More deals this week grocery trip...

So this week I hit up both Winn Dixie and Publix.
There is a sale at Winn Dixie for this barbecued pulled pork. I usually don't buy this type of thing but since it was free., well then why not?  They are on sale for Buy one Get on Free. And I used a blinkie coupon that is also for Buy one Get one so they were both free!! I went 2 times and I was able to get 10 packages. I have a couple more coupons so I will try and hit them up again before the sales ends.There are only 9 in the photo because we had one for dinner. The rest went in the freezer. SO much for clearing the freezer out before Hurricane season is here.
Total before sales and coupons $59.90. Total our of pocket 0.00!! Total saving 100%!!!

Then at Publix I got this...
Unfortunately I already sent the receipt in for a rebate offer and I lost the paper that I wrote down all me savings amount. But I do remember that I savings was $120.00 and I had a total saving of 91%.  And I sent in for a Kraft rebate of $10.00. And the Mini Wheats cereal I will use to get free movie tickets! So it was kinda like I was paid to shop yet again!
I got:
4- Boxes Frosted Mini Wheats $1.25 each
2- Gallons Sweet tea $1.14 each
5- Shick Razor 2packs FREE with $1.01 overage each!
4- Bic Razors 4 packs FREE with .56 overage each!
2- packs Q-tips .15 each
2- Ocean spray juice .99 each
8- Packs Rice .12 each
1- Bag Snyder's pretzels .50
4- Kraft salad dressings .24 each
2- Lowers marinades .11 each
4- Kraft Bar-B-Q sauces .07 each
4- Oscar Meyer hot dogs .49 each
2- Edys ice cream $1.55 each
4- Cool Whips .36 each
2- Heluv-a-good dips FREE
4- Planters Grover Cashews FREE with overage .25 each

The $10.00 rebate is a Kraft Summer food rebate. Unfortunatly the only way to get the rebate form is from Kraft First Taste Panel and they have to send it to you. So I can't direct you to a place to print it. But the Fee Movie tickets offer is just on the boxes of marked Kellogs boxes. So you can cash in on that deal yourself!

Thanks for letting me share again!


An Introduction to Couponing

I've spent a little bit of time talking with friends about couponing and how to do it all to make the most of your money.  And  LOTS of good questions have been coming up about trying to get into it.  Unfortunately, because I don't live as close to some of you as I used to, I can't easily chat with you anymore.
However, I wanted to take some of the most essential ideas and share them with you.
First of all I don't want you to think that just because you don't have a Publix to shop at you can't get as good of deals as I can. There are many places that I get things for free and super cheap including Target, Walgreen, CVS and even Walmart. (I very rarely ever go there because I hate Walmart!)
For instance Albertsons and Safeway will put out Doubler coupons in their weekly sales paper sometimes. These are so great and will make for lots of things that you can get for free with them. My suggestion is to get as many copies of those sale papers as you can. ask your family, friends and neighbors if you can have the ones that they will not use. I so wish that some of the stores around here would double coupons even some of the time. There is just so much that can be done with them! But I am thankful for what I do have.

Here are the things I think are KEY to making it work:

My best advice ... is that you take it slow, especially when you are getting into it.
There is no need to get every deal out there on your first time out. It will take some time to get it all down.

Start collecting coupons! Each week in the Sunday paper is the first place to start. The general rule of thumb that I follow is to buy as many papers as there are people in your family. So each week I buy 4 papers.  This way when something is on sale and I have the coupon for it, making it a great deal , I will be able to buy enough to last me till the next time it is on sale and I have another coupon. Keeping me from having to pay full price for it in a week, or 2, when that first one is gone or used up.  You may be thinking that I am crazy for paying for that many but think about this. I pay $1.25 per Sunday paper, so for 4 I am paying $5.00 each week. With those coupons I am able to save anywhere from 85-95% on my entire grocery bill each week. I save far more than I am paying out for the papers.   But again ask family, friends and neighbors for the inserts that they won't use. I get tons of inserts sent to me by my Mom. Where she's at, they mail out the Red plum coupon inserts in everybody's mail (I am jealous!) In her community there is a recycle bin near the mail boxes and those who won't use them put them there. My Mom collects them and sends them to me.  It's like having Christmas every couple of weeks.  Thanks Mom!! 

Now, if there is a coupon in the paper (that I know about that will make for a free item of something that we use often, or will make for great overage), I buy even more papers.

For instance a couple months ago, there was a coupon for $4.00 off one knox product.  That coupon alone made for $2.66 in overage, because a box of Knox gelatin in only 1.34.  Publix allows you take an overage, so it was worth it for me to buy more, so that I could have that overage to use on the rest of my  grocery purchase. That week I bought 6 papers but then went to ebay and got 20 more of just that coupon.(more on ebay later.)
As far as organizing those coupons... my system is to just keep the entire insert, write the date that it came out on the front, and file it an accordion holder. Then when I am making my weekly list I can go to the insert that is listed and get the coupon I need. Now you may wonder why I don't cut them out and store them that way. Well the answer is simple, I would never be able to keep up with it! They would pile up on me so fast that I wouldn't be able to keep up and I would never be able to find what I wanted. Maybe for others clipping them is the way to go, but not for me. Also, another thing to think about if I was clipping them, I would be tempted to think, I will never buy this thing so why keep the coupon.

But here is why you should keep them all. If you were able to get that item for free would you be willing to try it? Or maybe if you were able to get it for free you would be able to donate it. There are things that I have gotten because they are free, or better yet have overage, that I know we will not use. But that does not mean that they are not something that someone else can't use. Right now I have 4 boxes of things that I have gotten for nearly free, free, or with overage that I am going to donate to a local church food pantry. Everything from food, cleaning supplies and personal care items. They are so happy to get donations, and all it takes me is a bit of time to clip the coupon and go to the store to be able to supply them items to bless others with. How great is that!?!

Next ...  go to the web sites of the grocery stores that you shop at, and try to find their coupon policy.  Every store has a different policy about accepting coupons.  Read through each to get an understanding of what they accept. 

Look for things like ... 
  • Do they take internet printable coupons? 
  • Will they allow overage on an item? 
  • Will they allow you to use a Store coupon and a manufactures coupon on the same item? 
  • If they double coupons, up to what amount will double? 
  • Do they take competitor store coupons?
Read through each one, and if there is something that you don't understand (or is unclear), go to the customer service desk and ask. That is what I did and they were more than happy to help me. Remember that they want you to spend your money, and coupons, at their store. They will help you to understand their policy. They will be a very helpful tool to your couponing success.  And while you are there ask if they have any store coupons that you can get!
As a general rule, most stores allow you to stack 2 coupons - 1 manufacturer AND 1 store coupon per item.    (I'll add more thoughts on this later, but for now just keep in mind that you can typically use 2 coupons per item).

  Next go to web blogs and sites that list the weekly sales match up with the coupons that are available. Make your grocery list from that.  Also if you are having a hard time finding a stores coupon policy there are usually links on these types of sites.
If you're from the Pacific N.W. (You know who you are!) - this is one of my favorite places to start -  
 becentsable. Here by clicking on a store that is near you, and find a match up for that store.
For instance this is one that I have found, from the site above, that works well for some of the stores in the N.W. 
And here are a couple of blogs that I check out before heading out the door to Target  or  Walgreens.

There are subscription sites that will do the match ups as well. Some paid and some free. The Grocery Game is one of the ones that you pay a monthly fee to get the match-ups e-mailed to you for your area.  I did a free trial with this site. For me I found that I had was able to find more accurate information from free blogs. And the information that I get comes to me much faster than the information that I got from the grocery game. For instance, I can get the weekly Publix sales add, complete with coupon match-ups, on Monday for the sale that will start on Thursday. Giving me lots of time to look things over and get things ready.

Also from that same blog I get updates daily, sometimes several a day,  of unadvertised deals. This is HUGE! Knowing that something is on an unadvertised sale before I am at the store so that I can have the coupon already when I go instead of having to go back to the store at another time to take advantage of the sale is wonderful!  The grocery game sent out the weekly sales with match ups on Sunday, 4 days after that sale started.  And it never updated or listed unadvertised sales. So I could have missed out on some great deals if I had only used them. For me it just did not work. I canceled the membership before they started charging me. Plus, typically, the people running the blogs are more them happy to answer any questions if you ask them. It was much harder to get help from the pay site.  Of course, this is just my opinion, if you like give it a try for yourself and see what works for you.

Also check out a couple different sites for the stores you shop. Not every one can get it all. Some are better than others! This helps and only take a couple extra minutes to do and can help you see something that someone else may have missed.

When you are comfortable with grocery stores, then add in drug stores - like Walgreens, CVS and Rite aid. There are good deals to be had there, too, but they are a bit more complicated and best left till you have the grocery stores down.

Mostly, take your time, ask lots of questions and start small. There is no need to get all the first time out. In no time you will become more comfortable with it and reaping the rewards of a full pantry!
Please feel free to ask anything and everything that you may not understand. I would love to help and give any advice that I can.



Camping in the Keys

So ...

We've been planning another trip to the Florida Keys for months.  Mostly, so I could forget about office life and all the stresses there.  But also because our first trip down was so exciting, when we got to go snorkeling with the girls.  We knew, we just had to try it again.

So, this past week, we were finally able to make it happen.  In order to save money, we chose to camp at John Pennekamp State Park.  Here's a little bit about the experience, and what we would suggest for anyone thinking about doing the same thing in the future. 

First of all:
We came in early May (10-13th) in an effort to beat the heat.  WRONG idea!  Maybe in another epoch Florida was cooler ... but not now.  The first day we were there was in the 90's, and even though the other days were cooler, it was still blazingly hot.  There is NO WAY you could possibly sit in your campsite exposed to that heat all day, and enjoy yourself. 

I suggest planning your vacation so that during most of the heat of the day, you are out doing other activities.  You'll want to leave the campsite by about 10 AM, and plan on returning after 5-6 PM.  In fact, the heat was so bad, the first night none of us slept well.

Here is out campsite - just to prove we were there.

Point Two:
If you are going to camp at this campground, during the months of May through October, I would suggest you have air conditioning.    Otherwise, your camping trip could be miserably hot.  We were able to survive the next two nights by buying an oscillating electric fan, so that it blew on us all night in the tent.  If we didn't have the fan, none of us would have slept for three nights straight.  While that's certainly survivable, it's not really a benefit, when you're on VACATION.

Third Point -
When you look at the picture above, you'll see a couple of blue mosquito repellent devices sitting on the picnic table.  We were fully expecting to do battle with swarms of mosquitoes on  this trip.  Surprisingly, there were hardly any mosquitoes.  There were, however, thriving colonies of 'no see 'em' bugs.  These are tiny, little fly like creatures (almost to small to see with the naked eye), that bite like piranha.  The scariest part is that they come out during the day.  From dawn to sunset you will get gnawed on by some invisible force that you can't defeat.  Unless you are wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, you will get bitten by these God-forsaken creatures.  And unlike mosquito bites which stop itching after a day or two, these bites keep right on itching for days.  We have been home for three days now, and we are ALL still scratching as if we have chicken pox or some other rash like illness. 

And remember this, about these bugs, no matter if you stay in a tent or an RV ... when you walk outside ... they are waiting.  You will NOT be immune from their powerful onslaught.  So, even if you stay in an RV with the coolest A/C on the planet, you will have to face the 'no see 'ems' eventually.   This is simply a friendly word of warning. 

All that being said ... John Pennekamp State Park is an outstanding campground.  It's a little bit pricey, but compared to the other options in the Florida Keys ... it's a bargain.   And the campground itself is superb. 
  • The bathrooms are large.
  • The bathrooms are clean and well maintained.
  • The bathrooms have excellent showers.
  • There is running water at the campsites.
  • There is electricity at the campsites.
  • There are dozens of activities right at the State Park
    Including scuba, snorkeling, glass-bottom boats, kayak rentals, public beaches, a great visitor center with aquarium displays, and boat rentals.
  • Killer breezes on the beaches of the park.
In general, this State Park is a top notch park, with amenities that are superior to most parks we're seen in Florida - BUT you have to be able to get over the three hurdles above to enjoy the campground to its full potential.

And finally, there are some additional visitors to the campground.  These were also very cool to see, right by our campsite. 

The first one ... if you look at the picture above, you'll see a tree just over Kaitlyn's left shoulder.  Just beyond that tree, about 8 feet, is a small creek.  This lovely creature was right back beside the creek one morning as we were getting ready to head out for the day.

I would guess this iguana was about 4 feet long.  Chris wasn't going anywhere near this thing.

I wouldn't want to meet up with one of these out walking on a trail.  I was standing about 10 feet away from it, and I didn't want to get much closer. 

And this little guy was pretty cute.  They build massive holes in the ground, and come crawling out about sunset.  Every time this one tried to come out, he saw us standing there ... and quickly ducked back into his hole. 



Disney Hollywood Studio's Best Kept Secret

A couple months ago we shared that we were able to be a part of the 'Give a day, Get a day' with Walt Disney World here in Florida.  After participating in a local clean-up event, we were allowed to upgrade our one day into 4 days for a small fee.  Which we gladly accepted.

One of our days was spent at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  In general, this is our favorite park.  This is THE park we have chosen as our last place to visit with our bonus days.  I'm sure everyone has their favorite Disney park they like to visit.  And most likely, Hollywood Studios won't be the favorite park on most people's lists.  But, for us, this park has almost everything we are looking for.

And, in fact, there is one super special place that we almost missed out on completely.  You see ... at Hollywood Studios you will find an unassuming building that walks visitors through the history of some of their animated movies, and through the processes involved in creating a character.  For most visitors, it isn't an actual ride, so it's kinda boring.  But if you take a moment and visit a special 'unmarked' room inside of this exhibit, you'll be able to take a short class on how YOU can draw a Disney character.   Each class is 20 minutes.  And they try not to repeat any characters ... all day.   So at every single class, you will learn how to draw a completely new Disney character.

This class was so fun, that it inspired us to want to go back to this park again ... I suppose the Rock 'n Roller coaster, and the Tower of Terror helped as well.  But this class ... was in a word ... Inspiring.  I highly suggest it for anyone who ever visits this park in the future.  It is totally worth it.

Here are some of our drawings - for your ... umm .... viewing pleasure.

One note I would add about drawing pictures, which I never knew before. 

One of the instructors told us that every second of a Disney movie is made up of 24 picture frames.  Every Disney movie has about 90 minutes of play time.   That equals almost 130,000 picture frames for a Disney movie.  So, even if your one drawing doesn't look that great ... probably by the time you get done drawing 130,000 of them, you'll be a little better at the drawing process.   That's a GREAT thought to keep in mind about the concept of 'practice'. 

It has been a while

Wow, I guess it has been a while since I have shared my shopping savings. This could be a big post!
Here is last weeks grocery trips. They include one to Winn Dixie and one to Publix. I decided to take a photo of them all together because it was easier that way.
Total before sales and coupons $220.04 ( for both stores) Total after paid out of pocket $16.22 . That is a savings of 93%!
 From Winn Dixie I was able to get 20 Jars of Classico Pasta sauce for FREE. Yes you read that right free! They were on a store sale for Buy one get one and I had manufactures for Buy one Get one so that made both of them free!! Also not pictured is 5 packages of steak that I was able to get for 4.00. It was on sale also and I used a manufactured coupon for $1.50 off one package of beef when you buy 2 jars of Classico pasta sauce. Great savings in my book!
  Then Publix. I used a $10.00 off a $50.00 or more purchase coupon That I got on my purchase from Winn Dixie. It was great to go and use it right away at Publix to get even more savings!

4- packages of Dannons crush cups yogurt.--$1.00 each
2- Breakstone sour cream-- .48 each
1- package Oscar Meyer hot dogs--$1.10
4- family sized bags Tostitos chips-- $1.49 each
4- Bags Lays Kettle chips--  FREE
2- Old elpaso dinner kits-- .86 each
4- Mission flour tortillas-- .59 each
2lbs Tomatoes--1.99
4- Deans veggie dip-- .25 each
2- Right guard deodorant-- FREE with overage
4- Digiorno Pizzas-- S2.00 each ( only one in the photo, the rest were in the freezer)
 2- Kraft Parmesan cheese -- .99 each

And then here is todays trip. Again I included both Publix and Winn Dixie. Here it is...
Total for everything in the photo before sales and coupons. $171.13 (both stores)  Total after sales and coupons that I paid, $11.87!! Another savings of 93%!
At Winn Dixie I got the cover Girl Make up.  There are 6 Powders and 4 liquid foundations! It was on store sale for Buy One Get One and I used a Manufactured coupon for Buy One Get One. So all I had to pay that stop was tax. And as an added bonus there is a catalina deal going where if you buy $30.00 worth of cover girl you get a coupon for $10.00 off your next purchas. And I got another $10.00 off $50.00 purchase. So I will use both at Publix in the next couple of weeks for more great savings!
And here is what I got at Publix...
4- Bags Lays Chips-- 2.00 each
2- Dove deodorant-- FREE with .71 overage 
5- Schick razors-- FREE with $5.05 overage
4- Ears Corn-- .25 each
2- Hidden valley Dressings-- FREE with .31 overage
1- Package Tomatoes-- $1.50
8- Poptarts-- .69 each
1- Package Hot Dog Buns--$1.99
4- Nature Valley Granola Bars-- .49 each
2- Nabisco mini packs-- .49 each

They also had the deal where if you buy $25.00 worth of groceries you can get a $50.00 BP Gas card for only $40.00. So I took advantage of that deal again to get saving on our gas!

There are some coupons that are going to be in this coming Sundays paper that will make for more Free things from Publix. So I am planning on getting our papers early in the morning and going back to Publix to get the free things and another Gas card! I can't wait!!

Thanks for looking and letting me share!


50 Great Reasons to Join Swagbucks Today

We talked to you a few weeks ago about a great new service we've been using for a while ... called Swagbucks.  It's a site that rewards you for using their website.

However, there's one great reason to join Swagbucks now:
From now until Noon, May 7th (PST) you will get 50 Swagbucks for signing up for your FREE account. 
Join Swagbucks HERE, and then enter this code - SWAGNATION5
for your 50 Swagbucks to start off your account.
In addition to the free bucks for joining ... Swagbucks are calling this the 'Week of Wins'.  All week, your chances of multiple wins in a day have increased dramatically.  Today, I have already won 4 times, for a total of 57 Swagbucks.  PLUS there are several other ways to earn bucks on their site ... giving you plenty of opportunity to build up Swagbucks quickly.  So join here to start building up your bucks!

Our Swagbucks account has allowed us to redeem $110 worth of Amazon gift cards.   This is one of the easiest and simplest ways I know of to earn extra spending money online ... for doing stuff that I would already do. 

Your Swagbucks account is FREE.