Saturday, July 20, 2013

This Coupon Girl: How I Do It

So I mentioned why I coupon but how did I get started? First thing is first, I have to be honest. It takes time, dedication and organization. But a little of those three things go a long way!

Second of all, you need something to organize your coupons with. Some people have binders and that is fine. That is kind of too much for me but by all means, I love seeing a girl with a binder because I know she is serious too! I have an accordion type file folder where I organize my coupons in a way that makes sense to me. Dry foods, breakfast foods, snacks, paper goods, baby stuff etc.

Third step, stock up on all the coupons you can. How do you get them? Newspaper, the grocery store, magazines, internet etc. Cut out all that you think you will use or might use if you get a good enough deal on. You might find that the store you shop at always puts certain items on sale and there are always coupons but you don't use that item. I would still buy it (if a great deal!) and give it away. I have brought bags to our church food pantry as well as pack up these things to give to families in need during the holidays. All that to say, don't shy away from not buying something that you won't use but that you could buy for next to nothing.  Someone else can use it and it is a blessing to give those things away.

Fourth step, choose your grocery store and I would choose one that has good sales. I used to do my shopping at my sweet Publix  before we moved to TX (it will forever be my favorite store and best at deals!) but now I shop at Randalls. Kroger is also another great grocery store and Super Target can be great too. Unfortunately, I don't really have experience with many others but I know there are more out there! Choose a store based on their sales, BOGO (buy one get one free) deals, their STORE coupons and their coupon policy. By that I mean, do they double and/or triple their coupons?

Fifth step (and my favorite). I really am a nerd, get their weekly ad and sit down with a notepad and pencil. Look through the things they have on sale and write down anything that you know you have a coupon for. Write down the sale price listed in the ad, subtract the value of your coupon and voila, you have your new price! You will have to decide if the new price is a deal or not. There are deals I say no to because it isn't low enough. If I am about to buy something that I do not need at that time, it better be for little to nothing! Also check your store ad for store coupons to cut out. Read below to see why.

How do you get the biggest bang for your buck? Find a product on sale and have a manufacturers coupon (it will say on it somewhere) AND a store coupon for it as well. Stores will take one of each but not two of the same towards the same item. For example: Colgate Optic White (my favorite toothpaste) is on sale for $2.99 versus $4.99 at its regular price. Then I have a manufacturer's coupon for .50 for this same toothpaste and that .50 coupon turns into $1.00 because Randalls doubles coupons .50 and below and triples coupons .30 and below. So now the toothpaste is $1.99. The kicker is when I also have a store coupon for $1.00 off this same product which will then make my favorite toothpaste .99. DEAL! I just saved $4 on that item.

You may think $4 isn't a lot or worth all of this and you would be right. But it is when you save this kind of money on a majority of the items you buy because remember, you no longer have to buy many things full price because you are only buying them on sale. Well, when you start saving 60%-80% of your grocery bill because most of the items you buy are on sale now, that is when you see your grocery bill stretched. And saving in groceries (and I mean it all: stuff is expensive!, paper goods, beauty stuff, groceries) means you have extra to spend elsewhere. And don't forget, you are now making meals based off of what you have, so feeding your family just got frugal too. Your little savings can add up in a big way. I know for a fact:)

I recently went shopping and bought all of this for $11 with a few coupons and saved 66%. I should have spent at least $33. These are just a few of the deals I bought that day.  And yes, I eat Frosted Mini Wheat and Nature Valley Bars like they are going out of style. I didn't need the rest of the things but guess what? Garcia will have 2 boxes of treats ready when she runs out, the Rosemary Salted Premium Rounds will no doubt be used with the next dip I make and the Dark Chocolate Brownie mix will be used for the meal that I bring next Wednesday for friends who just had a sweet little baby. 

Hopefully, if you know me and now know that I do this, you won't judge me for being a nerd or too thrifty. It is fun and I believe that if I do well with what God has entrusted me to then He will entrust me to more, whatever that may be:) So if we are already friends and you didn't know about this secret obsession, just now think of me as your "money savvy and fabulous;))"  friend.

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This Coupon Girl: Why I Do It

Unless you know me really well, you may not know my little secret...I totally coupon. Now before you imagine me with 100 boxes of cereal stocked in my home, please know it is not like that at all. I stock up on what we use to a small degree and anything that we do not use, I give away to friends, family or a food pantry. And before you imagine that I hold up the line at the grocery store, just know that I have my coupon stash ready to go and I always apologize to the person behind me as well as the cashier just in case they are not all jazzed up about my coupon stack. But you know what? I have never had one person get impatient with me. If anything, they love watching the price go down as the cashier scans the coupons. Everyone is always amazed and it just tickles me:) I have had many moments where I call Jason laughing about what random people say to me about my coupon skills. 

 So how did I learn the art of couponing? A few years ago while living in Nashville, one of my dear friends in our bible study told us about couponing. I was like "oh yeah, I am great at couponing". Um...wrong. Just because you cut coupons and use them if you happen to buy that product is NOT couponing. That is just crazy and a waste of time. And that is what I used to do. Until I learned and now I just love the game. 

Some people may think of coupons as silly, a time waster, embarrassing etc. and that is okay.They are the people I want to make sure I apologize to before I scan all  my coupons because they will probably not care for my little game or how much I am about to save. But if you are one of those people, I hope you will think of why people may take the time to coupon:) Jason and I want to be smart about saving money and I hope we will always be no matter how much God may choose to bless us. We want so much to do well with what He has already given us which is why I coupon and Jason is my #1 fan. I want to stretch our budget to make our finances go farther. We want to save, tithe, give, pay off our debt, sponsor our precious World Vision child (Nery from Guatemala...see below:) as well as do the things we love. And we are NOT going to get there by spending but NOT stretching.
Seriously the cutest child on the planet. If you are interested in sponsoring a child from World Vision, let me know! I have a forever friend who is a child ambassador for this amazing organization. 

How does it all add up? You have to change the way you think. You have to buy the things you need and use when they are on sale, not when you need them. If you run to the store when you need something, you will pay full price and not to mention the stress of being without something until you get it. Or you can buy the things you need at 50%-75% off and just be ready for when you do use them. You are going to buy the things you need and want no matter what so why not buy those things when they are on sale? I call this " stock up and save". Another perk is buying food on sale with your coupons and making your weekly menu from what you already have versus making a huge list of things you need and then going out to buy it all...full price and full of stress. Eventually, your bottom line for your grocery budget will get smaller and smaller because you are only going to buy a few things that are on sale that you can use your coupons towards and then of course the things you need that you will always need, coupon or not. 

So yes, I am passionate about saving and being a good steward of what God has entrusted us to. I seriously have husbands of friends ask me to teach their wives how to coupon and I have lots of friends always ask so I figured I might as well share via blog. It may not be a new recipe but I KNOW Mamou would be proud and that is all that matters.  I have taught so many friends about how to coupon and I truly cannot contain my excitement when I share how to do this and then the light bulb comes on. I just love it! My little sister has said before that she is going to walk into my classroom one day and I will be in the middle of teaching my students about how to coupon and I will have them cutting coupons out with their little scissors. Ha! Hmmm...maybe as an economic lesson one day?:)

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lunch for the Mommas

I recently had my two sweet friends (Gabe and Mary Rachel) and their boys over for a play date with Collins (as much as our little ones can play) and I wanted to cook lunch for us mommas. I had visions of me whipping up a stress free lunch while our babies napped and then us mommas would talk and eat. Well, what really happened was that Collins woke up with a fever that morning and was so not herself. She was up and down all day. I had a thousand things going on in the kitchen and our conversations were so sporadic and all over the place. Did I mention that I actually had plans to set out china for lunch just to put a cherry on top of my adorable ladies lunch? Let's just say that never happened. It was the thought that counts, right? I came clean with my friends and told them my intentions of fine china and they laughed and said they wouldn't hold it against me. You can't blame me for trying to live with rose colored glasses on!

Here are Gabe and Mary Rachel's sweet boys but no Collins:( She was sleeping.

So I already talked about my sweet friend, Mary Rachel in a previous post who was one of my mommas present and my other momma was life long friend, Gabe. Gabe and I have known each other since high school and have been dear friends since. We have 5 other best friends and we call ourselves the 6-pak. The 7 of us (yes, there is really more than 6 of us) were inseparable in high school and to this day we still have our special friendship. So how blessed was I to move to Houston where a 6-paker already lived!! Gabe and her precious family were there for us from the minute we moved down to the night we moved in, bringing us dinner and helping us put beds together so we would have somewhere to sleep! Having Gabe here is like having family close by. She is honestly my "in case of emergency" person besides my husband on Collin's paperwork. It is a sweet, sweet blessing to have her here.

Here is my dear friend, Gabe, and me getting mani and pedis for my birthday...little did I know she had stolen me away to help my hubby surprise me with a party for my 30th birthday. She is very sneaky!

So when we can, it is fun to get these two great friends involved in my bright ideas hence our little play date lunch. I think next time we should opt for a Mommas Night Out without the precious angels so we can really solve the worlds problems. But we managed to have good girl talk while chasing our little ones, calming their cries or trying to get them to stay in one place. The menu was pretty stinking good (Poppyseed Chicken Casserole over rice, spinach salad, french bread, mint chocolate pudding and almond tea) and we enjoyed ourselves! So in the end my mission was accomplished. Yay!

 Poppyseed Chicken Casserole
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 10-oz can cream of chicken soup
1 8-oz container of sour cream
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
6 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
cooked rice

Boil chicken in salted water until tender. Cool and cut up into pieces. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine chicken, chicken soup, sour cream, poppy seeds, cracker crumbs and butter. Pour into 9 inch baking dish. Top with cheese.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 45 minutes. Serve with rice. 

Almond Tea
2 cups boiling water
3 tea bags
1 cup sugar
6 tbp. lemon juice concentrate
1 1/2 tsp almond extract 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups cold water

Pour boiling water over the tea bags in a large drink container. Steep to the desired strength. Remove the tea bags. Add the sugar, lemon juice concentrate, almond extract and vanilla. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add cold water. Refrigerate until chilled. Serve over ice and with fresh lemon. 

Peppermint Chocolate Pudding
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups half and half
4 oz. chopped semi-sweet morsels
1 tbsp. peppermint extract
mini peppermint patties

Whisk  together first 5 ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking 2 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and peppermint extract until smooth. Transfer to small bowls and chill pudding, its surface covered with wax paper to prevent a skin (how gross does that sound!!) until cold, at least 2 hours. Top with peppermint patty. 

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Boozed Baked Beans

Boozed Baked Beans....exactly what it sounds like: baked beans with alcohol. And they are amazing!

We recently had a fun summer Saturday cookout with sweet friends who have become dear friends to us. And guess how we met? On a blind date. Seriously. So when we told some of our best friends in Nashville (Jenn and Jett) that we were moving, my dear Jenn said (through her sad little tears) that I would have to meet her sorority sister, Mary Rachel, who just moved to Houston least she and I could be together.

Me and sweet Jenn just a few days ago in Nashville! Still the best of friends!

See, Jenn and I were simpatico from the moment we met so it broke my heart to tell her that we were moving. But now to have a new friend here in Houston that was all orchestrated by Jenn makes me feel like she is present when Mary Rachel and I are together. And Jenn was right, I loved Mary Rachel from the moment I met her. We have way too much in common from both loving our Jenn, to being new to Houston, to teaching Kindergarten to both living in Louisiana at some point to marrying LSU fanatics and now being new mommies together. May Rachel and David had their precious little Matthew last August only 4 months before Collins was born. And Mary Rachel and I both love anything and everything monogrammed. She is like the kind of friend that we pin all the same stuff on Pinterest. That is serious friendship! :)  So now Mary Rachel and David are sweet, dear friends of ours just like Jenn and Jett still are to us. Thank you, my lovely Jenn for introducing us! Oh and our blind date? Mary Rachel and me plus our hubbies all met for pizza right when we moved to Houston last December and have been doing life together since. We love their friendship!

So before babies, the four of us met for yummy dinners out. Well, now? Not so much. However we did recently all go to an Jason Aldean concert and totally rocked it like weren't tired parents with babies at home:) But now, we get together for dinner with babies on board. We love a good cook out and taking the babies for a dip in the pool.  This particular night started with the pool with the mommies and babies swimming together and the men drinking their beer, of course. 

Once the babies got tired of that, we let them play in jello, in diapers on the patio. It was a green but fun mess but oh so cute!

This then led to an outside dinner for both babies because they were covered in sticky jello and bug spray. And that led to a their first little bath together. We took pictures and videos the entire time and promised to embarrass them with the pictures one day when they are older. After bath came bed with both babies going down with ease and Matthew wearing Collins pajamas!  After wine was poured and we could finally relax, we 9pm. But that's the new, good life so we roll with the punches! 

So dinner consisted of burgers, chips and dip and Boozed Baked Beans. The men LOVED this dish...probably because of the alcohol but either way, it was GOOD.

Boozed Baked Beans
6 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 16-ounce cans pork and beans
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup whiskey

Preheat oven to 350. Cook bacon in skillet until done. Remove bacon and chop into small pieces. Set aside. Keep 2 tablespoons of drippings and drain the rest. Add onion and pepper to drippings and saute until soft. Combine all ingredients, except bacon, in 9 x 9 inch dish. Top with bacon. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Enjoy!

This cooking is for you, Momou! I love you!

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