Monday, May 30, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Complete Course: Lessons 1 - 10

Here is a list of links to each of the 10 Lessons in my Coupon Boot Camp Course.

Start with Lesson 1 and work your way to Lesson 10. There's really not one aspect of couponing that's more important than another, so I'd encourage you to read through each lesson in it's entirety, in order and soak it all in. 

You CAN do this! I swear it.

Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Lesson 2: Getting Organized 

Lesson 3: The Right Way To Menu Plan 

Lesson 4: Stockpiling and Budgets 

Lesson 5: How Grocery Store Sales Work + Marketing Tricks 

Lesson 6: Combining Coupons With Sale Prices + Starting a Price Book  

Lesson 7: Learning Coupon Policies 

Lesson 8: Coupons & Couponing FAQ   

Lesson 9: More Questions Answered

Lesson 10: Pulling It All Together

Friday, May 27, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 10: Pulling It All Together

So you've been reading my Coupon Boot Camp posts and following along and you're feeling a little overwhelmed, here's a summary of what you absolutely need to know to pull it all together and start couponing!

Look at your current budget and ask yourself the following questions:

What am I spending total each month on food?

Am I spending more than I can really afford to?

How much do I need to reduce my budget by?

Set realistic goals for reducing your budget and remember that it takes time to accomplish. Baby steps. 

Collect and organize your coupons. Organization is key in couponing. If you're not crazy about my binder system, figure out a system that will work for you.

Start a price list. Keep a little notebook in your purse. When you're out at the store jot down the items you frequently buy and what the price of those items is at various stores. 

Pick a store. Learn it's coupon policy. Start matching up coupons with sale prices at that store. When you're comfortable, move on to another store. Drug places are the best stores to start out with. The grocery store can be a little overwhelming when you're just getting started.

Take a step back and evaluate how much you've spent with how much you've saved. This is important to make sure you're actually saving money in your new couponing venture. You can be so excited by great deals that you're getting here and there, that you may overlook that you haven't actually reduced your spending. You can call it a success if one of the following is true:

You're providing adequately for your family and you're spending less than you did before.


You're spending about the same as you did before but you have much more to show for it.

Once you notice that your stockpile is piling up, reduce your budget and fully implement your meal planning strategies. A lot of couponers spend way more than they need to because they get addicted to the good deals they've learned to get. Once you've built a good supply of food in your pantry and personal products, put the breaks on the stockpiling for awhile. 

Remember to plan your meals based on what's on sale and what you have on hand. A house full of food isn't going to do you any good if you keep bringing more and more in each week. Use what you have!

It's time to start putting what you've learned into action. Let me know how you're making out. :) 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 9: More Questions Answered

After answering some of my most frequently asked questions in Lesson 8 last week, I've received quite a few more questions. In today's lesson I'll try to answer those questions and share some more tips. 

Q: I've been enjoying your couponing posts and I'd love to try to save money with coupons. My problem is that I'm a vegetarian and I buy mostly natural and organic foods. There really is never any coupons for what I buy. Is there a site with just natural and/or organic food coupons?

A: Not that I'm aware of, but I'm also not a vegetarian and I don't buy too much organic or "natural" food, so I'm not really on the look-out for those coupons. Not that I have anything against it, but bottom line, it is more expensive. I do see the occasional coupon for some of these types of foods though. I would recommend going to the companies websites of the foods you buy and seeing if they have printable coupons on their site. You can also search for them on Facebook, a lot of companies are using Facebook these days and many of them have coupons available from time to time.

If the company does not have a coupon on their site or Facebook page, get the contact information from their website. You can call them, email them or write them a letter. There's almost always an email address you can use. Simply state in the email that you love their product (or that you'd like to try their product), but that you're never able to find coupons for it. Tell them that in these hard times, coupons will make a big difference in keeping you loyal to their brand (or enabling you to try it). I can almost guarantee you'll get a response and more than likely some coupons. Include your mailing address in your email so that the company can mail you coupons.

Here are some organic and natural food company websites that you can try:

Apple & Eve
Back To Nature
Dreamfields Foods
Earth's Best
Brown Cow
Mambo Sprouts 
The Organic Cow
Wild Harvest
Soy Dream

Speaking of contacting companies directly to obtain coupons, here is a list of some of the companies I have emailed and then been mailed coupons from:

Birds Eye Foods
The Dannon Company
Pepperidge Farm
Fresh Express

The list could go on and on from there. I've literally contacted at least 100 companies requesting coupons and though I haven't really kept track, I'd say 80% of them mailed me coupons.

It might sound like a lot of work, contacting various companies and requesting coupons. It really isn't at all though. Find their website, find their contact info. and shoot them a quick email. You won't always get a response, you won't always get coupons as a result, but 9 times out of 10 you will. The benefit is that it probably won't be a one shot deal. You'll continue to receive coupons from them from time to time. I've even received coupons for free products by contacting companies. It is an extra effort and it's not something everyone is going to be down to do, but it really is worth it. 

Q: I tried to do the whole coupon thing a while ago, but I gave up. It was too much work and I felt like I wasn't saving any money. I want to try it again, any advice?

A: My advice is to start by reading all of my Coupon Boot Camp posts starting with Lesson 1 and work your way back to this post. It's a lot of information to digest and I tend to be a little long winded, so you may want to go back and read each lesson more than once. Then start applying what you've learned. The first step is to start collecting coupons, the next step is to start a system for organizing those coupons. Understanding the concepts of menu planning and stockpiling are key too. I'd encourage you to read all of the posts (and to go elsewhere for information) as there's really no one aspect of couponing that's more important than another. 

It's important to go into couponing with an open mind and to be prepared to fail at first. I started couponing about 5 years ago and I'd say it took me a little over a year to get it down to a science. There wasn't nearly the resources available then that there are now, so you might have an easier time of it. My advice is to start out small. This isn't a "Go Big or Go Home" situation. Do what works for you and keep at it. 

Also, it's not going to work for you if you don't really want to do it. If you tell yourself it's too much work, it will be. 

Q: What kind of stuff can I get for free with coupons?

A: All kinds of stuff. Seriously. It isn't just about getting stuff for free though. If you're overall goal is to reduce your budget and spend less money, then that's what you should focus on. If you get free stuff in the process, that's great. When I first starting couponing, I was getting all kinds of free stuff, but I wasn't saving any money. I needed to do both. You'll find that once you've paid nothing or next to nothing for certain items, you'll never want to pay for them again. And that's a good thing. That's what your goal should be. If you find a deal and you're able to get (4) bottles of ketchup for free, then you know you can get ketchup for free. You're goal should be to not pay for ketchup anymore. Or at least pay very little for it. 

Q: I've been seeing deals for gas cards, like "Spend $30, Get a $10 Gas Card", are these good deals?

A: These types of promotions usually require you to spend a certain amount of money on a certain selection of items in order to receive a card for gas. To me, no it's not generally a good deal. If you REALLY need the items included, if they're on sale for good prices and if you're able to use coupons to get them, then fine. Knock yourself out and get (3) gallons of gas on top of it. But if you don't really need those items, the prices aren't smoking hot and you don't have's a bum deal. You're basically spending $30.00 that you wouldn't have spend otherwise just to get $10 worth of gas for free (which isn't a whole lot these days). You might as well drop the $30 in your tank and call it a day.

Tomorrow will conclude the basics of Coupon Boot Camp. How are you making out so far? Did you even start yet? How can I help? Hit me up and let me know! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Super Simple Crock Pot Chicken & Stuffing

I'm all about anything that will make my life easier. Especially in the kitchen. That's why I'm such a huge fan of crock pot cooking. I plan to share many of my favorite recipes here on my blog, a lot of which are crock pot recipes.

We tend to associate the crock pot with the winter months, pot roast, chili, etc. Now that the weather’s warming up I’ll be using my crock pot more than ever. Running my oven in the summer turns my little house into Dante’s inferno, so the crock pot is a lifesaver.

This recipe is one that I've made many, many times. It's super simple and really yummy.

Super Simple Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing

What You Need:

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (1) can Cream of Mushroom Soup (you could use any 'Cream of' soup if you're not a fan of mushroom- I happen to love mushrooms, but I bet this would be good with Cream of Chicken too), 1/3 cup of milk, (1) box instant Chicken Stuffing, 1 1/2 cups of water and salt and pepper

What You Do:

1) Wash chicken breasts, pat dry. Season to your liking with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in crock pot.

2) Mix soup and milk together in a bowl, pour over chicken.

3) Combine stuffing and water (with a wee bit of salt and pepper if you choose) in a bowl. Allow stuffing to soak up the water. Spoon over chicken and soup in crock pot.

4) Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours

It doesn't get much easier than that. I serve this with cranberry sauce and corn. It’s a family favorite for sure.  

P.S. - Love these slow cooker liners from Reynolds. They make clean up a breeze.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - ShopRite Deals for the Week of 05-22-11

Hey Coupon Boot Campers! 

Here are a few Shop Rite deals you can take advantage of this week:

Heluva Good Dips are on sale $1.49 each. Use this printable coupon for .50 cents off and get it for .49 cents and Shop Rite doubles your coupon.  
You'll be able to print two of those coupons from one computer so you can get two dips for .49 cents each. Also, there was a .75 cent off coupon in last week's Smart Source (5/15) insert. If you've been collecting your coupon inserts, you'll be able to grab more of these if you like. Shop Rite will take an additional .25 cents off your .75 cent coupon and you'll get the dips for .49 cents each. That's a Heluva good deal. 

Select Colgate Toothbrushes are on sale for .88 cents each. There was a .75 cent off coupon for Colgate Toothbrushes in the 5/1 Smart Source insert. Shop Rite will take an additional .25 cents off, you'll get your toothbrush for free and have a .12 cent money maker per tooth brush. (FYI: You're supposed to get a new toothbrush at least once every three months. You're also supposed to throw your toothbrush away if you've been sick. You can NEVER have too many toothbrushes!)

Same deal as above: Select Colgate Toothpaste is also on sale  for .88 cents each and there was a .75 cent off coupon in the 5/1 SS insert for Colgate Toothpaste. 

Vlasic Pickles are on sale for $1.66. Use this .55 cents off (1) printable coupon, Shop Rite will take an additional .45 cents off and you'll get the pickles for .66 cents.

Lawry's Marinades are on sale for $1.25. There was a .50 cent off coupon for Lawry's Marinade in the 5/15 Red Plum insert. Shop Rite will double your coupon and you'll get the marinade for .25 cents. These are great to stock up on for summer grilling! 

There's tons of great deals at Shop Rite this week. Grab your sale flyer and the coupons you've been collecting and start matching up sale prices to coupons. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 8: Coupons & Couponing FAQ

Since I started this series of posts here on my blog about coupons and couponing a few weeks ago, I've received a lot of positive feedback from readers like yourself. I've also been asked a lot of questions. Which I'm happy to answer. In today's lesson I'm going to answer some of the most FAQ I've been receiving. If this little Q & A session doesn't answer a question you have, please feel free to contact me and I'll be more than happy to answer it or help you find the answer. 

Q: I've been checking out couponing sites and blogs. They use a lot of abbreviations with no explanation as to what they mean. WYB? MM? OOP? What do they mean?

A: This is something I probably should have covered. There are a lot of abbreviations and acronyms used in the coupon world. Here's a list of all the ones I can think of. :)

SS - Smart Source Coupon Insert
RP - Red Plum Coupon Insert
P&G - Proctor & Gamble Coupon Insert
GM - General Mills
K - Kellog's
U - Unilever 
MFG - Manufacturer's Coupon
IP - Internet Printable Coupon
PSA - Prices Start At
WYB - When You Buy 
OOP - Out Of Pocket
MM - Money Maker
OYNO - On Your Next Order
UPC - Universal Product Code
PP - Price Plus (Shop Rite)
ECB - Extra Care Bucks (CVS)
RR - Register Rewards (Wags)
WAGS - Walgreens
SCR - Single Check Rebate (Rite Aid)
CAT - Catalina
DND - Do Not Double
YMMV - Your Miles May Vary or Your Manager May Vary (As in the price may be different dependent upon your location.)
MIR - Mail In Rebate
B1G1 or BOGO - Buy 1 Get 1 Free
$1/2 - One Dollar off when you buy 2 items

Also, now that we've covered the basics of couponing here, I would encourage you to check out different couponing blogs and websites. There is a wealth of information out there and I am certainly not the leading authority on anything. The more you know, the more you can save!

Here are a few good ones:

Koupon Karen

The Krazy Coupon Lady (Thanks Yana!) 

Coupon Dad

Smart Couponing

Q: I found a bunch of coupons online that I wanted to print, but it's trying to get me to download something to be able to print them? What's that about?

A: When you're printing coupons online, like from, you'll be prompted to download and install a browser plugin. This allows you to print coupons with a scannable bar code and also prevents you from printing unlimited copies of the same coupon. Most coupons can only be printed twice from the same computer. There's also a print limit to the number of times a coupon can be printed overall. Once that limit's reached, the coupon will no longer be available (though they sometimes reset them). If you a coupon online that you want, print it right then and there. It may not still be available by the time you find a sale to use it with.

Q: No matter what I do I can't get coupons to print!! Help!

A: Here are a few things you can try that might help you:

Make sure your default printer is set to an actual printer. If the default is set to PDF, you won't be able to print most coupons.

If you're trying to print from a network printer, try connecting directly to the printer. 

Make sure you're already connected to the printer before you click "Print". Once you click print it's assumed you printed the coupon whether it actually printed or not...and after two tries you won't be able to print the coupon again.

Make sure your firewall isn't blocking the printable coupons plugin. Some firewalls may not recognize it as a secure feature and may block the plugin.

Q: I've been reading your Coupon Boot Camp posts and I want to save money with coupons, but I'm really not interested in menu planning or stockpiling, can I still save money with coupons alone?

A: If you're making very little effort or no real effort at all to save money at this point, then yes, starting to to use coupons will save you money. Will it save you tons of money? No. Will it save you as much money as if you were also planning meals and stockpiling? No. Plain and simple. Start out small and do what works for you.

Q: I don't see how you can save so much money with coupons?I hardly ever use coupons. There's never any coupons for the stuff I buy. 

A: Here's the thing about've got to keep an open mind. If you don't go into it with an open mind, it's never going to work for you. Most people have certain products or brands that they are loyal to. Which is fine, I'm loyal to a number of brands and products myself, but in order to save money with coupons, you've got to be flexible. If you will absolutely only use a certain brand of toilet paper and a certain shampoo and a certain this and a certain that, then you're not going to save as much as you could be. That's all there is too. 

Q: You mentioned buying coupons in the first lesson. How can it make sense to pay for a coupon to save money?

A: It may seem strange to pay for coupons at first, I get that. It really is beneficial though. It's not absolutely necessary, there are tons of places to find coupons, which I covered in Lesson 1. To save the most money and grow a sufficient stockpile, you need a large quantity of coupons. The easiest way to obtain a large quantity of coupons is by buying them. The first time you use 10 coupons to get 10 of the same item for free, you'll appreciate having paid for the coupons (which is a minimum expense) to get those free items. 

Q: Where can I buy coupons online? 

A: Ebay is a great place to buy coupons. They are generally cheap and the shipping is usually free. 
Here are the other sites I've purchased coupons from and can give my seal of approval:

The Coupon Clippers

Coupon Carry-Out

Coupon Dede

Q: Will you come with me to the store and help me use my coupons the right way?

A: Yes. If you pick me up and throw in lunch.

Check back next Thursday for Lesson 9. Bookmark my blog in your favorites, subscribe to my feed or Follow me with Google Friend Connect! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 7: Learning Coupon Policies

Store's coupons policies vary from chain to chain and even from store to store within the same chain. To find out the store's coupon policy, first go to their website. Some stores have their coupon policy listed somewhere on their main site. If not, you can get contact information for the store's corporate office from their website, contact them and request a copy. You can also try asking at the store itself, though many stores do not have copies of their coupon policy for customers available in the store.

Unfortunately even after you've reviewed the store's official policy, you may find that your local store has a "policy" of it's own. Some stores make up their own undocumented rules. I've had this problem at Walmart more than once, which is why I now keep a copy of Walmart's Coupon Policy in my coupon binder. If a cashier or manager tries to tell me I can't do what I'm trying to do with my coupons, I can pull out Walmart's official coupon policy and politely show them that they are wrong. :) 

When you are learning a store's coupon policy you should be asking the following:

Does the store double coupons? 

If so, is there a limit to the number of coupons they will double? 

Do they full double their coupons? In other words, does a .75 cent coupon become $1.50 coupon? Or do they double up to a certain dollar amount. Shop Rite, for instance, will double coupon's up to $1.00. So a .75 cent coupon doubled would become $1.00 coupon.

Are coupons doubled every day? Or only certain days? Do you need to use your rewards card for that store in order for coupons to be doubled?

Do they accept internet printable coupons?

Is there a limit to the number of coupons they will accept per transaction? Or a limit to the number of like coupons they will accept?

Are you allowed to use two coupons on buy 1 get 1 free store sales?

Can you combine store issued coupons with manufacturer's coupons?

It's important to know and understand the coupon policies of the stores your couponing at. You'll feel like a stooge if you're trying to use coupons in a way that goes against their policy. It's also important so that you're not given false information by a cashier or manager. Knowing and understanding the coupon policy of the store you're shopping at will make your shopping trip easier for both you and the store.

Last week in Lesson 6, we learned about combining sale prices with coupons for maximum savings. One thing I failed to mention is that there are times when you can combine a store issued coupon with a manufacturer's coupon for even greater savings. Here's an example of this: Let's say CVS has a certain brand of sunscreen on sale for $6.00 each. If you have a CVS coupon for $4.00 off when you buy 2 and (2) manufacturer's coupons for $2.00 off any 1, you could use all (3) coupons (both the CVS issued and the manufacturer's coupons) and get both bottles of sunscreen for $4.00 or $2 each.

It's also important to look at the coupon you're using itself to see what, if any, stipulations apply. Some coupons are for a specific sized item, "Valid for 16 oz. size only" or "Valid on jumbo packs or larger". Make sure you're buying the specified size. Some coupons read "Do Not Double" which means the value of the coupon is the value of the coupon regardless of the store's doubling policy. Be sure to check the expiration date on your coupon too. I've been embarrassed more than once accidentally trying to use an expired coupon.

Speaking of expired coupons, members of the US Military and their families who are stationed overseas can use expired coupons for up to 6 months after the expiration date at commissaries. You can mail your expired coupons to Support Our Troops 
P.O. Box 70
Daytona Beach, FL 32115-0070
Go here for more information on Troopons.

Tomorrow I'll be answering some of the questions I've been receiving regarding coupons and couponing. If you've got a question, send it my way and I'll try to include it. 

We're just about done with Coupon Boot Camp. Next week Lessons 9 & 10 will be posted on Thursday and Friday and that will conclude the basics of couponing. After that I'll be highlighting different stores each week, explaining their policies and sharing deals with you that you can then go to that store that week and take advantage of. Remember to keep collecting those coupons!

*Image courtesy of*

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing DaGeDar...


DaGeDar, pronounced "DAH-geh-DAAR" are super battle balls that encourage strategy and skill in a brand new, one of a kind game from Cepia LLC, the makers of Zhu Zhu Pets. DaGeDar will be available nationwide this summer.

So what is it exactly?

The DaGeDar are big, marble-like balls. Each ball weighs 33 grams. Unlike a marble they have steel cores and really cool graphics. The weight of the balls allows them to roll fast and jump far. More than 240 different DeGeDar balls are planned to be released in 2011, each with a varying degree of rarity, making them fun to collect and trade. Each ball also comes with a unique code so that it can be registered online to reveal that balls hidden powers, which can assist with racing strategy.

How do you play?

DaGeDar balls will require lots of practice and skill. Players must control the speed and velocity of their balls in order to send them around turns and through loops without forcing them off the track. The DaGeDar balls can be sent through spinners or loaded into battle launchers to add even more to this unique game. This ain't your Daddy's marbles, Kids...

I gotta' tell ya' looks pretty awesome. If you don't believe me, check this out and see for yourself how cool it is: 

For more info. on DaGeDar, be sure to "like" them on Facebook.

*I was entered to win a DaGeDar prize pack in exchange for introducing you to DaGeDar. If I win it, you're all coming over to play.*

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When life hands you rotten bananas...

                                       ...make Banana Bread!

Because I can't bare to part with anything, (even rotten fruit) when my bananas go bad, I make banana bread with them. I love this recipe because it takes less than 10 minutes to throw everything together and you don't need a mixer...I'm not so good with machines. It's moist and delicious all on it's own. Great for breakfast or a snack. 

Here's what you need:

Rotten bananas (You don't want them totally decaying with flies buzzing around them, but you want them super soft with lots of brown spots. 3 or 4 will do, you'll need at least 3 decent sized bananas. I generally just use as many as I have. I used all of the cute little bananas shown in the picture for one loaf and the 3 larger ones for another loaf.)

1/3 cup of melted butter (Which is a little over 5 tablespoons.)

1 cup of sugar (You can easily reduce this to 3/4 cup or even half a cup if you're looking to cut back on sugar.)

1 egg

A splash of milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

A pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

A pinch of nutmeg

1 1/2 cups of flour

Here's what you do: 

1) First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Peel rotten bananas and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Then use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash the bananas up until they look something like this:

2) Add 1/3 cup of melted butter to mashed bananas. Gram says you should only melt butter in the microwave 10 seconds at a time or it loses it's flavor. Gram is never wrong. So if you're nuking your butter to melt it, make sure you do it in 10 second intervals until it's melted. In a separate bowl, beat an egg with a splash of milk. Pour egg into mashed bananas as well as sugar and vanilla.

3) Mix it all up. Then sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mix and mix in. Next add cinnamon and nutmeg and mix.

4) Last but not least, add the flour.

Mix the flour in. If you've ever made bread before, this dough won't be sticky like other dough, it'll still be fairly slimy and will look something like this:

5) This recipe makes enough for one loaf of bread. My bread pan is 4" x 8". You could use the same amount of mix for a larger pan or use smaller pans and make several little loaves. Butter your bread pan and pour mix into it.

6) Bake at 350 for one hour. I'd suggest pulling it out and popping a tooth pick in it after 45 minutes just in case, as oven times and temperatures vary. Cool on a rack.

Remove from pan, slice and serve. Sooooo good. My kids tear it up every time I make it. 


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 6: Combining Coupons with Sale Prices + Starting a Price Book

If you missed Lesson 5 on How Grocery Store Sales Work + Marketing Tricks, it's back online now. Blogger had some technical difficulties yesterday, which is why today's lesson wasn't posted yesterday like it should have been. It also caused all of Thursday's posts to go missing for a short time. Looks like they are back in business now though. 

Today we'll talk about combining coupons with store sale prices and how to start a price book.

A lot of people don't use coupons because they think they're going to waste money buying something they don't really need, spending money just because they have a coupon for something. Hopefully you're starting to see that's not the case at all and developing a whole new mindset about couponing. 

Before you can get a really good deal, you need to know what a really good deal is. Starting a price book is essential to smart couponing! Use a 3-hole spiral bound notebook for your price book and you can keep it right in your coupon binder. A price book is exactly what it sounds like. It's a book of different items you buy frequently and what the prices are for that item at various stores you shop at. It might sound like an awful lot of work, but it really isn't and it isn't something that needs to be maintained. For the most part, once it's done, it's done.

Make a line half way through each piece of paper in the notebook as you go along. Use each half to list a different item. You'll have 4 items listed on each sheet of paper in the notebook (front and back). When you go to the stores you normally shop at, bring your price book with you. Jot down the names of items you buy and what the regular price of each item is, along with the name of the store. 

When you look at your weekly sale ads. you can compare sale prices to those in your price book and determine if you're really getting the best deal possible. You can also keep track of the sale prices of the items you buy at different stores, what the sale price is and when it goes on sale. This will help you to follow the stores sales cycles like we talked about in Lesson 4

After you've started your price book, look at your store ads. each week and the coupons you have. Go through your coupon collection and match-up coupons for the items that are on sale and determine the price after coupons. 

Here's an example:
A certain brand of chips is on sale 2/$5 or $2.50 each. Looking at your price book you can see that the regular price of those chips is $2.75, so it's really not a great deal. Unless you really need those chips this week, you'll want to skip that sale. Of course you'll be implementing the Menu Planning and stockpiling strategies we've already gone over at the same time.

Keep going through the weekly sale ads., matching up coupons you have with those sale items, comparing to your price book and seeing what's a great deal and what's not.

My #1 Couponing Rule is to never use a coupon to buy an item that's regular price. The key is to use your coupons wisely on sale items that are at their absolute lowest sale price. Sure, you might save some money other wise, but not the kind of money you could be saving. And the whole point is to save as much money as you possibly can!

It's also really important not to buy anything just because you have a coupon for it, sale price or not. It can be tempting when you're just starting out. There will be many, many coupons that you'll throw away expired and that's ok. Remember that the goal here is to only use coupons to buy items at the lowest price possible. You'll need to learn to have patience and wait for that price to come around. Make sure that when you do find that low, low price, you're implementing the principles of stockpiling so that you have enough of that item until it goes on sale that low again. 

Next week we'll talk about learning stores coupon policies and I'll answer some of the FAQ I've been receiving about coupons and couponing. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 5: How Grocery Store Sales Work + Marketing Tricks

Today we'll talk more about how grocery store sales work and about recognizing marketing tricks. If you're new to my blog and my Coupon Boot Camp posts or you need a refresher, here are the links to the first 4 lessons:

Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Lesson 2: Getting Organized

Lesson 3: The Right Way to Menu Plan

Lesson 4: Stockpiling and Budgets

I've been posting a new lesson each week on Thursday and Friday. To be honest, I'm not sure how many lessons there will be, I'm just kind of winging it. The plan is to cover all the basics of couponing in these lessons and then continue Coupon Boot Camp by highlighting different deals each week that you can go to the store and get yourself (Like I've been doing with the Shop Rite deals, click here for this week's.)...armed with your coupons of course! :) 

I've had quite a few questions asked, messaged and emailed to me since I started these posts and I'll be working on a post to compile and answer them all. If you've got a question about couponing or anything we've covered so far, please feel free to leave a comment or email me and ask so that I can include it. 


Now on to Lesson 5. :) 

Here are some things you should remember about how grocery store sales work to help you save more:

Most store sales run Sunday through Saturday. Some stores have special sales that run mid-week.

It's important to know that while most sales are advertised, some are not. Be on the look out for unadvertised sales and Manager's Specials. When I first started couponing, I would put all the coupons I knew I wanted to use (based on what was on sale in the store's weekly circular) in an envelope and take it to the store with me. It didn't take me long to realize there were items on sale that weren't in the ad. I got frustrated a few times because I saw something on sale that wasn't in the ad. and knew I had a coupon for home. That's when I came to use the binder system for organizing my coupons. Now I have all my coupons with me at the store so I don't miss out on unadvertised sales. 

Also look for clearance items and items marked down as Manager's Specials. If you have a coupon for an item that's been reduced, you can almost always still use a coupon to buy it and save even more. Always keep an eye out for Manager's Specials in the meat and produce departments. You're not going to see a lot of coupons for meats and fresh fruits and veggies, so the more money you can save otherwise in those departments the better. Just last night I picked up (3) 1 lb.+  packages of hot Italian sausage for under $1.00 each. They were marked down as a Manager's Special from $1.99/lb. to .88 cents a pound because they had tomorrow's expiration date on them. They're sitting in my freezer for future use. Meats that are close to their expiration date and on Manager's Specials are a great way to reduce your budget. If it's going in your freezer anyway, it doesn't matter if it expires 24 hours after you buy. It'll be frozen and totally safe. I don't see as many markdown's on meat as I'd like to, but when I find them I jump on them. 

Look for price hints in sales flyers. Sometimes you'll see an item on sale for $3.99 and then in smaller print it may say "Save up to $2". If it's not an item you're familiar with, you can assume the regular shelf price is $5.99 and decide if it's really a good deal or not. 

Many sales run longer than a week. Certain items might be on sale and only advertised for one week, while the sale might last 2-3 weeks longer, but unadvertised in the following weeks flyers. I've found this to be true of Shop Rite a lot.

If an item is on sale and out of stock, request a rain check. As with sales that last for several weeks, rain checks can give you more time to locate coupons for the item. It can be a bummer when you've got coupons for an item that's on sale for a great price and the store is out of that item. Get a rain check and say a prayer they get that item in before you coupons expire. You won't be able to use an expired coupon, even if your rain check was issued when the coupon was still good.

Here's a few things to remember about marketing tricks:

Grocery stores and food manufacturer's are in the business of making money, not saving you money. There's all sorts of marketing tricks they use to get you to spend more money. You've got to think long and hard about some deals to see if you're really saving yourself any money. A lot of new couponers fall for these tricks.

10/$10 deals are a fav. of mine. Especially when I have coupons for those items. A 10/$10 deal usually doesn't mean that you have to buy 10 of that item to get them for $1.00 each. You can usually buy 1, 2, 5, 10 or 20 and still get the items for $1.00 each. If the sale states that the item on sale is "$1 each when you buy 10", then a minimum purchase of 10 is required to get them for $1.00 each. 

Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals are great too. At some stores B1G1 Free items will ring up at 50% off each item (which is what a B1G1 Free deal really is) as opposed to the first item ringing up at full price and then the second item ringing up free. This is great because you can then use coupons on both items you're buying. 

You'll need to decide if promotions that require you to spend a certain amount of money in order to save money are really a good deal. These kinds of deals can be a great way to stock up your pantry, but if you don't carefully plan it out and use coupons, you could fall for the trick and spend more than you would have. 

Tomorrow we'll learn more about combining store sales with coupons to maximize your savings and starting a price book, which is essential to smart couponing!

*Image courtesy of*

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - ShopRite Deals for the Week of 05-08-11

There's tons of great deals at Shop Rite this week. I wish I had the time to post them all, but I just don't. Here are five deals you can score using printable coupons online.

Sort through the coupons you've been collecting and you're sure to find more deals on top of these. Look for items that are on sale that you also have coupons for. We'll talk more about matching coupons with store sales later this week.

Hunt's Ketchup is on sale for .88 cents each. Use a .25 cents off (1) coupon (available at, use zip code 07039 to find it), Shop Rite will double your coupon to .50 cents and you'll get your ketchup for .38 cents. Even better, if you picked up a copy of ALL YOU magazine in April, you can use the .50 cents off (1) coupon in it. Shop Rite will double your coupon, giving you $1.00 off. You'll get your ketchup for FREE and make .12 cents too!

Red Gold Diced Tomatoes (10 oz.) are on sale 2/.99 cents or .49 cents each. Use this printable coupon for $1.00/4 cans and you'll get 4 cans for .24 cents each.

International Delight Coffee Creamers are on sale for .99 cents. Use this printable coupon for .55 cents off (1), Shop Rite will double your coupon (giving you an additional .45 cents off) and you'll get your creamer for FREE. 

Apple & Eve Apple Juice is on sale for $2.00 each (must buy 2). Use this $1.00/2 coupon and get them for $1.50 each.

Arm & Hammer 2X Laundry Detergent is on sale for $1.99. Buy (2), use this printable coupon for $1.00 off 2 and get them for $1.49 each. 



Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Now Pronounce You Hamster and Wife! - Zhu-Zhu Pet Royal Wedding Review

Last week people all over the world watched the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This week at our house (a slightly smaller venue) we had a royal wedding of our own. I was honored to plan and officiate the wedding of the sweet and beautiful Princess Snowcup and the handsome and debonair Prince Dashington. 

We were supplied with an awesome Zhu-niverse Royal Wedding Kit, which included the Bride and Groom, (3) Zhu-Zhu Wedding outfits, a Magical Princess Carriage, a Magical Princess Castle and a  Magical Princess Ballroom.

We had fun setting up for this unique play-date! Our typical play-dates don't require decorations, but we were having a wedding, a ROYAL WEDDING at that, so we had to set the theme! A trip to the Dollar Store covered everything we needed to fancy the place up for a wedding:


Our guests arrived to the wedding dressed to impress and excited to test out the fun Magical Zhu-Zhu Princess line of toys!

 A few of the non-battery powered guests (from L to R): Princess Nellie, Princess Mila, Princess Belle and Prince Sean

Our play date started off with some snacking, as any good gathering does. We then attempted to make the girls toilet paper dresses, however, my son was the only one interested in wearing a toilet paper wedding gown. 

              Which he then tore off in an Incredible Hulk type move. 

Princess Isabelle wasn't interested in a T.P. gown, but we did manage to convince her to wear a toilet paper veil. 

We also had to make Princess Snowcup a wedding gown from toilet paper. The pink dress she was wearing was lovely, but we felt she needed to be in white. 
After the Bride was dressed, the Royal Carriage came to pick her up and carted her off to the Crystal Castle where Prince Dashington was waiting for her. 

The Bride and Groom exchanged vows and the wedding ended with a kiss. Oh yes...we actually held a ceremony. The kids faces were priceless! I need to look into getting ordained, I think I may have missed my calling! Then the newlyweds went to the ballroom where they shared their first dance.

Our family is not at all new to Zhu-Zhu Pets. We've been big Zhu-Zhu Pet fans at our house for a few years now. You can learn all about the Zhu-Zhu line of quality toys, like the items from the Magical Princess line we were provided for our Royal Zhu-Zhu Wedding by checking out The Zhuniverse online here. It's been our experience that the zhu-zhu pets, play sets and accessories are fun, easy to operate and great for kids of all different ages.

Be sure to like The Zhu-niverse on Facebook too!

**In full disclosure: This is not a paid post, no monetary exchange took place. We were provided with the toys described to host a play date and share the fun with you here. :)**

Friday, May 6, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 4: Stockpiling and Budgets

Miss the first three lessons of Coupon Boot Camp? Get caught up:

Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Lesson 2: Getting Organized

Lesson 3: The Right Way To Menu Plan

Today we'll learn about Stockpiling and Budgets. Stockpiling is buying items when they are available at the absolute lowest prices (usually with the combination of sales and coupons) in bulk. Now when I say "in bulk" I mean a quantity large enough to supply for family until that item is available for a price that low again. Most of you have probably seen TLC's Extreme Couponing. Those mentally disturbed people are not just extreme couponers, they're extreme stockpilers. I don't know about you, but I don't have the room or the need for 1,700 jars of peanut butter. The idea is to, instead of buying just a few items on sale at a great price, buy just enough to get you through until that price comes around again. You'll need to start paying attention to store sale cycles.

Most store sales run in three month cycles. Give or take a little. Some sales only come around every six months, others just once a year. Once you start paying attention to sale cycles, you'll see which sales come around all the time and which sales are less frequent. The majority of sales are in three month cycles, so when you find an item on sale for a rock bottom price, you'll want to buy enough to last you for three months, until that item is available for that low price again.

For instance, if I'm using sauce in a jar, I like Paul Newman's. They are regular price $2.99 each at Shop Rite. They are often on sale 2/$5.00, so you'd pay $2.50 each, saving a whopping .49 cents. Less frequently they go on sale 2/$4.00, so you'd be saving .99 cents a jar. Once about every three months they go on sale 2/$3.00, so you're paying $1.50 a jar as opposed to $2.99 a jar - half the price. Paul Newman's issues .50 cent off any Newman's product several times a year. When these coupons come out, I get my hands on as many of them as I can. (Incidentally, there's Newman's Own coupons available online here at the moment.) I use my .50 cents off coupons when the sauce is on sale $1.50 each and get as many jars as I think I'll need until they go on sale for that price again. Shop Rite doubles my .50 cent coupons, giving me $1.00 off and I get my Paul Newman's for .50 cents a jar, a fraction of the regular price.

Following sale cycles and stockpiling is crucial to smart couponing! If you used the same coupons when the sauce was on sale 2/$5.00 or $2.50 each, Shop Rite would double your coupon, giving you$1.00 off. You'd be paying $1.50 a jar, which is less than you could have paid, but why would you want to pay $1.50 when you could get it for 50 cents instead?  This is a great example of matching coupons with store sales to get the maximum savings possible! We'll talk about that next week.

Many items are on seasonal sale cycles. You're not going to see the sales on BBQ items like hot dogs or ketchup and mustard in December that you'll see in July. It pays to stock up on more seasonal items during their prime time. Build your stockpile on those types of items during the summer to have enough to last you through the winter. 

I should also add that it's important to know you'll like and use a certain item before you buy 35 of them to add to your stockpile. One time Shop Rite had several varieties of Ajax laundry detergent on sale for .99 cents each. I had 16 coupons for .50 cents off Ajax. I bought 16 bottles, used my .50 cent off coupons which Shop Rite doubled. I got the detergent for free and made a penny on each bottle. Which was that moment...until I used it and realized it was the worst laundry detergent on the face of the planet and was stuck having to use 16 bottles of it. 

It's also important to use what you have in your stockpile! Can and will you use 42 cans of pinto beans before they expire? If you can't or won't, then it's not smart to get them...even if they are super cheap. It's all well and good to get free and really cheap stuff, but your budget can seriously suffer if you're buying a ton of stuff and not using what you're buying.

Speaking of budgets...

The specifics of how you work your grocery budget really don't matter, so long as you know how much you're spending and what you're spending it on. You need a standard to look at so that you can see how you've saved since you started getting serious about couponing and saving money. Try to think of your budget as a monthly figure and not a weekly figure. It will help free you up for those times when certain things are on sale for great prices and you need to stockpile those items. Stockpiling can be tricky when you're on a really tight budget. If you only have $100 in your pocket to get food to last your family the next 10 days, it can be almost impossible to get what you absolutely need plus stock up on great sale prices. Start out slow and you'll find a way to make it work. 

Try not to compare what your spending, what your saving or your budget to that of others. Just as everyone's family is different, so is everyone's budget. Your goal is to save as much money as you can. Don't get down on yourself if you can't get your budget as low as you might think it should be. These things take time. With proper menu planning, stockpiling and coupons, you'll be there before you know it.

A lot of people are interested in using coupons to get free stuff, especially with regards to stockpiling. You can and will get free stuff couponing. When I first started couponing I wasn't really saving any money...I had a closet full of free stuff, but I was spending as much as ever. The key is to both get free stuff AND reduce your budget.

Next week we'll learn more about how grocery store sales work, starting a price book and combining coupons with store sales for maximum savings!!!