Summer Time Tip: Stock Up for Lunches

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School Lunch Stock Up

There are 13 days left of school for my kids.  THIRTEEN days.  (can you imagine my panicked face?  I’m going to have 5 kids here all day, everyday. As much as I adore my kids – I think the beginning of summer vacation brings a little panic out in many Stay At Home Moms.  Our routines are going to be thrown out the window and we’ll create new ones but still…panic)

This isn’t a “Mommy Blog” so I’ll get to the money saving part!

If you pack your children’s lunches you may want to use these next weeks of summer vacation to continue to buy those lunch box friendly items.  I put  a large box in my storage area  so I can put those “For School” items in it.

Since we’ll be at home the need for juice boxes and sandwich bags will be reduced.   They can eat off napkins and out of cups!

However there will still be lunch box friendly sales, deals and coupons so I will continue to take advantage of them.  However if I put them in the pantry- they will use them!

Each week we post a list of lunchbox friendly deals on Saturday so look out for those.  Then continue to stock up during the summer!

Towards the end of summer I’ll pick up 5-6 loaves of bread (or more) and make DIY Uncrustables and put in the freezer.

DIY Homemade Uncrustables


Don’t let the summer deals pass you by – keep future events in mind when the deals come around!

Tuesday Totals Week Ending 5/26

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Tuesday totals

I used to write a post every Tuesday to keep myself accountable to my $75 a week budget.  However I’ve stumbled and slacked off on writing it so instead I will update a single post all week- so you can see the deals before they die!  I had $201.85 left over from previous weeks’ budgets  so I have a total of $276.85  in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

Running Total:
Value: $208.39
OOP: $68.09
Savings: 71%
Rebates Back: $7.25
Left in Budget: $208.76

5/21: Lowes Foods, Kroger, Food Lion & Harris Teeter

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4 stores with a tired toddler- all it took was a sample cup of cream frappe from starbucks and we did it! All these deals are posted on the under the respective stores.

Lowes Foods
1 Bomb Pop
1 Heinz Ketchup
OOP $1.54
Submit for .75 MobiSave and .20 Ibotta
Value: $8.03
Saved (before rebate) 80%

Kroger (2 trans)
2 eggs
Value: $9.66
OOP: $3.08
Submit For .30 Ibotta
Savings before rebate: 68%

Harris Teeter
2 Hefty Plates
2 Hefty Ultimate Cups
4 Lawry Marinade (found $1/2 hangtags on product)
3 Smuckers
3 Bomb Pops
2 A1 Sauce
1 Cans Bush Beans ( just needed)

Value: $56.10
OOP $16.32
Savings : 71%

50 ears corn
4 pkg marked down meat
3 strawberries

Used $3 off beef Q kiosk coupon
Used $3 Produce Kiosk coupon
Value: $61.53
Saved: 61%
OOP $23.53

Will get back $2 from SavingStar, $.50 Ibotta and .75 MobiSave
Add in a few extra rec’pt lying around will submit for $25 MIR wyb $25 instore purchase (found in Lowes Foods on Beer Display)
Net Cost for entire trip after rebates; $19.47!

5/26 Harris Teeter Trip (find all these deals here)

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3 Cottonelle (part of KC Promo)
1 Kleenex
8 Hefty Plates
3 Hefty Ultimate Cups
6 Kemp Frozen Yogurt
1 Supremo Cheese (no deal just needed)
8 Lunchables (clearanced + on package peelie FREE)
3 Stubb BBQ (free product Q)
3 A1 sauce
Juicy Juice (had .75/1 printable expiring today + rebate)
Glade Oil Warmer
Glade Oil Refill
3 Smuckers Toppings
3 Bomb Pops
1 M&M ice cream
1 wheat thins
Value $208.39
OOP: $68.09
Submit for $5 Ibotta, $1.25 MobiSave, $1 checkout 51
Final Cost: $60.84
Saved: 71%
*update I found 2 different $25 MIR wyb $50 beer rebates so I will submit this and get $25 back!!

Bright Idea: Share the Top Deals

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Do empty shelves have you down?  Do you have enough rainchecks to wall paper your bedroom?  Try working WITH your store your way to full shelves.

Every week I print either the full Harris Teeter spreadsheet or I print off the top deals from the printable list (just depending on how many deals there are) and I drop it by my Harris Teeter by Tuesday morning.  This gives the store the heads up on the advertised items we are going after.  For example, this week my store now knows that the Hefty Ultimate Cups are the ones we want and not the regular ones.

My chances of getting them all week just went up ten fold.

You can do this for any store that you shop.  Most stores appreciate the heads up that hundreds of shoppers will be chasing a specific deal.

You can find matchups for so many stores right here on MSM!

Do the Math: Is it Really the Best Deal??

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I almost grabbed the Buy 2 Get 3 Free Deli Cheese today at Harris Teeter but something made me take them out of my cart and put them back.  That little worrying couponer on my shoulder said, “I just don’t think it’s the best deal.”

So I kept going around the store and came across another Harris Teeter Cheese Sale: Harris Teeter Deli Sliced Cheese, 8 oz for Buy 1 Get 1 Free.

So I did the math & that worrying couponer was right.

Buy 2 Get 3 Free $2.19 package wyb 5 packages.  That is $0.27 per ounce

Buy 1 Get 1 Free $1.44 package.  That is $0.14 per ounce.

That doesn’t seem like too much only $0.13 difference per ounce- but that’s a 40% difference!

You may say that there is a difference in quality between the two cheeses and some cheese connoisseurs may find that the Fresh Market Cheese is better however I think that the majority of us making grilled cheese or ham sandwiches will find either one acceptable.

Let’s look at the lunchmeat prices.

Buy 2 Get 3 Free $2.19 package wyb 5 packages.  That is $0.27 per ounce.

Land O Frost Simply Delicious Lunch Meat, 13 oz $3.99 use the .75/1 in the 4-26-15  SS and pay $2.49 or $0.19 per ounce.

Again, it doesn’t seem like too much but it is nearly a 35% price difference.

Let’s look at the big picture:

Buying the B2G3 cheese you will pay $10.95 for 40 oz.
Buying the same ounces of of the B1G1 packages you will pay $7.20
You spent $3.75 more buying the B2G3 Cheese

Buying the B2G3 turkey you will pay $10.95 for 40 oz.
Buying 3 packages of the Land O Frost Turkey (39 ounces)  you will pay $7.47.
Accounting for that 1 ounce difference you will pay $3.21 more for the Buy 2 Get 3 Free lunchmeat.

*This is not accounting for any differences in quality or taste, although I personally find both products to both be high quality.  The point of my post is to remind us all to look at all the options before jumping on a deal that looks hot on the surface but may not really be!

See all of the Harris Teeter deals!


How to Make the Most of Your Strawberry Picking

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Pick your Own Strawberries Tips

My family LOVES picking strawberries!  But we’ve made plenty of mistakes and I thought it may benefit others to hear about our mistakes!  We’ve picked WAY too many and wasted them all.  We didn’t show our children exactly what they were looking for and had so many green berries that weren’t edible.  We’ve gone too early and too late…so learn from my mistakes and pick the best berries you’ve ever had!

Picking Strawberries

  • Timing is everything.  Too early and all you get is green, not too sweet berries.  Too late and you find leftovers.  Depending on where you live will determine when your best time is.  In my part of NC the season runs May through the first of June.  A very wet month, very hot or very dry means strawberries that are less than their best.
  • Pick the best berries. Unlike some other fruit, strawberries do not continue to ripen after being picked so you want to pick the ripe berries.  That means a berry that is fully red.  Those green tips won’t go away after you get them home.
  • Use the right container: It might be fun to fill a huge bucket of strawberries but the more you pile- the more you damage.  Use shallow buckets and pile them no more than 3-4 inches tall.  Better to use multiple baskets than to have one really full basket of bruised berries.
  • Pick them Properly.  Grasp the stem just above the berry between the thumb and forefinger.  Pull and twist slightly to remove the berry.  Do NOT remove the stem from inside the berry or tear the leaves off.  Place them gently in the container.  Don’t throw them!

Preparing them at home

  • Do NOT wash them.  Washing them speeds up the process of going bad.  Just let them stay “dirty” until right before you are ready to use them.
  • Do NOT remove the leaves/stems. This also just speeds the spoiling.  As does keeping them heaped up.


There are so MANY ways to preserve strawberries for later.

  • Freezing: Wash, cut off tops, slice if desired.  Place on wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze until solid.  Place in a freezer bag to use for smoothies, etc.
  • Canning: Check out tips here.
  • Jam Recipe

Strawberries will only last 1-2 days in the fridge and even less on the counter!  Your best bet is to only pick enough you will use in 2 days or prepare to freeze, can, etc any extras immediently.

Find your local farm here!

How to Build a Grocery Budget Cushion

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How to Build a Grocery Budget Cushion


One of the best moves I’ve made as a couponer is building a grocery budget cushion.  A grocery budget cushion is money set aside for those weeks when the deals rock so hard that you need double, even triple, your normal budget to take advantage of them all without overdrawing the bank account!  It’s also very important because accidents and disasters happen- like a fridge or freezer losing power and needing to replace a large section of a stockpile!

Some of us physically set aside the money, either in a separate bank account or in an envelope, and others just keep track of their excess budget.

There are a few ways you can start to build up that cushion so when your favorite cut of beef goes on sale Buy One Get One Free you can get enough to last a while, or when your favorite chocolate goes on sale you can build up your hidden stash!


How to Build a Grocery Budget Cushion

1. Use Rebate apps.  I personally don’t count my rebate monies until I actually get them back – so for me my rebate checks and deposits go into my grocery budget cushion.  These are my favorite money saving (and earning) apps!  If I get a SNAP rebate check for $30- into my cushion it goes!

2. Don’t Buy What you Don’t Need.  On those slow slow weeks, I don’t buy anything I don’t need.  It may just be a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk- if I don’t need it and it’s not a fabulous deal- I don’t buy it!  That may mean I can put $60-$70 into my cushion fund.  In fact, I used some (ok a bunch) of my cushion this week because of fantastic deals but next week is looking a little boring so it may be a no-shopping week for me!

3. Put aside any “extra” money.  If you are like- there really is no such thing as “extra money” but there is “surprise” money.   Last week I got a check in the mail for $68- from my insurance company.  When we switched a few things around in our home owners insurance I had to pay a year in advance and ended up getting a refund on the previous policy.  Unexpected money!  Into my cushion fund!  Maybe your health insurance paid more than the doctor anticipated and they send you a refund for $50- into the cushion fund.  I was really tempted to take that money and eat out – but then I thought of how many meals I could cook for $68 and into the fund it went.

4. Cash in some gift cards.  Did you get a gift card for a store you will never shop in?  Or that is no where near you?  Check out any of the many places you can cash in a gift card for a pretty large percentage of it’s value.  CardPool is one such company (disclaimer: I have never used them because I usually just regift but they have high ratings)

5. Slow and Steady.  You may not be able to swing putting $50 or $100 aside but maybe you could reduce your grocery budget by an extra $5-$10 per week.  That can add up quickly.  Slowly & Steadily start to increase that cushion.

Having that money set aside will be such a blessing when a hot stockup sale comes around that will blow your regular budget out of the water but will allow you to get 6 months of chicken (or whatever) at a price so low you think you are dreaming!

What tips do you have for building a cushion?  What do you think is a good amount to have set aside?

How to Freeze Cheese

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In light of the fact that we’re going to see Buy 2 Get 3 FREE Cheese at Harris Teeter AGAIN 4/29 and we have a HOT deal on Cheese this week  I thought it would be a good time to talk about freezing cheese.

Shredded Cheese freezes amazingly well!  I just place the bag in the freezer just the way it came.  While cooking dinner, I lay it on the counter.  It usually takes about 20 minutes to thaw and it’s as good as new!  While the general consensus is that after 6 months the texture will begin to change (and not for the better!)- I have frozen shredded cheese much longer and used it in cooked dishes just fine.

Block cheese doesn’t freeze as well and becomes grainy and crumbles.  Best to shred those before freezing. Sliced cheese freezes well too – but again after several months is better for chicken parm than it is a cold cut sandwich.

Check out more Freezing Tips!

Help! My Catalina Didn’t Print!

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catalina machine

With all the great Catalina Deals running currently this question keeps popping up: My Catalina Didn’t print- what should I do?

Before attempting a deal:

1) Check the terms.  Often we see printouts from the catalina machines a few days before the event starts.  We try to keep our Catalina Deals page updated.

2) Check the machine. At checkout, double check that the catalina machine is on, has paper and isn’t jammed.  All of these will cause you to lose your catalina.

3) Wait for it. Sometimes it takes a minute or two for the catalina to print after the transaction is complete.  Don’t rush off- wait for a second.  Also notate on your list that you should get a catalina.  This way you remember to ask for it if you can’t see the catalinas printing.

After the transaction: if it didn’t print

1) Ensure that you met the requirements. Maybe you got the wrong size or quantity.  Before trying to resolve this with the store or Catalina make sure that the terms were met.

2) Ask the store. Some stores are aware of the current catalina deals they are participating in.  If they are aware they can either re-ring your items and see if it prints or provide you cash back  If the store is unaware or unable to resolve it you will need to go to step 3. Sometimes their machines just disconnect from the Catalina database!

3) Contact Catalina Marketing.  You can complete the form here  and if the terms were met Catalina will send you a catalina via the mail.  It takes a bit to get it verified and sent but they do send it.


In-Store Markdowns: Meat Savings

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When in the store- even if I don’t need meat right now I always go by the meat and deli cases.  As items near their best by or sell by dates stores start to mark them down little by little.  The closer that sell by date- the greater the markdown

Yesterday I found these Turkey Hot Dogs for just .72 after the Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale at Harris Teeter and the $2 store coupons attached to them!

Need to save more to feed the carnivores in your life? Check out these other tips to saving on meat;

13 Ways to Save on Meat

Save Money: Cut it Yourself


Tuesday Totals 3/31

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Tuesday totals

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $75 a week budget.  I had $227.77 left over from previous weeks’ budgets  so I have a total of $302.77  in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

Total Value: $321.21
OOP: $97.90 after rebates
Savings: 70%
Roll over to next week: $204.87

3/25 Harris Teeter & Lowes Foods

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OOP $44.66
Value: $152.65
Savings: 71%


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DG: 4 Suave Kids FREE (well a few pennies in tax but I bought some household stuff/trashcans etc so I don’t know actually OOP):

Kroger: 6 Gallons Milk $1.99 sale
10 1/2 gallons OJ .88 each mega sale
10 Pepperidge Farm Gold Fish .99 Mega Sale
6 Steam Fresh $1 used (3) $1/2 = .50 each
used $5 catalina from 2 weeks ago

Value $69.43
OOP: $29.43
Savings 58%

Harris Teeter

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Harris Teeter today
Meal Deal $11.99 – $1.25 coupon 
4 french Loaves .47 eVIC
2 pks green peppers $1.27 each (redeem .25 checout 51 )
3 McCormick Grill mates B1G1 $2.08 – $1 Checkout 51
pizza sauce $1.69
6 Dole Pineapple $1 used .50/2 redeem for Snap
3 House Autry FREE
Kraft cheese used .75/1
3 Sargento Cheese used .50/2
Value: $90.13
OOP: $28.06
Savings: 68%
Get back $3 SNAP, $1.25 Checkout 51