Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sometimes I See Myself, A Little

Pillows? Check. Blanket? Check. Laptop? Check. Cuddlesome poodle to tuck under my arm? CHECK. We are go for pre-bedtime activity.

Remind you of anyone?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Since I Don't Seem To Have Any Marriage Counseling Coupons...

If you know me even a little bit, you know that the coming of Spring every year is not heralded with glee in my household. When a loved one is dealing with bipolar disorder, it can be an emotionally exhausting time, and I tend to react by hunkering down in the bunker and concentrating all my energies on what's going on at home. Ironically, I'd probably be doing better for myself if I just forged ahead and kept writing during these times. Now that I've actually opened up the blogging software, I'm a bit stymied, so...I'm gonna post about groceries. You heard me.

I've posted on this topic before, and I'm still at it. I get a lot of questions about couponing and store sales, and one of the most common is, "But aren't coupons always for highly-processed junk food? I try to eat healthy, so I can't really save money on groceries."

The short answer is, yes, most coupons are for crap. But your store sales will usually have lots of good deals on the "outer perimeter" of the store, where the nutritionally dense foods tend to be--your meats, produce, grains, dairy. And, believe it or not, many coupons are for staples that are not frozen pizza and cupcakes, and you can make the most of those. So, to answer all the, "What do you buy with your couponing?" questions, here are some recent examples. I shoot for an average of 60% savings, which I usually meet when averaging trips. In the examples below, two of the receipts showed around 53-55% savings, while the other got darn close to 70% saved.

Click on the pictures for notes and a closer look.

Kroger 2/17/08

On this trip, the receipt total was $109, and once I'd applied my coupons to the store sales, I paid $53 for all this food, plus a couple of things that didn't get pictured because Alex had already taken them downstairs to the freezer in the basement. Here was the haul:

Wonton wrappers
Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat bread
Several cans of store-brand veggies
Couple cans of Dole pineapple
T. Marzetti Fat-Free Ranch veggie dip
Fresh asparagus
Fiber One bars, 6 boxes
Milk & Cereal bars for Bella, 3 boxes
Organic carrots
Black table grapes
Packaged tart apple slices for Bella
2 Freschetta 4-cheese pizzas
10 Banquet chicken pot-pies for Bella (they're very small)
15 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, great sale price (these I opened, repackaged into single-meal size servings, and vacuum sealed and froze, so now we have enough chicken for 7 meals)

Yes, there are some prepared foods there (breakfast bars, bread, veggie dip), but also plenty of "real" food to show for that trip, where I paid for less than half of my groceries. It can be done. Next:

today's haul  68% saved

This trip included a good few non-grocery items, which, if you're paying attention, can REALLY save you some dough. This was the trip where, but for that roast, I'd have broken the 70% saved mark. As it was, this was $216 worth of food, for which I paid $74. YES. Here was the take:

14 cans Healthy Choice vegetable soup for one, for my lunches
5 boxes Kelloggs Frosted Flakes Gold, for Bella (I know, cereal, ewww)
20 Yoplait YO+ digestive health yogurts
5 Lloyd's barbecue chicken & beef (tasty and lean)
10 lbs. Riceland brown rice
1 bunch bananas (sliced & frozen for use in smoothies)
White seedless grapes
Frozen strawberries
7 boxes Garnier Nutrisse haircolor, MY actual preferred brand
7 Gillette Fusion Hydragel shave gel
2 boxes bandages
1 roll bandaging tape
3lb. English beef roast

It may look crazy to buy 7 boxes of haircolor or shave gel at a time, but look at it this way: You're going to need these things (well, I am, anyway) sometime, and if you wait until you run out, you're likely to have to pay full price. In the case of the haircolor, that would have been a $6-8 difference PER BOX. So you can see, it pays to stockpile while the sales are on, especially if you can combine those sales with coupons.

Kroger 2/25/08 53% saved

This trip, today's, was what we call a "cherry-picking" trip, in which, outside of my actual needs, I was ONLY buying things that were deeply discounted due to the combination of store sales and my coupons. What did I NEED when I went into the store? I needed bread and juice. That's it. And those things were not on sale, so they threw of my percentages somewhat, but that's OK. Here's what $99 bought me (the ticket total was $206):

3 bags Baked! Lays potato chips (shut up, they make my lunches sufferable, all 14 of them at a time)
1 large bottle pomegranate-blueberry juice (the base of my berry smoothies)
6 bags Kraft string cheese
10 boxes Orville Redenbacher light popcorn (*sighs* for Act II Kettle Corn)
4 packs Huggies wipes, for the car
6 tubs Kan-Doo pop-up wipes for Bella's bathroom
6 bags Welch's dried fruit
1/2 gallon Florida's Natural orange juice
10 Glade jar air-freshening candles (what--you don't stink?)
2lbs white seedless grapes, for the freezer
2 loaves Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread, for Alex
1 loaf Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat bread, for me
48 Fiber One Yoplait yogurts. That's right, 48. Stored in the basement fridge until I finish the current stock of Activia and YO+ I already have.

You may be wondering things like, "Where's the veggies? Where's the milk?" Well, I already have pretty good stores of most things, and I even freeze milk when it's on sale--it thaws just fine, good as new. Cheese also freezes well, as does bread. And we buy MOST of our vegetable frozen, which actually means that you're usually getting a fresher product than by buying "fresh" produce, since frozen veggies are flash-frozen on the spot shortly after being picked, instead of being shipped from wherever they're harvested to your grocery store.

The meat that we feed our dogs, and most of our own meat, we get from a small, wonderful, local butcher, where we're able to pick it up on the day the cow is processed (the only do one cow at a time), and it actually winds up costing less than grocery-store meat.

And of course, our larders are full-to-bursting with canned goods, pastas, rice, and beans.

The only thing I can add is that I AM now using The Grocery Game, which only became available in my area this year. I can't say that it saves me more money than what I was managing to save going it alone, but it saves me HOURS of time, which is worth a lot.

So...any questions?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just Another Sign That The Kid's All Right

Bella: "That song just kinda...breaks my heart."

Me: "Really?"

Bella: "Yeah. Songs that are really good, and cool...just break my heart a little."


The song? The Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen."

I love this kid.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How Many Times Can I Watch These?

Not enough, apparently. Which is surprising, considering my hatred for the Quiznos "Baby Bob" spots of a few years ago. This is just done SO much better, and by someone with a really great eye for comedic timing. Plus, these spots actually made me visit ETrade's website, which is the idea, right?





P.S. Have I ever mentioned how much I love hulu? I LOVE HULU.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Delicious Salvation For Hunters' Wives and Families

We have a freezer full of venison from the deer Alex got last November, and I was not much looking forward to consuming any of it, my past experience with venison being less than wonderful. But all day long today, the crock-pot was bubbling away, filling the house with delicious aromas, so I couldn't help but give it a try. Also? MY husband made polenta. CHEESY polenta. Which worked with this roast so well, I couldn't believe it. Here's how he did it.

The first key, I think, was the cut of meat--what I ate was a small filet of tenderloin. Imagine the leanest filet mignon you've ever seen. Alex also prepared some other cut, which I did not like nearly as well, though he thought it was pretty good (bear in mind, he also likes foie gras), in the same manner. He started by marinating the steaks and the roast overnight in dark beer. The next morning, he layered carrots and onions in the bottom of the Crock-Pot. Then he salted and peppered the meat, and seared each cut in olive oil on a hot skillet 'til browned on each side. The roast and steaks went into the Crock-Pot over the chopped vegetables.

Over the top of the meat, he poured equal parts red cooking wine and beef broth, to which diced tomatoes and minced garlic were added. This cooked for a little over 5 hours on the high setting of the Crock-Pot.
something's coming, something good

When the meat was done cooking, he whipped up a batch of fresh polenta (which we should totally do more often, because a serving of polenta has about 70 calories, NO fat, and 1 gram of fiber), and doctored it up with just a little parm/reggiano cheese. Our roast and veggies were served on a bed of the cheesy polenta, with sauce from the roast spooned over the top.
venison pot roast

IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. I highly recommend this for those of you who've had negative venison experiences. There was zero gamey flavor, and if I say that, you can believe me. Again, I preferred the filet, but the other cuts weren't so bad, either. Just not DELICIOUS, like what I had. Yum. I may let him go hunting again next year, after all.

Reason #2,074 That Marriage Can Be Scary

Alex: Hey, Honey? What's the name of that guy?

Me: What guy?

Alex: You know, that actor? We really like him a lot--he's good.

Me: Robert Downey, Jr.?

Alex: Yeah.


Neither of us are surprised at this exchange.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Obviously

Just now, when I complained of being cold, Bella jumped up and ran to turn off the ceiling fan. Plopping back down next to me:

"Am I thoughtful, or WHAT?"