Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toy Organization - Board Games & Puzzles

If your house is anything like mine, the days after CHRISTmas look like a toy store. My family is big on presents and while Lee and I try to keep the craziness under control, there really is no use since our parents spoil our kids rotten. Since I can't handle mess and disorder, I have systems for toy organization. I thought that I would do a series on toy organization.

Here is Installment #1 - Board Games & Puzzles:

As soon as I open a board game, I check to make sure it has all of the parts.

Then I put the game together to make sure it is all there.

Then I put all of the pieces into different baggies (ie game pieces in one baggie, money in one baggie, etc).

I put rubberbands around the cards.

I like to put all of the little baggies and cards into a bigger resealable bag.

I put everything back into the box.

We have a chest for all of our games and I put all the adult games on one side and all of the kid games on the other. I put like-sized games together to save space.

When we play a game, we always clean it up the way we found it so that no pieces get lost.

For puzzles, we put all the puzzle pieces into a ziploc bag and then put it in the box. That way if the lid was to fall off, we don't lose any pieces.

Hope this helps!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Set Goals

I hope you and your family had a great CHRISTmas. Our family did as always. It was nice seeing family, eating all the goodies, and exchanging gifts, but most of all celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Now, I am ready to regroup and focus on 2011. I love the week between CHRISTmas and New Year's when I can think back on the previous year and plan for the next. I am going to share how I set goals and make plans for the new year. There is more to it than just saying, "I want to lose weight," or "I want to do _____ less/more." It requires much more.

First, it is good to clearly think about what the big picture is or who you want to be at the end of the year. It might be desiring to be closer to the Lord, having more Biblical knowledge, being thinner and healthier, being more focused on family, and/or advanced in a skill you want to learn more about.

Then, you want to start with your most important goals. In my life, that is spiritual goals. I desire each year to strengthen my walk with the Lord through prayer, Bible reading/study, and teaching Luke more Biblical truths. You write the specific goal, ie "I want to read the Bible in a Year."

Next, you put a goal date on it. For reading the Bible in a year, your goal day would obviously be "December 31st, 2011". The key is putting a realistic date on it. Make sure you could meet it, but that it will require you to work hard.

Then, you put a daily plan to it. For reading the Bible in a year, your daily plan would be "Read the Bible daily based on the reading plan." Basically giving yourself a daily plan breaks your goal down into small, attainable steps and gives you a daily check point to keep you on plan.

Lastly, you want to write down anything you need to do ahead of time to make it easier to jump in on January 1st. For reading the Bible in a year, you would "Get a Bible in a Year reading plan and put it with my Bible; and put my Bible and reading plan where I plan to read it daily."

Now, instead of just flippantly saying what you want to do, you have a written goal, date, daily plan, and list of things to do to get you started when you are ready. I really hope this has helped you guys. I am going to post my goals and plans for 2011 in another post to give you an idea of what I really mean. Plus, posting it will help me because I know you guys will know what I am supposed to be doing. ;)

Take Care!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some of My Favorite Cookie Recipes

I love to bake!!! My favorite thing to bake is cookies. I think I love them because there are a ton of varieties but the basic baking is the same (cream butter, add sugars, add eggs and vanilla, mix dry ingredients, add dry to wet, bake). I love a process that I can follow that can still produce different things.

I decided to share my favorite cookie recipes. These are [very] tried and true recipes.

NESTLE TOLL HOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups (12 oz pkg) chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl.
Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in mixer.
Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded Tbsp onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
*I bake them for about 7-8 minutes on a middle rack and 2 minutes on a top rack to make them bake evenly and stay soft.

GINGER SNAPS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat in mixer (1st)
3/4 cup Crisco (sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp salt

Mix in a medium bowl (2nd)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp ginger

Add dry to wet.
Make small balls & dip tops in sugar.
Place on cookie sheet.
They will flatten out themselves.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
*I bake them for about 8-10 minutes on a middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake evenly and stay soft.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in bowl.
Shape into balls and press down with fork to form criss-cross pattern.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
*I bake them for 6-7 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake evenly and stay soft.


SUGAR COOKIES

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In electric mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes).
Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Add flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.
Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.
Put on baking sheet.
Put in refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough.
Note: If you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you can use an egg wash (scramble egg with water) and brush it on the cookies and add sprinkles before you bake.
Bake for 10 minutes or until they are brown around the edges.
*I bake them for about 8 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack so that they bake evenly and stay soft.
Let cookies cool.
Frost with royal icing, if desired.
Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours.)
Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container.
Store between layers of parchment paper or wax paper.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
Mix egg whites and lemon juice with a whisk.
Add powdered sugar and mix.
Add a little cold water for consistency.

SNICKERDOODLES

Ingredients:

Topping:

3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Cookies:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees (yes, 300 degrees!).
In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Set aside.
In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk and set aside. In a large bowl blend both sugars with an electric mixer set at medium speed.
Add the butter and mix to form a grainy paste.
Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix at medium speed.
Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed just until combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.
*I bake them for about 12 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake them evenly and stay soft.
Remove immediately from cookie sheet and let cool.

PEANUT BLOSSOM COOKIES

Ingredients:

Cookies:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Coating:
1/3 cup granulated white sugar

Garnish:
48 milk chocolate Kisses or mini Reeses, unwrapped

Directions:
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter.
Add the peanut butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes).
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine.
Beat in the milk.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat until incorporated.
Cover and chill the batter for about an hour, or until firm enough to roll into balls.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.
Roll the batter into 1 inch round balls.
Place the granulated white sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each ball in the sugar.
Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
Immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven, place a chocolate Kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down until the cookie just starts to crack.
*I like to put the cookies back in the oven for a minute to soften the candy.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

Organized CHRISTmas Baking

I love CHRISTmas!!! It's my favorite time of year. I love celebrating Jesus' birth, playing Santa Claus for my kids, spending time with family, all of the decorating, the present giving, caroling, CHRISTmas programs, and of course, CHRISTmas baking.

I love to bake!!! It's so fun to pull out recipes, get out the mixer and supplies, and spend the day in the kitchen baking lots of yummy treats to share with others. As with anything, I have to be organized about it.

Here's how I CHRISTmas bake:

1 - I select all of the recipes I want to make and how many of each (ie batches).

2 - I compute how much of each ingredient I will need.

3 - I go through my cupboards, pantry, and fridge to see what I need at the store and make my list.

4 - I go shopping for all of the baking needs (I also stock up if I notice my baking cupboard is low on something since I love to bake randomly).

5 - I lay out all of my dry ingredients (flour, sugars, baking soda/powder, salt, spices), wet ingredients (butter - so it can soften, eggs, milk, molasses), and misc ingredients (peanut butter, chocolate chips, candies). I put my mixer on the main island. I get out some smaller mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons, and baking sheets.

6 - I start with the recipes that need to be refrigerated (ie sugar cookie dough, peanut blossom dough) so that they can be in the refrigerator while I am making the other cookies.

7 - I use one set of measuring cups/spoons for dry ingredients and one for wet so I don't have to wash as much.

8 - I also like to keep a sink of hot soapy water to put stuff in as I go to make cleanup easier.

9 - I just work my way through my baking and clean as I go so there isn't a major mess to clean up at the end.

10 - I have a station for cookies to cool and be packaged.

It's just so much fun. I really enjoy letting Luke help me (if he wants to of course) and by being organized it keeps things running smoothly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Organized CHRISTmas Present Giving

As everyone knows CHRISTmas can get so crazy, especially when we get too overwhelmed by all the presents, shopping, parties, and other ruckus that tends to happen this time of year. To combat the craziness, I try to really organize my CHRISTmas present giving. I usually start my shopping after Thanksgiving as I really like to focus on Thanksgiving before all the CHRISTmas stuff starts.

Lee and I sit down and write a list of all of the people we are going to be buying presents for. Then we come up with a budget for each person. Then we like to write down some ideas or things that each person likes or is into. I take my list with me when I shop and I write down everything I purchase for each person. That way I remember what I've bought (yes, if I don't write stuff down, I completely forget). I also keep a tally of how much I've spent so I can stick to my budget.

I try to have all of my shopping done by the week before CHRISTmas. I usually end up picking up a couple of things for Luke as he makes new requests every day (sometimes every hour). I like to wrap as I go as well so I don't end up with a massive pile of presents to wrap two days before CHRISTmas. Plus the presents look pretty under the tree.

I hope these tips have helped. I would love to hear how you organize your CHRISTmas present giving or if you just wing it. :)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ways to Save $$$ on Formula

Even though I am exclusively breastfeeding or pumping and putting it into bottles (for feedings away from the house and night time feedings), I am already getting some formula. I nursed and pumped for Luke for 3 months and then went to formula, so I have it in my mind that I more than likely won't nurse/pump for a full year, so I am stocking up on formula when it is a good deal and/or I have a coupon/check voucher.

Here are my $$$ saving tips:

- Buy generic - I've heard that Target and Walmart brands are just as good as the name brands and save lots of money.

- Sign up for every brand of formula's samples, coupons and check vouchers - I signed up for the multiples program so I get double coupons (I don't have the heart to call and tell them I only have one baby plus I can use the extra coupons) - They send me coupons and/or check vouchers (sometimes for up to $11 off of any formula).

- Look for the deals and match with coupons/check vouchers when you have them - Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Target run deals on formula frequently and they will take the coupons/check vouchers with them.

- Look for rebate programs - Enfamil has one right now that if you spend $40 in formula, you get a $15 rebate. I matched that with sales and check vouchers and got all of the formula for FREE.

- Know how much you want to pay per ounce and aim to only buy it at that price if possible.

- Have a budget for formula each month - I think with Luke we spent around $100. My goal if we go to exclusively formula will be $50 (but of course if Nathan needs it and we go over, I'll cut from somewhere else).

I hope these tips have helped.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My New Schedule

Since I just posted about how to create a schedule, I figured I would post my new schedule in case people were interested in seeing how I plan to spend my days. I would love to see yours as well and if you would like, I would love to post them on my blog for others to get ideas from you. Just comment or email me at ashley-webber@hotmail.com. Thanks!

MY NEW SCHEDULE:

7:00am - Wake Up, Brush Teeth, Wash Face, Get Dressed, Make Bed, Start 1st Load of Laundry, Wash Bottles/Pump Supplies, Unload Dishwasher/Reload Dishwasher, Make Breakfast

7:30am - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Breakfast)

8:30am - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Put 1st Load in Dryer, Start 2nd Load of Laundry, Exercise, Shower and Get Ready

9:30am - Fold 1st Load of Laundry, Put 2nd Load in Dryer, Do Weekly Cleaning, Play with Luke, Make Snacks for Luke and Me

10:30am - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Snack)

11:30am - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Homeschool Luke

12:30pm - Make Lunch, Eat Lunch, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes, Wipe Down, Fold 2nd Load of Laundry

1:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan, Read Books to Luke and Nathan

2:30pm - Put Both Boys Down for a Nap, DOWN TIME - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Watch TV/Movie, Scrapbook, Blog, Coupon, Nap, Make Snacks for Luke and Me

4:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Snack)

5:30pm - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Make Dinner, Help Luke with Art Project or Play with Luke while Dinner is Cooking

6:30pm - Eat Dinner, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes, Wipe Down, Sweep, Straighten Up, Play with Luke

7:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Bathe Nathan

8:30pm - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Help Lee Put Luke to Bed

9:00pm - DOWN TIME - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Watch TV/Movie, Scrapbook, Blog, Coupon, Hang out with Lee, Have a Snack/Dessert

10:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Change and Feed Nathan

11:00pm - Put Nathan to Bed, Go to Bed

Creating a Schedule

I am a big scheduler. I like knowing what time I am going to wake up, go to bed, eat meals, do stuff with the kids, do stuff around the house, etc. It helps me because I can work around my natural rhthyms throughout the day. Plus kids really love routine and schedules. They like knowing what to expect. Well my life has been very unscheduled the last year since I was pregnant or a new mom the whole year. I would sometimes go to bed early and/or sleep late or take naps plus my sickenss and/or lack of energy required a lot of sitting and resting so I didn't really do as much as I normall do.

Well now that things are settling down with Nathan and we are going to be getting back to a few things that got put on the back burner for a while - working out, homeschooling, normal cleaning routine - I decided that we needed a new family schedule.

Lee and I sat down when things were quiet and worked out a schedule for our family. I am really excited about it and thought that I would share how we did it.

Since we have 4 people with 4 different schedules and sets of needs, we wrote out what each person did during the course of a day.

Lee's List - Wake Up, Get Ready for Work, Make Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks, Leave for Work, Drive to Work, Work, Leave Work, Drive Home, Get Home, Eat Dinner, Play with Luke, Help Luke Clean up Toys, Shower and Get Ready for Bed, Bathe Luke, Get Luke Ready for Bed, Put Luke to Bed, Relax/Spend Time with Ashley, Go to Bed

Luke's List - Wake Up, Get Ready, Make Bed, Eat Breakfast, Play Alone, Play with Mommy, Play with Daddy, Homeschool, Arts/Crafts, Watch TV/Movie, Eat Lunch, Read Books, Clean Up Toys, Take a Nap, Wake Up, Eat Dinner, Clean Up Toys, Get a Bath, Get Ready for Bed, Go to Bed

Nathan's List - Wake Up, Eat, Play, Take a Nap (Repeat all day until bed)

Ashley's List - Wake Up, Get Ready, Make Bed, Start Laundry, Wash Bottles/Pumping Supplies, Make Breakfast, Eat Breakfast, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down, Feed and Play with Nathan, Workout, Shower and Get Ready, Daily Cleaning, Weekly Cleaning, Finish Laundry, Feed and Play with Nathan, Make Lunch, Eat Lunch, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down, Homeschool Luke, Feed and Play with Nathan, Read Books with Luke, Put Boys Down for a Nap, Down Time - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Scrapbook, Blog, Watch TV/Movie, Nap, Feed and Play with Nathan, Play with Luke, Arts/Crafts with Luke, Make Dinner, Eat Dinner, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down/Sweep, Feed and Bathe Nathan, Relax/Spend Time with Lee, Feed Nathan and Put to Bed, Go to Bed, Middle of the night feedings (if needed)

Then we put how much time each thing would take (some things we grouped together).

Then we started with our wake time. We decided that Lee, Luke, and I would wake up at 7:00am and do our morning things and then I would wake Nathan up at 7:30am and start his routine. Then we decided on a bedtime for each of us. Luke will go to bed at 9:00pm. Nathan, Lee, and I will go to bed at 11:00pm (until Nathan starts sleeping all night). Then we decided on a naptime for Luke (and Nathan). His naptime will be around 2:30pm to 4:30 or 5:00pm. I wanted to have time in the afternoon when both boys napped together so I could have some downtime.

Then we decided on meal times. Breakfast is around 7:30am (yes, I will eat while I feed Nathan for now), lunch is around 12:30pm, and dinner is around 6:30pm.

Then we decided on when we would homeschool, I would workout and shower and get ready, when I would have focused playtime with Luke, and when I would clean and Luke would have alone playtime. We also decided on when the boys would get their baths and factored in time to get ready for nap and bed (clean up toys, read, pray).

I did all of it in an Excel spreadsheet. I put all the time slots (15 minute increments) from 7:00am to 11:00pm and each of our names across the top. I plugged in everything and that way we could see where each person was all day.

That was our basic daily schedule. Our weekly schedule will be the same spreadsheet but with different things added in. For example we go to church Sunday morning from 10:00am until 2:00pm (driving time, church, and we go out to lunch, so I will have that change on the schedule. We will have a different weekend schedule, but will try to keep wake time, bed time, meal times, naps, and Nathan's schedule consistent those days.

If anyone is interested in seeing the Excel sheet, just email me at ashley-webber@hotmail.com and I will send it to you. You can just change it how you need to. It's super easy to use.

NOTE: This is our proposed and ideal schedule. There will probably be tweaks and changes (especially when Nathan goes to a 4 hour schedule or our homeschooling takes more time, etc) and we probably won't follow it exactly each day (hey, that's life), but it is good to know what to expect each day.

Life with a Newborn - Tips Included

As anyone who has ever had a newborn knows, they take a lot of your time and mental/emotional focus. We are big on scheduling our babies as soon as possible. I am a huge proponent for the Baby Wise series. The books tell you exactly how to take care of a newborn, how to get them on a routine, and down the road how to deal with bigger issues like discipline, potty training, and eventually the teenage years.

Basically you put the baby on a 3 hour rotation (which is what they do at the hospital anyways) and you feed them, keep them awake (if they will stay awake after), and then put them down for a nap. It discourages feeding them until they fall asleep as well as using props (like rocking to sleep, co-sleeping). When you follow this eventually they will learn to sleep through the night.

It worked beautifully with Luke because we started from the beginning. He slept through the night (8 hours at 2 months and 12 hours at 3 months) really well and never looked back. At almost 5 years old he still sleeps great (10 hours at night and a 2-3 hour nap each day).

Nathan has taken longer for 2 reasons: 1) I held him and didn't really work on the schedule/sleeping alone thing for 7 weeks and 2) he was 5 weeks premature so it has taken longer. But now he is doing pretty good. He is almost 12 weeks (7 weeks adjusted age) and he does a 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hour routine all day and goes 4-7 hours at night (average of 5 hours). He is getting there.

So I have about 1 1/2 to 2 hours between feedings and playing with him to do all the other things - eat, personal hygiene, workout, homeschool, play with Luke, cook, clean, do laundry, etc. I have learned to work fast and use every minute of time that I have.

If I have 5 minutes, I will quickly wash bottles and pumping supplies (I nurse but pump for when we are away from the house and middle of the night feedings since I sometimes fall asleep during his feedings) or unload the dishwasher. I might quickly prep something to eat for later. I might go through a room and straighten up. I might quickly start/change out laundry. I might make beds.

If I have 10 minutes, I will maybe prep some things for dinner that night or wipe down and sweep the kitchen or run a vacuum in the living room. I might quickly fold some laundry (even if I can't get it put away).

If I have 15 minutes, I might wipe down a bathroom or vacuum a floor. I might take a quick shower and throw on some clean clothes. I might iron a few items of clothing.

If I have 30 minutes, I might quickly workout. I might do an art project or craft with Luke.

I am learning to use every bit of time that I have. It helps a lot to not worry about doing something perfectly or getting it completed but taking whatever time I have and using it to make things run smoothly. By the end of the day I've usually gotten quite a lot done once I add up all those 5, 10, 15 minute increments. It's really paying off.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Hey Everyone!

Wow! I can't believe it has been over 2 1/2 months since I have blogged here. It's been a crazy and emotional couple of months. The day after the last entry I made here, I went in for my 35 week ultrasound of the twins. We found out that our precious daughter, Alexis Faith, had passed away. To say we were devestated doesn't even begin to cover it. The doctor highly recommended that we go ahead and deliver Nathan Reid since he was looking great and measuring big and there could be further complications for Nathan or myself.

So on October 1st, 2010, we welcomed our 5 lb 13 oz, 18 in long beautiful baby boy, Nathan Reid, into the world at 5:45pm. Two minutes later at 5:47pm, I delivered Alexis Faith. It was the most joyful and saddest day of my life. I went through every emotion you can think of (sometimes all in the span of 5 minutes).

Recovering from a c-section, having a newborn, and mourning our loss was a lot to deal with for a couple of months. I had a lot of help (my husband for 3 weeks, my mom for a week, Lee's mom for a week, and my sister's step-mom for a week) and people brought meals for almost 6 weeks straight. It was really all I could do to get through each day taking care of Nathan and being grief-stricken. Needless to say, blogging wasn't at the top of my list.

Things have gotten better each day. My grief is not as deep. Thanks to my faith in Jesus Christ, I have found strength, peace, and comfort each day. I know that Alexis Faith is in heaven and I will see her again. I also know that life must go on. It is hard to accept at times that she isn't here. I had so many hopes and dreams and plans for her and for us together. It does sadden me to know they won't happen. I just have to believe that God will work all of this together for good. It makes it a lot more bearable having faith, family, and friends.

I hope to be able to continue my blog. I know it probably won't be as frequent as it was when I was able to rest and sit so much during my pregnancy, but I will try my best to blog at least weekly. I appreciate your following and/or reading my blog. I really enjoy sharing with you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chili Recipe

Well I tried to post the pictures I took along the way when I was making the chili today, but Blogger is being pain about posting pics lately for some reason. Either way, here is the recipe:

CHILI

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
Baby carrots, chopped
Green peppers, chopped
Yellow peppers, chopped
Red peppers, chopped
1 lb ground beef/turkey
Salt and pepper
Chili powder
Cumin
Oregano
Seasoned salt
Paprika
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Thyme
1 large can (or 2 small cans) tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans

Directions:
Heat olive oil in big pot over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, carrots, and peppers.
Cook until soft.
Add ground beef/turkey and salt and pepper.
Cook until beef is cooked throughout.
Add seasonings.
Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, kidney beans, and chili beans and stir well.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 1 hour.

*You can freeze this once it cools.

**You can use any peppers you have on hand (today I just used a green pepper).

***You can use any combination of spices you have on hand as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rite Aid - 9/23

I stopped by Rite Aid tonight because I needed some new makeup and they have Cover Girl cosmetics for Buy 1, Get 1 Free. They also still have the diapers for $8.99 and I had a $3.00 coupon for them. I also had a $5.00 off $25.00 purchase. I decided to peruse the store and see what other things looked good. I found Rite Aid wipes for $6.29 with a $2.00 rebate and I had a $1.00 coupon. I decided to do all of these deals.

I got 2 Cover Girl products (normally $9.99 and $8.59, on sale for B1G1), a pack of diapers (normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99), and a pack of 420 wipes (normally $6.99, on sale for $6.29).

It would have been $37.56.
After sales it was $25.27.
I used my $5.00 off $25.00 purchase = $20.27.
I used a $3.00 off (diapers), $1.00 off (wipes), $1.00 off (CG), and a $1.00 off (CG) = $14.27.
I used $6.00 in UP! Rewards = $8.27.
I got a $2.00 SCR for the wipes = $6.27.
I got a $2.00 UP! Reward
I saved 83%.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Got Paid $5 to "Buy" Diapers at Rite Aid

I LOVE RITE AID!!! I think I may love Rite Aid more than CVS. With the UP! Rewards program, Single Check Rebates, Gift Card programs, $5.00 off $25.00 purchase coupons they have on their website a lot, and the fact that they will take as many coupons as are applicable, you can make out like a bandit there.

Well, today I literally did make out like a bandit. I got paid $5.00 to "buy" 3 packs of Huggies diapers. Each pack was normally $11.99, but was on sale for $8.99. They had a $2.00 UP! Reward (and you could get one per pack on the same transaction - no limit). If you bought 3 packs (over $25.00 - you could also mix and match with other items, but I wanted diapers), you got a $10.00 Rite Aid gift card. When I matched it with all of my coupons and previous UP! Rewards, it was awesome. Here's the breakdown.

3 packs Huggies diapers normally $11.99 each = $35.97
On sale for $8.99 each = $26.97
Used $5.00 off $25.00 purchase = $21.97
Used (3) $3.00 off Huggies diapers = $12.97
Used $3.00 UP! Rewards from previous transaction = $9.97
Paid $9.97 + tax = $11.05
Got a $10.00 Rite Aid gift card = $1.05
Got $6.00 UP! Rewards = -$4.95

SAVINGS = 100+%

Friday, September 17, 2010

CVS - Free $25.00 Gift Card

A few weeks ago we got a coupon that printed out on our receipt for a free $25.00 CVS gift card if you transferred a prescription from a competitor or brought in a new one (couldn't be a refill). I thought, "We probably won't need this (as we don't get sick much in our house), but I'll keep it just in case." Well good thing I did because I had to get a prescription for Procardia (contraction reducing medicine) this week. I brought in my prescription, paid for it, and got a free $25.00 gift card. That will definitely go a long way with how I coupon. I am thinking 5 packs of diapers. ;)

Great Kohl's Trip

If anyone wants to know how I do Kohl's, I wrote a thorough post a while back. Just click on Clothes Buying on the side bar. Tonight we went to Kohl's because I had a 30% off coupon and they were doing Kohl's cash back ($10 GC for every $50 spent) and Luke needed his Fall clothes. I held out until I got the coupon and the cash back. I am thankful they had it this week as I am 33 weeks pregnant and feel about 50 weeks pregnant. I had a tough time and was exhausted when we got home, but it was worth it.

We got Luke:
- A nice tie for church (he really wanted one)
- 2 6pk underwear (he graduated to white ones - he's too big for characters)
- 7pk socks
- 8 casual shirts
- 6 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of khakis for church
- 3 church shirts
- Fleece jacket
- 4 pairs of pajamas

All of that would have cost $504.98.
After the sales it was $285.77.
After the 30% off it was $200.03.
We saved 60%.
We also got $40.00 in Kohl's cash.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Who Knew?

Since I have been doubly pregnant, I haven't been able to keep up with everything like I normally try to. It's been quite frustrating for me as I am a "make a list, check off the list" type of person. I would still try to write a nice list for each day, but I slowly found myself marking less and less off each day. It got really annoying. Lately, I've barely been able to do anything minus making the bed, straightening things up, dishes, and wiping things down. I can do laundry, but I struggle with the getting it from bins and putting it away.

Well last week, Lee and I were having my last baby shower at our house since the people coming hadn't seen our new house yet. We decided that I would do surfaces (dust, wipe down bathrooms, etc) and he would do floors (sweep, vacuum, mop) and straighten up (take things to the rooms they belong). Well, I ended up in Labor and Delivery for 6 hours on Saturday. I was instructed to put my feet up and drink water and to not do any housework. That might sound like fun to most people, but I have a tough time relaxing and not doing the things that I normally do.

Well Lee insisted that he take care of everything. I just had to let go and let him do it. The funny thing is, he did an amazing job. In fact, he cleans better than I do. He moved stuff when he vacuumed (I rarely do that), he dusted with real dust spray and a cloth (when I do dust, I use those Swiffer clothes), and he scrubbed the sinks and toilets (I usually use Lysol wipes and just wipe hard). I was very impressed and to be honest, very embarrassed that I had always insisted to do everything myself.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my "job" is to be a wife, mom, and homemaker. It gives me my confidence and my meaning (at least in the sense of a daily purpose like Lee gets from IBM). Plus I am really particular (okay anal) and I like things done a certain way. Well who knew that he could do it as good, if not better, than I do it? You learn something new everyday. ;)

It was really a comfort to know that 1) he is willing to do things that I normally do without a complaint and 2) he will do an awesome job. Now, I just have to realize that more people can do the same thing for me. That's the next step. ;) I have a feeling that God will use situations to help me learn that as well. He always does.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Payoff of Stockpiling and Meal Planning

So back before I got into this whole "Organized Homemaking" thing, I really struggled with grocery shopping and meal planning (or lack thereof). A lot of the time we would go out to eat, but when I would actually cook, there was zero planning. I would just say, "Let's have spaghetti (or whatever meal sounded good)." It was a totally different experience back then than it is today.

Before:

I would just go to whatever store was closest (usually Harris Teeter or Super Target) and would buy what I needed. I would grab some pasta noodles, sauce, lean ground beef/turkey, a green pepper, an onion, and perhaps some frozen garlic bread/texas toast. I would also usually end up grabbing some other random things (especially if I went to Target).

I wouldn't have a single coupon, but I would grab what brand was the best "deal" that day. I would spend probably around $11.00 just for the stuff for the spaghetti. If I added texas toast, it would be at least $13.00, not to mention the other random things (ie cookie dough/brownie mix for dessert).

After:

Now, I coupon and only buy things when they are great deal and stockpile. I buy all of my meat on sale and individually package it for the freezer. I never spend more than $3.33 on lean ground beef/turkey and usually get it for better than that. I buy pasta noodles (whole wheat) for virtually nothing and spaghetti sauce (even the large jars) for under $1.00. I buy my peppers when they are 50 cents to $1.00 (I cut them up and freeze them in freezer bags). I still buy onions when I need them, but they are usually not that expensive (maybe 50 cents apiece). I also stockpile baking goods (like brownie mix) when it goes on sale. I don't impulse shop anymore.

So, even if I haven't technically meal planned, I can say, "Let's have spaghetti." I go to the pantry and grab my free pasta noodles and cheap spaghetti sauce. I grab a pound of lean ground beef/turkey and my diced peppers from the freezer. I either have an onion from my fresh produce shop or have Lee stop and get one (saving me money - he will not impulse shop). If we want garlic bread, I have it in the freezer (I probably got it for 50 cents). If we want brownies, I have mix in the cupboard that I probably got for free or maybe 25 cents. So, I cook the same meal (if not better since I only buy name brand with coupons) for roughly $5.00 (including bread and dessert).

So by doing all this couponing, stockpiling, and meal planning, I saved myself $6-8 (or more) for just one meal. Not to mention the headache of going, "What's for dinner?" "How about spaghetti?" "I have to go to the store." "It's not worth it." "Let's just get fast food." We have a healthy, home-cooked family dinner which to me means we are building family memories. For me eating around the dinner table at home is very different from eating around 10 other families at McDonalds while your kid plays (and doesn't eat). Of course there is the place and time for that as well (all moms need a break from cooking and kids enjoy playplaces).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

CVS - Lots of Baby Stuff - 9/5

CVS has some great deals this week (9/5-9/11), especially on Gerber formula and J&J baby products. I also had some awesome coupons, including 4 $3.00 off $15.00 purchase, 2 $6.00 off formula, $8.00 in total coupons off the diapers and wipes, and the J&J coupons they mailed me.

I have 2 CVS cards (one in my name and one in Lee's name). I don't usually use more than one, but the formula/baby products deal was too good to not do it twice. We did three transactions with my card and two transactions with Lee's card (we went to two CVSs - used one card at each).

Here's everything we got:

Store #1 - My Card

Transaction #1 -
25.7 oz Gerber formula - normally $23.99, on sale for $20.00
2 J&J baby wash - normally $4.49 each, on sale for $2.50 each

Total before sales = $32.97
Total after sales = $25.00
Used a $3.00 off $15.00 purchase = $22.00
Used a $6.00 off formula = $16.00
Used 2 $2.50 off J&J = $11.00
Used $6.00 ECBs (from last week) = $5.00
Paid $5.69 with tax
Got back $10.00 ECBs (if you buy $25.00 in formula and/or J&J baby products, you get this)

Transaction #2 -
40ct Huggies diapers - normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99
360ct Huggies wipes - normally $11.99, not on sale

Total before sales = $23.98
Total after sales = $20.98
Used $3.00 off $15.00 purchase = $17.98
Used $4.00 off diapers & wipes (CVS coupon) = $13.98
Used $2.00 off diapers = $11.98
Used $2.00 off wipes = $9.98
Used $10.00 ECBs (from previous transaction) = FREE
Just paid the tax of $1.40

Transaction #3 -
3 Scott 6pk paper towels - normally $7.49 each, on sale for $4.99 each
2 Wisk - normally $8.49 each, on sale for B1G1 ($8.49 total)

Total before sales = $39.45
Total after sales = $23.46
Used $3.00 off $15.00 purchase = $20.46
Used 3 $1.00 off Scott = $17.46
Used 1 $3.00 off Wisk (I had 2, but she only let me use 1) = $14.46
Paid $16.05 with tax

Store #2 - Lee's Card

Transaction #1 -
25.7 oz Gerber formula - normally $23.99, on sale for $20.00
2 J&J baby wash - normally $4.49 each, on sale for $2.50 each

Total before sales = $32.97
Total after sales = $25.00
Used $3.00 off $15.00 purchase = $22.00
Used $6.00 off formula = $16.00
Used 2 $5.00 off J&J = $6.00
Paid $6.69 with tax
Got back $10.00 ECBs

Transaction #2 -
2 Wisk - normally $8.49 each, on sale for B1G1 ($8.49 total)

Total before sales = $16.98
Total after sales = $8.49
Used 2 $3.00 off Wisk (she let me use both this time) = $2.49
Used $2.49 in ECBs = FREE
Just paid the tax of 66 cents
Had $7.51 in ECBs left over*

EVERYTHING -

Total before sales = $146.35
Total after sales = $102.93
Used $77.47 in coupons
Spent $25.46 (plus tax)
Got $7.51 in ECBs left over

Saved 83%.
Saved 88% if you factor in the ECBs I got.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick CVS Trip - 8/30

Lee took me up to CVS tonight after dinner. I just wanted to get a few things really quick.

I got 2 Purex, 1 Cascade, and a Bounce.
It would have cost $25.16 (before tax).
I had $9.20 in CVS savings which brought me down to $15.96.
I used a $3.00 off $15.00 which brought me down to $12.96.
I used $1.45 in manufacturer's coupons which brought me down to $11.51.
I used a $10.00 ECB from last week which brought me down to $1.51 (before tax).
I got back $6.00 in ECBs.

So not counting my $10.00 ECB, I technically "spent" $5.51 (before tax), for a savings of 78%.
So today we got a package from Gerber. It contained 2 little boxes. Each box had a canister of their Good Start formula, a onesie (so cute), a $6.00 coupon for a canister of formula, and a $1.00 coupon for Gerber apparel. I was so excited. Of course if you know how much I love couponing, I saw Rite Aid was having a deal on this exact formula. If you buy $25.00 worth of Gerber Good Start Formula, you get a $10.00 rebate. I am going tomorrow and will get a 26oz canister of formula for like $1.50 with all my coupons and the rebate. I am excited to get these coupons and freebies from companies so that I can go get stuff super cheap for the babies. Of course we are hoping I can nurse or pump, but I know we will need formula at some point and if we don't, we can donate it. :)

Goal Price List

I've been meaning to do this for a long time. I wanted to post a list of what I consider my goal prices for things. This helps because I can look at "deals" and make sure they are really good deals. Obviously demand can make the price I am willing to pay go up (like if we are out of milk and we are at Harris Teeter, I don't care if I could save 50 cents down at Walmart).

Here's my goal price list for commonly used items:

Meats:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts - less than $2.00/lb
93% lean ground beef or turkey - less than $3.00/lb
Pork chops/loin - less than $3.00/lb (I really love to get it for less than $2.00/lb)
Fish - less than $5.00/lb
Steak - less than $6.00/lb

Dairy:
Milk - less than $3.00/gallon
Eggs - roughly 10 cents/egg
Cheese, shredded - $1.00/bag
Yogurt - $1.00/pack (I really love to get it for FREE which is possible during Super Doubles at Harris Teeter most times)

Deli Meat:
Packaged sandwich meat - $2.00/pack (I prefer to get fresh from the deli though)
Packaged turkey bacon - $2.00/pack (I've gotten this for like a quarter before)

Produce:
Grapes - 99cents/lb (I will pay more if they look good and we want them)
Apples - under $2.00/lb (really love to get them cheap in the Autumn)
Bananas - under 50cents/lb
Watermelon - $3-$4 in season
Pears - 99cents to $1.50/lb
Pineapple - $3-$4 in season
Zucchini/squash - 99cents/lb
Onions - 99cents/lb
Potatoes - $3.00/5lb bag
Carrots - $2.00/lb
Bagged salad mix - less than $2.00

Condiments:
Peanut butter - less than $1.00 (I love to get it for like 50cents)
Jelly - less than $1.00 (I love to get it for like 50 cents)
BBQ sauce - FREE
Mustard - FREE
Mayo - 50cents
Ketchup - under $1.00
Frank's Red (we use this a ton) - 50cents
Salad dressings - under $1.00 (very easy to get for FREE)
Worcestershire sauce - FREE
Steak sauce - $1.00

Canned Stuff:
Canned Veggies - 50cents/can
Canned Tuna - FREE - 25cents/can
Canned Cream Soups - 60cents/can
Canned Soups - 25cents/can

Pasta/Rice:
Packaged pastas - 50cents
Packaged rices - FREE - 50cents
Jarred pasta sauce - under $1.00/jar

Breakfast Stuff:
Cereals - under $1.00/box (I love to get these for FREE)
Oatmeal - under 20cents/packet
Poptarts - under 50cents/box (We only get these if they are a super good deal)
Breakfast bars - $2.00/box (Luke loves these so we get them no matter what, but I like to stock up when they are a great deal)
Fiber One bars - $1.50/box (Again, Lee loves these so we get them no matter what, but I like to stock up when they are a great deal)
Granola bars - $1.00/box (Again, Lee loves these so we get them no matter what, but I like to stock up when they are a great deal)

Snacks:
Fruit snacks - FREE (I only stock up when they are FREE or super cheap as they are a treat)
Chips - we rarely buy chips so if we want them, we shop whatever is the best deal of things we like
Pretzels - $1.00/bag
A lot of our snacks are bought based on super good deals. We don't buy too many chips/cookies. I prefer to make homemade cookies from low-cost baking ingredients (flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, etc).

Cleaning Products:
Wipes - less than $1.00/tub (I love to get these for FREE)
Sprays - less than 50cents (I love to get these for FREE)

Laundry:
Detergent - 5-10cents/load (at least the load indicated on the bottle/box)
Fabric softener - 5-10cents/load (at least the load indicated on the bottle)

Dish:
Dish soap - FREE - 50cents/bottle (depending on bottle size)
Dishwasher detergent - $2-$3/bottle

Toilet Paper/Paper Towels:
Toilet paper - roughly 25cents/roll
Paper towels - roughly 50cents/roll

Baby Stuff:
Diapers - 10cents/diaper
Wipes - FREE to 2cents/wipe
Baby Wash - $1.00/bottle

Food Storage:
Baggies - 5-10cents/baggie
Containers - 25-50cents/container

Freezer Food:
Ice cream - $1.00/container (only buy when it is a great deal)
Frozen pizza - $2-$3
Lean entrees - $2.00

Personal Care:
Face wash - $1-$2
Shampoo - FREE - 50cents
Conditioner - FREE - 50cents
Soap/Body Wash - FREE - $1.00
Shaving gel/cream - FREE - 50cents
Razors - FREE - $1.00 (for the good ones)
Deoderant - 50cents
Makeup - $1-$2
Toothpaste - FREE - 50cents
Toothbrushes - FREE
Feminine hygiene - FREE

Please let me know if there are any other things you think I should add to the list. :)

Rite Aid - 8/30

I ran into Rite Aid today and did 3 transactions. If you haven't read previous posts about Rite Aid, I divide my shops into different transactions now that they have the UP Rewards because you can only get one per transaction, but you can roll them and get another with a different transaction. I also do this because I usually have a $5/$25 or $4/$20 purchase so it makes sense to break it up into $20 or $25 transactions.

I got 3 40ct packages of Pampers Swaddlers diapers, 1 240ct package of Rite Aid wipes, 1 tube of Boudreaux diaper cream, 2 Colgate toothpastes, 2 Nivea body washes, 3 Gain dish soap, and 3 Downy fabric softeners.

It would have cost $97.55 (before tax).
I had $33.16 in Rite Aid savings.
I had $42.50 in coupon savings.
I had $2.00 in SCR savings.
I spent $19.89 (before tax).
I saved 80%.
I had a per item cost of $1.33 (pretty good for diapers, wipes, and fabric softener). ;)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My New Laundry Routine

A while back I wrote about how helpful having a laundry routine is. I know lots of people just do laundry as it comes up and that works for them, but I am the type that really does better when I know what I need to do. It helps me to not let stuff get overwhelming. That's been a challenge for me during this double pregnancy because I can't keep up and then I get overwhelmed. Luckily, I have Lee to help me out when I get in a bind. I don't like to have to have help, but when it is necessary, I let my weird "do it myself" tendencies down and ask for help.

With the twins on the way, I have been thinking about how things are going to change as far as household chores go. I know that I don't have a clear idea of how it will go (especially the first few months), but being the planner/organizer I am, I have come up with a new laundry routine that will (hopefully) only have me doing two loads a day during the week and playing catchup or doing extra loads (if they present themselves) on the weekends.

Here is the plan:

Monday - Lee's everyday clothes and my everyday clothes

Tuesday - Master sheets/other whites and towels

Wednesday - Babies' clothes and babies' bedding/towels

Thursday - Luke's clothes and Luke's bedding

Friday - Lee's work pants and Lee's work shirts

I'm thinking this leaves Saturday (I don't do much at all on Sundays) to do an extra load or two of whatever might need to be done. I am thinking there might be an extra load of the babies' stuff or our everyday clothes. Those will be easy to knock out on Saturday. Or if I get behind, Lee can help me play catchup on the weekends.

I am really hoping that this works out really effectively as I don't like to have much to do on weekends so we can spend family time or do outside chores.

PS I would love to hear what your laundry routine is (or if you don't have one, how you do it). Please comment. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

20 Followers!!!

I am excited that Organized Homemaking now has 20 followers!!! I am not sure how many readers we have, but I know there are people reading that don't follow. It makes my heart so overjoyed to know that my little blog that I started just to help a few friends learn how to coupon has become a source of helpful information in all areas of homemaking.

It is my heart's desire that all women (and some men) that want to be organized homemakers can be. It took me years of messing up, trying again, messing up again, and trying again to finally figure out some really useful tips that make our home run more smoothly and I am happy to share them with anyone who wants to learn. I am happy that there are people who are enjoying the blog.

Thanks readers!

Now that I have been doing this for 6-7 months and seem to have a decent amount of people following the blog, I would love to know what you guys would like to see on here. If you could comment, that would be awesome. :)

What do you want to see more of or different things I haven't done before?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Couponing - Weekly Schedule

A lot of people have asked me, "How much time do you spend couponing?" and "How do you do it?" People seem to want to know how I actually plan my trips and how much time it really takes me. I decided that I would do a post with my basic weekly schedule.

What Is My Weekly Schedule?

SUNDAY
Coupon at CVS (their deals start on Sundays - earlier I get there the better)
Coupon at Rite Aid (their deals start on Sundays - earlier I get there the better) (I only go to RA if there are a good amount of deals)
Coupon at Kroger (I only go to Kroger if there are a good amount of deals)
Buy Sunday paper(s) for the coupons (if there are $150 and up I get 2; if less, I get 1; on the 1st Sunday of the month, I buy 3-5 because they have a ton of coupons including P&G)
Clip and organize coupons (at the end of the month, I pull expired coupons)

MONDAY or TUESDAY
Plan my trip(s) to Harris Teeter on Southern Savers

WEDNESDAY
Coupon at Harris Teeter (their deals start on Wednesdays - earlier I get there the better)

FRIDAY OR SATURDAY
Plan my trip to CVS on Southern Savers
Plan my trip to Rite Aid on Southern Savers
Plan my trip to Kroger on Southern Savers

How Do I Plan My Trips?

I go to Southern Savers (http://southernsavers.com/) and click on the store I am looking for deals at (I generally shop at Harris Teeter and CVS, but I also do Rite Aid and Kroger if there are enough deals to warrant the drive).

They have a checklist maker and I just quickly click the deals I am interested in and print the list.

If there are printable coupons that I need for the deals (only if I absolutely want them/they are a great deal), I print and clip those.

I go through my binder and find the coupons I need for the deals.

I put it all together in the ziploc bag for that store.

I go to the store and get my deals.

How Long Does It Take?

I would say that clipping and organizing coupons, looking up the deals, printing the IP coupons, pulling the coupons, and organizing my baggies takes no more than 3 hours a week (if that even). I have gotten pretty efficient.

At first it seemed like it took me a lot of time since I was learning all the stores policies, looking for every deal, going to every store, and didn't quite know what I was doing.

Now I can clip the coupons I know I want (I don't clip them all anymore) in 15 minutes probably (more if I get multiple papers). Same with finding the deals. I only get the ones I need/want/are rock bottom deals, so I don't spend as much time on that part. I do all of this during downtime (like when I am watching TV at night).

I also zip into and out of the stores really quickly. I know the lay of the land at each store, go through my list, get my stuff, and check out. Unless there is a coupon problem, or I have to think on my feet, it takes just a few minutes to get my deals. I would say I shop faster now than I did before since I only go in and get what I want, I don't dilly-dally and look at all the deals. I can't imagine walking aimlessly around with my giant coupon binder doing the math in the store. That would be nuts for me (and very impractical since I usually take Luke with me). I would say I spend an hour or two (at the most) at the store each week (including getting my fresh stuff each week).

So I spend no more than a total of 5 hours (probably a huge overestimate) planning and shopping. I probably spent at least 1-2 hours before. The way I look at it is, I have cut my grocery budget from $600 or more to $450 or less and I get at least twice as much for that amount (including lean meats, fresh produce, milk, and bread each week). TOTALLY WORTH MY TIME! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CVS & Rite Aid - 8/22

Today could be called Toilet Paper Day. Lee and I stopped by CVS and Rite Aid and I ran in and got some awesome deals on toilet paper, diapers, and laundry detergent.

CVS

3 packs (16 double rolls) of Charmin toilet paper - normally $11.99 each, on sale for $9.99 each

Total before sale = $35.97
Total after sale = $29.97
Used $5.00 off $25.00 purchase = $24.97
Used 2 25c coupons = $24.47
Total with tax = $26.41
Got back $10.00 ECBs

Saved 60%.

RITE AID

Transaction #1 -
2 packs (12 rolls) Cottonelle toilet paper - normally $11.49 each, on sale for $6.49 each
1 pack Huggies diapers - normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99
2 Xtra detergents - normally $3.49 each, on sale for $2.00 each

Total before sale = $41.95
Total after sale = $25.97
Used $5.00 off $25.00 purchase = $20.97
Used $1.00 and 50c off coupons on Cottonelle = $19.47
Used $2.00 and $3.00 off coupons on Huggies (stacked RA & mft cpns) = $14.47
Used 2 $1.00 off Xtra coupons = $12.47
Total with tax = $13.71
Got back $1.00 UP reward for Xtra and $2.00 UP reward for Huggies

Transaction #2 -
2 packs (12 rolls) Cottonelle toilet paper - normally $11.49 each, on sale for $6.49 each
1 pack Huggies diapers - normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99
2 Xtra detergents - normally $3.49 each, on sale for $2.00 each

Total before sale = $41.95
Total after sale = $25.97
Used $5.00 off $25.00 purchase = $20.97
Used 50c coupon on Cottonelle = $20.47
Used $3.00 coupon on Huggies = $17.47
Used $1.00 coupon on Xtra = $16.47
Used UP rewards ($2.00 and $1.00) from previous transaction = $13.47
Total with tax = $14.71
Got back $1.00 UP reward for Xtra and $2.00 UP reward for Huggies

I also get a $5.00 SCR for the 4 Cottonelle.

What I would have spent = $83.90 (minus tax)
What I did spend (after sales, coupons, SCR, and UP rewards) = $17.94 (minus tax)

SAVED 79%.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quick Diapers & Wipes Run at CVS

Tonight, I made a quick run for diapers and wipes at CVS. The other night Lee had to get a prescription filled and get some meds for his ear infection, and he, being the brilliant husband he is, saved all the coupons that printed on the bottom of his receipt (he's learned fast that you never throw out coupons). One was for $3.00 off a purchase of $15.00 and the other was for $4.00 off Huggies Jeans diapers.

Well, Huggies Jeans diapers were on sale for $8.99 (normally $11.99) and I had the $4.00 coupon plus a $1.50 off any Huggies diapers. You can stack coupons (AKA use a CVS coupon and a manufacturer's coupon) so that was $5.50 off.

I also had a $1.50 off Pampers coupon and a buy a pack of Pampers diapers, get a free pack of Pampers wipes (awesome coupons to use together). Well Pampers happened to be on sale this week for $8.88 (normally $11.99).

I figured I would get the Huggies diapers, the Pampers diapers, and the wipes, and use all my coupons and save a bundle. Well when I went it, I scanned my card at the CVS coupon machine in front (always do this!) and it gave me a $3.00 off $15.00 purchase and a $5.00 off $15.00 purchase. The $5.00 off $15.00 expired before the $3.00 off $15.00 and was the better coupon, so I used that one.

She rang it all up - $11.99 for the Huggies diapers, $11.99 for the Pampers diapers, and $2.99 for the CVS wipes (they were out of Pampers so I asked if I could substitute and she did it).

She scanned my CVS card - I saved $3.11 on the Pampers diapers and $3.00 on the Huggies diapers ($6.11 in CVS savings). My total was then $20.86.

I gave her my coupons in this order (I say this because it is very important):
$5.00 off $15.00 CVS coupon(always use these 1st because if you give the coupons and get below $15.00 they can't take it).
$4.00 off Huggies diapers CVS coupon
$1.50 off Huggies diapers manufacturer's coupon
$1.50 off Pampers diapers manufacturer's coupon
Free Pampers wipes with purchase of Pampers diapers manufacturer's coupon

I had a total of $14.99 in coupons.
I had a total of $21.10 in total savings.

The total was then $6.79 including tax.
It would have been $28.99 including tax.

I SAVED 77%!!!

Dishes Dishes Everywhere

Unless you eat out every meal, dishes are inevitable. It's amazing how quickly they can pile up if you don't tend to them after each meal and snack or if you don't unload the dishwasher when it is done. Those are my first tips: always unload the dishwasher ASAP and wash and load the dishwasher after each meal or snack so they don't pile up.

Here's my next set of tips:

Just like everything else in my house, I have a system for dishes. We have a dishwasher and disposal (thank God). That sounds funny, but I have been lots of places that didn't have one or the other or both and it makes it really challenging to do dishes. With a dishwasher and disposal, dishes are simple.

We have a two-sided sink. The side with the disposal and the counter next to it is for dirty dishes only. This makes it easy on Luke because he knows where to put a dirty dish. We don't let him put them in the sink (it's too deep and we would get broken dishes). The side without the disposal and the counter next to it (which just happens to be above the dishwasher) is for clean dishes only. The clean side of the sink is where things that don't go into the dishwasher (frequently used things - peeler, knife or bulky items - pots, pans, mixing bowls) are put to dry.

With this system, it makes doing dishes super easy. You go to the dirty side and either rinse and load the dishes into the dishwasher or scrub, rinse, and put them on the clean side to dry. When the dishwasher is done and ready to be unloaded, you just put it all away (that is when I put away the dishes on the clean side as well). It makes it really easy and pretty quick.

My dishwasher tips:

Yes, I load my dishwasher in a very anally organized manner (and Lee follows it). I figured I would share my system in case you wanted some ideas. Trust me, it takes just as much time to load it specifically versus just putting things in and saves a ton of time when unloading.

Bottom rack:

Utensil holder: Each side has 3 places for utensils. One side is for silverware. We put spoons in one, forks in one, and knives in one. On the other side, we put steak knives in one (the one next to the knives) and kitchen tools (big spoons, measuring cups, etc) in the other two. It makes it really easy when you go to unload. I grab a handful of the same thing and can put it away really fast.

Around the edges (where it is wide): This is where bowls go.

Inside: We line up dinner plates on one side and salad plates on the other. It makes it really easy to unload because you grab a handful of similar plates and can put them away in seconds.

Upper rack:

We have a row for tall glasses, a row for smaller glasses, a row for sippy cups, a basket for sippy cup lids, a row for ramekins (really small bowls), and a row for tupperware and car cups (water bottles, etc).

I hope this helps. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

My 2nd and 3rd Trips to Harris Teeter Super Doubles

I couldn't resist. I had to do a couple of more trips to Harris Teeter for Super Doubles. I found a ton of coupons and can't believe I had overlooked some of them. I could have missed some great deals which is totally not cool.

Here's a picture of what I got:

Here's the breakdown of how I got it:

2 Motts Medleys juices - normally $3.89 each, on sale for $2.50 each, used 2 50c q (Doubled) = $1.50 each ($3.00 total) (these were a new product I wanted to try, so I just waited until they went on sale which happened to be this week)
3 Minute instant rice bowls - normally $2.45 each, on sale for $2.00 each, used 3 50c q (Doubled) = $1.00 each ($3.00 total) (these were something I wanted to get when they were a decent deal so Lee has an instant carb side item when things get crazy around here)
2 Lysol toilet bowl cleaners = normally $2.95 each, on sale for B1G1, used a $1.00/2 q (Super Doubled) = 95 cents for both
2 Lysol wipes = normally $3.49 each, on sale for B1G1, used a $1.00/2 q (Super Doubled) = $1.49 for both
2 Kraft salad dressing = normally $2.75 each, not on sale, used 2 $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = 75c each ($1.50 total)
2 Cheer detergent = normally $6.49 each, on sale for $4.99 each, used 2 $2.00 q = $2.99 each ($5.98 total)
6 Pillsbury brownie mix = normally $2.39 each, on sale for $1.50 each, used 3 $1.00/2 q (Super Doubled) = 50c each ($3.00 total)
2 Sunburst detergent = normally $3.49 each, on sale for $1.99 each, used 2 $50c q (Doubled) = 99c each ($1.98 total)
2 Surf detergent = normally $5.99, on sale for $4.99 each, used 2 $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = $2.99 each ($5.98 total)
2 Softsoap hand soap = normally $2.85 each, on sale for $2.05 each, used 2 70c q (Doubled) = 65c each ($1.30 total)
3 Starkist tuna pouches = normally $1.50 for 2 and $1.65 for one, on sale for $1.00 for 2 and $1.45 for one, COUPON ERROR (figured it out when I got home) = $3.45 for all 3 (this bummed me out when I figured it out, but there are errors sometimes)
1 Baby lotion = normally $4.29, on sale for $3.79, used $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = $1.79
2 Clearasil wash = normally $4.99 each, on sale for $3.99 each, used $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = $1.99 each ($3.98 total)
2 Ziploc sandwich bags 100 ct = normally $3.95 each, on sale for $2.50 each, used $1.25/2 q (Super Doubled) = $1.25 each ($2.50 total)
6 Ziploc containers = normally $3.25 each, on sale for B1G1, used 3 $1.50/2 q (Super Doubled) = 25c for 2 (75c total)
2 Softsoap refills = normally $2.89 each, not on sale, used 2 $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = 89c each ($1.78 total)
1 Colgate toothpaste = normally $3.99, on sale for $2.50, used $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = 50c
3 Gillette shave gel = normally $4.49, on sale for $2.99, used 3 $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = 99c each ($2.97 total)
6 Eggo waffles = normally $2.50 each, not on sale, used 3 $1.00/2 q (Super Doubled), got $6.00 in Catalina deal = 50c each ($3.00 total)
4 Morningstar "meats" = normally $4.29 for 2 and $4.35 for 2, on sale for $3.29 each, used 2 $1.00/2 q (Super Doubled), got $4.00 in Catalina deal = $1.29 each ($5.16 total)
3 Tyson nuggets/strips = normally $6.45 for 2 and $9.59 for 1, 2 not on sale and 1 on sale for $6.99, used 3 $1.00 q (Super Doubled) = $4.45 for 2 and $4.99 for 1 ($13.89 total)

I would have spent $209.70.
I had $54.45 in VIC savings.
I had $87.30 in coupon savings.
I had $141.75 (68%) in total savings.
I spent $67.95 (32%).

YAY!!! I was thrilled with this especially considering that $14 of that was the Tyson frozen chicken. I also got a ton of higher priced items (laundry detergents, face washes, shaving creams, Ziplocs, Morningstar "meats", baby lotion). I love getting stuff I really need, matching the coupons and sales, and walking out saving a load. Stockpile craziness!

FUNNY STORY - Lee went with me and we had so much fun. It was fun showing him how I get the deals and telling him my savings. He was cute picking out the stuff and knowing it was such a good deal. I actually had to have a manager override since I "saved too much money". That has not happened to me before and I was excited Lee was there to see it. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1st Trip to Harris Teeter Super Doubles

Yesterday I ventured over to Harris Teeter for my 1st (maybe only) Harris Teeter Super Doubles trip. I recommend getting there ASAP and for me that was around 10:00am. I am fortunate that my Harris Teeter is not super popular (yet), so there is a little (just a little) more room to wait.

I had the things that I really wanted to get - Fiber One bars (Lee loves these, I had coupons, and there is a Catalina), Betty Crocker fruit snacks (Luke loves these, I had coupons, and there is a Catalina), Welch's jelly (Lee and Luke love this and they were buy 3, get them for 97 cents each), and then anything else that was a good deal with coupons that were Super Doubled.

Here is a picture of everything that I got:

Here's the breakdown of how I got it:

6 Windex - normally $3.55 each, on sale for $2.50 each, used 3 $1.00/2 coupons (Super Doubled) = $1.50 each ($9.00 total)
3 Windex multi-surface - normally $3.55 each, on sale for $2.50 each, used 3 55cents coupons (2 Doubled, 1 didn't Double - see below) = $1.40 each for 2, $1.95 for 1 ($3.35 total)
6 Ragu pasta sauces (big ones) -normally $3.35 each, on sale for $1.675 each, used 2 $1.25/3 coupons (Super Doubled) = 84 cents each ($5.05 total)
3 Welch's jelly - normally $2.49 each, on sale for 97 cents each (when you buy 3 - you can only do this once if you are an eVIC member) = 97 cents each ($2.91 total)
1 Surf detergent - normally $5.99, on sale for $3.99, used a $1.00 coupon (Super Doubled) = $2.99
3 Clean and Clear face washes - normally $6.49, on sale for $3.99, used 3 $1.00 coupons (Super Doubled) = $1.99 each ($5.97 total)
6 Snyder's pretzels - normally $2.99 each, on sale for $2.50 each, used 3 $1.00/2 coupons (2 Super Doubled, 1 didn't Double - see below) = $1.50 each for 4, $2.00 each for 2 ($10.00 total)
1 Bisquick - normally $3.49, not on sale, used 50cent coupon (Doubled) = $2.49
6 Fiber One bars - normally $3.45 each, not on sale, used 4 50 cents off and 1 50cents/2 coupons (3 Doubled, 2 didn't Double - see below), got back $2.50 Catalina = $2.367 each ($14.20 total)
12 Betty Crocker fruit snacks - normally $2.69 each, on sale for $1.50 each, used 6 50cents/2 coupons (3 Doubled, 3 didn't Double - see below), got back 2 $3.00 Catalinas = 62.5 cents each ($7.50 total)

I would have spent $159.37 (before tax).
I had $49.78 in VIC savings.
I had $36.25 in coupon savings.
I had $8.50 in Catalinas.
I had $94.53 in total savings (59.3%)
I spent $64.84 (before tax) (40.7%).

Why Some Coupons Didn't (Super) Double -
As you guys know, you can only (Super) Double 20 coupons per day per VIC card. I had 27 coupons (11 of them said "DO NOT DOUBLE OR TRIPLE"). I figured that I really only had 16 coupons that would (Super) Double, so I just did my transaction, handed him my pile of coupons, and checked out. Well, he didn't read them and just scanned them so they did double. So when I got to 20 coupons that had (Super) Doubled, the rest did not. Now that might sound like bad news, but it was really good news as I had 4 coupons that ended up (Super) Doubling that I wasn't expecting so I saved a small amount more than I had planned. If in doubt, make sure you use your higher face value coupons first and then hand over your lower value coupons so that the first 20 that do (Super) Double are your bigger savings.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

3 Catalina Deals at Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter has some awesome Catalina deals going right now. Just in case you don't know what Catalinas are, they are coupons that print out with your receipt from a special machine (Catalina) after you pay. More specifically, when you purchase certain amounts of certain things, you get a certain amount of money on a coupon to use on your next purchase. It's like getting money back essentially. I LOVE THEM! They are even better when matched with sales and/or coupons.

Here are 3 Catalinas that are going on at Harris Teeter right now:

Kelloggs - Not sure when this ends - Check SouthernSavers.com
Buy 10 Kellogg's items, get a $10 Catalina - if you match that with $1.00 off coupons for cereal, poptarts, and/or Eggo waffles (these are on sale also), you can really make it worth your while as they are having Super Doubles now and the $1.00 coupon would be worth $2.00

Fiber One Bars/Nature Valley Granola Bars - 8/9-9/5
Buy 3, get a $1.50 Catalina
Buy 4, get a $2.50 Catalina
Buy 5, get a $3.50 Catalina
There are usually coupons for these items. The Fiber One bars weren't on sale so they were overpriced as HT overprices things, but I used coupons and then when I got the Catalina, it made them reasonably priced. I needed them anyways. I am not sure about the NVGB as I don't buy those.

General Mills or Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks - 8/9-9/5
Buy 3, get a $1.00 Catalina
Buy 4, get a $2.00 Catalina
Buy 5 or more, get a $3.00 Catalina
These were on sale and there are a ton of coupons on the Internet for them. By the time I matched the coupons with the sale and got the Catalinas back, they were 50 cents a box.

Stockpiling 101

I just read a great article on stockpiling and thought that I would share it with you guys. This lady seems to have a really great blog all about couponing and smart grocery shopping. I know a lot of my readers love to hear about those things. She is very thorough including examples and pictures. I hope you enjoy!

http://beautyandbedlam.com/stockpiling-groceries-101/

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Harris Teeter Super Doubles 8/11-8/17

Sorry to just be posting this but I hadn't seen confirmation about this until I was on my way home from the beach last night.

HARRIS TEETER IS HAVING SUPER DOUBLES 8/11-8/17!!!

I have posted my tips previously for how to manuever Super Doubles but since I can't seem to copy and paste, I will share them again.

Tips for Harris Teeter Super Doubles:

Plan ahead - Go to SouthernSavers.com to find the deals and click the ones you want and print out a list. Find, clip, and organize your coupons for your trip.

Get there early - The deals start at 7:00am so if you really want to get first dibs, be in the checkout line at 7:00am. Now I know that isn't realistic for everyone, but the earlier you get there the better.

Go for the FREE stuff first - These are the deals that go first obviously, so go straight for those when you go in the store. Things that tend to go first outside of the FREE stuff are non-perishables (especially personal care items).

You can only double 20 coupons per day per VIC card - Since you can only do 20 per day per VIC card, get the things you want most first and then go back the next day.

Bring more coupons than you plan to use - Usually you won't get all 20 items/deals you want, so bring backup coupons. I recommend at least 30.

Don't use your coupons that are less than $1.00 unless it is an absolutely awesome deal - Since Super Doubles is so special, don't use your lesser face value coupons until you have used up your $1.00-$1.99 coupons. Those coupons will still double any other time.

They will only double up to the total cost of the item - If you buy something for $2.50 and the coupon is $1.50 off, they will only take $2.50 off (it will show up as $1.50 and $1.00). They don't give you money back.

GOOD LUCK, HAVE FUN, GET SOME GOOD DEALS, AND IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, SHARE WITH ME SO I CAN POST ON THE BLOG. ;)

Morning Routine

One of the most helpful things I have found is having a morning routine. It can have one thing, say making your bed, or a few things. Either way, it is a great way to get your day started as it is consistent, starts your day with at least something clean and looking great, and gets you going.

My morning routine has a few more things on it as I am home most mornings and don't have to rush out of the house. Plus I really don't like doing a ton of stuff at night minus cleanup from dinner and help Luke clean up his toys. Since being pregnant and getting further along, I pretty much crash on the couch after dinner and just leave any clutter or cleanup for the next day.

Here is My Morning Routine:
Wake up, brush teeth, take a shower, and get dressed
Make our bed
Straighten up our bedroom
Start a load of laundry
Straighten up living room
Straighten up kitchen
Dishes/dishwasher (load/unload)
Wipe down kitchen
Make breakfast

It might look like a lot, but it really isn't. Making the bed takes all of about 2 minutes. Straightening up rooms takes a few minutes as we don't leave our house that cluttered. Starting a load of laundry takes a couple of minutes. There may be a few dishes to take care of (if any) and unloading/reloading the dishwasher takes a couple of minutes. Wiping down the kitchen takes a minute or two as there isn't usually a mess since we clean up after dinner. We keep breakfast really simple at our house - cereal, oatmeal, fruit, milk, so it takes hardly any time to make breakfast.

I would say the entire morning routine including a quick shower and getting dressed takes less than 30 minutes. The best part is it makes my house a little easier to manuever all day. When I go to the kitchen, there aren't dishes in the way or yucky counters. When I go to the living room, there are places to sit and room for Luke to play. A load of laundry is going and ready to be put in the dryer early in the morning. It's really nice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Harris Teeter - Kellogg's Deal

I blogged about the Kellogg's Deal at Harris Teeter the other day. Basically between 8/1 and 8/14, if you buy 10 Kellogg's cereal, poptarts, or cereal bars, Eggo, or Morningstar products, you get $10.00 back to use the next time you shop at Harris Teeter. Well the deal is sweeter because this week from 8/4 through 8/10, Kellogg's products are 50% off. If you match that with coupons (which there are a ton of in the papers), it gets even better. And if you really want to make it better, buy the boxes that have Toy Story 3 movie rewards on them and you can get free stuff like movie tickets, concession bucks, and more on the Kellogg's website.

Well, I decided to go crazy. I don't have a picture because 1/2 of my stuff is still in the van and I am waiting for Lee to get home and unload it. But I will write what I did. It's pretty sweet.

I got 30 boxes of cereal (Raisin Bran, Special K, Cocoa Krispies, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Apple Jacks), 3 boxes of NutriGrain bars, and 8 boxes of poptarts (yes I know it is 41 items because of how my coupons worked out). I divided this into 4 transactions because you can only get 1 $10.00 off per transaction. I also saved my $10.00 coupons to use on regular groceries. I don't recommend using one to buy another deal since it might cancel it out.

All of it would have cost $129.91.
Since everything was 50% off, there was $64.96 in store savings.
I used $18.75 in coupons.
I spent $46.20.
I got back $40.00 to use on another Harris Teeter trip.
I also went on the Kellogg's website and entered the codes I got from 6 boxes of Froot Loops and got $10.00 in concession bucks for the movie theater.

AWESOME DEALS!!!

Quick CVS Trip Today

So I went to CVS today since I had $10.00 in ECBs to use and needed sunscreen. I had a handful of sunscreen coupons and figured I could find a good deal. If nothing else, I wouldn't have to "pay for" the sunscreen. ;)

Well I went in and looked for things I had coupons for. Ironically none of them were on sale. I saw Coppertone was on sale from $10.99 to $8.99, but the best part was it had a $2.00 ECB. So, I decided I would get the Coppertone and some candy to use my $10.00 ECBs and get the $2.00 ECB and use that to buy a Banana Boat which I had a coupon for.

Transaction #1 -
Coppertone - normally $10.99, on sale for $8.99, got a $2.00 ECB
2 candies - normally 89 cents each, on sale for 50 cents each

Total $10.77, used $10.00 ECB. Paid 77 cents. Got back a $2.00 ECB AND a $3.00 off $15.00 purchase coupon.

When I got the $3.00 off $15.00 purchase coupon, I decided to get a few more snacks for our beach trip since they were virtually free.

Transaction #2 -
Banana Boat - $10.99
2 Pretzels - 99 cents each
2 Pringles - $1.00 each

Total $15.71. Used the $3.00 off and the $2.00 ECB as well as a $1.00 off Banana Boat coupon. Paid $9.71.

So I would have spent $29.25. I saved $18.77. I spent $10.48. I saved 64%.

Not bad for a quick trip into CVS to get some sunscreen.

My First Rite Aid UP! Rewards Transactions

So like I said in my previous post, Rite Aid has a new program called UP! Rewards. It is kind of like Register Rewards at Walgreens in that you can do it multiple times during the week as long as you don't try to get more than one per transaction. They do this program in addition to the Single Check Rebate (SCR) program which is where you buy something that has a SCR and enter your receipt on their website, and they send you a check once a month. I always loved the SCR program, but when you combine it with the UP! program, it is amazing savings.

Here's how to use coupons, SCR, and UP! Rewards program:

#1 - ALWAYS look for a $5 off $25 purchase. They are printable and require a little bit of searching sometimes, but are great (basically 20% if you get $25 exactly).

#2 - Go to SouthernSavers.com to find the deals, figure out where the coupons are, and plan your trip.

#3 - Get a Rite Aid Rewards card (if you don't have one) - you have to have one to get the sales and the UP! Rewards.

#4 - Get exactly what you need to total $25 if you have the $5 off $25 coupon.

#5 - Ring up. Use the $5 off $25 first!!!! If not, your coupons will bring your total down to below $25 and they won't take it anymore. Then use your coupons. Pay. Get your UP! Rewards. Repeat! ;)

Here's what I did:

Transaction #1 -
31 count Pampers diapers - normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99, SCR of $2.00, UP! Rewards of $2.00, used a coupon for $1.50 off
72 count Pampers wipes - normally $3.49, not on sale, used a Buy 1 Diapers, Get 1 Wipes Free coupon
26 load Tide detergent - normally $9.99, on sale for $5.99, UP! Rewards of $1.00, used a coupon for $1.00 off
Herbal Essences 2-n-1 - normally $4.49, on sale for $2.50, UP! Rewards of $1.00 (when you buy 2 HE products)
Herbal Essences mousse - normally $4.49, on sale for $2.50, UP! Rewards of $1.00 (when you buy 2 HE products), used a Buy 1 HE Shampoo or Conditioner, Get 1 HE Styler Free coupon = FREE
Aussie shampoo - normally $4.69, on sale for $2.50, UP! Rewards of $2.00 (when you buy 2 Aussie products)
Aussie leave-in conditioner - normally $4.69, on sale for $2.50, UP! Rewards of $2.00 (when you buy 2 Aussie products), used a Buy 1 Aussie Shampoo or Conditioner, Get 1 Aussie Styler Free coupon

So I would have spent $43.83, I saved $15.36 in store savings. I used $15.99 in coupons. I had $5.00 in UP! Rewards. I had a $2.00 SCR.

Transaction #2 -
31 count Pampers diapers - normally $11.99, on sale for $8.99, SCR of $2.00 (let my sister get it as it is one per household), UP! Rewards of $2.00, used a coupon for $1.50 off
60 count Pampers wipes - normally $3.49, not on sale, used a Buy 1 Diapers, Get 1 Wipes Free coupon
2 Skippy peanut butter - normally $2.99 each, on sale for $2.50 each, UP! Rewards of $5.00 (when you buy $15.00 in Skippy and/or Ragu), used 2 60cents off coupons
4 Ragu spaghetti sauce - normally $3.49 each, on sale for $2.50 each, UP! Rewards of $5.00 (when you buy $15.00 in Skippy and/or Ragu), used $1.25 of 3 coupon

So I would have spent $35.42. I had $7.94 in store savings. I had $16.44 in coupon savings (I used some of my UP! Rewards from Transaction #1). I had $7.00 in UP! Rewards. I had $2.00 in SCR.

Transaction #3 -
2 26 load Tide detergents - normally $9.99, on sale for $5.99, UP! Rewards of $1.00 (you can only get one per transaction but I didn't care since I was just wanting to use my UP! Rewards from other transactions and get the Tide on sale, plus if I forget to go back, I am only out $1.00), used 2 $1.00 off coupons = $8.98

So I would have spent $19.98. I had $8.00 in store savings. I had $11.00 in coupon savings (I used some of my UP! Rewards from Transactions #1 and #2). I had $1.00 in UP! Rewards.

So in total, I spent $24.23 (subtracting out the SCR). I would have spent $106.17. I saved 77%.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Awesome Kellogg's Deal at Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter has the best deal on Kellogg's this week. All Kellogg's cereals, cereal bars, and poptarts are 50% off. As if that is not enough, if you buy 10 of any of them, you get a $10.00 coupon for your next transaction at Harris Teeter.

Poptarts are $1.09, cereal bars are $1.77, and most cereals are between $1.50 and $2.00.

If you use coupons (which there are usually a ton of cereal coupons in the paper), it sweetens the deal.

Today I got 10 boxes of cereal, 8 boxes of poptarts, and 3 boxes of cereal bars (yes that is 21 but it made sense with my coupons) and after coupons and the $20.00 I got back, it was roughly $1.50.

Tips:
You can only get 1 $10.00 per transaction. Don't buy 20 of them thinking you will get 2 $10.00 coupons. You won't and you will end up with a mess.
Don't use the $10.00 coupon to do the next Kellogg's transaction. I fear it might override your Catalina and you won't get another $10.00. Not worth the trouble. Just save it for your other shopping trips.

New Program at Rite Aid

I am soooooo excited to share the new program at Rite Aid with you guys. Some of you may already know all about it, but I have been in hibernation a bit lately and haven't couponed at my normal level. Anyways, I thought I would share it with you and explain the details I have figured out.

#1 - You now have to have a Rite Aid card (much like a VIC card or CVS card) to get any and all deals.
You just apply and fill out an application. It takes about 30 seconds. Each time you use the card, you have to tell them the phone number you applied with so don't forget. ;)

#2 - They have a new program called UP Rewards.
It is a lot like Walgreens Register Rewards in that when you buy certain things (ie 2 Aussie hair products) you get a coupon on the bottom of your receipt that is so much money off (ie $2.00 off) your next order courtesy of that manufacturer (ie Aussie). They expire roughly 2 weeks after you get them.

Here are some tips about UP Rewards:
#1 - You cannot get more than one per transaction (ie buy 4 Aussie hair products and get 2 $2.00 off coupons).
#2 - I don't know if you use one coupon and buy the same product if you can get another coupon (at Walgreens you cannot). I didn't try it because I didn't want to risk it. Try to use them on different products and go back and forth (ie buy 2 Aussie, get $2.00 off, use the $2.00 off on Tide, use the $1.00 off on Aussie again...).
#3 - You can use coupons on the items that give you UP Rewards.
#4 - You can get Single Check Rebates (SCR) on items that have UP Rewards if they are eligible for SCR.
So you can match sale + coupon + UP Reward + SCR and get some crazy savings.

An example I have for today is:
I bought 1 pack of Pampers diapers and 1 pack of Pampers wipes. The diapers would have been $11.99 but were on sale for $8.99. The wipes were $3.49. The diapers had a SCR for $2.00 and an UP Reward for $2.00. I used a $1.50 off Pampers diapers coupon and a Buy 1 Pampers diapers get 1 free pack of Pampers wipes coupon. So I paid $7.49, got $2.00 Up Reward got a $2.00 SCR, so I paid $3.49 for the wipes and diapers (THE DIAPERS WERE BASICALLY FREE).

#3 - Like I said, they still have SCR and it works the same.

Rite Aid might just be my favorite drug-store now. It might sound complicated but once you get the hang of it (it only took me one day), it can add up to some amazing savings.

Relax, Let Things Go, and Let Others Help Out

I have been feeling this post for a while and didn't quite know how I should write it. This is going to be a very transparent post which I hope my readers appreciate. As a lot (if not all) of you know, I am pregnant with twins that are due in roughly 10 weeks. It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life and I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. The hardest part hasn't been the morning sickness I had for 9 weeks, the aches and pains, or the expanding belly.

The hardest part has been putting away my tendency to 1) be a perfectionist and 2) not want other people to have to help me. I am a very self-sufficient person and generally like things to be as perfect as possible. While I know that this isn't the healthiest way to be, it's easier said than done to relax and let people help me. I have had to rest a lot and that puts other things (like keeping a perfectly neat home, cooking every night, keeping up with the laundry, and all the other things I do on a daily basis) on the back burner at times. It's been very difficult for me to look around and see clutter or mess.

The other hard part has been letting Lee help me. He is the kindest person in the world and will chip in and do things to help me out without complaining. It is just hard for me to let him do the things I feel are my responsibility. He goes to work full-time and then has to come home and help me out. I must admit that there has been a lot of guilt on my part.

I have really had to get out of my comfort zone to get comfortable. It's kind of ironic. I just wanted to share that there are seasons in our life that require us to just relax and either let things go or let others help out. There is nothing wrong with it. As I journey through the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, deliver two babies, recover, and adjust to having two newborns, an almost 5 year old son that I homeschool, a husband who needs attention, and a million other things that I have to do, I am going to remember what I have learned in the past few months. It's okay to relax, let things go, and let others help out. Please pray that I will stay in that mindset and not beat myself up or feel guilty.

I hope this has helped others.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do the Easy Things First

I've read countless books and articles on home management and organization and they all have great ideas, but sometimes differ on their thoughts on things a bit. The biggest thing is, "What should I do first - the easy stuff or the hard stuff?" By this I mean, should you do the simple tasks and then do the tasks that are a bit harder (take more time/energy) or do it the other way around?

I know a lot of people might disagree with me, but I have always found that doing simple tasks is better as you can mark off a lot of things on your To-Do List and it won't make it seem so crazy. Also, it gets a lot of things done so you have a clean and straightened area to work on the bigger projects.

An example of this is doing all the little things before you move onto the big projects you have for the day/week/month. Make your bed, straighten up rooms, put things where they go, wipe down surfaces, etc before you go and pull stuff out to re-organize cabinets and closets. If you don't, you will have a huge mess on your hands. It will motivate you to complete your projects so you can have everything back to being neat and tidy as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cleaning the Living Room/Family Room/Den

Here's the 2nd installment in my detailed cleaning posts. Whatever you call it, the living room, family room, or den, it's one of the rooms that needs to be cleaned the most, as you "live" in it the most (outside of your kitchen). I have a few rooms that have to be clean/organized in order for me to function - my kitchen, living room, and guest bathroom (all 1st floor).

Here's how I clean and keep clean my living room:

Step #1 - Straighten up
Go around and put things (magazines, books, remote controls, blankets, toys, pillows) away. If you find things that don't belong, put them where they go (or at least in a basket to take back soon). You can't clean until everything is straightened up.

Step #2 - Dust
I like to grab my Swiffer duster or a cloth and dusting spray (if it is bad) and go from top to bottom around the living room.

Step #3 - Glass clean
I go around with glass cleaner and paper towels and get the mirrors, windows, and anything else that has glass.

Step #4 - Vacuum
I start with the main carpet area and then take the hose and do the couch, followed by taking the edger and doing the edges, baseboards, and window sills.

It takes very little time to get the living room clean.

How to keep it clean:

If you get stuff out, put it back. Keep things straightened up. Vacuum when it needs it (just the middle of the room). Have a weekly time to dust, glass clean, and deep vacuum.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Power of the Planner

One of the biggest things to organize is time. I will confess that I have struggled with this off and on for my whole life. I am the type of person that needs to have everything on a list or in a chart to almost be able to function. I can't just wing it all day and get everything done. I also could forget appointments and when I am supposed to do something with someone if I didn't have it written down.

Over the years I have read tons of books on time management and they all say the same thing - YOU MUST HAVE A PLANNER. I have also spent hours looking at different planners, calendars, PDAs, and other organizers for time. I have loved some and hated others. After all of that, I finally found what works for me. I have to have the monthly calendar view as well as a weekly/daily view with time slots. I like to be able to see birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, bills that are due, and big things on the monthly view and also like to be able to fill in specific time-oriented things on my weekly/daily view so that I can plug in things I need to get done. Sometimes my day just has the big things and other days I like to plug in everything that I need to do (even shower/get ready, workout, cook, clean, etc).

Here is the planner I am currently using:



Of course everyone is different and some people can remember everything. I don't know how they do it especially the more responsibilities they have. If you are a person who just wants to know when big things are going to happen, you could just post a calendar in your kitchen and write things on it. If you like to have some space for each day to write a list of what is happening and maybe have a little room for a To-Do List, then having the time slot style might not work as well. There are planners that have monthly views and then each week with blank space for the day. Some people prefer to have a ton of space for each day. For that you can get a daily calendar which gives you a page or two for each day.

Whatever method you choose to use, the key is to use it. Write things down and keep your planner handy so you know what things are coming up and where your time is going. It really helps.