Meal Planing

Have I mentioned here before that we meal plan?  I don’t think so…  I was reminded how great meal planning is today when I watched a video on one of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom.  She has a series going on how to reduce your grocery bill and meal planning is lesson two.  We started meal planning several years ago.  At first, I was resistant because I felt like I wanted to be spontaneous, but I just ended up spending more money and time at the store.  Now I love meal planning and would be a scrambled mess without it.  It allows me to to glance at the plan, which is usually posted on the fridge, and pull out whatever I need for the evenings meal.  It makes it way easier now that I have Boo too since my brain is usually fried by the end of the day.  I typically make the plan on Sunday evening.  I get out this form, which I downloaded free from The Project Girl.  She has lots of other free downloads as well.  I have tried other forms and found this style to be the best for us.  I really like the dept. breakdown on the grocery list side – it makes it a lot easier to shop with a baby if you have your list divided for easy reference.

So, I start by looking at my GooCal to see what is going on for the week.  If we have a busy day then I generally try to put a simpler meal in that slot.  I also try to keep track of leftovers so that there is something Sean can take for lunch as well.  I try to put a meal that will generate leftovers on Sunday or Monday to be sure there is something for him.

So far, it works pretty well.  We don’t always stick to the plan.  Sometimes I have a bad day with Boo and I just can’t cook something so we need to go out or just have a sandwich or something.  Meal planning keeps me honest and generally keeps our grocery bill lower, though I can make additional improvements there…  I should note that I really only plan for dinners right now, but I have been thinking about moving to a plan that includes breakfast and lunch since Boo and I are home all day and he is eating more normal meals now.  Right now, I just try to have some staples around for breakfast and lunch like cereal, oatmeal, fruit, tuna, peanut butter, etc.

Best Mascara EVER!

I am hopelessly addicted to Maybelline Colossal mascara!  For the longest time, I only bought L’Oreal Voluminous simply because that is what my mom always used.  I think that is what a lot of women do, they buy whatever their mom buys.  Don’t get me wrong here, I was always satisfied with the Voluminous mascara, but it never really blew me away.

Since I began my hard-core coupon shopping a while back, I have been trying lots of new products that I wouldn’t have otherwise bought.  One category of products that tends to be  free after coupon/rebate is cosmetics.  So I have been trying different lipsticks, glosses, mascaras, and beauty tools.  About a month ago, one such freebie deal led me to purchase Maybelline Colossal mascara and I have never looked back.  Since then I snatch up just about every remotely good deal I find on it, which is usually at least BIGI free.

It doesn’t get clumpy and it really extends my lashes in a non-over-the-top sort of way.  I should also add that I use a lash curler as well since it makes a huge difference in how mascara looks.  I discovered lash curlers fairly recently also and would not be without it now.

In general, I am not much of makeup person.  I usually just opt for mascara and lipstick/gloss, so I really appreciate when those things work well for me.

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DS Saves Me Money

I have always been a shopper.  I get it from my mom.  I love nothing more to go browse around Target and check stuff out.  At least until I got my DS…

I still enjoy browsing around stores occasionally, but I haven’t been out nearly as much now that I play my DS most evenings.  This has been a good thing!  We have been working on cutting out extras and saving money for a while now and my DS has really helped with that.  Generally by the time I am leaving work, I am looking forward to going home, changing my clothes, and plopping down on the couch to play a bit before dinner.  I am web and store shopping way less – and it is making a difference!

The fact that I am out shopping less coupled with the fact that I get almost all of my games via Goozex means that it is a relatively cheap hobby overall – and a fun way to help save!

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So my DS isn’t exactly Wolf Shirt, but it has helped us save money for sure.

There goes my day…

It is a Woot-off today, so I haven’t gotten much done beyond pressing F5.  Sad, I know.

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Wedding Rant

I just had to link to this post.  It is refreshing to know that others share my general view of weddings.

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Saving Money – No Brand Loyalty

One thing about my new coupon shopping kick is that most of my brand loyalties have gone out the window.  I am more interested in saving money than blindly purchasing the same brands over and over again.  There are still a few areas where I am not willing to sacrifice (Q-tip brand only, please), but for the most part, I will try any cheaper option at least once. Sometimes you might go running back to your favorite brand, but other times you might discover a new love…and what is better than new love?

This humorous post touches a bit on what I am talking about here (and what Sean is going through).  Basically I just try to be open minded about other brands and sometimes even (GASP!) store brands.  That brings about another interesting point about coupons: sometimes even with a coupon, the store brand is a better deal.

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May the force be with you too…

Saving Money – Pre-paid Cell Phone

In our continuing quest to reduce costs, we decided to try out a pre-paid cell phone.  We only use one cell phone (for me) and the contract was almost up.  I rarely got close to my minute alloment in any given month, so it seemed like a big waste.  We were paying about $30/month and that was the cheapest plan option we could find.  That annualizes to $360/year for those lacking calculators.

I spent some time researching pre-paid options from the major carriers since coverage was my number one concern.  Why pay any price for a cell phone that won’t work when you need it?  I had always maintained that my cell phone was for emergencies, but I ended up just chatting a fair amount as well.   Sean called me out, though, and challenged me to use it only when necessary to scale back the cost.  We thought the best thing to do was try one out for a few months to make sure that I was willing to live with it for necessity only.  In our area, AT&T gets very good coverage, so we decided to use their GoPhone service.  With AT&T, there are two main options for pre-paid coverage: Pay-As-You-Go Unlimited Talk and Pay-As-You-Go $.25/minute.  The unlimited talk plan has a daily surcharge of $1 on the days you use the phone, and the $.25/minute plan is just like it seems – straightforward.  Since I tend to use the phone sporadically, we decided that the $.25/minute was the best option.

We ended up ordering the phone and a $25 refill minute card online through AT&T’s website.  It was $20 for the phone (free after rebate) and $25 + tax for the minute card.  At the time there was a bonus of $10 when you purchased at least $25 worth of minutes to add to your new phone.  The phone is very basic, which is fine since the goal is to scale back usage anyway.

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So it has been 90 days and I have done very well so far.  I have only used about $11 worth of minutes since early November.  Another nice feature is that you can rollover used minutes if you add new minutes before the old ones expire (does that make sense?).  Since my expiration date was quickly approaching, I just added $100 to my account to extend it for a full year.  I am really pleased with how I was able to cut back on the usage, and subsequently save us around $260/year.  The whole thing worked out so well in fact, that we got one for Sean’s grandmother over Christmas so she will have a phone for emergencies as well.

The Evolution of Coupon Organization

I made a minor change to my coupon organizer.  I went to the Container Store while I was in St. Louis for work (we don’t have one around here) and I found these nice plastic index card dividers that I thought would work much better than the 4 x 6 index cards I had made up originally.  It was one of those things where you don’t realize how bad it was until you improve it.  I cannot believe the difference!  It has made filing and finding my coupons so much easier.  I can see all of the categories in a glance.  Major upgrade!

See for yourself..

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For reference, here is what it looked like before.  Now we better hurry up and get a Container Store around here so I can move right in…

I am a little slow…

I discovered price adjustments today!

I was at Target last week – quelle surprise – and I bought a new laptop bag for work as you may already know.  Well, I noticed in the Sunday sale flier that all Merona work bags were going on sale for $26.99 – I had paid $29.99.  I thought I would take my receipt with me when I went over there last night and see if they could do anything for me.  Sure enough when I asked at the CS counter if they could give me the difference, the nice lady said that they offer price adjustments with receipts within 14 days of purchase.  Imagine my happiness!  So I walked away with my money in my pocket and did my shopping.  As I was browsing through the clothing, I discovered that the chinos I had bought last week for work were now $19.99, down from $22.99.  So after I had checked out, I went back up to the service counter to claim my adjustments on the pants as well.  All in all, I left with almost $10 back in adjustments.  Hooray!  Coupons are great, but it really pays to watch the sale fliers for things you have recently purchased.  It was definitely worth a few minutes of my time to snag $10 back from Target.  Thank you Target – I love you even more now, if that is possible.

It’s Contagious!

My sister came over today and she caught the coupon bug.  She has been hearing me talk about CVSing lately and all the swag I get for next to nothing.  So we were sitting in the living room just chatting about shoes and nail polish, you know, girl stuff.  And that is when she asks me, “So, can you explain to me how the whole CVS thing works?”  I lept at the chance to explain ECBs and couponing.  She left with my old coupon organizer and the money saving knowledge that only a sister (and MoneySavingMom.com) can pass on.  I’m just spreadin’ the love, one coupon clipper at a time…

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