I’ve read some great posts by hound-friends, Shelly and spaghetti, about why they stockpile, and their posts inspired me to tell my own tale. For some, couponing and stockpiling is second nature, for others it’s a hard lesson learned somewhere along the way. For me, it’s a bit of both.

I grew up poor, or po’ as we like to call it. I always figured once I was out on my own, it would be different. Wrong! Once I moved in with my now DH, money was tight. I figured I was frugal by shopping almost exclusively at Aldi. That’s what you did to save money, right? Little did I know then how wrong that was.

I started couponing in January of 2007. I remember my first outing so clearly, like it was only yesterday. I now chuckle at the image in my head. DH & I went to SuperTarget for toiletries. We spent nine dollars and change and saved…..(wait for it)….$6.25! I was ecstatic. I truly was. I remembering turning to DH and telling him – imagine if I could do that every time we shopped. He laughed, and shook his head, like it wasn’t even possible to do more than once. Imagine how wrong we both were.

I continued shopping at Aldi, wishing I could find a better way to feed my little family of 2. There were times when money got so tight, the grocery budget disappeared – for 2 weeks at a time. I’d hit into a small deal, but nothing was ever “enough” to last. I still didn’t get it.

I didn’t realize all the mistakes I was making until I had my gall bladder removed about 2 years ago. When my doctor read off the list of things I could and couldn’t eat, I was terrified. How could I feed myself, let alone DH, the healthy fare that was listed? On $30 a week for the two of us, it wasn’t happening. So, while I was re-cooperating at my mom’s, I went through her newspaper and took her coupons. I was surprised at how many of them were for healthy food. But we still spent over $75 in one week. Finally, I had the swift kick in the rear that I so desperately needed.

I took a gamble and went outside my comfort zone. I went to Mexican markets for tortillas, learned the wiley, cagey ways of Meijer – which I never shopped at before, started searching harder for deals – and made my mother my partner in couponing. She would go over the ads with me over the phone from the stores near her – I’d search online for coupons, and when I’d visit her, we’d hit the deals together. Over time, I started to see a difference.

My purchasing habits changed overnight. I now skipped beef all together, in favor of ground turkey – which at the time I heralded as a boom, since the price was much cheaper. I bought chicken as my basic meat, and looked to other ways to make it fun. Baked chicken twice a week wasn’t going to cut it for me. I approached it not as a new diet, but as a lifestyle change. Out went the chips, cookies, nutty bars, and “fun” food. In came yogurt, dried fruits, truck loads of applesauce, spices, marinades, and beans. Those items were much more expensive than their fatty counterparts.

I bought dried spices in abundance, grabbed some cheap marinades. I got out the crockpot and started experimenting – first using a lowfat cookbook my mother had given me, then after a few months, I struck out on my own.

At this point, I had read every label in the stores I shopped at regularly, and knew what I could and couldn’t have. I started making better food choices, something I should’ve been doing all along. I started looking at cooking as an adventure again – not as a chore to get done with as soon as possible. Taking the time to enjoy my food and appreciate all that it does, from nutritional angles as well as enjoying the fantastic flavors: I opened myself up and tried something new.

The stockpiling came naturally, as the coupons gave me additional buying power I didn’t have before. Now I could afford 5 of what I used to buy 1-2 of. Replacing beef saved oodles of money. We moved from a 2 bedroom apartment into a 3 level, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house – so we had space to stockpile. When gas prices skyrocketed last summer, Annie’s Market was born. I hounded voraciously, occasionally with DaMama at my side, but often solo. I learned I stay focused better when there is someone else with me, so I try to shop with someone else. I’m too embarrassed to buy junk food if I have witnesses.

Now we hound together – unless it’s a quick trip somewhere. We’ve added my sister as a fellow hound, at least when she’s in town. Over the last 2 months, we’ve garnered another hound, a friend of mine with a family of 8. Seeing the change it makes to a family, I have to admit this is priceless.
I love Ultra, I hate Ultra. Their sales are good, sometimes crazy good. Combined with coupon - there are numerous cheapies/freebies to be had. For example: this morning I grabbed 2 2L. Coke, 1 box Keebler Topper crackers, 2 bottles of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce (I'm hopelessly addicted!), 2 canisters of CountryTime lemonade mix. My total OOP = $1.82. Why I hate Ultra? Keep reading...

First the cashier keyed down my CountryTime coupons from $1 to $.98 (no overage) - which was okay, I wasn't going to fight over that. Then she keyed down my Sweet Baby Rays coupons (which was a $1/2), she makred that to $.78 - or the price of one bottle. Next we had the Coke/Keelber coupon. $3 off WYB 2 Coke 2L's & 1 Keebler/Kellogg item. There was a 15 minute discussion between the cashier and the customer service lady (naturally this wasn't in English so I had no clue what was being said), and I asked no less than 6 times, "Is there a problem?" or "Is my transaction complete?" Only when I told them I was leaving with or without the order did they push through the last coupon.

The cashier then decided to explain to me that the store wouldn't get reimbursed for the coupon because of the way I was using it. Like she was trying to shame me. I smiled, and replied with "Read the wording of the coupon - you might learn something and try to mis-inform the next coupon shopper that comes through your lane."

The lady behind me actually laughed at that. So, just to irritate the cashier - I handed her a CountryTime coupon, too! Got to love coupon karma, sometimes the cashiers are stacked against you, other times - you hit the jackpot.

Luckily, I got to work only a few minutes late - so, this is my reminder of why I don't coupon before work. No self-checkouts are open, the cashiers are crankier and meaner, and the aggravation simply isn't worth it. But the free CountryTime and cheap SBR's certainly are!!
10. You can remember which coupons go with each deal - without even batting a pretty little eyelash.

9. You feel naked when you leave your house without all your coupons.

8. You hoard your "stash" and prefer to give away items, not coupons, to friends/family.

7. You coupon more than 5 days a week.

6. You coupon/hound to relieve stress.

5. You had a transaction equal 0 or come out in the negative (the store paying you to shop!). And this has happened more than once!

4. You deeply envy anyone that gets the store ads early.

3. You've bookmarked on your favorites list. At home, work, and anywhere you use a computer.

2. You have "bought" more than 100 items in a week without spending one actual dollar.

1. People ask you "So, what's free this week?"

Yes, all of these and more describe me. So, tell me - how do you know you love to coupon?!??
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So many deals, so little time this week. The week leading up to the 4th of July is typically packed with great deals, and this year is certainly no exception! From Ultra to Butera, from Jewel to Meijer – we’ve got loads of great eats – Backyard BBQ’ing for under $50!

Check out the great heads up over at CouponGeek – she’ll show you how to get free/cheap CountryTime lemonade over at Ultra – and when you’re there, don’t forget to checkout the 12/$10 sale! Lots of great basics (like Crest toothpaste and Dutch Farms cheese) you’ll want to be sure to stock up on!

Meanwhile – Dominick’s has some deals that are sure to catch your attention:
$.99 sale
Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce 18 oz. (pair with $1/2 Q)
Rice/Pasta-Roni – can never have too much of this stuff!
Safeway brand marinades

Buy 3 Get 3 Free Coca Cola 2 L. – not the greatest deal until you pair it with the Buy 5 Save $5 instantly on the Keebler products – and use $3 coupon (found in tearpads back in March/April) off any 2 Coca Cola 2L.s when you buy 1 Keebler product.
Here’s the breakdown: Buy 6 Coke ($5.97), 3 Keebler cookies ($5.97), 2 Keebler Club crackers ($2.98) – use 3 $3 tearpad Q’s – you pay only $5.94 for 6 Coke 2 L., 3 boxes of Keebler cookies, and 2 boxes of Keebler Club crackers. I like that!

Over at Meijer, we have a few deals to pick from:

$1.97 lb. boneless pork tenderloin – if you’re getting charcoal, print off the Gather round the grill coupon – and get a 3 lb. pork tenderloin FREE!

$1 - 28 oz. Meijer brand baked beans
BOGOFree Tostitos – use peelie coupon for free dip WYB2 Tostitos chips.
$.39 lb. bananas
$.75 Dole Classic Iceberg Salad Mix
3/$4 Skippy peanut butter
$.98 - 8 oz. Cool Whip – use printable coupons if you still have some left.
2/$3 Kraft Salad Dressing – if you have the $1/1 Q - $.50 is a great price. If you have 2 coupons, get 2 bottles, use $2 meat WYB 2 Kraft participating products (this works on delimeats, too!), and $1 produce WYB 2 Kraft salad dressing. – That’s a lot of food for $1!

Over at Jewel, we’re eyeing the 5/$10 Coke 12 packs (WYB 5 Coke 12pks, get 2 Hillshire Farms sausages free!)

If they haven’t expired yet, the Buy 1 box Honey Maid Graham Crackers & 1 Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, get 6 pk. Hershey’s candy bars free. If the $3 coupon is still valid – get all that for $.50!!

Any $1/2 Weber grill coupons left? Grab some free marinade mix – I can’t wait to try the Southwest Whiskey! Most stores have 6-7 to choose from!

Butera is rounding out our deals this week with:

$.49 lb. chicken legs – hello BBQ time!
$.49 dz. eggs (not sure what the limit is)
$1.49 lb. Food Club butter – limit 2
$.89 18 oz. bottle Sweet Baby Rays (I am addicted to this stuff)
2/$5 Claussen pickles
$1.98 – 10 lb. bag Idaho potatoes

$.99 – 16 oz. loaf French bread
2/$1 Mangoes
$.99 lb. strawberries
$1.99 portabella mushrooms

Here’s how the grilling will breakdown for the week:

Pork kabobs with portabella mushroom and mango chunks, brushed with some elmon juice and sprinkle with salt. Serve over rice or salad.

Teriyaki grilled chicken legs, serve with baked beans and cheesy potatoes

Southwest Whiskey marinated pork tenderloin, grilled – serve with potato salad.

Grilled Chipotle chicken, served with tortillas, chips and dip, salad

Pork Tenderloin medallions, served on a bed of rice (a-roni), with grilled banana smores for dessert.

Any dare devils out there? Grill your pork tenderloin medallions with some pretty, grilled slices of mango – serve together with some fried rice and a huge green salad.

Make a big batches of all the summertime classics: potato salad, baked beans, cheesy potatoes, garden salad, etc. Rotate side dishes, when you run low – substitute in some pasta/rice-a-roni, set out lots of cheese and crackers, chips, and dip. Sprinkle in smoothies and fresh fruit, cookies, and smores for dessert.
Yesterday, I was showing another friend of mine how to hound, and what better store than Jewel? I took her through a simple transaction to demonstrate how to roll a cat. This Jewel had no problems with my cat roll, I grabbed another 14 tomatoes, paid my $4.23 and scampered happily back out the door. I hope to run another 4 transactions tonight - 2 for tomatoes, 1 for pudding cups (my nephew is coming for the 4th of July along with my sister), and one for cooking oil. I love scarfing up all these yummy deals - putting me in a great spot as far as pasta sauce fixin's go.

So far I grabbed 5 transactions of tomatoes: yield 70 cans for $21.09 or $.30 per can. Even Aldi's sells them for $.49 a can - my lowest comparison price for the item. I like saving nearly 40% per can, and getting enough to last me the rest of the year.

I really love running these deals - it's a huge laugh when I can get loads of basics for less than the cost of meal at an Italian restaurant. Why go there when I can make better at home? And all these tomatoes have me thinking: Chicken Parmesan!
The days and ways of rolling a cat are slowly coming to a close. You know the cat, that holy grail of coupons - that which every couponer that can get them holds near and dear to their wallet? I may wax poetic, but wait til you hear my tale of woe. It all starts at Jewel.

I was gathering my tomatoes, catsup, pudding packs - almost like a normal person (except that I was buying one transaction of each), I had rung up my first (of 4 orders), everything went without a hitch. Rang up the second order, had the cashier come over to scan my coupon (we're not allowed to scan them ourselves anymore), and was told that I couldn't use my $10 on a prior purchase. I said, "That's fine, I don't see how you could anyway." The cashier then told me that you could not use the $10 on a purchase of products from the same company.

She kept pointing to the wording of previous purchase. I was assured that the coupon wasn't intended for the use I had planned on, the cashier allowed me the 2 transactions I had already rung up and would not allow me to ring up the next two transactions I had ready. Her logic, "Well, if I let you do this, you'll be here all day getting stuff for free." I hesitated to mention "Yep, that was the plan all along, but I wouldn't be here all day - you'd run out of stuff in about an hour anyway. I am still puzzling over how that cashier managed to grossly misinterpret the coupon, but as I have 3 other Jewel stores in a 5 miles radius, I left to visit one of them.

So I just popped over to the next one and ran 2 more transactions. The odd thing, the cashier asked me if I was doing "the same" transaction and I pointed out I was buying catsup first, then I was grabbing some snackpacks. This seemed to satisfy her and I receive no more hassle over the $10 cat. Keep in mind ,that doesn't mean I received no more hassle.

Now, the $3 off any grill meat, fresh deli, or product hangtag I grabbed from some wine bottles at the 1st Jewel gave her some problems, but after 5 minutes of her asking/arguing with her manager over what a "grill meat" is and reading all the fine print; they agreed that I was using the coupon according to the wording listed, but the cashier persisted in acting like we were doing something wrong.

Naturally, I was fed-up and beyond being friendly when it came to that piece of nonsense. I finally asked her (using my polite-yet-icy tone of voice), if she was done examining my coupons and was going to scan them. This illicited a dirty look, hand-on-hips, glare, followed by running the coupons and letting me pay for my order.

I left, frustrated, aggravated, and wondering - is Jewel not allowing the cats to roll aymore?
I have a $10 cat - and it's burning a hole in my pocket. Not that I plan to spend it, but I do plan to roll it a few times tonight. Okay - maybe more than a few times. I roll that cat til it plays dead. Okay, I'm getting carried away with myself. No big surprise, $10 in free food can make a girl (especially one that loves to eat) a bit giddy. I feel punch-drunk with my own power!

As there is a ConAgra deal going with many goodies (like ketchup, cooking oil, and cheap tomatoes), I simply cannot help myself. And if I cannot help myself, I'll just help myself to some more goodies! Keep an eye out tomorrow for the details and the deliciously low totals!!
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With rising temperatures, I'm looking for a cool, no-oven-required kind of meals, easy on time and on the $$. Here's what I've come up with:

Monday - Kickin' Chicken Paninis, side salad

Tuesday - Turkey and Orange Bell Pepper tacos, Spanish Rice, beans, shredded lettuce, salsa

Wednesday - Penne pasta in a Vodka sauce

Thursday - Pork chops in a creamy mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes (crockpot), salad, bread

Friday - Italian - Grilled Chicken, leftover penne pasta, salad, garlic bread

Saturday - Date night

Sunday - BBQ ribs, hashbrowns, corn, salad

Dessert of the week - Haven't had much time to bake, so I'm subbing in some pecan sandies for our dessert of the week, but want to make some Appleberry Muffins tomorrow night.

Sammie of the week - We're working off some leftover pork tenderloin - which is making so yummy sammies for lunch this week. I also have some thin sliced ham/turkey to fill in where needed. We're fully stocked on delimeat at the moment, which takes some of the pressure off for meal planning/prep.
We went on the last day of one sale and at the start of another. This was some crazy, wicked, laugh-out-loud shopping. Good thing this was for 3 families, but with deals like this - it's so hard to stay focused.

Jewel Transactions: This was so much fun – I love getting a $10 cat to roll!
98 - Weber Grill Packets BOGOF ($.99) -$1/2 Q = FREE
23 - Golden Grahams cereal
2 – Trix cereal
10 - Cheerios
7 - Skippy Peanut Butter
22 - BC cake mixes
6 - BC Fudge Brownies mixes (that was all that was left!)
4 - BC frosting $1.50 - $.55/1 Q’s
63 - Hunt’s diced tomatoes $1 each
4 – Hunt’s canned spaghetti sauce $1.25 each
15 - Bertolli pasta sauces
4 – Ragu Pasta sauces
2 – 18.xx oz. Bisquick 2/$3

Total Retail Value (TRV) = $407.43
Total savings = $325.68
Total Spent = $81.75

Savings = 79%
Not my best, but a good deal nonetheless. Divided equally - we each spent $27.25. I can live with that!!
The added bonus - for every $10 you spend, you receive fuel rewards, and after all that we're up to $.33 off a gallon of gas. With summer coming, this will really help out!

Though the deal on the Hunt's tomatoes was good enough, I'll make a 2nd run at it this weekend. Nothing is quite as yummy as pasta, and tomatoes are great in some many things.
We've all heard the horror stories of cashiers that think it's your privilege that you are graced with their presence. All those that turn from neutral to vicious at the sighting of a coupon. Or, a personal favorite, the ones that act liek you're taking $$ from their paycheck with each coupon you redeem.

This is not a story about any of those. I found a rare, almost extinct breed. The friendly, amused cashier. At Jewel, I was shopping with DaMama & a friend of ours, grabbing stuff for each of us, and getting some coupons spent and some cats rolling. Normally, when you reach a self checkout with 3 ladies chattering excitedly and giggling, each with a fully loaded shopping cart - you are asking for trouble.

Not so. At Jewel, since they have stopped taking expired coupons (huge bummer, I know) the cashiers have to scan all coupons at the end of your order. You can't even scan them yourself. This cashier, after the 3 rd time she had to come over and scan our coupons, she laughed and asked "How many more you got?" I grinned sheepishly and said, "7? Is that alright?" The cashier smiled, laughed and said, "I just wanted to know how far away to be, you ladies really seem to have this worked out."

My friend & DaMama took turns bagging while I scanned each order. I'd unload the next order from the cart while I waited for the sweetest cashier in the world to come and scan our coupons. The cashier chatted with me while I unloaded, scanned, calculated, and sorted the coupons. She joked with us, said she had never seen such organized chaos. I pointed out quickly that I was chaos, the other two were organized.

We were having such a good time chatting that we almost hated to leave. Almost. But, alas, that Jewel was out of Golden Grahams and we had found another store nearby (5-6 miles away) that was fully stocked. With all the coupons printing at the register (including 4 - $1.50/3 GM cereals), we would have been remiss not to hit the second store for goodies.

I'll post the total listing of what we got later today, but 17 transactions were done in less than 3 hours! Good thing we weren't shopping hungry - I'd hate to see what that had been like!
I went a little crazy at the Meijer 10/$10, get the 11th item free sale. I was running low on some of the sale items, though they were out of stock on a few items on my list. The guy at customer service was great with the rainchecks, automatically writing them out in increments of 11, so you get the one free and makes it easier to spend. Here’s how I did – not a personal best on saving, but I did need most of these items (well, except for the cookies….wait, I always need cookies!):

6 bottles of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce 2/$3 – minus $1/2 Q’s (3)

2 loaves bread $.98 each

12 boxes of Meijer brand pasta 3/$2 – assorted shapes

10 boxes Rice-A-Roni - $1 each

6 boxes Pasta-Roni - $1 each

10 cans (16 oz.) Bush’s Baked Beans - $1 each -$1/5 Q’s (2)

11 boxes Meijer brand cookies $1 each (love their cookies!)

6 bottles Wishbone salad dressing -$.50/1 peelies (6) - $1/2 MBQ (3) = FREE

4 jars Meijer brand pasta sauce - $1 each

3 pkgs. Aunt Millie’s English muffins $1

4 - 8oz. pkgs. Meijer brand organic mushrooms $1 each

Item quantity count = 74

Total before coupons & savings $120.29

Minus sales/coupons $60.17 – savings percent is 50%. Not a personal best, but many of these are meal basics for me.

Grabbed rainchecks for Meijer ground turkey 1 lb. rolls, Country Crock (got Q’s to make this free), and Meijer pasta sauce – they were out of the “good” flavors. I love the red pepper and garlic as well as the 3 cheese. I was shocked by how quickly they sold out of the rock-bottom items and the freebies. During the week, it’s not usually that bad. The upside – this gives me more time to eat out of the freezer to make room for all that ground turkey!
While I love going out for a girls night, I hate how expensive it can be. By the time the night is over, it's easy to have spent nearly 1/2 your grocery budget, and be left with little or nothing to show for it! But, it doesn't have to be that wqay anymore! Check out these great ideas for girl time on a dime~

1. Spa night. It sounds expensive, it feels lavish to even say it, but here's how to do some pampering on the cheap: Have everyone bring 2-3 bottles of nail polish, lotion, etc. and put on some good music to jam to while you pamper yourselves.

2. Movie night. A time honored tradition that demands dollars. The cheap version: Rent a redbox movie, pop your own popcorn, make pitchers of lemonade, sweet iced tea, and leave out some good chocolates. To make the night more fun - make it a slippers/sandals kind of night - no need to get all fancied up for a comfy night in.

3. Dinner & drinks: Make a fancy restaurant-style appetizer (stuffed mushrooms are my favorite), put out some garlic bread (cheese optional), prepare a yummy pasta dish (grilled chicken alfredo on angel hair is a favorite), and have one of the girls prepare/purchase a dessert. For times like these, I recommend a cheesecake sampler, tiramisu, or anything chocolate. Simple, classy, and elegant.

4. Concert time! Go catch an outdoor concert, bring a blanket, some cold bottles of water, even bring the dog! The music is free, the weather is (hopefully) good, afterwards, walk the dog(s), catch up on gossip, and grab an ice cream. Saving money never tasted so good.

Catch a game. A baseball game that is. Go see a local team or a minor league teawm play. Root for the underdog, have a good laugh. Go back to your place, fire up the grill and have some hotdogs/brats. Great all-American fun!

Isn't it amazing all the things us girls can do without breaking the bank? It's never too soon - or too late to do a fabulous girls night on a shoestring!
Monday - Girls Night Out!

Tuesday - Pork chops, sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes 'n' gravy, and salad

Wednesday - Parmesan and black forest ham paninis with a side salad

Thursday - ground turkey tacos with rice and beans

Friday - Italian-style chicken salad sammies, tomato basil soup

Saturday - grillin' time! Garlic-Rubbed chicken, serve with leftover rice and beans

Sunday - Father's Day BBQ (if the weather doesn't work out it'll become Peachy Pork Chops!)

Dessert this week: white chocolate spice cookies
Breakfast for the week: Banana Nut Bread or homemade omelets
Veggie of the week: Classic Party Salad - there's still a good bit of it leftover.
It was a fun weekend for us – and still – a weekend full of savings. I love having fun on a budget!

1. Saturday – went to a potluck graduation party. I brought Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies and a Classic Party Salad. Cost: $2.43. Couldn’t find too many places where lunch and dinner for 2 are that cheap – and the food was plentiful and delish! Imagine 4 tables end on end (8 feet long each) loaded with food. It was a nibblers’ paradise. Until we got down to some serious eating, that is.

2. After the potluck we went to a movie (had to go see UP – cute movie, too!) – skipped the popcorn/soda, etc. Still full from the potluck! $16.00 for the movie tickets (also have a punch card for the theater so after 7 movies, the 8th one is free!). Filled another punch card. Next time we go to the movies –we’ll get in free!

3. Sunday – got a late start in the morning. Went out furniture shopping (still can’t find much that’s worth the price), grabbed a Frosty at Wendy’s, visited some family, and did some shopping (books and clothes). Grabbed 3 shirts for $10 each, picked up 4 books for $6, and that rounded out the weekend.

Total Spent for the weekend: $81.53 (includes fuel, tax, etc. etc.)

1. Our last electric bill was under $50! I’ve never seen it so low. All these energy saving tricks are really making a difference!

2. Our water bill was cut by more than 35 % too. I like that. I think I can live with that. Oh yeah!

3. Cable bill is down by around 15%, DH called and negotiated a better price.

4. Grocery bill has stayed the same – getting Annie’s Market built back up again. I love having everything I need on hand. So far, I’ve got many things filled – but I’m still trying to grab just a few more staples (rice, sugar, etc.) to get things where I want them. I get my best deals during the summer!

5. We’re saving 50% on our phone bill as we dropped our landline and kept only the cell phones.
It's that season again: potluck/BBQ! What does that mean to the frugal gals out there? Speak up quickly, or establish a dish that you'll bring to any family, work, or neighborhood get-togethers. How to avoid getting stuck bringing something expensive? Be the first to offer a dish. Or, my personal favorite: bring something unique. Here's a quick break-down of tips to keep your wallet full while having fun at the potluck party.

1. Identify what's missing.
Case in point? After attending a few BBQ with DH's family, it became clear that there was no true baker in the bunch. Some brought store bought pies and cakes, but none offered cookies. Whoa! A BBQ without the requisite 3-12 kinds of cookie to choose from? To me, that's unheard-of. And, a easy niche for me to fill.

2. Offer something unique.
If you're not a big baker, or someone has already filled that niche, my next suggestion: your signature dish. Baked bean casserole comes to mind for me. If we're at someone's home, this is a great thing to bring, and something I constantly hound the ingredients for. There is no sale on pork 'n' beans I leave unturned. No good sale, that is.

3. Not a big cook or baker?
Don't worry - here's one for you! Always keep an eye on deals for hotdogs/sausage - of any kind. There are loads of coupons and this is the season to stock-up. Or get to know your local bakery outlet - very well and bring buns/bread/etc. Other cheap things to bring? Condiments you've bought for pennies using coupons, napkins bought on clearance (or paper towel, if that's cheaper), or salad. Grab a few heads of lettuce, chop, toss in some shredded cheese, and you are all set.

4. Party trays. It can be done on a budget!
Got a garden, have a local famrer's market you love and get deals at? Make a veggie tray, set up a cheese tray, or my personal favorite - the under $3 tray! What's that? I hunt through my freezer, grab up precubed cheese, smoked sausage, and some ham I grabbed on sale (it's easy to make into cute rolls. A bag of baby carrots and you are all set.

5. Make a simple salad or dip.
Yep, potlucking can really be that easy. My favorite isn't my recipe, but check out this yummy, yummy homemade ranch dressing dip from Lisa B. over at! I add in 1/4 medium red bell pepper (finely chopped) and it goes great on crackers (you can use coupons and get them free or just hit Aldi's), baby carrots, celery, etc. etc.

6. Still not finding a solution for you? Bring corn chips or crackers. Get them on sale (never pay more than $1-$1.50 per bag/box). Bring 2 choices, I tend to grab one of each. Corn chips can double as a salad topper if you crush them up and top a taco salad with 'em.

7. Bring a simple drink.
No, we're not talking alcohol - let the guys bring that (they usually do anyway). For me, I'll make a couple pitchers of Southern-style sweet tea. It's a refreshing change to the soda that usually served, and goes great with anything. Other ideas? Fruity lemonades are another big hit - all you need is some frozen berries (or 1/2 lb. fresh strawberries makes a double batch), some lemon juice concentrate, and some sugar. It's a simple, summer treat.
I was surfing over at msn, and came across this article (click here). It just goes to show, there is someone besides me out there reading your blog - the corporations have tuned in and in this economy, they are finally ready to listen.

So Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauce, please send out coupons. Often. Very often, and not the $.30/3 either.
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Last night, my friend & I went to Dominicks for the mix 'n' match sale - combining our items because we each found more than 10 but less than 20 items that were considered part of the sale. With the Mix 'n' Match Sales, you must buy 10 items to save $5 instantly. And the beauty of it was: Dominicks accepts expired coupons. So last night, they accepted over $45 worth of them. Our savings was 69%, saving $100.xx and costing us each around $22.
For that much $$, we grabbed:

6 containers BC frosting
9 boxes Jello-Pudding mixes
20 boxes of cereal (mostly Kellogg's/General Mills - using the $1 off per box Q's)
3 Hamburger helper
1 jar of grape jelly
4 boxes crackers
1 box cookies
2 gallons of milk
4 boxes of Poptarts

Not too bad - especially for all that cereal. It's much easier to hit that kind of sale with a friend.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the ads early this week, and the deals are so good - I've got a list and recipes to go along with it for 2 weeks! Hope you enjoy the deals as much as I will!


$.99 lb. green seedless grapes
$.89 8 oz. block Food Club cheese (cheddar/mozzarella)
$1.49 gallon COuntry Delight milk
$.69 Open Pit BBQ sauce (look for $.35 Q hang tangs on the bottles - makes it $.34 a bottle!!)
$.79 Hunt's ketchup
3/$1 bunches cilantro
$.49 lb. white onions
$.79 Betty Crocker Brownie Mix ($1/2 coupons work great on this!)


$.49 lb. Sweet Southern Peaches
$.99 lb. pork country-style ribs
$.99 lb. pork sirloin end chops
$1.29 each Large tropical pineapples
2/$1 bunched spinach, pascal celery, boston lettuce
$.49 lb. fresh garlic
$.59 lb. fresh ginger root
$.99 lb. baby baby carrots


10 for 10, get the 11th item FREE sale:
8 oz. organic mushrooms (white button and baby bella)
15 oz. tub or 2/7.5 containers Country Crock
Angel Soft 4 count rolls
Colgate/Aquafresh toothpaste 6 - 6.4 oz.
Meijer brand cookies
Meijer brand applesauce (pork chops and applesauce)
Meijer brand pasta sauce
Hunt's ketchup 24 oz. bottle
Meijer brand burger and hotdog buns
Meijer brand garlic mini-loaf
Meijer brand frozen pizza dough (never tried it before, but at that price, I just might)
7-Up & Pepsi 2 L.
Bush's Baked Beans 15-16 oz. can
1 lb. roll Meijer brand ground turkey

3/$2 Meijer brand pasta
$.98 dozen eggs
$.98 20 oz. loaf of bread


$.89 El Milagro tortillas (36 ct. corn)
$.99 corn chips
$.59 lb. (frozen) chicken leg quarters – 5 lb. bag

Here are the meals to go with the deals this week:

Breakfast: Chicago Omelets, Peaches in Syrup over toast, Georgian-style French Toast, breakfast burritos, fried egg sammies, sausage & egg muffins.

Lunch – Taco salad, chicken & mozzarella paninis, quesadillas, Homestyle Hash, pulled chicken/pork sammies, chicken & cheddar burritos, chicken salad, and cheese and crackers, and chicken & rice

Dinner – Pork & Mushrooms kebabs, Pulled Pork Sammies, Spaghetti with ground turkey and mushrooms, Hamburger Gravy over mashed potatoes, Teriyaki burgers, Cheddar Jack Mac with grilled chicken strips, Quickie Chickie, Turkey Tacos, Peachy Pork Chops with Baked Bean Casserole, Italian-style chicken salad

Dessert: Peach Cobbler, Brownies
I love buidling up my pantry with these sales, and to look ahead - all you have to do is go to Meijer's website, and click on store locator, and click on the great state of Michigan. This will give you a sneak peek at the cheapies to come starting Thursday. Not to mention, it'll also give you time to gather all your coupons, and get ready for some blow-out shopping.

I've salivating over the organic mushrooms, Rice-A-Roni, Meijer brand applesauce, and cookies (the cookies are totally delish!), and baby carrots. (I snack those instead of chips to entice my girlish figure to come back. It hasn't worked yet, but not for lacking of trying. Or maybe that girlish figure is scared off by my love of Nutter Butter mini's - I'll get back to you on that.)

Time to load up on goodies starts Thursday! Ladies, clip your coupons! (muich better than gentlemen, start your engines).
I love food. I love to cook it and I definitely love to eat it (at least that's what my thighs whisper to me - quite loudly). I love being able to have a variety of my favorites without paying a fortune for it. A good buffet is like the holy grail - you get a huge variety for a set price, and you can scrounge as much as you'd like. Combine that with my favorite meal of the day (breakfast) - and you've got a problem. What's the problem? $$.

Breakfast food is the cheapest thing to buy at the stores, but the price for local breakfast buffets is outrageous! So, thinking of the $$ Saving Challenge and of my wallet (my waistline at this point is long been forgotten), I'll simply do a breakfast buffet at home. The best part - all the leftovers will become breakfast during the week.

This weekend, we're doing an Annie-style breakfast buffet. Here's what's on the menu:
Scrambled eggs
Annie's Favorite Omelet - cheese, mushrooms, red bell pepper, & ham
Banana Nut Bread
Orange Juice

The total cost of this feast is: $7.15 for everything - even the bacon and O.J. - which are ungodly expensive most of the time. And this will leave us with breakfast for the entire week. The average cost per serving of the feast is $.60. Compared to $20 for 2 at the local Old Country Buffet, or $10 per serving - this is an absolute steal. The very best part - I can show up in my pajamas.
Over the last week, I've been shopping in Target as often as I can get the time - and the deals have been great.

Want to know how amazing, keep reading!

37 Bliss candy bars = free
4 pkgs. OM hotdogs - $1.08/3
2 bags Archer Farms baked chips $1.69 each
3 pkgs. Archer Farms chicken sausage $1.54 each
2 bottles Kraft Salad Dressing $.49 each
6 bottles Kraft Mayo not just free -$.01 MM! Love it!!
1 Market Pantry pkg. buns $.69
3 jars Miracle Whip $.14 each
30 Yoplait Yogurt - $.36 each
2 Dole Juice blends $2.39 each
2 Archer Farms Yogurt - $.47 each
4 pkgs. OM deli meat $2.54

Precoupon total = $131.02
Total savings = $71.48
OOP = $42.86
Item count = 94
A huge thank you to my friend, CentralIllinoisan over at Life is Hard - Just Keep Swimming, for making me her very first Site Saturday. Her recipe for Italian Pork Roast (well, the chicken variation on it) is currently simmering in my crockpot for dinner tonight. To top the Italian-style chicken sammies, I've got loads of cheese and some pre-shredded carrot - Yum!
I'm brave enough to try a new recipe with DaMama coming overfor dinner tonight. I'm usually hesitant to preview a new recipe for dinner, but this time - I'm confidant we have a winner!
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$1.69 gallon Country Delight Milk
$1.49 lb. Italian sausage
$.89 lb. Spiral cut ham
$.99 lb. Bobak’s Polish style ham
$1.89 bag Lay’s Potato Chips
$.99 20 oz. loaf classic white Wonder bread
$.69 16 oz. bag Racconto Pasta
$.99 28 oz. jar Rinaldi pasta sauce
$.99 ½ gallon Dean’s orange juice
10/$4 Dannon yogurt
$1.98 lb. Deli-style American cheese
$.88 head Iceberg lettuce
$.88 lb. extra large plum tomatoes

Caputo’s –
$.59 lb. red, orange, yellow bell peppers
$.99 - 6 oz. raspberries
$.99 16 oz. strawberries
2/$1 Red or Green leaf lettuce

Ultra –
$.88 Fresh Express salad mix
$.98 20 loaf HomePride wheat or white bread
10/$10 Dutchman Jumbo franks 16 oz. pkg.
$.99 Duncan Hines cake mix

Meijer –
3/$4 Oscar Mayer hotdogs/bologna/salami – use your printable Q’s to drop this even lower
2/$5 on Ritz – use mealbox Q for $1 off, and printable for $1 off – pay $.50
3/$4 BC Suddenly Salad – use $.40 printables and pay only $.93

The deals are looking rather lean this week – but here are some simple menu ideas for feeding a family of 4 on around $40 a week:
Breakfast – Raspberry Swirl Coffee Cake, yogurt, pancakes, fruit salad, ham and cheese scrambled eggs
Lunch: Grilled cheese with ham/salami/bologna, Italian-style salad, cheese 'n' crackers, hotdogs with chips and salad
Dinner: Semi-Homemade Spaghetti, sausage with peppers with pasta salad, Almost Pasta Primavera, All American Salad, Ham & Potato Casserole
Last night, I was showing my friend, Sandy, how I get so much food for the dollar. At first, it was slow going, but we hit into a few sweet deals and loaded up on some good meal basics. In all, we hit 5 stores and scooped up goodies to get her own stockpile started and to give mine a healthy replenishing. I’ll post SuperTarget’s receipt later – it’s nearly as long as my arm!

She’s a quick study, grabbing coupons from tearpads, spotting the blinkie machines – it was so much fun to go shopping. I did get a little overzealous with the Meijer chicken – but $.59 lb. for whole chickens is an unheard of price around here – I haven’t seen it that cheap in 3+ years! So I grabbed as many as my freezer could hold, and an extra for DaMama.

During our shopping extravaganza, we had coupons not scanning properly at 4 out of 5 stores, and caught a few pricing errors at one of the stores. But the great cashier at SuperTarget really made our day. He questioned nothing, he simply scanned the Q’s, bagged our order, and we were out the door. Sandy was a bit shocked at first, but by the final store – it was as if she’d been hounding like this for years.

Meijer –
1 jar Chichi’s salsa $1 -$.55 Q
1 bottle Pompeian Olive Oil $4.09 - $1 MBQ -$1 MQ
1 jar Jack Daniels BBQ sauce $1.99 -$1 Q
1 box Wheat Thins $1.82 -$1 MQ
16 oz. sour cream was $1.69 – reduced to $.99
16 oz. French onion dip was $.99 – reduced to $.75
3 jars Meijer brand applesauce $1 each
1 pkg. Keebler Pecan Sandies $1.99 - $1 Q
1.3 lbs. ground pork $3.57 – reduced 40% to $2.22
4 pkgs. Meijer chicken breast $12.48 – 40% off = $7.53
4 Meijer fryer chickens $21.63 – 40% off = $13.52

Total before discounts = $66.17
Total Saved = $31.29
OOP (includes tax) $34.88

This one is a little higher than I like, but I couldn't pass up all that yummy chicken!

Dominick’s –
4 boxes Nature Valley Granola bars = $2.50 each – instore coupon (4/$6) - $.75/2 = $1.25/box
1 jar Skippy peanut butter $3.65 - $.40 MQ, -instore coupon ($1.49) = $1.09
4 boxes GM cereal $3.49 –instore Q (4/$6) - $1/3 GM MQ = $1.25 box

Total before discounts = $27.61
Total Saved = $16.52
OOP (includes tax) = $11.42

Jewel –
3 packets McCormick Grill Seasoning = $1.50 each (on sale 2/$1) - $.75/3 Q = $.25 each
18 packets Weber Grill Marinade packets $.99 BOGOFree - $1/2 Q = FREE

Total before discounts $13.51
Saved = $12.67
OOP (includes tax) = $.84

Butera –
12 cans tomato sauce 4/$1
1 box lasagna noodles $.79
4 lb. bag sugar $.99
1 lb. Food Club butter $.99
2 boxes BC brownie mix $.79 each - $1/2 Q
3 boxes Rice-A-Roni $.99 each -$1/3 Q
2 bottles Lipton Green Tea 1.5 L $1 each (my treat for the week)
2 bunches bananas ($.29 lb.) $1.47
2 cans tuna $.69 each (that’s cheap for here)
2 bags Chow Mein noodles $.88 each

Total before discounts/coupons= $28.88
Saved = $12.76
OOP = $16.12

Total spent: $63.26 (not including SuperTarget)
With all the emphasis on going green, I found a unique gem. And as an added bonus - it makes you money! This is a crazy-cool way to earn some extra pennies (or even dollars) doing something you're probably doing already.

Ever heard of They pay you on a per lb. basis for the weight of your recycle bin. All you have to do is go to their website, register, and see if recyclebank operates in your area. If they do, they'll send you a unique I.D. tag for your recycle bin, and you'll earn points based on the weight. You can take those points and redeem them for free gift cards, etc.

It's like for your recycle bin. And no emails to click through. Just helping the environment and helping your wallet. And that's the kind of help I love!
Yesterday, DH was "Licensed to Grill" (that's what his tee-shirt said), and he was grilling up a storm! We've got grilled turkey hotdogs, chicken drummies, pork chops, and aranchera (beef steak, cut thin), and a mountain of cheeseburgers. Looks like meal-planning this week just got a whole lot easier. For me it'll be salad and bread picks, or maybe the odd side dish. Still not complaining.

Trying to get settled in the new townhouse is a bit challenging - much of the random stuff we've collected has been donated, and it's a lot of juggling to make everything work in the new place/space. But the good news? DH put together 2 of the 3 shelves for Annie's Market, and with the help of my friend, Sandy - we're open for business!

The saving $$ challenge has been easy, for ther most part. When you're tired - especially of moving/organizing, you really don't want to do anything. Laziness is it's own reward.

Here's how the pennies fall:

Saturday: Spent the day cleaning the house we just moved out of. Forgot to eat dinner. I thought it was awfully dark for 5:51 p.m., til DH told me I was reading the channel #, not the time. It was 8:27 p.m. Oops... He offered to make a TacoBell run and I was too tired to object. That was our "date night" this week, for only $8.38. We were too tired to rent a redbox, so we watched something on TV (too tired to remember what it actually was), and went to bed.

Sunday: We made a quick trip to Lane Bryant, used a $15 Q off $15 or more spent, paired with a 2/$25 sale on their tees. Spent $10.31 for 2 shirts, and saved $43.98. No problems there, aside from the lack of selection. Should have gone earlier in the sale, not on the last day. You live and learn. Went home, DH put together the shelves and Sandy came over and helped me stock the market - she's a total gem when it comes to organizing. I love having friends like that! With everything stocked, I see where I need to stock up - and boy, am I low on pasta! It's insane. Spaghetti is a food group, at least it is to me. Anyway, I digress. DH was manning the grill - that rounded out our entertainment, and most of my cooking duties were completed. I opened the leftover potato salad my mom sent us, and dinner was ready.

Total spent this weekend: $18.69.

Meal Plan this week:

Monday - burgers, baked potato, and corn
Tuesday - Grilled chicken, salad, and Italian bread
Wednesday - Portabella ravioli topped with a vodka sauce
Thursday - Pork Chops with mexican rice, beans, tortillas, and salad
Friday - mini-date! Going out for appetizers and drinks!
Saturday - Going to a ball game - maybe stopping for pizza with friends on the way home!
Sunday - Grillin' again! If the weather permits, otherwise, I'll make a big pot of ribs.

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