Saturday, March 30, 2013

Price Matching

"Okay, so Lili, you told me to keep those store circulars that I get in my mailbox every week. I've seen some good sales, but really want me to go to 3 different stores?!?!"

Perhaps you've thought just that. Great savings, but 3 stores? "I'm a mom, I have a job, I'm tired. I don't want to go 12 different places and use up my precious gas." I hear you. Believe me, I do. So what's the solution? Price matching.

Did you know Walmart and Target will match any price for any item? This means that if Delmonte ketchup is on sale at the grocery store for $1.00, Walmart AND Target will match that same price! It has to be the same size and quantities and it must be on an advertisement. Yes, this means that these stores will come down on their own prices to entice you to shop there more often. They hope you will not only buy ketchup, but also bananas, diapers, lotion, soft drinks, kitty litter, etc.

Just yesterday I was saving money at my local Target and needed to pick up some bananas. Produce is my absolute favorite item to price match! My local Aldi had bananas on sale for $0.29/lb. Yes, you read that right....WAY cheap! Walmart is currently selling bananas for $0.54/lb and Target for $0.55/lb. Keep in mind prices vary greatly by region. I brought my local ad with me to Target and they price matched Aldi's price and I got a huge bundle of bananas for $1.04! Now that's what I'm talking about!!

Walmart is a bit easier to pricematch. The cashiers will do it right at the register. But at Target, you will have to take it to the customer service desk and they will do it there. Both stores say you don't need to bring the ad with you, but I ALWAYS do. It makes it SOOOO much easier in determining exact quantities, size, and pricing.

The ad must have a price listed. Walmart and Target will not honor a "buy one, get one free" offer if a price is not listed. The savings really do add up when you have a price-matched item, then add a coupon on top of that. Cha-ching!

Walmart Ad/Price Match policy is here
Target Ad/Price Match policy is here

Happy shopping!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Saving Money with Baby {Diapers}

Let's face it, kids cost money. But the truth is, they DON'T have to cost a fortune. Yes, you will have to feed, clothe, and shelter your kiddo. Those three things are necessities. Beyond that just about everything else is optional.

Have you looked at the price of diapers recently?? Holy cow! Most moms are painfully aware that a box of Pampers can easily cost upwards of $30. And if you have multiple kids in do the math. Yuck!

A friend of mine turned me on to cloth diapers about a year ago. Now before you start rolling your eyes (that's right, i saw that) hear me out. Cloth diapers these days are nothing like the ones our grandmas used. No safety pins. They are absorbent and can fit quite snuggly to your little one. No, I'm not a paid spokesperson (hey that's not a bad idea!) I'm just passionate about saving money and sharing it with you!

There are many different kinds of cloth diapers out there. We use these. Yes, they are more expensive but if you register for them at your baby shower, you get them for free. We have a total of 12 and I believe I only bought 2. And those 2 purchases have more than paid for themselves. If you've already had your baby, consider getting them at Buy Buy Baby. You can use Buy Buy Baby coupons AND Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons (NOT expired) for 20% off! Now that's a deal! There are so many different cloth diapers now a days. Don't feel limited to just this brand. We will be using the same diapers with each kid so the long term savings are huge.

I don't use a diaper service, I clean them myself. It's really not that bad at all. I soak mine in a bucket of water until I'm ready to wash. I use natural laundry detergent which saves the material on each diaper and is very budget friendly. Only 1 tbsp/load. I've never had any issues with smell either. Just fresh and clean!

You will need to put a little effort into treating your cloth diapers well. For instance, you have to be careful with booty ointments because they can break down the fibers and repel rather than absorb urine. If my son ever gets a diaper rash (super rare) we just use disposable with our ointments until cleared up and then go back to cloth.

I still use disposable diapers for church or babysitter. Hey, I want to be a blessing to those who graciously watch my kid! I'll buy 1 box and it will last around 2 months or longer. We use disposables probably 30% of the time, otherwise, my kiddo is in cloth.

Cloth diapering may not be for you but it has saved our family hundreds already!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Crockpot Pinto Beans

Beans are such a cheap, filling meal. When cooked correctly, they make your taste buds soar! The last 6 months I've been experimenting and trying my hand at slow cooking dry beans in my crockpot and I'm officially a convert. Often times people will say you need ham, a ham hock, or some form of pork for your beans. Although it does add tremendous flavor, often times it's not necessarily easy on the budget.

I came up with this recipe the other day because I had no pork in the house and Walmart had it for $3.48/lb!!! Aaaaaaaaaand I wasn't about to pay that! The result of adding bullion to the beans was a full flavor experience and left my husband and I both going back for more. Delish!

Crockpot Pinto Beans

1  lb dry pinto beans
1  onion chopped (yellow or white)
4-5  cloves garlic minced/crushed/chopped
1  tsp chili powder
15  cranks (or 1/2 tsp) black pepper
3  chicken bullion cubes
5  cups water

* Place the dry beans in a large bowl and cover with 3in of cold water. Put beans in the fridge   overnight.
* In the morning your beans will be thick and almost to the top of the water. Pour beans into a colander and rinse.
* Put rinsed beans, garlic, onion, chili powder, black pepper in crockpot. Cover with 5 cups of hot water.
* Add bullion cubes.
* Cook on HIGH for 6-8hrs. The time will vary with each crockpot but you will know the beans are done when they are soft without being complete mush.
* Add salt to taste after beans are cooked. Adding before cooking can dry out your beans

Add spices you like. Flavor those babies up! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

5 Tips to Save You Money Right Now

Let's face it, money just isn't growing on trees anymore. Ah, the days when I could just go outside and pick a dollar or two off my money tree. Those were some good times. But alas, that tree has died roots and all. Still blaming El Nino for that one...

So whether your money tree has passed on to the next life or is still plentiful, here are 5 tips to save you money right now!

1.) Find loose change. It's everywhere. Search the couch, bottom of your purse, pants pockets, car, dresser, kitchen counter, etc. You will be surprised how quickly it adds up. Once you gather it all up, you can either spend it or put it in the bank. You decide!

2.) Don't throw away coupon/store mailers. Once a week most people get a wad of coupons (Redplum or Smart Source) in the mail. This is money. Now you don't have to use a coupon on a product you will never use just to use it, but do look through it to see if there are any coupons for PRODUCTS YOU ACTUALLY USE. The savings really do add up. The grocery stores also send out mailers for sale items. Read these. You may find a fantastic deal.

3.) Date/family night in. I love a good night in with the family but sometimes you need to get creative to keep it exciting and fun. Plan a game night with popcorn and other yummy snacks. If you invite friends, have everyone bring a dish/snack. Build a fort in the living room and watch a movie (with everyone inside the fort). Light a fire or a bunch of candles and have a date night in with your love. Hey maybe other fires will start to burn ;-) Pour a glass of wine, turn on some jazz, and work on a puzzle.

4.) Look for the long lost gift card. You may have a gift card somewhere in your house right now. Think of your last birthday or holiday. Chances are someone got you a gift card. Have you used it? If not, that's money right there. Find it and plan an outing specifically around the dollar amount on your card. Squeeze every last drop out of it.

5.) Meal plan from what you already have if your pantry. This can be a little harder until you get used to doing it. Take a look at your pantry and see what you can make from ingredients you already have on hand. You may have enough for several meals. These don't have to be super fancy. Basic is a-okay. Use what you have and then make a grocery list if necessary. You will be surprised how much you don't need to buy at the store when you do this.

What are some things you do to save money? Bring on the savings!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cable vs Netflix vs Youtube

TV. How do we live without it? Unless you are in your late 90s you've probably had a TV (or more!) the majority of your life. I'm constantly amazed at all the different shows all readily available any time of the day. And yet, I'm sure you've still felt, like me, with the hundreds of channels that "nothing's on".

A few years ago before we were married, my husband got deployed to the Middle East. He chose to disconnect his cable while he was gone. {Side note: this is an EXCELLENT way to save money if you are going on an extended vacation (more than 30 days), on deployment, or are in the process of moving. No need to pay for cable when you aren't home to enjoy it!} Okay, as I was saying, when my husband returned home he never turned his cable back on. You see he had gotten used to not watching TV regularly and didn't miss it. My husband and I started dating shortly after. We got married and never turned the cable back on.

Now I'm not going to say I never watch TV because that's simply not true. We have plenty of family and friends with cable and awesome TVs and we absolutely crash at their houses for sporting events, The Royal Wedding (okay, not my husband on that one--haha), and of course Downton Abbey. But for the most part I don't miss TV at all and that is largely because we have a prescription to Netflix.

If you don't know what Netflix is, it's a website with tons of movies, documentaries, TV shows,  and kids programs. You pay a monthly amount and can either watch everything on the computer (which you can actually connect to your TV too!) or you can also have a different package where they mail you DVDs to watch at home. When you're finished with the DVD, simply mail it back and they will send you another one you've preselected.

For us, just watching on the computer is good enough. We're big on Discovery channel and Netflix has TONS of their shows. We haven't been disappointed in the least! Youtube is another awesome way to watch your favorite shows. I've watched several seasons of shows that way and it didn't cost a thing! Network websites are another awesome resource. I watched all of Downton Abbey season 3 on and I kept up with the entire show that way.

Price Comparison:

Youtube -- FREE
Network websites -- FREE
Netflix -- $7.99/month for computer only
Netfix -- $23/month for computer and DVDs mailed to you
Cable -- $100/month or easily more depending on how many channels

You decide what you're willing to pay for.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

and tonight's dinner will be.......

One of the key ways my family stays frugal.........drum roll please...........wait for it.........wait for it.........M-E-N-U......P-L-A-N-N-I-N-G! (said as Barney Stinson would say it)

Menu seems a rather daunting word at times but I really use it as the meal/dinner plans for your family for 1 week. That's right, I said one week. It is important that you have a plan for every night of the week. This will help you greatly in your grocery shopping, list making, saving money, and staying on target when at the store.

Did someone say Target? LOVE that place! They have such cute clothes....

Now what was I talking about? Oh yes, staying on task :-)

Make a plan! You do not have to be an expert chef to plan a weekly menu. Have you ever heard someone talking about their "meal rotation"? This is in reference to what they normally make for their family. Before I started weekly menu planning, dinner time would be an hour and a half away and I'd stand in front of the fridge and wonder how I could concoct a masterpiece out of an ear of corn, a can of tuna, and a piece of bread. Hey wait, I might be on to something here......focus, Lili, focus. I'm sure your family has weekly favs and you have those "go-to" recipes when you're in a pinch. Use these! You do not need to have chicken le cordon bleu, boeuf bourguignon, or any other impossible-to-pronouce french food nor would that really help on the total cost. Show me the money! You had me at hello :-)

Here's an example of my menu for this week:



WEDNESDAY--parmesan chicken strips

THURSDAY--pot roast


SATURDAY--dinner with friends

SUNDAY--spinach and tuna noodle casserole or leftovers (if there are enough)

Bam! There you have it. I don't plan out breakfast or lunch because those are usually meals we do on our own. Make sure you WRITE DOWN your list and put it somewhere you will see it. You have the freedom to change it up on those days the doctor appointment ran late, the kids never napped, or the plumber is STILL working on that toilet. The freedom that comes with meal planning is that with a plan the stress of dinner is alleviated. You know what your family will eat and you can plan your day according to that.

It's important to plan leftover nights into your menu as well. I hate it when I make something and then for whatever reason we forget to eat it throughout the week. All of a sudden I will get a hankerin' for that leftover spaghetti but when I pull it out of the fridge it's grown some "friends". What a bummer! Not to mention, money wasted.

As you get into the habit of weekly menu planning you can plan out 2 or 3 weeks at a time easily. I can't tell you how easy grocery shopping is when I have a pre-made menu and a list in hand of all ingredients I will need and won't need to make multiple trips to the store because I'm planning dinner on the fly. This also keeps me from wandering the isles and putting things in my cart at random. But that's another post altogether.

Your assignment should you choose to accept:
1.  Look in your pantry/freezer and see how many meals you can plan with what you already have
2.  Write down a week's worth of dinners and post it on the fridge (or anywhere you will see it)
3.  Make a grocery list based on your weekly menu
4.  Enjoy the fruits of your planning!

I believe that's enough for now. You can do it!