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...