Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking for Coupons?

Something about using a giant stack of coupons attracts a crowd.  During my last several shopping trips I have had several complete strangers ask me where I manage to find so many coupons...this coupled with inquiring friends and family members made me think maybe I should post a list.  Coupon shopping can be hard, especially if you are relying solely on the coupons that come out of the newspaper.  What many people don't realize is that there are tons of coupons out there in other places. If you're willing to do a little work, you can get great coupons for just about anything you need to buy.  Here's a list to help you get started:
  1. Newspapers, of course.  I subscribe to four newspapers (weekends only) and if you watch you can get a great deal on your subscription.  Even though you may only want the Sunday paper, be careful because sometimes it is more expensive to get Sunday Only than it is to take either the weekend papers or the whole week.  Do an online search for a good deal, or watch for people offering free newspapers at the local stores--they often have the best deals if you agree to sign up right then.
  2. Internet Printable Coupons.  Red Plum, Smart Source, and Coupons, Inc. all offer printable coupons.  You will need to install a coupon printer in order to print them, and you are only allowed 2 of each coupon (in most cases).  A lot of times, the internet coupons are more valuable than the ones that come in the newspaper. I generally don't print them until I see a sale that I can pair them with to get a good deal.  When I first started couponing, I was printing anything and everything and I burned through a LOT of ink.  For a good pairing of coupons with sales, I visit Pinching Your Pennies, go to the deals in my state, and view the lists for each store that have already been prepared with links to applicable coupons.
  3. Go straight to the manufacturers' websites.  Many manufacturers have coupons posted right on their website.  Some, like Kelloggs or Betty Crocker will have coupons for multiple products right in one place, while others will post just one coupon at a time for one product.  When you don't have a coupon from any other source, it never hurts to do a google search for the product you're looking for.  Be aware that the coupons at sites like Betty Crocker are often linked to the Coupons, Inc. coupons and you will still only get 2 even if you go to both sites (although it never hurts to try)
  4. Register for everything! My email gets bogged down with lots of advertisements from the sites I frequent looking for coupons, but the good news is, many of those emails have coupons in them!  If you don't want to overrun your personal email address with tons of junk mail, you may want to create a separate email address strictly for this purpose--just don't forget to check it for those coupons!
  5. Free samples are your friend.  I love free samples....not necessarily because I want those silly little foil packets of one smear of shampoo but because usually free samples come with coupons...and they are usually the BEST coupons you can find with LONG expiration dates.  Pinching your pennies also has a link in their forum where you can look for free samples to sign up for, and has a free sample section where they change the samples they are offering quite often.
  6. Rewards Cards.  A lot of people don't like to give their "real" information when signing up for a rewards card (ie. a Smith's Fresh Values card) but you really should.  Yes, the store may be tracking your purchases but so what?  Unless you're doing something illegal with your groceries, you should be glad they know what you buy--they will send out store coupons for those things you buy most often, and many times they will even send coupons for free items.
  7. Magazines.  Not all magazines have coupons, but Kraft Food and Family does and All You (which is available exclusively at Walmart) if chock full of them--they even put out special issues a couple times a year with specific types of coupons.  
  8. Watch for mail in offers.  Sometimes manufacturers will offer coupons in the mail if you buy their product and send in a form.  I have received coupon books from Procter & Gamble, ConAgra (that's Hunts, Marie Callenders, etc.) and Nestle.  Watch product packages, newspapers, and company websites for these offers.
  9. Happenings/Entertainment Books.  Since starting couponing, we don't go out to eat at all without a coupon of some kind.  I used to never buy these books because I thought there just wasn't enough in them for it to be worth my money, but I was wrong.  I never use even half the book, but what I DID use has saved me a lot.  Last year's book had a $5 off your $60 purchase for Smith's for every month of the year and I used them all....that's $60 just from Smith's...Not to mention all the buy one get one free pizzas we have gotten, plus free ski rentals, and other fun things.  If you are patient, you can get the book at a discount which makes it an even better deal (Last year I ordered mine online through Cashbaq... it was marked down to $15 and Cashbaq gave me $5 for signing up and $10 cash back if I bought a Happenings Book... so YES, the book was FREE!)
Happy Hunting!

Friday, December 11, 2009


These hand dipped chocolates have been a Christmas tradition in my family since I was little.  I remember helping my mom as she dipped them and now my kids are helping me.  These are the kids' favorites.  This year I divided the fondant in half and added some mint extract and green food coloring to half as an experiment and I love them! They look big in the pictures, but really they are bite sized pieces of candy...and one recipe makes a whole bunch! The fondant can be mixed in a stand mixer, but don't try to do the whole mixing process with a regular electric mixer or you'll burn out the motor.

1 cube butter, melted
1 8 oz. bar cream cheese, softened

1 12 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 lbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
approx. 4 bags of chocolate chips (I use semi sweet but I have used milk chocolate and I've also added some Andes mint chips--just don't do straight mint chips because it's way too strong!)

Mix melted butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add condensed milk and vanilla. Mix in powdered sugar a couple of cups at a time until it's all in and mixed well.  The mixture will be very thick but a little sticky.  Cover tightly and chill fondant in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours or overnight.  Roll into small balls (about the size of boulder marbles) and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and chill again for several hours.  
You can melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler but this last time I used the microwave and melted the chips in a Pyrex measuring cup.  I melted one bag at a time, cooking for 30 seconds then stirring.  When the chocolate was almost done melting, I stirred it well and let it sit for about another minute and it finished melting from it's own heat.  I stirred in 1 teaspoon canola oil for each bag of chips to thin and smooth the chocolate, and to give the finished candy a shiny appearance.  Drop the fondant balls one at a time and roll them around to coat (I use 2 forks), then place on waxed paper to set.  You have to work fast or the fondants will melt (don't remove the fondants from the fridge until you're ready for them)  When the pan is full, put them back in  the fridge. If the chocolate starts to cool and get too thick, put it back in the microwave for about 10 seconds.  Because I was melting one bag at a time, I was able to do different kinds of I did 3 bags of semi sweet and one bag of milk chocolate.  

Because some of my fondants were mint, I melted a half bag of white chips, added a teaspoon of oil, and drizzled over the vanilla ones, then added a touch of green food coloring and drizzled the green over the mint ones so we would know which was which.  Store the finished candy in the refrigerator.


Saturday, December 5, 2009


Cinnamon rolls are one of those foods that bring back childhood memories for me.  I remember coming home from school on cold winter days and the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls as I came in the front door.  YUMMO!  To me, a cinnamon roll is not complete unless it's loaded with raisins--it's really the only way I like raisins--after they've plumped up and carmelized.  If you're not a raisin fan, you can always leave them out, but to me that's a crying shame...

2 cups milk
1 cube butter
7-9 cups of flour (I used almost 9)
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 teasoon salt
3 eggs
3 Tablespoons yeast
butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, sugar, and raisins 

Soak yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water.  Scald milk; meanwhile, mix butter, sugar, salt and eggs.  Add scalded milk and 3 cups of flour and mix well.  Add yeast.  Continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a nice dough--it should not be sticky but it should still be a little soft.  Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise about 1 hour, or until doubled.  Roll out to 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush with approximately 2/3 cup melted butter, leaving the top 1/2 inch butter free (it should not pool anywhere or you have too much butter), sprinkle lightly with sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon, just enough to lightly cover the entire rectangle.  Spread raisins around--as many as you like (I have to do half without raisins for the non-raisin eaters in my house...)  
Roll up starting on the long side and rolling toward the edge without butter (if you butter the edge it will be hard to seal the rolls).  Rub a wet finger along the top edge and press lightly to seal.  Cut rolls into 1/2-3/4 inch slices (I use thread, sliding it under the roll, then crossing the thread and pulling...this will keep them a nice round shape instead of squishing them flat as you cut.)  Place rolls on a greased pan approximately 2 inches apart (I fit 8 rolls per pan). Cover with a light towel and allow to rise until double in size--aproximately 1 hour. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.  Makes approximately 28 rolls.

1 8-oz. bar cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
2 lb. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add half the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat, adding milk as needed to get desired consistency.  Add powdered sugar and milk and continue mixing.  Frosting should be thick but not stiff.  I prefer to allow my rolls to cool before frosting so that the frosting doesn't just melt all over the pan, but you could frost them while they're still warm if you prefer.

For cold rolls, add a small pat of butter and heat in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds...just until warm and butter is melted.  DELICIOUS!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


So, I didn't get a picture of my deals today before I put it away, so a list will have to suffice this time.  Smith's has some good deals going on for all the baking stuff needed for the holidays, so I took the opportunity to stock up on a bunch of things. I spent $78.96 and saved $60.51 with coupons and special savings.  I also earned a TON of bonus points with my rewards card...

Here's what I bought and what I paid:
  • 12 Hershey's baking chips (and they had all the yummy kinds like Heath toffee chips and mint chips)(1.34)
  • 4 2-lb. brown sugar (.99)
  • 4 2-lb. powdered sugar (.99)
  • 4 Kraft marshmallow creme (.99) (I just found a really yummy recipe for honey butter that calls for this and the kids loved it, so I stocked up)
  • 6 5-lb. flour (1.25)
  • 5 Tony's Pizzas (.48)
  • 10 Hot Pockets/Lean Pockets (1.39)
  • 10-lb. bag of potatoes (1.99)
  • 1-lb. bag mini carrots (1.00) (the token healthy food from this shopping trip)
  • 2 4-packs of food coloring (1.00)
  • A WHOLE BUNCH of spices/seasonings/extracts (including 4 of the big ones I usually buy at Costco) all for under $2 each--a STELLAR deal!
  • A loaf of french bread (not a great deal but needed it for dinner)
  • A gallon of milk (FREE)
I wish I'd gotten a picture before I put it all really was quite an impressive pile of goods! After the last couple of shopping trips I have enough chocolate chips (of every flavor) to last me well over a year, which is a good thing because they don't usually go on sale until the holidays roll around.   Now it's time to get going on the Christmas goodies...

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I have learned some new and  important things about coupons within the past year that I didn't know.  I won't post them all now, but here's just a few..with more to come later!
Before I started using coupons, I had a system for handling groceries.  I would create a menu for the month, make a list of what I needed, and then shop for everything at once, except for the perishables that I would have to go back for weekly.  By shopping this way, I was spending about $800+ on groceries and household supplies in any given month; and the worst part is, by the time the month was over, the cupboard was BARE...I was having a hard time scraping meals together because it seemed like everyone was eating more than I planned.  I realized that as my kids continued to get older the grocery bill was only going to keep going up and decided I needed to do something about it.  That's when I started really learning how to make coupons work.
First of all, if you just get one little pack of coupons in your Sunday newspaper and clip them and use them when doing your regular grocery shopping, chances are you aren't going to save much.  In truth, you may even end up spending more because you may end up buying things you didn't intend to buy simply because you have a coupon.  This is why most people think it doesn't pay to use coupons.  A few simple changes in the way you do things make all the difference.
Rule #1 in coupons is that you need to combine coupons with the sales going on in the store.  This may lead you to shop at several different stores in any given week, but if it can save you more than half of what you are currently spending, isn't a little extra time worth it?  Since things cycle through the sales, you need to be familiar with the things you buy the most, how much you use in any given week or month, and plan to buy enough to last until that item goes on sale again.  Some things will go on sale about every 6 weeks, while others will never really hit a rock bottom price for an entire year.  It takes some trial and error to start to understand the trends, but once you do you will never pay full price for things again!
Stockpiling of groceries can be tricky.  Thought needs to be given to how much of something you will need so that you don't over buy and end up throwing things out.  I like to create menus around the things in my stock that I know need to be rotated.  I have a stockpile good enough now that I can literally make a menu, make a list and "shop" right out of my stock...then hit the grocery store for perishables to finish off those meals (and I look at the ads, see what perishables are on sale, and then plan to incorporate them while making the menu).
Obviously, if you are looking to buy as much as you are going to need for a month or so, one coupon is not going to be enough.  Multiple coupons are key.  For me, this means buying four Sunday papers, and I also collect coupons from neighbors and family members that aren't going to use them.  I keep almost every coupon (those I won't be using I will give to friends who will--like diapers and dog food) because I never know what kind of deals will pop up--things I might not think I would ever buy may end up being free or nearly free, and then I will try them.  I have found some great stuff that we didn't realize we would like until I got them free with coupons! I have also almost completely abandoned brand loyalty (I say "almost" because I have learned that some brands I cannot substitute--like Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup--I hate all other brands!) and have even discovered that sometimes I like a different brand more than the one I used to buy whatever I can get the cheapest is what I will buy!
Speaking of coupons, it's time to go clear out my expired stuff and get ready for a whole new batch tomorrow!


Jello salad of some kind is a staple of our Thanksgiving dinner...and this year I realized I was truly tired of the same ol' orange jello that we usually have and went looking for a new recipe to try.  I also only wanted to use stuff I already had--no special trips to the store for me! (that's part of my new food storage deal--try to do with what I have on hand!) Unfortunately, I didn't have anything to make any of the recipes I had, so I had to come up with something new...and it turned out FABULOUS!

1 lrg. box raspberry jello
1 10-oz package frozen raspberries, drained (reserve juice)
2 cups jellied cranberry sauce (about a can and a half)
1 12-oz. can ginger ale

Measure juice from raspberries and add enough water to equal one cup.  Bring liquid to a boil and dissolve jello in it.  Allow to cool, then beat in cranberry sauce until mixed well.  Stir in ginger ale and raspberries and pour into a 9x13 pan. ( The jello will be a little bubbly and foamy on top) Refrigerate until set.

1 8-oz. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 8-oz. whipped topping

Beat cream cheese until smooth, then add sour cream and powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.  Fold in whipped topping and spread evenly over salad.  Refrigerate to allow topping to set up slightly.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm actually not much of a cake fan (although I like Costco's cake... and I have the thighs to prove it!) But not long ago my sister went looking for a bundt cake recipe online and found one that looked like it would be good.  The first time she made it, following the recipe and directions, it ran over the top of her pan and all over into the bottom of the oven, so she had to make some adjustments.  It ended up being the BEST chocolate cake EVER...I'm not sure I can go back to any other cake recipe after this one!  If you have a bundt pan, it's time to wipe off the dust and put it to use!

1 package Devil's Food cake mix
1 lrg. chocolate fudge instant pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer mini chips, but any will do)

Spray bundt pan or grease well.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all wet ingredients until well blended, but do not overmix.  Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a separate bowl and add chocolate chips (by mixing them with the dry flour-like ingredients you will keep them from sinking to the bottom).  Add dry ingredients all at once and blend just until mixed--DO NOT OVERMIX!  (Overmixing is what will cause the batter to rise over the top of the pan--I can't stress enough to NOT overmix it!)  

Batter will be thick, more like brownie batter than cake batter, and slightly lumpy (partly from the chips)   Spread evenly in the bundt pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes.  Cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean (unless you poke the chocolate chips, of course)

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning it out onto a serving plate.  Spread with warm frosting (or if you're using premade frosting, spread it on while the cake is still warm so the frosting will melt slightly and run).

I have decided I like this cake best with this chocolate frosting and I think it tastes the best when the cake is still warm.  It's also good with cream cheese frosting, or you could dust it with powdered sugar.

I have been meaning to try this recipe with different flavors of cake mix and pudding mix...I'm sure there are lots of good combinations!  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to tear myself away from the chocolate one yet!

Friday, November 20, 2009


A lot of people shy away from using coupons because they just don't see the big picture of how big of a difference they can make.  Here are some common misconceptions about coupons:
  1. Coupons are mainly for poor people.  Actually, middle-income people with a college education are more likely to use coupons than low-income people.
  2. Coupons are only for unhealthy processed food.  While there are a LOT of coupons for junk food, there are equal amounts available for healthy foods.  Who doesn't buy things like salad dressing, condiments, seasonings, bread, and paper products...just to name a few?  There are even coupons for fresh and frozen produce and fresh meat.
  3. Store brands are always cheaper.  Not true.  While this might sometimes be true, people need to watch those prices closely because by assuming that it's true, you may be paying more than you would for name brands.  In addition, have you ever used generic plastic wrap?  Ugh...
  4. You should only use coupons for things you would normally buy.  By using coupons for things you normally WOULDN'T buy, you might find out that there are other things out there that you really like but have never bought because you felt they were out of your price range.  Also, by trying a different brand of something, you might find out you like it BETTER than what you're used to buying.
  5. It isn't worth the effort/time/price of gas to shop at several different stores.  If you can drive 20 minutes out of your way and buy $100 worth of groceries for $25, isn't that worth it?
  6. Using coupons will cause me to buy things I normally wouldn't buy.  While coupons may influence your decisions, coupons can't force you to do anything.  If the coupons make something a good deal, you might want it. Buying things you wouldn't normally buy is not necessarily a bad thing.  If it's still expensive, exert some self control and don't put it in your cart.
  7. People who shop with coupons spend more money than people that don't. This may be true if you are going to the store and just buying whatever you have coupons for, even if the items are not on sale.  If you use coupons the right way and combine them with the store's sales, you will definitely be spending less. 
  8. Don't clip coupons for stuff you won't use.  There are many reasons to keep ALL your coupons.  If you can use your coupons to get things for free, you can get them and give them to a local food drive (I did this recently with some coupons that I had).  You can also trade them--if you need dog food and your friend needs diapers, swap coupons.
  9. Shopping discount stores and dollar stores will save more money than using coupons. The disadvantage to dollar stores is that they don't offer sales or deals like other stores do.  Most of the items I buy on sale and using coupons I pay less than a dollar for anyway, so these stores are definitely not a bargain.
  10. Corner drugstores are expensive and should be avoided.  Many of the best deals I have found have been at Walgreens and RiteAid.  Not only do they accept coupons, they also offer their own in-store coupons that can be stacked, and they offer a lot of rebates and other store deals that can't be found at other stores.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I have really grown to love whole wheat bread over the last couple of years...especially when it's homemade, hot out of the oven and slathered in honey butter!  I have tried several recipes, but this is my new favorite, and it was pretty quick because it rises really fast.  If you're in a hurry, this is a great recipe to use... From the time I began until it was finished baking was only two hours.  I use Wheat Montana Prairie Gold 100% Whole Wheat (the only place I have found this is at Walmart...) Because it is white wheat, it is a little lighter than a typical whole wheat bread.  If you grind your own, that's great too, but I'm not that ambitious yet. This recipe makes 4 big loaves.

7 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 Tablespoons yeast

Mix these three ingredients together, then add 5 cups hot water (120-130 degrees--it's hot, and it will be steaming.  I measured mine with a candy thermometer to get the right temperature.)  Mix for 1 minute with a mixer, then cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.

2 Tablespoons salt
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup honey
2 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
5 cups whole wheat flour

Add the salt, oil, honey, and lemon juice to the dough mixture and beat for one minute.  Add the last 5 cups of flour one cup at a time, mixing well between each cup.  Knead for an additional 6-10 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  The dough will be soft.

Preheat the oven for one minute to warm and turn off.  Spray bread pans with cooking spray.  Spray your counter with cooking spray, and turn the dough out onto the counter; divide into four even pieces, shape into loaves and place in pans. Push the dough lightly into the corners of the pans and make the dough as even as possible..  Place pans in the warm oven and let rise until dough reaches the top of the pans (about 20-30 minutes).  DO NOT REMOVE BREAD FROM OVEN; turn oven to 350F and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from pans and rub tops lightly with butter to maintain a soft crust.  Cool on racks. 
Note:  The first time I made this, when I pulled it out of the pans it almost seemed like it was too soft, maybe a little doughy, and not quite done...but it was.  It was a very soft wheat bread.  That's what's so good about it!


I LOVE to shop.....for groceries!  Is that so wrong?  I love the hunt for deals, getting good bargains, using my coupons and finding rebates to make my deals even better.  I even love taking pictures of my good deals to commemorate my hard work (and for those that don't do the bargain/coupon shopping, it really is HARD WORK)!  It feels a little like a hobby, actually, and as much as I enjoy my other hobbies, I have to admit that I really enjoy this one too.  In addition to grocery shopping, I enjoy cooking.  I am no kind of gourmet chef by any means, but I like trying new recipes and I usually make changes to fit my tastes...Plus I have a lot of tried and true favorites that I want to share....thus begins the food blog.