Sunday, July 29, 2012

Use Coupons Wisely

12 cents a bottle after coupon

Recently, Heinz issued some coupons for $1.00 off one bottle of vinegar, any size or variety.  These are the kind of coupons I like! Why?

Most people would be tempted to use this coupon off the largest bottle of vinegar, right? After all, haven't we always been taught that volume equals value? The actual answer is not always and in this case, definitely not! 

One thing I learned working in the legal field is always pay attention to the wording contained in documents (and coupons). This particular coupon doesn't indicate you must purchase a particular size or variety in order to redeem the coupon. So, for the best deal, look for the smallest, least expensive size.

I noticed most stores in Topeka had Heinz vinegar for around $1.65-$1.85 for the smallest bottle. With coupon, this would have brought the price to 65-85 cents a bottle, which is OK but not great. Then I discovered Wal-Mart on Wanamaker sold small bottles of Heinz for $1.12.  After coupon, I ended up paying 12 cents a bottle. I had around 6 coupons so purchased 6 bottles for 72 cents. 

Vinegar has many wonderful uses beyond being the base for salad dressing.  For example, vinegar makes an excellent cleaner. For glass, stainless steel, and plastic laminate surfaces, fill your spray bottle with 2 parts water, 1 part distilled white vinegar, and a couple of drops of dish washing liquid. For cleaning walls and other painted surfaces, mix up 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup ammonia, and 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water and pour some into a spray bottle. Spritz it on spots and stains whenever needed and wipe off with a clean towel.

Here are some other great ways to use white distilled vinegar:
  • Add 1/2 cup to laundry rinse cycle to brighten clothes (it helps dissolve soap residue)
  • Add 2 Tablespoons to water when boiling eggs to help prevent cracking
  • Freshen wilted vegetables by soaking in cold water with a couple of spoons of vinegar
  • Add a spoonful to the water in which you cook rice or  pasta to prevent stickiness (reduces the starch content)
  • Dab insect stings with while vinegar to prevent itching
  • Spray plants with vinegar to prevent pets from eating them
These and many more uses for vinegar can be found at www.vinegartips.com

The most interesting use for vinegar I have found is: add vinegar to your chicken's water to prevent pecking.  Hmmmm....I've worked a couple of places where adding some vinegar to the water cooler could have perhaps made for a much pleasanter working environment!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's Hot in Topeka!




In the Shade

Topeka has reached over 100 degrees eighteen times so far this summer. In other words, "It's Hot in Topeka!"



While it's hot, it's not 1936 hot.  It's more like 1980's hot.  The hottest summer ever in Topeka was felt in 1936. The summer of 1936 saw 59...you read correctly... fifty-nine days over 100 degrees.  And on July 24, the hottest temperature ever reached in Topeka was recorded, 114 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, in 1936, Topeka saw 19 consecutive days over 100 degrees (July 9-27).

An interesting blog with Kansas dust bowl memories is http://kansasdustbowl.blogspot.com/.

My maternal grandmother (deceased) who was a young, married woman in the early 1930's, told me one of her biggest memories of the dust bowl days on their farm in Northern Missouri.  She said that her and Grandpa would lie in bed every night listening to the their cows bawl. Grandma said it was a heart-wrenching sound. They cried from thirst.

The water had dried up on their farm and there was no water for the cattle.  Each day, her and my Grandfather, would herd the cattle a couple of  miles over to her father's farm, which still had a little water left in the creek, then they would drive the cattle back home to the pasture. Yet, the temperatures were so hot, by evening the cattle were extremely thirsty and had no water to drink until the next day when my grandparents would once again drive them back to the creek.

Grandma said one year they couldn't raise anything in the garden but green beans.  She said they lived on practically nothing but green beans for a year.  Until the day he died, my Grandpa wouldn't eat many green beans. He always told me he had his fill in the 30's.

Of course, there was no air-conditioning on the farm in the 1930's. I sometimes think of my Grandma and Grandpa lying in bed, sweaty and hot, listening to their dying cattle through the open window, praying for rain.  It makes me hesitant to ever complain.

My paternal Grandmother says she remembers the pastures drying up so her father's cattle had nothing to eat.  Grandma said her father had to cut down trees just so the cattle could eat the leaves since there was nothing else for them to eat.

In 1980, Topeka saw 20 out of 31 days in July reach 100 or better. Twelve of those days were consecutive. 

I have heard several predictions this years large spread drought will result in a 3-5% rise in food prices, particularly meat, milk and eggs.  We will all have to shop smarter just to stay even.

Here's my tip of the day: carry a cooler in the car. Each time I leave to go grocery shopping, I make sure I have a cooler in the back to carry home anything cold. One day, in an attempt to help me, my husband cleaned out my car for me, removing the cooler. I didn't notice until after I had bought ice cream. I have eaten soup that was thicker than that ice cream was by the time  I got home.

Later, I asked my husband, "Where's my cooler?"

"Oh, I cleaned out your car. Were you aware there were old club crackers crumbling and jolly ranchers melting in the drivers door pocket," he said with obvious disgust.

"Whaaaaaaattt!" I replied.  When upset, my voice sounds eerily similar to "Shaggy" from Scooby Do, after he thinks he has spotted some supernatural phenomena, which always turned out to have some logical explanation.

"Those are my car snacks!"

"Car Snacks?" he asked, confused.

"I hope you didn't move my Aldi's quarter," I threatened.

"What's an 'Aldisquarter'," he said.

"The quarter I keep in the ash tray to use every time I go to Aldi's. You have to have a quarter to get a shopping cart," I explain. 

"Please don't tell me you threw away my car makeup," I continue, with fear.

"Are you referring to that tube of lipstick that had no lid and what looked like beach sand stuck to it? He wrinkles his nose at me.

"I could exfoliate my lips and apply lipstick at the same time!" I state. "I'm thinking of patenting that invention".

"I removed about a hundred fossilized fries from under your seat and an unopened package of crystal light," he says.

"Now, if I am ever stranded for days in a snow storm, how do you suggest I survive? I ask, to his back as he walked away, shaking his head. He has not cleaned, or rode, in my car since.

Car Cooler



Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Find Grocery Coupons in Topeka, Kansas

$5.40 for all before tax
I really don't spend all my time grocery shopping, though it may look that way.  I do try to make several small trips a week--the biggest reason is because it is easier to keep track of my purchases if I am spending $20, instead of $100 at once.  Also, multiple trips allow we to check for clearance items or unannounced sales. I try to go with a plan and be in the store no longer than a few minutes. Today, I wanted to go back to Dillon's to purchase a few more of their sale 10 for $10 sale items (mix and match).  Like a lot of sales, you don't have to actually buy ten items to get one of the sale items for $1. When in doubt, ask an employee, don't just assume you have to purchase ten items. I only purchased 7 items but all 7 rang up for $1. With the coupons I had, the above items cost $5.40 before tax and that is including the two steaks ($4.40) which are already marinating for tomorrow night.

Yesterday I mentioned the coupons for the BBQ sauce and soap. Plus, I discovered I had a coupon for $1 off the Lady Speed Stick which is on sale this week for $1. A couple of other great deals I noticed at Dillon's this week is half gallon of milk is on sale again for $1.25 (4 for $5).  It's much cheaper to purchase two half gallons for $2.50 than the gallon for $3.38.  Yet, how often do you just automatically reach for the gallon?

Also, Dillon's tortilla chips are on sale for $1 this week. I have never tried them. I really love the Calidad White Corn Tortilla Chips they sell at Dillon's for $1.99. But this week I decided to go ahead and try the Kroger brand since it is a $1 less (they normally sell for $1.25). Since I currently have garden tomatoes, I plan on making salsa.

$15.16 for all before tax

Since I was already on Wanamaker today, I also made a run into Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee has some great sale items this week, particularly on butter and eggs.  Butter is $1.88 (most places are charging between $3-$3.50 for a pound of butter) and eggs are 79 cents for a dozen (limit 2). 

I purchased 4 pounds of butter. You might ask, "But didn't you just purchase butter?"  The answer is "yes" and I was down to the final package.  So, while I would like to think this much butter will last a 3-4 months, more likely it will last 3-4 weeks.  Butter stores beautifully. The expiration date on this butter is not until December 14--believe me, it will not be a problem.

Eggs also store well. According to www.eggsafety.org, eggs are good for 4-5 weeks after the Julian date (date packed, not the sell by date).  The Julian date is usually found right on the carton near the "sell by" date.  For example, the egg carton above has stamped on the side "Sell by August 16". Then directly below the sell by date is the code "200 P1909 10". Julian date just refers to a continuous count of days so 001 refers to January 1 and 365 refers to December 31st.  This egg carton indicates the eggs were packed on the 200th day of the year or as we generally refer to it..July 19th. Since eggs are good for about 45 days after being laid, we know these eggs will be good until around September 2nd.

So, if I was you, I would be asking "Where do you find all these coupons?"

I subscribe to the local paper but the easiest way to obtain coupons is to ask people to save them for you. Request that your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers pass along any coupons they are not going to use.  People in general like to be helpful and you will likely be amazed at how many coupons others will simply give to you. You really don't need more than 3-4 of most coupons.

Another good way to get coupons is to request them directly from the manufacturer.  Often times, if you visit a product's website, there is an option to print coupons. In order to save on paper and ink, I only print those coupons I know I will use and I try to always leave my printer setting at "black ink" only.  I hate printing a coupon and a full page "advertisement" prints along with the coupon, practically negating any savings. (This is why many opt for "Print-it-at-work"). If the website doesn't offer coupons, I will often email the company and ask if they have coupons and if yes, how to obtain them. Sometimes the manufacturer will send individuals coupons when requested.

Recently, I attempted to print a couple of dollar off coupons from the Wells Blue Bunny website.  I could not get the coupons to print so I emailed the company and told them how disappointed I was since I love their ice cream.  I received 6 Fifty-five cent off coupons in the mail in response to my email. The email took about 10 seconds and netted me $6 (when doubled up to a $1 by local stores) in savings. I used three of those coupons today since Hy-Vee has Blue Bunny Ice Cream on sale for $1.99. After coupon, I ended up paying 99 cents per package.


Coupon for free product
I was particularly proud of the free Gain detergent which normally costs $10.67.  How? I purchased some Gain fabric softener off the clearance rack for $1.40 a couple of weeks ago.  Something was wrong with it. It was thick like molasses. I emailed the company, explained I had purchased some softener (I left out the irrelevant detail that I paid $1.40) which appeared defective. I explained I had never had a problem with their product before and wondered if it was OK to use. They quickly and efficiently emailed me back stating they would mail me a coupon for a free bottle. They did, only it was for detergent, not softener. They included a few other coupons as well. I always complain nicely and never make demands.  


6 Fifty-five cent  off coupons
What deals are all of you finding?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Topeka Dillon's Deals July 25-31, 2012

I love Wednesday mornings. Why? Grocery ads, of course. The first thing I do is give each ad a quick glance for any great sales for which I might also have coupons.  Later, I sit down and make out my week's menu and grocery list. 

You may be thinking who has time to match up sale items with coupons? It's probably not who you think.  Studies have shown the heaviest coupon users are caucasian women, under age 54, college-educated, living in a country setting on the fringe of a large city with an annual household income over $70,000.  Amazing! You just can't make this stuff up.

In other words, if June Cleaver was a real person living in Topeka, Kansas today, she would be an extreme couponer.   I highly recommend www.moneysavingmom.com.  This blog describes itself as an upbeat and encouraging site dedicated to assisting you in finding deals. A nice feature of the blog is a tab entitled "store deals" which matches advertised specials with current coupons. I'm sure June would have used it.

So, today the old cat gentlemen demanded I go get cat food. I wasn't really ready to do my weekly shopping but they declared an emergency. Angry, loud, hungry cats can be quite convincing.

Kibo & Howard threaten revolt
I made a dash to Dillon's. Of course, while there I made sure to check out the clearance rack.  I found a bag of gummy bears for 25 cents and a couple of packages of Blistex marked down to 25 cents each. I had a coupon for 25 cents so after doubling, both sticks were free. I also noticed Masterpiece BBQ sauce is on sale for a $1.00 this week, I had three 75 cent coupons which when doubled, made for three free bottles of sauce. I also had three coupons for $1 off Ivory soap which is also on sale for $1 this week. Can't beat free.
I also had a coupon for a package of free Oscar Mayer Bacon. I recommend the website www.kraftfirsttaste.com.  You must join the site but they often offer great coupons, sometimes even coupons for free sample items. I received this particular coupon in the mail after entering some kind of contest on the site. Yeah, I "won" bacon. I like free things.
I also picked up some of the Oscar Mayer shaved ham and turkey which is on sale this week for $1.99 (if you buy four packages, you receive an immediate $4 discount). I also had a couple of 50 cent coupons for the meat. All together, the items pictured below cost $6.25.
$6.25 for the above pictured items
I am hoping I will not need to buy many other groceries this week, other than a couple of sale items at other stores. I did not need to use all my groceries last week because my husband took me on a surprise date night one night and we ended up eating some leftovers another night. This week, I am planning on:
Chicken Pot Pie (if it cools off)
Salad
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Stacked Ham Sandwiches (with meat above)
Steak and Baked Potato (a splurge at the grocery store is always cheaper than eating out)
Pork Chops
BLT's (Free bacon and garden tomatoes--yum)

Of course, the cook always reserves the right to change the menu.

When I got home, we had a strangle little rain shower. It poured for about five minutes as the sun shone. The ground sucked up the water so fast you couldn't even tell it had rained an hour later.
Glorious Rain!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Is Canning Tomatoes Worth it?

I considered titling this photo "Pineapple King Surrounded by his Adoring Tomato Subjects" but then went with the more conventional name "Before". 


Before

I am having a bad garden year. First, out of the 30 or so tomato plants I planted, about half died (drought + short hose = death). Second, I grew my own plants from seeds. This spring, I must have picked up a package of "cherry tomato" plants instead of regular tomato plants. The only regular sized tomatoes I have grown this year came from volunteer plants that sprang up from a corner of the garden where I threw rotten tomatoes last summer. Third, squash bugs.

One day I wondered out to the garden to find my zucchini and yellow squash covered in hundreds of  ugly, squat brown bugs and the plants half dead. I ran inside to "google" the intruder. Verdict: Your whole garden is probably going to die.

Throughout the drought, I have refused to allow my garden to die, preferring to water it enough to just make it suffer. "Enough already," the plants seem to scream. "We're ready to go."

I called my Dad (from here out referred to as the "The Farmer") for advice. I explained the situation.

"Well, one year I got squash bugs in the garden," The Farmer reminisced. "It was looking bad. I pretty much figured the entire garden was a goner. Now let me tell you, it was a stressful time.  It looked like we might be forced to eat unripe, flavorless grocery store tomatoes all year."

Listening to the Farmer over the telephone, I couldn't wait for the answer. "Quick, what did you do," I asked breathlessly.

"Wouldn't you know it," the Farmer drawled. "A covey of quails descended on the garden and they gobbled up every single one of those bugs! I guess quail just love squash bugs! Yup, that's what I 'd do...get quail."

I felt a little defeated. Unlike The Farmer's Missouri farmstead, my suburban backyard is not known for it's quail coveys.

"And what about the drought? Any suggestions on how to save my garden?" I asked, perhaps a little sarcastically.

"Oh, are you dry down there? The farm just got three inches," he crowed.

"What did you do to deserve rain?" I asked.

"It's like I was telling the boys down at the coffee shop.  I was just walking out of church and it started to rain," he said mockingly.

"Which did the boys have a harder time believing?  That you got rain or that you went to church?" I responded.

One benefit of a home garden, is you know what has been put on the plants. Unfortunately, pest sprays kill not only the  "bad" bugs but also the "good" bugs, like bees. I read online you could just pick off the bugs and pull their eggs off the leaves with duct tape.

So, I took a jar of water out to the garden in which to drown the picked off bugs and a roll of duct tape to start removing bug eggs.  After about an hour of bug and bug egg picking in 100 degree heat, I got in my car and drove up to Ace Hardware for some pesticide. 

After
I did can 12 pints of tomatoes this week. Last Saturday, I canned 12 pints of Salsa. In the midst of canning tomatoes, I realized I did not have any lids or lemon juice, both vital to canning tomatoes. I jumped in the car to run to Dillon's. As I was backing out of the driveway, I asked myself, "Did you remember to turn off the stove?"

I answered myself, "Don't be ridiculous! Of course, I remembered to turn off the stove!"

"You actually recall turning the little white knob and seeing the flame go out?  I respond to myself.

"Well, no, I don't remember but I am sure I did!" I think.

I am what is known as an "extreme worrier".

I convinced myself I did not need to pull back in the driveway and go check the stove. I felt uncomfortable but knew I was being irrational.

When I return, water is pouring down the driveway. "What happened?" I ask myself, as I drive through a river, before jumping out of the vehicle in a panic.

When I left for the store, I apparently left the garden hose running. But you will be happy to know, the stove was OFF.

The requirements for canning tomatoes has changed. When I was a kid, neither of my Grandma's  processed the tomatoes in  a canner.  They used the "hot pack method" which is no longer recommended. While I did process my tomatoes in a canner, the worrier in me kept saying, "Are you sure you processed the tomatoes for long enough?

Botulism is rare but nobody wants to be known for say, killing off their entire family with tomatoes. With botulism, there is no food discoloration or mold.  It's hard to detect. I kept fretting and muttering. Finally my husband asked impatiently, "Isn't there a test for Botulism?"

"Yes, I responded. "It's called, 'You Eat First'."

Store bought canned tomatoes are relatively cheap. I am not simplifying my life by canning tomatoes and I doubt it even saves any money.  I get great satisfaction from growing and canning tomatoes but is it worth it?

HyVee Specials in Topeka Through July 24, 2012

Stock Up on Prego this Week

HyVee is currently holding a "Dollar Days" sale effective July 18-24, 2012.  What jumped out at me in this week's advvertisement was Prego Pasta Sauce for $1.00.  "Prego" is Italian for "You're Welcome". Just what you want in a spagetti sauce, tomatoes, green pepper and oh, yeah, a little arrogance.

Spagetti sauce frequently goes on sale.   Lately, I have seen Ragu running 2 jars for $3. $1 a jar is about as cheap as it gets and personally, I like Prego better than Ragu. HyVee pasta is also on sale for $1. Brown up a package of that 98 cent sausage that was on sale at Apple Market a couple of weeks ago, buy a $1 jar of sauce and $1 jar of pasta for a really cheap, filling meal.

My friend, the beautiful Italian, shared the secret to truly great spagetti sauce is to add some beef broth (for richness) and just a little cayenne pepper (to bring out the flavors). I always doctor up my store bought spagetti sauce, don't you? Spice it up, baby.

My husband doesn't really care for spagetti.  He puts about three stands on his plate and then proceeds to  fill up on garlic bread, which he covers with a thick layer of  meat sauce.  As a result of his indifference to pasta in general, the word "spagetti" has become code in our family for any food one of us dislikes. For example, my son-in-law recently referred to Pancakes as "the spagetti of breakfasts". I agree.

Other deals I took advantage of at HyVee this week included HyVee microwave popcorn for $1 a box (3 bags) , sour cream for $1 and cabbage 2 pounds for $1. 

The Clearance Rack is my Friend

I had to make an emergency run up to Dillon's (more on that later) and while there found these Hormel Peppercorn Fillets on clearance for $1.99.  I think they usually cost around $8-9 dollars. I had a couple of $1 off coupons so they ended up costing a whopping 99 cents a package.  I also found some Naan bread on clearance for $1.49.  Naan is nomally around $2.99. 

Naan is the the most delicious bread in the world.  I remember the first time I ate homemade Naan at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kansas City.  I fell head-over-heels in love with it. The commercial breads are good also (http://stonefire.com/our-flatbreads/naan/).

So based on this week's current sales, clearance rack finds and previous sale purchases, here is my menu for the week:

Indian Butter Chicken (made with chicken that was on sale last week and clearance Naan)
Pork Chop, mashed potatoes and corn-on-the-cob (some of the corn from Target and sale Pork)
Pulled Pork Sandwich with coleslaw (Hormel meat and sale cabbage)
Taco's (with garden tomatoes and fresh salsa)
Hamburgers, homemade fries and probably leftover slaw
Salad (made partly from taco leftovers)
Chicken Pot Pie with any leftover salad

Prego!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Make Baked Acorn Squash with Stuffing

I saw an advertisement this week for a book for "cheap meals". The book was supposedly filled with recipes for meals under $10.  I thought, "What kind of people are splurging on $10 meals!"  Here is a delicious dish you can make cheaply:  Baked Acorn Squash with Stuffing.

Brown sausage

First, brown a package of sausage, hopefully some of that 98 cent Farmland sausage that was on sale at Apple Market a couple of weeks ago. Add about a half a chopped onion...more of less, depending on how much you like onion.

Add Some Spice to Your Life

Add salt and pepper to taste.  I also added two cloves of garlic and some fresh sage out of my herb garden.  If you don't have fresh sage, just use the store bought kind, maybe a teaspoon or so.

Halve and remove seeds

Halve an acorn and scoop out the seeds.  I like to save seeds to plant in my garden next year.   Remove all the gunk around the seeds and lay them out flat to dry.  This is an old baby plate I bought at a garage sale years ago.  It is the perfect size to fit on many of my cooking pots and often gets used as a lid because I am too lazy to lean over and get out the real lid from under the counter.

Dry the seeds for a week or so.  When the seeds are completely dry, store in a dry, cool place until spring.  Be sure and label the pack of seeds unless you are planning a surprise garden. I had several surprises in my garden this year due to my lack of diligence in labeling.

A little trick is to cut off the end of the squash so it will sit flat and not roll around.  If you don't like acorn squash, use a green pepper. Green pepper is even cheaper than Acorn Squash. Then pre-cook the acorn squash in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes. 

Add Stuffing Mix

Buy a box of cheap stuffing mix.  I use the kind they sell at Wal-Mart which I think is around a dollar.  Follow the directions on the box.  Add the amount of water and butter specified on the box directly to the sausage/spice mixture. Add the bread crumb mix. You do not have to make the stuffing seperately. Here's something else I do, I don't drain the sausage.  Fat is just another word for flavor.  It looks a little gross when cooking but makes for a very rich stuffing.  If you just can't the fat, then by all means go ahead and drain it off, you skinny, bland little people.

Add curry or whatever spices you like

I decided to spice it up a little more and added some curry.  I love curry. Sage, garlic and curry--you can't go wrong.  How much curry?  You decide. Add a little and taste.  Not enough?  Then add more. It's best to start with a small amount then add more if needed.  I recently added a whole teaspoon of red pepper to a dish and regretted it. I had to double the recipe to fix my mistake.  Just experiment.  If you mess up a dish, don't worry, the recipe police are very lax.

I rarely measure anything.  I learned most of my cooking skills from my Grandmother.  I remember once I really wanted to learn how to make noodles.  I was trying to write down the recipe (she always made them from memory) as she made the dish.  She scooped some flour on a wooden board, hollowed out a hole and cracked an egg into the center.

"Wait!  How much flour?" I asked frantically, waving my floury pen.

"Well, let's see, I guess about a cup the size of this brown teacup," she would respond. "Now, add a pinch of salt," she continured.

"How much is a pinch?" I would query.

"A pinch is a pinch" she would say laughingly.

I still don't make very good noodles. 

But now I cook the same way.  People sometimes ask me how I made something.   I can't give you measurements.  I cook by taste.

So back to our stuffed squash.  Take the stuffing mixture and scoop into the hollowed out squash.  Bake at 350 degrees until done, about 45 minutes or so.  I served with a little Naan bread.


Beautiful. Cheap, gourmet food.
 So this meal ran about $5.00.  Here's the breakdown:

Acorn Squash.............................................................  $3.00
Onion, Garlic & Spices, little butter around.................   $1.00
Stuffing mix................................................................   $1.00

Bread is optional but a roll or piece of bread really makes a complete meal.  Splurge, add bread for another buck.  You still have a complete meal for uner $6.  Give the kids some leftover mac and cheese, they probably don't appreciate gourmet food.  Or better yet, take some of the stuffing and put inside a pita or some Naan.  It makes a delicious bread on bread sandwich.

You Should Shop at Aldi's


If you don't already shop at Aldi's, you should.  I especially like their fruit because it is usually ripe and ready to use.  Aldi's almost always has the lowest prices in Topeka on fruit.  For example, last week I purchased a pound of blueberries for $1.29, a pound of cherries for $1.29 and a pineapple for $1.29.

Cherries are "on sale" this week for $2.49 a pound at Dillon's.  Aldi's usual price is about half  Dillon's sale price.

Great Prices on Fruit

 

Fruit is normally cheapest when it is in season.  I am trying to purchase fruit now to use this winter.  So what is one of the best ways to preserve fresh fruit?  I like to freeze it.  A lot of people do not know how to freeze properly.  First, wash the fruit really well. 

I once was visiting Mexico and watched several men pee all over the field they were picking.  After all, what would you expect them to do?  They were outside with no near bathrooms that I could see. I washed my fruit before this display but ever since, I have washed it exceptionally well.  You really should wash fruit before cutting it up or your knife will simply transfer the dirt and germs from the outside of the fruit to the inside.  I got very sick once eating watermelon and I suspect it had not been washed properly before it was cut.

First Wash the Fruit
Next, remove the excess water from the fruit.  I like to use my salad spinner to spin off the water.  Whatever you do, DO NOT remove the lid of your salad spinner to take a picture of spinning blueberries. Removing the lid will result in a flinging of fruit all over your kitchen.  If you don't have a salad spinner, just lay them out to dry.  They will get just as dry and be less dizzy.


Remove Excess Water
Then lay the fruit out on a baking sheet, plate or similar flat device.  I like to use an old plastic lid that goes to a square baking dish I own.  I use it because it fits easily in my freezer.  Put the fruit, uncovered into your freezer for an hour or two, until they are completely frozen.  They will resemble hard marbles when done.

This is the most important step.  A lot of people do not remove moisture before freezing and just end up with food with a lot of ice crystals which is rarely appetizing. Or better yet, a clump of berries frozen solidly together. This method works well for most fruit.

Flash Freeze for a Couple of Hours

Scoop into a plastic freezer bag for storage. I like the zip lock type of bags so I can easily scoop out fruit as I need it.  A hand full of frozen blueberries are a delicious treat.  They also defrost quickly for use in any dish.
Store for Future Use
This baggie contains 5 pounds of blueberries.  I paid $1.29 per pound or $6.45 for all five pounds. In the winter (or really most times of the year), Dillon's and HyVee sell blueberries for around $3.99 for 6-8 ounces (about half a pound).  You probably just walk on by, thinking you can't afford healthy fruit.  Yes, you can.  Buy it now and freeze it. You can thank me in January through your blueberry stained lips.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dillon's Odds and Ends

Back to School Specials are Starting

19 cent notebooks
Close Out V05 at Dillons

50 pounds for $6.99 on close out
The sale cycle ends tomorrow so move quickly on these deals.  I forgot to post that many back to school items are on sale at Dillon's. This is the time of year to stock up up on paper, pens and markers. If you miss this sale, I'm sure many other local stores will be running similar sales in the next couple of weeks.  I always try to buy enough notebooks and highlighters to last me a year. 

I also cruised by the discount rack and picked up some chai tea mix at half price and some cheap dog food. The last time I purchased Kibbles & Bits, I paid $27 for 35 pounds.  "This is ridiculous," I thought as I hefted the bag into the grocery cart.  "I can't afford to always eat exactly what I want to eat, so why can the dog?"

I was so excited to find the 50 pound bag of dog food for $6.99.  "Look!", I said as I proudly pointed at the bag of dried chunks. My husband frowned.  "I've heard it can upset your pet's stomach if you switch brands," he replied with concern.  "Well,  it's cheaper to feed him Tums than Kibbles," I retorted.

Since I have began really tracking my household expenses, I have noticed pet food and supplies make up about 10% of my weekly grocery expense.

A friend once commented, "You will never know true freedom until all the kids leave the house and the family dog finally dies."  I found her comment hilarious.  Then at a business conference, I repeated this bit of humor to another woman about my age who responded, "My dog just died". 

I laughed uproariousy at her dry sense of humor. 

"No seriously, my dog of 16 years just died. I am heart-broken without my little Rags," she said, stifling a sob. I never make many friends at conferences.

Our large dog is a light eater but the two little cats demand a mighty gourmet buffet of soft food, preferably with lots of cat gravy.  Then there is the litter issue.  Until recently, I was buying the very expensive clumping cat litter which cost about 8-9 dollars a week. "Why couldn't I just have a gambling problem instead of a cat?" I would think each time I purchased litter.

My cats love to sit outside on the deck all day.  It is apparently beneath them to use the "outside facilities".  Both will lounge outside all day and then literally run to the litter box the moment I let them inside.

 "Pee in the grass, you say old man?  How barbaric!" they seem to sniff.

They even purr with a bit of an colonial aristocratic English accent.

At one point, I attempted to make my own cat litter. Whatever you do, DO NOT make your own cat litter. You are probably already living on the edge by storing diluted fabric softener in a bottle. Especially do not attempt to make your own cat litter out of paper from your shredder.  While it may give you immense emotional satisfaction to line the cat box with your shredded credit card statements, trust me you will soon tire of picking up tiny pieces of paper your cat will most definitely track all over the house.  Even I have my cheap limits.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dillon's Deals - Mega Event through July 17

Here are today's money-saving adventures:

Clearance Rack Deals - $1.42 for all!
  Today's clearance rack at Dillon's was fantastic!  Here's the breakdown:

6 bags of Jolly Rancher candy at .50 each..............$3.00
3 Oral B toothbrushes at .99 each .........................$2.97
1 scrub brush.........................................................   .75
3 Kroger pantiliners at .50 each ............................$1.50
5 Pantene shampoo/conditioner at .99 ea...............$4.95
5 Suave shampoo/conditioner at .45 each..............$2.25
                                            Subtotal .................$15.42

3 coupons for .50 off two bags Jolly Rancher ..... -  $3.00
2 coupons for $3.00 off 2 bottles of Pantene....... -  $6.00
3 coupons for .75 off one Oral B Toothbrush...... -  $3.00
1 catalina coupon for $2.00 one bottle Pantene....-  $2.00
                                            Total......................    $1.42

This is the best I have ever done using coupons and is a rare event.  I don't want anyone to think I get these kinds of deals every week.  I just happened to have great coupons for almost everything I purchased off the clearance rack. And remember, Dillon's doubles coupons up to $1.00 which is reflected in the above totals.

In addition to the coupons, I received .50 cents additional off 5 of the above pictured items because they qualified as items included in Dillon's Mega sales event this week.  If you counted this additional savings, I actually had $1.08 credit to apply towards other groceries. 

I am a big believer is being honest with coupons so I always try to make sure I am purchasing the exact item for which the coupon was intended.  Not only would it be fraud to try to use a coupon for a purpose it wasn't intended, if people try to cheat the system, coupons may become a thing of the past.

I have watched TLC's extreme couponing show and find it very unrealistic.  Also, the show never demonstrates exactly how the individuals featured managed to purchase the items for the amount claimed. For that reason, I have documented the exact breakdown of today's shopping trip.

Dillon's Mega Event - Buy 10, Save $5.00

This week Dillon's is having another one of their save $5.00 when you mix and match any 10 participating items.  I purchased the above 10 items.  Here is the breakdown:

3 V-8 juice for $2.49 each.................$ 7.47
3 Secret for $1.99 each.....................$ 5.97
4 Cream Cheese for $1.49 each........$ 5.96
                            Subtotal.............. $19.40

minus 3 .40 V-8 coupons doubled....- $ 2.40
minus $5.00 mega event savings.......- $ 5.00
                            Total ...............    $12.00

Basically, I ended up paying on average $1.20 per item (10 items divided by 12).  Even Suave deodorant and store brand cream cheese cost more than $1.20 each. 
Chicken is $1.88 a pound through July 17 at Dillon's
Finally, if you do nothing else, go stock up on chicken this week.  Boneless chicken breast is on sale for $1.88 a pound this week.  I purchased three packages, then divided up the packages and used my foodsaver.  I usually add a little Italian dressing, worchestershire sauce or teriyaki sauce to the bag before sealing and freezing.  This way when I remove the bag from the freezer, the meat will marinate as it defrosts.
Buy in bulk, freeze for future use
So here is my menu for this week (my menu's usually run Thursday-Wednesday with the grocery ads):

Left Over Pizza (found in back of freezer)
Lasagna (using some of the .98 cent sausage and cheap cheese I bought last week)
Leftover Lasagna
Club Sandwiches (using some of the cheap bacon I purchased last week)
Fajita's (using a lot of fresh ingredients out of my garden)
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Baked Chicken and Baked Potato (using some of the $1.88 pound chicken)

So, is this post helpful?  What do you want to see more of? Less of?  What deals are all of you finding?

Fajita's for dinner

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Clearance Shrubs at K-Mart on Wanamaker

$2 Buck Shrubs
I forgot to mention when I was at K-Mart on Wednesday, they had these clearance shubs right by the front door.  Most were originally priced $6.99 but some had been as high as $13.99.  All are now marked $2.00 and in pretty good shape.

My Dad always says you can plant anything, anytime of the year, as long as you water it daily.

Fake Febreze

My husband and I have a dog, Wiley the Wonder Dog, and two elderly cats, Howard and Kibo. Because we allow the animals in the house, he worries excessively our house will develop an odor.

"Really?"  I asked incredulously.

"You don't smell like a rose when you come home after working outside all day in our lovely 105 degree Kansas weather.  Plus, in case you haven't noticed, that's not perfume I'm wearing, it's Ben-Gay. Instead of being worried our house smells like the dog, you should be worried our house smells like us".

I sometimes wonder if animals come inside and think, "Oh great, the house smells like people. Gross!" 

Because we both like a strongly scented house, I burn lots of candles and spray lots of deodorizers.  I started wondering how I could save money on  this smelly obsession.  Of course, I am not alone in this scent obsession since Febreze is Proctor and Gamble's fastest growing brand and just crossed over the one BILLION mark in sales. 

Almost $6 bucks for Febreze? Give me a break!
So I started looking around the internet and found several recipes for homemade Febreze.  It's simple:

Dissolve 3 Tablespoons baking soda in enough hot water to fill your spray bottle.  Add 1/8 cup fabric softner to water, fill bottle with the mixture and spray around your house to your content. I would use common sense and not spray, say directly on your grandmother's antique dresser.

I also went to Hobby Lobby and bought some additional fragrance to add to my mixture.  A bottle of Lavender fragrance cost $2.99 at Hobby Lobby (found in the candle making section). I added about 7-8 drops of fragrance to make my Fake Febreze exceptionally smelly.  I really can't tell a difference.

I told my daughters about my Febreze experiment.  "I've been making my own Febreze for about five years," said daughter number two with obvious disgust at my lack of knowledge of how to make your own products.  I seem to always be embarrassingly behind the curve.

"I even saw a warning on a bottle of fabric softener warning to not dilute with water and store in a bottle," she laughed. "Do-it-yourselfers must really be cutting into the market."

So I guess proceed at your own risk--I certainly am. 

$2.99 for scent at Hobby Lobby

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

K-Mart Deal Good Through July 14

Good Through Saturday, July 14

I do not do a lot of shopping at K-Mart. However, this week K-Mart has a decent "Shop Your Way Rewards Members" deal.  You must have signed up through the K-Mart website to be a member but you earn points anytime you show your card (one of those annoying little plastic tags you put on your keychain).  I believe you earn 10 points for every dollar spent at either K-Mart or Sears.  The nice thing about this rewards program is you can redeem your points as cash towards your purchase.  This week the cashier asked me if I wanted to redeem my rewards points.

"What?" I responded. 

Until this point, I had no idea I earned points or could use them towards purchases. Turns out I had $3.74 in "credit" I could have used towards this purchase.  This is amazing because I spend very little at K-Mart.  I suppose this would really pay off if you bought an appliance at Sears or your husband had just purchased a giant toolbox and you had remembered to show your card.  Life is full of lessons and most are not pleasant.

I think I even received a $5.00 rewards card just for signing up for the program.  Anyway, they handed me a $5.00 rewards card the last time I shopped at K-Mart--I'm not really sure how I earned it but decided to redeem it this week.


All FREE
 So the deal this week was buy Oscar Mayer Grilled Chicken Strips for $2.99 and get FREE Ragu Pasta and FREE Barilla Pasta.  You could probably make a whole meal for your family just from these basic ingredients for $3 bucks (Chicken Alfredo, anyone?).  I had that rewards card so I was wandering around the store looking for something to buy for another $2.00.  I am sure the purpose of these cards IS to get you to wander around the store and hopefully buy more stuff. I decided to buy two cans of Chef Boyardee pasta for $1.00 each.  I was expecting to spend a few cents in tax but they handed me back the receipt and told me I still have a dime on my rewards card.  When it seems like it's in your favor, it's better to not think too hard about numbers.

If I was you, I would sign up for the K-Mart rewards program and then go get me some free pasta and sauce.  But then again, I'm not you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Really Cheap Blue Bunny Ice Cream

HyVee Ad good through July 10th

Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984. I assume this is what made him such a popular president.  While I could live the rest of my life without ice cream (I am more of a potato chip kind of gal), I know it is loved by most.

Now, head over to:  http://www.bluebunny.com/.  Click on coupons at the top of the page and join their "club".  As a club member, you will be able to print a couple of dollar off coupons.  Using the coupon, you can get some premium ice cream for just $1.99. 

A final note:  many companies make you sign up for emails to receive coupons or other offers. I recommend creating a seperate email account  to sign up for such offers. While I personally don't use "Facebook" to keep in touch with friends, I do have a "Facebook" page (middle name, maiden name) I use just to sign up for coupons.  Many companies require you "like" them on "Facebook" to receive a coupon.  I don't want the hassle of a Facebook account but I do want the coupons.  I use this Facebook account merely to receive offers.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Topeka Savings Through July 7th

So I went on some money saving adventures today and thought I would share.  You will have to act quick to catch these savings since they are only good through tomorrow, July 7th....


Apple Market is having a 4-day breakfast sale.  Farmland sausage is on sale for 98 cents a package.  This is an incredible deal!  This sausage normally sells for $1.99-$3.99, depending on the store.  At this price, I stocked up. Farmland bacon is also on sale for $2.98 a package.  The cheese was  $1.48 a package (cheese and sausage on call--I think I hear a lasagna calling my name).  I found a container of Gain fabric softner on the clearance rack for $1.40.  I also got another container of Worchestershire sauce ($1.09 - .40 coupon doubled = .29 cents).  The lard was $1.85 (full price).  Total before tax was $26.24.  My little heart looks at this shopping trip and just shutters. Bacon and Lard!  The lard is for pie crusts.  Oh, we eat healthy around here....

Another thing I like about Apple Market is that they still carry your groceries out to your car for you.  Or maybe they saw what I was buying and assumed I was overdue for a heart attack. 

You will want to stock up on bacon to take advantage of a recipe I will be sharing soon.... 

I also made a quick trip to Target today.  Target has corn-on-the-cob, 10 ears for $2.00.  This is a really good price on corn. Corn-on-the-cob usually runs about 5 or 6 ears for $2. I bought twelve and used it as an excuse to use the FoodSaver machine I got at a garage sale.  I froze four packages.  I want to buy a used freezer if anyone has one to sell.

So what deals are you all finding?



29 cents after double coupon

Time to stock up on sausage

BLT's anyone?
Who doesn't like corn-on-the-cob?
Putting the FoodSaver to Use.  I found the foodsaver at a garage sale for $15.00.
Garage sale finds.  Four shirts, two pairs of shorts and two brand new candles for $3.00.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July Savings

I recently developed a money-saving class I have been presenting to local women in Kansas.  The class, which consists of a power point about an hour long, demonstrates how to save money on groceries. After all, groceries are most families largest expense after their rent/mortgage. Your banker always demands you make your full mortgage payment but you can control how much you spend on groceries.  

In my class, the most popular element of the power point always seems to be coupons and how to use them to get grocery items for next to nothing.  While this is only one way I teach to save money, I have decided to start posting some of the best deals I find each week in the Topeka, Kansas area. If you have taken my class, you should know the basics. If you would like to schedule a class, please feel free to contact me at ksfarmgirl@live.com. I offer group and one-on-one classes.  It is my hope the class will start you on a path to saving thousands of dollars off your annual grocery bill.  Plus, it's fun!

Last week I was on vacation so I got behind in my grocery shopping.  However, holidays always bring great grocery deals that I didn't want to miss. So yesterday, I made a menu for the week based around what was on sale locally.  Being the Fourth of July, picnic items were cheap.  As I teach, always stock up on sale items.  I'm not talking about devoting a room in your house to shelves of groceries you will just eventually throw out.  No, when things go on sale, simply buy enough to last about three months. Most items go on sale about every 3-4 months so it is not necessary or desirable to stockpile more than a limited supply. 

This week, condiments, hot dogs and hamburger were all on sale. I may feel like steak and baked potato but in order to save money, we eat based on what is cheapest. Here is my menu for this week, based on what was on sale locally:

Tacos (just starting to get a few tomatoes out of the garden to use with the tacos)
Broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl
BLTs and salad
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini and squash (also from the garden)
Homemade Pizza
Hotdogs and grilled potatoes
One night of leftovers or as I like to call them, Delicious Do-Overs

Here are some of the great deals I got this week.  My plan is to post the deals I find early so if you live in the Topeka area, you can also take advantage of local specials.  I imagine most areas in the United States ran similar sales this week.


I purchased these items at Apple Market. The French's mustard was on sale for 98 cents each.  I had a coupon for 30 cents off each bottle so after double coupon each bottle of mustard cost 38 cents.  This is enough mustard to last me a very long time because I hate mustard. The KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce was also on sale for 98 cents.  I had coupons for $1.00 off two.  I purchased four bottles at 98 cents each - two coupons totaling $2.00 off, for a final price of 50 cents a bottle.  In essence, I paid for four bottles what you would normally pay for one.  This is enough BBQ sauce to last our family for 3-4 months. 

I paid 95 cents for the bananas.  Apple Market has what they call "Banana Tuesdays" and sell bananas for 39 cents a pound on Tuesday.  If you buy a lot of bananas, I doubt you will find them anywhere else in Topeka for less. The sausage was on sale for $1.29 a package.  This sausage is usually around $2-3 dollars a package.  I love sausage and it's cheaper than hamburger so I often substitue it in any recipe I can that calls for hamburger.  I bought four packages but then wished I had bought more at that price.  Lucky me, today's Apple Market ad indicates they are selling the same sausage for 98 cents a package.  This is an incredible deal.  I rarely see it for less than $1.00 a package.  Think of all the things you can make with sausage...spagetti sauce, pizza and goulash. Stock up people.   

All together I spent $9.17 (before tax) for the above pictured items.  Of course, I picked up a few other items while I was there since you can't live on BBQ sauce and mustard, spending a total of $26.53. I also bought Lipton Tea on sale for $1.79 for 24 large family size tea bags (about $1.00 less than most local stores). And I have to plug Apple Market's produce...they have some of the nicest in town and often the cheapest. For example, I bought a head of romaine type lettuce for $1.29 which sells at Dillon's for $1.89. I also bought some Kraft shedded cheese for $1.98 a package.


Ever have one of those days?  Yesterday was mine.  I left the house without my cell phone.  Though I grew up without a cell phone, now I feel lost without one.  Worse yet, I forgot my debit card.  I felt pure panic when I couldn't find it in my purse.  Thankfully, I had enough cash to purchase the items at Apple Market and Dillon's number one.  At the first Dillon's, I found these great bread bowls on the clearance rack for 49 cents each, some clearance cake for $1.49 and three containers of coconut pecan frosting on close out for $1.19 each, normally $1.99.  Before tax, the above items were $6.04. 


After running home to get my debit card, I went to Dillon's number two.  I had only planned on going to one Dillon's store but didn't have enough cash to get everything I needed.  Dillon's was running one of their buy 10 items, get $3.00 off now and a coupon for $2.00 off later. While these events can save you money, I find them complicated and a little stressful.  The $2.00 off coupon has a short redemption window so you have to remember to use it right away.  I assume the store hopes you will fail to ever redeem it. 

Anyway, I found these great deals at Dillon's.  A package of clearance hot dog buns for 99 cents, a bottle of Ajax dish detergent for 60 cents ($1.00 - .20 cent coupon doubled), four packages of Hefty storage bags (on sale for $1.19 with purchase of 10 participating items minus .50 cent coupon = .69 cents each or $2.76 for all four), and 4 more bottles of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce for $1.50 or .38 cents each ($4.00 minus $2.50 in coupons). The Yakisoba noodles and Kraft Fresh Taste products were free after coupons.  All of the above items cost $5.85 before tax. 

These were great deals but I still had to buy other groceries totaling $57.34 at Dillon's.  One thing I have learned to do is always add up my coupons before check-out and double check they all were deducted.  I happened to notice this trip that not all my coupons had been credited and had to go to customer service to get it corrected. As I shop, I write everything down as I put it in the cart so I can make sure it scans correctly plus track my coupons.  Dillon's has a policy that if an item scans incorrectly, they will give it to you free.  Plus, I never want to get to the check out counter without knowing exactly what I am spending.  It is amazing how many errors I catch. 

Altogether, I spent $81.56 on groceries this week plus $8.89 tax (total $90.45).  I saved $26.44 with coupons and clearance items.  I do not keep track how much I save by stocking up on sale items though I imagine it would be the most significant savings.  After all, if all your meals are primarily made with items you bought on sale, the savings adds up. This week I spent around $1.84 per meal per person (21 meals x 2 people = 42 meals).

I hope to post some of this weeks deals tomorrow so you can share in the savings!  Let me know what you think.  Is this post helpful?