Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Country Halloween

While all our city friends are getting prepared today for a cold and rainy time trick or treating, we are counting the candy we scored last night at the annual Columbiana Monster Walk. For us country folk, since we can't really go door to door being that the doors are quite some distance from one another, the businesses of our county seat, Columbiana, hosts a trick or treating event each year. So after having a wonderful dress up day at school, we headed to downtown Colubmiana in balmy 70 degrees, though cloudy, to go door to door with our country neighbors the Schobers.

It was a blast, though the line around the town went pretty slow at times. Duke figured out pretty quickly that he could score quite a few suckers early on, and by midway through we heard one of his favorite lines over and over again "openit, openit, openit?"

And bonus of the evening, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with the Schobers at our favorite Columbiana Eatery, Bernie's. Even had a sweet woman come to our table to compliment us on how well behaved our children were. Since I have not braved the kid dinner at a restaurant in nearly 6 months, this was a HUGE boost for me. Maybe we can try it again soon without Cory cringing at the thought.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Publix Post

My most dedicated friends know I am a power shopper when it comes to Publix. A year ago at our women's conference at Church of the Highlands I sat in on a session about how you win at the coupon game, and it changed my life. I'm serious.

I have always been frugal, ok maybe even to the point of utterly indecisive, when it comes to spending money. Don't get me wrong, I can drop a dime or two when in the mood. But I will also wear a pair of jeans for 5 years, until there are holes in the butt and my underwear show through (would have been nice if someone had tipped me off on that one when it first happened, there is no telling how long I walked around with my arse peeking out at everyone!) rather than spend the $15 a year it would have cost me to replace said favorite jeans - which I just did, see facebook post from a month ago.

However, those 45 minutes of learning the tips and tricks to saving money - saved my sanity! And a nice wad of cash every month too. I have dropped our monthly household spending amount on grocery, cleaning supplies, diapers, wipes, beauty needs, etc. a minimum of $300. All by shopping at Publix, and doing it the right way. And bonus - HAVE NOT BEEN TO A WALMART IN 6 MONTHS!

That's right. Of course, I am a little bummed I don't get to gawk at the interesting clientele at the local supercenter, however I know I can always get my fix at the evermore popular People of Walmart, when I need a good OMG! Are you seriously out in public in that and in the BABY AISLE?!?!

The thing about Publix, it's not just the savings, it's also the fact the baggers always ask me if I want them to take my groceries (including the 2 very active children in the cart) to my car for me and if I need help any time I look remotely confused or lost or am in search of an item that should absolutely be right in front of me. It's the fact it reminds me of Willie's Sentry in Racine, WI where we shopped when I was a kid and every employee new me, my sisters and my mom by first name.

So I figured I would finally post an example of just one weekend trip to Publix and show you what I'm really talking about when it comes to savings. I so wish they would open a store up north so my sisters could take advantage of all the deals they offer. Buy 1 Get 1 Free (on stuff you actually use and which you only have to buy 1 of to get the special price), Doubled Manufacturer Coupons up to .50 - that means $1!, use of competitor store coupons (in addition to any mfg coupons and including the $5 off $50 grocery purchase coupons that Target often sends out or you get at the Target register), plus their own store coupons - and hey, if you have a mfg coupon, a competitor store coupon and a Publix coupon for the same item - JACKPOT - you can use all three on that one item!

The whole process has catered to my competitive edge at getting the most for my buck. I stock up on what we buy when it's on sale and I rarely if ever spend more than $100-125 a week now on what we need to run our house and feed our family, which I consider pretty darn good considering I still have one in diapers and the other one is still going through a Pull Up each day and I do about 6 loads of laundry a week.

Here's what I bought:

Gallon of Milk
Baguette of French Bread
Bag of Romaine lettuce
3 Tombstone frozen pizzas
2 pkgs of Pillsbury Savorings Artichoke & Cheese App Bites
Gorton's Fishsticks
2 bottles of ALL Small & Mighty (50 loads)
3 Sixpacks of Mott's Applesauce Cups
5 lbs of Idaho Potatoes
Starbuck Coffe (10oz)
2 cans Pringles (Mega Pack)
4 cans Chef Boy R D Ravioli/Beefaroni
Spice Islands Crushed Rosemary
Excedrin Back & Body (I'm getting old!)
2 cans of Planters Mixed Nuts (Chex Mix Season coming!)
4 boxes of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
40 ct Pullups ($15.99)
132 ct Huggies ($33.99)

Total Bill before coupons/savings: $166.94
Vendor & Store coupons: $31.40
Store Ad Savings: $42.89
Total Saved: $74.29
Paid: $92.65

You may not consider this great, I didn't have any meat on the list (because I had just stocked up on chicken breasts at 1.99/lb and we have venison burger in the freezer already) and don't have a lot of staples, since I have the pantry pretty built but wanted some fun things as the holidays are coming and we will be home this year. Just consider Pullups and Huggies alone would have cost me $50, so all and all it was a pretty good day. (I got the ALL for .99 a bottle after using a Publix $1.00 off and a Mfg $1.00 off when they were on sale at $2.99 each...when's the last time you could do that?!)

I have also learned a great deal and find excellent tips and links on a website I visit a couple of times weekly Southern Savers. Jenny posts each Wednesday the specials at Publix (she also does Kroger, Harris Teeter, Harvey's, Walgreen's, CVS) and even on Sundays will post the Penny Item so I can check it to see if it's worth getting the last $10 of specials that week. (Publix offers a mystery item on Sundays and Mondays at their stores - buy $10 in groceries and get the mystery item for a penny, and it's usually a good item - this week it was a 4 roll pack of toilet paper - who doesn't need toilet paper for goodness sakes! I usually hold back on buying about $10 worth of products during my regular trip that I need but don't have a chance to have a coupon against (think meat on sale, milk, eggs, etc.) so if the mystery item is worth it, I have $10 worth to buy and can get it without buying junk I wouldn't need. Plus she pre-posts the weekend Sunday coupon inserts on Fridays, so I can check out quickly if anything on my list for Saturday I might want to hold off picking up until Sunday/Monday with the penny item since I would have a coupon to use toward it from the Sunday paper.

Finally I have a few vendor sites that I have subscribed to (and have a separate email address for to receive all the emails) such as Betty Crocker, Kraft, General Mills, Conagra, Pillsbury (some of these are redundant since they are owned by the same company but if you sign up for their brand newsletters you get multiple prints of coupons - really handy for B1G1 free items when you want to stock up) which Jenny also links to, but that I have signed up for to get their regular monthly coupons. Oh! And don't forget Upromise - great site for ecoupons if you shop at Publix, Winn Dixie or CVS - am sure there are more stores- which you can earn $$'s toward an investment plan for college for you kids - and if you join be sure and reference me so I can get some extra savings from it!

So for all of you wondering, how to do it? Sunday coupons, vendor internet coupons, Southern Savers, competitor direct mailers and Publix. Put em together, spend about a total of an hour a week at different times, and you feel a little less guilty about indulging once in a while on that Starbucks Grande No Foam Skinny Vanilla Latte.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Only Wish There Were More Time

We had an awesome weekend visit with my parents. It was packed busy, but we were able to enjoy doing some really fun 1st's with the kids and allow my parents to particpate in some specials times with the boys. And although the weather was more chilly than normal this time of year, we still were able to enjoy some outside events.

A mommy friend of mine, Leslie, was able to score us some free tickets Friday night to Boo at the Zoo, the Birmingham Zoo's annual Halloween event. I was still finishing up Jack's costume on Thursday night but pulled it all together and the boys were in my humble opinion - ADORABLE! It really was worth every yard of yellow felt I had to cut and glue to a straw hat and the 45 minutes of constant stirring as I dyed the clothes a RIT "golden yellow". And to top it off, Duke's little swagger made a memorable monkey.

Saturday, we planned an easy at home day, since we spent most of Friday antiquing and running around. Plus we had a big day planned for Sunday, 25 kids and their parents for a birthday bash for both boys. I still had race car cookies to bake and the cake to pick up and Cory had to setup the trailer for the hay ride. We burned some of the boys energy off that morning playing on the hay trailer and Mom enjoyed seeing the "power of Cars" and watching the movie that afternoon. They got to experience such exciting and memorable moments as Duke's new style of wearing Yaya's hat backwards and givin' "lovin" and Jack's excitement at showing how well he does on the potty (not one of Dad's most exciting memories of the trip I am sure!) I think just being around Jack and Duke that day wore Mom and Dad out!

We capped off the weekend with an amazing birthday party Sunday afternoon. And after about 10 days of clouds and rain, we couldn't have asked for a prettier fall day. It was still cool, upper 50s, but the sun was shining and it was just what every parent needed to get the kids out to the country for an afternoon of fresh air. We had a Cars Moonwalk, the playset, the kids bikes, a hayride, hot apple cider for the parents, sugar and icing to deocrate racecar cookies, and a Lightning McQueen and Mater Birthday Cake for the big moment - #3 for Jack and #2 for Duke. Jack is still talking about having all his friends come to his house to play and Duke hasn't stopped asking to "jump!".

The entire weekend sped by too fast. I know Jack and Duke were so happy to have Mimi and Yaya visit. It will be something they will always remember and will so be looking forward to seeing them soon again!