Grocery Totals 6/30/11 and Weekly Menu

Today was a great grocery shopping day! Here are my grocery totals for this week. This includes Kroger, Publix and Target. I stocked up on chicken at Kroger and got a couple of steaks at Target. Publix has a coupon for $10 off a $50 gas card when you spend $25 in groceries so I did that three times today – $30 in free gas! The gas gift card purchases and savings are not reflected in my totals since that comes from a different envelope!

Total Spent: $134.99
Total Value: $241.87
Total Saved: $106.88

Here is my dinner menu for the week:

Mom’s Night Off (yeah!!)

Homemade Pizza

Rachel Ray’s Cashew Chicken     Steamed Rice

Chicken Parmesan    Spaghetti

Unbelievable Grilled Chicken    Corn on the Cob   Baked Beans

Pancakes & Sausage

The kids and I are leaving to visit family, so the menu is short this week. Enjoy!

Here is a recipe from my menu:

Unbelievable Chicken Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons prepared dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Directions

  1. In a large glass bowl, mix the cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, honey, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Place chicken in the mixture. Cover, and marinate 8 hours, or overnight (I typically only marniate for a few hours at most).
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken on the prepared grill, and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side, until juices run clear. Discard marinade.

Sesame Noodles

This is my lunch today. After having eaten sandwiches for more years that I can count, 2011 has been my year to branch out into other lunch fare. I found this recipe in a Rachel Ray cookbook I checked out from the library (such a wonderful magical place!) and decided that since I had most of the ingredients on hand, I would make it for lunch. I whipped it up this morning after breakfast so that it would have a few hours to chill in the fridge and the flavors could come together.

It was so delicious! One of the best lunches I have had in a long while. It is very versatile, you could throw in whatever veggies you have or leftover meat if there is any lingering in the fridge. I did make a few changes so be sure to see my notes at the bottom of the recipe. Try it for yourself, it is as good as anything from the Chinese restaurant!

Sesame Noodles
Rachel Ray
30 Minute Meals Cookbook

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons tahini (see note below)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 pinches cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ gingerroot, grated or 2 pinches ground ginger
1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked al dente
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Combine soy sauce, tahini, sesame oil, cayenne, garlic and ginger root in a bowl. Whisk until dressing is smooth.

When pasta is cooked al dente (still slightly firm to the bite), drain it and run it under cold water until noodles are chilled. DRain the cooled noodles well – give them several good strong shakes.

Dump noodles into a big bowl with the dressing and combine until noodles are evenly coated with a think layer of sauce. Add veggies and dump noodles onto a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serves 4 for a lunch or light supper.

Tiffany’s Notes:

  • I used regular soy sauce since I didn’t have low sodium
  • I did not have tahini (ground sesame seed paste) so I subbed smooth peanut butter
  • I used garlic powder and ground ginger because I am lazy
  • I used whole wheat thin spaghetti instead of angel hair to be healthier and because it was all I had
  • My veggies of choice were grated baby carrots, sauteed asparagus tips and sauteed chopped portabella mushrooms because I believe in using whatever you have on hand

How to save money on groceries using coupons

Ok, now that you have your coupons organized, what do you do with them? The first step in saving money at the grocery store is to meal plan and make a grocery list. So many people go to the grocery store way more than they should and in the end spend more than what is reasonable to feed their family.

Making a meal plan is not as difficult as it sounds. I use iCalender on my Mac to set up a calender of meals. I try to incorporate different kinds of meals throughout the month and my goal is to not have the same meal twice in any month. We typically eat chicken more than any other meat but I also make sure we get a variety of other meats – ground turkey, beef and fish. I would also like to throw in some meatless meals throughout the month but my family puts up a big protest when I do that, so for the most part I save those for myself at lunchtime.

Once you have your meal plan made, next you need to make a grocery list. I keep an excel spreadsheet with everything I buy at the grocery store divided into categories – dairy, beverages, frozen, meat, etc. I also input the latest prices into my spreadsheet from several different stores. For example, I have milk on my spreadsheet and then a column for Target, Publix and Kroger with the price from each store on there. So, if Kroger puts milk on sale for $2.88/gallon, I can look and see not only what Kroger’s regular price is but also what the regular price is at Target and Publix. This enables me to buy it for the best price around and not take Kroger’s word that their price is the cheapest.

While making my grocery list, I keep the sale flyers from the different stores available, either on the computer or in hard copy. If I know that I am going to need something special for a specific meal, I look first to see if anyone has it on sale that week. Depending on how expensive it is, I might move it to another week when it might be on sale or substitute another ingredient in it’s place. For example, if I have pork chops on my menu plan for this week but they are not on sale, I might move them to next week in hopes that they go on sale then. Since I shop multiple stores, I normally can find what I need on sale at any give time. It might not be a rock bottom stock up price but it will at least be cheaper than paying normal price for it. I also make sure I shop for fruits and vegetables based on the season. I don’t buy strawberries in December or cherries in February. You can typically see what is in season by looking at what fruits and veggies are on sale that week. They in season produce will normally be the cheapest produce the store has at that moment. This week I am buying blueberries, strawberries and raspberries since it is summer and berries are in full production.

Ok, now your grocery list is partially done. I say partially done because you only have those items on there that you need for the meals that you are going to make this week. I then fill in the rest of my list with stock up items. These are the items that are on sale this week for a stock up price with or without a coupon. I visit several websites during the day to get updates on coupons available, what is on sale now and what is going to be coming on sale. My favorite websites are totallytarget.com iheartpublix.com, iheartkroger.com and iheartsavingmoney.com. These websites do a terrific job of updating what is on sale at these stores at any given moment. She also cross references the coupons that are available for what is on sale so you can get the best possible price. Search around and find the websites that work the best for you and the stores that you visit. A lot of sites will do all the work for you. They tell you what items are on sale and what coupons to use to get the lowest price. They will even do the math for you so that you know exactly what you will pay for the product. By looking around the site, you can often pick up the lingo that they are using such as RP=Red Plum and SS=Smart Source and then they put the date along with it so you can find the exact coupon you need. This is why we kept all the coupons and dated them – so we could find them when we need them. You may not have needed a Cottonelle toilet paper coupon when it came out in May but now that it is on sale in June, you need it to get cheap toilet paper. Coupons will vary depending on the region you live in and your local newspaper, so there might be a change in your coupons but they often list those variations also.

The key in saving money on groceries – matching coupons to sale prices to get the best possible price.

When an item you use, no matter the brand, goes on sale and has matching coupons for it, that is the time to stock up. For example, Publix recently had a sale on Peter Pan peanut butter. I am not brand loyal to peanut butter and we eat enough of it in our house to warrant stocking up on it. I bought 12 jars of peanut butter and used both Publix store coupons and manufacturer coupons to pay only $0.12/jar for it. So, for less than $1.50, I have enough peanut butter to last us through plenty of PB&J sandwiches. When you find a good deal on something that you know you will use, buy enough of it to last you until it goes on sale again. My rule of thumb is to buy at least as much as I have coupons for and if the price is low enough, I will buy more than that. You can also buy additional coupons on certain websites but I have never needed enough of something to warrant buying extra.

A lot of stores have becoming very accommodating to the coupon shopper. Most of them now double coupons, let you use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same item and even take competitor coupons.  If you are not sure what you store’s policy is for coupons, it never hurts to ask. I have found that customer service is very nice when you approach them with a humble heart and ask in a friendly way. They will often tell you how to sign up for additional store coupons that are not widely available or tell you what their specific policy is for their store.

In almost every shopping trip that I have at the grocery store, I end up saving at least 40% on my groceries and getting free items using coupons. Just since the beginning of May, I have save almost $500 using coupons. This savings goes a long way in feeding my family and stretching our grocery dollars. There is no reason to not use coupons since they are available for almost any product you want to buy. It is free money just sitting out there waiting for someone to take it – why not you?

Organizing Coupons, my way

What my desk looks like at any given moment - covered in coupons!

There are as many ways to coupon as there are people. Everyone has to find the method that works best for them – some people have binders, some keep only certain coupons, other keep all the coupons and many more are a hybrid of different couponing styles. Here is how I coupon…

First, I buy a double Sunday paper. Nothing complicated, we normally just stop after church on Sunday and pick one up at either the grocery store or gas station. Typically they are bundled together as a double paper and the price is only $1 more than getting a single paper. This gives me 2 good sets of whatever coupons come out that week. I also get coupon inserts from my friends, neighbors, family and in the mail. I mark these coupon sets with the date of their release on the front cover.

I keep all the coupons that come in an insert and keep the insert complete. This allows me to look up coupons at sometime in the future and find what I need easily. I then file each insert by the month that it came with and in order during that month. I have a set of files for Smart Source, Red Plum, General Mills, P&G, Publix and Misc. I color code my file folders so that I have an easier time finding what I need when I need it.

I do not have all the folders labeled with my label maker yet, I ran out of labels before I could finish the job. I do not put the specific month on the folder since I reuse them all year long. I only keep 5 months worth of coupons at a time in my file drawer. This allows me to look back for coupons that came out a while ago that are still valid but to not have so many coupons that they are unmanageable. When a new month begins, I pull out the oldest month of coupons (labeled Month 1) and recycle them and then move each month’s coupons up to the next month. This leaves me the current month’s folder empty for the month that is beginning. It may sound complicated but it literally takes less than 5 minutes for me to update it at the beginning of each month.

I keep all the coupons from all the inserts in order to take advantage of the best deals that are happening at any given time. I am not particularly brand loyal, so I will use whatever brand is the cheapest at the time. This allows me to stock up on things we use all the time – toilet paper, peanut butter, snacks – for almost no cost. Then I am able to utilize my grocery budget to buy those things that I will buy without coupons – meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, you can find coupons on all these items but I am able to allocate more of my budget to these items when I am not spending much on the other items. Using coupons, I can often get the national brand of almost any product for less then I would pay for the store brand of that product.

I also print a lot of my coupons from the internet. This will often be where you find the high dollar amount coupons or even coupons for free items. These coupons I print out and then file away in my purse coupon organizer. I keep this with me at all times. These coupons are both the ones that I use for grocery shopping and the ones I have for dining out and entertainment. I do not always know when I might need these coupons so they stay in my purse for when the need arises.

I also go through my organizer at the beginning of the month and recycle any coupon that has expired. This keeps my organizer light and only containing the items that are usable.

I begin making my grocery list on Monday and have it completed by Wednesday so that I can go shopping on Thursday. While I am making the list, I pull the coupons that I need to use and place them in my grocery envelope. I cannot say enough about having a grocery envelope. This envelope has my cash for groceries, my coupons and after I shop, my receipts. This allows me to keep everything in one place for the week and I can find what I need easily. If I have a question about something I purchased or need to fill out a rebate, my receipt is right at hand. I do not need to search for coupons while standing in line at the grocery store, it is all in my envelope. I do not need to wonder how much I can spend on groceries, if there is money in the envelope, that is what I can spend. It is the best, cheapest organization tool for budgeting in our lives. They are simple envelopes that you use for mailing letters – only about $1.00 for a box of 80.

This is how I organize my coupons. I will update the blog on another day about how I use the coupons to save lots of money on my groceries but the first step is being able to find the coupons and then organize them so you can find them when you need them. I encourage you to keep your inserts and try this method. And if you don’t, then I encourage you to pass them on to someone who does, I am always looking for a new coupon source.

Grocery totals 6/23/11 and Weekly Menu

In my normal routine, I go grocery shopping on Thursdays. This is my big trip to stock up for the week and buy what I need to keep us alive until the next Thursday. I try to only shop on Thursdays but since it is summer, I have been splitting my shopping trip up a little so that the kids don’t have to go to five stores in one day. It is not uncommon for me to go to Target, Kroger, Publix, CVS and the local produce stand on a typical shopping day. That is a lot to drag 2 kids to and expect them to behave.

My solution to the kid grocery shopping problem?  I pay my kids to help me grocery shop. I have found that this teaches them something and makes summertime grocery shopping as painless as possible. They are each assigned a task when we get to each store either pushing the cart, reading the list or calculating totals as we go. If they do their job without complaint or fighting, they earn $1 for the day per kid. I rotate through the job list so that the kids do something different at each store and don’t complain as much about their chosen job. As you can imagine, pushing the cart is the most coveted job.  For me, this is the best bargain I get on Thursdays. I get 2 kids who are helping me shop and keeping the fighting to a minimum for the low low price of $2, you can’t beat that!

Here are my grocery totals for this week. This includes Kroger, Publix and Target. I did get a small amount of meat at Kroger on managers special but not as much as I would have liked to have gotten. I didn’t have a lot of coupons this week, so that is also reflected in my totals:

Total Spent: $109.66
Total Value: $159.67
Total Saved: $50.01

Here is my dinner menu for the week:

Grilled Hamburgers/Portabella Mushroom    Mac & Cheese   Homemade Vidalia Onion Rings

Chicken Quesadillas   Rice

Grilled Steak/Chicken    Baked Potatoes    Asparagus

Cookout w/Friends
I am bringing Homemade Potato Salad (my mom’s recipe from days gone by, it is AWESOME!)

Buffalo Chicken Wraps    Chips   Watermelon

Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken      Broccoli     Rice

Grilled Chicken Panini    Roasted Potatoes    Fruit

Here is the recipe for my mom’s Potato Salad:

Eva’s Potato Salad

1/3 cup Italian Dressing
7 medium potatoes, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup onions
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard

Cook potatoes in microwave as though making baked potatoes. Let them cool slightly and peel and cube. Pour Italian Dressing over warm potatoes and chill 2 hours (I let them chill overnight). Add celery, onion and eggs. Add mayo, sour cream, mustard and salt to taste. Chill.

You are what you think…

Philippians 4:8

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

I read this passage in the Bible today and thought of how powerful it is. To fix your thoughts on positive things and to let go of negative thinking can be a life changer. Imagine choosing to focus on the good in people and how that would change your relationships. I think this is particularly applicable in your relationship with your spouse. If we focus on the wonderful gifts that God has given them and how they use them to enrich our lives, we will realize how blessed we are to have them. I can make a choice to appreciate the loving, gentle, self sacrificing man that God gave to me or I can berate him for the few shortcoming that he has. Which one will be uplifting to him, my marriage and myself and which one will tear down what God has built?

Paul tells us in the Bible to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. But why stop there? Not only think on these things but verbalize them. Praise the people you are in relationship with. Let your husband know what wonderful gifts he has. Praise him for the little things – emptying the dishwasher, making the bed, playing with the kids  – and praise him for the larger things – leading your family, earning a living, choosing to put you and kids before himself.

I was recently speaking with a friend and she mentioned how important it is that wives speak honorable words about their husbands to others. As women, we have been wrongly influenced by television and print media. On television we see wives speaking disrespectfully of their husbands and “bashing” them while with their friends. These examples speak of a lack of respect that women show toward their spouse and a lack of honor they show in their marriage. In order to be honored, we need to act and speak honorably. Our husbands deserve our admiration and respect and we can show that by focusing on their strengths when speaking about them to others.

Today, I heard of a 30 day challenge to wives – focus on your husband’s positive attributes and find atleast 1 thing everyday to praise him for. Give a word of praise to your husband and tell atleast 1 person every day of something good your husband has said or done that day. Don’t tell your dearly beloved what you are doing but watch and see what happens to your relationship. See if it doesn’t become both stronger and more loving.

Staycation 2011

Every year for the past several years we have spent a week doing a staycation. A staycation is basically a vacation taken at home. The first time we did one, we had just begun our Dave Ramsey journey and were busily paying off debt – a vacation just wasn’t in the budget. Now that we are further along on the baby steps, we have more disposable income to save for a vacation, like the trip to D.C. that we took over Spring Break, but we enjoy the staycation so much that we have voted to keep it going. I love seeing our wonderful city from a tourists perspective and spending intense one on one time with John and the kids. Our staycation give us the ability to sleep late, stay up late, enjoy our own beds and home cooked food (for us that is better than eating at a restaurant any day!).

We typically buy a City Pass for each of us and then hit the venues listed in there. For Atlanta, that includes the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke (Josh’s favorite place on earth), Zoo Atlanta and Fernbank Natural History Museum. In past years we have also gone to the Atlanta Botanical Garden and CNN Center. This year we decided to purchase annual passes to Lake Lanier Islands and use those during our staycation too.

We finish up our week with our annual camping trip to Unicoi State Park. This park has a large lake where you can swim, rent paddle boats and fish along with hiking trails and a children’s program. They even do a communal smores roasting that includes a fun interactive story that the kids just love.

This has been one of the best family activities that we do each year. The kids love it so much that when we asked them this year to vote between a trip to the beach or a staycation, they voted for the staycation (and they LOVE the beach!). Take a look around your hometown or local big city and see what you can do with your family. Stop and take the time to be tourists for those attractions that are the most familiar to you. While you are at it, add in some ice cream and impromptu splashing in the sprinklers – you and your family will be better for it.

Free Purse?

So, I have been needing a new purse for while now. I say need but really what I mean is want. I have a purse that is functional but not as stylish as I would like it to be and a little on the small side. John went shopping at Kohls on Memorial Day to get some much needed clothes (he has not had ANY new clothes for 9 months!!) and he came home with $20 in “Kohls Cash”. Being the sweet man that he is, he gave it to me to buy something for myself. I was tempted to take it and get the kids each a new swimsuit but instead I decided to buy myself something that I would not normally buy.

Now, for all of those who know me IRL, know that I am not a shopper. Most of my clothes come from John as presents for holidays or birthdays. I just don’t enjoy spending hours looking at clothes and trying on everything in the store. John has excellent taste so normally it just works better for him to bring something home and then if I don’t like it or it doesn’t fit, I can take it back. So, the idea of going purse shopping wasn’t very appealing to me. My ideal way to shop is to do it online and let the very friendly UPS man deliver it to me in the comfort of my own home. Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized that I could use my Kohls cash online. Yeah!

So, I jumped online and went to Kohls.com. I started off in the regular priced handbag section. I quickly realized that I could not afford the regular or sale prices list there – from $30-$70. I was trying to not spend anymore than my Kohls cash of $20. I then noticed the clearance tab and jumped on it. I found a purse that looked like what I was wanting – it was normally priced at $58 and was marked down to $17.40!! With $.99 shipping and tax, it came out to be just a few cents less than the $20 Kohls cash. I placed the order and my total was $0.00 and it should be here in a week or so.

Here is the purse I got for free!! I just love it when things work out like that….

Bountiful Harvest

The garden is exploding with growth! This is the first year that we have moved the garden to a sunnier spot and it is doing wonderfully. We took down a tree in our backyard this past fall and it yielded a spot for the garden that gets more sun that anywhere else in our backyard. The garden now gets atleast 8 hours of sun a day and for my back yard, that is a ton!

I have been fertilizing atleast every other week with fish emulsion and I am wondering if that is making it grow more abundantly too. Fish emulsion is a combination of fish waste and fish parts all ground up into a very stinky icky paste. You then mix 1 teaspoon of the paste with 2 gallons of water. It yields a great organic fertilizer but it smells exactly how you would think it would smell. Whatever you do, do not get it on your shoes or clothes, you will not be popular in your house that day. Don’t ask me how I know just trust me on this one.

I have the noble goal of trying to calculate how much the produce from my garden will yield this season. I am not sure if I will have the patience to keep up with all of it but atleast for now it is what I am setting up to do. Yesterday was my first “real” crop of the season – a colander of green beans. John also picked 2 jalapeno peppers this past week and mixed them into his scrambled eggs. We have also been picking some of the cilantro, basil and rosemary to cook with.

Here are the green beans I got last night:

Here is a pic from the garden right after it was planted in the middle of April:

Here is a picture from yesterday (early June):

The veggies growing in the garden are: green beans (54 individual plants), cabbage (I have been fighting the bugs for this one), Rosemary, jalapeno (4), green bell peppers (3), red bell peppers (2), Cilantro (2), Basil (2), Roma tomatoes (8), and carrots (2 boxes). I had lavender in the garden but I moved it to the butterfly garden to make room for additional bell pepper plants. I also have 2 small raspberry briers just outside the garden that I got from my dear friend, Erika. The raspberries are surviving but not producing yet. My goal for those is to just keep them alive so that they will flourish next summer and to hopefully grow a good sized brier patch. I would also like to put in some blueberry bushes in the Spring.

The total in produce production from the garden so far is approx $2 in green beans and $.50 in jalapenos. At this point,  the green beans have paid for themselves since they were planted from seed which cost less than $2. I am not sure how much of the herbs we have gotten since I don’t really keep up the quantity, I just pick what I need for that meal.

Let me know how your gardens are doing and what you are planting – I am always looking for new ideas for the garden.