if I bake, I will probably eat more too!  A large part of the snack expenses, though, go to almonds, which my daughter likes to snack on. I only buy them when I can get good deals on them, but they're still expensive.

  • Our bread expenses could be reduced as well, as I have found a way to make sandwich bread that the kids actually like (I bake the boule bread dough from "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day" in a loaf pan).  However, I also tend to eat a good percentage of each loaf (who can resist fresh warm bread? Not me!) and I need to lose weight. 

  • Although I did harvest collard greens, tomatoes and jalapeños this month, my garden hasn't started producing enough to reduce our vegetable expenses.

The Plan for April:
  • I will spend no more than $50 a week again in April.

  • As my daughter plans on living here full-time starting in April, the food expenses might go up, especially in the "snacks" category, due to the cost of the almonds she likes so much.  I will balance this with healthy homemade snacks.

  • Of course, baking more bread and baked goods means that our electric bill will go up. I tried baking the bread in the crockpot once but I wasn't very happy with the result. I need to try it again.

  • I will continue to shop my pantry/freezer/fridge first and strive to waste no food.  I have already made menus for the month of April and will substitute ingredients where I can to minimize my out of pocket expenses.
How did you do in March?  Are you sticking to your budget? Do you have a grocery shopping strategy?

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Daily Freebies: Monday, 3/30/15

Here is what I got/found for free today!

  • I met my friend Jodie at Starbucks tonight for a lengthy session of chatting and coffee-ing. I don't like their coffee but I had a $25 Starbucks gift card that I earned by trying some retirement planning tool on our of our investment firm's website so I treated Jodie.  She had some fancy mocha coffee drink and I had a hot cocoa.
  • Two jumbo chocolate muffins from Racetrac, free after redemption of two survey reward codes. 
x 2, I didn't take a picture of the 2nd one since it was several
hours later and it looks exactly like this one, lol!

  • A newly released best-seller and a DVD for my lonely week's entertainment... oh crap, I probably won't be all that productive after all! Both from the library, of course, my absolute favorite place for "freebies".

  • The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (free subscription via Recycle Bank) - not pictured.

Did you get any freebies today?  Care to share?  

Today's Frugal Failures and Successes: Monday 3/30/15

  • Greg and our son left early this morning to go visit his parents out of state. While some people might enjoy the time alone, I kind of dread it.  I miss looking forward to them being home in the afternoons and at night!

  • I have a list of projects to accomplish this week, we'll see if I can get myself motivated to actually do them:
    • Finish repainting the door jamb in the upstairs bedroom
    • Clean the wooden floor of the paint splatters in that bedroom
    • Paint the desk from that bedroom
    • Put the bedroom back together again
    • Take down the mini-blinds from the window that will be replaced in that bedroom
    • Clean the bathrooms
    • Repaint the bathroom
    • Mop the kitchen
    • Dust
    • Vacuum
    • Sweep the laundry room
    • Sweep the front porch
    • Empty the shredded and shred what has accumulated
    • File paperwork that's been piling up
    • Clean off the pollen/mildew from outside doors and porches
    • Water the garden with collected rainwater
    • Install the edging around the berm in the backyard since Greg didn't get to it
    • Then lay down the cardboard on the berm and mulch it
    • Finish mulching the beds in the back of the house
    • Harvest lettuce for my lunch
    • Fold the laundry and iron
    • Declutter the house as much as I can, it's driving me nuts
    • Clean the top of my desk
    • File recipes that I have used already away
    • Pay bills and balance the checkbook
    • Exercise every day
    • Go to the library to return books and pick up items waiting for me
    • Go to Racetrac to redeem free bakery item coupons before tomorrow
    • Set goals for April

  • Every morning I start my day by reading the local, national and then international news online. I don't subscribe to any newspapers and I don't watch the news on TV.  I might only get the main headlines this way, but it keeps me "in the know" and it doesn't cost me anything. I'm thankful that one of our local newspapers actually publishes free online articles about important happenings in my little town since the Orlando Sentinel is pretty much useless (they hide all the interesting articles behind their pay wall).  

  • I sliced and put 3/4 of a quart of strawberries in the dehydrator.

  • I cut up a large sweet onion and set it in the freezer to flash freeze it. I use a silicone mat and reused the plastic wrap that I have been using for several days on top of it. I read on a blog this morning that microwaving the onions for a couple of minutes first will help diminish the pungency of the smell, but I totally forgot to do this!

  • I was going to save the onion bag to make a new scrubby for my pots and pans but the mesh was glued to the paper wrapper and when I tried to unstick it, the mesh was all ragged and not very good quality, so I just threw it away instead :(

  • I had cut the cilantro and frozen it in some water in ice cube trays this weekend.  Today I put the cilantro cubes in a recycled freezer bag.

  • I made a new batch of boule bread dough. Later on I baked a small loaf for myself.  I set it to rise next to the dehydrator since it's not very hot today.

  • For my lunches/dinners this week, I cooked a big pot of Spicy Carrot Soup, using homemade chicken stock and 1/2 a diced onion that I needed to freeze anyway.  I was going to cook the soup in the microwave as usual, but this time I decided to cook it on the stove instead. It makes me feel all homemaker-like! 

  • I baked two loaves of chocolate chip banana bread: I used five brown bananas, homemade baking powder and also homemade vanilla.  Instead of oil, I used natural applesauce.  I avoided a disaster when I first caught myself added 1 cup of salt instead of 1 cup of sugar to the batter (phew #1) and then when I caught myself trying to add 2 tsp of baking soda instead of baking powder (phew #2).  I indulged in 1 slice of it after lunch. Uh oh, maybe I ought to freeze it sooner than later :)

  • I washed two plastic freezer bags to reuse later.

  • I had made plans to have dinner out with a friend but she texted me to ask if we could meet later in the evening so I decided to treat her to Starbucks instead since I have a $25 gift card that I had earned and I read that frappuccinos are 50% off today. I need to remember to bring my own cup!

  • For breakfast, I used the croissant that I got last night for free at Racetrac . I toasted it since it was stale, I was too busy dictating this into my Dragon Dictation app and it burned! I still ate it but didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping to. However I did keep the crumbs that had fallen out when I cut it in half prior to toasting. I'll slightly toast them later on (keeping an eye on them this time!) and will add them to my container of homemade breadcrumbs.

  • I finally had to switch to the prescription glasses I got last year. They're bifocals like the ones I've been using, but the bottom portion is stronger.  I hadn't been wearing them because it actually makes everything on my computer screen blurry (the mid-range distance is my real problem) but the old ones are woefully inadequate to read the directions on packaging.  What I really need to do is pretend my old ones are computer glasses and my "new" ones are the ones to wear at all other times. It's sooooo annoying, which is why I haven't been wearing the new ones (although they're in my purse but I always forget that I'm carrying them around). Getting old really really stinks (she says, putting the old ones back on because she can't handle the blurriness of the laptop as she tries to type with the "new" ones on).  I think that at this year's exam I'm going to tell the doctor that I WILL try the progressive lenses, nausea be damned.  I have very good vision coverage right now so might as well use it.

  • I drove to the library and Racetrac. Not very frugal but I didn't feel like walking for an hour.  I dropped off a magazine in the donation pile and picked up a best-seller and a DVD that were waiting for me.  

  • I redeemed a survey reward code at Racetrac for a free jumbo chocolate muffin which I froze.  Back in my car, I realized that my daughter had left some trash in it... but it's all good because one of the item was a Racetrac receipt (she'd bought herself a drink)... so I got to take another Racetrac survey and earn another code for a free pastry, which I will redeem tomorrow.

  • I had a leftover Florentine Crêpe for lunch, along with a bowl of the Spicy Carrot soup I made this morning. I enjoyed my lunch on my back porch, listening to some birds overhead, one of them with a particularly grating voice, I might add. I hope he/she doesn't build a nest in one of the trees around the house, because that's the kind of bird that will keep you up at all times of night.

  • SavingStar's customer service replied to my email about the half credit for the freebie of the weekend and they said my account will be credited within a couple of days for the difference.

  • I earned 50 KFR points by entering bonus code EASTERISONITSWAY in my Kellogg's Family Rewards account (thanks, Slickdealer!)

  • I saw that Southern Savings' s preview of the Aldi ad includes sweet potatoes at $0.33/lb. I hope we'll see this price down here too. I added them to my shopping list in italics (which means I'm not sure the price is correct) and I'll check our ad on Wednesday morning when it's posted online and before I leave for my shopping trip.

  • I baked a small loaf of bread. However, I forgot to set a timer so it was a little overcooked. Oops. Still delicious, but setting it to rise next to the dehydrator did the job a little too well and what I thought would be a small loaf, ended up being a much larger and less dense loaf as the dough rose very well! I guess I'll be having toast for breakfast tomorrow!

  • I met my friend Jodie for coffee and a good chatting session at Starbucks and treated us both with the Starbucks gift card that I earned a few months back for trying out a retirement tool on one of our investment firms' website.

  • I gave my friend the pair of brand new earrings that I had found in the Walmart parking lot a couple of months ago, for her young daughter.


  • I was going to print some extra coupons from my son's desktop computer but when I turned it on, the admin profile wouldn't load up.  I was able to log in as my son (no admin rights) and the C drive is almost full but since Greg has configured the PC with several internal drives and I'm not sure what I can uninstall without causing more trouble, I decided to just let him deal with it when he comes back... it's typical, though, every time he leaves for an extended period of time, things start breaking down (last summer it was the AC, then plumbing problems, then the coffeemaker).  Grrrr. No extra coupons for me, oh well.

  • Not a failure on our part, but a failure on Amex's part, I think... the Shoprunner benefit that we get via our card is changing starting 5/1 and will now require a minimum purchase at "certain" suppliers.  They can hardly call it a benefit now, I think...

Did you have any frugal successes or failures today? Please do tell!